So far, it’s fair to say that the DC Extended Universe has been pretty up and down. While there are fans on both sides of the fence either saying that the DCEU unequivocally sucks or that it unequivocally rules, the franchise has been a mixed bag. There have been great movies, like Wonder Woman, and terrible ones, like Suicide Squad.
And along with the balance of great and terrible movies, there has been a balance of great and terrible performances from the actors tasked with bringing the iconic faces of DC Comics to life. Here are the five best and five worst performances from the DCEU.
10 Best: Jason Momoa As Aquaman
After being relegated to a cameo appearance in Batman v Superman and given one-word soundbites like “Yeah!” in Justice League, Jason Momoa finally got the chance to spread his wings and show off the full extent of his smoldering charisma in James Wan’s Aquaman solo movie.
Momoa brought both humor and heart in spades to the role of Arthur Curry, while his charm and likability made even the script’s not-so-great one-liners work.
9 Worst: Jared Leto As The Joker
Jared Leto was reportedly very upset when Warner Bros. began developing a Joker movie without his involvement. But if he thinks there’s a chance in hell that a solo movie starring his Joker would’ve been anywhere near as successful as the one with Joaquin Phoenix, then he’s got more issues than the Clown Prince of Crime.
Throughout Suicide Squad, Leto’s Joker continually gets further and further from his comic book characterization. He’s an agent of chaos who perfectly arranges his guns on the floor. His line delivery is more over-the-top than an early-career Adam Sandler comedic performance.
8 Best: Margot Robbie As Harley Quinn
Although critics almost universally despised Suicide Squad, the one thing that they could all agree on was the high quality of Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn. Despite problems with its own script, Birds of Prey proved that Robbie’s Harley was too good for Suicide Squad.
Robbie has nailed everything about the character, from her Brooklyn accent (which she’d already perfected for her role in The Wolf of Wall Street) to her freewheeling sociopathy. Hopefully she’ll be on our screens for a long time.
7 Worst: Michael Shannon As General Zod
In some cases, a usually nuanced actor hamming it up to play a supervillain can work wonders. This can be seen with Cate Blanchett as Hela, Alfred Molina’ as Doctor Octopus, and Danny DeVito as the Penguin.
Unfortunately, in the case of Michael Shannon playing General Zod in Man of Steel, it didn’t work. He went too over-the-top, especially considering the film’s grounded tone. Terence Stamp is still the definitive on-screen Zod.
6 Best: Ray Fisher As Cyborg
In Zack Snyder’s original version of Justice League, Cyborg was the emotional glue that tied the whole movie together. It’s a shame viewers never got to see that version of the movie (although we might get a taste when the Snyder Cut hits HBO Max next year), because Ray Fisher’s portrayal of Victor Stone was a joy to watch.
Fisher had plenty to chomp on, given his character’s strained relationship with his father, his remorse over his mother’s death, his recent disability, and his promising sporting career coming to an abrupt end. But he wasn’t given enough time or freedom to explore all that — but in the short time he did have, he nailed it.
5 Worst: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II As Black Manta
Black Manta’s arc in Aquaman is completely misguided. In the opening scene, he and his father have a jolly old time murdering some innocent people on a submarine, then Aquaman thwarts their brazenly evil plan and neglects to save the dad’s life. Then, the son spends the whole movie plotting to avenge his father.
Just from that setup, it’s impossible to root for such a hypocrite, but Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s bland performance doesn’t make it any easier. And it’s a shame, because he’s shown in other projects that he’s a great actor.
4 Best: Gal Gadot As Wonder Woman
When Patty Jenkins took on the task of helming the DCEU’s Wonder Woman solo movie, she decided to rid her vocabulary of the word “cheesy.” Avoiding cheesiness like the plague is how fans end up with so much bathos in Marvel movies, and it makes the movies feel insincere.
Jenkins’ vision wouldn’t have worked anywhere near as well if not for Gal Gadot’s performance in the title role. She brought just as much sincerity and earnestness to the story as Jenkins did. Gadot’s commitment made Diana Prince one of the most lovable heroes in comic book movie history.
3 Worst: Joel Kinnaman As Rick Flag
To the credit of Joel Kinnaman, no actor could deliver a nuanced performance with the kind of insane exposition he was given in Suicide Squad. In one scene, he introduces a new character by saying, “This is Katana. She’s got my back. I would advise not getting killed by her. Her sword traps the souls of its victims.” Yikes, right?
Kinnaman has proven in Netflix’s Altered Carbon and the much-better-than-it-should’ve-been RoboCop reboot that he’s a strong leading man; it’s just a shame that Warner Bros. didn’t take advantage of that when they hijacked David Ayer’s movie.
2 Best: Ben Affleck As Batman
Zack Snyder may have turned Batman, who has famously sworn off killing, into a shameless murderer, but Ben Affleck did a great job of playing the character. He may not have been the greatest on-screen Batman of all time — that title still belongs to Michael Keaton — but he was arguably better than his predecessor, Christian Bale.
When he was playing Bruce Wayne without the cowl, he was quietly seething under a stern, silent facade, and when he did don the cowl, that aggression came bubbling to the surface.
1 Worst: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor
Did Jesse Eisenberg ever read a comic book before playing the role of Lex Luthor? He seems to have fundamentally misunderstood who the character is, since his performance in Batman v Superman is more like a crummy imitation of Heath Ledger’s Joker than a portrait of the power-hungry megalomaniac that is Luthor.
Lex is a calculating, manipulative genius with a heart of stone and an unwavering addiction to power, but Eisenberg played him as a giggling nerd.