Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best Batman of them all? That’s the question we’re asking ourselves at Cineplex this week as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of Tim Burton’s Batman, the 1989 blockbuster that helped to blaze the trail that all other silver screen superheroes have followed ever since.
So just who is the best actor to have played the Caped Crusader? Join us as we separate the Dark Knights from the Dork Knights.
Adam West – "Batman" (1966)
If you like your Batman to deal out BAM’s and KAPOW’s to costumed goons, then Adam West is the Caped Crusader for you. Yes his costume is a little too figure-hugging, yes his cowl has eyebrows drawn onto it and yes he only tends to save the day through either blind luck or a conveniently placed can of shark repellent. But for film fans of a certain age, West will always be the Batman at the other end of the red flashing phone.
Michael Keaton – Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992)
Cast against type for Tim Burton’s gothic take on Gotham’s famous son, Michael Keaton had cut his teeth in comedies before donning the cowl for Warner Bros. rebooted franchise. He quickly won over fans’ initial scepticism however with a superb performance as the Bat. But even though Keaton excelled in costume, arguably the actor’s best work came away from the crimefighting front lines. In fact his take on Bruce Wayne, a sort of troubled manchild who seems lost without his cowl; is one of the finest in Batman’s film history.
Val Kilmer – Batman Forever (1995)
A performance so wooden it could give you splinters at 50 paces, Val Kilmer’s turn as Bruce Wayne is probably one that both the actor and audiences would like to scrub from their collective consciousnesses. But even though he was awful out of it, Kilmer’s performance in costume was altogether more impressive. In fact until Bale came along, Big Val was possibly the most action-orientated Batman to grace the big screen. A Dark Knight who wasn’t overshadowed even when he was facing off against a rogue’s gallery crammed full of charismatic crooks like Tommy Lee Jones’ Two Face and Jim Carrey’s Riddler.
George Clooney – Batman & Robin (1997)
These days of course, gorgeous George can do no wrong. But hard as it is to believe there was once a time when the Silver Fox made the occasional misstep at the multiplex; a time when even the sexiest man alive couldn’t admittedly save a rubber suit that came complete with Bat Nipples. Yes you heard us, Bat Nipples. The horror, the horror.
Christian Bale – Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The mark of a great Batman is not measured by his ability to punch out goons whilst wearing a rubber suit, but by his efforts in an outfit that’s altogether more tailored. You see, unlike his comic book contemporaries, the Caped Crusader isn’t a godlike alien, a Norse god or the victim of a particularly bitey radioactive spider. He’s just a normal human being; an average Joe who’s spurred into superheroism by a tragic event from his past and a seemingly unbreakable will to be a better man. That’s why Christian Bale’s turn in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy proved so popular. Brooding, tortured and tormented he’s an altogether more damaged hero than his cape-clad contemporaries; the type of crime-fighter your average audience member can relate to. He’s also pretty handy when it comes to a fight, with Bale’s Batman engaging in some of the finest fisticuffs ever committed to the comic book genre.
Ben Affleck – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Audiences have every right to be excited about Batfleck’s upcoming performance as a grizzled hero who’s forced out of retirement to face off against the Man of Steel. After all, Affleck has come of age of late, proving beyond doubt that he knows his way around a good movie. But will he be a good Bat? We’ll have to wait until 2016 to find out how he lines up against the other actors who’ve donned the cowl down the years.
And the winner is…
CHRISTIAN BALE. For our money, the gravelly-voiced Batman is the best to grace the big screen.
But what do you think? Do you go wobbly at the sight of Adam West? Are you cuckoo for Keaton? Do you have a soft spot for gorgeous George? VOTE below and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.