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Who Is The Best Batman? A Definitive Ranking

With the latest iteration of the Caped Crusader upon us, we go in search of an answer to one of pop culture’s great questions — who is The Best Batman?
Best Batman
By  · Published on March 4th, 2022

Batman Actors Ranked by Their Performance as Batman

Ranked As Batman

11. George Clooney

It could have something to do with the fact that Warner Bros. was in a hurry to get another Batman movie in production after the box office success of Batman Forever. They rushed it so much that they lost a pretty good Batman (Kilmer) to a scheduling conflict with The Saint. It could also have something to do with the fact that George Clooney was extremely busy at the time — during the production of Batman & Robin, he was bouncing back and forth between his nippled-Batsuit and his ER scrubs, working seven days a week for months. Somewhere in all of that chaos, Clooney also may have missed a memo entitled “What Joel Schumacher is Going For,” because his Batman never quite fits into the colorful, horny, campy ’60s-ish vision that Schumacher clearly wanted for Batman & Robin. It was a movie that yearned for the second coming of Adam West but only got the middling weekend effort of Dr. Douglas Ross. (Neil Miller)

10. Lewis Wilson

Lewis Wilson made his film acting debut as the first Batman ever put on the screen. And, well, he left a lot to be desired for the role going forward. Never mind his racist exclamation upon discovering his nemesis is Japanese — the 1943 Batman serial was made at the height of World War II — or the fact that even as the Caped Crusader, he and Robin have to be chauffeured around in a limousine driven by Alfred. Or the way his cape keeps getting in the way while he’s fighting and even at rest seems poorly designed, often covering part of the insignia on his chest. Wilson’s Batman is kind of bland. He’s fine with the punching and physical stunts, but he never comes across as more than a crime fighter who could have just been himself as a police detective or government spy and not dressed up in tights. (Christopher Campbell)

9. Robert Lowery

Taking over for Wilson in Columbia Pictures’ second Batman serial, Robert Lowery is not much better or worse than Wilson as the Caped Crusader. He at least doesn’t have any racist dialogue, but his costume is even more questionable. Is that a v-neck sweater with a bat-embroidery? Did they somehow make his mask’s ears even more like devil horns than the ’43 version? Why does everything seem so ill-fitting? The real reason for Lowery and Wilson being fairly indistinct as Batman is likely because their stunt doubles did most of the work in this part of the role. This incarnation of the character does get points for driving his own car (though it’s also just Bruce Wayne’s car, as Vicky Vale notes at one point) and needing to be rescued less. Still, it again doesn’t make sense why he even needs to be a disguised hero. (Christopher Campbell)

8. Val Kilmer

I only just recently watched Batman Forever for the first time.  It was after I saw the Val Kilmer documentary Val, in which the actor talks about his disappointment and discomfort with the part and why he didn’t return for Batman and Robin. So, I went into the movie thinking about Kilmer’s issues with the Batsuit. Yeah, it sure does look difficult to move around in. Everything is so stagey that it’s maybe not so noticeable given that it fits the style. Plus, when it’s Kilmer and not a stunt person, he’s often filmed in close-up, constantly reminding me that obviously, this superhero has the same distinguishable lips as that billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. He does what he can with terrible lines of dialogue, albeit with a voice that makes him sound like he has a cold, and he looks like a pretty action figure when he’s standing around (it’s easy to see why Dr. Chase Meridian wants to play with him). But he’s just so stiff. (Christopher Campbell)

7. Will Arnett

There are two things that set Will Arnett’s portrayal of Batman apart. First, he’s perhaps the most kid-friendly cinematic Batman, a result of existing in a four-quadrant animated film that plays Batman’s darkness for humor at every opportunity. He’s also possibly the MOST Batman of any cinematic Batman. Not only because he wears his cowl like a safety blanket, but because the infinite canvas of animation allows for him to have the most extensive array of Bat-things in his comically-large Batcave. If there was an award for which Batman would be the most fun to be, Arnett’s would probably win out. Plus, Arnett is an excellent voice actor, with his Batman voice finely tuned to mix in a little bit of each of the Batmen that came before him. (Neil Miller)

6. Ben Affleck

When I think about Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman, it makes me sad. Not because there’s anything wrong with Affleck in the role. In fact, his version of the character is one that I (and I’m sure many others) have wanted to see for a long time. He’s a weathered Batman who has been formed by years of darkness and suffering, just as sedimentary rock formations are carved out over time by water. Solid, strong, and still soldiering on despite the pain. The problem is that not only did Affleck not have a great time playing Batman (thanks to a lot of behind-the-scenes chaos), he also never got an opportunity to let his Batman stand on his own. Whether he was succumbing to paranoia about Superman, showing up for one scene to chase Jared Leto’s Joker around, or frantically trying to assemble and lead the Justice League against apocalyptic threats, his four cinematic appearances always served a story that was bigger than any classic Batman adventure. Even though Batfleck delivered in spurts — especially when it came time to deliver big action (most notably in the amazing sequence in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice where he goes to rescue Martha Kent) — I will forever feel a little robbed that Affleck and Zack Snyder never got to make a standalone Batman movie. (Neil Miller)

5. Kevin Conroy

“I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman!” Kevin Conroy’s Dark Knight gets the best damn line reading in the entire franchise. And beyond that, he might have the most satisfying career as Batman as experienced over multiple seasons of the animated series as well as several cinematic spin-off adventures, including the theatrical feature Mask of the Phantasm. Throughout his tenure, he’s covered every facet of the character. He’s been the avenger, the detective, the symbol, and the brooding rage monster. Conroy is the complete Bat-package. (Brad Gullickson)

4. Adam West

Adam West plays Batman as a good Gotham citizen. He picks up the Bat-phone because the police need a little help on a case. He solves that riddle, but never before throwing himself into some cliffhanger danger. Along the way, he takes the time to teach Robin and us a few lessons to enrich our moral fiber. He tells us to pay our taxes if we want good roads to ride our Batmobiles over. Nothing is ever free, even lemonade. Good grammar is essential. Dual identities lead to dual responsibilities. Adam West’s Batman is a teacher first, a crime-buster second. He’s not a Dark Knight. He’s a Bright one. (Brad Gullickson)

3. Christian Bale

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is as close to a complete character arc as Batman will likely ever see on the big screen, and while the reasons are legion (and discussed elsewhere) one big part is Christian Bale’s turn as the Caped Crusader. The films get silly at times, but they’re played straight with Bale giving an intense and emotional performance as a man tortured by his failings. More than that, though, he’s the rare onscreen Batman whose physicality feels fueled as much by his own physique as by the suit. Clooney, Kilmer, Pattinson — you just know even Alfred could beat their ass in a fight. (Rob Hunter)

2. Robert Pattinson

We haven’t really seen a Batman quite like Robert Pattinson’s before. When we meet him at the start of The Batman, he’s screaming vengeance. Rage has completely overtaken his personality, and he’s discovering that his battle against Gotham’s never-ending moral corruption is possibly futile. He can never get them all. As such, he doesn’t really have a divide between his Batman and Bruce Wayne personalities. His mission has consumed him, and its failure is destroying his soul. What we watch in The Batman is a Dark Knight reformulating his purpose. He must offer Gotham more than a fist. He can inspire more than their fear. (Brad Gullickson)

1. Michael Keaton

Lists and movie rankings are subjective by their very nature, but it should be no surprise to see Michael Keaton’s performance as Batman nab the top spot. Tim Burton’s two Batman films with Keaton are dark, campy delights that waver between genres, and Keaton understands the tone and the character better than anyone else. His Batman is charisma in leather, a man-powered by angry confidence, and with one toe dipped in looney-town — he’d appear legit crazy if the roster of villains around him weren’t full-blown, batshit bonkers. He is Batman. (Rob Hunter)

On the next and final page, we put our two lists together and finally name The Best Batman.

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