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Which is the best Batman actor?

Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson as Batman and Joker in “Batman” (1989).

Warner bros.

Suddenly nobody complained when the first “The Batman” trailer with Robert Pattinson was released this week. Many legendary actors have played the superhero. Which was the best?

The bat man has developed from a quick-witted – with words and fists – crime fighter on TV to a gloomy and conflicted man on the screen.

Bruce Wayne aka Batman fans are very loyal to the actor they consider to be the best choice for the role. Any objections lead to heated debates – one of the reasons we love this character so much. Batman ignites a passion. This is exactly what happened again with the release of the teaser for the next offshoot in the DC universe, “The Batman”.

Robert Pattinson (“Twilight”, “The Lighthouse”) showed himself contrary to all expectations as an extremely dark and above all inexperienced Batman. The trailer is fantastic. So the question arose, how will the comparatively young actor stand up to his legendary predecessors?

But let’s first try to get an overview and rank the previous Avengers.

As a warning: this list does not include the first two TV Batmans. On the one hand, because they were active 40 years before I was born, and on the other hand, it turned out to be more difficult than expected to find any episode of “The Batman” (1943) and “Batman and Robin” (1949) online. Lewis G. Wilson (“The Batman”) and Robert Lowery (“Batman and Robin”) may forgive me.

Rank 7: George Clooney, “Batman & Robin” (1997)

“Batman & Robin”: George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell.

Warner bros.

Clooney’s breakthrough came with “Emergency Room”, a series about young doctors in an emergency room. After that success in the acting business he tried to find more support. Between romantic comedies and action films, he took on the role of Batman – right after Val Kilmer had completed his only appearance as the avenger in “Batman Forever”.

George Clooney’s bat man was a disaster.

Director Joel Schuhmacher has literally drained fans worldwide with his colorful aesthetics and caricature villains. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy can also be counted among the more questionable performances in Batman films. Clooney’s Batman was too funny, too fluffy – the infamous “Dark Knight” was too playful and soft.

Clooney himself even said in 2013 that he kept a photo of himself in a Batman costume at home – as a reminder of this bad career decision.

Rank 6: Will Arnett, “The Lego Movie” (2014)

Will Arnett set the Lego Batman to music.

Warner Bros. Animation

Yes, even the animated Lego Batman was better than Clooney, sorry. It’s hard to tell whether it was easier or more difficult for Arnett to just be the voice of the Gotham Avenger. His interpretation – and especially his rough voice – made this Batman very entertaining. And by the way: The Lego films are all fantastic.

Rank 5: Ben Affleck, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), “Suicide Squad” (2016), “Justice League” (2017)

Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Warner bros.

Many actors on this list had to face scrutinizing eyes when agreeing to the role of Batman. Ben Affleck probably had the hardest time by far.

Hate posts on social media go hand in hand with being famous these days, the world had conspired against Affleck before he even wore the steel suit. In retrospect, Affleck wasn’t really that bad, his Batman was a brooding one, one that had long since passed its zenith – for the actor Affleck this must have been familiar territory. Which, of course, is not meant snippy.

Rank 4: Val Kilmer, “Batman Forever” (1995)

Val Kilmer in Batman Forever.

Warner bros.

Val Kilmer was the replacement for Michael Keaton, who was tired of a third Batman movie. Kilmer came out on the screen with a smoother style and audiences around the world have enjoyed him in the role. However, the potential did not seem to be fully exhausted. It’s a shame that the actor only made such a film.

Rank 3: Adam West, “Batman” series (1966)

Adam West and his Robin, Burt Ward, in the TV series “Batman”.

20th Century Fox

Although West’s interpretation of the Avenger was well before my time, this legendary portrayal cannot be avoided. And you love them or you hate them. His performance burned itself into the minds of many fans, you can’t get it out of your head – Batman is still associated with the Spandex West for many people today.

He gave the character a clean personality and was perfect for kid-friendly entertainment.

My only point of criticism: His fighting skills really left a lot to be desired …

Rank 2: Christian Bale, “Dark Knight” trilogy (2005 to 2012)

Christian Bale in “The Dark Knight” (2008).

Warner bros.

In the case of the two best Batmans, the difference in ranking was very thin. Not only do I respect Bale’s work process immensely, he’s also the Batman of my generation. Bale always delivers, no matter what role he plays. This is what he did during director Christopher Nolan’s three films.

This brings me to the minimal negatives: you could argue that Bale’s Batman was a little difficult to understand at times because of his exceedingly deep voice. And the creative force behind Bale’s performance – read: Chris Nolan – should have contributed more than a little to its greatness.

Nonetheless, Bale gave the character an intensity that has never been seen before.

Rank 1: Michael Keaton, “Batman” (1989), “Batman Returns” (1992)

Michael Keaton in “Batman”.

Warner bros.

Casting Michael Keaton as Batman was probably one of the greatest risks a studio has ever taken. Known for his comedic work, Keaton faced some strong backlash when he was heralded as the new Batman.

And Keaton promptly silenced his critics. Together with director Tim Burton, he gave Batman a raison d’être again. The franchise was in decline by then. Keaton played the character dark and mysterious and yet capable of a dry laugh. He paved the way for today’s Batman.

Keaton was so confident in his portrayal that he could still whisper “I am Batman” today. And guess what? I would believe him.

Batman actor

Which Batman did you like the most?

And where does Robert Pattinson go?

Robert Pattinson in the trailer for “The Batman” (2021).

Warner bros.

We don’t know much about the youngest Batman, of course. But based on the trailer and the synopsis, it can be said that Pattinson’s character will join Keaton and Bale – dark and mysterious. If I had to give a definitive ranking now, then I would probably place it before or after Adam West – it still remains to be seen.

The decision to cast Pattinson as Batman led to almost as much criticism as it did with Affleck – but I have far more hope in the newcomers than in Affleck.

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