People love shelling out big bucks to see muscled-up men and women punch bad guys in the face. That’s why, in Hollywood, the phrase “superhero film” is synonymous with “blockbuster” — but only if executives cast the right talent.

Without a solid lead, superhero flicks can go from Oscar-worthy to Raspberry-worthy STAT, so producers consider a lot of actors and actresses. And had these Hollywood celebs won the superhero roles they were considered for, the Marvel and DC Universes would look very different — for better or for worse.

1. Tom Cruise as Iron Man: Producers considered Cruise for the role of Tony Stark in a mechanized battle suit, but ultimately chose Robert Downey Jr. Cruise understood and was delighted for his friend. “I can’t imagine anyone else in that role,” he said.

2. Emily Blunt as Black Widow: Had Cruise won the Iron Man role, he might’ve teamed up with Emily Blunt in the Avengers, but she turned down the role of Black Widow — which was snatched by Scarlett Johansson — to do Gulliver’s Travels instead.

3. John Krasinski as Captain America: In an alternate universe, Blunt took the role and starred in The Avengers alongside her husband, Krasinski, who was considered for Captain America. He knew he wouldn’t get the role, though, after he saw the muscle-bound bod of Chris Hemsworth on set as Thor.

4. Tom Hiddleston as Thor: Krasinski might’ve landed the part, however, if Hiddleston landed the role he auditioned for: Thor. Ultimately, the producers recognized he’d be perfect for the role of Loki instead, and he was happy with their decision. “It was a gift,” he said.

5. Jaimie Alexander as Wonder Woman: She starred alongside Hiddleston and Hemsworth as Sif in the Thor franchise, but she wanted a role as DC Comics icon Wonder Woman. That role ultimately went to Gal Gadot — but there was another candidate, too.

6. Sandra Bullock as Wonder Woman: Before Gal Gadot donned the red, white, and blue, Lynda Carter — Wonder Woman in the ’70s TV show — admitted she’d love to see real-life wonder woman Bullock play the hero as rumors suggested. This didn’t happen.

7. Josh Brolin as Batman: But had Bullock played Wonder Woman, she might’ve co-starred in The Justice League with Brolin, who Batman v Superman producers considered casting as the Dark Knight. “I wasn’t the guy for” it Brolin, who played Thanos in The Avengers, recalled.

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8. Pierce Brosnan as Batman: Brolin could’ve followed in the footsteps of Brosnan, had the 007 actor not declined the role of Batman in Tim Burton’s ’89 film. He said of Batman, “Any man who wears his underpants outside his pants just cannot be taken seriously…But how wrong was I?”

9. Cillian Murphy as Batman: While Brosnan turned down a Batman role, Murphy auditioned for the part in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise. He was instead cast as the villain, Scarecrow, and awarded the honor of being choked out by Batman — played by Christian Bale.

10. Marlon Wayans as Robin: And what’s Batman without his Robin? “I was actually supposed to play Robin in Batman Returns,” Wayans said. “I was cast, I was paid and everything. I still get residual checks.” But new director Joel Schumacher re-cast Chris O’Donnell in the role.

11. Annette Bening as Catwoman: Wayans might’ve shared a screen with Bening, who turned down the role of Catwoman in ’92’s Batman Returns when she became pregnant. That part ended up going to Michelle Pfeiffer.

12. Nic Cage as Superman: Five years later in ’97, studios halted production on Superman Lives, a film starring Nic Cage that looked terrible according to those in the know. Still, though his costume looked like an action figure’s, Cage apparently nailed the part of Superman.

13. Will Smith as Superman: Just 8 years after Cage donned the S, Warner Bros. produced Superman Returns and offered the role of Superman to Smith. He turned it down because “you mess up white people’s heroes in Hollywood, you’ll never work in this town again!”

14. Joe Manganiello as Superman: Then, when DC Studios wanted another Superman flick, Man of Steel director Zack Snyder thought of Manganiello’s superhuman abs and knew he’d be perfect for the role. True Blood producers wouldn’t let him take time off, however. 

15. Dougray Scott as Wolverine: Executives considered Dougray for the part of Wolverine in ’99’s X-Men film, but he turned down the part to play the bad guy in Mission Impossible II. Hugh Jackman eventually took the job, but his co-stars could’ve been very different…

16. Angela Bassett as Storm: She was executives’ first choice for the part that ultimately went to Halle Berry, but “her agents wanted more money than we had at the time,” a writer for the movie recalled. She still joined a Marvel movie years later as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther.

17. Wesley Snipes as Black Panther: But Bassett would’ve been starring in a Black Panther remake had Snipes got his wish in the ’90s. He wanted to make and star in a Black Panther film, but “the technology wasn’t there,” he said.

18. Brad Pitt as Cable: Before production started on Deadpool 2, director David Lieitch considered Deadpool-fan Pitt for the role of Cable. When it didn’t work out because of a scheduling conflict, the A-lister happily took a one-second cameo as Vanisher.

19. Joaquin Phoenix as Doctor Strange: In another Marvel Universe film, Phoenix almost nabbed the role of Doctor Strange, but fell short when he was “probably a bit of a snob about that.” For him, superheroes were a thumbs down. 

20. Jake Gyllenhaal as Spider-Man: After Tobey Macguire demanded more money to reprise his role in the second Spider-Man film, executives told Gyllenhaal they wanted him to play the webslinger were they unable to reach an agreement with Macguire.

These superhero movies would’ve been completely different with new lead actors and actresses at the helm. Which do you think would’ve fared better? Worse?

Share these original superhero film castings with your comic book lovin’ pals below!