Everyone has their favorite Batman actor. Each one has something, some aspect, that someone out there thinks is great.
However, most of these actors also have something that seemingly plenty of people hate. Opinions are opinions, and usually the hatred of a particular actor in the role is more linked to dislike of the movie they starred in rather than the actor himself.
We’re going to continue with opinions and rank the various Batman actors from bottom to top.
- Val Kilmer
Kilmer came in as Batman in the first foray into Joel Schumacher’s version of the Batman comics come to life, Batman Forever. While Schumacher hadn’t cheesed up the franchise quite as badly as he did in the subsequent Batman and Robin, he was well on his way. After all, this is the movie that gave us “holy rusted metal, Batman.” Sure, the line was a nod to the 60’s TV show, but it just didn’t work. Top that off with Tommy Lee Jones’ performance as Two Face that made Jim Carrey’s Riddler seem subdued, and you had a Batman movie that wasn’t great. Leading the not-great movie? Val Kilmer. Naturally, he was blamed. He didn’t come back for the fourth movie, but Schumacher was allowed to continue down the path that nearly destroyed superhero movies. Other issues against Kilmer came up from him being a diva on set. Either way, though he made a decent Bruce, he just wasn’t very memorable as Batman.
- George Clooney
Clooney is a great actor. He’s a great director. Truly, he’s become a Hollywood icon. However, he just didn’t fit as Batman. He wasn’t dark enough. He wasn’t broody. Usually, he’s known for his charm, his suaveness. These attributes may pass as Bruce Wayne qualities, but not Batman.
Likely, however, it was the script of the film that did Clooney in. Even great actors can only do so much if they’re given a poor script. The movie seemed to aim for campiness. Who knows why. This was before Jason Bourne turned Hollywood dark and gritty, however Keaton’s Batman had been dark and perfect. So, it seems the end goal of director Joel Schumacher to destroy what had been an extremely successful franchise till he got his hands on it with the 3rd installment will forever be a Hollywood mystery.
Clooney’s overacting or underacting costars, Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone, didn’t help the overall effect of the movie either. The villains, Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) were more over the top than even Jim Carrey had been as the Riddler, which is an amazing feat in and of itself. Jones’ Two Face, though, still gets the win for over-the-top zaniness. Regardless, the cards were stacked against Clooney being successful as Batman.
Also, though, it could be the bat-nipples that killed George Clooney as Batman.
- Will Arnett
This guy is hilarious. His voice is just as hilarious. Will does the gravel voice perfectly. However, you almost laugh just from hearing him talk. Like Pavlov’s dog, you can’t help yourself. This makes him ideal as the Lego Batman. We can just never expect to take him seriously, and thank goodness for that because he deserves laughter!
- Ben Affleck
Affleck took the role of Batman with almost as much stacked against him as Clooney faced. Christian Bale was beloved thanks to Christopher Nolan’s run of Batman films. Anyone going up against that would have to expect a lot of Internet hate. Topping that off, Affleck starred in the much-maligned Daredevil. Either way, Affleck braved the potential for backlash even though he was still repairing his career from his “Bennifer” years.
Surprisingly to most, he did a pretty good job. He is, after all, a decent actor. However, he typically hams it up a bit for the camera. He often has a smirk as if he knows something funny that the audience doesn’t. In some roles, this works. Batman, again, is not really one who laughs, no matter what the new villain in comics is called. So, Affleck’s trademark smirk is out of place. In Justice League, which I enjoyed, he played more the Tony Stark of the movie, even mimicking closely Robert Downey Jr.’s line about being a “genius playboy billionaire philanthropist” when asked what his powers were.
Good job, fun to watch, but he would still have to pole-vault to beat the best.
- Adam West
West was Batman at a time where campiness reigned supreme. This is the time period when Joker always hung out in old abandoned fun houses and, in James Bond movies, 007 would get tied to giant lasers. Therefore, the Adam West Batman was a product of his times, and he was extremely good at it. Possibly, nothing campier has ever graced our TV sets. He was perfect, he was hilarious. The fact he could do all that he did with a straight face is itself amazing.
The unfortunate side effect of his awesome performance is that people believed his show is what comics were actually like for decades past when they were actually like that.
- Kevin Conroy
Anyone familiar with Batman: The Animated Series would remember Conroy’s iconic Batman voice. So amazing is it, Conroy still performs in many animated DC shows and movies today. Like no other, he really has the brooding affectations of the voice of Batman down flawlessly.
- Christian Bale
Finally, one of the two Batman titans. Bale starred as Batman in more live-action, big-screen movies than any other actor unless you count Affleck’s cameo in Suicide Squad. Jason Bourne had hit Hollywood by this point, so the love of all things realistic and gritty was in full effect. Christopher Nolan, therefore, set his Batman world up very realistically and chose realistic villains. Ra’s Al Ghul. Joker. Two Face. Bane. Talia Al Ghul. Scarecrow. No one was goofy. The end result was amazing cinema. Movie goers and critics alike sat up and took notice.
In the center of it all was Bale. This is the guy that just lost 60 pounds for The Machinist and then gained 80 to play Bruce. He was willing to do anything for the role, and it showed. He was amazing. He was a little hard to understand at times while using his gravelly Batman voice, but he sure was fun to watch.
I saw a poll a while back that had Bale as the best Bruce, but Keaton as the best Batman. I’d have to agree with this as Bale made for a perfect Bruce. You could see the transition from strategic, tortured genius to aloof playboy more than any other actor has captured.
- Michael Keaton
Although Bale steals best Bruce, Keaton wins best Batman. He and Tim Burton brought the darkness of Batman to live action before all others. No camp. No cheese. All dark, amazing-to-watch action. Initially, fanboys were skeptical and dismissive of the Beetlejuice actor, but once the 1989 classic Batman started, no one would ever question Keaton’s acting or action chops again. His hair may have been a bit too curly for the Bruce side of things, but Keaton was dark, broody, and perfect for the role of the Bat. Batman Returns got a bit weird thanks to Burton going a little too Burtony, but Keaton continued to shine. The Catwoman and Batman scenes were especially wonderful.
So, in your best gruff voice, admit, “He is Batman!”
Then, cross your fingers that Robert Pattinson finds a way to land near the top of this list. If so, he’ll be in great company.