Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986)
Lil Christian made his screen acting debut in this TV movie, following a couple of appearances in adverts including, bizarrely, a promo for Pac-Man cereal .
Anastasia looked at the mystery surrounding the Russian duchess who was believed to have survived when the rest of her family was murdered during the Russian Revolution. Bale played Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia, a younger sibling of the enigmatic princess.
Fighting Spirit? He seems mostly oblivious to what's going on here.
Empire of the Sun (1987)
Bale's Hollywood career got off to an impressive start when he bagged the lead role in Steven Spielberg's WWII PoW drama. Jamie Graham (Bale) is the child of wealthy British parents living in Shanghai, but after being separated from his folks he's taken prisoner by Japanese forces.
Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by J.G. Ballard, Bale gives an extremely believable performance, naturally hitting the innocence, distress and determination that the role requires.
Fighting Spirit? An early example of his survival strength.
Henry V (1989)
Christian continued his run of working with renowned talents when he appeared in Kenneth Branagh's Shakespeare adap. This gritty take on the Bard's tale of the English king focused on the brutality of battle.
Bale doesn't have a huge amount of work to do here, but he delivers the dialogue with aplomb, proving himself adaptable and well-suited to various period roles.
Fighting Spirit? The kid's got moxie, and he appears to be happy getting stuck into the battling.
Treasure Island (1990)
Sadly not The Muppets' version, this was a TV adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson adventure. Charlton Heston starred as Long John Silver, and the movie was written and directed by his son, Fraser Clarke Heston.
Bale plays Jim Hawkins, the young lad who gets swept up in the treasure hunt, and he appears opposite such luminaries as Christopher Lee, Oliver Reed and Pete Postlethwaite. All in all it's a pretty faithful take on the book, with no major discrepancies or twists.
Fighting Spirit? The West Country bumpkin accent belies the little lad's bravery.
A Murder of Quality (1991)
Christian Bale eschewed the standard British actor route of appearing in The Bill or Midsomer Murders , but he got at taste of TV crime in this John Le Carre adaptation (the author also wrote the script).
Denholm Elliott plays MI6 agent George Smiley, who heads to a boarding school to investigate some mysterious goings on. Bale hinted at his dark side playing Tim Perkins, a student who comes under suspicion.
Fighting Spirit? It's more of a sinister aggression here.
The News Boys (1992)
Bale showed off his rarely used singing and dancing skills in this Disney musical. Future High School Musical director Kenny Ortega was at the helm, and Alan Menken provided the score, but this was a flop on release.
Jack (Bale) is the unofficial leader of the Newsboys, a bunch of Manhattan paper delivery boys who went on strike in 1899 to get better pay for their work. Unsurprisingly, the subject matter wasn't exactly perfect for a family musical, but the film has developed a bit of a cult following.
Fighting Spirit? He doesn't back down when it comes to his cause.
Swing Kids (1993)
Why hasn't Bale put on his dancing shoes again in the latter part of his career? He was on toe-tapping form again in this historical drama about a bunch of German teens drying to evade the oppression of the Nazi regime.
They get together to dance to banned American swing music, but soon they find themselves drawn into the Hitler Youth, and find their allegiances tested. Watchable, but it barely touches on the horrors of war.
Fighting Spirit? He seems to regret giving in to the Nazis as easily as he does.
Prince of Jutland (1994)
Bale still seemed to be eschewing contemporary dramas for period fare when he took a role in this movie. It was an adaptation of Danish legend, Amleth, which formed the inspiration for Shakey's Hamlet.
This movie barely got released, despite the presence of Gabriel Byrne, Helen Mirren and Brian Cox.
Fighting Spirit? He proves his manly worth hunting boar for dinner.
Little Women (1994)
Bale got a romantic role in this adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott novel. His Laurie unsuccessfully tries to woo older March sister Jo (Winona Ryder), but he's rebuffed and later gets with Amy when she grows from Kirsten Dunst into Samantha Mathis.
The film isn't actually as sugary and sentimental as you might expect, and it's easy to get swept up in the family saga.
Fighting Spirit? This is about the sappiest you've ever seen the future Dark Knight.
Ten years before he appeared in Terrence Malick's The New World , Christian lent his vocal chords to the Disney story of the Native American princess.
The story is unsurprisingly toned down for the family market, and this isn't classic Disney by any stretch of the imagination. Save for a couple of decent songs, this is almost entirely forgettable. Bale lends an English accent to Thomas, while Mel Gibson attempts the same (albeit less effectively) as Captain John Smith.
Fighting Spirit? He's willing to put all hands on deck when required, but this soft-edged Disney sugarcoats any historic brutality.
The Portrait of a Lady (1996)
Nicole Kidman starred in this adaptation of Henry James' novel, directed by Jane Campion.
She plays Isabel, an American in Europe, whose every move seems fraught with problems, not least in her attraction to unsuitable men.
Campion knows how to cast an impressively gloomy shadow over her tragic heroine, but Bale barely gets a look in as Edward Rosier, a potential suitor for Isabel's stepdaughter.
Fighting Spirit? He seems pretty determined to get his gal.
The Secret Agent (1996)
By this point in his career, Christian Bale must have been extremely comfortable with period adaps of lofty literary sources. Here he took a role in this movie version of Joseph Conrad's novel, which starred Bob Hoskins as Verloc.
Bale brought nuance to Stevie, the mentally-disabled brother of Verloc's wife Winnie (Patricia Arquette), but the film is unable to trim the dense novel into a thrilling film. Hitchcock's loose adaptation, Sabotage , showed less adherence to the source material and was more enjoyable for it.
Fighting Spirit? His condition requires his big sis to take care of him.
Bale earned decent notices for his role in this film, which is based on a Julian Barnes novel. The 70s setting allows Bale to don some mutton chops and an impressive bouffant 'do, but it's the nearest thing he's had so far to an almost contemporary role.
He stars as Chris, a married man happy with his settled-down life, until his old friend Toni reappears, and reminds him of the exciting, unpredictable life he used to lead.
Fighting Spirit? Well, he does have a minor rebellion against his buttoned-down lifestyle.
Velvet Goldmine (1998)
Bale would later star again for director Todd Haynes in I'm Not There , but unfortunately this glam-rock mystery just isn't as interesting as that later effort.
Bale plays a reporter sent to investigate the faked death of rock star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers doing his best Bowie impersonation). Following the Citizen Kane formula, the movie jumps between Bale's 1980s reporting and Slade's 70s heyday. The movie is pretty irritating, and even if you're a fan of the era you're likely to be annoyed by the pervading feeling of inauthenticity.
Fighting Spirit? He's much more committed to the story than we were.
All the Little Animals (1998)
Bale again defies his actorly good looks to take a challenging role in another offbeat indie.
He plays troubled, mentally-challenged young man Bobby, who runs away to escape from his overbearing stepfather.
On his journey he meets up with Mr Summers (John Hurt), and the pair bond while burying various forms of roadkill. Interesting, but ultimately too stolid to really engage.
Fighting Spirit? Another character who devotes himself rigidly to a cause.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
Less well-received than other Shakespeare updates doing the rounds at this time, director Michael Hoffman takes one of the Bard's most magical, lively and downright funny plays, and delivers a disjointed mess.
It's the scenes in the enchanted forest that are a real letdown, especially considering movie magic should have been able to give the stage a real run for it's money here.
Instead, it all feels like a filmed panto. Still, Bale, Dominic West, Calista Flockhart and Anna Friel play the lovelorn foursome at the centre of the fairies' mischief with gusto.
Fighting Spirit? Nah, his resolve is at the whim of the fairies here.
Mary, Mother of Jesus (1999)
Bale, who's currently between shoots for The Fighter and The Dark Knight Rises , has grown his hair and beard to epic, biblical proportions, proving that he can pull off any style. But this isn't the first time he's rocked the Jesus look.
In this TV movie, Bale played the son of God himself. The film emphasises Jesus' relationship with his mother, without straying too far from the traditional story.
Fighting Spirit? He captures the King of Men's steely determination.
American Psycho (2000)
Patrick Bateman, a role momentarily lost to an interested Leonardo DiCaprio, remains one of Bale's most impressive performances, and it's no surprise it became his Hollywood calling card (it must surely have helped him secure the Batman role).
Mary Harron's movie mostly avoids the graphic violence of Bret Easton Ellis' source novel, and instead plays up the darkly comic humour as it satirises 80s excess. Bale effortlessly juggles Bateman's cool mask of normality, and the demented madman lurking underneath.
Fighting Spirit? He's got a sadistic streak in his fantasies, but his contemporaries take him for a sap.
Following American Psycho , Bale played the villain while Samuel L. Jackson essayed the iconic cop. Jackson is perfect as Shaft, but the movie is always cool, never substantial.
Bale's racist murderer Walter Wade Jr is hissably smarmy, but he never seems like a real challenge to the private dick. Sequels were expected, but nothing followed this 'meh' reboot.
Fighting Spirit? His nasty essence has been given free reign via his wealthy family.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)
This Louis de Bernières' adaptatation brought Penelope Cruz's magnetic screen presence to a wider audience, but did little else besides.
There's simply not enough meat on the story to generate drama of any depth. Bale has the thankless role of Mandras, a Greek who ruins his relationship with Pelagia (Cruz) when he leaves to join the war.
Bale does a surprisingly decent Greek accent, though it's totally swamped by Nic Cage's stab at Italian, which sounds like he's auditioning for a Dolmio advert.
Fighting Spirit? He goes off to war, but doesn't fight hard enough for his woman.
Laurel Canyon (2002)
The underwhelming reception of Captain Corelli's Mandolin and Shaft marked the start of a lull in Bale's career, in which he kept turning up in movies that ended up being less than the sum of their parts.
This relationship drama, in which Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale play a couple whose engagement hits the rocks when they move to LA, was directed by The Kids Are All Right 's Lisa Cholodenko, but this contains none of the insight or keeness of that later effort.
Fighting Spirit? He gets pretty testy when the family pressures pile up, but ultimately he seems a bit apathetic.
Reign of Fire (2002)
Of all the films from Bale's lull-period, this dragon-spiked actioner had the biggest discrepancy in the promised-delivered ratio: where were the scenes of the fire-breathers descending on London as sold on the atmospheric posters?
In the dragon-decimated future, the WTF-named Quinn Abercromby heads up a bunch of ragtag survivors, before a bunch of American dragon hunters arrive, led by Matthew McConaughey's seriously-WTF-named Denton Van Zan. The rare action scenes underwhelm instead of breaking the tedium.
Fighting Spirit? He manages to survive and even turn on his scaly oppressors.
The last film in Bale's disappointing run: once again it sounded it like it could be another decent opportunity for the actor to make good on his American Psycho promise.
Equilibrium gained a little cult fame in following years, and no-one knocked Bale's performance, but this sub-Orwellian actioner bombed on release. The martial arts-infused gunplay ('Gun Kata') wouldn't have given any of the Matrix team sleepless nights.
Fighting Spirit? Once he's off the government-sanctioned drugs he develops a little more pep.
The Machinist (2004)
After disappointment had loomed in potentially-mainstream flops, Bale threw himself into Brad Anderson's tricksy thriller. The shocking amount of weight that Bale dropped for the role has since become Hollywood legend.
It can be tough to watch, but Bale's compelling presence makes it impossible to look away. The final rug-pull doesn't quite feel deserving of Bale's performance, but it's still well-worth catching.
Fighting Spirit? Reznik runs away from his problems rather than facing them head-on.
Batman Begins (2005)
After grabbing headlines worldwide for The Machinist , Bale kicked off his ascent into Hollywood megastardom again. Christopher Nolan's genre-redefining reboot put the focus squarely on Bruce Wayne and his crimefighting alter ego, both of which are ably captured by Bale.
The real-world dimension added extra crunch to the action, and helped make superhero movies respectable. Bale also manage to beef up for the role following his dramatic weight loss (actually putting on too much muscle in pre-production).
Fighting Spirit? We get to see Wayne transform his anger and disillusionment into a positive force for Gotham's residents.
Harsh Times (2005)
Bale hulked up again to play a disillusioned Gulf War vet in this thriller from Training Day screenwriter David Ayer.
The film follows a similar structure to that good-cop-bad-cop caper, as Bale's Jim goes on a rampage of destruction with mate Mike (Freddy Rodriguez) in tow.
Harsh Times also hints a better films, such as Taxi Driver , that it can't live up to, but it once again proves that Bale's a screen force to be reckoned with.
Fighting Spirit? Post-traumatic distress has pushed him towards uncontrollable violence.
The New World (2005)
Terrence Malick's superb Pocahontas tale featured a stunning central performance from naturalistic, enigmatic newcomer Q'orianka Kilcher as the beguiling Native American.
Colin Farrell was also on form as John Smith, and Bale took a supporting role in the second half of the film as John Rolfe, an English settler who marries Pocahontas and settles her into a western wife role. Bale has a subtly affecting role that isn't lessened for lacking the intensity of his earlier performances.
Fighting Spirit? It's a more passive character than we've recently come to expect from Bale.
Rescue Dawn (2006)
Demonstrating his physical commitment to a role again, Bale dropped another tremendous amount of weight to star in Werner Herzog's PoW movie, sporting cheekbones that look like they could take someone's eye out.
Herzog had explored the character of Dieter Dengler in an earlier documentary. The weight-loss isn't the only physical challenge for Bale, who takes a hell of a pummelling (and snacks on some maggots) during his internment, and his escape's no picnic.
Fighting Spirit? This is one hell of a survival tale, even from the actor's perspective...
The Prestige (2006)
Bale re-teamed with Nolan for this absorbingly-tricksy cinematic magic show. Towards the end of the 19th century, magicians Alfred Borden (Bale) and Robert Angier (Jackman) are locked in a rivalry.
Their competitive nature turns deadly when Angier's wife dies during a trick set up by Borden. As with much of Nolan's work it defies easy genre categorisation, and despite an impressive supporting cast, it's the tension between Bale and Jackman that drives things along.
Fighting Spirit? His character dedicates himself wholly to his craft, to the detriment of his personal relationships.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Bale earned his western badge here, in James Mangold's period actioner. Dan Evans (Bale) is a Civil War vet who agrees to escort outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to the eponymous train, in exchange for money and, hopefully, a little respect.
The chemistry between Bale's straight-laced do-gooder and Crowe's cocky varmit keeps the movie entertaining, and the final shootout showdown impresses.
Fighting Spirit? Evans is desperate to redeem his name, and he's a crackshot with a rifle which helps.
I'm Not There (2007)
Todd Haynes ( Velvet Goldmine ) refused to walk the line when it came to moviefying Bob Dylan's life story. The gimmick of using six different (and vastly different at that) actors to portray the man at various stages of his life is far less distracting than expected.
Bale's portion of the film is shot in a documentary style, as he plays controversial folk singer Jack Rollins and his born-again counterpart Pastor John. Haynes managed the not-inconsiderable feat of making the movie accessible to Dylan fans and newcomers alike.
Fighting Spirit? His political grumblings give way to a mission to spread God's word.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Following on from the decent reception of Batman Begins , The Dark Knight arrived as a genuine phenomenon. Heath Ledger's deranged Joker got all the attention, and he was the perfect foil for Bale's unswerving vigilante.
As well as battling the escalating crime in Gotham, this time Wayne has to deal with woman problems, form an alliance with the city's new DA Harvey Dent, and make do without Wayne Manor and the Batcave while they're being renovated.
Fighting Spirit? He eventually plumps to be "whatever Gotham needs me to be" despite some typical superhero second-act doubts.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
One of the rare Bale vehicles that lacked even an interesting role for the actor, this weak attempt at revitalising the Terminator franchise feels utterly soulless.
The war against the machines was hinted at sufficiently in Cameron's entries, and judging from Salvation , we're not convinced it deserves more movie time dedicated to it. Bale doesn't get under the skin of mankind's saviour John Connor, with his much publicised on-set rant containing more interest than anything in the actual movie.
Fighting Spirit? Connor doesn't exactly inspire devotion.
Public Enemies (2009)
Infamous bankrobber John Dillinger was the subject of Michael Mann's period thriller, which is something like Heat circa 1930.
Bale is Melvin Purvis, the G-Man on the tail of Johnny Depp's charismatic crim. As the dogged pursuer, Bale plays it inscrutably, never swerving from his brief, and putting any visible traces of humanity a distant second to his professional determination.
Fighting Spirit? Nothing but.
The Fighter (2010)
Bale is back in cinemas this week in The Fighter . His role as Dicky Eklund, the half-brother to Mark Wahlberg's Micky Ward, has seen him pick up a lot of silverware on the awards circuit, and he's the favourite to take home the Best Supporting Actor gong at the Oscars.
It's one of his most impressive roles to date, as he again sheds weight, and any sense of vanity, to wholly embody the larger-than-life Dickie. Read the official Total Film review of The Fighter right here .
After The Fighter , he'll be donning the cowl again for The Dark Knight Rises , which is expected to be the final Bat-movie for the actor and director Christopher Nolan.