From Great to Best: Portrayals of Frank Castle

Before Netflix’s Daredevil introduced Frank Castle and 2 successful seasons of The Punisher starring Jon Berenthal (The Walking Dead, Windriver) Frank Castle made his way to live action in 1989. Shot in Australia, The Punisher (1989) starred Dolph Lundgren (Rocky 4, Creed 2) as Frank Castle. Without being able to obtain the skull logo, the studios had other plans for Dolph, dressing him in all black and dying his bleach blonde hair. It was a commercial failure. Almost a decade later, Thomas Jane was sworn into the roll of Frank Castle bringing a new light to our favorite anti-hero of the Marvel franchise.


To start all of this off, I don’t read comics but as an avid movie lover and action fan I wanted to rate, in my own opinion, the good to the best Frank Castle portrayals in the last 30 years.

Punisher War Zone

Notice I said from good to best! Punisher War Zone will be the third time we see Castle in live action. Based on the graphic novels Punisher War Zone, I noticed were fans of the comics loved this adaptation. Fans claimed the movie stuck true to the comic roots from Castle’s factual family tragedy to friends and foes. Ray Stevenson does a fantastic job portraying Castle. We don’t need his backstory for this film. Stevenson does a fine job playing a broken man who goes after the evil in society. The gore is really swell as the filmmakers went for a more practical look instead of cgi. The action is non-stop and often pays tribute to action favorites such as The Wild Bunch and Hard Boiled giving the viewer 90 minutes of pure action. I loved this flick and I highly recommend it to every action fan who has an itch to scratch with a simple plot to follow.


The Punisher Dirty Laundry

Thomas Jane returns in this fan film with supporting actor Ron Perlman, who portrays a liquor store clerk. Jane takes a final bow as Frank Castle in this dedicated epilogue when he saves innocents from a drug gang. This fan film can be accessed on YouTube for free and should not be ignored by anyone who was a fan of the 2004 adaptation.

The Punisher season 1.
We finally get an entire season of Frank Castle kicking ass. Jon Berenthal is amazing as Castle, displaying a rage-fueled anti-hero going after the very people who murdered his wife and children in cold blood. There is a major difference when it comes to Castle’s beginning as his family was murdered by members of his old mercenary unit instead of getting accidentally gun-downed by rival mobsters. Berenthal brings heart to this adaptation but can’t save the second half of the season when the action stops and repetitive storylines occur, making me constantly check how many episodes are left until the final showdown. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic first season and way better than the other Marvel entries on Netflix (besides Dare Devil season 2)

Daredevil Season 2

Daredevil season 2 was and is the best season out of any of the Marvel Netflix shows. The thing that made this a solid season was introducing Frank Castle as a one man killing machine with hidden motives. In the episode Pennies and Dimes, Daredevil finds an injured Castle after a shoot out with those responsible for killing Castle’s family. Pennies and Dimes takes the viewer on an emotional ride with Castle’s monologue about losing his family and displays that even a hardened killer has a weak spot. My favorite episode would be the one where Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofiro) sends other convicts to kill Castle while he is locked in prison. The fight that happens is brutal, relentless and gory. Castle murders about 12 of Kingpin’s men in a hand to hand showdown, leaving Castle covered head to toe in his enemies blood! Fucking amazing

The Punisher (1989)

Let’s go into this. Dolph Lundgren does a fantastic job with the limited source material that had been given to the film makers. Shot in Australia, made to look like L.A., Castle’s family tragedy is once again true to the comics and everything that happens in the movie pays tribute to the comics. With endless action, such as War Zone, Castle does his job in taking down the baddies. The action choreography is really good and ages fine for an 80’s action film. Dolph does a great job keeping his lines at a minimum, the baddies do a great job staying evil and the pace of the movie never slows down. Lundgren’s Punisher never made it to American theaters and was only shown in select cinemas aimed to have a direct to video release. I notice a lot of pretentious film and comic fans want to ignore this movie but don’t listen to them. Also, don’t listen to Rotten Tomatoes which have every Punisher film ranked at no higher than 30% including the below film.


The Punisher (2004)

When it comes to comic-to-film adaptations, The Punisher (2004) comes to mind in every conversation. Thomas Jane portrays Frank Castle as a detective in Miami who accidentally gets a crime boss’s son murdered in a sting. When Castle goes on a family vacation, the mob boss Howard Saint (portrayed by John Travolta) sends his gang to murder everyone at the family reunion. Castle’s wife and son get ran over by the mobsters and Castle is then “executed”, setting off everything that is going to happen. Castle comes back from a near fatal end and reeks havoc on Howard Saint and his men but not in fire and fury. Castle vows for revenge by laying low to secretly destroy Saint’s entire empire. Along the way, Frank Castle makes friends that the audience gives a shit about, unlike Warzone and 89’s Punisher. What worked so well for this film was how realistic Castle was portrayed by Thomas Jane. The enemies were real, the tragedy was real and that is something Netflix’s Punisher paid heavy attention to in 2004’s Punisher. Having a slow burn with an explosive payoff will keep fans happy and reel in new fans as well.

Do you agree with this list? Are you excited about the premiere of Punisher: Season 2 on Netflix? Comment your favorite Punisher adaptations in the comment section. Follow, like, and share our page!


About Bryan Enright 90 Articles
A father, husband, actor, writer, and most of all a film guru. Director of the short movie Cuddlez. Favorite music is Synthwave My all time favorite movies are Demons, Suspiria, Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps and Predator 2. You can like my Cuddlez movie page at And you can follow me at