Welcome back to Worst to First, the series where we comb through the details of some of entertainment history's most iconic characters, films, and shows, and rank them for your viewing pleasure/anger!
Some Ground Rules and a Note From Your Author
Per usual, these are all my opinions, no one else's. If you have an issue with my rankings, my Instagram handle is @robbyhaynos, feel free to DM me about why Joel Schumacher is a genius I can't comprehend or whatever.
Also, I won't be including David Mazouz, because while his portrayal of young Bruce Wayne was fantastic in Gotham, he was actually Batman for all of five seconds, and it wouldn't be right to put a one or two episode cameo as the Dark Knight against people who developed that character for an entire film.
Alright, let's do it!
Honorary Mention: Pete Holmes
Given that his Batman character was a parody of Bale's Dark Knight Batman, and not an original creation, I hesitate to include Pete Holmes satire for CollegeHumor on the actual list, but it's so funny that it deserves a mention.
There's an entire series of videos that are just like this, and they're all hysterical.
11. Lewis G. Wilson
This was...weird. And a bit racist. Scratch that, very racist. That whole "The Japanese are coming" thing shouldn't have been acceptable then, and I'm definitely not letting it fly now.
Also, Batman is not in shape, and he's really just wearing a t-shirt with a bat on it. He's also getting beat up the entire time. Remember the first scene in The Dark Knight, where Batman says to the fake Batman, "I'm not wearing hockey pants"?
Well, he's definitely not wearing that either.
All we really see here is someone in a Party City Batman outfit get slapped in the face and promptly thrown off a balcony.
10. Robert Lowery
It really took them a while to figure out Batman.
I mean, on the whole, this is much better than the previous installment, but it once again just looks corny. Film back then just wasn't really ready for superheroes, or fight scenes in general that weren't full on battles.
The bat costume is off, looking more like devil horns than bat ears, and that droopy nose isn't helping anyone either.
This isn't the serious, Tim-Burton era Batman, nor is it the semi-satirical Adam West Batman. It's just this odd middle ground that tries to be serious and misses at every turn.
9. George Clooney
All the love to George Clooney, but this was a giant misfire. Why did Batman have nipples? Nipples were so unnecessary. After Schumacher's odd but not terrible original Batman, where Val Kilmer gave us a performance that was more blank than bad, Clooney came out and gave us something that just didn't fit.
He attempted to be fun and quirky like the Adam West era Batman, but it just didn't fit with the aesthetic for the character that Tim Burton and Schumacher himself had established.
This almost broke Batman. It took Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale to revive it, but this came really close.
8. Val Kilmer
While it was better than Clooney, this still wasn't great. I have other criticisms of this movie that don't relate to Kilmer, but there was no spirit in this. It was sort of just flat. Boring. Amid the ramblings of a Jim Carrey Riddler and the flashing neon of the 90s, Kilmer just gave us sort of a white-bread Batman.
He doesn't deserve nearly all the criticism he gets, but he doesn't deserve praise either.
7. Ben Affleck
Now we're getting into the good Batmen. My rating of Ben Affleck being this low probably has more to do with the fact that he directly proceeded Christian Bale in The Dark Knight, creating a forced comparison that isn't entirely fair, but this is a very solid Batman. Nothing great, but his suit is cool, his action scenes are great, but the character itself is sort of a flatter version of what Bale gave us, albeit with a unique twist or two.
Perhaps it's because Bale designed such a flawless take on this Dark, twisted version of Batman that it's impossible to escape that shadow or try something different so soon, but it just doesn't have its own original punch to it.
6. Peter Weller
For The Dark Knight Returns, the animated series based on the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller, we see Weller take a very unique approach to the character. Weller was around 65 when he portrayed the Caped Crusader, and he didn't shy away from adding an elderly twinge to the voice.
Batman doesn't sound old, but he doesn't sound young, either. It hits perfectly. It's not a rip off of the gravely approach taken by Bale, but it holds that same dark, brooding resonance to the character.
There's also just something fun about having the guy who played Robocop be Batman, too.
5. Will Arnett
Will Arnett's portrayal of LEGO Batman was so perfect. The lego format of the film gave the opportunity for the goofy, Adam West like Batman to come back, and Arnett coupled this characteristic deep voice with a satirical take on Batman that resonates incredibly well.
It's hysterical, every word, every movement. It's a perfect satire, and yet still manages to be a cool Batman.
4. Kevin Conroy
Kevin Conroy has been Batman in basically every cartoon you can imagine. He's given thirty years of his life to a perfect portrayal of the Batman, and it has payed off. Batman Beyond, Batman, The New Batman Adventures, Justice League, Teen Titans Go! all Conroy. He may not be the most recognizable face of Bruce Wayne, but he's the voice we think when we think Batman.
3. Adam West
Was it silly? Yes. Was it stupid? Absolutely. Was it fun? You bet it was fun.
West's Batman didn't shy away from the fact that the action scenes were comical. Or that the whole premise was goofy. It was a series that played into its own shortcomings. It was weird as hell, it made no sense, and it was perfect.
Rest in peace, Mr West.
2. Michael Keaton
When people found out Michael Keaton was playing Batman, the nerd world was up in arms. Those angry voices were silenced by how hard the comedian absolutely killed this. Making Batman into a Tim Burton nightmare was the best decision possible for the franchise to do the complete 180 it's had in the last thirty years.
Keaton is why we got The Dark Knight, and Justice League, and all of that. It was a truly era-defining moment where people looked at Batman as more than a weirdo in a bat suit.
1. Christian Bale
Who'd you think was going to be here, Robert Pattinson?
Just kidding, I'm actually very excited for that movie, but at this juncture, Bale reigns supreme. He was the perfect companion to Heath Ledger's mastery of the Joker. The man who desired order so badly that he played perfectly into the Joker's quest for chaos.
This was a movie that didn't shy away from the inherent flaws in the Batman character. Who's really the villain here? Who knows? Who cares? This was the best Batman movie and trilogy ever made.
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