Best Dressed: Ranking The Top 20 Superhero Costumes

By CB Staff 2012-07-04 17:15:41discussion comments
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When done wrong, a bad superhero costume can mean disaster for a movie. There are many, many things wrong with Joel Schmacher’s Batman & Robin, but those Bat Nipples didn’t do it any favors. And the opposite is very true about great costumes. When your hero first goes out to stop crime in their outfit, it’s so much more powerful if the mere sight of them makes you drop your jaw. It’s the one thing that separates the superhero genre from the standard action film, and some films use it to great effect. But which hero in which movie has the best costume?

With The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters now, sporting a much different outfit from the one we saw Tobey Maguire wear a decade ago, we’ve gone around the Cinema Blend offices and polled everyone to find out what we believe to be the top 20 superhero costumes in film. So who will take the top prize? Read on to find out!


#20 Wolverine (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
Let’s couch Wolverine’s low placement on this list in the fact that there are about a hundred other movie superheroes with costumes that are 10 times worse than his, but can’t we do better than this? We understand that you can’t do the yellow spandex from the comics – and kudos on making a joke about it in Bryan Singer’s X-Men - but Wolverine’s costume in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is just lazy. We give credit to it for fitting Hugh Jackman’s look, but where’s the flair that lets us know we’re watching a comic book movie?


#19 Professor X (X-Men)
While Professor X has enviable mutant abilities and some great rejoinders, his superhero costume is anything but super. Of course, as Professor Charles Xavier, head of a school for "gifted" children, his wardrobe must reflect a certain academic gentility. But no matter how dapper Patrick Stewart looks in a pinstriped suit—which for the record is very—the Professor's crime-fighting outfit of choice just can't compete with the flashier selections of his peers. I mean, seriously, the only bit of swagger he gets is an X-men-themed wheelchair. But hey, Chuck, look at the bright side: at least you beat Logan!


#18 Human Torch (Fantastic Four)
Look, we’re not saying that Fantastic Four is a good movie; in fact, it’s a pretty terrible movie. But one of the things that can be said for it is that their did the costuming right, particularly with the Human Torch. While it applies for three of the main heroes, the blue suits have a really nice color that is darkened from the comics and plays well on screen. But for Human Torch specifically it’s about the CGI. For such a crappy film, the character in flame mode looks pretty damn cool flying through the streets of New York.


#17 Black Widow (The Avengers)
Alright, what could be more generic than slapping black leather on a female superhero? Not much, really, which is why Scarlett Johansson's character comes in near the bottom of our list. But you can't argue that Johansson doesn't fill out the suit perfectly, and as shot by Joss Whedon in the overall spectacular The Avengers, she makes black leather look like a perfectly logical choice for fighting interstellar crime. Would she rather be in a badass mech suit like Iron Man's? Sure. But Black Widow knows her physical assets, as we see in that interrogation scene, and this suit shows them off while also leaving her room to kick actual ass.


#16 Spider-Man (Spider-Man)
Spider-Man’s bright and simple costume will always be difficult to bring to life on a live action screen. For one, it requires some imagination to take the relatively simple concept of the costume and give it enough intricate detail and texture to please audiences. For another, its color scheme has all of the pizzaz of Captain America without the muted tones, which is hard to fit into an urban landscape. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man suit is a perfectly fine addition to this list, and may have even made it higher if we hadn’t already seen what The Amazing Spider-Man could do with it.


#15 Abe Sapien (Hellboy)
Abe Sapien’s costume – or lack thereof – puts him near the bottom of our list, primarily because Guillermo Del Toro doesn’t come up with any definitive wardrobe that distracts from this reptilian design and aqua-blue skin. Sometimes in the Hellboy films, he’s wearing pants. Other times, he has face-hugging goggles and a nondescript body suit. It’s unclear if he needs any of them, and nothing really sticks. Abe Sapien’s such an interesting hero, a bizarre sidekick to an already strange hero in Hellboy. But when it comes to his treads, the costume designers needed to go back to the drawing board.


#14 Thor (Thor)
It makes sense that Thor's movie is directed by Kenneth Branagh, While he's got the typical uniform of a superhero with the cape and intricate chest plate, there's something Shakespearean about his costume, like it's a suit of armor re-interpreted by the gods above. The cape might not be functional, as we learned from The Incredibles, but it makes for an impressive figure, especially when you've got a guy that gigantic to fill out the suit. Thor's armor might look a little more generic than some of the entries on this list, but it's entirely befitting of a god, and something that perfectly marks him as an outsider when it comes time, near the end of the movie, for him to do battle on earth.


#13 The Shoveler (Mystery Men)
Mystery Men has polarized audiences for years with its rampant weirdness. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that when it came time to vote on The Shoveler’s suit, it received a couple of fives and plenty of twos. Featuring a miner’s helmet, a catcher’s chest protector, black gloves, a button up shirt and a rear enclosure for the character’s trademark shovel, the outfit genuinely looks like an ensemble some buffoon without real powers might cobble together to fight crime. I suppose that’s the pro. Unfortunately, the con to that DIY-ness is that anyone else could have put it together.


#12 Batman (Batman)
The batsuit from 1989's Batman holds up pretty well. Proudly promoting the bat symbol across its chest, this suit serves as a threat to evildoers and a beacon of hope to the denizens of Gotham dreaming of justice. Highlighting his awe-inspiring utility belt with a matching high-contrast yellow, this Batman seemed well-suited to the wild world of Tim Burton's Gotham. But while the cape and molded rubber abs made Michael Keaton seem suitably intimidating, the stiff cowl—that would definitely make head turning a challenge—loses this batsuit some points.


#11 The Crow (The Crow)
What other comic book character look like The Crow? None, that's who. The look assigned to Brandon Lee's title character was so iconic that even the hint of a remake has been met with scorn, and when you think of goths, something like The Crow is the first thing that comes to mind. Sure, a lot of it comes from the white face makeup, but the black leather pants, the wrist cuffs, and the white criss-crosses over his body all promise this is someone who's been to hell and back-- literally-- and who won't stop until he has his vengeance.


#10 Hellboy (Hellboy)
Yes it’s a trenchcoat – of which you’ll see plenty on this list – but it’s used to hide a completely different type of hero in Ron Perlman’s Hellboy. The beauty of the simplistic trenchcoat is the way it plays off the crimson red of Hellboy’s skin. So while we’re busy staring at the character’s severed forehead horns or his awkward facial hair, the trenchcoat cuts through the unnerving heat of his scorched skin. They complement each other. It’s not a fancy costume, but it gets its job done … hence, it lands on the middle of our list.


#9 The Rocketeer (The Rocketeer)
Alan Arkin may think that The Rocketeer looks like a hood ornament, but we think he looks pretty damn cool. We haven’t gotten to see too many period-set superheroes, and Joe Johnston’s main character uses it well to the costume’s advantage. The best feature, of course, is the helmet, which features a cool steampunk-esque design and looks real, like you could use it to steer a jetpack. The rocket itself is a simple design and straight out of the era, while the double-breasted brown jacket screams “hero.” It’s a simple but timeless design.


#8 Hit-Girl (Kick-Ass)
Hit-Girl’s costume is about as polarizing as a costume can get. Pairing the school girl skirt and blouse with the purple hair of a club slut and the leather of the femme fatale makes it impossible to see her as anything but a mad 11-year-old who does not accept that she is not a grown-up. Without the school girl bit, we could maybe see her as a madwoman with the mouth of a sailor, but because of it, she’s undeniably still a child. With all of the other components going on, the cape is completely unnecessary, but overall it’s a solid, completely fucked up little costume for a fucked up little girl.


#7 Blade (Blade)
Black trenchcoat. Black gloves. Black sunglasses. And yet, so very badass. Wesley Snipes takes what could have been a generic costume and infuses it with righteous anger and an icy, lethal disdain for the walking dead that you could show us the shades – and maybe the flat-top haircut – and virtually anyone could tell you which character they were looking at. The best part about Blade’s signature look is that his wardrobe hardly changed from one movie to the next. Why mess with near-perfection?


#6 Batman (The Dark Knight)
Christopher Nolan had nowhere to go but up. Joel Schumacher had left the Caped Crusader in neon glow and nipples. He had to be reinvented. And so, while Nolan and Christian Bale birthed a dark, durable, militaristic suit in Batman Begins, the costume took on a sleek and intimidating (yet always realistic) look for the iconic sequel. Despite what the Joker will tell you, Batman’s look is no laughing matter, and we can’t wait to see what suit he’ll don in The Dark Knight Rises.


#5 Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Marc Webb’s new spin on Spider-Man’s duds swings into a surprisingly high spot on the list. The Amazing Spider-Man costume is darker and more muted than its predecessor with its deep blue, almost purple base complemented by a muted red chest and a much improved mask. The huge, glued on eyes have been replaced by a pair of ‘arachnid-inspired’ lenses while the whole suit seems more textured, durable and believably home-made. Not to mention the added bonus of having Andrew Garfield’s perfectly lanky frame to hang it on. Maybe not amazing, but pretty damn good.


#4 Superman (Superman)
A lot of the other entries on this list have a certain wow factor. Either good or bad, they force gazes to linger and opinions to be formed. Reeve’s suit from the classic 1978 Superman, however, doesn’t really have that draw. It’s just timeless, simple and smooth. Lacking bells and whistles, bold choices and new directions, it interprets the source material without fanfare, giving audiences a slightly improved version of exactly what they would have drawn themselves. It’s very good but not quite great, a perfect representation of the film it comes from and the only acceptable barometer to measure newer suits again.


#3 Captain America (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Red, white and blue with a silver star, perfectly complemented by dark brown leather boots and straps, the modified flight suit from Joe Johnston’s CA: TFA is a perfect mix of modern and retro resulting is one of the best costumes of any big-screen super. Designed by Steve Rogers and Howard Stark (before being unwisely modified by Agent Coulson for The Avengers), the uniform also nails the two most important features: the signature helmet, sleek with tiny painted wings, and his star spangled shield, great in hand or strapped to the super soldier’s back.


#2 Iron Man (Iron Man)
Iron Man is one of the coolest heroes ever, so there is no justification for giving him an un-cool costume. Fortunately, in this department Jon Favreau and Marvel Studios did not let us down. In his first film Tony Stark goes through three different suits of armor and each one is more awesome than the last. Mark I looked homemade and still had a feel of practicality, Mark II gave us a look at what could be, and Mark III blew us all away with its badass red and gold color scheme. A fitting design for an awesome hero.


#1 Rorschach (Watchmen)
The top spot goes to a superhero who shuns the flashy fashion of his peers, favoring instead a noir-styled trench coat and fedora to compliment his brooding outlook and detective know-how. Not only does Rorschach's rejection of theatrical costume tropes give him a more dangerous look, it also gives newcomers to the Watchmen an immediate visual cue to his outsider nature. While some actors on this list struggled within their superhero duds, Jackie Earle Haley, who at 5'5" lacks an intimidating stature, thrived, delivering a powerful performance thanks in part to the dark mystique Rorschach's ever-shifting mask and loner wardrobe provided.
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