Top Five… Actors to play Batman

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the best Batman of them all? Well, we don’t have a mirror here at RvR Towers (have you ever seen what we look like?) but we do have a Ross McG. Here’s his list.

It’s here. After four years of waiting, The Dark Knight Rises finally arrives on the big screen this week. Four long years. Four long years since Batman sped off on his Batpod into the night. To pass that time, some of us have filled every moment we could digesting juicy casting titbits for the third instalment in director Christopher Nolan’s batrilogy. Remember the rumour that Cher was going to be Catwoman? Or what about the humdinger that Eddie Murphy was a complete cert to play The Riddler? Remember those ridiculously heinous casting tales? What about that nonsense story that they’d got Shirley Valentine’s love interest Tom Conti to play a role…? Oh. Right. Sorry.

The strange thing about Batman movies is that they tend not to focus on uh, whatshisface, em… that guy in the title – yeah, him. In the first Batman feature film, 1966’s Batman – which had its simple yet effective title pilfered by Tim Burton 23 years later – the poor old Caped Crusader had to hog the limelight with no fewer than four villains, not to mention his annoying palm-punching sidekick Robin. Oh, and a rubber, ladder-climbing shark.

When Burton’s Batman, in the Beetlejuicy shape of Michael Keaton, finally swooped down, he was sidelined by Jack Nicholson’s Joker, a fate that would also befall Christian Bale’s Batman 19 years later, although it was Heath Ledger’s Joker doing the scene-stealing that time. Bale is perhaps the only Batman who can claim to have a film almost exclusively to himself, in Batman Begins. Unluckily for Batmen Val Kilmer and George Clooney, they were upstaged by a question-mark covered green gurner and a huge, Austrian ice pun-making machine respectively.

With talk turning to Bale’s Oscar chances for his third and final stint in the Batsuit (if he wins, he could collect the statue as Bruce Wayne. In a tux.), it’s a good time to decide once and for all who is cinema’s best Batman. Is it the guy who played a Ken doll? Or could it be Maverick’s wing man elect? What about the hunkiest doctor in the Emergency Room? Might it be Huey Lewis and The News’ biggest fan? Or does the mayor of Quahog deserve the title? Let’s find out. And… here… we… GO!

5. George Clooney

Batman in: Batman & Robin (1997)

Bat box office: $238m

Bat quote: ‘This is why Superman works alone.’

Bat fact: Clooney used to own a pig named Max. Trudging through crap was good preparation for his time as Batman

Batsuit: Two words: left nipple. Two more words: right nipple

Batinterest: Poison Ivy. She’s so vine, she probably thinks this blog is about her…

BIFF! BAM! POW! moment: He surfs through the sky on a door. He ice skates. He sucks

Bat verdict: Not even Gorgeous George can make this Batman cool. Hanging around with Mr Freeze certainly didn’t

4. Val Kilmer

Batman in: Batman Forever (1995)

Bat box office: $336m

Bat quote: ‘It’s the car, right? Chicks love the car.’

Bat fact: Kilmer was offered the part while in an actual bat cave in Africa, doing research for The Ghost And The Darkness

Batsuit: He has about ten. The first is suitably dark but they get progressively rubbish. Sonar? So not interested…

Batinterest: Dr Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman). In case Batman forgets what he’s meant to do with her, he just thinks of her first name

BIFF! BAM! POW! moment: Driving the Batmobile up the side of a building is pretty POW!

Bat verdict: Not a bad Batman, but Kilmer’s pursed lips make him look like Batwoman

3. Adam West

Batman in: Batman (1966)

Bat box office: $13m

Bat quote: ‘They may be drinkers, Robin, but they’re also human beings… and may be salvaged.’

Bat fact: West was approached to play James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever. He turned it down

Batsuit: Classic grey tights and drawn on eyebrows. The kind of thing a kid would get beaten up for wearing these days

Batinterest: Catwoman. The sultry Lee Meriwether version. Thankfully, not the Sharon Stone-scratching Halle Berry one

BIFF! BAM! POW! moment: Tussling with a shark while dangling from a helicopter. In your face, Bale

Bat verdict: A camp, man-boobed Batman may not be in vogue now, but just wait for the inevitable reboot in a few years. West isn’t the best, but we still love him

2. Christian Bale

Batman in: Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008)

Bat box office: $1.37bn (combined)

Bat quote: ‘Do I look like a cop?!’

Bat fact: Bale’s first ever role was in an advertisement for Pac-Man cereal

Batsuit: In Begins, it’s suitably dark. In TDK it’s almost turned blue and Batman looks more like a GI Joe than a superhero

Batinterest: Rachel Dawes. The only character in these movies with special powers. The power to transform from Tom Cruise’s ex-wife into Jake Gyllenhaal’s sister

BIFF! BAM! POW! moment: The Batpod chase from TDK. Now there’s a Batman…

Bat verdict: Bale is a great Bruce Wayne, but the Batsuit just doesn’t quite fit him properly

1. Michael Keaton

Batman in: Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992)

Bat box office: $677m (combined)

Bat quote: ‘You wanna get nuts?! Come on! Let’s get nuts!’

Bat fact: Keaton’s real name is Michael Douglas. To avoid confusion with the more established actor of the same name, he changed his surname, inspired by an article he read on Annie Hall star Diane Keaton

Batsuit: Classic comic-book chic. That bright yellow belt is going to attract attention at night though

Batinterest: Kim Basinger and Michelle Pfeiffer. Yep, Batman likes blondes

BIFF! BAM! POW! moment: Dangling a thug off a ledge and announcing: ‘I’m Batman!’ A catchphrase is born

Bat verdict: The best Batman. Keaton is scarily at ease in the cape and is genuinely unsettling. His Bruce Wayne is the one uncomfortable in his own skin. Which is what makes his performances as both characters so brilliant



5 Responses to “Top Five… Actors to play Batman”

  1. You decided not to count Kevin Conroy?

    Good round up of the live-action Batmen, diggin’ the Bat Facts haha

  2. todayiwatchedamovie Says:

    I think you accidentally got Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton mixed up in your list.

  3. good shout on Conroy, Andy, Mask of the Phantasm such a sweet movie too. have stuck to live action stuff.

    todayiwatchedamovie… you’re a Kilmer fan, huh? if he had have played Bruce Wayne as his he did his character in Bad Lieutenant, then he might have topped the list

  4. Lol TIWAM has more than expressed his fandom for Val Kilmer’s portrayal of the Caped Crusader. Personally, I’d say Bale and Keaton are tied. Clooney should have gotten a better film to portray Batman.

  5. Even though you never get to see him in the actual batsuit, I’ll second the nod for Kevin Conroy and put him at #3 or even #2, agree with the rest of your list though.

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