Whether you are a Marvel, DC, or other comic book universe fan, Batman is an iconic character that probably resonates with every superhero fan. Because of that prominent place in comic book lore, Batman has appeared in countless movies and TV shows over the years. This has allowed a wide range of actors to put on the cowl with varying degrees of success. So, here is a fun ranking of some of the most notable portrayals.
First off, let’s note a few actors we won’t be including.
- Lewis Wilson, who appeared in the first-ever on-screen version of the hero, in Batman (1943).
- Robert Lowery – The New Adventures of Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder (1949)
- David Mazouz – Gotham. We’re leaving Mazouz out since he never officially became Batman during the 5 seasons of Gotham. Instead, he played a young Bruce Wayne, slowly evolving into the Batman character we knew he will eventually become.
- Robert Pattinson – Since he is next up and his film hasn’t yet been released – The Batman. Stay tuned to see where he ranks when we update this list down the road.
- The various voice artists who have portrayed Batman in numerous (some excellent) Batman animated films and TV series over the years.
That leaves us with the more recently recognizable actors who have portrayed the caped crusader on TV and the Big Screen since Batman (1989) and up through Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021). Here we go, starting worst to first!
6 – Val Kilmer
So, Batman Forever (1995). Ugh. This movie and the one that followed just about killed the franchise. Can anyone remember the story? Eminently forgettable as a film and the portrayal was just as uninspired.
5 – George Clooney
George Clooney is an excellent actor, but his one and only appearance as Batman in Batman and Robin (1997) was a mess. The whole movie was just misguided. Clooney gets points for giving it his best, but he didn’t have much to work with here.
4 – Ben Affleck
So, I have to say I was not a fan when Affleck was announced as the next Batman to follow up Christian Bale. Did anyone see Daredevil? Having now seen Affleck play Batman in numerous films (I’m not entirely sure how to count them actually) (Batman V Superman (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Justice League (2017), and Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) I can say he comes in somewhere in the middle of the list. He wasn’t terrible, but he also wasn’t near my favorite. Maybe that changes with his next outing in Flash.
3 – Adam West
OK, the Batman series that ran from 1966-68 (only two seasons?) and Batman: The Movie (1966) aren’t the height of anything from a quality standpoint. But, West simply owned the role. As ridiculous as the stories, outfits, ‘special effects,’ and product value were, he has to be one of the most iconic actors to hop into the Batmobile. That earns him the third spot on our list.
2 – Michael Keaton
I know, I’m going to lose a few purists here. Michael Keaton was the first modern version of the character in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). He set the bar for future actors to reach (most failed). It was a nuanced performance, blending the rich playboy (Bruce Wayne) with his alter-ego (Batman) in a truly believable way. Even as I’m writing this, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t put him into the top spot. That could definitely happen since Keaton is set to play Batman again in the upcoming Flash movie.
1 – Christian Bale
Bale takes the top spot for me, with his excellent three film turn as Batman in Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Night (2008), and The Dark Night Rises (2012). When he took on the role, the most recent films had been pretty terrible. He and director Christopher Nolan brought a new level of serious noir to the character, once again elevating the character and related films back to real moviemaking quality. They are closer to Keaton’s portrayal than any of the other actors on this list, which is likely why these two actors take the top spots.