Well, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has finally been released (see our review here), and it’s been just as divisive as predecessor Man of Steel (although personally I really liked it). One of the most consistent and glowing praises the film has received is that of Ben Affleck’s take as the Dark Knight. So, this seems to be the perfect time to take a look back at the actors that have donned the cape and cowl in the past. We’ll be judging based on four criteria: their scarred, dark private persona, their brooding, the quality of their performance, but primarily their accuracy to the comics. Just a quick note that there are a few spoilers for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice here, so be careful if you haven’t seen it yet. Without any further ado, let’s get straight into it:

#6 – George Clooney (Batman and Robin)

george-clooney-in-batman-robin
(C) Warner Bros.

This was always going to be inevitable. It’s hard to determine whose fault it is for this car-crash, but Clooney’s take as Batman was not something to admire. Although it seemed to emulate the campiness of Adam West’s Caped Crusader, it lacked the charm and came across as really out of place, especially when considering the attempted grit his alter ego Bruce Wayne was given. This is really one to miss.

Dark private persona – 3/10

Brooding – 1/10

Quality of performance – 2/10

Accuracy to comics – 1/10

#5 – Adam West (Batman: The Movie)

batman
(C) Warner Bros.

This might be quite a controversial decision, but I do believe Adam West’s Batman isn’t quite up to the rest. That said, what it lacks in dedication to the comics he absolutely makes up for in charm and sheer entertainment. Yes, there isn’t any character depth so to speak, but unlike Clooney’s Batman, it’s bloody good fun.

Dark private persona – 1/10

Brooding – 0/10

Quality of performance – 7/10

Accuracy to comics – 6/10 (they did make a comic series featuring his Batman after all!)

#4 – Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)

best-batman-actors-val-kilmer
(C) Warner Bros.

I think that this one is really a case of a fish out of water. Kilmer’s performance as Batman and Bruce Wayne is by no means bad, but it’s incongruous with the direction Joel Schumacher takes the film, as he’s just about the only dark and brooding aspect about this. There was some pretty interesting backstory and some nice glimpses into Bruce Wayne’s tortured psyche, but this one really was a case of wrong place, wrong time.

Dark private persona – 6/10

Brooding – 7/10

Quality of performance – 7/10

Accuracy to comics – 7/10

#3 – Michael Keaton (Batman, Batman Returns)

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(C) Warner Bros.

Now, this could be quite a controversial decision. I only saw Batman and Batman Returns after watching Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, so at that point Christian Bale was my definitive cinematic Batman. That said, Keaton’s performance is still great. What he lacks in mobility in the Batsuit is most certainly made up for in the brooding and tone of his performance, and the unhinged, borderline-psychotic nature of Bruce Wayne at points is exactly what you’d expect from a man who watched his parents die in front of him. Maybe the reason he reaches the #3 spot is because he isn’t my Batman: I was the perfect age when Bale donned the cape and cowl, and when going back to these after seeing the Dark Knight trilogy, Keaton just didn’t do enough for me to beat Bale’s Caped Crusader to my heart.

Dark private persona – 8/10

Brooding – 8/10

Quality of performance – 7/10

Accuracy to comics – 7/10

#2 – Ben Affleck (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice)

ben-affleck-batman-1200x0
(C) Warner Bros.

A controversial one, but allow me to explain myself. Maybe his performance isn’t the best out of all those that have donned the cape and cowl, but the sheer comic accuracy is simply staggering, from the brutal and highly physical fight scenes to the incorporation of gadgetry in his battles. This Batman is also borderline psychotic, absolutely obsessed with bringing down Superman, and has plenty of character flaws, but his progression as a character throughout the film definitely supports this case. His interplay with Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is brilliant as well, but it’s the moment where Batman is literally screaming at Superman, asking who ‘Martha’ is, that does it for me. This is the most comic-accurate and brooding Batman we’ve ever seen, but not my favourite, but with some deeper writing in subsequent films, could end up being the best. It’s definitely a close one, but for now, although Ben Affleck’s Batman defied my expectations, he doesn’t quite manage to pip my favourite cinematic Batman to the #1 spot.

Dark private persona – 9/10

Brooding – 10/10

Quality of performance – 9/10

Accuracy to comics – 9/10

#1 – Christian Bale (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises)

Colorado Shooting Dark Knight
(C) Warner Bros.

For me, this really was a tough one. When I initially wrote this article, I had Bale at #2 and Affleck at #1, but now my hysteria surrounding Dawn of Justice has worn off, I’ve come to this decision. Christian Bale has been my definitive Batman for many years: I love his incredibly dark persona, his vulnerability and his performance in the Batsuit, from the fantastic action, the hugely intimidating screen presence, and I didn’t even mind the voice that much. His interplay with Alfred, his sharp tongue, quick wit yet undeniable gravitas put Bale’s Bat a step above the rest. Now, despite how much I adored Affleck as Batman, I still see Bale the best cinematic Batmen ever. Even though the comic-book loyalty may not be 100% there with this incarnation, he’s the Batman in my favourite film of all time (The Dark Knight), so what’s not to love?

Dark private persona – 9/10

Brooding – 10/10

Quality of performance – 9/10

Accuracy to comics – 9/10

 

 

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