Friday Favourites: Batman live-action portrayals

Friday Favourites
Best Batman Portrayals

Photo created by paymphotography –

I’ve talked about Batman a lot more this week than I normally do and it’s all R Patz’s fault. Every day there seems to be a new update about his upcoming role as the Dark Knight. We know a lot of the other actors that will appear in the film, we know that we’ll be seeing Greig Fraser’s cinematography and hearing Michael Giacchino’s score, and we’ve seen evidence Robert Pattinson is learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Things are getting serious. And, from the looks of it at least, the initial frenzied backlash to the casting announcement seems to have calmed down. Yep, who would have thought it but the internet reacted badly to something again. Just moments after the world knew the actor would take on the role of Bruce Wayne, fanboys around the world were throwing their toys out of the pram. There was the inevitable petition demanding a change. The petition demanded that Warner Brothers “stop trashing” the DC universe by making another mistake with casting. DC comic fans, as we know from the past, aren’t the most level-headed of people. So, let’s make this clear, Ben Affleck and Robert Pattinson aren’t the cause of the DCEU getting trashed. That all started the moment Zack Snyder stepped up to the plate. So, am I concerned about Pattinson taking over the role? No. Especially not after watching his performance in The Lighthouse. Plus, we’ve seen this with pretty much every actor who has stepped into the role. People freaked out about Michael Keaton, a comedy actor, playing him in the Tim Burton film. Ben Affleck was one of the best things about Dawn of Justice and Justice League. And neither George Clooney or Val Kilmer is really to blame for Joel Schumacher’s reign of terror. But I’ve just realised that this introduction is longer than a Russian novel. So, it’s time for my Friday Favourite’s for this week: Batman portrayals. So, who is the best Batman actor?

So, rules of the game. I’m only going with live-action portrayals of the character. For one thing, there are too many animated things now that this list would be too long. For another, I’ve not seen enough of the animated stuff to really judge. And, let’s be honest, if animated versions were included, Will Arnett would be so far ahead of everyone else I might as well have made him the entire list. Second point, I’m not going back further than Adam West for this list. I’m sure that Lewis G Wilson and Robert Lowrey were both stand-up guys but I’ve never felt inclined to track down their efforts in the role. A 1943 and a 1949 series just don’t seem like my kind of thing. Also, not going to talk about David Mazouz from Gotham. I stopped watching it when he was only Bruce Wayne so it doesn’t count. Okay, enough admin, let’s do this.


6. Val Kilmer

Don’t get me wrong, I love Val Kilmer. He was super funny in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Ice Man is clearly a better character than Maverick. However, his time playing Batman in Joel Schumacher’s first film was dismal. The reports of no-set difficulties can be seen on the screen. If you ask me, Kilmer doesn’t play the role right. His approach is all wrong and some of his facial expressions when wearing the Batsuit are all kinds of wrong.

I hate Kilmer’s Batman so much that I don’t even have anything constructive to say. It’s just bad.

5. George Clooney

How do you differentiate between the two stars of Joel Schumacher’s efforts? I think most people would be quick to put Clooney last mainly because of the Bat nipples. That’s a mistake. Neither Clooney or Val Kilmer come across well in these films but Clooney is clearly the better actor. Yes, it’s nowhere near his best performance. But he does something with the role. I guess, really, it’s just a personal choice. I don’t think either actor should be proud of their time as the Caped Crusader but Clooney’s Batman isn’t as bad as everyone likes to think.

It’s the opposite of the Christian Bale affect. Just because the film was the worst it doesn’t mean the actor should be written off.


4. Christian Bale

I know there will be plenty of people who do not agree with this decision. How can I possibly put Christian Bale, star of the amazing Christopher Nolan trilogy, at number 4? Was it the voice? I mean, it wasn’t a great acting choice but no. The reason is simple. Christian Bale is the most forgettable person in those films. There’s a reason that people remember the villains in these films and not the superhero himself. Bale’s performance was too subtle and flat. He didn’t really do anything with the character over the course of the three films. Even when he was supposedly mourning Rachel his emotions barely changed. Bale is a great actor but not in these films. See him acting alongside Michael Caine and you have to feel sorry for him.

Bale is celebrated because he was in the best Batman film we’d seen since the 80s. None of that was down to him. You could have put anyone in the suit and they’d still be as good. Even Val Kilmer… maybe.


3. Ben Affleck

Imagine what the world would have been like had Ben Affleck’s Batman been given the Christopher Nolan treatment. He couldn’t have done it at the time because Affleck was still a bit of a loose cannon back then. Batman Begins came out in 2005. That’s only 2 years after Daredevil and Gigli. It’s safe to say he wasn’t at his acting best back then. But had Affleck been given a better director than Zack Snyder, I think the world would be praising his efforts. Dawn of Justice was an absolute mess. Batman got some of the worst lines in comic book movie history.

However, that wasn’t Affleck’s fault and isn’t an indication of his performance. He brought something new to the role. This was a Bruce Wayne who had gone through some stuff. You could see it in everything he did. I just wish he’d been given more of a chance. It’s no wonder Affleck walked away.


2. Adam West

I know that there will be fanboys out there who still resent the 1960s campy Batman because he isn’t in keeping with the dark and moody tone of the comic books. But Adam West is fun and that’s something that is normally sorely missing from the character. He’s also iconic in the role. You don’t talk about Batman actors without his name cropping up. Now, West might not be the most technically brilliant portrayal of the character but he made such an impact on pop culture. That’s got to count for something.

This is a Batman that is very evocative of the time in which the show was made. It screams of the 60s and West’s acting brings everything together. Ask yourself, without the context of directors or other actors, who would you rather watch for 12 hours straight: Christian Bale or Adam West? You watched Adam West it would be joyous and the time would fly by. You watch Bale and fatigue will set in pretty quickly.


1. Michael Keaton

There really is only one choice for the number 1 spot and anybody that tells you any different is a fool. Michael Keaton wasn’t the most obvious choice for playing the character because he was still in the realm of a comedy actor. But Keaton is amazing in the role. It’s a subtle and careful performance but not in the Christian Bale sense. In the, he’s actually giving the character some depth sense.

Michael Keaton changed the way that Batman was portrayed. Working with Tim Burton, he brought a dark and gothic vibe to the role. He was more dangerous than we’d seen him be before and he had more emotional depth. It was a surprise to everyone but Keaton just worked. Let’s bring him back and see Bruce Wayne in his 60s.

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