(Photo by © Warner Bros.)
Neil Blomkamp is reassembling RoboCop, Joaquin Phoenix is getting his own Joker movie, and Robin is about to lead the Titans on streaming. That’s the great thing about our favorite characters: they’re never really gone – someone new can always bring them back. But how many of these adaptations really capture what we love about our favorite characters? And which adaptations do it best?
To find out, we took a deep look at 15 characters who have had at least five different versions of them made, and which have current or upcoming adaptations on the way. For some who’ve had dozens (thanks to public domain), we stuck to the 10 most famous versions. If a role was just recast during the same series – as opposed to a wholly new take – we counted them together. For each character, we also found their highest Tomatometer-rated portrayal – the ultimate arbiter of which version is the best (and likely the ultimate argument-starter among those who disagree!).
(Photo by © Orion/courtesy Everett Collection)
Number of RoboCops: 6
All the RoboCops: Original Trilogy (Peter Weller/Robert Burke), 1988 animated series (voice of Dan Hennessey), 1994 RoboCop TV Series (Richard Eden), RoboCop: Prime Directives TV series (Page Fletcher), 2014 RoboCop (Joel Kinnaman), Neil Blomkamp RoboCop (TBD)
The Best RoboCop: RoboCop (1987) 91%
No surprise, the original 1987 RoboCop is still rated highest. But we would never bet against Neil Blomkamp giving that version a run for its money.
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite RoboCop
(Photo by ©Warner Home Video)
Number of Jokers: 17 and counting
10 Most Famous Jokers: ‘60s TV Series (Cesar Romero), 1989 Batman (Jack Nicholson), Batman: The Animated Series including Mask of the Phantasm and crossover films and series (voice of Mark Hamill), The Batman (voice of Kevin Michael Richardson), The Dark Knight (Heath Ledger), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (voice of Jeff Bennett), Suicide Squad (Jared Leto), The LEGO Batman Movie (Zach Galifianakis), Joker Origin Movie (Joaquin Phoenix), Martin Scorsese-Produced Joker Movie (Leonardo DiCaprio)
The Best Joker: Batman: The Animated Series
At 97%, Batman: The Animated Series edges out even The Dark Knight’s 94% if we judge versions purely by Tomatometer. Morgan Jeffery of Digital spy praised the show’s voice cast, saying, “On top of its beautiful visuals and vocals, Batman also boasted a tone far more adult than one might expect from a comic book cartoon.” Hamill’s Joker is so acclaimed that he continued voicing him in many animated incarnations. However, as live-action Jokers go, Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal is hard to top. Will Phoenix or DiCaprio do it?
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Joker
(Photo by © Warner Bros.)
Number of Batmans: 17 (including a radio show) and counting
10 Most Famous Batmans: ’60s Batman TV series (Adam West), The Batman/Superman Hour/Super Friends (voice of Olan Soule), Burton/Schumacher film series (Michael Keaton/Val Kilmer/George Clooney), Batman: The Animated Series through Justice League Unlimited (voice of Kevin Conroy), Batman Beyond (voice of Will Friedle), The Dark Knight trilogy (Christian Bale), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Diedrich Bader), Gotham (David Mazouz), DCEU (Ben Affleck), LEGO Movies (voice of Will Arnett), The Batman (TBA)
The Best Batman: Batman Beyond 100%
Batman earned his highest Tomatometer score in the futuristic Batman Beyond with 100%. EW’s Ken Tucker said, “The new, black-winged, red-blooded Batman on display Saturday mornings will have you pouring a steaming mug of coffee and shouldering aside any nearby children to catch all the fresh fun and action.” In the live-action realm, Christian Bale’s Dark Knight trilogy is the most consistently Fresh Batman series with a high of 94% for The Dark Knight.
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Batman
(Photo by © Lionsgate)
Number of Robin Hoods: Dozens
The 10 Most Famous Robin Hoods: 1922 Robin Hood (Douglas Fairbanks), The Adventures of Robin Hood (Errol Flynn), Disney’s Robin Hood (voice of Brian Bedford), Robin and Marian (Sean Connery), Time Bandits (John Cleese), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Kevin Costner), Robin Hood (Patrick Bergin), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Cary Elwes), 2010 Robin Hood (Russell Crowe), 2018 Robin Hood (Taron Egerton)
The Best Robin Hood: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) 100%
With 100%, Errol Flynn is hands-down the most acclaimed Robin Hood. Not bad considering Rotten Tomatoes didn’t exist yet in 1938! But our critics still respect the classic, with Village Voice’s Elliott Stein commenting, “Movie pageantry at its best, done in the grand manner of silent spectacles, brimming over with the sort of primitive energy that drew people to the movies in the first place.”
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Robin Hood
(Photo by ©Walt Disney Pictures)
Number of Mulans: 15
The 10 Most Famous Mulans: Hua Mulan Joins The Army (Hu Shan), Lady General Hua Mu Lan (Ivy Ling Po), The Saga of Mulan (Bai Shuxian), Disney Mulan franchise (voice of Ming-Na), The Secret of Mulan (uncredited voice), A Tough Side of a Lady (Mariane Chan), Mulan: Rise of a Warrior (Zhao Wei), Once Upon a Time (Jamie Chung), Live-Action Disney Mulan (Liu Yifei), Alex Graves-directed Mulan (TBD)
The Best Mulan: Mulan (1998) 85%
Since most of the Chinese film and television productions of the Mulan story weren’t available to international critics, the Disney Mulan currently wins on the Tomatometer by default. Film Journal International’s Wendy Weinstein wrote, “it is in the subtlety of its characters’ ‘acting’ that Mulan excels” and it does have an 86% Fresh rating. We have every hope for the upcoming live-action renditions, too.
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Mulan
(Photo by ©Walt Disney)
Number of Tinker Bells: Dozens
10 Most Famous Tinker Bells: 1924 Peter Pan (Virginia Browne Faire), Disney’s Peter Pan/Return to Neverland (Silent), 1960 Peter Pan (stage light), Hook (Julia Roberts), Peter Pan (Ludivine Sagnier), Neverland (Keira Knightley), Tinker Bell film series (voice of Mae Whitman), Peter Pan Live (CGI), Once Upon a Time (Rose McIver), Live-Action Tinker Bell (Reese Witherspoon)
The Best Tinker Bell: Tinker Bell (2008) 90%
Tinker Bell’s solo movie is even fresher than the original Disney Peter Pan, and subsequent sequels are Fresh too. The L.A. Times’ Michael Ordona wrote, “To its target audience, it will be another self-empowerment fable with loads of imagination and colorful, painterly images (and a keen marketing blast for Disney fairies).” The 1924 film is praised unanimously by a handful of critics, so it’s worth seeking out.
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Tinker Bell
(Photo by © The CW)
Number of Portrayals: 16 (including radio)
10 Most Famous Superman: Live-action serials (Kirk Alyn), Superman and the Mole Men + The Adventures of Superman (George Reeves), Superman: The Movie through Superman Returns (Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh), Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (Dean Cain), Superman: The Animated Series (voice of Tim Daly), Smallville (Tom Welling), Warner Animation Superman films (voices of Adam Baldwin, Kyle MacLachlan, Tim Daly, Mark Harmon, James Denton, Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Matt Bomer, Sam Daly, Alan Tudyk, Jerry O’Connell, Benjamin Bratt), DCEU (Henry Cavill), Supergirl (Tyler Hoechlin), Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (voice of Nicolas Cage)
The Best Superman: Superman: The Movie (1978) 94%
You never forget your first Superman, so the franchise that began with Christopher Reeve’s 94% Fresh Superman: The Movie remains the most acclaimed. As recently as this May, The Times UK’s Ed Potton called Reeve “manlier and steelier than recent portrayals by Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill.” John J. Puccio of Movie Metroplis (appropriate name) said of Reeve “the casting department found someone with just the right charisma to pull it off.” Recently, Tyler Hoechlin’s portrayal of Kal El on a few episodes of Supergirl earned new raves. Digital Spy’s Morgan Jeffery says, “Tyler Hoechlin is the best live-action Man of Steel since the sorely underrated Dean Cain hung up his tights.” TV Fanatic’s Stacy Glanzman agrees that Hoechlin “nailed it.” Give him a few more seasons and see if he can catch up to Reeve!
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Superman
Number of Different James Bonds: 006
All the James Bonds: “Casino Royale” episode of Climax (Barry Nelson), EON Film Series (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig), Casino Royale comedy (Peter Sellers, David Niven, Woody Allen), “The British Hero” episode of Omnibus (Christopher Cazenove in re-enactments), Never Say Never Again (Sean Connery), James Bond Jr. (voice of Corey Burton)
The Best Portrayal: Goldfinger (1964) 99%
It’s the long-running EON films version of the character, obviously. At its height, these films scored a 97%. Roger Ebert remarked of Goldfinger and the franchise, “it is a great entertainment, and contains all the elements of the Bond formula that would work again and again.” Now, whether you pick Daniel Craig or Sean Connery as your favorite from this version…we’ll let that debate continue among Bond fans.
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite James Bond
(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Number of Portrayals: 13 including Marvel animated guest appearances
10 Most Famous Hulks: The Marvel Super-Heroes (voice of Max Ferguson), The Incredible Hulk TV series (Lou Ferrigno), The Incredible Hulk animated series (voice of Bob Holt), The Marvel Action Hour (voice of Ron Perlman), The Incredible Hulk (voice of Neal McDonough), episodes of Iron Man: Armored Adventures (voice of Mark Gibbon), Superhero Squad Show (voice of Travis Willingham), Hulk (Eric Bana), MCU (Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo), The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes through Avengers Assemble and appearances on Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man (voice of Fred Tatasciore)
The Best Portrayal: Marvel's the Avengers (2012) 91%
With a 92%, The Avengers‘ incarnation of Hulk smashes the rest – and the MCU version as a whole, including Ed Norton and Mark Ruffolo’s tale,s has a Fresh average of 81.8% . The animated Earth’s Mightiest Heroes scores higher even than The Avengers, but with only five reviews, we’re still giving the title to the MCU’s Hulk Matt Brunson of Creative Loafing said when reviewing The Avengers, “The scene-stealer is Ruffalo, who provides Bruce Banner with a soulfulness missing in the portrayals by Bana and Norton.” Even CNN’s Tom Charity singled out the Hulk among other Avengers, saying, “Never underestimate the entertainment value of the Hulk Smash.”
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Hulk
(Photo by © Columbia)
Number of Spider-Man: 16
The 10 Most Famous Spider-Men: The Amazing Spider-Man (Nicholas Hammond), Spider-Man (voice of Christopher Daniel Barnes), Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (voice of Neil Patrick Harris), Ultimate Spider-Man and LEGO Marvel (voice of Drake Bell), Sam Raimi Trilogy (Tobey Maguire), Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2 (Andrew Garfield), Turn Off The Dark (Reeve Carney and Justin Matthew Sargeant), LEGO Spider-Man (voice of Jackson Buffington), (MCU/Homecoming (Tom Holland), Into the Spider-verse (Jake Johnson and Shameik Moore)
Best Spider-Man: Spider-Man 2 (2004) 93%
With a peak at Spider-Man 2’s 93%, the Sam Raimi trilogy remains the most critically acclaimed Spider-Man films (Holland’s appearances in Captain America: Civil War and Homecoming comess close though.) AP’s Christy Lemire praised the series when reviewing the second film: “The web-slinging sequences are bigger-better-brighter-faster than the already spectacular ones in 2002’s Spider-Man, and at the same time, the film’s smaller emotional moments are denser, richer and more resonant than those in the first.”
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Spider-Man
(Photo by © The CW)
Number of Jugheads: 7
All the Jugheads: Radio show (voices of Hal Stone, Cameron Andrews and Arnold Stang), The Archie Show and spinoffs (voice of Howard Morris), The New Archies (voice of Michael Fantini), Archie’s Weird Mysteries (voice of Chris Lundquist), 1976 Archie pilot and ’78 special Archie Situation Comedy Musical Variety Show (Derrel Maury), Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again (Sam Whipple), Riverdale (Cole Sprouse)
Best Jughead: Riverdale 80%
Riverdale has a series Tomatometer score of 88%, crowning Cole Sprouse as the best Jughead. It’s also the only take who’s been reviewed enough to have a Tomatometer score, but we have a feeling this CW fan favorite would likely win against his animated competition even if the data was there.
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Jughead
Number of He-Men: 5
All the He-Men: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (voice of John Erwin), Masters of the Universe (Dolph Lundgren), The New Adventures of He-Man (voice of Garry Chalke and Doug Parker), 2002 series (Cam Clarke), New Live-Action Film In Development
Best He-Man: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe 100%
Boy, did all the Tomatometer critics grow up on the weekday afternoon cartoon in the ’80s, or what? Well, this one may still be up for grabs if they make a really cool live-action movie, but for now the original cartoon is the master. Nerdist’s Rosie Knight puts it in perspective saying, “Beloved for many reasons. There’s the notoriously rushed production… giving it a unique and charming look. It’s also revered for its vision of a kid friendly techno-barbarian landscape.”
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite He-Man
(Photo by © Netflix)
Number of Punishers: 6
All The Punishers: 1989 The Punisher (Dolph Lundgren), Spider-Man: The Animated Series (voice of John Beck), 2004 The Punisher (Thomas Jane), Punisher: War Zone and Super Hero Squad Show (Ray Stevenson), Netflix series (Jon Bernthal), Avengers Assemble episode “Planet Doom” (uncredited)
Best Punisher: Marvel's Daredevil: Season 2 (2016) 81%
Bernthal remains the only certified Fresh Punisher, and his stint on Daredevil season 2 bested even his own series (though Marvel’s The Punisher is still Fresh). New York Observer’s Vinnie Mancuso singles out Bernthal’s haunted portrayal, “Jon Bernthal is the perfect Punisher because there is zero fun in his performance.”In reviewing Daredevil‘s second season, Aggressive Comix’s Steph Cozza adds, “The Punisher is the true MVP here.”
Poll: Vote for Your favorite Punisher
(Photo by © Toho Films)
Number of Godzillas: 9
All the Godzillas: 31 Toho Films, Hanna-Barbera Godzilla, Godzillaland, Godzilla Island, 1998 Godzilla, Godzilla: The Series, Nike commercial with Charles Barkle, Legendary Films’ Godzilla, Netflix Godzilla
The Best Godzilla: Godzilla (1954) 93%
With a 93% for the classic Gojira and seven more Fresh movies in the franchise, nobody’s done Godzilla better than Toho. The Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter put it best in 2004 when he said, “Its images of the destruction of the cities is far more powerful than in American films, where the cities are trashed for the pure pleasure of destruction, without any real sense of human loss.”
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Godzilla
Number of Kongs: 9
All the Kongs: 1933 King Kong and Son of Kong (stop motion animation), 1966 King Kong animated series, King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes, 1976 King Kong (voice of Peter Cullen) and King Kong Lives (Peter Elliott), Kong: The Animated Series and Return to the Jungle, 2005 King Kong (Andy Serkis), Kong: King of Atlantis, Kong: King of the Apes (voice of Lee Tockar), Legendary King Kong (Toby Kebbell)
The Best Kong: King Kong (1933) 99%
Certified Fresh at 98%, the original 1933 Kong is still King (its sequel, rushed into release later in 1933, not so much). Robert Ebert explained why it still works nearly a century later, writing that “there is something ageless and primeval about King Kong that still somehow works.”
Poll: Vote for Your Favorite King Kong
There are many more characters who’ve been portrayed over and over again. Who are your favorites? Tell us in the comments.