3. Adam West
Adam West is, to the Clooney and Kilmer Batmen at least, a God.
His effortless merging of a family friendly, holier than thou fire-and-rescue version of Batman was close to perfection, his almost deadpan delivery of outlandish and hilarious lines gifting his version of the character sincerity even within the absurdity of all that was going on. West’s Batman was trustworthy, a good man – and we all need someone like that in our lives from time to time.
The reason for West’s unfortunate Bronze medal position on this list is not really due to him… it’s because the actors to come were simply required to offer more. More than zany fun and a hint of sincerity, the actors to come were challenged to find deep, dark connections to a more serious and challenged persona, leaving West (unfortunately for him and Batman (1966) lovers everywhere) out in the cold.
2. Michael Keaton
As eluded to in the introduction to this article, the common consensus agrees that Michael Keaton and Christian Bale are the two best Batmen of all time. In this list, we’re ranking Keaton at number 2… sorry Keatonites.
The reasons are simple…
First of all, Keaton only played Batman twice. Sure, this is through no fault of his own, but when judging Keaton’s task at portraying the character development of Gotham’s Dark Knight in comparison to that of Bale (who played Batman from his origin to his retirement across three films), it’s clear that Keaton’s task was not quite as large as his younger counterpart.
Second of all, the requirements upon Keaton to maintain a toy-friendly face for the corporate overlords to sell was of detriment to the sincerity of his performance. Full Keaton could have been magic, and this was damn close, but close doesn’t get you the cigar.
This isn’t to dismiss Keaton’s contribution however. The Tim Burton collaborator had to re-establish Batman in a post-West world, rooting him in a more brooding and gothic sensibility while remaining likeable. He knocked both Batman and Bruce Wayne out of the park, and to many he always will be the true Batman. We can’t deny you that… this truly was the closest of calls.
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1. Christian Bale
Much more of an intense and challenging Batman than a charming and/or witty Bruce Wayne, Christian Bale’s rendition of the famous DC hero was one rooted in trauma and fully encased within a mindset that these Batman films would be more than “silly old superhero movies”.
Having direction from someone as accomplished as Christopher Nolan, and headlining a cast that is almost incomparable from Batman Begins to The Dark Knight Rises, Bale was given all of the tools he needed to produce the goods, and produce them he did.
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Like Kilmer, Bale was perhaps outshone as the titular character for one of his films, The Dark Knight, in which Heath Ledger (who played the Joker) was the biggest on-screen force. Unlike Kilmer however, this seemed as if it was by design, the middle act of Bale’s Batman trilogy needing the Caped Crusador to take a loss (mental, spiritual and physical) in order to set up his triumphant The Dark Knight Rises return, and his character therefore taking a backseat to the evils overcoming his hometown in the middle instalment.
With some of the most quotable lines of all time and a voice people still mimic to this day, Bale’s Batman became a pop culture icon, the actor’s physical transformation and overall commitment to the role mimicking that of Bruce Wayne’s on the screen, his unique and terrific cinematic representation being one that has stuck with the actor ever since even in spite of his reputable and prolific post-Batman career.
By his fingertips, Christian Bale is our ultimate Batman.
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