The Source: Public Enemies (2009)
The Moment: You don't want to appear in a Michael Mann film unless there's one of his trademark shootouts involved. For an immersive actor like Bale, this is action catnip as Mann restages Melvin Purvis' (Bale) raid on John Dillinger's (Johnny Depp) hideout in the actual location - the Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin - where it took place in 1934.
Sex On The Mind
The Source: Laurel Canyon (2002)
The Moment: Bale gives a multi-faceted performance, at once sympathetic and unlikeable, as Sam, engaged to Kate Beckinsale but tempted by Natascha McElhone. As she seduces him in a frank conversation in a car, Bale's divided loyalties play out in simmering sexual tension until he can't resist any longer and kisses her.
Someday You Will
The Source: The New World (2005)
The Moment: Bale only appears in the later stretches of Terrence Malick's retelling of the story of Pocahontas (but, given the director's infamy in leaving actors on the cutting room floor, he's lucky to appear at all). Cast as English settler John Rolfe, Bale returns to the clipped, awkward romantic of Little Women , proposing to Pocahontas (Q'orianka Kilcher) but unable to take her reticence in answering as a sign of her indifference: "You do not love me now. Someday you will."
The Source: Empire Of The Sun (1987)
The Moment: The final scene sees war orphan Jamie Graham (Bale) reunited with his parents, only for the boy to fail to recognise them. Bale's slow realisation, played out in tentative physical contact and a weary collapse into a hug, is masterfully played.
The Source: Velvet Goldmine (1998)
The Moment: Bale's key transitional role from child to adult star came as Arthur Stuart, the journalist looking back on his sexual awakening as a glam rock fanboy seduced by rock star Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor). As one wag on YouTube describes the subsequent sex scene, "OBI WAN giving BATMAN his LIGHTSABER!!!"
The Source: Swing Kids (1993)
The Moment: Bale's character Thomas is a fun-loving fan of swing music but (in a sign of his preference for darker material) the setting is 1930s Germany and Thomas is soon seduced by the allure of the Hitler Youth. "You're turning into a Nazi," best friend Peter (Robert Sean Leonard) reckons. "So what if I am?" shouts back Bale.
The Source: Equilibrium (2002)
The Moment: While it might be a Matrix knock-off, Kurt Wimmer's dystopian action flick gave Bale a pre-Batman opportunity to show his fighting prowess. During his swordfights with Taye Diggs, Bale repeatedly broke the (wooden) stunt swords by whacking his co-star - and getting whacked back in return - for real.
Hero To Zero
The Source: The Fighter (2010)
The Moment: Dickie Englund is cock of the walk in prison as a screening of his HBO documentary begins; yet his delight at being the centre of attention evaporates when he sees the damage he's causing to his son. Bale visibly weakens, becoming smaller and withdrawn, as Dickie switches off the TV to the consternation of his fellow inmates.
The Source: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Moment: His back broken by Bane, Bruce Wayne is trapped in a remote underground prison where he reflects on his life. Warned that he won't escape because he does fear death, Bale is at his most vulnerable as Bruce answers, "I do fear death. I fear dying in here, while my city burns, and there's no one there to save it."
The Source: The Prestige (2006)
The Moment: Bale plays magician Alfred Borden, in his element as he teaches a coin trick to a boy. The actor has been cast for his intensity, as Borden is technically gifted but no showman; however, here his eyes light up in passion as he passes on some essential (and, unbeknownst to the audience, important) information: "Never show anyone. They'll beg you and they'll flatter you for the secret, but as soon as you give it up... you'll be nothing to them."