Every Batman Actor, Ranked From Worst To Best
Batman isn't the easiest of roles to fill. For one thing there's the fans, who seem to hate anyone cast in the role before they've seen a scrap of footage. And then there's the duality of the role.
There's Bat action, Bat punches, Bat driving and so on, but there's also the side he doesn't like to mention, Bruce Wayne. Whilst not exactly the other side of the coin, the billionaire orphan is quite a different beast altogether.
Any actor taking on this role has to have a vision (or a director with one) and also the sizeable talent required to pull off the double performance. Many have tried but only a few have lived up to the task.
Leaving out the videogame and parody iterations, here are the eight highest-profile Batman actors, ranked for you.
8| George Clooney
Why Clooney didn't walk from this so-called "film" when the Bat Credit Card made an appearance is anyone's guess. You would have thought the Batman and Robin script too might have been a clue to what he was in for.
Regardless, the ER star's performance in the notoriously abysmal 1997 movie didn't help matters.
His Bruce Wayne was full of his irritating "boyish charm" and head-tilting tics but his fetishistic Dark Knight avec Bat-Nipples was a mess. Little-to-no personality shone through the awful haze of '90s Joel Schumacher neon garbage.
7| Val Kilmer
On the topic of Clooney, even back then, we knew he was better than the movie he was in.
Kilmer was most assuredly not.
We didn't expect anything from Val and that's almost what we got in Batman Forever. He's not terrible—no, honestly—though the film around him is.
Kilmer can't hack being Wayne, his heart-to-hearts with Robin (played by bland entertainment robot Chris "Can you remember his surname before we get there?" O'Donnell) are school-play bad and not a worthy successor to the Tim Burton films.
But he does pull off the cape and cowl and we do admire his cheeky grin when flirting with Nicole Kidman's Chase Meridian.
6| Ben Affleck
Fans were outraged (when aren't they outraged?) when Oscar-winner Affleck was unveiled as the new Batman for the burgeoning DC movie series back in 2013.
It was only one year since Christian Bale had turned off the Bat signal and retired to Florence with Selina "Let's not refer to her as 'Catwoman' though she definitely is" Kyle in the finale of the Christopher Nolan trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.
Affleck's first outing was up against ol' Supes himself in the roundly lambasted Batman V Superman. Batfleck, though far from perfect, did a solid job in not managing to make moviegoers hate him (though he didn't quite manage to convince us why he hated Superman so much—sounded a bit racist to us).
He followed it up with an eye-popping cameo in the following year's Suicide Squad and then again in this year's also-not-well-received Justice League in a Batsuit that just looked a bit bulgy, a little bit foamy and odd. His take on Wayne is way too righteous and humorless but his Dark Knight is getting there.
5| Will Arnett
And on the opposite end of the spectrum is the Dark Brick.
The Arrested Development star stole the show as heavy metal and party-loving Batman in 2014's spectacular The Lego Movie. His lovably selfish approach to superheroing was quite refreshing.
And then, earlier this year, we got his very own outing, The Lego Batman Movie. Arnett really got a chance to flex his impressive Bat muscles through not only terrific action set pieces, touching drama (who can forget his heartbreaking bromance with the Joker?), and humor. He also got to display his wicked singing skills.
A Batman like no other.
Oh, and he does the sickest backflips.
4| Kevin Conroy
Taking the lead voice in the iconic Batman—The Animated Series, Conroy was not a household name. But, for many Batfans of a certain age, his Batman is THE Batman.
Portraying the Dark Knight with just voice alone is no mean feat but Conroy handled it with aplomb, bringing gravitas and believability to the animated antics of Gotham's finest. His secret, he claimed was to acknowledge that Bruce Wayne is a performance that Batman puts on, and not the other way around.
This Saturday morning cartoon was anything but childish—Conroy was the night, he was vengeance.
3| Christian Bale
For the promotion of Superman in 1978, the tag line boasted: "You'll believe a man can fly!"
For Batman Begins, the poster really should have claimed: "You'll believe the Bat is real."
Christopher Nolan brought reality to Gotham and, more importantly, to Batman. At the heart of this was actor Christian Bale, a man known for his action and drama roles, as well as grinning Genesis fan/serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.
Bale's journey as Wayne and his alter ego was perfectly delivered from the Welsh actor, who played the seriousness of every dilemma faced as the Bat whilst showing off with a smirk as the wealthy socialite. The suit was never a hindrance to what Bale could do.
Although the final installment didn't really give us anything new, Bale had already cemented himself as on THE Batman for a generation; Christian would be a tough act to follow. Sorry Ben.
2| Adam West
No one does Sixties camp quite like West. He tore up the screen in lavish technicolor as the Caped Crusader in the 1966 shark repellent-laden movie alongside the iconic television series.
From the delivery of every lugubrious line to his exotic Batdance, Adam West's portrayal may not be the Batman you wanted, but it's the one you deserve.
The actor has returned many, many times to the role in animated form over an incredible five decades. His performances have never wavered and remained as solid as his duty to Gotham.
Adam West and Batman will be synonymous with each other until the end of time.
1| Michael Keaton
The aforementioned fan outrage at the casting of Kilmer and Affleck pales into utter insignificance when compared to the deluge of hate and disgust when Tim Burton revealed the choice for his leading man/men, Michael Keaton.
Now, remember, this was pre-internet so when fans got mad, it actually meant something. Over 50,000 letters expressing their negativity towards the news were sent to Warner Brothers, the company behind the 1989 film. Keaton, at this point, was a purely a comedic actor known for Mr. Mom and Burton's previous flick, Beetlejuice.
Even professionals were upset. Michael E. Uslan, who has served as executive producer on every Batman movie since 1989, admitted he was apoplectic and argued with Burton: "What's the poster going to say? That Mr. Mom is Batman?"
Thankfully, Burton stuck to his guns and delivered his vision with Keaton blowing the world away in an instant of proclaiming, "I'm Batman."
His Bruce Wayne plays to his comedic skills but it's when the millionaire is trying to confess his identity, using the very same phrase, to Vicki Vale (Kim Bassinger) where his dramatic chops come into play. This is topped in the sequel, the less-successful but better, Batman Returns. where he ominously awaits the Bat signal before costuming up and tearing Gotham's bad boys apart.
Movie audiences had never experienced this sort of Batman before (the comic world had been enjoying it for years) and it's difficult to even imagine another actor playing the role at the time.
He may not be remembered like Adam West but, for us, Keaton is the best.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.