The Actors Who Played Dark-Knight On Big Screen

Mayukh Bari17 February 2020 7:29PM IST
6 min read2024

Many actors played Batman on big screen throughout the years. But only a few made it big to remember for generations. Here we will discuss about the actors and their pros and cons and in the end present you a poll so that you can vote for your favourite dark knight.

Lewis G Wilson

Wilson was the first and youngest actor ever to play the adult Batman, and also the least successful. At 23, the unknown thespian donned the cape and the cowl in the 15-part 1943 Columbia serial Batman. Critics complained about his physique and voice too. That, of course, wouldn't be the last time someone complained about Batman's voice. After Batman, Wilson's career went nowhere. Most of his roles went uncredited. His next biggest movie part was probably in the 1951 cult classic 'Bowanga Bowanga'. A few years later he was out of showbiz altogether. His son, Michael G Wilson, however, fared better in Hollywood, becoming the executive producer of the James Bond series. Lewis G Wilson died in 2000.

Robert Lowrey

Lowery took over the role in the follow-up serial, 1949's Batman And Robin. Unlike Lewis, Lowery, 36 at the time, was a veteran actor, having already appeared in The Mark Of Zorro (1940), The Mummy's Ghost (1944) and Dangerous Passage (1944). He also filled out the Batsuit better than Lewis. Though Lowery never played Batman in another movie, he did get to wear the cape once more and make superhero history in the process. In 1956 he guest-starred on an episode of The Adventures Of Superman, marking the first time a Batman actor shared screen time with a Superman actor. After Batman, Lowrey enjoyed another 20 years in movies and TV. He died in 1971.

Adam West

The man logging the most hours in the Batcave, of course, was William West Anderson, whom you probably know better as Adam West. Either you love him for his goofy charm or hate him for blemishing the Bat's image for several decades. His campy, over-the-top portrayal of Gotham's Guardian infiltrated nearly every medium, including a 1966 movie and several animated series. After the Batman series went off the air in 1968, West was resigned to typecast hell. At one point he was forced to make public appearances as the Caped Crusader to earn a living. Then, in 1977, he returned to the tube as Batman, doing his voice in The New Adventures Of Batman, and then on such shows as Super Friends.

Michael Keaton

When director Tim Burton and Michael Keaton were announced for 1989's Batman, fans went bat-shit crazy, thinking their beloved superhero was going to get the Adam West treatment again. Other Hollywood stars considered for the role of Batman included Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Charlie Sheen, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Selleck, and Bill Murray. But producer Jon Peters said he cast Keaton because "The image of Batman is a big male model type, but I wanted a guy who's a real person who happens to put on this weird armor. A guy who's funny and scary. Keaton's both. He's got that explosive, insane side."

Keaton was rewarded by being the first actor to reprise the role on the big screen. And in 1992's Batman Returns, Keaton again garnered positive reviews. After Batman Returns, Keaton's career slowed down, before his miraculous and self-referential return in 'Birdman' cemented his position as a much-loved, Oscar-nominated talent. Even more recently, he was ace in Spotlight.

Val Kilmer

When the Batman franchise was turned over to director Joel Schumacher, Keaton decided not to return. Schumacher became interested in Kilmer for 1995's Batman Forever after seeing him in 'Tombstone'. Schumacher later described Kilmer as "childish and impossible" claiming that he fought with various crewmen and refused to speak to him for two weeks after the director asked his star to stop behaving rudely. Kilmer's performance got mixed reviews. As The New York Times put it, "The prime costume is now worn by Val Kilmer, who makes a good Batman but not a better one than Michael Keaton."

The movie performed better than Batman Returns at the box office, but Kilmer was destined to be a one-term caped crusader. After Batman, Kilmer's career headed downhill. Though it was probably 1996's The Island Of Dr. Moreau that had more to do with that than Batman Forever.

George Clooney

Clooney's movie career was just taking off when he was cast in 1997's Batman & Robin. Batman & Robin was a disaster. Clooney once joked that he helped to kill the franchise. The actor also called the movie "a waste of money." Batman & Robin received 11 nominations at the Razzie Awards and frequently ranks among the worst films of all time. It was also the worst box-office performer of the modern Batman movies.

But all that did nothing to hurt Clooney's career. After Batman, he went on to superstardom, starring in 'Out Of Sight' (with a cameo from Michael Keaton), 'Three Kings and O Brother', 'Where Art Thou?' over the next three years. You don't need reminding of where he's gone since then, either.

Christian Bale

Then came along Christopher Nolan. The Memento and Insomnia director was given the job of realizing what became Batman Begins, and he planned to reinvent the franchise, finally making the Dark Knight dark. Among the early candidates for the Batman/Bruce Wayne roles were Billy Crudup, Jake Gyllenhaal, Joshua Jackson, and Cillian Murphy. But Nolan ultimately chose Christian Bale, explaining that "he has exactly the balance of darkness and light that we were looking for." Starting with 'Batman Begins' in 2005, Bale dominated the character for several years. He reprised his role in the sequels 'The Dark Knight' (2008) and 'The Dark Knight Rises' (2012).

Regardless, Bale's Batman is fondly remembered, and always pops up during discussions of 'who's the best?', not least because of the stellar scripts, direction, and cinematography which generally surrounded him. Rumors after The Dark Knight Rises insisted that Mr. Bale turned down a huge paycheque to avoid reprising the role once more, a decision that remains a particularly tantalizing 'what if?' moment in Batman's cinematic history.

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck donned the cinematic cape and cowl for the first time in Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016). Snyder told the world that Batfleck will "bear the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne". It's easy to agree. Affleck's take is as conflicted-yet-charismatic as any Batmen that have gone before.

Affleck briefly played Bruce Wayne and Batman again in Suicide Squad (2016). He again came back in cape and cowl for 'Justice League' in 2017. Though it was tough for anyone to take place of Christian Bale, Ben Affleck nailed it and proved to be totally worth for one of the longest and desirable franchises of DC Comics.