The Most Impractical Superhero Costumes In Movie History

The very best superhero movie costumes are things of beauty. These costumes embrace the inherent ridiculousness and vibrancy of superhero attire by reveling in visual details, vibrant colors, and textures that could only exist in this subgenre. In the process, they not only remind you of great outfits from the comics but also create superb examples of costume design in cinema. Unfortunately, not every superhero costume in the history of comic book movies has lived up to this high standard of quality. There are tons of examples of superhero costumes that, for whatever reason, were downright unpleasant and unpractical for performers to wear during lengthy shoots.

The reasons behind why such outfits were impractical vary greatly and go much deeper than just the costumes looking "weird." Some were psychologically taxing for people to wear. Others required many people working together to operate properly, and still, others made shooting critical fight scenes a nightmare. Whatever the reason, these unforgettably impractical superhero costumes went down in history for all the wrong reasons and proved how translating outfits from the pages of a comic can go wrong.

Michael Keaton's Batman costume

The idea of playing Batman sounds like the ultimate wish-fulfillment fantasy. Who hasn't imagined themselves getting to wear that iconic superhero suit and fighting crime? For Michael Keaton, who portrayed the character in "Batman" and "Batman Returns," the experience of wearing Batman's garb turned out to be more of a nightmare than a dream come true. While talking to other leading men on an installment of "Epix Hollywood Sessions," Keaton revealed that the very first time he put on his Batman costume, he was so restrained and cramped that he was instantly convinced that he could not play this role.

After this uncomfortable introduction to his superhero outfit, things didn't necessarily improve for Keaton in terms of his comfort. However, he noted that he opted to utilize his constant discomfort as a way to communicate and inform the tormented internal world of Bruce Wayne. Unfortunately, the restrictive nature of this Batman costume was quite visible in the final cut of both of Keaton's "Batman" movies. Most notably, there are various instances across these two installments in which Keaton is unable to move his neck in the outfit, forcing him to reorient his whole body when he has to shift his gaze. The Batman costume will always be the stuff of legend, but Keaton's experience with this outfit made it clear that it isn't all fun and games.

Michael Chiklis' The Thing costume

While the 2015 version of Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, employed motion capture to bring this superhero to life, the 2005 incarnation of the character, played by Michael Chiklis, employed an elaborate latex rubber outfit. It wasn't just clobberin' time on the "Fantastic Four" set for Chiklis, it was also time for some extreme psychological turmoil. The iteration of this outfit worn by Chiklis in his initial foray into playing the character proved to be more than a bit cumbersome for the actor. Speaking to WebMD, Chiklis revealed that when he first put this costume on, he immediately was gripped with anxiety. This attire was so constricting that it made him feel trapped.

Chiklis' problems with wearing the costume for The Thing proved to be so bad that he had to talk to a psychologist to learn tactics that could make his time on set manageable. While this outfit became a bit more bearable as the shoot for "Fantastic Four" went on, Chiklis was always gripped with fear whenever he had to get dressed as The Thing. However, there was good news for this actor once the sequel, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," rolled around. This time, Chiklis was given a costume that was significantly easier to take on and off, which helped to alleviate his claustrophobia.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles outfits

The original trilogy of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movies realized the titular superheroes through elaborate puppet suits courtesy of The Jim Henson Creature Workshop. These advanced costumes made it seem like these characters had walked off the pages of the comics and into the real world, but they were also incredibly cumbersome to wear for the actors. Josh Pais, the man who portrayed Raphael in the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," recalled to The Hollywood Reporter that he felt trapped in the costume that covered every inch of his body.

On the Look Back Machine podcast, directors Michael Pressman and Stuart Gillard (who were responsible for helming the second and third installments, respectively) recalled the difficult circumstances the actors had to work with when portraying the Turtles. This included impaired vision as well as having to coordinate with off-set technicians who were controlling the motorized parts of the costumes. Throughout their comments, the filmmakers continuously expressed admiration for all the performers of the Ninja Turtles characters for committing so deeply to their performances despite being encased in such impractical costumes.

The original leather outfits for the X-Men

When the Merry Mutants of the X-Men came to the big screen for the first time in the 2000 movie "X-Men," they were saddled with costumes that were quite a departure from what comic book fans expected. Traditionally, members of the X-Men wear yellow and black jumpsuits, while characters such as Wolverine or Storm have their own distinctive attire. Such outfits were nowhere to be seen in the film, with the various mutants instead covering their bodies in tight black leather reminiscent of outfits seen in late 1990s action films like "The Matrix." The change in costumes was even referenced in a line of dialogue from Scott Summers/Cyclops (James Marsden) asking Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) if he'd rather these characters walk around in "yellow spandex."

In a behind-the-scenes featurette for "X-Men," Marsden recalled how the first day the actors went out in their leather suits, they were required to walk over a seawall to get to the Statue of Liberty. Despite the seawall being only a few feet above the ground in height, nobody could step over it in their restrictive leather outfits. Marsden even went as far as to say that "you couldn't feel less like a superhero wearing those things." Though these costumes have garnered criticism for deviating from traditional "X-Men" comic garb, they were also a massive problem for the actors wearing them.

Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman costume

You'll struggle to find a more iconic superhero movie costume than the one Michelle Pfeiffer wore for "Batman Returns" as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. An outfit that's at once recognizably Catwoman while also hinting at more fetishistic impulses. It's a costume that could've just been hollow titillation. However, it ends up registering as a bold, confident assertion of sexuality in a subgenre that's often unkind to any expression of sexual impulses. This version of Kyle, who's been abused by men her whole life, embraces an outfit that reclaims her sexuality while tormenting the men who placed so many restrictions on her in the first place. 

This thematically rich and visually distinctive costume has become iconic in the years since "Batman Returns" premiered, but Pfeiffer didn't always have the best time wearing it. Talking to E! News in 2012, Pfeiffer recalled how the Catwoman suit was so restrictive that she could only be in it for short periods. Recalling that "it was probably really unhealthy" to wear the attire, Pfeiffer still expressed interest in playing the role of Catwoman again in some other project down the line. However, she'd likely want a much more flexible and less hazardous costume to wear if given the opportunity to once again portray this cat burglar like no other.

The digital superhero suit in Green Lantern

In the years since it was released, Ryan Reynolds has made his disdain for "Green Lantern" no secret. Among the many aspects of his performance in that superhero dud that he's criticized the most is the fully-CGI suit Green Lantern wears. The extreme artificiality of this attire garnered heavy criticism when "Green Lantern" was first released and ended up inspiring a particularly memorable line of comedic dialogue in the later Reynolds superhero movie, "Deadpool." However, even before "Green Lantern" premiered in theaters in June 2011, Reynolds was offering public criticisms of his superhero costume.

Speaking at a panel for "Green Lantern" at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Reynolds, per The Independent, commented on what it was like wearing a motion-capture suit every day that would later be replaced with a digital superhero outfit. Reynolds noted that this attire was incredibly uncomfortable and his thoughts on the set would often drift towards yearning for a practical costume he could wear instead. At the time, he still expressed hope for all the possibilities of what this outfit would look like once CGI was applied. However, even a year out from the movie's release, Ryan Reynolds had some very obvious problems with the superhero costume he was saddled with in "Green Lantern."

Shaquille O'Neal's Steel costume

There are lots of things one can regret about a movie as bad as "Steel." Perhaps you're a screenwriter who worked on the film's script and wished some of the dialogue had registered as natural. Perhaps you're involved in the stunt department and wish the time and money had been there to really nail the physicality of certain moments. One particularly subpar element of the movie, though, was the superhero outfit Shaquille O'Neal was forced to wear to portray the character of Steel. A sharp contrast to what he wore in the comics, this film's vision of Steel gave the hero a ramshackle outfit with nary a cape in sight. Worse, it looked laughable, not inspiring, and just appeared to be hastily cobbled together.

Speaking to Vice, the film's director, Kenneth Johnson, explained that this bizarre costume's repellant appearance was all down to how little time the crew had to get the film ready. He also noted that his own creative instincts informed the costume's subpar look since he had wanted Steel to wear something that looked like it could be made by an ordinary person. Johnson admitted that the attire came out looking "low-rent." This misguided attempt at reimagining the Steel costume just ended up looking terrible on-screen and reflected the budgetary issues that Johnson struggled with.

Andrew Garfield's Amazing Spider-Man costume

Andrew Garfield had a lot of major problems to overcome when he got to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man." There were, of course, the weighty expectations of following in the footsteps of Tobey Maguire's version of the character. Plus, there were considerations in trying to realize a version of Spider-Man that adhered to the darker, more realistic tone director Marc Webb was striving for. Then, there were also the impractical parts of his costume. The outfit Garfield was saddled with in "The Amazing Spider-Man" was a surprisingly uncomfortable piece of crime-fighting attire.

Speaking on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in April 2012 (per Digital Spy), Garfield waxed poetic about how his outfit in "The Amazing Spider-Man" was incredibly constricting and made all parts of his body extremely visible. While he noted that the costume is supposed to give a sense of freedom to Parker, Garfield only felt more self-conscious while wearing this garb. It's no wonder that Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man costume got radically overhauled for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." There was no need for this superhero outfit to provide any kind of hindrance to Garfield's on-screen performance for two movies in a row.

Jennifer Garner's Elektra attire

When putting together the solo "Elektra" film, Jennifer Garner, who portrays the film's titular lead, was conscious of how fans had received her first appearance as the character in the 2003 feature "Daredevil." Per a visit to the "Elektra" set from SuperheroHype, Garner said that the biggest complaint she'd heard from fans of her initial Elektra performance was that she didn't wear the character's trademark costume. While recognizing the fondness fans have for this outfit, she also noted that there was no way to translate it directly to the screen without it looking ridiculous. For "Elektra," Garner wore a costume that was a bit more evocative of its comic book roots, albeit with plenty of changes to ground it in reality.

Elektra, like so many women characters in mainstream comic books, was given a superhero outfit that was largely meant to titillate male readers rather than function as proper crime-fighting attire. Understandably, Garner and others deeply involved in "Elektra" wanted to change that. Unfortunately, the final costume utilized in "Elektra" suffered from just not looking quite right. In the end, the costume for the movie version of Elektra was also an impractical oddity — just in its own way.

Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique Costume

Michael Chiklis in "Fantastic Four" isn't the only superhero movie actor to have to deal with a torturous makeup process. Jennifer Lawrence in "X-Men: First Class" was tasked with playing Raven/Mystique. Previously portrayed by Rebecca Romijn in earlier "X-Men" installments, Lawrence had to be transformed into a woman with scaly blue skin. Though getting to play such an iconic mutant would sound like a dream come true, there were serious downsides to her stint in the "X-Men" universe. Playing Mystique required a makeup routine that lasted seven hours. However, Mystique's costume and makeup also left Lawrence with all kinds of rashes and skin issues long after filming ended.

These issues made filming as Mystique frequently a nightmare for Lawrence, though this would get addressed in her future appearances as the character. Starting with "X-Men: Days of Future Past," Lawrence would wear a much more stripped-down and mobile Mystique costume. This greatly reduced the amount of time she'd spend in the makeup chair and ensured that she wouldn't have to deal with nasty side effects once the cameras stopped rolling. With this outfit, Lawrence was more comfortable on the set and could focus more on her performance rather than the impractical outfit she was stuck wearing.

Ray Park's Snake Eyes costume

In his career as a stuntman and martial artist, Ray Park has taken on tons of challenging roles in major motion pictures. These have ranged from playing Darth Maul in "The Phantom Menace" to portraying "Toad" in the very first "X-Men" movie. Even with all these roles under his belt, nothing could prepare Park for his time playing Snake Eyes in "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra." To play the silent but deadly ninja superhero, Park wore a skintight outfit and a helmet, all in the name of emulating the character's traditional attire in other "G.I. Joe" media.

Fidelity to the source material ensured that Park had an enormously difficult time even walking around in his on-screen outfit. Speaking to 213, Park noted that from the beginning, he could tell the Snake Eyes costume was going to be difficult to perform in. He decided to face this challenge head-on by bringing home a costume to rehearse in. Even with this preparation, Park was still taken aback by how, in his words, "you feel like you can't move" once that Snake Eyes costume was put on. Though Park would eventually get a bit more comfortable with wearing this restrictive costume, the superhero outfit for Snake Eyes still provided a tremendous strain on the physicality of this performer.

Oscar Isaac's elaborate Apocalypse outfit

In 2018, Oscar Isaac sat down with GQ to look back on his various film roles. This waltz down memory lane was full of chipper memories and fond recollections of working with iconic filmmakers. However, no actor's career is devoid of unpleasant on-set experiences, and for Isaac, the nadir of his time as an actor came when he portrayed the titular villain of "X-Men: Apocalypse." Referring to the experience of portraying the villain as "excruciating," Isaac noted that he joined the project because he loved the "X-Men" mythology, and the cast that was already assembled for the production.

Little did the leading man of "Moon Knight" know that to portray "Apocalypse," he would be stuck inside layers upon layers of makeup and a bulky suit. In this elaborate get-up, Isaac noted that he had trouble moving and seeing the co-stars that he'd been so excited to work with. His mobility was so restricted that a special "saddle" was made for Isaac that would allow him to sit while trapped within the superhero movie costume. The reality of portraying Apocalypse did not come anywhere close to living up to Isaac's hopeful ambitions for the role, and much of that dissonance came down to the costume he was forced to wear.