Henry Cavill can now be seen leading the series adaptation of popular video game The Witcher on Netflix. To fans of his movies, however, he will forever be known as their Superman… or super spy, maybe, as he has a slew of movies in both of these genres under his belt. But which are his best?
The 36-year-old British actor had a modest acting career before he burst onto the Hollywood scene as the last son of Krypton and his Earthly alter ego Clark Kent in director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, before reprising the role of Superman in subsequent films for DC and Warner Bros. In between throwing on the red and blues, Henry Cavill stretched his legs as a different kind of hero as a suave American spy a la James Bond in Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E in 2015 and a different take on espionage in the sixth entry of the Mission: Impossible franchise.
Among these high-profile releases starring Henry Cavill, which of them deserves to be called the actor’s best work? Take a look at Henry Cavill's most interesting movies, ranked from worst to best.
5. Justice League (2017)
Comparing the cinematic alliance of DC’s greatest heroes to the MCU’s Avengers movies puts anyone at risk of sounding like a broken record. However, it is hard not to draw comparisons when discussing Justice League, in which Batman (Ben Affleck) joins forces with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and, eventually, a resurrected Superman (Henry Cavill) against a catastrophic threat.
Ignoring Henry Cavill’s distracting CGI upper lip (more on that later), Justice League at least gives fans a glimpse of the Superman they were hoping to see in the DCEU near the end. However, a lack of strong development in character and story, due mostly to a lot of behind-the-scenes drama (including Zack Snyder passing directorial duties to Joss Whedon for reshoots), makes this critical and commercial misfire a well-meaning but, overall, incomplete experience… that is, until we finally get to see the Snyder Cut?
4. Man Of Steel (2013)
Despite rumors of True Blood’s Joe Manganiello or Mad Men’s Jon Hamm breathing new life into the iconic comic book hero, Henry Cavill, then best known as Charles Brandon on The Tudors, won the leading role of Zack Snyder’s reimagining of Superman in Man of Steel. This darker take on the Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster creation’s origin sees Clark Kent struggle with the extraterrestrial abilities that make him an outcast on his adoptive planet of Earth before accepting his destiny as its costumed guardian when Kryptonian traitor General Zod (Michael Shannon) threatens to make it a new Krypton.
The 2013 movie to that kicked off the DCEU was initially met with divisive reactions, with DC comics purists claiming Zack Snyder’s dreary interpretation to be a grossly unjust departure from the character’s history - allowing father Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) to die in a tornado so as to keep his powers concealed and killing Zod - and his more optimistic persona. On the other hand, Man of Steel’s deconstruction of Superman could be argued as a refreshingly unique take on the character, with Henry Cavill’s performance bringing out a new depth and humanity in the character that no screen adaptation as explored in the same sense before.
3. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
While Man of Steel marked the official beginning of the DCEU movies, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice really set things in motion by bringing back Henry Cavill as Superman to share the big screen with other legends of DC comics for the first time. Clark Kent (Cavill) finds himself at odds with Gotham City’s Dark Knight, the alter ego of billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), after the destructive events in Metropolis in 2013 have left some to perceive him as a threat.
Yet another polarizing comic book film from director Zack Snyder, many see this as an overcomplicated, tone deaf mess that once again sees iconic DC characters abandoning their traditional personas. However, it can also be argued that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice offers an interpretation of the source with new sense of gravitas that sets it apart from other films of its kind thematically. Not to mention, Ben Affleck’s gloriously intimidating Batman and Gal Gadot finally bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen make it easier to swallow.
2. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
For anyone who has ever been critical of Henry Cavill’s acting ability, I urge them to check out his scenery-chewing performance in what I believe is right behind Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation as the best of the many, many spy movies to come out in 2015. Despite playing an American CIA agent, the British actor’s suave, rebellious demeanor and classically rugged appearance makes a great case that he could he play James Bond.
An adaptation of the 1960s television show of the same name, this Cold War-era espionage thriller sees CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) in the unlikely alliance with KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) to protect Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) while investigating her nuclear physicist’s father’s involvement with a criminal organization. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. will have you refreshed to see a revamp of Guy Ritchie’s signature style, enthralled by its Sean Connery-era nostalgia, and laughing at how barely any actor in this movie is using their actual accent.
1. Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
Perhaps, instead of superheroism, Henry Cavill’s true calling as an actor is (SPOILER ALERT) villainy. He certainly makes it work opposite Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Fallout, one of the most exciting entries of the enduringly popular spy movie franchise, even if his most famous contribution to the film is, decidedly, the moustache that cost him his real upper-lip in Justice League.
Once again, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team are in trouble after a mission does not go according to plan, sending them in a race against time to prevent cores of plutonium from falling into the wrong hands. From what has got to be the greatest bathroom fight sequence in cinematic history (which shows Henry Cavill duking out some intense combat moves) to the film’s flag ship stunt involving dangling Cruise from a helicopter, Mission: Impossible - Fallout is a familiar spy tale, but with a relentlessly invigorating, edge-of-your-seat delivery that reminds you why you go to the movies in the first place.
I know there's a lot of superhero stuff on this list, but I'd take Henry Cavill's performance in Justice League over his smaller roles in Stardust or Tristan & Isolde any day. What do you think of the list ranking Henry Cavill’s best movies? Does his Superman deserve more love or does his work on TV projects like The Witcher or in other movies surpass these aforementioned roles? Let us know!
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Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.