The best Batman actors of all time

Bruce Wayne stands in front of the Batsuit
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Many actors have portrayed Batman across various different media in the character's 80+ year history - but who is the best Batman actor of all time? 

For many fans, the only answer is the great Kevin Conroy, whose voice performance as Batman perfectly embodies even the physical presence of the Dark Knight, as established over years of comics. Others would choose Michael Keaton, who makes a triumphant return in this year's The Flash. Ben Affleck had his doubters at first, but won over a huge and loyal audience in Zack Snyder's films. Hell, there's probably even a few people who sincerely rate George Clooney's turn in Batman & Robin. 

These lists are always subjective, of course, but they also prove just how flexible the Caped Crusader truly is as a character. Batman can be as moody and brooding, as Christian Bale and Robert Pattinson ably demonstrated. He can be funny, like Adam West or Will Arnett. And, when he needs to, he can even get a little nuts.

So who's your favorite? And do you agree with our choice of number one?

10. George Clooney

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

It's impossible to say that George Clooney's performance as Batman in Batman & Robin isn't iconic - if only as an example of how not to play the Caped Crusader.

Clooney's sleepy, ego-driven performance came just before he broke through as a major box office star, and was saddled by a toy-selling attempt at recapturing the camp of the 1960s TV series, rather than a full-fledged film.

Like Batman & Robin itself, the worst crime of Clooney's performance is that it's ultimately just kinda boring - and when you're one half of the Dynamic Duo, that just doesn't cut it.

9. Val Kilmer

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Val Kilmer had the unenviable task of following Michael Keaton as his replacement Batman in Batman Forever - a movie that, while not as good as the two films that immediately preceded it, isn't quite the train wreck that it's sometimes thought of because of its dire sequel.

Kilmer's turn as Batman came at the height of his Hollywood stardom, and also at the height of his well-reported massive ego. Despite not being willing to go out on a limb for his performance, Kilmer was a serviceable enough Batman, and perhaps an even better Bruce Wayne, in his one and only turn in the role.

8. Diedrich Bader

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

It's hard to follow up Kevin Conroy's iconic voice performance as Batman, but Diedrich Bader embodied a very different version of the character - one grounded in the tradition of Super Friends and the '60s Batman show.

Despite the obvious comparisons, Batman: The Brave & The Bold had more of a focus on all-ages adventure and a much deeper bench of DC Universe knowledge than many of its predecessors, positioning Bader's authoritative and outspoken Batman as the hub of a funner, friendlier Gotham City than in many other adaptations.

7. Will Arnett

Lego Batman Movie

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

There have been funny Batmen before, but Arnett's outwardly preening, secretly deeply lonely, crime fighter is the funniest by far. Introduced in The LEGO Movie and then promoted to the star of his own feature in 2017, this Caped Crusader beatboxes, likes to "fight around" on arch-nemesis the Joker, and deadpan quips his way through whatever chaos comes his way.  

Arnett's secret sauce is that, while he's clearly having a lot of fun with the character, he also takes Batman's emotional reality somewhat seriously. Despite his arrogance, this take on Bruce Wayne is still both vulnerable and likeable. 

Alas, a planned sequel to The LEGO Batman Movie was canceled due to rights issues, meaning we're unlikely to see more of this unique take on the character any time soon.

6. Ben Affleck

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Despite a predictable online backlash, fans immediately latched onto Ben Affleck's performance as Batman as one of the high points of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

More than anything, Affleck presented a vision of Batman heavily influenced by the disaffected, jaded Batman of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, something that not even Christian Bale accurately channeled.

Affleck showed a more human, heroic side of the Caped Crusader in 2017's Justice League - but it seems Affleck will never get to cut loose in his own Batman solo movie. Still, at least we can look forward to his scenes in The Flash.

5. Robert Pattinson

The Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Robert Pattinson's young Batman is markedly different from other portrayals of an up-and-coming Dark Knight, with a focus on his physical intensity and detective work.

Frankly, if he had more performances under his belt, Pattinson (or 'Battinson' as he's been nicknamed) might be higher on this list thanks to the level of depth in his emotional performance. Compared to other performances that focus on turning Batman into a force of nature, there's a level of vulnerability in Pattinson's rising version of the character.

Perhaps, when he's got The Batman - Part II under his utility belt and fleshed out his performance a little more, Pattinson could become one of the most definitive Batman actors of all time.

4. Michael Keaton

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Fans who think comic book movie casting controversies are a modern problem probably weren't aware of the stir caused by the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman all the way back in the '80s.

Primarily known as a comedic actor, director Tim Burton saw something in Keaton after working with him on Beetlejuice that led him to cast Keaton in 1989's Batman.

Despite outcry at the time that casting a comedian as Batman would lead to a rehash of the campy '60s show, Keaton owned the roles of both Batman and Bruce Wayne, setting the gold standard for live action Batman performances that all subsequent actors would be compared to.

3. Adam West

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Like many of the most iconic Batman castings, the late Adam West's performance is somewhat controversial. Fans either love or hate the tongue-in-cheek campiness of West's performance and the show it came from, with little room for indifference.

No matter which camp you fall in, West's wry portrayal of Batman is undoubtedly the most influential live action performance on this list. His subtle, self-aware humor affected perceptions of Batman for decades and even influenced the direction of the comic books of the '60s.

And though Batman has come a long way from the "Biff! Bang! Pow!" of the '60s Batman, West is still synonymous with the character and even the very idea of the Caped Crusader.

2. Christian Bale

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Christian Bale was not a major star when he landed the role of Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, but fans everywhere quickly learned his name.

From the moment he hoisted the crooked Detective Flass and snarled "Swear to me!" it was clear that Bale's Batman was a major departure from George Clooney and Val Kilmer's increasingly silly portrayals of the late '90s, and even Michael Keaton's more serious but far less gritty take.

Bale's performance received some notoriety for his extremely affected growl and for taking a bit of a back seat to Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, but even despite these criticisms, Bale's Batman was the closest fans have come to seeing the modern comic book Batman on the big screen yet.

1. Kevin Conroy

Kevin Conroy Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros/DC)

Though his performance has only ever extended to Batman's voice, Kevin Conroy's take on both Bruce Wayne and his cowled alter ego in Batman: The Animated Series remains the definitive take on the Dark Knight, having voiced the character consistently in animated series, movies, and video games for almost 25 years.

Conroy's Batman is as iconic as superhero performances get - you can't hear his voice without picturing Batman, or even see Batman without hearing his voice. Like the animated series that launched his career, Conroy remains the truest Batman in the hearts of many fans.

And in 2020, he took his role to a whole new level, appearing as a live-action Kingdom Come-inspired retired Bruce Wayne in The CW's Crisis On Infinite Earths TV crossover.

Conroy tragically passed away at age 66 in November, 2022, leaving behind a legacy of performance as Batman that is likely never to be surpassed.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)

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