By George Bate and Josh Reilly B.
The Batman is in theaters now, which means fans are actively revisiting previous iterations of the Caped Crusader. In the past few decades alone, several actors have taken on the role of Batman, including some of Hollywood’s most famous and prestigious stars. Some versions have been better received than others, with 1998’s Batman and Robin proving to be a critical low point for the DC character.
Since then, Batman has moved to a darker tone, beginning with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and continuing into Zack Snyder’s films and 2022’s The Batman. This has made for a different version of the character, and one that arguably works more in the modern day compared to the lighthearted tone that previously accompanied Batman.
From Robert Pattinson to Adam West and everywhere in between, check out The HoloFiles’ rankings of all seven live action Batman iterations:
7: George Clooney
George Clooney appeared to have the right acting abilities to take on the role, especially given his many performances as arrogant and confident individuals like Bruce Wayne. While Batman and Robin itself is actually worse than Clooney in the film, the actor still delivers an outdated and lifeless performance in his one and only outing, marking a low point for the character.
6: Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton after the actor walked away with director Tim Burton, who advocated and fought for him to play Batman. Kilmer’s performance in Batman Forever isn’t bad by any means, but is unfortunately forgettable over anything else. He wasn’t as dire as George Clooney, but didn’t shine like some of the other Bat-actors. The actual movie didn’t help either, which again prioritized the villains over the superhero.
5: Adam West
Adam West popularized Batman as a character in an incredible way, and deserves immense credit for this influence. Despite such a marked difference in tone in the modern day iterations , it seems hard to fathom that The Batman would exist without Adam West.
4: Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton was a Batman for a new era, and one that was a clear shift in tone. Batman (1989) was darker than a lot of audiences remember, showing a brutal death scene of Bruce Wayne’s parents and a vicious Joker. Keaton’s high point was the sequel, Batman Returns, which delivered one of the very best versions of Gotham ever seen in live action. Keaton was a big part in this, delivering an excellent performance as Bruce Wayne and Batman, and it’s this iconic outing that is the key reason for the actor’s return to the character, as he’s set to appear in The Flash and Batgirl.
3: Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck’s time as Batman was turbulent to say the least, starting with a poorly received Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was followed by an even messier Justice League (and its original cut, directed by Zack Snyder). Despite all of that, Affleck embodies both Batman and Bruce Wayne well, and was always the highlight of the films he appeared in. It seems his time as Batman has come to a close now, with the upcoming The Flash set to be his final appearance. Still, Affleck can be proud of the work he did in the DC franchise, defying many of the skeptical early reactions to his casting by proving to be a better Batman than most thought he would be.
2: Robert Pattinson
Pattinson made his debut earlier this month, and with it the English actor somehow managed to carve a unique corner of the Batman character. He’s in the suit considerably more than any actor before, which isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it adds to the character significantly. Pattinson plays the detective role incredibly well and, most importantly, truly feels like Batman.
1: Christian Bale
Not only are Christian Bale’s Batman films the best of the bunch, but the actor himself proved himself to be the best Dark Knight in his 7 year span. Bale plays the Batman role to perfection, striking the perfect balance between fear and hope (themes that Matt Reeves played with in his film). Beyond that, Bale’s playboy Bruce Wayne, a complete facade as a cover for his real identity as Batman, is a highlight of the trilogy. Bale has been in many iconic films as an actor, but his role as Batman might be the pinnacle of his career so far.
The Batman is in theaters now.
Images courtesy of DC and Warner Bros