8 Best Batman Actors – Top Actors Who Played Batman, From Christian Bale to Robert Pattinson

As Christian Bale says in Batman Begins: “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” The same can be said for Batman actors, whose different portrayals certainly aren’t created equally. Every generation has its own version of the Caped Crusader, from the campy ’60s era Adam West to the gritty, post-9/11 Christian Bale.

And here—with the theatrical debut of Robert Pattinson’s Batman—we’ve taken on the daunting task of ranking each of the most famous Batman actors. We stuck to the most well-known live-action portrayals, save for one shining, LEGOfied exception. Here are the best Batman actors ranked, from Adam West to Robert Pattinson.

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8. Ben Affleck

The beautiful thing about Batman in the age of social media is that there’s a meme that perfectly sums up Ben Affleck’s performance as Batman. During an interview after the film came out, Superman actor Henry Cavill is responding to a question on camera about abysmal reviews for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, while Affleck looks off into nothingness, dejected, seemingly suffering an existential crisis in real-time. As he responded to the meme a few weeks later: “It taught me not to do interviews with Henry Cavill where I don’t say anything and they could lay Simon and Garfunkel tracks over it, that’s one thing I learned.” It also taught him not to play Batman anymore, because after the equally horrible Justice LeagueAffleck’s time as Batman came to an end.—Matt Miller

7. George Clooney

Batnipples! Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a world in which we can’t make fun of the infamous nipples on Batman’s suit. We can’t really fault Clooney for any of this, he was just the poor soul who had to wear the nippled batsuit. And even he hated the nipples, as he said in 2014: “I wasn’t thrilled with the nipples on the batsuit. You know that’s not something you really think about when you’re putting it on … Batman was just constantly cold I guess.” Batman & Robin director Joel Schumacher went as far as to apologize for his misguided Batman movie. “Look, I apologize,” Schumacher told Vice. “I want to apologize to every fan that was disappointed, because I think I owe them that.”—MM

6. Val Kilmer

Kilmer is perhaps the least remembered of the many Batmen on this list. He only got the chance to don the cowl once in his career in Batman Forever, and looking back, he really deserved another chance as the Dark Knight. Kilmer took on the role of Bruce Wayne for the first of Joel Schumacher’s two unfortunate Batman movies in the late-’90s. Though not as obscene as the bat-nipple’d George Clooney in Batman & Robinthe version of the Caped Crusader in Forever was burdened by the baroque madness of the Schumacher vision. One can’t help but wonder what a Val Kilmer Batman would have looked like with a better director.—Dom Nero

5. Will Arnett

I understand that this is supposed to be a ranking of live-action Batmen. But I would never be able to live with myself if I didn’t shout out Will Arnett’s goofy, earnest, brilliant satire of Batman: LEGO Batman. Arnett is funny as hell in the role, plus the writing behind his Batman is some of the best we’ve ever seen. Who never skips leg day! Batman! Who always pays their taxes? Not Batman!—Brady Langmann

4. Robert Pattinson

Listen. We always knew that Robert Pattinson’s Batman would be divisive. People will never stop crying, BUT HE’S EDWARD CULLEN! But if you get over your preconceived notions about who Batman really is, you might just find yourself loving Battinson. He’s moodier than the Nirvana tracks that course through the movie. Might just be angrier than any Bruce Wayne you’ve met before. But Pattinson’s take on Batman doesn’t even know what heroism means. He’s just mad and pretty fucked up, which might just make for the most realistic portrayal of Bruce Wayne of them all.—BL

3. Adam West

Like with James Bond, every generation gets the Batman it deserves. For many of us in the younger generations, that meant the serious, post-9/11 version of the character Christian Bale inhabits, or the zany, expressionist Burton iteration with Michael Keaton. But years before that, there was a very different sort of Batman in the cultural consciousness. Adam West’s portrayal of the character did everything from wearing brightly colored underwear over his skin-tight leotard to dance the “Batusi.” But just because he was silly doesn’t mean he wasn’t effective. West’s take on the character was perfectly in line with the campier vision for the character in the late 1960s. A very different Batman than what we have today, but an exceptional Batman nonetheless.—Dom Nero

2. Christian Bale

Christian Bale’s Batman not only used in a new era of the DC hero, but also changed superhero movies as we know them. After the phenomenal success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, filmmakers pivoted toward gritty and realistic superhero stories. And Bale’s Bruce Wayne was a complex and flawed hero—one who kicked off a multi-billion resurgence of comic book movies in Hollywood. While Nolan’s vision was key to making this happen, it couldn’t have been possible without Bale’s super-serious version of the character. That gravel-y voice has become synonymous with the moody Caped Crusader. But behind that mask, Bale’s piercing eyes and physical acting make that cowl into something more human than symbolic.—MM

1. Michael Keaton

Under the direction of Tim Burton, Michael Keaton took the Batman character out of the zany chaos of the Adam West era and brought him to his rightful place as the dark, gloomy hero of the night. Keaton–then best known as a comedian-baffled audiences at the time with his soaring performance, exceeding expectations like no other Bruce Wayne since. His tactful approach to the role, which oscillated between stern and absolutely wacky (because how else do you capture the reality of a man wearing a suit with bat ears?) elegantly breathed new life into a franchise that was fading into obscurity, at least for a cinema crowd. To this day, Keaton’s two boots as The Bat stand among the greatest comic book movies ever. Without Keaton, the modern conception of Batman as a troubled, yet unshakably heroic protector of the night as we know it today might not exist. He set a new bar for years to come.—DN

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