When you were younger and used to run around the house pretending to be superheroes, one of coolest characters to try and be was Batman. The Dark Knight is seemingly able to get out of any situation with a cool gadget and always remains in peak physical condition. Plus, he's just a normal man! None of this crazy Kyptonian blood getting all up in his business so at the very least, it was totally realistic to think that you could grow up and become Batman. And, hey, it's never too late, right?
While being Batman may have been a dream of a younger version of me, the opportunity to be Batman on film is a very real opportunity that many actors have been given. This is clearly an opportunity that should be handled with caution, which makes some of the decisions of the past all the more questionable. While some have succeeded in the role, others fumbled with it, making their bat-nipples more memorable than anything else that came from it.
Thankfully, there are actors who took the role of Batman and helped solidify why the character really is so unbelievably cool. DC should be thankful too or else they would really be struggling to find a superhero to put on the big screen. This list includes some voice over actors, because the animated series is well deserving of some love. It also includes one surprise celebrity who was rumored to be The Dark Knight nearly 20 years ago.
Whether you agree or disagree, here are the 10 actors that have played Batman to varying degrees of success.
8 Bonus Entry: Johnny Depp
When it comes to actors who were almost given the role of The Dark Knight, there might not be any name more intriguing than Johnny Depp. The actor was rumored to join the cast during the Tim Burton era. Given that Depp had (and continues) to work with Burton it shouldn’t be a huge shock to think that he may have been considered. The studio ended up going with Michael Keaton who did an admirable job with the role and may have possibly made it onto this list (you'll have to keep reading to find that out). It can still be fun to ask ‘what if?’ though!
7 George Clooney
George Clooney is a very attractive man, so it should make sense to think he could pull off a convincing Bruce Wayne, right? While he was okay, I guess, it wasn't enough to save him from being the worst person to portray Batman. What's extra unfortunate is when you take his face and hide it behind a Batman cowl, especially when, for some reason, you decided to give the character bat-nipples. It’s literally impossible to take Clooney seriously in such a ridiculous outfit. To make matters all the more comical, Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t an awful Mr.Freeze but he makes enough bad puns to make any dad proud. Shockingly, Clooney only got one shot at the character.
6 Val Kilmer
I am being dead serious when I say that the best thing about Batman Forever was the promotional cups that they gave away at McDonald's. I still have those cups. They hold up much better than the actual film. Val Kilmer, on the other hand, had much less longevity as Batman. The film may have earned over $300 million, but it had an overall consensus of being “loud, excessively busy and often boring.” How can you possibly make a Batman film and the main takeaway is that it's boring? Are you kidding me? I’m sorry, Kilmer. I’m sure you’ve done some cool films, but Batman is not one of them.
5 Will Arnett
I distinctly remember when I first saw the trailer for The Lego Movie, I audibly groaned and thought there was no way that this was going to work. The film absolutely did work and ended up being one of the biggest surprises of the year. The film is aided by some outstanding voice over work, but perhaps none stronger then the job of Will Arnett, who voices Batman.
Sure, he doesn’t kick ass in quite the same way that the others on this list did, but he was definitely funnier than most. He also gets points for being Batman, but not being the star of the film. He also sings his own theme song… What am I doing? How is he not #1?
6. Pending Review: Ben Affleck
This Ben Affleck entry is pending review as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice won't be in theaters until March of this year but people’s expectations are slowly raising as more material for the upcoming film makes it way out. The film definitely has the budget to meet expectations, but critics weren’t overwhelmed with Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel and it is a bold move to introduce a new Batman in a movie that will have a divided focus.
Everyone is going to go see it anyway, so we may as well be optimistic because nobody really knows how it is going to be. Given that Affleck is expected to portray Batman for a few movies, it will be all the more damaging if the film flops.
4 Adam West
You need to give credit to the originals, and Adam West was one of the pioneer’s of taking on the role of Batman. Adam West donned the Dark Knight from 1966 to 1968, spanning 120 episodes and also a full-length feature film. Given the era, Batman made sure to also let kids know the importance of doing their homework, drinking milk and eating all their food groups. If Batman tells you to do it, I don’t think you have a choice. You also can't overlook the fact that they got their own theme song and it is by far the zaniest and most over-the-top version of Batman around. As long as you don't take it too seriously, you can have a really great time watching West.
4. Terry McGinnis
This one is a bit of an outside the box option, but I am a huge fan of the animated series and that translated to some solid appreciation for Batman Beyond as well. The series depicts Batman as a teenager in a futuristic Gotham City and trains under the tutelage of Bruce Wayne, who has aged because, you know, he’s human. You need to give the series credit for trying something new, and they got Kevin Conroy (If you're wondering who that is, just keep reading!) back to voice the original Bruce Wayne so everyone was a-okay with me! If you haven’t checked it out and want something different, it may be well worth your time.
3 Kevin Conroy
You need to have a place in your heart for what you grew up with. Given that I am currently wearing a shirt that is donned with a bunch of different characters from the animated series, it wouldn't be a shock to my friends to see Conroy take the top spot. The series breathes nostalgia and given the format, lends itself well to covering a wide range of different villains and story arcs. Plus, it only takes 20 minutes to watch, so you can totally justify watching one episode no matter the time of day… or, you know, like five or six episodes.
2 Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton is a fantastic Batman in what are two pretty solid Batman films. I know a lot of people will give Tim Burton flack, but I at least give the director credit for knowing his vision and trying to implement it. As a younger child, Danny DeVito was downright terrifying as The Penguin and any time you can get Christopher Walken in a cast as well you know you’re doing okay.
The first Michael Keaton film (Batman) was also largely aided by an outstanding performance from Jack Nicholson. While it can be argued that Jack stole the show from Keaton, it still led to an overall enjoyable film and that’s more than we can say about some of the other films on this list.
1 Christian Bale
Christian Bale is easily my favorite live-action Batman, but perhaps it is not a coincidence being that the series was handled by the incredibly talented Christopher Nolan. Bale had the advantage of being in three films, which really stretched out a nice story arc. While his Batman voice has received some criticism, there is also no doubting that Bale is an incredibly talented actor.
The series also benefited from the outstanding performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight. I wouldn’t be so nervous about Ben Affleck taking over for Bale if Nolan was still attached to the project. There is no doubt that this next Batman will be different, and perhaps different will be better? Here's hoping.