The dark knight turned eighty on March 30th this year. The beloved DC comics character is someone who has transcended all barriers of a superhero. To be honest, Batman was never an archetypical superhero. Neither he had superpowers nor he had the ability to stick to the wall. What he had and which appealed the most to the naysayers, was his hardcore detective abilities. Agreed that he had the riches, which got him cool gadgets and an even uber cool batmobile, but the fact that his idea of justice came from personal tragedy made him just another regular guy, which most of the common folks could relate to. Created by Bob Kane and his frequent collaborator Bill Finger, Batman made his debut in Detective comics in 1939. Billionaire playboy by day and the dark knight by night, Batman went through a sea of changes through his appearances in comics, graphic novels, tv shows and eventually the silver screen. We, at The Cinemawala, ranked the best appearances of Batman on screen, television and cinema combined. Read on and hey, don’t forget to say to the mirror, in a gruff voice – I’m Batman!
10. Lewis Wilson and Robert Lowery – 15 Part TV Serial ‘Batman’ (1943) and the movie ‘Batman and Robin’ (1949)
Because they started everything, so the joint rank is assigned to both Lewis Wilson and Robert Lowery. Lewis Wilson starred in the first-ever televised show ‘Batman’, a 15 part TV series, shot in Black and White whereas Robert Lowery starred in the first-ever film version of the Batman character, in the film ‘Batman and Robin’. These shows were primarily catered towards the fantasy loving audience. Other than Batman/Bruce Wayne, Commissioner Jim Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth, there are no known associates or villains are there in the film. The Lewis Wilson starrer ‘Batman’ had Batman and Robin fighting against Dr Daka, an evil Japanese scientist scheming against the United States of America, during the attacks of Pearl Harbour. It was a farcical take but ensured that Batman reached the households who never had heard about the caped crusader.
9. George Clooney – Batman and Robin (1997)
George Clooney, a terrific actor, ageing like a perfect wine. But how bad was he, as Batman? He portrayed the character in Joel Schumacher directed ‘Batman and Robin’ and it was bashed by the critics so much that per his own admission, the film may have had killed the franchise! It had indeed because Warner Bros. cancelled the franchise and it stayed cancelled for eight years before it was rebooted with the critically acclaimed ‘Batman Begins’. Co-starring with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Chris O Donnell as Robin, George Clooney will always be remembered as the worst Batman on screen for his rubber nipple wielding crappy persona.
8. Val Kilmer – Batman Forever (1995)
Well, to be honest, Val Kilmer struggled to fit into the mould that Micheal Keaton had left before him. His performance was found to be less convincing compared to the glorious outing of his predecessor. ‘Batman Forever’ was Warner Bros. very first attempt to come out of the dark undertones of Tim Burton’s creation and be a little more family friendly. Tommy Lee Jones played Harvey Dent/Two Face and Jim Carrey was at his best as Edward Nygma/The Riddler. Despite being a success at the box office, Val Kilmer never looked like the man who was tormented by his parents’ death. For an unconvincing performance, the blame goes squarely to Val Kilmer. Disaster forever !!
7. Ben Affleck – Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Justice League (2017)
The most unfortunate actor to have worn the Batman costume is Ben Affleck. Terrific actor, decent director and amazing story writer but most abused Batman, is how Ben Affleck is going to be remembered. After Christian Bale hung his boots, the search for a Batman was on. Ben Affleck came on board as an ageing Batman, who comes out of retirement as Superman arrives in Metropolis. He wasn’t half bad, even did a great job as the brooding, old Batman. But the constant social media hounding and the uneven box office performances of the films he starred as Batman had already done the damage. Most recently, he bowed out of the role as well as from the unnamed Batman film that he was supposed to direct and star.
6. David Mazouz – Gotham: The Series (2014-2019)
David Mazouz is technically not Batman, but he plays a young Bruce Wayne. The CW series ‘Gotham’ is about the days at the Gotham City when there was no Batman. The show details about the origin stories about almost every nemesis that Batman later faces in his life. David, as the young Bruce Wayne, led by his trusted butler Alfred learns as he grows up looking for answers about the untimely deaths of his parents. To be honest, the show puts more emphasis on the villains rather than Bruce, but amidst some terrific actors, David Mazouz has managed to hold his ground firmly.
5. Will Arnett – The Lego Movie (2014), The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Staying true to the genre, ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ is the Lego retelling about the caped crusader. Will Arnett voices the Batman in it, continuing from ‘The Lego Movie’. His performance as Batman is one of the major highlights of the Lego film series. In ‘The Lego Movie’, he plays the desperate attention seeking superhero who is a master builder. In ‘The Lego Batman Movie’, he is shown as a loner, who goes after the Joker. The film itself is a clever one, making callbacks to every Batman movie. It juggles well between spoof and campy comedy and Arnett does pretty well too.
4. Adam West – Batman: TV Serial (1966-1968)
Adam West is best remembered for his campy, fun take on the caped crusader. Starring in the TV Series of the 1960s, Adam West made the role of his own. The TV series ran for three seasons, between 1966 to 1968 and constituted of 120 episodes. The storylines were often created as two-part episodes with the first one always ending on a cliffhanger note. West’s performance as Batman was silly and funny and it brought out the bright side of the dark knight. Over the years, Adam West’s ‘Batman’ has become a pop culture phenomenon and is remembered rather fondly.
3. Kevin Conroy – Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
Kevin Conroy’s Batman is arguably one of the best voiceover performances of all animated characters. The show itself remained faithful to the original source material as well as the mature and dark undertones that Frank Miller and Tim Burton explored in their individual works of graphic novel and films respectively. Kevin Conroy is known for having two distinct voices for his Batman and Bruce Wayne persona. He has voiced over the character in seven DC animated movies. The next time you hear these iconic lines, you know who’s behind it! – “I am vengeance! I am the night! I am Batman!”
2. Christian Bale – Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Batman of this generation and the millennials, Christian Bale took a calculated risk while playing the dark knight. Warner Bros. was rebooting the series, eight years after the disastrous ‘Batman and Robin’ and they had given the directorial reins to Christopher Nolan. The fans waited with bated breaths. And the result was outstanding. Nolan had brought back Batman from the brink of ruins to the ecstasy of stardom. Bale, who is known for his perfectionist attitude, gave his 100% for this role. He had perfected the gruff of Batman as well the charm of Bruce Wayne. Bale and Nolan did a trilogy and in between came up with a movie that will remain as the benchmark of the greatest superhero movie ever made – ‘The Dark Knight’.
1. Micheal Keaton – Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1982)
Had there been a social media, when Micheal Keaton became the Batman, things would’ve been brutal. Criticised even more than Ben Affleck, the fans poured their outrage over Keaton’s casting as Batman. At the time, when the movie was being made, Keaton was known for his comedic roles such as ‘Mr Mom’, ‘Night Shift’ and ‘Beetlejuice’, though his 1988 hit ‘Clean and Sober’ was a clear departure from his usual comic fare. The fans were worried that Keaton and Burton’s Batman will turn out to be a farce. How wrong they were eventually proven to be? Keaton’s Batman was the perfect amalgamation of the darkness of Batman and charm and wit of Bruce Wayne. His portrayal of the tormented superhero is considered as the finest outing of the caped crusader.