The term “Batman Actors” is common in Hollywood. Why? Batman is one of the most popular fictional characters in the world and DC’s top money-maker. He’s also the comic book character who’s been reinterpreted the most in comics, movies, and television. In fact, since his inception in 1939, he’s been portrayed by 15 different Batman actors in both live-action and voice-animation roles.
In 2021, we’ll get another Batman, this time portrayed by Robert Pattinson.
He described the role as as a “legacy part” due to the many ways the character has been (and will be) interpreted. It’s a beautiful sentiment. However, while I don’t believe there’s such a thing as “a bad Batman performance” (Well, maybe one.) I do believe some Batman actors have been better than others.
As we get ready for DC’s Fandome this weekend, let’s discuss who are the best Batman actors ever.
8. David Mazouz
David Mazouz never actually played Batman. He only played Bruce Wayne.
The series Gotham shows us young Bruce’s development and slow transformation into The Dark Knight. Unlike other movies, TV shows, or animations, we actually see how young master Wayne developed many of his traits and morals. David Mazouz does a superb job in portraying Bruce’s evolution. It’s a shame that we never got to see how he would’ve portrayed the actual Batman persona, but I’m sure it would’ve been great.
7. Val Kilmer
When you stop to consider great Batman actors, Val Kilmer may not come to mind. That notwithstanding, I believe his performance in Batman Forever was extremely underrated.
He brought cool and confident mannerisms to the role, which is a staple of the Bruce Wayne character. As for his portrayal of Batman, he wasn’t as intimidating as his predecessor (coming later). However, he did have enough of an on-screen presence to make the villain’s fear feel real when he met them. He also brought an enjoyable amount of camp to the role, which was dreaded at the time, but is now remembered fondly. At least, by me.
6. Diedrich Bader
Speaking of campy, Diedrich Bader portrayed the character in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This series is known as an animated comedy targeted toward children, and the attitude of his Batman puts emphasis on that.
Yet somehow, this particular Batman actor managed to stay true to the tone of the series. Diedrich Bader gave us moments that reminded us though this is a show for kids, we are still watching a Batman show.
He reprised the role in the R-rated Harley Quinn series. Once again, Bader brought to his performance his signature blend of humor and seriousness we all expected. This is a Batman actor who can make this character his own, no matter who the intended audience is.
5. Adam West
Other Batman actors have been humorous, but Adam West is the funny Batman.
During his classic run, West gave an enjoyable performance that is still remembered by all who have seen it. He gave us fun life lessons, made us dance, and even taught us how to get rid of a bomb.
Also, who can forget that shark repellent!
He appeared in numerous shorts, commercials, as well as lending his voice in various radio and animated shows. There was no Batman without Adam West, and (unfortunately) there was no Adam West without Batman. He was seen as the definitive Batman.
That is, until 1989…
4. Michael Keaton
Micheal Keaton is considered by many as the definitive Batman actor. Yet, his casting at the time was considered controversial. Many thought he lacked the physical traits commonly associated with Batman. Another complaint was nothing in his filmography made us believe he had the necessary talent.
They were all wrong. His performance brought a sense of depth and anger that was not only never seen in a live-action Batman before, but was never seen in Keaton as an actor. Some might say his performance is a little outdated from today’s standards, but that doesn’t change the facts. Because of Michael Keaton, Batman was taken seriously again.
And speaking of serious…
3. Ben Affleck
A list about the best Batman actors wouldn’t be complete without the DC Extended Universe’s favorite mass murderer! All jokes aside, Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman (aka. Batfleck) has a special place in our hearts.
He was older and angrier. But, Ben Affleck was just as capable to interpret the Caped Crusader, which was refreshing. Not only that, but Affleck’s Batman had the absolute best martial-arts choreography ever placed in superhero film (until Shang-Chi gets here). I’m not the biggest fan of Zack Snyder, but he sure knows how to put together an action sequence.
Finally, this was the first live-action Batman to share the screen with other DC characters, like Superman, Wonder Woman, or the Flash. That was a dream come true for every fan of the genre.
2. Christian Bale
He might have preceded Ben Affleck, but Christian Bale is still the best live-action Batman.
Unlike previous versions of Batman, Christopher Nolan’s take on the character was one set in the real world: Where magic and superpowers didn’t exist. Instead, this Batman fought mobsters, politicians, and the terrifying political climate of a post-9/11 America.
He was put to the test in ways that hadn’t been done on-screen before (or even after). The way he overcame those tests showed us what really makes Batman a hero. This was one of the most complicated versions of Batman to portray, and as a Batman actor, Christian Bale encompassed many layers in his performance.
1. Kevin Conroy
Originally, Conroy voiced the character in Batman: The Animated Series. And as a Batman actor, his performance was critically acclaimed by fans and critics. So much so, that he occasionally reprises the role in other media.
As a matter of fact, he’s been voicing Batman for over 27 years now.
Kevin Conroy is the perfect Batman portrayal. So much so that his performance has been engraved in our collective consciousness. You might not even realize it, but whenever you think of Batman, you’re probably thinking of Kevin Conroy.
From Batman: TAS, the Justice League cartoons, the Arkham Games, to even a live-action appearance on the CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Whenever there’s Batman, there’s almost a guarantee Kevin Conroy will be there too.
Who is your favorite Batman? Did he make it on the list? Where do you think Robert Pattinson will eventually rank? Drop it in the comments below.