It’s Batman Day, so as part of the celebration I decided to offer my take on the men who have played Batman on film. I limited it to live-action feature films. That gives us six different men who’ve appeared in 12 different films. Below are my picks in ascending order along with the films in which they’ve appeared!
6. Val Kilmer
Appeared in: Batman Forever (1995)
About: After watching his documentary Val I felt a little bad about this. In the film Kilmer talks about what a great opportunity this was for his career, but also about how frustrating it was to be in the bat suit. You feel that in this movie, which is a hot mess. It’s my least favorite Batman film and he’s my least favorite to take up the mantle.
5. George Clooney
Appeared in: Batman & Robin (1997)
About: Clooney gets a lot of hate for his portrayal but, honestly, it’s not the worst. He might not be a great Batman but I didn’t think he was terrible. The film is weird and over-the-top, which doesn’t help him. I would liked to have seen Clooney in a better written film.
4. Adam West
Appeared in: Batman: The Movie (1966)
About: West was a different kind of Batman in a different era. It was a little more cartoon-like, but it befits the era, and West is iconic in the role. Plus, the film has got a loaded cast and it’s fun in its own way.
3. Christian Bale
Appeared in: Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
About: Bale is a great actor. I loved him in these movies, which are among the best Batman films. The Dark Knight in particular is one of my favorite films of all time. Bale also got to play three different versions of Bruce Wayne in these films. I love him but he’s just not my favorite to don the cape and cowl.
2. Ben Affleck
Appeared in: Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice (2016), The Suicide Squad (2016), Justice League (2017), Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
About: This is probably where I lost you, right? With the Snyderverse you either love it or hate. I am not saying these are perfect films, but I enjoy them. More importantly, I enjoy Affleck in this role as an older and more grizzled Batman. He was particularly great in the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League. And we’ll see him again next year along with another favorite on this list in The Flash. What I guess I’m saying it, #restorethesnyderverse.
1. Michael Keaton
Appeared in: Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992)
About: I love Keaton as an actor but particularly in this role. The first Batman film from 1989 remains a personal favorite. I love him in the role and his exchanges with Jack Nicholson as The Joker. I wish we’d gotten to see Keaton and Tim Burton pair for a third film but I’m grateful for the two we got. And I’m excited that Keaton, too, will revisit his role in The Flash. He remains my favorite to ever play the part.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.