Worst To Best: Christian Bale

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…

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.