A few renowned actors have played Batman over the last few decades, each one bringing something new and unique to the role with every new major motion picture. Adam West brought a cartoon to life with every ounce of camp in tow, whereas Michael Keaton revolutionized the role by being dark, gothic, and utterly melancholic. We saw Christian Bale redefine Batman after a short hiatus in the series, turning the trilogy into the benchmark of quality superhero cinema in the process.
And now we have Ben Affleck who, despite immense backlash and skepticism, seems to be the only overall positive element of an incredibly divisive new movie. Affleck will continue to don the cape and cowl for years to come, until someone new steps up to wear the mantle and glide through Gotham as its new Dark Knight. Although only a lucky few have been given the opportunity to play one of the two most iconic superheroes in history, the list of actors who have tried to etch the Batman’s name on their resumes are a plenty. I’ve compiled 15 actors who came extremely close to actually being the billionaire vigilante, and as you scroll down the list you’ll realize that most of them are very surprising albeit interesting choices. Given the chance, which one of these actors would you pick to play Batman?
15 Josh Brolin
Before he became the Mad Titan, Thanos, on Marvel’s side of things, Josh Brolin was being strongly considered by Warner Bros to play Batman in the now highly-divisive Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Much like Ben Affleck, Brolin possesses the build and maturity to properly portray a grizzled, war-torn Caped Crusader.
While it would have been interesting to see Brolin’s intense characterization of the Bat, I think Ben Affleck did a fantastic job and it’s safe to say things aren’t too shabby for Brolin either, who’ll be appearing in The Avengers: Infinity War Part I & II.
14 Armie Hammer
Unlike the other actors on this list, Armie Hammer was in fact signed to play Batman in George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal. Unfortunately for him, things fell apart and all plans for that universe were scrapped, giving way for Zack Snyder to hop on board and kick things off with Man Of Steel.
In retrospect, maybe George Miller’s version of the DC Extended Universe would have been better, seeing how Batman v Superman is a critical bomb and is currently struggling to exceed the profit margin. It would have been interesting to see Hammer portray a much younger version of The Dark Knight.
13 Heath Ledger
The Joker was once supposed to play Batman. How’s that for a mind-bender? After seeing his extraordinary performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight, I have no doubt that the late, great Heath Ledger could have played Batman perfectly if he was given the part.
Director Christopher Nolan decided to run with Christian Bale instead, but apparently Nolan was so impressed by Ledger’s work that he called him back in to play Batman’s most demented foe in the follow-up film.
12 Bill Murray
Talk about unorthodox casting choices. When casting the titular role for Batman in 1989, Tim Burton was adamant about picking a comedic actor and turning them into a serious, brooding vigilante. It’s no surprise then that Bill Murray was one of the actors Burton wanted as Bruce Wayne.
As much as I like the magnificent Bill Murray, I don’t think he would have been a good fit for Batman, and fortunately for us, Michael Keaton stepped in and made the role iconic. Things get weirder though, as Bill Murray was once again brought into the fold when Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was pitching a campy, comedic version of Batman to the studio and wanted his friend to play the lead.
11 Ashton Kutcher
Yes, I’m being totally serious. Ashton Kutcher was a very popular studio pick when it came to casting Bruce Wayne for Batman Begins. Apparently learning absolutely nothing from the gargantuan flop that was Batman & Robin, Warner Bros felt the need to go nuts and vouch for Kutcher to don the cape and cowl for their rebooted Batman franchise. It was Christopher Nolan’s disapproval and disinterest that led the studios away from Ashton, and we got Christian Bale instead. Phew!
Ashton, being a good sport, later joked that his legs may have been the problem since they didn’t have the right proportions to play Batman. He may not be Batman material, but you can’t say he lacks a sense of humor.
10 Johnny Depp
How different would Johnny Depp’s career be had he taken this role? No, it wasn’t for Batman or Batman Returns, but rather Batman Forever in 1995! Tim Burton had left the director’s chair after Batman Returns but still stuck around as Executive Producer for Batman Forever. Since his kinship with Johnny Depp is well documented and Michael Keaton had also vacated the role of Bruce Wayne, Burton suggested that Depp take the reins and run with it. For better or worse, things didn’t pan out and Val Kilmer nabbed the role instead, leaving Johnny Depp to turn in his magnum opus as Jack Sparrow a few years later.
Although not as bad as Batman & Robin, Batman Forever isn’t considered a good movie by most standards and would have stalled Depp’s career had he accepted the part.
9 Henry Cavill
First The Joker, and now Superman?! That’s right, British actor Henry Cavill was called to audition for the role of Bruce Wayne AKA Batman in Batman Begins. Apparently he was a steady front-runner too, before everyone finally settled on Christian Bale, who as we all know did a fantastic job with the part.
No one needs to feel sorry for Cavill though, because he’d get what some would call a solid upgrade a few years down the road as Clark Kent AKA Superman in Man of Steel.
8 Charlie Sheen
What would this have been like? Picture a Batman full of "tiger blood" and running around screaming “Winning!” at his foes. The Penguin would have been so confused. Okay I’m sorry, I realize those Charlie Sheen jokes are very old, but I just had to take a jab or two.
As was mentioned earlier, Tim Burton was looking high and low for a comedic actor to take a serious turn as Batman in 1989. Sheen was big at the time and his career was prospering, so it only made sense that Burton put Sheen’s name down as someone he wanted for the movie. Of course, things didn’t work out between Sheen and Burton, and we got the incomparable Michael Keaton instead.
7 David Duchovny
X-Files was dominating TV ratings, Val Kilmer didn’t want to come back as Batman, and Warner Bros was eager to get Batman & Robin out as soon as possible… which, looking back, seems like the studio’s worst decision to date.
Before miraculously talking George Clooney into wearing a Batsuit with nipples on it, Joel Schumacher approached X-Files star David Duchovny and asked him to star alongside Chris O’ Donnell as the new Batman. Duchovny declined the offer citing his commitment to X-Files as his priority, which must have seemed like the best career move of his life considering how badly Batman & Robin bombed once it was released.
6 Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke has been a fan-favorite choice for the Caped Crusader for many years now. He has that air of mystery about him that just seems very Bruce Wayne-like. Hawke was offered the part when Michael Keaton declined to reprise the role in Batman Forever. Hawke turned it down, but later went on record saying it was a “stupid, stupid decision”.
Well, not really Mr. Hawke. While Batman Forever was fairly profitable as a sort of Tim Burton-wannabe version of the franchise, it isn’t exactly a project that demands any real acting capabilities. Apart from Jim Carrey playing his part to absolute, unforgettable perfection, nothing else in Batman Forever is worth watching.
5 Jake Gyllenhaal
Now this would have been interesting to see. Jake Gyllenhaal is an amazing actor and has done some amazing work in films like Prisoners, Nightcrawler, and Southpaw, just to name a few. While it’s difficult to say if he would have been a good Batman, I’d be willing to wager that it would have been an unorthodox take on the character, at the very least.
Gyllenhaal auditioned for the lead role in Batman Begins but didn’t quite make the cut. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: Jake Gyllenhaal also auditioned for the role of Spider-Man in Sam Raimi’s original saga, but lost out to Tobey Maguire in the end.
4 Mel Gibson
Racial tirades and drunken rants aside, Mel Gibson is actually a powerhouse actor who sinks into the skins of his characters with ease. He would genuinely have made a fairly brilliant Batman.
Before Michael Keaton was cast in Tim Burton's Batman, it was actually Mel Gibson who was Warner Bros' ideal choice to embody The Dark Knight on screen. However, Gibson was already committed to making Lethal Weapon 2 and had to turn down the studio’s offer.
3 Harrison Ford
You can’t tell me with a straight face that you wouldn’t want to see Harrison Ford as Batman at least once. True, he’d just be Harrison Ford in a cape and cowl, but then again… he’d be friggin’ Harrison Ford in a cape and cowl! Ford brings so much wit and charisma to the table that it makes me want to see a movie with him dressed up as Gotham’s savior, fighting criminals with gadgets and spewing one liners like “Cut the crap, kid!” in typical Ford fashion.
2 Keanu Reeves
Duuude. Let’s be honest, Keanu Reeves would make a very interesting Batman, to say the least. He basically played Batman in John Wick by being a straight-up, no nonsense, skilled as all hell ass-kicker. Take that stoic demeanor and that whispery voice and put them in a mask, and it turns into a very formidable Batman.
Keanu was actually a top-choice for the role in both Batman Forever and Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Prior to casting Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder and Warner Bros had Keanu Reeves as a clear contender for the role. What’s more amazing is that Keanu actually showed genuine interest on both occasions.
1 Tom Hanks
Call me shortsighted, but Tom Hanks is totally wrong for the role of Batman, in my humble opinion. Maybe a Mr. Freeze, or a Hugo Strange… but not Batman. Much like Bill Murray, Tom Hanks is a fantastic actor who always brings something intriguing to the table. I think it’s those qualities that made Warner Bros reach out to him for both of Tim Burton's Batman movies; Batman and Batman Forever.
Things may not have panned out for Hanks back then, but the actor has shown a heightened interest in the superhero genre lately. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll see Tom Hanks play a famous Batman villain someday.