The Dark Knight Rises - Who Makes the Best Batman?
Who Makes the Best Batman?
Whoever thought an icky creature would come to represent one of our most beloved superheroes of all time? Batman has been around for roughly 70 years, fighting crime and protecting Gotham City in comic book form, on television and in the movies.
A number of different actors have lent their image and/or voices to the Caped Crusader over the years, but in honor of The Dark Knight Rises, we thought it would be fun to pull out those Batmen who’ve played the hero on the big screen and decide once and for all which version we like best.
(Bat-scale: 1 = Find a New Gig/10 = Gotham City God)
Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman: The Movie (1966)
Why he’s Bat-tastic: Pow! This incarnation of Batman was definitely the campiest and most ridiculous, but holy heck was he fun to watch. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, West always delivered his lines with conviction and determination. The tone was light, the villains were plentiful and, regardless of how many films they choose to make in the future, Adam West will always be known as the dude who finally brought Batman back to the masses by creating a unique and colorful take on the character. For that, we’ll forever be grateful.
Villains Fought: The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin)
Coolest Gadget: Shark-Repellent Bat-Spray -- for those times when the sharks outnumber them pesky mosquitoes.
Best Quote: “Who knows, Robin? This strange mixing of minds may be the greatest single service ever performed for humanity! Let's go, but, inconspicuously, through the window. We'll use our Bat-Ropes. Our job is finished.”
Holy Final Score, Batman (7): Bam! West’s shtick was cute, cuddly and kinda adorable – in an “Aww, we love you Grandpa” sorta way -- but nowadays fans want a darker Batman; a Batman with issues. If he doesn’t need months of therapy, prescription meds or a couple extra machine guns added to the front bumper of his car, he’s not our Gotham City God.
Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992)
Why he’s Bat-tastic: Because he’s Michael Keaton. And having just finished working with Batman (and Batman Returns) director Tim Burton on Beetlejuice, the two brought a solid working relationship (and a little bit of “the creep-kick”) to a franchise that desperately needed a rebirth.
Coolest Gadget: Napalm Pill (Batman Returns) -- One imagines Batman loved the smell of Napalm around midnight.
Best Quote: “I’m Batman.”
Holy Final Score, Batman (10): Keaton was great because he knew how to play dark and brooding with a twist of “Is this guy insane, or what?” A great Batman is one who’s equal parts cool, calm and crazy, and no other actor has done as good of a job at balancing those traits as Michael Keaton.
Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman Forever (1995)
Why he’s Bat-tastic: Val Kilmer had huge, Keaton-sized shoes to fill, and though director Joel Schumacher was looking to take the franchise in a more … colorful, childlike direction, Kilmer played it straight and looked good the entire time.
Villains Fought: Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), Riddler (Jim Carrey)
Coolest Gadget: Parachute cape -- Because jumping off a building in the pitch black and living to tell is a prerequisite for any superhero. Not telling you did it is also a prerequisite.
Best Quote: “I see without seeing. To me, darkness is as clear as daylight. What am I?”
Holy Final Score, Batman (6): What are you? You’re good, but not great. You’re fit, but forgettable. You’re pretty on the eyes, but a little too Pitt-y. You’re Val Kilmer … and though Batman creator Bob Kane favors you over all others, we don’t.
George Clooney as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman & Robin (1997)
Why he’s Bat-tastic: He’s George Clooney; the guy can melt your heart, make you laugh and move you to cheers all in one sentence. He kept Batman loose, but still in charge, and if he had any fault it was that he was simply way too cool to star in this film.
Coolest Gadget: Ice-skating boots -- Kinda lame, sure, but it finally unearthed Batman’s hidden desire to become a professional figure skater.
Best Quote: “You get the ice; I’ll get the Ice-man.”
Holy Final Score, Batman (5): Clooney was okay, and we’d love to score him higher, but this horrific sequel gave us major brain-freeze. What’s that they say about skating on thin ice?
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight
Why he’s Bat-tastic: In order to properly reboot this franchise, they needed an American Psycho to fill the Caped Crusader’s boots (even if he was born in the UK). Enter Christian Bale: a chiseled machine with Bat-sexy looks who took the scarecrow by his feathers and shook away memories of past Batman flicks.
Coolest Gadget: The Tumbler (and accompanying Bat-pod) -- Jet burner? Check. Hoosier racetrack tires? Check. Machine guns? Check. “My Last Ride was a 1988 Chevy Corsica” bumper sticker? Not so much.
Best Quote: “Well, a guy who dresses up like a bat clearly has issues.”
Holy Final Score, Batman (9): It's close, but we can’t grant Bale perfection status just yet. Let's see how this third and final in the Nolan franchise does and then we'll talk.
Kevin Conroy as the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Why he’s Bat-tastic: Conroy never starred as the Caped Crusader in a live-action film, but he’s provided the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman: The Animated Series, as well as its TV spin-offs and feature films (Mask of Phantasm was the only one to actually hit theaters). And if Batman as a badass-to-the-bone cartoon doesn’t tempt you, Phantasm also features Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker) as the voice of The Joker … and Abe Vigoda as a powerful crime boss!
Coolest Gadget: His voice – Conroy will always be known as the true voice of Batman. His delivery was subtle and graceful, expertly capturing all of Bruce Wayne/Batman’s personality (hero, partner, friend, tortured soul) without the benefit of playing the character in the flesh.
Best Quote: “This madness ends NOW!”
Holy Final Score, Batman (8): Since this isn’t American Idol: Batman Edition, we just can’t give Conroy the gold medal based on voice alone. But we definitely suggest you check out Phantasm (and its direct-to-DVD sequels) for a different taste of the hero in animated form. (Extra tidbit: Conroy also provides the voice of Wayne/Batman in the direct-to-DVD animated anthology Batman: Gotham Knight, which serves as a bridge between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
Winner: Michael Keaton
In a perfect world, we’d take Conroy’s perfect voice, Bale’s perfect looks and Keaton’s perfect demeanor; combine them in a Bat-blender and produce, well, the perfect Batman. Without such a device, we’ll settle for the man who successfully brought an international superstar back to the big screen and helped usher in a new, darker dawn for the Caped Crusader. How many more Batman films will we see? Who knows, but with The Dark Knight being arguably the most talked-about film of the year, something tells us this bat ain’t going anywhere for the time being.