A fair few actors have donned Batman’s cape and cowl, with Robert Pattinson being the latest inductee into the Dark Knight Hall of Fame. Whereas most new actors cast in a beloved franchise are met with skepticism and, sometimes, vitriol, Pattinson appears to have already won the hearts and minds of Batman fanatics. In anticipation of more Pattinson-related Batman material, let us look back on his predecessors and which one is truly the Battiest Batman of them all.
Note: We are ranking the live-action actors here, not their films. Sometimes an actors’ performance can rock, while his film can decidedly not. Sometimes, it can be vice versa. So, you may find some surprises on this list. Anyhoo…
10) Lewis Wilson
What can be said of the first live-action Batman, Lewis Wilson? Not much, really. Given that Wilson is the first actor to wear the cowl, he didn’t have previous iterations to inform his role. Therefore, he was presumably limited to the comics of the time.
Noting this, Wilson’s performance is every bit as expected from a 1940’s serial. He’s not so much the Batman, as he is a one-dimensional superhero archetype. Yes, he’s hardly the best Batman actor of all time (to put it lightly), but we’ve all got to start somewhere, right?
9) Robert Lowery
Robert Lowery prises the cowl, from Lewis Wilson in the 1949 sequel serial, Batman & Robin, and he’s slightly better than his predecessor, albeit not by a great deal. Again, his portrayal is more akin to a superhero archetype than a three-dimensional character, but he can at least be commended for having a better suit than Wilson.
8) George Clooney
To be fair, even Clooney thinks his Batman sucks. You can see why. His Bruce Wayne is painfully boring and lacking in charisma (which is incredible, since he’s you know, played by George Freakin’ Clooney!) and his Batman is cheesy and childish. Putting aside his poor material, Clooney doesn’t even feel like he’s trying most of the time.
7) Iain Glen
Ian Glain’s performance as Bruce Wayne is…serviceable, you might say. Throughout Titans, the retired Batman is portrayed as a sinister figure who adopted Dick Grayson and whose training left a bad psychological taste in the young Robin’s mouth. This sounds intriguing in theory – the problem is that this all occurs on-screen years before we meet Titans’ iterations of Dick and Bruce.
Thus, Glain is forced to play a Bruce Wayne whose exciting years are far behind him. Despite being charming as an older Bruce Wayne, and evoking the character’s inner darkness later on, he is often overshadowed by the series’ better cast.
6) Adam West
If there’s one thing that can be said of Adam West’s Batman, it’s that it’s emblematic of the time period it’s from. The swingin’ ’60s is the era linked to The Beatles, flower power, and cheesy superhero television. West just performs in the manner expected of his era.
The problem is, of course, he’s not portraying the Batman everyone knows and loves. Nowadays, West’s comedic take on him is interpretable as parody. But alas, for a children’s comedy show, his performance does the job and can be deemed serviceable as such. For those who grew up with his show, they deem West as one of the best Batman actors of all time.
5) Kevin Conroy
Kevin Conroy is mostly known as the best Batman voice actor of all time in the 90’s animated series and beyond. However, his live-action guest star appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths ensures the Bat-veteran gets a spot on this list. So, how does Conroy fare in his first live-action appearance as Bruce?
Surprisingly well! Conroy pulls off a cynical, nihilistic Bruce Wayne/Batman brilliantly. Employing a more grizzled version of his Batman voice, Conroy lends a three-dimensionality to his role. You can almost hear the pain in Bruce’s voice when he speaks about his tragic past. Conroy’s part is short, but commendable within the short time frame it’s in.
4) Val Kilmer
There’s not much to say about Val Kilmer. In all honesty, his Batman is best described as ‘Michael Keaton-lite’. Simply put, his portrayal isn’t unique enough to stand out much. That said, he does Keaton-lite very well and exhibits enough darkness of the Batman to place him higher than some other actors on this list.
3) Christian Bale
Is this a controversial decision? Bale is among the people who revived the Batman movie franchise and reclaimed the dignity stolen from it after Batman & Robin. However, while he is an excellent Batman, there is something notably missing from Bale’s performance.
His Batman is just a little bit too happy. This is a guy that watches his parents die, travels the world, and trains under a league of assassins. Yet, he’s a bit too ‘put-together’. That said, as Batman, his voice and mannerisms inspired much of what comes after it. For that, he deserves credit. Certainly, unfavourable opinion won’t stop many from thinking of Bale as the best Batman actor of all time.
2) Michael Keaton
Keaton’s Batman is the first serious attempt at the character. You get the impression that Keaton’s Bruce has seen a lot in his time. Keaton brings a level of sophistication to the character that other actors fail to achieve while his Batman remains menacing and mysterious.
The only bad thing is that his Bruce Wayne is a bit too much of a hermit. Traditionally, Bruce puts on a playboy act to stop the public from putting two-and-two together. Here though, his Bruce is as mysterious as his alter-ego. That said, it doesn’t stop Michael Keaton from being one of the best Batmen to grace the silver screen.
1) Ben Affleck
Zack Snyder’s Justice League trilogy is given a lot of flak. But there’s one element of his films that people constantly laud. That element? Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Despite his somewhat lacking material, Affleck exudes the darkness and conflict of Batman tenfold. He perfectly encapsulates an aging man whose crime-fighting escapades have left him cynical and world-weary. Deep down, we all know that Batman is pretty messed up mentally (normal people don’t parade around the city as a Bat, after all) and Affleck’s performance nails this, especially in B v S. One can hope that Pattinson echoes some of this inner torment in his depiction of the Batman.
Thus, we pass the question off to you guys. Who do you think is the best actor to play Batman/Bruce Wayne? What do you think of Robert Pattinson in The Batman trailer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!