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RANKED: Who Was The Best Batman? 

With Robert Pattinson’s ‘The Batman’ having just come out, we began thinking who was the best Batman and whether Pattinson lives up to their legacy?...
Credit: Warner Bros.

With Robert Pattinson’s ‘The Batman’ having just come out, we began thinking who was the best Batman and whether Pattinson lives up to their legacy?

This is purely my opinion and shouldn’t be taken as fact. I try to take everything into consideration regardless of the quality of the movie they were in, if Batman was good but the movie wasn’t, it won’t affect the placement (but they do tend to go hand in hand). That means acting performance, gadgets, suits, everything. Also, we’re only looking at live-action films of the caped crusader, so no David Mazouz from Gotham or animated depictions.

Let’s go from worst to best.

7. George Clooney

Credit: Warner Bros.

Batman & Robin is considered to be one of the worst movies of all time, not just one of the worst Batman movies. But that isn’t the reason that George Clooney was a bad Batman (though it didn’t help). For starters, let’s get it out of the way, the suit is awful (makes bat nipple joke for the millionth time). The suit looks like it would make a good action figure, which is exactly why they designed it the way they did after the success of Batman Forever. Gotta sell those toys.

Clooney himself was in a weird spot in his career, he wasn’t the big movie star he is now. Arnold Schwarzenegger was paid something like $20 million and Clooney was only paid around $1 million if that puts things into a little perspective.

Clooney thought it would be a good career move but in hindsight, it clearly wasn’t. Clooney himself has apologised on multiple occasions for his portrayal of the Dark Knight and explained that everyone who made the movie knew it was bad. He’s at the bottom of the list purely because even Clooney himself says he did a bad job. It might be piling on the already huge amount of hate Batman & Robin, but it isn’t like it it’s not deserved.

Side note: Batman & Robin is kinda really fun in just how camp it is but, in my opinion, Batman Forever rode the line between camp and Batman more effectively. This went too far in the camp direction.

6. Val Kilmer

Credit: Warner Bros.

I actually like Val Kilmer’s Batman more than I probably should, but I think it’s because he’s such a good Bruce Wayne. His Batman suit in the film was edging closer to the absolute silliness of Clooney’s but it doesn’t go anywhere near as far.

I actually like Val Kilmer’s Batman more than I probably should, but I think it’s because he’s such a good Bruce Wayne. His Batman suit in the film was edging closer to the absolute silliness of Clooney’s but it doesn’t go anywhere near as far.

Bob Kane, Batman’s co-creator, himself said that Kilmer was his favourite interpretation of the character. What keeps Kilmer back as a better Batman comes from an experience he had with Warren Buffett’s kids when they arrived on set one day.

As the story goes, when Buffett’s kids came to see Batman onset, they didn’t give a damn about who the man behind the mask was. They wanted to see Batman, ride in the Batmobile, and throw a bat-a-rang. It was here that Kilmer realised that this is the reason it’s so easy for another actor to play Batman – Batman is a blank slate, according to Kilmer, “There is no Batman.”

This realisation is maybe why his portrayal ends up coming off as blander than others due to this belief. It’s a shame.

5. Adam West

Credit: 20th Century Studios

Pure. West. Yes, there was a Batman film in 1966 starring Adam West so he does get a place on this list. While not a very accurate interpretation of the comic books, Adam West gave us something no other Batman usually does: actually enjoying being Batman.

“Why doesn’t Batman dance anymore?” Because Batman (the character) hates his job now, but that wasn’t always the case. Yes, it’s cheesy and incredibly dated but West genuinely cared and enjoyed playing Batman, so much so that he tried to buy the rights to the character to make more films. When that didn’t work out, he made his own rip-off called Superbat,

“I also wrote a thing called Superbat when it was clear I’d never get film rights to the Batman character. It was a hybrid of Batman and Superman who came from another galaxy, but he now lives in this vast cave.”

“Remember the Batusi?” Boy do we, and honestly, it’s worth remembering Adam West’s time as Batman. A unique Batman that deserves to be acknowledged.

4. Ben Affleck

Credit: Warner Bros.

Ben Affleck’s portrayal was good, not great. He was trying too hard to be brooding and sad, and while it was based on The Dark Knight Returns version of the Caped Crusader, he wasn’t really allowed to explore the graphic novels complexity of Batman’s life at this point. He does pull of curmudgeonly older man quite well, but that wasn’t just what it was about.

Most of these issues are more related to the films Affleck was in rather than his own performance. Still, Affleck did the best with what he was given, but his performance lacks in complexity. He’s grumpy, and the fact that he kills people now never really gets brought up and it doesn’t seem to factor into Affleck’s performance much at all. He’s just old and jaded. We got that before in The Dark Knight Rises and it was done better.

However, the suit is great and for once Batman doesn’t have the silliest voice imaginable. I think the voice modulator angle is the way to go. I like the bulky suit, again, very reminiscent of The Dark Knight Returns. Goggles Batman in Justice League (both versions suck so pick one and don’t @ me) is awful and silly.

There’s a bunch of good stuff with Batfleck, but there is too much bad, weird, or dumb stuff to put him any higher on this list. But that warehouse scene will go down as one of the best Batman action scenes ever – credit where credit is due. 

3. Robert Pattinson

Credit: Warner Bros.

I might need to simmer on this for a bit longer until the initial hype dies down but as it stands, Robert Pattinson is a great Batman. Pattinson’s Batman, despite just being a few years into his vigilante career, is already depicted as having huge mental problems (as a person who dresses up as a bat would, something often joked about but rarely properly examined). I need to watch this again to really get a grasp on it all but for now, number three feels about right.

2. Christian Bale

Credit: Warner Bros.

I know, this might be a controversial position but while Bale’s films may be some of, if not the best Batman films, his performance isn’t without its problems.

The Batman voice has been parodied and joked about ad nauseum, so I won’t repeat it here, but it is worth mentioning. It does get in the way of the more emotional scenes – I struggle to take him seriously when he’s chatting with the Joker at the end of The Dark Knight (“Thisss cittyyyy just showed youuu, that it’s ready to believe in gooood”).

The suit is great, especially from The Dark Knight onwards, but the Batman Begins suit is good too. The Batmobile (Prowler) is great too, being more a tank of sorts.

What stops him from reaching the top spot on this list? Bale can be too restricted in his emotions because he has to portray Batman as something bigger, as a symbol and idea. So much so that we forget Bruce Wayne as a person. Ultimately, his performance lacks heart. That doesn’t stop him from being one of the best Batman’s though. 

1. Michael Keaton

Credit: Warner Bros.

I do believe that Michael Keaton is the best Batman. He has the right idea of taking the material seriously, but not so seriously as to become like reality (like The Dark Knight trilogy). This is simply a preference in approach. I like that Batman was taken incredibly seriously in the Nolan films but the approach in the Burton films feels more appropriate to Batman.  

Keaton might not be the most jacked or badass Batman, but he does have the superhero aspect down in a more traditional sense. It’s all a little silly on purpose, rather than Bale’s gritty realism that ends up being silly by accident.

The suit is iconic despite being a complete nightmare for Keaton to wear. But much like Adam West, Keaton loved playing Batman and would’ve continued his tenure if Tim Burton had continued making them.

His gadgets are goofy but not to the Adam West levels of goofy, or Batman & Robin for that matter.

Really, the reason Keaton is number one is because he is both a good Batman and Bruce Wayne, riding the line between them with skill. He also understands how to take the character seriously without being a bore about it. 

Which is your favourite Batman?

For more rankings like this, check out our ranking for the best kills in the Scream franchise


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