10 Best Batman Performances in Movies, TV, and Games
Those Who Have Donned the Cape and Cowl
Batman has been around for over 77 years, and beyond the comics, the character has been played by dozens of actors in film and TV. Here's our compilation of the best Batman performances in movies, TV, and games.
Adam West in Batman: The TV Show
Adam West's portrayal of Batman is one of the campiest interpretations of the Caped Crusader. His performance in the 1960s Batman TV show is polarizing: either you love it for its B-grade acting or you despise it for that very same reason. It's a far cry from today's modern, darker Batman, but it's a performance well worth recognizing for the way it embodies the hokey spectacle of the Silver Age of Comics.
Michael Keaton in Tim Burton's Batman
For nearly 20 years, Adam West's over-the-top portrayal of Batman dominated the cultural zeitgeist. But that all changed when director Tim Burton's Batman released in 1989, which featured a much darker and serious Batman played by Michael Keaton. The actor's casting initially received negative reactions from fans who couldn't see him playing the role due to his work at the time being predominantly in comedy films. But Keaton embraced the role--studying iconic Batman storylines like The Dark Knight Returns--to give us one of the most iconic portrayals of the character in film history. It's just a shame he couldn't turn his neck in that batsuit.
Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy
After a string of mixed Batman performances from actors Val Kilmer and George Clooney, the time came for a new Batman. Christian Bale donned the cape and cowl this time around for Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins and its subsequent sequels. Compared to previous film iterations, Bale's layered, nuanced portrayal captures a more realistic and grounded take on Batman. His performance was also the first to show the progression and impact of Batman's crime fighting on Bruce Wayne's psyche over the years.
Kevin Conroy in Batman: The Animated Series, Arkham Games
Many actors have voiced Batman in animated TV shows and film, but few have had the impact of Kevin Conroy. Fans will recognize Conroy for voicing Batman in the critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series (1992). He has played the role for nearly 25 years, an extensive tenure he has used to express Batman's psychological depth and complexity across numerous performances. Even now Conroy continues to reprise his role in DC's other animated features, as well as Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham series games. With a Batman voice as distinctive as his, it's no surprise that he's been at it for so long.
Will Arnett in The Lego Movie (Lego Batman)
Lego Batman should be no stranger to gamers. With a trilogy of games developed by Lego game developer Traveller's Tales, his presence is certainly widespread. But while that version of Lego Batman offered an endearing parody of its source material, nothing comes close to the hilarity of the Lego Batman featured in 2014's The Lego Movie. Voiced by Will Arnett, Lego Batman's personality was given an over-the-top dose of angst and self-satirical charm (refer to the lyrics of his song "Untitled Self Portrait: Darkness! No Parents!"). Arnett's gruffy-voiced portrayal pokes fun at Batman at every turn, which is precisely why his performance of the character is so memorable.
Diedrich Bader in Batman: Brave and the Bold
Diedrich Bader played the role of Batman in the light-hearted, Silver Age-inspired Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series. Compared to Kevin Conroy or the other voice actors in this list, Bader's performance was laced with a dry, ironic wit, creating a comical rendition of Batman that was far more playful and aware of the cheesy scenarios he was thrown into. While Bader may not have the highest street cred in the roster of Batman voice actors, his contribution is a worthwhile take on the character that dares to be more than the grim, brooding Batman portrayals we've seen in the recent past.
Peter Weller in The Dark Knight Returns
If there's any rendition of Batman that has been held in such high regard in comic books over the years, it's the Batman from Frank Miller's iconic The Dark Knight Returns storyline. Fortunately, that storyline was adapted into a two-part animated film, where the role was played by veteran actor Peter Weller (Robocop, Star Trek: Into Darkness). Weller offers a fantastic performance with a haggard and husky tone that encapsulates Miller's Batman--an aged, cynical shell of a man embarking on a renewed crusade against crime after ten years in retirement.
Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Ben Affleck's portrayal of an aged Batman encapsulates much of what makes Batman from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns so memorable. He's brutal, cynical, and calculated. And he isn't afraid to hurt people, displaying a violent physicality against criminals. Out of all the film portrayals of Batman, Affleck's performance is certainly one of the darkest, showing just how grim reality can get for a seasoned crime fighter that has been at it for too long.
Ben McKenzie in Batman: Year One
Ben McKenzie--an actor who comic books fans will recognize for his role as Commissioner Gordon in the Gotham TV series--had once played Batman in an animated adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One. McKenzie's performance captures a much younger Batman at work, one that's inexperienced but confident and deliberate. His Batman's overwhelming desire to act is apparent in the delivery of every line, and you can feel it; you're right there with him in this iconic re-telling of the Caped Crusader's origin story.
Bruce Greenwood in Batman: Under the Red Hood, Young Justice
If there's any actor talented enough to be Kevin Conroy's successor should he ever decide to fully step down from the role, it would be Bruce Greenwood. His rendition of the character in Batman: Under the Red Hood and Young Justice fit perfectly within the mold of Conroy's work, providing a gruff, methodical, and seasoned performance. Greenwood undoubtedly captures the struggle of Batman's plight as a crime fighter.