Around these parts, we love a good Batman chat. But one thing I haven’t got around to yet is casting my judgemental eye over the cinematic Batmans I’ve covered in my long-running retrospective to work out just who I love the most, and just who I hate more than I can stand. So! Let’s get into the very best and very worst cinematic Batmans. Batmen? Batmen. On with the list!
9. Val Kilmer
The timing of calling Val Kilmer the worst cinematic Batman couldn’t be worse. I don’t care how heart-warming his appearance in Top Gun 2: Jingoism Boogaloo is, he is the worst Batman. Why? Because he brings absolutely nothing to the role. He’s a blank as Bruce Wayne and not even a shadow as Batman. Because blanks don’t cast shadows.
8. George Clooney
From bringing too little to the role to bringing too much of one thing. Clooney’s Batman is abysmal not because he is overshadowed by villains (though he is), or that he’s doing a bad Adam West impression (he wishes): it’s that he is a less interesting character than Chris O’Donnell’s Robin. I’m not joking, Robin is more interesting (not fun, I never said fun) to watch than this Batman, and that’s a catastrophic problem.
7. Adam West
Adam West is a strange case, as he is one of the only actors to be the first to portray an iconic character that would go on to be played by other actors and not considered to be anywhere near the best iteration. He is not the William Hartnell or Sean Connery of the Batman franchise, and his particular brand of camp doesn’t jibe with me.
6. Ben Affleck
I don’t like Ben Affleck as an actor. In fact, I’ve always felt that Batman isn’t a role you give to a pure movie star like him. Yet he tried, and tried, and tried again. While he’s the best of the bad Batmen, it’s mainly because the conception and characterisation of the character changed so much from movie to movie in an attempt to get it right, as opposed to any solid narrative coalescence.
5. Will Arnett
We’re into the good stuff now, where the rest of these actors are separated only by small degrees. Last place of the best Batmen goes to Will Arnett. who voices the delightful, irreverent and deeply touching Lego Batman. He’s a mix of all that came before viewed through a strictly comic lens so, while great, is not exactly the aspect of the character that puts butts in seats.
4. Christian Bale
Oh fuck, I can feel you looking, I can feel you judging, but hear me out. It’s the Bat voice, it’s bloody ridiculous, and that’s it. I love Baleman, so the reasons for placing him so low are bound to be a little stupid. He’s brilliant as Bruce Wayne, and his physical presence as the Dark Knight is spectacular – he even stands up against Heath Ledger’s inimitable Joker, no mean feat.
3. Michael Keaton
My Batman, the one that made me love the character, the one that made me love cinema, is also the one who is most overshadowed by his villains. So, while my overwhelming bias, as well as Keaton’s own skill in the role, puts him at number 3, I can’t give him top spot. Much as I desperately want to, just for standing out against the madcap backdrop of Burton’s Batman films.
2. Robert Pattinson
I think back to myself ten years ago, then I tell him that not only is that dick from Twilight Batman, he’s also going to be my favourite live-action version. I think my past self would kick me to death for this insult to good taste. Recency bias aside, R-Batz is a terrific twist on the character: a moody, anti-social detective in a Bat suit, whose favourite song on Nevermind is also my favourite song on Nevermind. I told you the reasons were going to get worse.
- Kevin Conroy
My iconic namesake has voiced Batman in a number of different projects, but what shoots him straight to number one is his work in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. I adore this movie so much that there isn’t any need for me to do a Joker list because the version from this would be top as well. Mask of the Phantasm is so dazzlingly perfect, and so much of that comes from Conroy’s amazing work on a character that he has played better than the bunch of Oscar nominees and winners on the rest of this list.
Who’s your favourite cinematic Batman? Let us know in the comments below!
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via Indiewire)