Who is Batman? On his most basic level Batman, like Iron Man, is a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Unlike Iron Man/Tony Stark, the playboy persona is all an act. The real Bruce is Batman. Bruce’s incredible wealth allows him to buy an incredible arsenal of weapons and train his body to perfection.
He trains to prevent anyone else from going through the trauma he did as a child (losing his parents) and is very much a detective, on top of being a hero. His deductive abilities, coupled with his strength make him a great defender of Gotham City. His loss also puts him into a strange parenting mode, as he cares for a number of Robins over the years. Not every characteristic plays out successfully on screen in every interpretation.
Updated on March 16th, 2022, by Shawn S. Lealos: With The Batman in theaters, fans met the new Batman with Robert Pattinson taking the role. However, whether he matched up to previous Batman actors is up for argument. What isn’t up for argument is how closely the characters the actors play line up with the portrayals of Batman in the comic books.
With The Batman and also a version appearing in the Arrowverse shows added to the previous adaptations, there are plenty of different points of reference throughout Batman history. The newest movie saw Batman early in his career, harkening back to his Year One days. The Arrowverse version saw an older and experienced Batman, one who was a hero to not only Gotham City, but to the world. Here is a look at all the live-action Batman actors compared to their comic book counterparts.
13 Lewis G. Wilson – Batman (1943)
Lewis G. Wilson was the first actor to take on a live-action interpretation of Batman. He took on the cowl in 1943. There was nothing to compare his performance to then, but there is now, and unfortunately, Wilson doesn’t live up to the source material.
He had a Boston accent and wasn’t didn’t have quite the right physique to match the imaginations of fans. He also lacked much of the complexity that Batman’s backstory offers the character on the page.
12 Robert Lowery – Batman (1949)
The 1949 follow-up to Lewis G. Wilson’s film saw Batman recast as Robert Lowery, instead of Wilson. While Lowery looked better in the bat suit and took on a sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder, he still lacked much of the complexity and complicated history of the comic book character.
Again, it was an early performance, with only Wilson before him, but with all the content offered by the comic books, it’s too bad that more of Batman’s philanthropy and detective skills were not on display.
11 David Mazouz – Gotham (2014)
- Streaming now on Netflix.
David Mazouz is the youngest actor on our list, playing the part of the pre-Batman, and very early Batman, on the Fox series Gotham. While Gotham deserves credit for its originality, looking at the early life of Bruce Wayne alongside the career of Gotham PD’s Jim Gordon (who did appear in the first-ever Batman comic) its originality loses the classic feel of the comic book character.
Aside from his age, Gotham’s version of Batman also lacks some of the anger, edge, and father figure aspects of the written version.
10 Adam West – Batman (1966)
Perhaps the best-known television Batman came in 1966, Adam West is known for giving Batman and company a much campier appearance and reputation than any other actor.
This campy approach certainly doesn’t match the focused detective methods of the comic book character, but West gets credit for the care and time he spends with his sidekick, Robin. Audiences certainly appreciated getting to see the caped crusader in color as well.
9 George Clooney – Batman & Robin (1997)
George Clooney was a much better Bruce Wayne than he was a Batman. He had the playboy air and the billionaire good looks, however, he is perhaps the least popular of the big screen Batman actors.
Aside from the fact that the batsuit had nipples, the film also had campy aspects like the Adam West performance though it didn’t seem as intentional as the West version. Batman couldn’t even play the superhero dad because there wasn’t enough of an age difference between Clooney and Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson/Robin.
8 Iain Glen – Titans (2018)
- Streaming now on HBO Max.
Iain Glen is the most recent actor to take on the Bruce Wayne/Batman role. While he has yet to don the batsuit on DC’s Titans, he gets a lot of credit for playing up the mysterious obsessive detective skills of the original comic book hero as he keeps tabs on two of his Robin sidekicks.
As is obvious from the Clooney and Wilson performances, the suit isn’t everything when it comes to playing a comic book-style Batman. Iain Glen has gotten off on the right foot.
7 Val Kilmer – Batman Forever (1995)
Batman Forever saw Val Kilmer take on the cowl, though his performance is neither remembered as outstanding (Bale) nor horrible (Clooney) but that means he often gets passed over.
Kilmer’s performance gets credit for introducing Chris O’Connell’s Robin and putting Bruce/Batman’s protectiveness on display. But besides finding his sidekick Kilmer’s outing is more memorable for its villains than its Batman.
6 Warren Christie – Arrowverse (2019)
- Streaming now on Netflix.
Warren Christie was Batman in the Arrowverse. He showed in the Arrowverse, where he was an older Bruce Wayne, similar to Ben Affleck but a lot less violent. He was also someone who was very similar to older versions of Batman in the comics.
He brought something no other live-action version of Batman has done yet. He took Batman global, leaving Gotham City to try to save the world abroad. He also helped put together a network of heroes, including Bat-Wing, which showed Batman as more than the lone crusader most movies depicted him as.
5 Michael Keaton – Batman (1989) & Batman Returns (1992)
Keaton was both funny and intimidating, and that made him work on screen as Tim Burton’s version of the comic book hero.
Keaton’s loneliness and obsessive focus made him work even if critics didn’t find him to look as much like the playboy as they would have liked. But the real Bruce is Batman, not the playboy, and Keaton certainly played that on screen.
4 Robert Pattinson – The Batman (2022)
Most Batman fans thought that Robert Pattinson was the worst choice for the new version of Batman. Those fans have likely come around, as The Batman ended up as one of the better received Batman movies in years, both by critics and fans.
Pattinson took Batman back to his early days, similar to the Year One and The Long Halloween version of Batman. While Christian Bale was also in this role in Batman Begins, Pattinson was better as a new Batman than Bale when it comes to comic book portrayal. Bale went on to master the older Batman, so it is still to be seen if Pattinson can surpass Bale’s overall work in future movies.
3 Christian Bale – The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005–2012)
- Streaming now on HBO Max and Netflix.
Christian Bale starred in the most highly acclaimed outing of the caped crusader on the big screen. In Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, Bale’s performance gets credit for showing the training and money that Bruce had to put into becoming Batman.
However, his inward focus on his trauma (without a Robin to externalize his feelings) made him match the comic book version of Batman seen in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns rather than the original character in Detective Comics.
2 Ben Affleck – DCEU (2016–2023)
- Streaming now on HBO Max.
He wasn’t as haunted as Bale, nor was he as separate from everyone around him as Keaton’s Wayne seemed to be. He looked the part both in the batsuit and out, and his focus on protecting the young and the innocent worked very well. The remainder of his time in the role has been reported to end with the upcoming Flash standalone movie in the DCEU, but a cryptic post from Barry Allen actor Ezra Miller has cast doubt and confusion over that.
1 Kevin Conroy – Batwoman (2019)
- Streaming now on Netflix.
Kevin Conroy may be best known for voicing Batman in a few different places, but especially on Batman: The Animated Series. Conroy got the chance to portray Batman himself recently in the crossover event in the Arrowverse, Crisis on Infinite Earths.
While his live-action performance mirrors Batman in the Kingdom Come graphic novel more than the original DC comics series, his work both on-screen and as a voice actor put him closest to the Batman that is recognizable on the page.
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