Some superheroes just can't stay away from the big screen.
While we're living in a "golden age" of superhero movies now, many fans still remember when superhero movies only came out once every few years.
In those days, studios were a lot more picky about the superheroes they wanted in movies, which usually meant we saw the same superheroes over and over again.
Some of these oft-rebooted heroes are global icons, while others fill specific niche audiences. Here are six superheroes who keep appearing on the big screen:
Batman was the first DC superhero to appear in a movie, way back in 1943. Since then, eight different actors have portrayed the Dark Knight in live action movies. Each actor brought something different to the character. Ben Affleck's Batman was full of rage, while Christian Bale's Batman was more morose. Adam West played up the character's campiness, while Michael Keaton emphasized his manic-depressive mood swings and drive.
But Batman's stardom isn't limited to live action. He's also appeared in multiple animated movies with theatrical releases. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm capitalized on the success of Batman: The Animated Series, which introduced Batman to a generation of kids growing up in the 1990s. A second animated Batman movie will come out next year, this time based on the popular "Lego Batman" seen in the surprise hit The Lego Movie.
As long as superheroes remain relevant to pop culture, there will probably always be a Batman movie on the horizon. If Tim Schumacher couldn't kill off a Batman movie franchise, nothing will.
Although Superman was the first "official" superhero, he wanted five more years than Batman to appear in a movie. After two forgettable serials in the 1940s and a movie used to test the market for the Adventures of Superman television series, Superman got his first real movie in 1978.
The first Superman movie is widely considered to be the first "successful" superhero movie and pushed movie studios to look at superheroes more seriously as moneymakers. It helped that Christopher Reeves was the perfect Superman, an earnest, good looking guy that exuded invincibility whenever he soared through the sky.
Reeves appeared in three more movies (although most fans would prefer to forget the last two), and then Warner Bros. cooled off on the hero for a while. Nicolas Cage and Tim Burton attempted to spearhead a Superman movie in the late 1990s, but it wasn't until 2006 that Superman returned to theaters. Superman Returns was a non-starter with fans, but the 2013 Man of Steel movie helped launch the official DC Extended Universe.
The most popular live action version of the Hulk is technically the one we still (kind of) see on the big screen. In the 1980s, Lou Ferrigno starred as the Hulk in a popular TV series that spawned three made-for TV-movies. Although Ferrigno never got to play the Hulk in a big screen movie, Marvel tapped him to voice the Hulk in the popular Avengers movies. Marvel mixes Ferrigno's voice with Mark Ruffalo (the actor who plays Bruce Banner) to create the distinctive and monstrous voice of the not-so-jolly green giant.
Two other actors have played the Hulk in big screen movies, although neither were particularly popular. The Ang Lee-directed Hulk film was a critical disaster, a CGI-heavy mess that inexplicably gave the Hulk father issues. The more recent Marvel Studios film The Incredible Hulk was marginally better, although its most notable scene was a cameo appearance by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.
Sadly, it doesn't look like we'll get another solo Hulk movie anytime soon. Marvel has shied away from another live-action Hulk movie, although we will see the Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok.
Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can...except keep a franchise going for more than three films. After MGM spent nearly twenty years trying (and failing) to get a Spider-Man movie off the ground, Sony was able to get one made in just three years. The first Spider-Man film was a monster hit, becoming the first movie to break $100 million in ticket sales in one weekend and breaking tons of box office records.
Because of the success of the first Spider-Man film, Sony and Tobey Maguire teamed up for two additional movies. Spider-Man 2 was a pretty great movie, but Spider-Man 3 was a disaster and caused Sony to reboot the franchise.
Unfortunately, Sony's second attempt at a Spider-Man franchise also flopped...or at least didn't live up to the studio's expectations. So for their third try, Sony teamed up with Marvel Studios to bring Spider-Man "home" to the growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. After appearing in Captain America: Civil War, the newest Spider-Man Tom Holland will star in his own movie next year.
Of all the superheroes that have gotten multiple reboots and movies, the Punisher is the one that doesn't quite fit in. While the other heroes are iconic parts of pop culture, the Punisher...well, he's a good ol' fashioned revenge driven antihero who kills gangsters and drug dealers by the dozens.
Three different actors have played the Punisher in big screen movies. The first was action star Dolph Lundgren in a 1989 movie released only on video in the United States. Thomas Jane then starred in a second Punisher 15 years later, which pitted the gun-toting vigilante against the most dangeous villain of all...John Travolta. More recently Ray Stevenson portrayed the character in Punisher: War Zone, a movie forgotten by all but the most steadfast comic book fans.
When the rights to the Punisher eventually reverted back to Marvel Studios, he transitioned into television. Former Walking Dead star Jon Bernthal got the nod to play the Punisher in the gritty and violent New York seen in Netflix's Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Unsurprisingly, the Punisher got his own spinoff series, which should be released next year.
The Fantastic Four is the "first family" of Marvel Comics, which is probably why they keep getting movies even though they keep underperforming.
Fox released the first "official" Fantastic Four movie in 2004, although it wasn't the first Fantastic Four movie ever made. Famed b-movie director Roger Corman made a Fantastic Four movie in the 1990s that never made it into theaters. For years, the only way fans could watch the Fantastic Four movie was via pirated copies or bootleg videos.
Eventually, Fox got the rights to the Fantastic Four and made two movies, which starred Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman and a pre-Captain America Chris Evans as Johnny Storm. Neither movie was very good, and the second movie even went as far as to transform Galactus from a monolithic alien to a space storm.
More recently, Fox made a second attempt at a Fantastic Four movie franchise, this time directed by then "hot commodity" Josh Trank. Fant4stic was one of the biggest flops of the modern superhero movie era and probably ended any chance of seeing another Fantastic Four movie anytime soon.