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Top 10 Long-Running Superhero Portrayals

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden

Script written by Garrett Alden

Superheroes never retire! From Adam West to Lou Ferrigno to Hugh Jackman, these actors have played heroes for so long, it's impossible to separate them from their iconic roles. WatchMojo counts down the top long-running superhero portrayals.

Special thanks to our user MattW128 for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Longest+Running+Superhero+Portrayals


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Script written by Garrett Alden

Top 10 Long-Running Superhero Portrayals

These actors helped define our favorite heroes. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Long-Running Superhero Portrayals.

For this list, we’ll be examining the actors who’ve portrayed various superheroes for a long period of time, while taking into consideration the degree of screen time and how iconic they are to the role. So things won’t be entirely in order of seniority. Also, we will not be including villains, despite some excellent recurrent performances from Ian McKellan as Magneto and Mark Hamill as the Joker. Lastly, beware of spoilers.

#10: Halle Berry as Storm (2000-14)

Halle Berry played the weather controlling mutant Storm in the initial “X-Men” trilogy, as well as reprising the role in “Days of Future Past.” Although part of a large ensemble cast, Berry gives a good performance throughout the series, handling herself well in Storm’s various weather-based action sequences. Her interactions with Nightcrawler in the second film are also quite well done. Sure, her cheesy Toad line might be one of the franchise’s more infamous moments, but we’ll gladly take that over “Catwoman” any day.

#9: Lou Ferrigno as The Incredible Hulk (1977-)

When Dr. David Bruce Banner transformed into the titular green monster, it was actor Lou Ferrigno who portrayed the angry giant. Ferrigno starred as the Hulk in the late seventies TV series, as well as several TV movies that followed. However, he also went on to voice the character in the nineties animated series, as well as lending his talents to creating a composite voice for the Hulk in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe films, so, technically, his run isn’t fully over. Besides his impressive physique, Ferrigno helped infuse the role with the ferocity the Hulk is famous for, while also managing to show the creature’s simpler, tender nature on occasion.

#8: Adam West as Batman (1966-2017)

Holy lengthy depictions, Batman! Though we had to give a shout-out to the other half of the dynamic duo, Adam West’s role as the Caped Crusader was just more iconic, earning him a spot on our list. West played Batman, and occasionally Bruce Wayne, in the famously campy, late sixties TV and movie, which featured the world’s greatest detective. West reprised the role several times, including in multiple animated series and even a return to live-action. West’s voice is even featured posthumously in the 2017 animated film “Batman vs. Two-Face” making him attached to the role for over fifty years!

#7: Shintaro Katsu as Zatoichi (1962-89)

And here we have our dark horse entry! For those unaware, Zatoichi is a wandering blind masseur and swordsman whose awareness and battle prowess are unhindered and/or enhanced by his inability to see, who helps and protects people on his travels. The actor who most defined the role was unquestionably Shintaro Katsu, who played Zatoichi in twenty-six separate films over twenty-seven years, sometimes in multiple films per year, in addition to appearing in a five-year television series. While the hero’s relatively limited iconic worldwide status keeps him lower on our list, Katsu’s fantastic performance and long-running attachment to the role had to earn him a spot.

#6: Tom Welling as Clark Kent (2001-11)

Few of our entries have played a role with quite the degree of regularity as Tom Welling. For ten years, Welling played Clark Kent, the man who would be Superman, on “Smallville,” in one of the longer runs on our list, at least in terms of screen time. Welling displayed many facets of the iconic character over his lengthy portrayal, showing us a teenager wrestling with his new abilities, his friendship and eventual enmity with Lex Luthor, his romances with Lana Lang and Lois Lane, and eventually his development into the “young man of steel,” all while bringing a relatability to the character that few have. If only he had donned the cape sooner, though…

#5: Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (2008-)

Yes you are Robert… er, Tony… yes you are. Robert Downey Jr.’s run as Tony Stark and his superhero persona Iron Man has been a great and relatively long one. Since 2008, Downey Jr. has played the metal suited hero in what feels like half of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The matching of actor with part was pitch perfect and Downey Jr.’s charismatic performance turned what was a lesser-known hero into one of Marvel’s most recognizable characters. The role also rejuvenated the actor’s career after several setbacks.

#4: Patrick Stewart as Professor X (2000-17)

The leader of the X-Men and the perennial, paternal guardian of mutants, Professor X is a comforting and wise presence throughout the “X-Men” films, and Patrick Stewart personified the role spectacularly. Stewart has played the part for seventeen years, from the original trilogy, to the sequel/prequel “Days of Future Past,” to his final tragic end in “Logan.” During that time, the actor has illustrated Charles’ wisdom and leadership, as well as beautifully showing that even at his literal wits’ end, he is still looking out for mutant-kind. Stewart has suggested that, despite the Professor’s death, he may still return to the role someday. We hope he does!

#3: Christopher Reeve as Superman (1978-87)

He’s the actor who made us believe a man can fly. There have been other actors to play Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent before and since Christopher Reeve donned the cape and tights, but few have been as synonymous with the role as him. Reeve fought for truth, justice, and the American Way in four big screen films over nine years. His ability to convey the character’s nature as a paragon of virtue, while also displaying charm and revealing his more human side, is truly something super.

#2: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (2000-17)

You all saw this coming. Hugh Jackman has played the immortal Wolverine, a.k.a. Logan, a.k.a. James Howlett, in no less than nine films over the last seventeen years. Jackman’s career portraying him is almost as impressive as Logan’s lifespan, and his intense dedication to the equally intense character is evident from his charismatic breakout performance in the first “X-Men” film to his powerful finale and tour de force in “Logan.” We don’t envy whoever has to cast a new Wolverine, because Jackman’s performance has just been that good, bub.

#1: Kevin Conroy as Batman (1992-)

There have been many to don the cowl of the Dark Knight, but none have played the part nearly as consistently as Kevin Conroy. For over twenty-five years and counting, Conroy has been the voice of Batman in a huge number of cartoons, animated films, and video games. Conroy’s Batman exemplifies the character’s honor, determination, and sheer badassery, and playing the part that well for as long as he has, is truly amazing. But we think the best way to sum things up is to let Conroy say it himself:

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