Worst To Best: Christian Bale

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.

Shaft (2000)

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.

Pocahontas (1995)

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.

Metroland (1997)

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.

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.