Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)
The Film: John Madden’s often infuriatingly saccharine period romp in which an engaged woman falls for an Italian commander while her beau is off fighting the war.
Bale Intensity: Bale clearly wasn’t happy with the material here, seeming to regret signing on by delivering a stilted, overwrought performance that wastes most of his natural talent.
The Secret Agent (1996)
The Film: In the late 19th century, Russian spy Verloc (Bob Hoskins) makes a decision that will affect the lives of those closest to him, including his wife and son (Bale).
Bale Intensity: Bale struggles with a demanding role as a mentally retarded young man, mostly because this is a film that feels like a ship without a rudder. Don’t worry, it gets better…
Mary, Mother Of Jesus (1999)
The Film: A twee, all-too-mechanical biblical retelling that has Bale donning a crown of thorns as Jesus.
Bale Intensity: As with many of his earlier roles, Bale’s hampered by a script that doesn’t play to his strengths. Still, he manages to rise above the material with an affecting performance that strives to break the limitations of a made-for-TV movie.
The Film: Woeful remake of the blaxploitation classic with Samuel L. Jackson as the titular detective.
Bale Intensity: Bale’s feeling a little too typecast as Shaft’s nemesis Walter Wade Jr, a character who’s basically Patrick Bateman Lite and an unworthy adversary for the ass-kicking cop.
Prince Of Jutland (1994)
The Film: A Viking epic from director Gabriel Axel, which retells the tale of Hamlet using the original Danish legend.
Bale Intensity: This is more like it – Bale plays the ‘mad’ second son of the King of Jutland, and nails it. A striking hint at the actor’s potential, and one that really brings an otherwise workmanlike film alive.
Reign Of Fire (2002)
The Film: Twenty years in the future, dragons have been unleashed in London, which has quickly fallen into a fiery ruin.
Bale Intensity: Bale establishes himself as an unlikely action hero as dragon-hunter Quinn. A prickly, hot-blooded lead, he holds his own against a tattooed, skin-headed Matthew McConaughey.
The Portrait Of A Lady (1996)
The Film: Adapted from Henry James’ novel by director Jane Campion. An American heiress attempts to ‘find’ herself in Europe, and rejects the advances of numerous suitors.
Bale Intensity: Bale steps lightly in this literary adap, relying on his good looks and charm to get him through a tiny role that’s little more than a cameo.
A Midsummer Nights Dream (1999)
The Film: Shakespeare adaptation starring Kris Kline, Rupert Everett and Michelle Pfeiffer. Plus Bale, of course, as Demetrius.
Bale Intensity: There’s little intensity to speak of here as Bale embraces the jovial material for a fun, tongue-in-cheek performance.
The Film: Disney’s animated retelling of the English invasion of Virginia in the 17th Century. Bale voices Thomas, a British settler.
Bale Intensity: Intensity? In a Disney movie? You can almost hear Bale straining to bring some depth to his 2D creation. Sadly, he leaves little impression.
The Film: Chris (Bale) starts rethinking his marriage when a friend he’s not seen for a decade turns up and has him reminiscing about his life before all of that responsibility.
Bale Intensity: This is a romp in more than one sense of the word, with Bale hopping from one bed to another for an array of sexual encounters. He manages to bring the emotion, too – though the film’s more interested in the bed-sheet escapades.
Laurel Canyon (2002)
The Film: Domestic drama from Lisa Cholodenko ( The Kids Are All Right ) in which Sam (Bale) and his fiancée move into her parents’ house where differences in opinion causes sparks to fly.
Bale Intensity: The film’s not as solid as it could have been, but Bale proves he can easily transcend limiting material by submerging himself in a character. Here is no different.
Swing Kids (1993)
The Film: Young kids living in Nazi Germany lift their spirits by listening to banned swing music.
Bale Intensity: Before he became Hollywood’s go-to guy for smoulder, Bale showed he could do morose and tragic with Swing Kids , his arc easily being the most heartbreaking of the film’s four young leads.
The News Boys (1992)
The Film: Musical directed by Kenny Ortega (High School Musical) set in 1899, where Jack ‘Cowboy’ Kelly (Christian Bale) plots a newsboy strike when newspaper prices go up.
Bale Intensity: Far from the dark, intense presence we know he can be, Bale’s literally all-singing and all-dancing in Ortega’s film – an impressive feat, and a good one to remind yourself that Bale can do more than just brood.
Mio In The Land Of Faraway (1987)
The Film: Fantasy based on a book by Astrid Lindgren. Bale stars as Jum-Jum, who’s transported out of his boring everyday life to a land where he must defeat an evil knight.
Bale Intensity: Bale impresses with a very early role. He holds his own as the film’s lead, and even if Mio isn’t the best kid’s fantasy out there, Bale’s dramatic chops are definitely coming along nicely.
Anastasia: The Mystery Of Anna (1986)
The Film: TV movie starring Amy Irving as Anna Anderson, who claims she is the last living child of Russia’s last Czar and Czarina.
Bale Intensity: In his movie debut, Bale is an adorable little moppet with potential – though there’s no glimmer of that trademark intensity just yet.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
The Film: McG attempts to give the Terminator movie franchise a kickstart after the lackluster third outing, jumping forward in time to after Judgement Day has already happened.
Bale Intensity: With Arnie missing (mostly) from this Terminator, Bale has big boots to fill. He does the best he can with shallow material, relying on his innate intensity to get through. Which he mostly does - but we can’t help pining for what so almost was.
The New World (2005)
The Film: Bale stars in Terence Malick’s movie comeback, a Pocahontas inspired drama based around the English exploration of Virginia.
Bale Intensity: As the stoic John Rolfe, Bale keeps it reigned in and lets Malick’s gorgeous visuals do most of the talking.
Velvet Goldmine (1998)
The Film: Newspaper reporter Arthur Stuart (Bale) investigates the rise of glam rock in the 1970s, and gets more than he bargained for when he meets rockstar Brian Slade’s (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) former lover Curt (Ewan McGregor)…
Bale Intensity: It’s all about the clothes and the lippy as Bale dons platform shoes, make-up and skin-tight ‘70s togs. Even under all that Bale maintains his unmistakable intensity.
A Murder Of Quality (1991)
The Film: Written by seminal author John le Carré, Quality follows George Smiley (Denholm Elliott), who helps a colleague investigate a mysterious letter.
Bale Intensity: Bale crops up as a school boy of questionable morals, turning in a fine little performance that bubbles with confidence.
I'm Not There. (2007)
The Film: Todd Haynes’ pseudo-biopic inspired by the life of Bob Dylan. Bale, Ben Whishaw, Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger all play aspects of Dylan’s personality.
Bale Intensity: Haynes noted Bale’s intensity early on when, during a stills photography shoot, most of the shots of Bale came out looking suitably moody and intense. In contrast, most of co-star Julianne Moore’s were unusable because she kept laughing…
All The Little Animals (1998)
The Film: Bobby Platt (Bale) escapes an abusive father, befriending an old man with whom he wanders the highway and buries dead animals.
Bale Intensity: Bale strikes gold as Bobby, a ‘slow’ young man who’s essentially a 10 year old trapped in a 25-year-old man’s body. It’s one of the most absorbing, multi-faceted roles he’s ever tackled.
Public Enemies (2009)
The Film: Michael Mann takes us on a trip back to the 1930s, where gangster John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is making a living robbing banks. FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Bale) is the one on his tail.
Bale Intensity: Mann exploits Bale’s trademark intensity well here, never giving the character much more than a perfunctory backstory and one single goal – to stop Dillinger at all costs. It’s a streamlined approach that works beautifully thanks to Bale.
Harsh Times (2005)
The Film: Former petty criminal Jim Davis (Bale) falls back into bad habits when he fails to get a job with the LAPD.
Bale Intensity: Director David Ayer offered Bale the job after previously auditioning him for a role in Training Day (that role went to Ethan Hawke). The reason he liked the Brit actor? Naturally, his intensity…
Little Women (1994)
The Film: Based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel, this Oscar-nominated drama follows the March sisters as they’re raised during the American Civil War.
Bale Intensity: Far from the intensity he’s most known for now, Bale makes for an affable everyman in Little Women – a handsome, charming good guy. He even manages to strike some decent chemistry with Winona Ryder.
Treasure Island (1990)
The Film: One of numerous film adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s defining swashbuckler. Bale plays Jim Hawkins, whose encounter with Captain Billy Bones sets him on a sea-swept voyage.
Bale Intensity: A likeably, wily young hero, Bale plays it straight and narrow and emerges as one of the definitive on-screen Hawkins’.
Rescue Dawn (2006)
The Film: Vietnam War drama in which a US Fighter Pilot attempts to survive in the wild after being shot down during battle.
Bale Intensity: Bale’s obsession with losing and putting on weight for roles during the Noughties saw him shift 55 pounds for Rescue Dawn . Worse still, he ate real worms for a scene...
The Flowers Of War (2011)
The Film: Historical war drama from director Yimou Zhang. Bale plays John Miller, a Westerner who poses as a priest in a church that’s a refuge for Japanese women in 1937.
Bale Intensity: Though he’s not given loads of material to work with, Bale effortlessly reflects the horror of the war in his glassy eyes – it’s through him that the story gets its emotional heft.
The Film: Greenlit in the wake of The Matrix ’s success, that era defining film’s influences are all over this otherwise enjoyable sci-fi – not least in the numerous dazzling action scenes.
Bale Intensity: Think it really looked like Bale was fighting Taye Diggs in the film? He was – the kendo-style swords they used during the fight kept breaking because the actors were continually hitting each other with them. Now that’s dedication.
Henry V (1989)
The Film: Kenneth Branagh’s Oscar-sweeping adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play about England’s conquest of France.
Bale Intensity: A young Bale makes a blink-miss appearance in Branagh’s classic adap during one of the film’s most affecting scenes, as Henry V carries him through a battlefield to breath-taking musical cues.
American Psycho (2000)
The Film: Mary Harron’s timely, unflinching adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s controversial novel about a Wall Street executive (Bale) who goes on a murder spree.
Bale Intensity: Before he embarked on alternating crash diets with hours down the gym, Bale underwent a complete transformation to play Patrick Bateman. On top of intensive work-outs, he got his teeth fixed – then spent the entire shoot speaking with an American accent.
Empire Of The Sun (1987)
The Film: Steven Spielberg’s epic war drama – and at 152 minutes long, it really is epic. The plot follows young Jamie (Bale), who tries to survive during the Japanese occupation in the Second World War.
Bale Intensity: Just 12 years old at the time, Bale beat 4,000 other young hopefuls to the role of Jamie, proving Spielberg really does have an eye for burgeoning talent.
3:10 To Yuma (2007)
The Film: The second film to adapt Elmore Leonard’s short story Three-Ten To Yuma (the first was in 1957), Yuma sees a rancher holding an outlaw captive as he awaits transportation.
Bale Intensity: Bale dials down the intensity to deliver a measured, surprisingly quiet turn as a put-upon everyman. A sure sign of the actor’s diversity.
The Machinist (2004)
The Film: Bale plays a factory worker with a case of insomnia so severe that he begins to doubt his own sanity.
Bale Intensity: If there’s one word that can be used synonymous with ‘Bale’, it’s ‘dedication’. He proved how far he was willing to go for a role with The Machinist , which saw him lose over 60 pounds. It’s all the more shocking when you remember this wasn’t even a year before he shot Batman Begins…
The Fighter (2010)
The Film: Autobiographical drama that centres around boxer brothers Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his tear away brother Dicky (Bale).
Bale Intensity: Barely recognizable as the gaunt, rakish Dicky, Bale shed the pounds again after bulking up for The Dark Knight . His dedication to the role was paramount – he even performed Dicky-esque vanishing acts for hours on end throughout filming.
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
The Film: Studio Ghibli’s epic animated fantasy in which a young girl is cursed into an old woman’s body and must find a way to break the spell.
Bale Intensity: Bale signed on to voice the English-language version of Castle after seeing Spirited Away . Good thing, too, because he brings a trembling intensity to the character of Howl that might have been lost in the hands of a lesser actor.
Batman Begins (2005)
The Film: Nolan reboots big screen Batman with a grounded, staggeringly realistic take on the material. He also shoves Batman front and centre for, arguably, the first time cinematically.
Bale Intensity: The gruff, guttural ‘Bat voice’ surprised viewers, but it’s a typically ‘out there’ quirk from an actor who’s never afraid to try new things. In Bale’s capable hands, Nolan’s ambition to make a Batman film actually about Batman succeeds majestically – Bale’s Bat is fascinating, multi-faceted and a genuine hero.
The Prestige (2006)
The Film: Warring magicians clash in Chris Nolan’s effortlessly stylish period thriller.
Bale Intensity: Bale re-teams with his Batman Begins director and the result is just as solid, with Bale on fine form as the technically brilliant but otherwise nondescript young Alfred Borden.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Film: Second in Nolan’s Bat trilogy, and the most popular of all three, not least because this is the one where Batman goes up against his legendary arch-nemesis – The Joker (Heath Ledger).
Bale Intensity: Even faced with a scene-stealing Ledger, Bale manages to do remarkable things with Batman. Gifted with a strong script and character arc, Bale squeezes it for all it’s worth, meaning we’re desperate for him to suit up again.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Film: Bale and Nolan cap off their Bat trilogy in style, with Batman forced out of retirement when Gotham falls prey to the towering uber-villain that is Bane (Tom Hardy).
Bale Intensity: He’s been acting since 1986, and Rises is the pinnacle of Bale’s career so far. After two films playing Bruce Wayne, he finds fresh angles to explore, bringing the character full circle with poise, humour and bravado. It’s a bittersweet thing – this is the last time Bale will don the Batsuit, but we have three damn near perfect films to enjoy for years to come.