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Best Batman actors: Every star ranked best to worst

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Who’re the best Batman actors? And who’s the ultimate Batman?

ace TheBatman is finally hitting cinemas across the globe, we thought it was the perfect time to rank the actors who’ve taken on the iconic role.

Robert Pattinson is the latest big name to play the legendary character. Time will tell what sort of mark Pattinson will leave on the legacy of The Bat, so we’ve not included him in our rankings.

So note for this list (and the sake of simplicity) only live-action films where Batman/Bruce Wayne is the main character will be considered. So we are excluding films like joker, The Lego Batman Movieand (sadly) Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Without further ado, here is our list, ranked from worst to best…

Best Batman actors — ranked worst to best…

6.George Clooney

George Clooney as Batman and Chris O'Donnell as Robin

(Image credit: © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

stars in: Batman & Robin (1997)

Ah yes. The fabled sequel so bad, it not only broke the Bat franchise, but also made Hollywood question the marketability of comic book films. Clooney’s portrayed equally matched the film’s goofy and campy tone, contributing to its silliness with terrible deliveries to terrible lines like “This is why Superman works alone.”

It’s a cringe-inducing performance in a cringe-inducing film that’s so out of character for the Batman role, that Clooney himself has taken public jabs at it several times. That said, when viewed as an unintentional comedy (while heavily unsober), watching it can be fun.

5. Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne and Nicole Kidman as Chase Meridian

(Image credit: © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

stars in: Batman Forever (1995)

Kilmer’s performance as Batman has the advantage of not being the trainwreck Clooney’s ultimately was. But there’s not much more you can say in his favor. Joel Schumacher’s neon-lit camp direction started to blossom as an overcorrection to the dark surrealness of Burton’s Batman Returns.

However, Kilmer, to his credit, played the role as straight as he could, despite the ridiculous script and tone. Unfortunately, it just ended up being a somewhat bland, unmemorable turn as Batman, particularly when standing next to the go-for-broke performance of Jim Carrey’s Riddler. While we’re glad he didn’t steer into the outright ridiculousness of the film, it still felt like Kilmer was doing a completely different film from everyone else.

4. Adam West

Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin

(Image credit: © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

stars in: Batman The Movie (1966)

In order to appreciate the direction Batman is going, one must also remember where it’s been. Be it for nostalgic purposes or otherwise, many still consider West to be their ideal Batman. The show, and its theatrical spin-off, perfectly captured the silly tone of the Silver Age, Wertham-affected pages of The Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder at the time.

And West’s performance is exactly the right actor, in the right role, at the right time. Audiences weren’t ready for a dark and broody Batman, so West’s optimistic interpretation of the character is what was needed. That said, it was nice to see the character finally go back to his roots when the 1980s hit, thanks to Frank Miller’s work.

3. Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne

(Image credit: © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

stars in: Batman v Superman (2016), Justice League (2017)/Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Affleck’s movies aren’t great interpretations of the character. When you see a bloodthirsty Batman swinging a Kryptonian hero into columns, you check out. But that has everything to do with the writing and direction, and less the performance. Despite the films, Affleck’s performance as The Caped Crusader is actually fantastic.

If the role of Batman is defined by balance between the Bruce Wayne and Batman personas, Affleck nailed it, and without on-screen subtitles (see Bale). His ability to switch from broody, tortured billionaire, to drunk playboy, and intimidating detective vigilante is terrific. Even when watching the intro to the widely-panned theatrical cut of Justice Leaguethe performance Affleck gives while trying to draw out a Parademon with a terrified criminal is something right out of a Batman comic book.

If Affleck’s performance as Batman were in films that served the actor’s knowledge and understanding of the character, he could have been the most perfect Batman put to screen so far. He just wasn’t given the proper material or screentime to showcase his expertly performed portrayal as Bruce Wayne/Batman.

2.Christian Bale

Christian Bale as Batman

(Image credit: © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

stars in: The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012)

Bale’s version of the character set the course for, not only Batman films to be taken seriously, but also superhero films. The Dark Knight to this day is widely considered the greatest comic book film of all time, and, along with Donner’s super man, is only one of two superhero films on the National Film Registry. And Bale’s vulnerable, complex performance is key to this. He is, without a doubt, the best actor to portray Bruce Wayne in live-action to date.

Why then is he only second? Two factors. The first: the Batman voice. Bale’s choice to use the ridiculous over-the-top growl as Batman made his lines while in the suit almost incomprehensible at times. It’s an incredibly grating and unnecessary choice.

The second: with Batman being widely considered to be the smartest superhero of all time, Bale’s performance didn’t quite highlight the scientific or detective aspects of the character. Nolan’s direction opted to show the more emotional and physical aspects of the character.

However, Batman is a genius and detective that is always one-step ahead of his enemies, and we never truly get that from Bale’s version of the character.

1.Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton as Batman

(Image credit: © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

stars in: Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992)

You can’t beat this MVP. Keaton’s performance redefined how the public saw the Dark Knight, and stunned skeptics expecting Mr Mom. From his intelligible, intimate “I’m Batman” rooftop intro, to his intelligence cracking The Joker’s chemical formula on the Bat-Computer, Keaton’s version of the character was broody and brilliant. And as an actor, Keaton’s versatility meant he was able to navigate between the dual sides of the character seamlessly.

To this day, the scene between him and Selena dancing at the Christmas party in Batman Returns serves as the perfect physical manifestation of that duality. Expertly performed, Keaton’s Batman will be the standard at which all Batman performances, animated or live action, will always be compared to.

That’s why Keaton — who revealed recently why he walked away from the franchise — tops our best Batman actors piece!

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