5 Best & Worst Movie Superhero Costumes

We rank the greatest and the lamest superhero outfits from the big screen.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

5 Best & Worst Movie Superhero Costumes

The "Green Lantern" trailer debuted this week and gave fans their first glimpse of the computer generated costume of Ryan Reynolds’ Hal Jordan. And while some fans are already condemning the costume for straying from its comic book origins or saying that it looks "too fake," others are reserving judgement until the move comes out next June.

Fans sometimes forget that not every superhero costume will work in a live action movie. It’s the job of the directors, the actors, the designers and the entire crew to make us believe in these fantasy comic book worlds. And the costumes chosen go a long way towards making that happen. When a superhero has a great costume, it can elevate the entire film. And when the costumes suck…. well, we’ve all seen the Joel Schumacher "Batman" films.

Crave Online recently assembled a list of the five best and worst superhero costumes to ever make it to the big screen. A good costume doesn’t always guarantee a successful movie. But I don’t think there’s ever been a great superhero movie in which the hero’s costume couldn’t withstand the sometimes harsh scrutiny of fans.

5: Superman

Among superhero costumes, Superman’s outfit is kind of an anomaly. I mean, just look at it… he’s got his underwear on the outside! At first glance, it shouldn’t even work at all.

However, it’s become such a classic design that it’s almost impossible to change now. "Superman Returns" tried to tweak it with disastrous results that narrowly missed our 5 worst costumes list. For onscreen Supermen, there is only one: Christopher Reeve’s last son of Krypton from Richard Donner’s "Superman." This is one of the most faithful adaptations of a superhero costume to date. But what really makes it work was Reeve himself, who embodied the Man of Steel’s most heroic and human qualities. He also didn’t need to pad his costume with fake rubber muscles.




4: Batman

The Dark Knight is pulling double duty on our best and worst list. Batman’s been adapted so many times that we could probably do a list of the top ten Batman movie and TV costumes. But when it comes to pulling off Batman’s costume in live action, no one’s done it better than Christopher Nolan in "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." It’s not completely accurate to the comic book Batman, but it’s close enough and fits in so well with the world created by Nolan that this is a Batman that you can believe in.

Christian Bale is also really good in the role and convincing as the most badass superhero of them all; annoyingly gruff voice not withstanding.



3: Hellboy

You’ll have to forgive the pun, but Hellboy is the dark horse on this list. Not as well known as other superheroes (and arguably not a conventional hero), Hellboy was nevertheless brought to the screen with his signature look completely intact. Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy uses an impressive prosthetic makeup design that is more convincing than any CGI Hellboy could ever be. Ron Perlman was also perfect for the part, proving once again how important casting the right actor can sell the design. One of the only things that held Hellboy back from making a bigger impact was the fact that Universal released his last film a week before "The Dark Knight."

As you might expect, it didn’t go well for Hellboy, making this list possibly the only time he’ll ever top Batman.



2: Iron Man

It’s amazing how the "Iron Man" movies took a B to C-list superhero and turned him into an A-lister. And it’s not just as simple as casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. All three of the initial Iron Man armors looked incredible on screen, striking the right balance between staying true to the comics while still maintaining a level of believability. The illusion of Iron Man’s costume is so convincing, that it’s sometimes hard to spot when the filmmakers switch to a CGI version for the action and flying sequences.

If all superhero movie costumes looked this good, there would be a lot fewer complaints by hardcore fans. And it doesn’t hurt to show a broader audience why we loved the characters in the first place.



1: Spider-Man

Spider-Man hasn’t had a lot of luck in live action. Count your blessings if you’ve never seen Nicholas Hammond in costume from the "Amazing Spider-Man" TV series in the ’70s.

And while it’s too soon to tell how the upcoming Spidey reboot by Marc Webb is going to look, director Sam Raimi nailed the costume in the last three films. This is a nearly perfect translation of his superhero outfit. It’s not an exact replica and there are some minor changes. But it works so well and it really captures Spider-Man’s look like never before. Tobey Maguire was a decent Peter Parker, but it almost didn’t matter who was under Spider-Man’s mask (although I suspect was it was a stuntman most of the time).

"Spider-Man" is the gold standard for movie superhero costumes. Nothing else has come close.


Keep going for our list of the five worst movie superhero costumes!


And now for the worst movie superhero costumes of all time:

5: Captain America

How many of you remember that "Captain America" already had a movie adaptation? If not, then consider yourselves lucky that you missed the Italian Red Skull and Captain America’s f***ing rubber ears. Yes, that’s right. They couldn’t figure out how to make his mask work without adding rubber ears.

I’ll say this for Matt Salinger, at least he looks like Cap’s alter-ego, Steve Rogers. But this guy is supposed to be the peak of human conditioning?! Please. This movie was a failure on every level. And it’s pretty damning that the thing most people remember this movie for is how s****y the hero’s costume was.



4: Steel

You know, there was once a time when someone thought it would be a great idea to cast Shaq as a superhero. And despite the earnestness of the film and even Shaq himself, "Steel" is still a movie that makes you wonder how it ever made it to the screen. The sad part is that the comic book Steel is actually one of the best black superheroes; a man whose bravery and brilliance puts him on par with Superman himself.

But it’s hard to take him seriously when he looks like this:

To be fair, I don’t know that the costume used here could have worked for anyone. But on Shaq, it looks like a Halloween costume that was picked up at Rite Aid just before filming started.



3: Daredevil and Elektra

Daredevil has one of the best costumes in a comics. A simple red suit with some devil horns, which you’d think would be hard to get wrong. Yet the director of "Simon Birch" still found a way. I understand that changes have to be made in live action, but shinny red leather was not the way to go.

To be sure, casting was a problem here as well. Ben Afflack is generally a good actor, but apparently not as Daredevil or Matt Murdock. About the only thing worse than DD himself was his would-be girlfriend, Elektra.

Elektra’s original black costume in "Daredevil" wasn’t that bad. But when it came time to headline her own film in "Elektra," we got this.


I didn’t know that K-Mart made outfits for wannabe ninja warriors. 


2: Batman & Robin

Where do I even start?

The Bat-nipples? The rubber muscles? The horribly miscast actors?

Oh God… make it stop!

"Batman & Robin" was the only time I’ve felt like I was watching the secrets of the lost ark while my face melted off.

There’s a reason that Joel Schumacher and George Clooney have spent years apologizing for this movie. Batman, Batgirl and the modern Robin have some of the coolest costumes in comics. And yet someone involved in this production looked at those designs and said "I can improve that!"




1: Catwoman

It takes a spectacularly bad costume to top "Batman & Robin" as the worst of all time. So, congratulations, Catwoman!

You know, I still believe that audiences could have accepted Halle Berry in the title role of "Catwoman" if the script had been any good and the rest of the cast hadn’t been so freakin’ hammy. Berry’s an uncommonly beautiful woman and a very good actress. But no one could have made this work.

Catwoman’s costume actually looks like a parody version of her real costume that somebody came up with for a superhero burlesque show. Or something a stripper would wear.

Frank Miller probably loved it, but nobody else did.

And the sad irony is that the failure of "Catwoman" is used to justify Warner Brothers’ (and other studios’) reluctance to give female superheroes their own films.

The sooner this movie and this costume fade from our collective memories, the better.