On May 10, 1939, the comic book industry changed for the better when Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced the world to Batman in the pages of Detective Comics, Vol. 1 #27. Since Lewis Wilson made his debut as Batman in the 1943 black-and-white Columbia pictures theatrical serial, the Caped Crusader’s world has been introduced to audiences in various incarnations of media. Batman has appeared in two serials, 11 live-action theatrical films, and countless animated feature films. Also, both 20th Century Fox Television and Warner Bros. Television have produced two several successful television series that have passionate fan bases and made an impact on pop culture: Batman and Gotham.
Also, since the '60s, Batman has played a role in Saturday morning cartoons. From his first appearance in Super Friends’ very first episode: “The Power Pirate” to the latest Justice League Action episode: “It’ll Take a Miracle,” the Dark Knight’s animated adventures have delighted and thrilled numerous generations of Batman fans. There have been a few dozen actors who portrayed or voiced the Caped Crusader for over seven decades. CBR have found 15 actors who have either made their mark, suffered a career setback, or were just plain average with their portrayals of Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego.
15 GEORGE CLOONEY
During the ‘90s, actor George Clooney was one of Hollywood’s hottest rising stars. Women swooned every time that Clooney’s Dr. Doug Ross was on the NBC medical drama E.R. and thrilled movie goers with his appearances in Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk till Dawn and The Peacemaker with Nicole Kidman. However, one role that will haunt the rest of his career would be his portrayal of the Dark Knight in the box office bomb Batman & Robin.
Clooney’s Dark Knight was the anti-Batman, he was arrogant as both Batman and his alter-ego, Bruce Wayne. Plus, he was rude to his right-hand man, Robin (Chris O’Donnell) and was an absentee boyfriend to Julie Madison (Elle Macpherson) as he lusted after Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Years later, Clooney even called the film: “a waste of money.”
14 LEWIS WILSON
Lewis Wilson was the first actor to wear Batman’s legendary cape and cowl on the big screen. Mr. Wilson portrayed the Dark Knight in Columbia Pictures’ Batman serial, which was released on July 16, 1943. In this 15-part story, the Caped Crusader along with Dick Grayson’s Robin served as secret government agents tasked with protecting Gotham City against the Axis forces and the dreaded Dr. Tito Daka, who served as the Axis’ stateside representative.
While Mr. Wilson deserves all the credit in the world by bringing Batman to life, there were some flaws in his performance. His Bruce Wayne seemed too nonchalant and showed no warmth whenever he interacted with love interest Linda Page (Shirley Patterson). Also, if fans watched his Batman performance on YouTube, they would find it unimpressive.
13 ROBERT LOWERY
Six years after the first Batman serial took the United States by storm, Columbia Pictures returned to Gotham City in Batman & Robin. Actor Robert Lowery put on Batman’s uniform for the 1949 15-part adventure serial that debuted across theatres. This time, Batman and Robin (Johnny Duncan) tackled the Wizard, a mysterious hooded criminal mastermind that could use electricity to control vehicles such as airplanes and cars in his crime wave and pushed the Caped Crusader to his limits.
Mr. Lowery did his best with the Caped Crusader, but at times fans felt that Lowery delivered his lines a little too robotically. Also, Lowery did not capture the essence of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s work as he brought the character to the big screen.
12 RINO ROMANO
Almost 12 years after Batman: The Animated Series debuted on Fox Kids, Warner Bros. Animation decided that it was time to revisit Gotham City in The Batman. Unlike Batman: The Animated Series, The Batman seemed more juvenile in both its storytelling and animation. For five seasons, Rino Romano voiced the Caped Crusader in this bold universe as he carried the series throughout 65 episodes and a full-length animated movie: The Batman versus Dracula.
To be honest, Mr. Romano was not the best fit actor to voice Batman. While he mastered voicing Bruce Wayne's Batman sounded similar to another superhero that Romano voiced in the late '90s: Spider-Man. Also, Romano’s Batman felt forced where other voice actors who tackled the Caped Crusader in the past delivered the dialogue with ease.
11 ANTHONY RUIVIVAR
Anthony Ruivivar was the first Filipino actor to portray Batman on a dominant media platform. He voiced the Caped Crusader in the 2013 animated series: Beware the Batman. This computer-animated series is set during Batman’s early years as Gotham’s Dark Knight. While he does not face the big villains such as Joker, Penguin, Poison Ivy, and the Scarecrow, Beware the Batman explored the newest members of his infamous rogues’ gallery.
In the early episodes, it appeared that Mr. Ruivivar brought an unnecessary roughness to the character, but at the same time had a hard time transitioning from the brooding Dark Knight to Gotham’s famous millionaire. Despite his slow improvements in his acting, Mr. Ruivivar’s time with the character was prematurely cut short when Cartoon Network pulled Beware the Batman from the DC Nation block without warning.
10 WILL ARNETT
On February 7, 2014, The Lego Movie introduced its version of the Dark Knight to film audiences around the world. Will Arnett’s Lego Batman is best described as a self-absorbed machismo, who at times thinks he is all that but who is actually pretty lonely. Throughout both The Lego Movie and its spinoff film: The Lego Batman Movie, Arnett’s version of the Caped Crusader rode on a high horse and thought that he was better than everybody.
From putting down Emmet Brickowski and breaking Wyldstyle’s heart in The Lego Movie to insulting Joker and continually causing harm to Alfred in The Lego Batman Movie, Will Arnett’s Batman comically showcased the famous superhero’s ugly side of his personality, while making moviegoers laugh at the same time.
9 DAVID MAZOUZ
In 2012, David Mazouz’s life was changed forever when he was cast as young Bruce Wayne to Fox’s superhero drama: Gotham. He immediately won fans over with his portrayal of Gotham’s favorite son. Each season, Mazouz’s Bruce Wayne continued to grow by the challenges that were thrown in his path.
Between giving a bully (Tommy Elliot) a piece of his own medicine in “The Mask” to his multiple and possibly life-changing confrontations with Jerome Valeska throughout the show’s first three seasons, Mazouz delivered impressive performances that impressed fans and proudly carries on the tradition that Adam West started generations ago. While Gotham viewers are seeing parts of Batman’s costume this season, fans should expect David Mazouz to suit up in full cape and cowl when Gotham comes to a close.
8 DIEDRICH BADER
In 2008, Warner Bros. Animation decided to continue the lighter approach to Batman. However, they decided to make this next chapter in Batman’s animated history -- a massive team-up. Every episode, the Caped Crusader would team up with one or more heroes to face off against a plethora of villains from the DC Comics’ classic library. Actor Diedrich Bader headlined Batman: The Brave & The Bold as the Dark Knight.
Bader’s Batman struck a similar tone to Adam West’s iconic portrayal to this light-hearted series. Throughout the show’s 65 episodes, Bader’s Batman did everything from traveling across time and becoming a vampire to defeating opponents that he would never be defeated alone in the DC Universe such especially Darkseid, Mongul, and Starro. While the show polarized older fans, the next generation of fans ate up Bader’s Batman.
7 VAL KILMER
After the box office success of both Batman and Batman Returns, Warner Bros. Pictures decided it was time to shake up the Batman movie franchise. Tim Burton was demoted to a producer role, while Joel Schumacher was brought in to direct the 1995 film Batman Forever. Michael Keaton was signed on to return but decided to depart after Schumacher took over the director’s chair. Before he knew that Schumacher was directing the project, actor Val Kilmer signed on the role.
Val Kilmer transformed the character in multiple ways that no one would imagine. Kilmer gave a boost of confidence that Keaton (at times) lacked while he was wearing Batman’s cape and cowl. Mr. Kilmer even proved that his Bruce Wayne could outsmart and outmaneuver Edward Nigma while having sizzling chemistry with Dr. Chase Meridian. Sadly, he did not get invited back due to his problems with Joel Schumacher.
6 OLAN SOULE
Throughout the '70s and the '80s, actor Olan Soule voiced the Dark Knight for a particular show called Super Friends. The Hanna-Barbera Productions’ superhero franchise marked the first time that DC Comics’ major superheroes (Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, and Green Lantern) appeared as a group. While Batman was the only non-powered member of the Super Friends line-up, Olan Soule’s Batman was considered the heart of the group.
Mr. Soule’s Batman was like a mentor figure for not only Robin but also for the younger heroes such as the Wonder Twins, Firestorm, and Cyborg, who rotated in and out of the Super Friends franchise. He even got the Superfriends out of trouble when they faced threats like Dracula, Doctor Frankenstein, and the Legion of Doom.
5 CHRISTIAN BALE
After Batman & Robin’s box office disaster, Warner Bros. Pictures kept the Batman franchise dormant until director Christopher Nolan came along and gave it the energy boost that the franchise needed. Nolan and the Dark Knight team turned to American Psycho and The Machinist actor Christian Bale to portray Batman and his alter-ego: Bruce Wayne. Throughout all three films, Mr. Bale delivered superb performances as he faced countless trials, tribulations, and deadly adversaries including the al Ghul family, Joker, and Bane.
One common thread that Mr. Bale added to Batman culture is the rough growl that the Dark Knight uses as he interrogated thugs and communicated to James Gordon. While several fans cried foul when they discovered that Bale’s Batman would not be included into the DCEU, but without The Dark Knight Trilogy’s success, there would be no DC Extended Universe.
4 BEN AFFLECK
Just like when Heath Ledger was the first cast as The Joker in The Dark Knight, countless fans took to social media to complain that Ben Affleck would be the DC Extended Universe’s Batman. Mr. Affleck proved fans wrong when he appeared in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Ben Affleck commanded each scene he was in as both the Dark Knight and Gotham’s favorite son.
From “flirting” with Diana to facing off against a plethora of adversaries such as Luthor’s goons to Superman and Doomsday in Batman v. Superman to confronting Deadshot in Suicide Squad, Mr. Affleck’s Dark Knight is becoming one of the DC Extended Universe’s anchors that will thread the franchise together. Hopefully, we will be able to see Mr. Affleck as the Dark Knight in the future.
3 ADAM WEST
Adam West created a legendary legacy when producer William Dozier and the producers of the 1966 Batman television series hired him to portray the Dark Knight. While this chapter in the Caped Crusader’s lengthy history could be described as campy, Mr. West’s Batman considered by the fanbase as a bright knight. Adam West’s Batman was always civic minded and broke the fourth wall to encourage children to buy US saving stamps to support the Vietnam War.
He was also the only Batman to win a surfing challenge against The Joker, fight Riddler in the boxing ring, and do the Batusi. Even, sparks flew every time that Julie Newmar’s Catwoman and Adam West’s Batman shared scenes. Adam’s version of Batman led the way for the first Batmania and paved the way for how Batman was accepted into pop culture.
2 MICHAEL KEATON
On June 23, 1989, Michael Keaton became the fourth actor to portray the Caped Crusader on film when Batman debuted in theaters nationwide. During the filming process, several Hollywood executives and concerned Batman fans were nervous seeing the actor who brought Betelgeuse and Mister Mom to life wear the cape and cowl. But, Keaton proved them wrong as he mastered both sides of Batman. He was affable as Bruce Wayne and had terrific chemistry with both Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale in the original and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns.
But as the Dark Knight, Mr. Keaton commanded every single scene in both Batman films. He also stared down Jack Nicholson’s Joker, Danny DeVito’s Penguin, and Christopher Walken’s Max Schreck. Without Michael Keaton’s Batman, fans would have never experienced Batman: The Animated Series or the joy of exploring the Batman: Arkham video game universe.
1 KEVIN CONROY
For over 25 years, Kevin Conroy has been the one actor who brought the Dark Knight to life in numerous cartoon series, animated films, and even Batman-related video games. Mr. Conroy made his debut as the Dark Knight’s definitive voice on Batman: The Animated Series’ first episode: “On Leather Wings.” But it was not until Conroy voiced his “I am vengeance. I am the night! I am BATMAN!” during “Nothing to Fear” that he immediately became part of the pop culture lexicon.
He perfectly captured all the different shades of Bruce Wayne throughout his involvement with the character. From the strict disciplinarian in both Justice League and Justice League Unlimited to the cynical retired Dark Knight in Batman Beyond, Conroy’s portrayal of Batman remains one of the most excellent cartoon performances of all-time.
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