With yet another Batman movie being released this weekend, another new actor dons the cape and cowl. This outing, Batman is played by Robert Pattinson, who portrays a year-2, younger, more traumatized version of the Dark Knight. Between films, animated releases, and countless series, there have been a ton of iterations of the same character. Some have been clearly better than others.
But with each new attempt we are always left with the same question: Who is the best Batman?
It’s a subjective question with an even more subjective answer, and frankly I’m not inclined to rank some 44 attempts at vengeance. Regardless, it is interesting to see where Pattinson ranks in the long list, so we’re going to take a stab at ranking Batmen. For the sake of time, we are only going to focus on feature films, and exclude all tv series and animated movies. I know, it’s unfair, and Kevin Conroy most certainly deserves a spot on the rankings. But we’d be here all day if we didn’t at least set at least some kind of parameters. So, we’re sticking to the 7 live-action iterations of Batman, beginning with Adam West all the way to Robert Pattinson (not ordered, just a frame a reference for scope).
So here are all the live action Batmen, ranked from Worst to Best.
#7 George Clooney in “Batman and Robin”
This is kind of unfair to Clooney, as the film itself is probably far worse than his actual performance. But he also isn’t doing much to make things better. And nipples on the Batsuit don’t help at all. Clooney seems to know the movie is a dumpster fire, and rather than trying to make the most of it, he phones it in almost entirely. Clooney isn’t a bad actor, but he is most definitely the worst Batman on screen so far and sadly earns his spot at the bottom of the list. Oh, and never forget that time he apologized for it.
#6 Val Kilmer “Batman Forever”
Yet another great actor in a bad film, Kilmer is pretty close to Clooney here. While I can give him some credit for being a somewhat decent Bruce Wayne, nothing in “Batman Forever” does him any favors. That can probably be said for just about everyone in the film, but Kilmer’s Batman is neither imposing nor dark in any sense, and while everything is intentionally campy, it doesn’t really hold up. Nor does it stack up against much, much better performances under the cowl. Sorry, Iceman. But Batman is not for you.
#5 Adam West “Batman: The Movie”
This one hurts to rank Mr. West so low on the list, especially when you consider that he is the reason I got into Batman in the first place, and my childhood is inexplicably tied to his version of Batman. But sometimes being first doesn’t always mean you’re the best. While he is infinitely better than some, others have taken up the mantle much better. Adam West’s Batman will forever be a legend, and deserves all the credit in the world for his many years of playing the character, but while he isn’t the worst, he definitely isn’t the best.
#4 Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” Franchise
And now we start turning up the fires of controversy! I love “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” as much as the next person. Bale isn’t bad at vengeance. Honestly, he’s knocked down mainly for that ridiculous growl that gets worse and worse the longer the film series goes on. I get the idea of disguising your voice to not be recognized as Bruce Wayne, but over the years all anyone really harps on and mocks is that ridiculous voice. I will never forget how hard I had to refrain from laughing when Bale delivered his first line in “The Dark Knight.” “I’m not wearing hockey pants!” I thought there’s no possible way he’s gonna do that through the whole film, right? Oh but he does, and it gets progressively worse and overshadows an otherwise solid Batman outing.
#3 Ben Affleck “Snyderverse” Franchise
You will never find a bigger hater of “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” than me, nor will you find someone who finds Zack Snyder so completely wrong for the entire DC universe. That being said, one thing is undeniable: Ben Affleck is a really solid Batman. Like, better than I ever expected him to be, and I was the first one to spend months rallying against the casting. Affleck quickly became the only thing I actually enjoyed from a majority of the Snyder outings. It does feel a little unfair seeing as how I faulted both Clooney and Kilmer for being in bad movies more than their actual performances, but Affleck (despite his outspoken desire to never don the cape and cowl again) actually DOES give it his all, and turns in a much better Batman performance than the films call for. So for that, he gets high marks.
#2 Robert Pattinson “The Batman”
I can already see the fuses exploding in the keyboard warrior’s brains. How in the world is the “Twilight” guy the second best Batman?! Well, sorry guys. He is. And I will die on this hill of where I’ve ranked him. I had some narrative misgivings about “The Batman,” but one thing I didn’t have any doubts about is how good of a Batman Pattinson actually is. He perfectly captures the kind of Batman the film is trying to convey, and proves that he is more than capable of embodying the masked vigilante. He’s great, and even if the film wasn’t masterfully crafted visually, Pattinson turns in one helluva performance that skyrockets him to the upper echelon of Batman rankings.
#1 Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s “Batman”
I think this is a pretty common placement, but it’s hard to dethrone the GOAT that is Michael Keaton. Not only are Tim Burton‘s “Batman” and “Batman Returns” two of the best iterations of Batman on screen to date, but Keaton delivers easily one of the best versions we’ve ever seen. It continues to be the bar, and as close as some people get they just can’t quite reach what Keaton manages to deliver. There are so many nuances to his performance even when half of his face is covered under the cowl, and he remains unmatched in being able to convey so much with very little. He is everything we want from a Batman, and continues to remain the best version of the titular character we’ve ever had. I have no desire to actually watch “The Flash” movie, but I feel obligated to now knowing that Keaton will be returning to one of the best roles he’s ever had.