Who has played Batman in the movies? A good question and one which continues to provide different answers with every new Batman movie that arrives. However, today I am going to answer the question by looking at all of the actors who have played Batman so far.
Below is a list of all of the actors who have played Batman in live-action, and on the big screen. The list includes all live-action film versions of Batman, so does not include actors who have voiced Batman, however fantastic they may be (sorry, Kevin Conroy).
As I’m talking big screen Batman, I am also going to include the actors who portrayed the Caped Crusader in the two live-action serials from the 1940s. While these were not movies, they were screened in movie theatres and therefore paved the way for Batman’s cinematic career.
OK, let’s run through all of the Batman actors who have appeared on the big screen.
Lewis Wilson (1943)
If you’ve ever wondered who was the first actor to play Batman, then Lewis Wilson is your man. The actor took on the dual role of Batman/Bruce Wayne for the 1943 serial, The Batman, thus he became big screen Batman No #1!
The Batman was not a movie, however the 15 chapter, black and white serial did provide DC Comics with its first Batman on film. It’s popularity also led to a sequel.
Robert Lowery (1949)
And now onto Batman actor No. #2 – Robert Lowery. Lowery was the star of the second theatrical serial, which not only proved the Caped Crusader had big screen potential, but also demonstrated that Bat-actors were replaceable (see the long list below).
The actor took on the part of Batman/Bruce Wayne for the 15-chapter serial, Batman and Robin. The serial featured Johnny Duncan as Robin/Dick Grayson, Jane Adams as Vicki and Lyle Talbot as Commissioner Gordon.
Adam West (1966)
I know what you’re thinking – NO TV Batmen, right?! True, and while Adam West is known the world over for playing the role of the Caped Crusader on the 1966 Batman TV show, the actor also took the lead role in a spin-off movie.
Appearing opposite Burt Ward as Robin, West featured in one big screen Batman adventure – Batman: The Movie! The film was Batman’s first feature-length adventure.
Michael Keaton (1989/1992)
Adam West’s take on Batman was so iconic that it cast a large shadow on the franchise, which lasted across the ‘60s, ‘70s, and throughout almost all of the ’80s. However, all that changed with the arrival of Tim Burton’s Batman which opened in theatres during Summer 1989.
Not only did the movie highlight a completely different Gotham City to the one seen in the Adam West show/movie, but it also introduced a whole new Batman in the shape of Michael Keaton.
Keaton took on the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman for two Batman movies: Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). His kooky, no-nonsense approach to the Dark Knight became a huge hit with audiences and changed the perception of the character for an entire generation.
Val Kilmer (1995)
How do you follow a Batman movie actor such as Michael Keaton? You employ Val Kilmer, of course!
Kilmer took on the part of Bruce Wayne/Batman for one Batman movie – 1995’s Batman Forever – and yet managed to make it his own. The actor brought a certain charm and sex appeal for the role of playboy, Bruce Wayne, while he managed to echo shades of Keaton for the part of Batman, before taking it in a new direction.
George Clooney (1997)
Like his predecessor, George Clooney took on the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman for just one movie –1997’s not-so-well received, Batman & Robin. Clooney’s Batman was much lighter than Keaton’s or Kilmer’s and focused more on Batman as a caped crusader rather than a dark (or even moody) knight.
Christian Bale (2005/2008/2012)
Michael Keaton’s take on Batman certainly defined an era, but the same could be said for Christian Bale’s version of the character, who appeared in three movies between 2008 and 2012: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises.
For many, Bale’s Batman is the quintessential Dark Knight (well, the clue is in the title of two of his films). It is a performance that has been difficult to top.
Ben Affleck (2016/2017)
In 2013, Warner Bros. kick-started a new era of DC movies with Man of Steel – a Superman origin movie starring Henry Cavill as Supes. The film may have focused squarely on Superman, but it laid the foundations for a shared universe that would eventually include Batman.
In 2016, via the big screen team-up/crossover movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck stepped into the cape and cowl to become the Batman of this universe. In total, Affleck played the role three times, including a role in 2016’s Suicide Squad and 2017’s Justice League.
Who is the best Batman actor?
So above are all of the live-action, big screen Batman movie actors, but who is the best of the bunch?
I guess this comes down to personal preference – kind of how certain fans favour James Bond/Doctor Who actors. Often, fans of the Bond or Who series will rank their favourite actors starting with the actor who played the role when they became a fan.
For example, if you grew up with Affleck as Batman, then Affleck is most likely to be YOUR Batman.
Now that said, surely there is still a best Batman amongst the names listed above?
Well, to date both Christian Bale and Ben Affleck have played the role of Batman the longest – with both actors appearing in three films a piece. But then, Keaton created such a HUGE impact when he took on the role he has to be up for consideration, right?
Hmm… it’s a tough call.
For me it would be Keaton or even Kilmer. Yep, Kilmer – an underrated Batman, who gets unfairly maligned!
But I am willing to admit the more popular Batman actor is arguably Christian Bale. The Dark Knight trilogy was a massive success and Bale was an intrinsic part of this. He’s also the only actor (from the names listed above) who was able to take the character from his early days through to a satisfactory conclusion – something none of the others have ever had the opportunity to do.
A list of every Batman actor in order:
- Lewis Wilson (1943)
- Robert Lowery (1949)
- Adam West (1966)
- Michael Keaton (1989/1992)
- Val Kilmer (1995)
- George Clooney (1997)
- Christian Bale (2005/2008/2012)
- Ben Affleck (2016/2017)
So, who is your favourite Batman actor? Is Bale your No.1 Dark Knight, or is Keaton your go-to guy? Perhaps you prefer a much lighter take on the Caped Crusader, with an actor like West or Clooney portraying the Batman you really want to see. Hey, there are no right or wrong answers here!
Whatever your thoughts, whoever you feel is your Batman, sound off in the comments section below.And if you want to read more about the Batman actors, then why not check out my post: ‘Five actors who were almost Batman‘.
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