Oscar-winner Christian Bale has delivered some truly amazing characters during his 25-plus years in front of the camera. Here’s a look back at some of his best work.
Jim ‘Jamie’ Graham in ‘Empire of the Sun’ (1987)
In his first major film role, Bale played a privileged English boy forced to rebuild his life amidst the chaos and oppression of a Japanese POW camp. He earned his first (of many) honors and awards for his performance -- The National Review Board’s Outstanding Juvenile Performance of the Year.
Jack Kelly in ‘Newsies’ (1993)
Long before it became a smash Broadway musical, ‘Newsies’ was a (very unpopular) feature film, starring Bale as a singin’ and dancin’ Depression-era newspaper boy. The actor has called his performance “embarrassing” and thought it derailed his career as a serious actor. Guess again, paperboy.
Laurie (Theodore Laurence) in ‘Little Women’ (1994)
Handpicked for the role by the film’s star, Winona Ryder, Bale shined as the loyal suitor in this faithful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel about the March sisters. While the film wasn't exactly a box office smash, it did earn Bale considerably strong reviews. Good call, Winona.
Patrick Bateman in ‘American Psycho’ (2000)
Bale gives a killer performance as the sadistic Wall Street power broker in this film adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel. Considered exceptionally graphic and violent, the controversial film originally earned an NC-17 rating and required significant editing before securing theatrical distribution. Don’t worry, ladies: The scene with a shirtless Bale working out made the cut.
Walter Wade, Jr. in ‘Shaft’ (2000)
Bale followed up his role in ‘American Psycho’ with that of another villain, in this 2000 update of the 1970s detective films starring Richard Roundtree. Here, Samuel L. Jackson plays the titular role, going up against Bale’s murderous real estate heir.
Sam in ‘Laurel Canyon’ (2002)
Some guys have all the luck. This steamy drama marked the second time Bale got all up close and personal with British beauty Kate Beckinsale. The two previously costarred in ‘Royal Deceit’ (1994), a retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet.’
Trevor Reznick in ‘The Machinist’ (2004)
Bale is known for physically transforming his body to fit the characters he plays. For his role as an insomniac industrial worker, Bale lost a staggering 63 pounds – a feat that had never been reached, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Bruce Wayne/Batman in ‘Batman Begins’ (2005)
Although he was already established as an actor, this was the role that launched Bale as a worldwide movie star. Beating out such actors as Billy Crudup and Jake Gyllenhaal for the coveted part in this series reboot, Bale headlined Christopher Nolan’s first Batman film, this one centered on the Dark Knight’s origins and his battle with Liam Neeson’s former mentor-turned-evil villain.
Alfred Borden in ‘The Prestige’ (2006)
Bale reteamed with ‘Batman Begins’ director Christopher Nolan for this turn-of-the-century drama about magic and murder. The film also partnered Bale with another superhero actor, Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman. The two square off as rival illusionists who will stop at nothing to become the best.
Batman/Bruce Wayne in ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)
Bale’s second trip to Gotham as the Caped Crusader broke box office records, as audiences couldn’t get enough of Batman battling the chaos-driven Joker, played by Oscar-winner Heath Ledger.
John Connor in ‘Terminator Salvation’ (2009)
A self-professed fan of the ‘Terminator’ films, Bale jumped at the chance to the freedom fighter in this fourth installment of the Man vs. Machines saga.
Dicky Eklund in ‘The Fighter’ (2010)
Bale was handpicked by the movie’s star, Mark Wahlberg, to play the role of the drug-addicted brother of prizefighter Micky Ward (Wahlberg). At Oscar time, both actors were nominated for their compelling work, but only Bale took home the award (for Best Supporting Actor).
Batman/Bruce Wayne in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012)
When Bale donned the cowl for the third installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, he became the only actor to play the popular hero more than twice on the big screen. (Michael Keaton was the only other actor to reprise the role). While the final film, featuring Batman fighting the masked Bane for control of Gotham, falls short of the high bar set by ‘The Dark Knight,’ it does feature some of Bale’s best, and funniest, work behind the mask.
Irving Rosenfeld in ‘American Hustle’ (2013)
Bale gained over 40 pounds to play the frumpy conman at the heart of an FBI sting operation in this hit film, inspired by true events. ‘Hustle’ re-teamed Bale with his ‘The Fighter’ director, David O. Russell, and scored the actor another Oscar nomination for his compelling work.