Few characters have featured quite as many actors as Batman has over the years. From movies to TV shows to video games, there have been many Batman actors bringing the caped crusader to life. Of course, those performances have occurred with varying degrees of success.
Which of the actors that have played Batman would rank as the best of the best? Let’s take a look at the most noteworthy performances from both the big screen and the TV.
The Worst to Best Batman Actors (Ranked)
It would be quite a lengthy article to discuss and rank all Batman actors from the last century. Of the wide range of actors that have brought the caped crusader to life, we think that 9 are worth mentioning. That’s because they either put on show-stopping performances or they truly stunk on screen.
Let’s rank the best and worst Bruce Waynes and Batmen.
8. George Clooney
Director Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin fell flat for many reasons. Its main flaw was that the writing was campy but the actors, primarily Clooney, didn’t commit. He tried to make ridiculous lines sound serious, and the results are just awkward. This performance puts him as one of the worst Batman actors to date.
And the nipples added to the outside of the suit was certainly a choice. Whether or not it was the right choice, I’ll leave you to decide.
7. Ben Affleck
Casting Ben Affleck as an older Batman actor created a more bitter take on the character. This world-weary Batman and Wayne gives the roles a different feel. The results made the character pretty depressing and mopey. He didn’t have much of an edge to him.
While it almost worked, Affleck was dealing with a lot of studio disagreements behind the scenes. It clearly impacted his performance and it took away his chance at a solo movie.
6. Val Kilmer
Kilmer tried to continue Keaton’s descent into darker, more serious Batman. However, he didn’t lean into the crazy quite like Keaton did. We didn’t explore the deranged mind of Wayne and the Bat quite like other Batman actors do.
To be fair, it’s tough to focus on the twisted side of Batman when you have Jim Carrey dancing around in a glittery bodysuit. Unfortunately, Paul Dano did not don one single sparkly question mark for his Riddler performance. And Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face is famously regarded as one of the worst performances of his career.
5. Adam West
If you prefer your Batman actors to engage in wacky hijinks and wear his underwear outside his pants, you’ll love Adam West. Haven’t seen the Batman series? Picture a live action Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. If you’ve seen the Back to the Past episode in the seventh season of SpongeBob SquarePants, you actually heard Adam West voice young Mermaid Man.
It’s fun and campy, but it’s supposed to be. The show fully leans into the goofy attitude, so it totally works.
4. Kevin Conroy
If you’re a fan of animated Batman content, Kevin Conroy is likely your favorite Batman actor. While many actors have voiced the caped crusader, none come close to Conroy’s running streak. He’s been the voice behind Batman for over 20 years.
His first appearance was in Batman: The Animated Series. He continued on to The Adventures of Batman and Robin, Justice League, The New Batman Adventures, and many more. He’s also played the character in many movies and video games. And he hasn’t retired yet!
3. Michael Keaton
When you think of director Tim Burton, you likely picture claymation movies like Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride. If you think about his live action work, you might remember movies like Beetlejuice or Sweeney Todd.
But Tim Burton actually took on the role of director for Batman and Batman Returns. And no, neither Johnny Depp nor Helena Bonham Carter star in the movies. Instead, you had Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Michael Keaton.
Burton had just come off the heels of Beetlejuice with Michael Keaton playing the titular character. They worked together again, and Batman released one year after Beetlejuice.
Many anticipated that Keaton would continue the tradition of a campy, funny Batman. Instead, they got a darker, more twisted man inside the cape and cowl. He’s debonair and smooth as Wayne and just a tiny bit unhinged as Batman.
Keaton crawled so Bale could walk so Pattinson could run. This is the first of many Warner Bros. Batman movies.
Losing Michael Keaton’s return as the Batman actor was one of the many tragedies caused by HBOMax’s canceling of Batgirl. We will see him return as Batman in The Flash.
2. Robert Pattinson
If Keaton played an unhinged Batman, Pattinson took the hinges off completely. Director Matt Reeves’s The Batman matches the tone to Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. They’re both wildly deranged and out of control. His action sequences are skillfully executed. He doesn’t have a Batman voice that you can easily parody. T
he only thing he doesn’t do as successfully is his take on Bruce Wayne. However, that’s likely intentional. This Bruce needs Batman. It’s not something he does for the good of others. He needs an outlet to vent his pent up frustration and unmask his inner demons by putting on the mask.
Somehow, he was able to make his mark as a Batman actor following Christian Bale.
1. Christian Bale
Even those only tangentially aware of the Batman franchise know Christian Bale as the caped crusader. While previous Bats had flirted with the idea of a darker character, Bale brought the Dark Knight to life. He’s surrounded by all-star casts in every film and director Christopher Nolan exerts successful creative control over the trilogy.
He revolutionized the role and created his legacy as a Batman actor.
Honorable Mention: Will Arnett
While taken seriously in the Nolan movies, the Christian Bale Batman voice has become a source of satire. And no one does a play on the Bale voice better than Will Arnett. Cast as the Batman lego figure in The Lego Movie, his gravelly voice sharing the screen with the Everything Is Awesome tune is delightfully contrasting. While everyone around him is bright and cheery, he brings his grim broodiness to everything he does.
Whether it’s sharing his mixtape that features lyrics like “Daaarknessss…no parents…” or building part of a submarine (“I only work in black…and sometimes very, very dark gray), it’s hilarious for both kids and their parents shamelessly watching over their shoulders. He even has his own film: The Lego Batman Movie.
While I can’t in good conscience crown Will Arnett as the best Batman actor, he’s certainly the one that I enjoy the most.
Who is your favorite of the Batman actors? Sound off with your thoughts in our comment section below!