Tag: who all played batman in movies
Batman is undeniably one of the most beloved and revered pop culture figures of all time. Few comic book superheroes have found as great a success in film and television as the caped crusader has. His introduction to the masses stems all the way back to 1943, in the 15-chapter theatrical serial Batman starring Lewis Wilson. The episodic short films are notable for being the first appearance of Batman in cinema and spawned another 1949 serial Batman and Robin, this time with Robert Lowery. After a brief lull in Hollywood, the DC character returned to screens with a bang (or maybe a 'kapow') in the 1960s Adam West-led Batman series. The campy and light-hearted show became an instant classic and to this day is adored for its whimsical portrayal of the hero.
After more than two decades of radio silence, the masked vigilante once again returned to the world of cinema with the 1989 Tim Burton-helmed Batman. It was the famed director’s serious and less cartoonish approach that truly captivated audiences and showcased the depth of the DC superhero. From that film on, many talented actors would take on the distinguished role, with varying degrees of triumph. Now, with Robert Pattinson slipping on the suit in the acclaimed new film The Batman, let’s take a deep dive into every actor who has played Batman: the good, the bad, and the Clooney.
Updated April 9, 2022: If you love the Caped Crusader, you'll be happy to know we've updated this article with additional content surrounding the vigilante's portrayal on both the big and small screen.
George Clooney (Batman & Robin, 1997)
Despite such a star packed-ensemble cast and exciting introduction of characters, the ill-fated Batman & Robin is undeniably the worst Batman film to date and quite possibly one of the worst movies ever made. George Clooney took over as the masked crusader when Val Kilmer was unable to return due to scheduling conflicts. Director Joel Schumacher chose the ER actor because he wanted to provide a lighter interpretation of the character and believed Clooney was up for the task. Even with a colorful cast of big names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, and Alicia Silverstone, Batman & Robin was a critical and box office blunder.
Clooney’s performance was heavily criticized, with the San Francisco Chronicle proclaiming, “George Clooney is the big zero of the film, and should go down as the George Lazenby of the series” (in a nod to the one-and-done James Bond actor). Despite a less-than warm reception, it’s not fair to pin the failure of the film solely on Clooney. The writing and script were weak and also earned the venom of critics, with even the batsuit getting flack for its molded muscle and nipple design. Clooney himself has spoken negatively of Batman & Robin’s infamous reputation, having once said, “I think we might have killed the franchise,” and calling it "a waste of money."
Lewis G. Wilson (Batman, 1943)
The Caped Crusader's on-screen presence dates back to the 1940s, starting with a 15-chapter theatrical serial starring Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as his sidekick Robin. The villain is an original character named Dr. Daka, a secret agent of the Japanese Imperial government. Batman is notable for being the first appearance on film of the vigilante and for debuting story elements that quickly became permanent parts of the character's mythos, such as the "Bat's Cave" and its secret entrance through a grandfather clock inside Wayne Manor. The serial also changed the course of how Alfred's physical appearance was depicted in future Batman stories.
Robert Lowery (Batman and Robin, 1949)
Another 15-chapter serial came later that decade with Batman and Robin. This time around, Robert Lowery played Batman, while Johnny Duncan played Robin. In this storyline, the dynamic duo face off against the Wizard, a hooded villain with an electrical device that controls cars to augment his compulsion to set challenges for Batman and Robin. The Wizard's identity remains a mystery to the caped crusaders throughout until the end. Seen by critics as a slight improvement to the 1943 serial — which had accidentally come off as a farce to many — Lowery does a solid job holding the screen as the masked vigilante.
Val Kilmer (Batman Forever, 1995)
For the third installment of Warner Bros.’ initial Batman series, Val Kilmer stepped in as Bruce Wayne when Michael Keaton chose not to reprise the role. Director Joel Schumacher was interested in Kilmer for the lead after his impressive performance in Tombstone. The actor was a huge fan of the superhero, and as a child visited the studios where the 1960s series was recorded. He accepted the role without knowing any details or seeing a script. In Batman Forever, Batman must protect Gotham City by going head-to-head with not one but two formidable adversaries, the Riddler and Two-Face (played by Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively).
Val Kilmer’s portrayal of the famed crusader polarized critics, with many comparing his performance to Michael Keaton’s. The actor brought humanness to the role and played Bruce Wayne and Batman as two separate entities: Wayne as a somber and traumatized man struggling with grief and Batman as a powerful and uninhibited force who doesn’t have to play by the rules. This unique approach to the superhero allowed Kilmer to make the character his own, albeit for just one film.
Ben Affleck (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League, 2016-2017)
For his first outing as the iconic DC superhero, Ben Affleck starred as the mysterious vigilante in Zack Snyder’s highly anticipated 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The actor’s then-controversial casting left fans skeptical, with even Affleck himself apprehensive. After the failure of his previous superhero flick Daredevil, the star worried he “didn’t fit the traditional mold.” Once he understood the direction Snyder wanted to take with the character, he quickly got onboard. Despite the significant backlash from comic book fans, the director stuck to his guns and explained the reasoning behind his choice, saying, “I definitely wanted an older Batman. I wanted a war-weary Batman. That’s why, in a lot of ways, Ben was perfect for me.”
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice saw the superhero battle it out in a power struggle against the iconic Superman, portrayed by Henry Cavill. This incarnation of Batman served as a cinematic reboot of the character but unfortunately made a splash for all the wrong reasons. Though it turned a profit at the box office, audiences and reviewers were not kind to the blockbuster picture, criticizing the extensive CGI, pacing, and overall tone. However, Affleck did a solid job portraying Bruce Wayne, nailing the brooding, disillusioned hero well enough, and was surprisingly one of the few great things about the film. The way he soberly carries himself and the exhaustion present in his eyes makes Affleck’s Batman a worthy performance.
Iain Glen (Titans, 2019-)
Game of Thrones fan-favorite Iain Glen recently stepped into Bruce Wayne's shoes on the small screen. Titans follows a team of young superheroes as they combat evil and other perils. Disbanded when the story begins, the series sees the team return when the original and new members reform the Titans. They fight crime throughout various locations, including Detroit, San Francisco, and Gotham City. Glen entered as an aged Wayne in the second season. The third season premiered on HBO Max, and a fourth season has also been announced.
Adam West (Batman TV series, 1966-1968)
The iconic Adam West is famous for bringing the caped crusader to the small screen, with the 1960s smash hit television series, Batman. Known for its upbeat music and campy approach, the show was often unintentionally hilarious and wildly entertaining. West stars as Batman opposite Burt Ward’s Robin, and the dynamic duo battled crime in Gotham City for three successful seasons, as well as a 1966 companion feature film. West’s Batman is colorful and light-hearted, a far cry from 'The Dark Knight' Batman would later be known as, and he served as the world’s proper introduction to the DC superhero. West had won the coveted role because he was apparently the only person during their screen test who could deliver the lines with a straight face.
Though undisputedly the silliest of Batman portrayals, West thoroughly enjoyed playing the character and truly loved donning the famous costume. The greatest thing about the Batman series is that it didn’t take itself too seriously and served as a celebration of the famed DC character. While West cherished his time as the superhero, he also found it difficult to escape the reputation of his batty and jovial role. Both he and Burt Ward would be typecast for decades after completing the show, with West finding the most success simply playing himself (in shows like Family Guy and The Fairly OddParents).
Robert Pattinson (The Batman, 2022)
The Batman has triumphed at the box office, thanks to Pattinson's unique turn as the Caped Crusader. He may not have all the futuristic gadgets that other installments have featured, but the character makes up for it in wit. This Batman is a true detective, to put it simply. Across the board, Batman films will show the Caped Crusader kicking butt, fighting villains and saving the day. Still, they never really focus on who Batman is at his core: a detective vigilante who works outside the law. This film is much more a detective murder mystery than it is a superhero film, but that's what fans have been waiting for. Another critical component that augments the realism of Pattinson's portrayal is the fear that the audience shares with Batman. He's indeed a relatable presence in Matt Reeves' stellar film, and we can't wait for the sequel(s).
Michael Keaton (Batman, Batman Returns, 1989-1992)
It may come as a shock to many that comic book fans were less than thrilled when Michael Keaton was first cast as Batman for the Tim Burton film. Nearly 50,000 letters of protest were sent to Warner Bros. offices, with many fans worried that the casting of the comedy star (from Mr. Mom and The Squeeze, no less) meant the big-screen adaptation would be campy like the 1960s series. It was producer Jon Peters who initially suggested Keaton for the role, claiming the actor had the “edgy, tormented quality” of the character, especially after witnessing his performance in the drama Clean and Sober. Having previously worked together in the box office hit Beetlejuice, both Burton and Keaton were game for another collaboration. To prepare for the role, the star religiously studied The Dark Knight Returns for inspiration.
1989’s Batman featured the talent of some of Hollywood’s finest at the time, including Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, and Billy Dee Williams, and had a beloved score from Prince. It depicts the masked vigilante’s conflict with the Joker, famously portrayed by Nicholson. Keaton’s gift of balancing seriousness and comic charm, paired with his relatable and lonely approach to the character, helped Batman become a critical and commercial success. Naysayers were left stunned by his attention-demanding performance, and it is definitely one of the best portrayals to date. Tim Burton’s smash hit film led to its equally prominent and lucrative (and especially dark) sequel, the aptly named Batman Returns.
Christian Bale (The Dark Knight trilogy, 2005-2012)
After the stifling failure of Batman & Robin, the caped crusader’s future in film looked downright bleak. In 2003, Memento director Christopher Nolan signed on to helm the new Batman project and, as they say, the rest is history. Christian Bale earned the highly coveted role, beating out big names like Jake Gyllenaal, Billy Crudup, Hugh Dancy, and Heath Ledger by capturing the complexity of the superhero. Of his casting choice, Nolan proclaimed, “He has exactly the balance of darkness and lightness that we were looking for.” After having lost a severe amount of weight for The Machinist, Bale put on 70 pounds in several months after hiring a personal trainer and trained in Wing Chun Kung Fu under Eric Oram in preparation for the film.
Bale portrays a darker, more serious version of The Dark Knight but approaches the character with a tenderness that endeared him to audiences. Despite his vast wealth, high-tech gadgets and ladies’ man reputation, Bale’s Bruce Wayne is struggling to understand his tragic past and is in many ways still that scared little boy who desperately misses his parents. He’s also excellent at capturing the brooding essence of the character, while also kicking some major butt when he dons the iconic suit. The film was met with widespread praise and box office success, and Bale’s outing as Batman earned rave reviews. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy would go on to gross $2.4 billion at the box office, and its middle installment is ranked as one of the greatest ever made. Bale’s arc as the superhero is undoubtedly one of the finest in cinema history.
The Batman Will Give Bruce Wayne Another Secret Identity
Tag: who all played batman in movies