If done correctly, a superhero costume in comics provides a dynamic and dramatic art piece that engages the reader, creating that special, iconic, recognition that fans and pop culture audiences identify with. The same can be said in cinema! Superhero costumes in movies are powerful visuals; the mere sight of a well executed version can be jaw-dropping, powerful, and immediately separates the superhero movie genre from the standard summer action movie. Thankfully, most comic based movies understand the importance of the superhero costume and utilize them to great effect!
In a few weeks, Wonder Woman will be appearing in theaters. A DC comics character with one of the most recognizable superhero costumes in all of comics, so here is a list of the best superhero costumes that have come before for comparison:
1- Batman (Batman & Batman Returns)
I think it’s safe to say that Batman, in any visual medium, has one of the most impressive superhero costumes ever designed. We will go ahead and place the character here at the top, not only because Tim Burton managed to bring the Dark Knight back to his darker, more serious roots, but also because the costume was, and is, one of the better versions that have been worn! A matte black color base with the trademark bat symbol emblazoned in the center of the chest in canary yellow, like a target for the eye, the costume was a beautiful mixture of gothic and modern design. There was even a “knightly” inspired design to the black cape and yellow utility belt, which gave Michael Keaton a kind of, regal gravitas as the Caped Crusader of Gotham.
2- Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2)
Despite the abrupt conclusion to both the film series, and Andrew Garfield’s tenure as the iconic web-slinger from the Big Apple, this incarnation of Spidey’s signature blue and red outfit was gorgeous to look at on the big screen and in high definition at home. The superhero costume was darker than its predecessor, with a deep blue, almost violet, base paired with muted, burgundy highlights and a much improved mask. The whole suit was more textured, svelte, and according to Garfield attracted his co-star and real life girlfriend Emma Stone to touch him between takes while he wore it on set.
3- Thor (Thor & Thor: The Dark World)
Maybe it’s because from the beginning Marvel Studios was in charge of the cinematic interpretation of their character, maybe it’s because the character of Thor is one of the more sci-fi fantasy-type characters that Marvel has to offer, or maybe it’s because Sir Kenneth Branagh was the first director for the Thor movies; whatever the reason, there is something wonderfully Shakespearean about the superhero costumes in the Thor movies. Seeing the character on screen is always a treat, and his fight scenes are some of the most impressive visually. Part medieval armor, with steel chest plates, gauntlets, and helms, but also possessing the traditional cape, wrist cuffs, and other superhero flair, the costumes in Thor are all top quality.
4- Batman (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, & The Dark Knight Rises)
Of course Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy made the list! With a more realistic and scientific approach to the outfit, Christian Bale as Batman was like a steampunk avenging angel, or some sci-fi barbarian soldier of fortune. With each installment outlining a new upgrade, or highlighting a new function in the suit, the costume seemed to grow and evolve in quality and design as the movies continued!
5- Captain America (The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier, & Civil War)
Speaking of soldiers of fortune, talk about suiting up for your country! Somehow, director Joe Johnston and his team manage to combine the campy factor of Caps red, white, and blue striped superhero flair, with a realistic World War Two uniform, that sets Steve Rogers apart from his fellow soldiers in the field, while additionally settling him perfectly alongside the Greatest Generation. Chris Evans manages to make the character completely authentic and grounded, so while in the following movie Cap dons a darker, sleeker uniform as an agent of SHIELD, there’s still a touch of humanity within. The dark blue and black colors of the new outfit exemplify the tone of seriousness that goes with Winter Soldier, but that silver star and stripes on the chest is like a burst of righteous patriotism, exploding from the heart of the character. It’s no wonder that in the third installment, Civil War, we see a seamless combination of the two costume versions. And it works! Cap looks like a superhero soldier, ready to fight in what he believes in, even if that means going against one of his best friends.
Imagine supernatural Batman, or the black symbiote suit of Spider-Man gone medieval, and you’re halfway to the epicness of the superhero costume of Spawn. And yes, perhaps calling the character a superhero is a stretch, but since he ultimately fights for justice we’ll go ahead and finish off with him. Somehow, with a uniform and sleek bodysuit design that clings to the character’s body and a skull-faced belt buckle the size of an actual person’s skull, Michael Jai White and director Mark A.Z. Dippé managed to keep the character from looking like a circus performer. Instead, Spawn comes across as the tormented avenger that he is supposed to be. And let’s not feign ignorance here, the money shot is that cape! Blood red with the most impressive collar ever, massively long, and possessing otherworldly powers, Spawn’s cape is an epic finishing piece that gives the character a commanding visual edge. Think Count Dracula with less romantic angst, or Superman from Hell.