Who are the best Batman actors? The DC Comics hero has had a rich history across the big and small screen. We all know how Batman came to be — a young Bruce Wayne saw his parents be killed and used his family’s vast fortune to become a vigilante and avenge their deaths. Countless movies, TV series, video games, and novels have tried to unpack the full extent of Batman’s psyche.
With such an enormous legacy, those who join the DC Universe as the masked hero have the daunting task of not only staying faithful to the source material but also ensuring that they are bringing something different to one of the best DC characters of all time. When you play someone as complex as Batman, it is not just about acting a role in the best superhero movies. You have to stand out.
Now that the mantle has been passed to Robert Pattinson, who made his debut as Bruce Wayne as part of the 2022 The Batman cast, we’re going to look back and explore his competition by ranking all the best Batman actors throughout the years, from the worst to best.
Every Batman actor ranked from worst to best:
- George Clooney
- Val Kilmer
- Will Arnett
- Ben Affleck
- Robert Pattinson
- Kevin Conroy
- Michael Keaton
- Adam West
- Christian Bale
9. George Clooney
George Clooney’s casting in Batman & Robin is the perfect example of why you should never cast anyone based on their name alone and then expect them to carry DC movies. You need good writing, a solid plot, and a believable lead. Batman and Robin’s 11 Razzies make it clear that the film, which was unsurprisingly a box office bomb, had none of that.
It didn’t help that the homo-eroticism bordered on homophobia, and if I’m being honest, I don’t think I’ve felt a moment of peace since seeing Clooney’s Bat-nipples on screen. They haunt me, and his return in The Flash didn’t make any of it any better.
8. Val Kilmer
Sure, you might know him as a Top Gun cast member (aka Iceman), but for ’90s kids, Val Kilmer was Batman. Nobody is pretending that Batman Forever is among the best movies ever made, but what it does provide is a more colorful Adam West-like charm and campness that the superhero genre had desperately been lacking for a while at that point.
It’s easy to pick fault in Batman Forever’s messy writing and plot, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t fill me with that sense of warm nostalgia whenever I watched it, much like how Attack of the Clones is objectively bad but still pleasant to watch to bring you back to your childhood. Val Kilmer is a big part of that, and he does a serviceable job with sub-par material.
7. Will Arnett
Wait, is that the horse from Horsin’ Around? No, it’s Arrested Development star Will Arnett in some of the best LEGO movies. Although, as a voice actor, he isn’t technically considered a Batman, the explosive success surrounding his LEGO-fied portrayal in one of 2013’s best animated movies suggests otherwise.
With his sharp wit, fruitless attempts to keep his identity secret, and his tongue-in-cheek devotion to being a little emo proving so popular, he got his own spin-off, The LEGO Batman Movie, in 2017. With an endless stream of quips and gags both adults and children could enjoy, Will Arnett’s Batman is arguably among the funniest — even if he is made of LEGO.
6. Ben Affleck
At a time when even the best action movies were bursting at the seams with origin stories, Ben Affleck’s older, fatalist, and slightly more jaded take on Batman was certainly refreshing.
By the time he took center stage in the DCEU, we had seen plenty of perfectly chiseled, squeaky-clean leading men taking on roles as superheroes. Affleck’s version of Bruce Wayne could hold his own in a fight: there’s no doubt about that, but he was also hardened, battle-worn, and willing to toe the line into some moral greys if he thought it was for the greater good.
This meant that the character had a lot more depth and was easy to set apart from some past iterations of the Caped Crusader, but he also managed to bring a more sophisticated charm and suaveness to the character that can only come with age.
Unfortunately, as demonstrated by Batman vs Superman and Justice League’s various Razzie nominations, Affleck was victim to less-than-ideal writing and a lot of behind-the-scenes tension, which led to him packing in the character for good after a final cameo in The Flash (more on that later).
At a time when the DCEU’s content output was arguably shaky, Affleck was somewhat of redeeming quality for them — it’s no surprise that they’re making drastic changes to the extended universe with James Gunn’s Gods and Monsters plan.
5. Robert Pattinson
The problem with a lot of the actors who play Batman is that they overlook one thing — the guy is a fucking weirdo. Think about it. A full-grown man spent billions of dollars not on the therapy he desperately needed but on a full-on bat costume with a cape and everything so he can deck people and call himself “vengeance” before disappearing into the night.
This is why I like Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Batman so much. While Bruce Wayne has the muscle for action sequences, he is also hugely pasty and quite literally needs sunglasses because he never goes outside. The man has never touched a single blade of grass, and it shows in his social skills, too, especially when it comes to his interactions with Catwoman.
Finally, people have stopped pretending Batman is a smooth talker when he is, in fact, maidenless, and there’s no one better than Pattinson for the job. (Read our The Batman review for more information.)
4. Kevin Conroy
The dearly departed Kevin Conroy is the definitive Batman for a particular generation of fans. Conroy played the Caped Crusader in Batman: The Animated Series and his performance was, in a word, sensational. Through subtle differences in his voice, Conroy could delineate the differences between Bruce and his dark vigilante persona.
Conroy was one of the few actors who seemed to really understand that Wayne was a persona that Batman put on, not the other way around. Honestly, many Batmen who came after Conroy owe his portrayal a real debt of gratitude, and he’s a dearly missed figure in the Batman fandom.
3. Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton’s casting for Batman was divisive — so much so that 50,000 protest letters were sent to the Warner Bros offices. In the end, however, he more than proved his capabilities: with his suitably dramatic and tortured portrayal not only pleasing fans but also garnering him critical acclaim and box office success (Editor: There’s been a mistake on this list, Keaton is the best Batman).
He saw similar fan, critical, and commercial success in the 1992 follow-up Batman Returns and arguably paved the way and provided the blueprint for more ‘serious’ adaptations and portrayals of Batman in the years to come. And he’s now had the chance to play Bruce Wayne again in The Flash, so check out our The Flash review to see how he handles it. Spoiler: he does a great job.
2. Adam West
Whether you love or hate Adam West’s camp, silly and family-friendly iteration of the Caped Crusader, you can’t dispute the impact on pop culture his time as Batman (which is more than any other actor on the list) had. He brought a level of pantomime-like, exaggerated charm to the 1966 live-action movie as well as several of the best animated series around.
While many prefer a more dark and serious iteration of the Caped Crusader — whether it be a ‘detective noir’ type reboot or Zack Snyder’s inability to show light in Justice League — West’s more light-hearted iteration of the hero is refreshing and serves to remind people not to take themselves or a movie about a comic book too seriously.
He was also not above making fun of himself and the hero, as he voiced a parody version of his character, Cat Man, in the children’s animated series Fairly Odd Parents. West died in 2017, and his legacy should be looked upon with fun and fondness.
1. Christian Bale
Between them, Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale gave Batman the psychological depth the character desperately needed: fully fleshing out the implications of Bruce Wayne’s tragic backstory, showing us how events in Gotham shaped Batman into the man he was, and truly bringing the darkness back across three Christopher Nolan movies.
As the only Batman actor with a whole (impeccably written) trilogy behind him, Bale’s act will be a hard one to follow, especially given he ended his tenure as the hero on such a high. But, starring alongside Heath Ledger as The Joker, his middle film, The Dark Knight, was absolutely electric.
Bale will always be remembered as the first Batman actor to bring the franchise into Academy Award territory, which caused superhero movies to step up their games in years to come as a result: trying to replicate the success of the movie ever since.
That’s it on our ranking of the Batman actors. If you disagree, send your angry correspondence to our Batcave. We’ve got more from the Batman world with our guides to the best Batman villains and the Joker actors ranked. Or, for more information on new movies, here is everything we know about The Batman 2 release date.
And if that’s not enough, we’ve also explained why everyone forgets that Batman used to love murdering people and why Batman’s weirdest villain is too strange for James Gunn’s DCU. Trust us on that one.
Finally, for more on the future of the DC Universe, check out our guides on the best DC villains and how to watch the Batman movies in order. Check out our guide explaining how to watch all the DC movies in order before finding out what we know about the Superman Legacy release date and The Brave and the Bold release date.