My Top-5 Batman Actors

Everyone likes Batman. Whether you’re young or old, he’s one of those comic-book heroes who transcends generations of coolness. He’s been performed by a large number of actors and I felt I should share who are my favourite Batmen, so to speak.

Christian Bear and a Bale

However, I couldn’t make this post without bringing up the obvious topic: Christian Bale’s rather grizzly interpretation of the Dark Knight in the most recent movie adaptions. Don’t get me wrong, I think Mr. Bale is an amazing actor who’s been in some seriously cool movies, and he’s also the first actor to perform the role of Batman in three consecutive theatrical films.

Although in Batman Begins he did a fantastic job in making me truly care about the character Bruce Wayne, once he put on the dodgy looking mask and started growling like a fucking bear with a sore throat, I just couldn’t take him seriously. So, Mr. Bale, I love your work and hope you get to play Batman as many times as you wish, but if you could cut back on your very Ursunian performance, the rest of mankind would be very thankful.

Anyway, on to the list…

5. Michael Keaton

Keaton played Batman in the two Tim Burton directed efforts and I think he did so quite well. However, like a lot of people, I feel Keaton was never used in his full potential in either one of these movies. Betelgeuse had been Keaton’s biggest movie at that point and so many of us might have preferred to have seen Keaton in the role of the Joker, rather than as Batman.

However, at least in his confrontation scene with the Joker at Vicki Vale’s apartment, we got a slight glimpse of the Keaton we all love and enjoy. However, in Batman Returns, he was entirely upstaged by the villains.

Keaton did manage the serious delivery of Batman and he fit the suit quite well in my view, I just see him as an actor capable of a much larger emotional scale than he was permitted to show in either of his Batman movies that I tend not to think of him as Bruce Wayne as much as Keaton in Batman. But in any case, a decent enough effort to make my list and at least in the first movie he was able to show his acting ability somewhat.

4. George Clooney

Yes, yes, I know! Batman & Robin sucked, but in my view that is certainly not the fault of the actors, all whom I felt were appropriately cast. It was simply the much more sillier nature of the film that made it inferior to the previous three Batman movies. Clooney may not be proud of having clad the hood of the Dark Knight but I give him major credit for it.

Clooney was of course delivering cheesy one-liners all through the film, as was everyone else, but I also felt Clooney’s latent charisma did contribute to the film. He has a much more fatherly appearance than any other Batman actor and this is why I always enjoyed him in the role even if the film itself wasn’t all it could have been.

So, Clooney was a really good Batman but like a lot of the actors, I felt he smiled a little too much through much of the movie which perhaps took away some of the character’s edginess, still, I respect Clooney for having donned the role and giving it his best shot.

3. Adam West

I grew up with the 1960s Batman TV show, but it was only later that I started to appreciate Adam West’s dramatic delivery. A lot of people seem to hate the 60s Batman show simply because it was so much campier than any other adaption of the character, which just tells me that these people don’t really understand what Batman is about. Batman is not simply a dark and serious comic book about a bat-clad vigilante – it’s also entertainment and I find Adam West extremely entertaining in the role of Batman.

On top of having such an epic voice and style of delivery, West is also quite handsome, probably the best looking of any of the actors who have ever played Batman. I’d be willing to argue that the Batman TV show had not been nearly as successful without Adam West’s manly presence. The same is really true for all the actors.

The whole over-the-top nature of the show is what still draws me to it, but without Adam West, it just wouldn’t be Batman.

2. Kevin Conroy

Kevin Conroy has played the role of the Dark Knight more times than anyone and more importantly, he did it in easily my favourite version of Batman, the Animated Series. Conroy’s serious and dark voice is both warm and hard at the same time. The minute you hear him you believe that he is Batman.

Conroy voiced Batman all through The Animated Series, The New Adventures of Batman & Robin, their many spin-offs, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and of course Justice League: Unlimited. Conroy is also the only actor to have sung in the role, and was still cool as a cucumber doing it –  which makes me respect him even more.

However, Conroy has only played the role with his voice so I think it would be unfair to make him number-1 simply because of that and instead I will give the number one spot to the most physically best performer of the bunch.

1. Val Kilmer

Batman Forever is my favourite Batman movie due to numerous reasons. For one, it was the first Batman movie after the Burton ones to insert a little bit of comical levity into the Batman franchise, it was visually the most impressive and it had hands down the best cast. Tommy Lee Jones was awesome (if a little crazy) in the role of Two-Face, Chris O’Donnell was perfect in the role of Robin, the sexy Nicole Kidman was excellent as Dr. Chase Meridian and of course Jim Carrey’s performance as the Riddler was a loving, over-the-top reinterpretation of Frank Gorshin’s iconic performance.

However, what really sold the movie for me was Val Kilmer’s serious and top-notch performance as Batman and Bruce Wayne. Kilmer’s boyish charm made Bruce Wayne much more relatable in this movie than any other, its second only in this area to Batman Begins. However, once he’s in the Batman suit – you really believe that he is Batman and that he will kick ass.

It’s going to take a lot to trump Kilmer in my view and it saddens me that he never got to play the role for a second time.