Ranking All 8 Batmen From Best to Worst

In 2013, Warner Bros announced that Ben Affleck had been cast as Batman and Gotham City billionaire Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While we’ve learned to be patient with Batman casting choices (remembering the public backlash to Heath Ledger being cast as the Joker), the move has raised some eyebrows. In honor of Affleck, let’s look back at the best and worst of the Batman:

Lewis Wilson
Batman, Lewis Wilson, Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures via Everett

Just 4 years after Batman's 1939 debut in Detective Comics #27, the Caped Crusader appeared on screen for the very first time. The 15 part serial starring Lewis Wilson introduced several key elements that would later become essential parts of the franchise including the Batcave as well as the physical appearance of Alfred Pennyworth. Before the movie, Alfred was overweight and not the thin, trim butler we know today.

Despite being monumentally important to the development of Batman as both a franchise and a character, the serial has not aged well. In the movie, Batman and Robin battle a Japanese spy, Dr. Daka. Made during the height of World War II, the film has strong anti-Japanese sentiments. At one point, the film praises the policy of Japanese internment and the movie even includes the line "shifty-eyed Japs."

Robert Lowery
Batman and Robin, Robert Lowery, Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures via Everett
Robert Lowery is easily the most overlooked Batman, appearing in the 1949 sequel to the original Batman titled Batman and Robin. In the movie, Batman and Robin square off against the Dark Knight's age old nemesis The Wizard. The movie has been criticized for its low production quality, however the film did give us our first Batmobile of sorts: a 1949 Mercury.
George Clooney
Batman and Robin, George Clooney, Warner Bros
Warner Bros via Everett
Reception to George Clooney's stint as Batman was cold. To put Batman and Robin into perspective, one of the related links on the film's Wikipedia page is "List of films considered the worst." The movies wasn't just a flop, it was a colossal failure. The film's director Joel Schumacher made some questionable choices, the most egregious of which was adding nipples to the Batsuit. The nipples became national news and a young George R.R. Martin even added a line about "nipples on a breastplate" to his novel A Clash of Kings in reference to the movie. Clooney later personally apologized to Adam West about the nipples.
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Val Kilmer
Batman Forever, Val Kilmer, Chris O'Donnell, Warner Bros
Warner Bros via Everett
Val Kilmer is like Roger Moore of Batmen. You can't possibly hate him, but he's not necessarily your favorite either. While making the movie, director Joel Schumacher sought to distance himself from the Tim Burton Batman films (which at the time were heavily criticised for their excessive violence and dark themes) and drew heavily from 1960s TV show.
Adam West
Batman, Burt Ward, Adam West, 20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox via Everett
The live action Batman series was once called "the biggest TV phenomenon of the mid-1960s." In fact, it was so popular, it was one of the only shows to be broadcast twice a week in prime time, an honor today reserved for cultural touchstones like Dancing With The Stars. Adam West's interpretation of the Caped Crusader deviated significantly from the source material, however West brought a certain camp to the character that has yet to replicated. The show was noted for its cheesy lines, upbeat music, and after school special-esque lessons which focused on teaching kids the importance of using seat belts, doing homework, and drinking milk.
Michael Keaton
Batman, Michael Keaton, Warner Bros
Warner Bros via Everett

In many ways, Tim Burton's Batman films paved the way for the modern superhero genre. Batman and Batman Returns were a darker take on the character and heavily inspired by Alan Moore's The Killing Joke and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight ReturnsMichael Keaton was the first actor to use two different voices to represent Bruce Wayne and Batman, a cornerstone of the role today. Fans were initially upset with the casting (this wouldn't be the last time fans would be upset with a Batman casting though) as the actor had primarily starred in comedic roles up until that point in his career.

Despite reservations, the films were critical and commercial success, however, they received substantial backlash from parents claiming the movies' violence and themes were inappropriate for children. In fact, McDonald's even canceled their Happy Meal promotion of Batman Returns.

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Christian Bale
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Christian Bale, Warner Bros
Warner Bros via Everett
Christian Bale is best remembered for his gravelly-voiced Batman, but it was his portrayal of Bruce Wayne that cemented his Bat-legacy. Bale brought a level of charisma and psychosis to the character that was reminiscent of his role as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. However some people (like Adam West) will argue that Bale is overrated, which the actor himself might agree with. In an interview with Yahoo, Bale claimed he was disappointed with his own performance claiming, "I didn’t quite manage what I hoped I would throughout the trilogy. {Christopher Nolan} did, but my own sense of self is like, 'I didn’t quite nail it.'"
Kevin Conroy
Batman: The Animated Series, Kevin Conroy, Warner Bros
Warner Bros via Facebook

For a generation of Batman fans, Kevin Conroy IS the Dark Knight. Conroy first portrayed Bruce Wayne in Batman: The Animated Series which won four Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Animated Program. The show sought to explore darker and more complex themes than any of the previous adaptations and The Animated Series isn't considered just one of the best Batman adaptations, but also one of the best animated shows of all-time period.

Following Keaton's lead, Conroy used two different voices to portray Bruce Wayne and Batman. Over the past three decades, Conroy has voiced the character in movies, TV shows, and video games and if you add up every single one of his performances, Conroy has portrayed the character longer than any other actor.