Henry Cavill is among the most popular stars in Hollywood. Beloved by his fans, Cavill has built his fame on the back of several major franchises. Having played iconic characters like Superman and Geralt of Rivia, Cavill is no stranger to success, both critical and commercial. The recent release of The Witcher season 3 marked the end of his tenure as the White Wolf and featured some of his finest acting.
It might be easy to see Cavill only as a sex symbol or an action star, but the actor has proven his surprising versatility countless times. Since his early days in The Tudors, Cavill has delivered solid performances in numerous great films, from unforgettable superhero adventures to spy thrillers. With a resumé that strong, it might be hard to choose which of his films is the best, but a few clear standouts instantly come to mind when thinking of Cavill.
Tarsem Singh’s highly-stylized fantasy epic Immortals stars Cavill as the mythological hero Theseus. However, the film isn’t a literal adaptation of Theseus’ myth, instead blending elements of other stories, including the return of the Heraclyds and the Titanomachy. The plot sees Theseus facing the despotic King Hyperion, who’s on a quest to find the legendary Bow of Epirus.
Immortals is far too ambitious for its own good, especially with a slow-paced and occasionally incoherent plot. However, Singh’s gorgeous visuals and a game cast led by a decisive Cavill make the film an enjoyable experience. It might play fast and loose with Greek mythology, but thrilling, over-the-top action sequences and enough familiar characters result in a great addition to the modern sword-and-sandal genre.
Cavill stars opposite Nicholas Hoult, Logan Marshall-Green, and Glen Powell in the 2017 war drama Sand Castle. The plot centers on Matt Ocre, a young soldier who discovers the true cost of war when his unit is sent to restore a water-pumping station in a rural Iraqi village. Cavill plays Captain Sylverson, leader of the Special Forces unit in charge of the mission.
Sand Castle is an unfairly overlooked film in Cavill’s filmography. The film features great performances from the cast and a surprisingly nuanced yet no less thrilling take on the War-is-Hell subgenre. It doesn’t do nearly as much as it could to condemn the conflict it depicts, but it has enough empathy for the participants to make for a worthy war drama that ranks among the best movies on Netflix.
Zack Snyder’s 2013 reinvention of Superman was Cavill’s ticket to stardom. Man of Steel sees Cavill as the Last Son of Krypton, offering a more stoic and less idealistic take on the character. The film follows his initial meeting with Lois Lane, discovering his Kryptonian roots, and confronting the vengeful General Zod. Man of Steel co-stars Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, and Russell Crowe.
Cavill’s portrayal of Superman remains divisive; some live by his more grounded take, while others decry his lack of empathy and emotional connection to the role. However, his profound impact on the character’s lore is undeniable. Although initially met with mixed reviews, Man of Steel has aged well and is now ranked highly among the best Superman movies. Similarly, Cavill’s depiction maintains its loyal and passionate fanbase. He might not be universally adored, but Cavill will always be Superman for an entire generation who grew up with his take on the Man of Steel.
The story behind the now-infamous Synder Cut is as fascinating as the film itself. After years of rumors, fan campaigns, and outrage, Zack Snyder’s Justice League finally saw the light in 2021, released as an exclusive of the now-defunct HBO Max. The film features a more compelling narrative than its cursed 2017 predecessor, framing Cyborg as the Justice League’s heart and returning Cavill’s Superman to its more stoic, guarded version.
Dark – literally – but surprisingly hopeful, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is arguably the best film in the soon-to-be-over DCEU. Cavill is in it only toward the end, but his performance is perhaps the best of his tenure in the role, mainly because it feels like both a triumphant return and a satisfying goodbye. Zack Snyder’s Justice League gives the Last Son of Krypton a suitably epic showcase, allowing Cavill to take flight in the iconic suit one last time.
Millie Bobbie Brown stars as Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister in Netflix’s mystery/comedy franchise Enola Holmes. Cavill co-stars as the famous detective, acting as the straight man and foil to Brown’s bubbly, resourceful mini detective. Although he did fine in the first film, he shines in the sequel with an expanded role and a side storyline that introduces Holmes’ nemesis, Moriarty.
The Enola Holmes series is all about Brown’s title character. However, Enola Holmes 2 excels by showcasing the sibling dynamic between Sherlock and Enola, which, in many ways, replaces Holmes’ iconic banter with his usual companion, Dr. Watson. Cavill’s Holmes is a lot more charming than Benedict Cumberbatch’s or Robert Downey Jr.’s; while they opt for a traditional approach to playing the infamous detective, Cavill introduces some levity into the mix, playing Sherlock like someone who’s very much aware of how appealing he is and loves it.
Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. adapts the beloved 1964 series into a sleek, stylish, and sexy spy thriller for the new millennium. Set at the height of the Cold War, the plot centers on a CIA thief-turned-spy and a KGB agent teaming up to stop two Nazi sympathizers from building an atomic device.
Cavill’s name is often thrown in the mix for potential James Bond candidates, and it’s easy to see why. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a perfect audition, with Cavill embodying everything that makes Bond Bond. He’s suave, confident, charming, cheeky, resourceful, occasionally ruthless, and endlessly entertaining. The film itself is quite good, benefitting from Ritchie’s style-over-substance approach and a stellar supporting cast, including Alicia Vikander and The Crown‘s Elizabeth Debicki. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the Henry Cavill franchise we should’ve received, and it’s a shame we never got it. But it’s never too late, and with Cavill embracing the spy genre with upcoming projects like Argylle and two more Ritchie movies, perhaps we haven’t seen the last of his Napoleon Solo.
It’s not an overstatement to call Mission: Impossible the best action franchise currently. Tom Cruise stars as the iconic Ethan Hunt, the living manifestation of destiny tasked with increasingly perilous, world-ending missions that live up to the franchise’s title. The sixth entry, 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, sees Hunt teaming with Cavill’s August Walker, a SAC agent, to prevent a group of terrorists from getting their hands on three stolen plutonium cores.
By now, everyone should know Cavill is the film’s primary antagonist. Fallout proves he should go all-in on villainous roles because, while he’s a good hero, he’s an utterly fascinating villain. Walker is the perfect enemy for Ethan, embodying the dangerous physicality and cold, clinical mind expected from an action antagonist while remaining engaging. Fallout is a stellar action flick, largely because of its committed cast, led by the ever-fearless Cruise. However, Cavill steals the limelight more than once, to the point where his August Walker is often the first thing people think of when discussing the movie. He is a large reason for its success, and his loyal fans patiently wait for another equally ballsy film to light up his resumé.
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