Henry Cavill has already had a prosperous Hollywood career. He had worked in the industry since 2001, but it took time for him to become a household name. 2013 helped him break onto the scene with Man of Steel, delighting most fans with the portrayal.
Henry Cavill has played other interesting characters besides the beloved superhero. The list below consists of twenty varied roles Cavill has played over his career. Some roles had a bigger impact than others, but each made an impression. Meet the most outstanding Henry Cavill performances.
1. The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015)
Henry Cavill’s name had always been talked about in the running for James Bond. He has the look, accent, and debonair charm one would hope for.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E allowed him to show those skills as CIA Agent Napoleon Solo. He plays an American agent sent on a James Bond-like mission. Cavill's not having a British accent did not prevent him from delivering his best and most underrated performance. The character has to exude a charm and simultaneous ferociousness. Such a performance showed Cavill did not need the role of James Bond, creating a charming, clever, and entertaining spy character on his own.
2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
After 2017’s lackluster Justice League (and a controversy involving an infamous mustache), audiences got intrigued by his inclusion in the Mission: Impossible franchise. His role as Augustus Walker once again made him a character of a ruthless CIA agent.
From a surface level, the role did not seem like anything special. The twist of him as a villain offered an impressive variation, making him a unique contrast to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Not only did Cavill prove himself as worthy opposition to Cruise, but he showed a more villainous side. The villainy and brutality he conveyed helped deliver an entirely unexpected and exciting character. It helped audiences become aware he could play more than just a superhero.
3. Man of Steel (2013)
Many could call Man of Steel the most iconic of all Henry Cavill performances. Cavill offered a different kind of introduction to the beloved hero. His portrayal of Clark Kent/Superman showed a character struggling with his purpose. This includes dealing with serious loss (the death of Pa Kent) and becoming a true hero in his own right.
In becoming a genuine superhero, the role also forced him to make tough calls as the character. This included the controversial choice of snapping General Zod's neck. Cavill had to portray the character's early moral struggle to become the Superman fans love. The results helped deliver a Superman unlike any of the character's past portrayals.
4. The Witcher (2019-2023)
Audiences have had the privilege of seeing Cavill off-screen as a genuine fan of nerd culture. They became aware of this fact when he got cast as Geralt of Rivia.
Once again, a beloved character by fans, he delivered on what they wanted in the adaption. Cavill’s portrayal existed as a ferocious warrior, respecting the established lore. This includes honoring smaller details like Geralt’s specific fighting style. He took those attributes and crafted a very special kind of warrior, while also making the character his own.
Geralt could hold his own emotionally while also delivering action-packed thrills and the occasional quip. Such a performance delighted fans and made them appreciate Cavill’s own off-screen fandom.
5. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
The Snyder Cut turned into something more than a movie, an actual cinematic movement. Henry Cavill's performance as Superman ended up his best portrayal of the character yet.
After he died in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world needed a symbol of hope. This included heroes of The Justice League themselves in need of hope, which began to take shape with Superman’s revival. Once Cavill appeared on screen (in the infamous black suit), audiences began to feel that same hope and optimism.
Cavill’s mere presence embodied the essence of the beloved character. He fought for the good of the world and returned ready for the fight against Darkseid. Something as simple as his Superman smile helped him embody what fans have loved for generations. No matter the darkness ahead, Superman can always stand for the light the world needs. Cavill made that message shine through his performance in the beloved Snyder cut.
6. Argylle (2024)
With fans wanting Cavill as James Bond, Argylle allowed him to make a version of that dream a reality. Cavill balances the traits of a ladies' man and suave agent, making the character feel like a respectful homage to James Bond. He wisely portrays that fictional (in-movie) character as more of a tribute to spies of the past.
What ranks it so high among Henry Cavill performances involves the duality of the character. While a smooth agent, he also serves as an inner voice to the protagonist, Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard). It helps him stand out from the expected James Bond-like character, adding a surprising depth. That combination makes him one of Cavill’s most entertaining roles to date.
7. Enola Holmes (2020) & Enola Holmes 2 (2022)
Cavill’s casting as Sherlock Holmes seemed like a no-brainer. His British background off-screen and the character's intelligence worked in perfect synchronicity. His connection as Enola’s (Millie Bobby Brown) sibling made this version of Sherlock stand out.
Cavill had to deliver the brains of the classic character while presenting himself as a caring brother. The role let him deliver a version of Sherlock with toughness & brains, paying respect to the source material. Cavill helped make the character his own with one key attribute: his heart. While the great detective, this version of Sherlock cared deeply for his sister Enola. The balance of both brain and heart helped deliver a Sherlock Holmes unlike any other.
8. The Cold Light of Day (2012)
This 2012 action thriller arrived one year before Henry Cavill wore the cape for Superman. Co-starring Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver, the film followed Cavill thrown into a spy adventure.
Unfortunately, the film underwhelmed critics and audiences, but one trait of his character stood out. Will (Cavill) has no real spy-like abilities, making him feel like a regular guy. Making him more of an “everyman” added a surprising wrinkle to the expected action movie formula. Besides his blue-eyed, charismatic persona, the film showed audiences his abilities as a leading man. That difference allowed him to exist as a different kind of action hero.
9. The Tudors (2007-2010)
Premiering on Showtime in 2007, Henry Cavill graced the screens in this period series. His role as Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, gave him a well-rounded character arc. Starting out, the character lived as an aristocrat, simply not interested in government work.
Cavill amply conveyed the affluent persona but eventually evolved the character into a real leader. While far from perfect, Cavill kept audiences compelled in the character's journey. Besides just his looks, the series showed Cavill as a name audiences should remember.
10. Sand Castle (2017)
Cavill had a small role in the 2017 Netflix war film as CPT Syverson. As the head of the unit and leader to protagonist PVT Matt Ocre (Nicholas Hoult), Cavill serves as a rude awakening for the protagonist. He shows viewers an honest soldier’s perspective in this wartime. The mission comes first, with emotion coming into the equation much later.
With his limited screen time, Cavill made the most of it via the persona of the character. The performance amply portrayed the effects of a soldier who only knows a life of war.
11. Immortals (2011)
Immortals introduced the world to Henry Cavill in one of his first blockbusters. His character, Theseus, did not thrive with the writing. The success of the role came from his “action-star” like stoicism. Theseus became a brutal hero, going on a path of revenge and violence. Simply watching him take on villains appeased fans with his physicality and brutality. It delivered thrills of old-school action movies told in a very fantastical setting. It also showed audiences that Cavill started to carve a niche as an action star.
12. Night Hunter (2018)
Night Hunter came at a time when Henry Cavill enjoyed massive popularity as Superman. The film starred Cavill as a detective hunting down a serial killer. While it served as a typical action-thriller, his performance made some forgive the cliches in the story. This includes his brooding Superman-like presence, making the character physically imposing.
Cavill knows how to sell the “tough guy” dialogue in exciting but earned ways. The performance showed a different side of the superhero/action-centric leading man. His physical presence alone helped deliver a familiar but incredibly engaging action hero. His performance gave equal weight to the drama and the more action-heavy set pieces.
13. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
The 2002 film saw Cavill in the supporting role of Albert Mondego. Cavill gives the character a real wide-eyed innocence, not knowing of the turmoil ahead for him in the story. He has to portray someone who comes of age under dire circumstances.
The writing did not give Cavill much narrative ground to play with. His charisma and charm in the role helped elevate the material. While the character remained rather archetypal throughout, Cavill fits gracefully in the period setting.
14. Whatever Works (2009)
Whatever Works once again pits Cavill as a romantic comedy heartthrob. His character, Randy, has to make audiences swoon. Cavill effectively delivers that in a film full of rather complicated characters. To do so, he has to apply charm and heart, effectively making him someone easy to love.
Thankfully, Cavill’s performance manages to exude that purpose meaningfully. Throughout the film, he exists as an anchor of good in Melody’s (Evan Rachel Wood) world. Viewers feel that emotional resonance from the character's smile alone.
15. Stardust (2007)
Stardust took Cavill back to his acting roots as a British aristocrat. The character follows more of an antagonistic path, serving as the love interest to Victoria (Sienna Miller). Humphrey (Cavill), Victoria’s boyfriend, has to have the air of a pompous individual.
Thankfully, Cavill has portrayed that in past roles. In this film, that helps him slip into this role as easily as a glove. While not the most memorable character, the performance delivered a worthy obstacle for the hero's journey.
16. Justice League (2017)
2017’s Justice League has a storied reputation as a difficult film production. With numerous behind-the-scenes issues, Cavill’s performance should not hold the blame. He has limited screen time, which does not do him any favors.
Cavill tries his hardest to sell the character, but viewers never get emotionally invested. His limited screen time limits his effective abilities as the character, leaving viewers underwhelmed. Thankfully, Cavill had other chances to redeem his performance. While not the sole problem himself, the film did not do his superhero portrayal any favors.
17. I Capture the Castle (2003)
Adapted from the book of the same name, Henry Cavill stars as the “guy next door” love interest. Akin to his role in Whatever Works, he had to exist as the true love standing before the heroine. Within this context, Cavill manages to utilize his good looks as a strength. His character, Stephen, has to live as the protagonist's “true love,” which he does easily.
The character did not thrive on its substance but allowed Cavill the chance to play a charming heartthrob. This allowed viewers to fall in love with him in the process.
18. Vendetta (2001)
Vendetta introduced Cavill onto the scene as a leading man. While the film existed as a generic gangster movie, it introduced the world to his talents. He had the charm and simple essence of a star. His presence on-screen immediately managed to hook viewers in.
That turned out to be an asset within the rather cliched overarching story. While audiences have not fondly remembered it, it gave Cavill a worthy on-screen introduction for viewers.
19. Red Riding Hood (2006)
The 2006 film starred Cavill as “The Hunter,” an ally to Red Riding Hood. Besides just an ally, the role made him an exposition machine. With that, he still managed to deliver a heroic performance. His megawatt smile and physical stature worked in two unique ways for the character.
Starting out, Cavill portrays him as more of an enigma, someone who viewers do not know if they can trust. When he returns later in the story as a comrade, it makes the narrative arch quite rewarding. While not getting much to do in the role, it allowed Cavill to show his charisma.
20. Blood Creek (2009)
Blood Creek continued a trend in Henry Cavill's early career. It helped him exude a brutal and unflinching action-star persona. The role made him a quiet supporting character with one purpose: fighting the Occult.
As a B-action movie, Cavill’s performance delivered everything audiences would want. He balanced both a tough hero (along with his brother played by Dominic Purcell) with moments of vulnerability. In turn, it made for a finished product that, while cliched, delivered solid thrills.