As more and more details emerge about Robert Pattinson’s new take on The Batman, excitement is high. Will he bring an exciting edge to the Dark Knight, or be a bigger flop than his Bruce Wayne fringe? And how will he compare to the pantheon of previous actors to play the role, aka the Batmen?
For now, we’ll have to wait and see as the film is some time from release – but the questions got us thinking. Just who is the best Batman, and what makes a truly great incarnation of the character? Is it the campy fun of an Adam West, the tortured acting power of a Christian Bale or something in between?
To find out, we need your help. We’ve assembled a poll of the most notable Batman actors (with apologies to Lewis G Wilson, Robert Lowery and the as-yet-unseen Pattinson), and will be collecting votes to determine which actor is the greatest version of the Caped Crusader.
Vote now – or, if you want a quick reminder of each actor in action, scroll down to our recap below.
While he wasn’t the first screen Batman, West’s campy and comedic take on the Dark Knight defined the character for a generation, shark-repellent-Bat-Spray and all. Logging more hours as Bruce Wayne than almost any other actor, West’s version still divides fans, but with a TV series, the 1966 movie and even more modern animated adventures, it’s impossible to deny his impact.
Tim Burton’s Gothic-styled Batman movies were among the first successful superhero movies, and a lot of credit for that has to go to Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight. At the time it was a controversial casting – 50,000 letters of complaint were sent to Warner Bros after he was hired – but today, he’s regarded as one of the greatest versions of the caped crusader. No wonder he may be returning to the role…
Kilmer is one of the shorter-lived Batmen, only starring in one film (1995’s Batman Forever) and leaving under something of a cloud due to some behind-the-scenes tensions. But while many thought he wasn’t a patch on Keaton, Batman co-creator Bill Finger was a fan, and for an entire generation of ’90s kids Kilmer was Batman.
OK, look – Batman & Robin is a bit of a low point for the franchise, stuffed with nippled Bat-suits, bizarre creative choices and far too many villains, and it’s safe to say that George Clooney’s Batman isn’t on many people’s best-of lists. But he’s certainly one of the lighter, more suave takes on Bruce Wayne…and he, er, always keeps his Bat-credit card to hand. Who doesn’t love a hero who’s prepared?
The first actor to play Batman and Bruce Wayne for more than two movies, Christian Bale teamed up with director Christopher Nolan to create an unassailably great trilogy of superhero movies from Batman Begins through The Dark Knight to The Dark Knight Rises. As with the earlier Burton films, a lot of credit for that success has to go to Bale’s for his restrained performance – even if we’re still not sure about his “Batman voice”.
The so-called “Batfleck” was another unpopular casting decision – these seem almost traditional with Batman – but when Affleck made his debut in 2016’s Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, fans were impressed with his muscular, brutal version of the character. Sadly, they didn’t have long with him, Affleck only reprising the role for 2017’s Justice League (and a cameo in Suicide Squad) before departing the role.
Or so we thought… because while Robert Pattinson is taking over the top job, rumour has it that Affleck might make one more appearance in the upcoming Flash movie, along with Keaton. And who knows? If two Batmen aren’t enough, maybe one or two other Dark Knights from this list could be making similarly surprising comebacks.
He may not be a live-action Batman, but Will Arnett’s LEGO version of the character was a hit with fans and scored him his own spin-off from the LEGO movie – not bad for someone less than an inch tall. Really leaning into the comedy of the character and lore, Arnett’s tortured Bruce Wayne was more often the butt of the joke, but still brought some poignancy to the lonely figure. And has any other Batman released such great original music? We think not.
How could we compile this list without including Kevin Conroy? The actor and voice artist’s vocal stylings as Batman (which began in acclaimed cartoon Batman: The Animated Series) have seen him dubbed the best Batman by many fans, and he’s certainly the longest serving at time of writing, continuing to play the character from the early 1990s through to the present day and even popping up in live-action to play an older version of the character in The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover.
That’s our shortlist of Batmen – but which is your favourite? Scroll up now and vote, or forever hold your peace…
The Batman will be released in October 2021. If you’re looking for something to watch, check out our TV Guide.