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9 Actors Who Were Unexpectedly Awesome Superheroes & Supervillains

While the world's figuring out how Ben Affleck did in 'Batman v Superman,' we're looking back at some of the most surprisingly badass performances

1 / 9

Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

Anyone who watched Parks and Recreation was likely shocked upon hearing that Chris Pratt had been cast as the lead in Guardians of the Galaxy. Was the doofy-but-lovable, somehow-broke-both-legs-at-once Andy Dwyer really ready to play a superhero? Boy, was he ever. From the first scene in Guardians, where Pratt's Star-Lord dances his way through an alien planet, kicking ass without missing a beat, it was clear that he was the perfect choice. His comedic style was just right for the slightly goofy Guardians, but Pratt also showed a wide range of acting ability, proving he was more than ready to lead a major franchise. (Or two, if you consider that his next big role was Jurassic World.) –Sarah Maloy

2 / 9

Kelsey Grammer in 'X-Men: The Last Stand' and 'X-Men: Days of Future Past'

Let’s be honest, when most of us think of Kelsey Grammer we think Dr. Frasier Crane. When I heard he was playing Beast I could only say, “Ummmm...” But from a casting perspective I could see why he was chosen. Grammer, who is a classically trained actor (which I didn’t know then) completely embodied Beast and gave us the artistically cultured and well-educated mutant we grew to love in the comics. Grammer as Beast is probably one of the best-cast characters in the whole franchise—which says a lot about the franchise, but that’s another post for another day. –Malikah Shabazz

3 / 9

Elizabeth Olsen in 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'

The Olsen twins' little sis made herself known in 2011 with a trio of films, including Martha Marcy May Marlene, first-time writer/director Sean Durkin's taut indie thriller about a young woman's post-cult paranoia. With the Godzilla remake, Spike Lee's Oldboy and Avengers: Age of Ultron all signing her shortly after, we feared a clearly talented actress might start getting swallowed up in a bunch of action flicks not especially concerned with human beings. But alongside Kick-Ass star Aaron Johnson, Olsen's Scarlet Witch managed to shine in the star-jammed Age of Ultron and actually emerged among the coolest characters by the end. We're psyched to see more of her in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War–Zach Dionne

4 / 9

Michael Keaton in 'Batman' and 'Batman Returns'

It's not hard to imagine, years before comment sections and Reddit, a widespread head-scratching at the idea of the Mr. Mom guy playing Batman. Sure, Keaton had disappeared into the zany creepiness of Beetlejuice with Tim Burton the year before, but did that spell a good modern Batman a 1989 audience could enjoy, two decades after the cheesy TV show left the air? Yeah, it actually did. –Zach Dionne

5 / 9

Grant Gustin in 'The Flash'

Watching Grant Gustin dance through the halls of Dalton Academy as Glee villain Sebastian Smythe, you would never expect that he could become one of TV's top superheroes. When it was announced that Gustin would be trading in his school uniform for the Flash's red and yellow suit, I was skeptical. But starting with Barry Allen's guest appearance on Arrow, the character worked, and Gustin proved me wrong. He's charming, quirky and relatable, offering the perfect balance of levity to offset The CW's other superhero show, the slightly darker Arrow (also helmed by Flash showrunner Greg Berlanti). –Sarah Maloy

6 / 9

Tom Hardy in 'The Dark Knight Rises'

I admit, I was late getting on the Tom Hardy train. Even though he played a great Shinzon in 2002’s not-so-great Star Trek: Nemesis, he fell off my radar as he went on to star in many more major films. Then came the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of joker forced all villains to step their game up and Hardy did not disappoint. Bane’s appearance in 1997’s Batman & Robin was comical to say the least, and Hardy’s portrayal gave the character an almost Shakespearean complexity. He was more than just someone’s pet thug: he was an intelligent and well-versed villain who calculated everything. The fact that Harvey was able to convey Bane’s complexity without us ever seeing his face shows the level of skill he possesses. –Malikah Shabazz

7 / 9

Krysten Ritter in 'Jessica Jones'

We knew Ritter from her turns on Breaking Bad, Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls and her starring role in the short-lived Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, but we never really quite got a complete sense of her. Add that to the fact we had no idea what Netflix and Marvel's Jessica Jones would even really be, itself, and you get our blank expectations. The deeply psychological, pitch-perfect result was one of the best series of 2015, comic book–affiliated or not. Ritter is suddenly one of the deadliest players on Marvel's bench. –Zach Dionne

8 / 9

Ryan Reynolds in 'Deadpool'

Ryan Reynolds’ has had a bumpy ride down the superhero road. He stared as Hal Jordan in the 2011 movie adaptation of Green Lantern which was painstaking to say the least. His first stab (pun intended) at Deadpool was in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but it seemed the character was written as just a complete jerk without he depth and (little bit of) humanity that 2016’s Deadpool ended up having. So hearing that he'd be reprising his role of Deadpool concerned me. Even though Ryan is great at playing the idiot characters in movies, his role in X-Men: Origins just didn’t fit into the movie. Then Deadpool the film happened, and all was made right in the world. Maybe the writing improved, maybe Reynolds improved. Either way, he perfectly embodied the politically incorrect anti-hero. Can’t wait for the sequel. –Malikah Shabazz

9 / 9

Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight'

In the summer of 2006, when it was announced that then-27-year-old Heath Ledger would play The Joker in The Dark Knight, it'd been almost two decades since Jack Nicholson's iteration menaced Tim Burton's Batman. But the gap hadn't been long enough, and the world's imagination wasn't strong enough, to slow one of the most memorable, seemingly unanimous casting objections of all time. The young Australian from Brokeback Mountain and 10 Things I Hate About You playing the anarchic, complex, off-kilter Joker, the Caped Crusader's arch-nemesis?

And now what could we possibly say that hasn't been said? Ledger died at 28, six months before the film—which would be one of his final two performances—and won a posthumous Oscar as well as a claim to the Best Supervillain Ever throne. Sometimes it feels so good to be wrong. –Zach Dionne


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Photo of the day

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 30: NSYNC is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 30, 2018 in Hollywood, Californ

Apr 30: *NSYNC 4EVER

It’s been a while since the guys of *NSYNC reunited. Since their epic onstage reunion at the 2013 MTV VMAs and JC’s 40th birthday, the guys have been doing their own thing, until today! Justin, JC, Joey, Lance and Chris got together to celebrate their new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and as if the day couldn’t get any better, JC reminds us that tomorrow it’s gonna be MAY.