The caped crusader has been around on the big screen for more than 50 years, and as each year goes by we have been brought different iterations of Batman, bringing out different sides of Gotham’ s Dark Knight. This list will incorporate the different Actors who took on the mantle on the big screen and how they faired as they dawned the mask.
Everything about 1997’s Batman and Robin seemed to be a mistake. From the over the top campiness, to the atrocious costume and set designs and especially the in your face toy-selling crusade the film goes on. Clooney was casted as Batman just as his career was taking off and for any other actor it would’ve just about put an end to his career. Clooney’s take on the caped crusader was dull, over the top, mundane and came off as an incompetent child and he thought it was so bad that it killed off the franchise completely.
To this day, Batman and Robin ranks among the top tier of worst comic book movies ever made, and that’s why Clooney ranks at the very bottom of this list. He had bat nipples, that alone ranks him at the bottom.
Batman Forever is a weird time for the 1990s Batman movie franchise. Tim Burton had left the franchise after Batman Returns, and star Michael Keaton had to interest whatsover once Burton left the project. New director Joel Schumacher picked Kilmer to replace Keaton, as he saw Kilmer as being a brooding presence while still being able to play the Billionaire playboy which is Bruce Wayne.
Kilmer captured some aspects of Batman perfectly, in particular his physicalitybut he never really stood out and took a back seat especially compared to the over the top performances from his costars Jim Carrey aa the Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face. Kilmer didn’t do a poor job representing the caped crusader but felt lackluster as he seemed to take a backseat.
In the end, Kilmer felt like a substitute teacher standing in as your actual teacher suddenly quit his job in order to pursue his dreams of surfboarding. Kilmer was clearly a transitional Batman (made more evident as he only played the character once) standing in while the franchise moved away from Tim Burton’s unique vision and moved towards the cartoon land in which Batman and Robin exists in.
4. Adam West
If you want to know where Joel Schumacher got his inspiration for his Batman films, look no further than Adam West. West played Batman in the widely popular and successful television series for ABC in the 60s and introduced millions of people to The Dark Knight.
West’s Batman was decidedly campy and clearly targeting a younger audience but knew when it was time to be serious. Fans seem to be divisive over the legacy of one Adam West as Batman as the older generation/Baby Boomer’s swear up and down that he was the greatest thing since sliced bread (nostalgia 101) and the younger generations seem to be uninterested in such a cartoonish version of Gotham’s Knight. But what can’t be argued is that without the success of the 90’s television series, studios would be hard pressed to dole out the budget needed to produce a cinematic version of The Batman.
3. Ben Affleck
Speaking about divisive between the fanbase. When Ben Affleck was casted I’ve never seen the amount of uproar over a film than that initial announcement over the casting decision and no matter what you say about the DC Universe, in 2016’s Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, he had the best performance as the caped crusader of all time. Battfleck brought the brutality and fear that all of our renditions of Batman were missing as he played a big, hulking brute that was a man on a mission. Zack Snyder took liberties with the character, especially giving the option for Batman to kill in the movie, but it fit perfectly for what the DC Universe wanted to do at the time.
So if I thought that performance was the best version of Batman we have ever seen, Why is Battfleck only third? Because Joss Whedon’ s Justice League happened. Say what you will about Justice League but the one thing that cannot be argued is that it is a blatant overcorrection to the critical acclaim of Wonderwoman and it’s lighter tone and the success of the MCU films. No character in the Justice League took a bigger hit than Ben Affleck’s Batman. Gone was the no nonsense, grizzled and damaged superhero that was willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done and here we get what seemed to be the end of every punchline. Blame whoever you feel you need to blame, but Justice League knocked battfleck off of his pedastool.
2. Micheal Keaton
This was my Batman. Growing up, Micheal Keaton and Tim Burton teamed up to create the Batman of my childhood.
Michael Keaton became the breakthrough actor to portray the Caped Crusader on film when Batman debuted in theaters nationwide. During the filming process, several Hollywood executives were concerned, just as Batman fans were nervous seeing the actor who was predominately a romantic comedy actor starring knBetelgeuse and Mister Mom. Keaton proved them wrong as he mastered being in the cowl but more importantly mastered being the regal Bruce Wayne. He brought the mysterious side of Bruce Wayne and had magnetic chemistry with both Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale in the original and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns.
But as the Dark Knight, Mr. Keaton handled his own in every single scene in both Batman films. He stared down the Harrell with the electric Jack Nicholson’s Joker, the haunting version of Danny DeVito’s Penguin, and Christopher Walken’s Max Schreck. Keaton’s Batman opened the door for comic book movies for years to come.
1. Christian Bale
After Batman & Robin’s box office and critical disaster it was clear Warner Bros. Pictures kept the Batman franchise dormant to let it restore some luster. Not until director/genius Christopher Nolan came along and gave the itellectual property the lifeline the franchise needed. Nolan brought in the extreme and committed actor American Psycho and The Machinist Christian Bale to portray Batman and Bruce Wayne.
Throughout TDK trilogy Bale delivered three phemonenal performances as he faced trials and tribulations, and parts of the Batman Rogue’s gallery from Raz al Ghul, the Clown Prince Of Crime and Bane. Christopher Nolan brought a hyper realistic vision of Gotham and that leads to a hyper realistic Batman. At the heart of the realism was actor Christian Bale, acting as the heartbeat of the film’s while having some of the best villains as his adversary. Bale’s journey as Wayne and his alter ego from before dawning the cowl in Batman Begins up until the apocalyptic task he had in the criminally underrated The Dark Knight Rises showed the full character arc of Batman we have never seen.