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.