Batman. The Caped Crusader. The Dark Knight. The World’s Greatest Detective. For over 75 years this character has been portrayed in innumerous ways, and has inspired generation after generation so much that he keeps coming alive in new and fascinating ways. Thus, he has been played by many, many, people both in live-action and animation. With the arrival of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, we got another version to enjoy and look at. So it seems only appropriate to rank all the Batmans who have been portrayed.
NOTE: Batman has been shown more than the versions we have below. However, they either were long before many of us were born, and the quality was terrible, or were aimed at specific audiences. I am speaking of the Batman Unlimited cartoon, of which I have not seen, and was made because of a toy-line. I cannot render judgement on that version of Batman, so he will not be on this list. I can only judge based on who I’ve seen. Also, I will be judging the Bruce Wayne Batman, as he is the true Batman. Thus Batman Beyond and other elseworld versions (like from Flashpoint Paradox) will not be on this list. Oh, and Lego Batman won’t be on here. Sorry.
11. George Clooney:
Wide considered the worst Batman of all time, Mr. Clooney belongs at the bottom of the list, and for good reason. Batman & Robin is easily the worst of the Batman properties, so much so that Clooney was afraid to go to Comic-Con because fans were so angry with what he did with the character.
For many, he just didn’t seem like Batman, or even Bruce Wayne. Though he did have some funny lines, and some touching moments with Alfred, who was dying in the film. Overall it was just very unimpressive. If anyone has a fear about an actor being Batman, their hope is always that he’ll at least be better than George Clooney.
Mr. Clooney has since apologized, twice, for his time as Batman. We forgive you.
10. Anthony Ruivivar
The only Batman series to get pulled before its first season even ended, Beware The Batman was infamous before it even started. As the show would not only be the first 3D-animated Batman cartoon, but it wouldn’t feature any of the classic Rogues Gallery that Batman was associated with. At least not at first.
Add that to a very different take on the Batman itself, and you got a version that not many resonated with. To be fair, it wasn’t that it was terrible (unlike the No. 11 slot), it’s just that it failed to live up in some ways to the mythos of Batman. On one hand, this Batman was much more of a detective, and always tried to solve cases via his mind. On the other, he wasn’t as skilled in fights as other Batman’s. The showrunners even noted how he was “more vulnerable” than other Batman’s before him.
It was no doubt these factors that led to the show being pulled. And Batman has not had a mainstream cartoon since Beware The Batman.
9. Val Kilmer
I would like to think that here is where the tipping point comes in the portrayals of Batman, as I truly believed he was a good one. Batman Forever is one of the films that splits the fanbase. Either you liked it, or you hated it. I liked it, I thought Riddler was good, Chris O’Donnel was a great Robin, and that Val Kilmer did a decent job as Batman.
In this film, we got to see a Batman who was not only being overwhelmed as Batman, but uncertain of things in his personal life. He was still being haunted by the death of his parents, he had taken on a young ward in Dick Grayson, and his former friend Harvey Dent was on a rampage in the city. This was a rough time to be Bruce Wayne/Batman. And Kilmer portrayed that well. He was brilliant in solving the riddles given to him by Riddler, and between his fight scenes and his gadgets he showed he was more than able to be the Dark Knight.
8. Jason O’Mara
The new DC Animated Universe movies share a recurring cast, but only one of them has been in multiple movies. Jason O’Mara as Batman. Having been in both the Justice League: War and Throne of Atlantis movie, as well as his three solo films Son of Batman, Batman Vs. Robin, and Bad Blood, he’s been around a while.
If I was to describe this Batman, it would be no-nonsense. He is vocal, and is always going to tell you what he’s thinking. Whether it be the harsh truth, or a slightly embarrassing notion. His verbal sparring with Green Lantern was a highlight of the Justice League films, and then when Damian got added to the mix, it only got better.
His deadpan delivery really sets him apart, as he almost has that same tone, whether it be as Bruce or as Batman. It’s likely we’ll be seeing O’Mara’s Batman for quite a while, and that’s ok by me.
7. Diedrich Bader
From the Batman: The Brave And The Bold Cartoon came a rather classic version of the Caped Crusader. This one harkened back to what is referred to as the “Silver Age of Comics”. For this version of Batman was just as much about puns and one-liners as he was about catching the bad guys.
Don’t let that fool you though, Diedrich Bader did a great job portraying this version of Batman. And while a lot of jokes and puns were had, it was done in beautiful Batman flair. Moreso than that, we got to see his wisdom and patience when it came to the people he worked with. As BBATB was all about the team-ups Batman has been known to do. We got to see him in some very unique situations, teaming with people both known and obscure.
He was fine by himself though, and barely ever got outsmarted. He had the brawn to match his brawn, and for 65 glorious episodes we got to see him bring true unwavering justice to the world.
And unlike every Batman before or since, he actually got to say goodbye to the audience in a way that only Batman can do.
6. Michael Keaton
The first Batman to star in a big-budget Hollywood film (this does not include the Batman ’66 solo film), Michael Keaton had a lot to live up to. At first, not many outside of Tim Burton and WB believed he could be Batman. Yet with two words he silenced them:
This version of Batman was dark, and intense, which is what you could expect from director Tim Burton. He was never afraid to let his intensity show when he donned the costume. Yet, he was also brilliant on-screen. From his great interpretation of Bruce Wayne, to his deducing the plans of his villains, it was all top notch. I will always remember when he and Vicki Vale cracked the code of what ingredients he had poisoned in Gotham. The able to break it down and find the truth was what impressed many.
Now yes, Keaton also had some infamous moments, including throwing the Joker off the clock tower (which shouldn’t happen cause Bats doesn’t kill like that), but his pros far outweigh his cons. He was the first Batman for many in the recent generation, and he will always have the respect of many fans.
One last note, some may think it odd that he is outside the Top 5 for this list. This is not a notch on him, but rather my personal impression of the Batmans above him. Keaton was one of my first Batman’s, trust me, I’m not trying to disrespect him.
5. Rino Ramano
Among the animated series, The Batman is one that divides fans even more than Brave And The Bold. As its looks is more anime, and did some fundamental changes to the mythology of Batman at times.
For me though, this was one of the best series, highlighted by a superb Batman played by Rino Romano. His was a Batman who showed the true duality of the character. Even referencing the classic argument of “Which is the mask? Batman or Bruce Wayne?” The way he conducted himself in the show was what sold that argument when it was asked.
This Batman was also the most mechanically minded one we’ve seen. As he built just about everything he used. From the Batmobile (both of them), to the Batsuit he used to take on Bane, to his numerous Batarangs, almost all were built by him. Add that to his incredible intellect and fighting skills, and this is easily one of the best all-around Batman there has ever been.
That’s not to say that Bruce Wayne didn’t have great moments though. He often wondered what would happen if he was discovered. And when his best friend was turned into Clayface, it truly shook him. Also, he struggled when he gained partners via Batgirl and Robin. He was often afraid he would lose them, and said that to their face at times.
This Batman was one that truly evolved from the beginning to the end, and thus why he’s in the Top 5 of my list.
4. Christian Bale
Duality was very much the crux of the fan-favorite Batman done by Christian Bale. Can a man become more than what he is? Can he become a symbol, a legend, something everlasting?
The answer was yes, and seeing Bale throughout the Dark Knight Trilogy was a true treat for fans. Unlike many Batman’s, we saw his rise to becoming Batman, and the struggles to try and save his city. All of which was shown through Bale’s eyes. It wasn’t as simple as just wandering the world and then building a Batcave and saving the day. There was corruption and darkness everywhere. He had to fight for every yard he got. Earning allies, and enemies, in the process.
Then there was the Bruce Wayne element. A part that Bale’s character didn’t care for at first. He even had to ask Alfred how rich billionaires act. But play that role he did, and he played it through the highs and the lows. Seeing Bruce Wayne struggle with the death of Rachel Dawes was easily one of the best moments of the trilogy. As he truly believed he could’ve been happy without Batman, but with her.
Also, unlike virtually every Batman ever, he was willing to walk away. As the ending of The Dark Knight Rises showed Bruce Wayne “dead” and living very far away with a blank slate life with Selina Kyle. A true ending to a great Batman.
3. Ben Affleck
I loved Batman V Superman, and even those that don’t admit the greatness of Ben Affleck as Batman. Which is funny considering all the hate he got when he was announced from the role.
But from almost the first narration, you knew, he was Batman. More than that though, even more than Dark Knight Rises, we saw a weary, worn, and rattled Batman. Here was a man, who has battled for the heart and soul of Gotham for year, and yet he couldn’t tell if he had done any good. He even asked Alfred about how many good guys were left, and how many stayed that way. It was shown that he lost a Robin, a first for the live-action films, and that it took a toll that it did.
Then came a god from space in the form of Superman, and his world was shaken once again. Seeing the anger, the fear, the uncertainty in his face when he talked about taking out Superman. Or even the rage when he was holding the girl who had lost her parents during the battle with Zod, all was masterfully done by Affleck.
What made it all the more fun though was his take on Bruce Wayne. He was still the billionaire philanthropist, and he had a wit that made many a person laugh. And then in his scene with Clark Kent he wasn’t afraid to call out what the Daily Planet was doing for Superman, whereas he was criticizing the Batman. Add that to his fun scenes with Wonder Woman and you saw just how great Affleck was in the role.
Now it may be odd that his only appearance has gotten him up this high, and I’m not listing other Batman actors who have done the role at least once, but consider that Affleck is our Batman for the forseeable future. Including the Justice League films and the solo film that’s apparently being done. If Affleck didn’t knock it out of the park in Batman V Superman, he wouldn’t have gotten the solo film or the praise he has. I think it’s wise to respect that.
2. Adam West
Admittedly, this is probably the most controversial placement on the list. Believe me when I say though there is a reason. I’ve always had a fond memory of the Batman ’66 series. I watched it on TV Land when they played the entire run. Then, a Christmas ago, I got the entire series on DVD and got to watch it all once again. What I saw astonished me in both good and bad ways. The show does not age well at times, but, the interpretation of Batman is definitely one of the best.
Now yes, this is campy as all get out. More than Brave and the Bold or even the Silver Age comics that this was inspired from, but it works because of Adam West.
West put on quite a performance during his very long run as Batman. In fact, West has the most screen time of any live-action Batman, and 2nd overall. The series itself had 100 episodes, and then there was the live-action movie. That’s quite a run for the 60’s and the superhero genre.
While it’s easy to get lost in how campy it was, if you look and listen, you’ll see the brilliance of Batman. More than just about every version, we see his vast intelligence in numerous areas. From him being multi-lingual, his knowledge of music and being able to pick up a missed note, to even using his photographic memory to figure out when he’s being duped.
In a classic episode, Penguin (played by the amazing Burgess Meredith), basically tricked Batman into coming up with a crime for him, overhearing the plan via a bug. This of course led to Penguin being ready to stop Batman when he arrived, and he did so. But, when he accidentally repeated a remark that Batman said when discussing Penguin’s “plan”, he showed his hand. And the next time, Batman was ready.
West’s Batman was versed in many cultures, and used that to great effect during the show. Also though, this was one of the best interpretations of Bruce Wayne done in any Batman show. As Wayne was easily as important as Batman, whereas in some shows, it’s the other way around. His Bruce Wayne was not only kind an compassionate, but willing to do what was necessary to stop crime. Whether that be through his vast influence, or using his wealth to save the day.
So iconic was Adam West, that he’s been in virtually every cartoon version of Batman there is. Whether it was as the mayor of Gotham in The Batman, Thomas Wayne in Brave and the Bold, or the inspiration for Batman in the Grey Ghost via the original animated series. That’s quite an honor, and it’s clear that though “out of date” his Batman is easily one of the best.
1. Kevin Conroy
Him. Kevin Conroy.
I was originally going to do this list with just the live-action Batman’s. With an honorable mention to Kevin Conroy, but then I realized that this wouldn’t be a fair list without the animated versions of the characters.
Batman The Animated wasn’t just the cartoon that started a true revolution in cartoons, it’s what introduced Batman to millions of kids. Myself included. What made this show so iconic wasn’t just its dark visual setting, or the deep stories it told, it was voice acting, led by Kevin Conroy.
Of the many Batman, Conroy was one who perfectly did dual voices as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. They were entirely different, and it awesome. Conroy just seemed to perfectly fit the identity of who Batman was. A detective, a crusader, and a man who just wanted to help his city.
Throughout the entire run of Batman: The Animated Series, we saw Batman go through many struggles and challenges. Ones that put his body and mind through the ringer. And every struggle was perfectly portrayed by Conroy. So iconic was his portrayal, he was asked to not only do several movies based in the Batman TAS universe, but he was brought in to being Batman in the Justice League cartoons, several of the Justice League animated movies, numerous Batman and Justice League games, and now the upcoming The Killing Joke movie. Which will reunite him once again with Mark Hamill as the Joker.
Kevin Conroy is the embodiment of Batman for many. And whereas each portrayal has a defining characteristic, Conroy’s seems to just be the best all-around Batman ever. He is longest running Batman with his portrayals, and if fans have their way, it won’t end soon.
Many people have a favorite Batman, and they’ll think of each batman and note what they like about each one. That’s the power of fandom. We each have something we love, and something we hate. Batman is timeless. From the beginnings in Detective Comics, to modern day blockbusters and video games, he is a hero we all love to cheer for. Many men have been Batman, and many more will become him. Let us hope that each new interpretation will be true and faithful to the legacy he has been given over time.
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