The Definitive Ranking of the Best Batmen of All Time Don’t Even Argue With Us
In the movie Neighbors, Seth Rogen told the (much younger) Zac Efron “Michael Keaton is Batman to me.” He was speaking for Generation X; but really, he was speaking for all of us. When Tim Burton cast Michael Keaton to play the Caped Crusader in his 1989 movie, many worried about Mr. Mom donning the cowl. They shouldn’t have. No one has ever taken Batman—and Bruce Wayne—and made him his own like Keaton did in Batman. And when he came back and did it again in Batman Returns, it was just as brilliant—and it paved the way for Keaton to give the performance of his career in Birdman. Michael Keaton is the greatest Batman of all time. Accept no substitutes.—Angela Watercutter
Ron Phillips/Warner Bros.
While many actors have been cast to play Batman, Christian Bale was the first who felt like a thespian. You just look at him and imagine he went fully Method and locked himself in a cave with a stack of free weights to prep for the role. As such, his turn in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises are practically Shakespearean. He brought a level of depth and menace to the character we hadn’t seen before, and definitely haven’t seen since. It’s a brilliant turn that made Nolan’s movies the best on-screen telling of the Bruce Wayne story yet. Sorry, Batfleck; Christian Bale is the greatest Batman of all time. —Angela Watercutter
Clay Enos/Warner Bros.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is currently sitting lower on the Tomatometer than Daredevil did over a decade ago—but that’s through no fault of Ben Affleck, who actually proves to be a bit of genius casting as Batman. Though Zack Snyder’s film unwisely opts to once again depict the Waynes’ murder, the film largely ignores how Bruce Wayne became Batman, instead taking it as a certainty that the Gotham Bat exists and has for decades. That’s the biggest advantage to Affleck’s performance, and allows him to become the greatest Batman of all time. He’s obstinate, ceaselessly violent, emotionally distraught, and yet when he puts on a suit he can still pull off that sleazeball vibe to maintain the playboy reputation. We’d still like to see what Affleck can do when starring in and directing a standalone Batman feature. —K.M. McFarland
Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin may have the campiest atmosphere, the most garish color palette, and the worst villains, but it also has the greatest Batman of all time in George Clooney. There has never been an actor better suited to playing Bruce Wayne as a suave, debonair, billionaire who attracts no suspicion as to whether he’s secretly the Caped Crusader. Like in the ’60s television series, Clooney’s Wayne only has hints of his troubled past in his demeanor. He’s not constantly tormented by it, and actually looks like he can enjoy what remains of his life. Pretty much every aspect of Batman & Robin has been ridiculed and everyone involved has been forced to atone for their sins against cinema—but Clooney’s turn as Bruce Wayne shouldn’t be so heavily derided. —K.M. McFarland
Who’s the greatest Batman of all time? Does BOFF! answer your question? How about ZLONK!? I rest my case.—Peter Rubin
Oh, Val. At first glance your Bruce Wayne is a mess: a sandy-haired, wire-rimmed, oily fop. Who did you think you were, swinging in in your double-breasted suit to replace our beloved Keaton? But once we got past your preternatural smoothness (and, yes, the nipples on your suit), we realized that the truth was far deeper. You, Val, are the greatest Batman of all time—you’re just stuck in a terrible movie. Joel Schumacher’s neon-Dada vision of Gotham in Batman Forever is far more nightmarish than Tim Burton’s miasmic anarchy, and the clunker of a script made you a one-liner machine you were never meant to be. We don’t need the Riddler to figure out why you left the suit behind after this stinker. —Peter Rubin