Now that The Batman (2022) is in the rearview mirror of our Batmobile, it's finally time to rank all seven actors to have portrayed the Bat of Gotham in live-action. But be warned - this is going to get pretty controversial!
To date, there have been 12 theatrical Batman outings (as well as the live-action 1960s TV series, which ties into one of those films), with seven actors behind Bruce Wayne/Batman spanning the movies. While we could also include the TV series Gotham and the 2019 movie Joker, both of which feature a young Bruce Wayne, we're only ranking the adult versions of Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Table of Contents
- 7. Robert Pattinson - The Batman
- 6. George Clooney - Batman and Robin
- 5. Val Kilmer - Batman Forever
- 4. Michael Keaton - Batman and Batman Returns
- 3. Adam West - The Batman (1966) and the Batman TV Series
- 2. Christian Bale - The Dark Knight Trilogy
- 1. Ben Affleck - Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League
So here are the seven Batman actors, ranked from worst to best.
7. Robert Pattinson - The Batman
Shock horror! The latest portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman lands the bottom of our list. While The Batman (2022) is generally receiving favorable reviews, we think both the film and Robert Pattinson's portrayal of the titular vigilante leave a lot to be desired.
While Pattinson's turn as Batman can hardly be described as bad, it's easily the most depressing and humorless one we've seen so far. Sure, the tone of the film is bleak in its entirety, but even the darkest versions of Batman can be fun. Unfortunately, Pattinson's version won't have you leaving the theater wishing you were a billionaire with crime-fighting skills.
6. George Clooney - Batman and Robin
We think George Clooney gets a bad wrap for his time as the caped crusader in Joel Schumacher's 1997 flop Batman and Robin. While Clooney does very little with the cape and cowl, essentially playing Bruce Wayne dressed as a bat as opposed to his brooding alter ego, one can only blame the direction given to him.
Nevertheless, Clooney is typically charming as the billionaire playboy-counterpart, and, if you approach this movie as a reboot of the '60s Adam West stuff, you'll probably find that this was Schumacher's intention all along. With all that said, Clooney's outing as Bruce Wayne/Batman is still our sixth spot.
5. Val Kilmer - Batman Forever
While being very low on our list, there's still something quite nostalgic about Val Kilmer's portrayal as both Bruce and the bat in Batman Forever. In hindsight, though, it might have more to do with the villains of the piece, as Kilmer's efforts as the former now feel a little wooden and stoic, but Kilmer at least tries to offer some emotional depth as the billionaire orphan who's tormented by both grief, anger, and his fear of bats.
His turn as Batman, however, is somewhat lackluster, and feels like a precursor for the unapologetic sexualization of the crime-fighting vigilante in Batman and Robin (two words: bat nipples).
4. Michael Keaton - Batman and Batman Returns
Despite being the fan-favorite of the bunch, Michael Keaton, who was the first actor to portray a gritty version of Batman in live-action in the two Tim Burton movies, has since been bested by other actors to have donned the cape and cowl. But even if that weren't the case, while Keaton is a lovable actor, and charming as Bruce Wayne, he does leave a lot to be desired as Batman.
Diehard fans of Batman and Batman Returns will likely refuse to hear anything negative said about Keaton's version of the caped crusader, and though it's not necessarily a negative criticism, we can't help but feel that he's somewhat overrated.
3. Adam West - The Batman (1966) and the Batman TV Series
In another shock twist on our ranking, original live-action Batman actor Adam West has beaten Michael Keaton, and not to mention Robert Pattinson (by a landslide). West portrayed the super-camp version of Batman in both the 1960s show and its big-screen adaptation.
While not to be taken at all seriously, at the time there was of course nothing to compare to West's Batman. Now, the show and the movie are enjoyed as incredibly guilty pleasures, but it's fair to say that West's portrayal - and even the look - has become among the most iconic versions of Batman. He's also very charismatic as billionaire Bruce Wayne.
2. Christian Bale - The Dark Knight Trilogy
It's no stretch to say that Christian Bale delivers the most fleshed-out version of Bruce Wayne and Batman than we've ever seen, offering different aspects of his character in each part of Christopher Nolan's epic crime trilogy. In Batman Begins, we see many shades of Bruce as he spends years becoming Batman.
In The Dark Knight, we see Batman at the peak of powers, and in the trilogy-topping The Dark Knight Rises, we see both a broken Bruce and Batman, as well as one who is willing to give everything he has to save the city he loves.
1. Ben Affleck - Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League
At the time of its release in 2016, the highly-anticipated Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, despite being a box office success, was met with a whirlwind of harsh criticism. However, in recent years, it has garnered newfound respect, which we think is largely due to the fact that Ben Affleck's portrayal as Bruce Wayne and Batman is the most phenomenal to date.
Seasoned, disenfranchised, disgruntled, bitter, brutal, sadistic, but far from waning, both Bruce and his alter ego are the best we've ever seen on screen. And as for the "warehouse" scene, we can't quite imagine a better live-action sequence involving Batman.
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