March 25, 2016

Ranking the actors who have played Batman – from best to worst

Well, the day has finally arrived! The eagerly anticipated release of Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice is upon us. And it is a certainty that fans of DC are not going to let the scathing critical reviews stop them from checking out one of the biggest superhero event movies of the year. The jury is still out on what the fans’ consensus will be on the movie that pits the two titular characters against one another right now, but the DC train is now well and truly in motion.

To celebrate this joyous occasion for movie fans, let us look back at the actors that have donned the famous black cape and cowl and attempt to rank them in a somewhat sensible order from best to worst.

Adam West – Batman (1966)

Some may say that it is not fair to add Wests’s inclusion here given the different format in which he played the iconic character. But he did play Batman. Given the time period, there is no doubt that he had no choice but to lend his version a heavy gleam of light toned charm for the kiddies that was over 50 years ago now. His many scenes in the batcave, working out the motives and loopholes of the many challenges that he and his sidekick, Robin faced in Sherlock Holmes-esque style grants the 1960’s version of the Caped Crusader an air of his own originality. Unfortunately it just does not quite simply stack up to the more recent turns, for the right or wrong reasons. However, if there was ever a word that could be applied to Adam West then that would be appeal. He fits in the production like a perfectly sized glove. But let’s keep a discussion about the spandex out of this, please.

George Clooney – Batman & Robin (1997)

Hate the movie all you want. That is most likely universal, anyway. Believe it or not, director Joel Schumacher most likely had a decent reason for choosing another actor to play Batman in his fourth theatrical outing. Val Kilmer and Shumacher reportedly did not get along on the set of Batman Forever. Kilmer blamed his schedule for the reason for not being able to play Batman again, but do you really believe that? Anyway, in came former television actor, George Clooney. And he takes the honour of being the most irritating actor to play Batman yet! His constant half smiling throughout the feature, even in the most inappropriate of scenes just makes you want to reach through the screen and strangle him with his bat belt. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much. But still. If there was ever an actor whose style of acting is incompatible with a particular character, then look no further than George Clooney’s take on the Dark Knight!

Val Kilmer – Batman Forever (1995)

It was quoted by Batman creator, Bob Kane that he wanted Val Kilmer originally for 1989’s Batman alongside Jack Nicholson’s The Joker. He finally got his wish in 1995 when the third Batman film was in production. Michael Keaton simply stated that the script for Batman Forever “sucked” but has been reported as saying that the first two films did not feature enough of Batman, especially the original installment. Personally, this author thinks he is right about that. Kilmer came onboard alongside Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, who played The Riddler which was always going to be tough since Carrey has a huge distinctive spirit about his work. But Val held his own! Unlike Keaton, Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne was less moody and the screenplay allowed for him to explore more emotional range for Batman this time around. Of course, this comes at a price when you have scenes such as the masked former ninja uttering cringeworthy lines as “chicks love the car.” Well, there is a reason or two why Batman Forever is thought to be near the bottom of the junkpile.

Michael Keaton – Batman & Batman Returns (1989, 1992)

Michael Keaton received a lot of stick when it was announced that he was to star in Tim Burton’s gothic fantasy version of the mythology, having come off just playing the comedic ghoul Beetlejuice. But any then recent memories of him becoming stereotyped as a comedic actor were swiftly erased when the world saw the first serious feature length take on the character. Keaton emanated a certain feeling of being unsettled, thanks in part to a sense of mystique that was also retained in his alter ego, Bruce Wayne. A restrained screenplay certainly helped in that it did not give too much away about the origins of either the hero or villain, but it suited Keaton down to the ground. If Christian Bale was more obvious in his take, then Keaton was chillingly subtle.

Christian Bale – Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises (2005, 2008, 2012)

Whether the audience was ready for it or not, Welsh actor Christian Bale was going to be a wrecking force that was going to be unrivalled by all that came before him. His Batman was unlike any that had been seen before on the big screen. An angry but haunted man that could see no way to shift his psychological demons and was eager, but at the same time a little disillusioned about what he was becoming and being lead into. His performance in the third and final installment in the Christopher Nolan trilogy left a little to be desired, as if Bale looked to be going through the motions, but maybe this was in line with how mentally and physically exhausted Bruce had become at that point.

Do you agree or disagree with this ranking table? Sound off in the comments below!

About the Author

Lee Skavydis
Lee Skavydis
I am a die hard movie fan, owning over 500 movies on both DVD and Blu Ray. I try to go to the cinema at least once a week when time permits. My other hobbies include following fight sports such as boxing, travelling around, writing and editing, listening to heavy rock and cook the odd occasional recipe. I used to write for several prolific boxing websites, interviewing some of the most famous names associated with the sport around.



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