Top 7 Best Batman Performances!

5. Peter Weller

The Dark Knight Returns is about Batman’s final crusade in an ugly, violent future, and the hardcore portrayal of the aging Bruce Wayne has weighed heavily on every Bat-plot that followed it. In fact, the upcoming Batman vs. Superman film appears to draw quite heavily from the miniseries. Only that new Batman is played by a fit, 42-year-old Ben Affleck. If you want to properly portray DKR’s Wayne, you need a truly weathered voice, one that sounds like it has lived a hard life, and won’t stop taking punishment until he dies. That’s Peter Weller in the animated retelling of DKR.

Maybe there’s some admiration for Robocop carried over into loving this role, but Weller plays Bats as a tired man who isn’t ready to take off his suit. He’s not the Clint Eastwood type Frank Miller envisioned. Weller’s Bruce is more of a skilled handyman who should’ve retired, and maybe can’t keep up with the kids anymore, but he’ll die before he admits that. His speech to Clark at the end isn’t how I heard it in my head when I read the book, but Weller’s mix of rasp and intensity makes it his own. Very underrated.

4. Christian Bale

Yes, yes, his growling voice sure sounds stupid, right? “Grah, I’m Batman, take me seriously!” Ok, now that that’s out of your system, let’s first recognize that over three films Bale gives the most complete Batman performance of all time. You’ve got the rookie, the established force, and the veteran suiting up for one more ride, all handled by one man . And he’s distinct in each of those roles, playing Bats as someone who approaches his problems with just as much planning as intensity.

For all his grunting, Bale’s Batman is surprisingly philosophical. He has debates about lethal force, terrorism, and chaos vs order almost as often as he’s punching people. And his Bruce isn’t bad either, with Bale making Wayne into a mask just like Batman, but one he comes to enjoy from time to time. And, all joking aside, when he first shouted “Swear to me!” in Begins, he was the first live action Dark Knight that was actually scary.

3. Will Arnett

Will Arnett is a wonderful goof who could have probably made it as a handsome leading man, but he enjoys being silly far too much. Plus, he has an amazing voice, and why waste it on car commercials? His gravelly voice and skills at improvised tomfoolery fit right in with the LEGO Movie, where Bats plays an entirely new role: the jerky boyfriend.

It the post-modern world of LEGO, Batman has all the cool toys and intensity, but very little of the tragedy. And when he does cover his gloomy origins, it’s only for an original song about how his dead parents and brooding make him so interesting. Without really selling out the character, Will Arnett turned Bats into the comic relief in a film that’s 80 times funnier than it has any right to be. Arnett is so damn good he’ll soon star in a solo LEGO Batman movie, which I hope is accompanied by a solo album all about darkness and how hard it was for him to be an orphan.

20 thoughts on “Top 7 Best Batman Performances!

  1. Its hard to argue Conroy because like you said, he has been batman in so many things. But its hard to put just the voice of batman over someone who not only has to voice, but appear as the Dark Knight himself. Uhg, im glad you did this list, I dont think I could ever put them in order. A fantastic read though, thanks!

  2. I can’t argue with this list. Conroy is my Batman. I never saw Brave and the Bold or the 1966 show, so I can’t agree or disagree with those.

    I look forward to what Ben Affleck does with Batman as well.

    1. Ben is going to surprise us and may be the next best thing for the franchise since casting Heath as the Joker.

  3. I would put Keaton at 2 or 3, nobody beats Conroy. Conroy and Hamill are both great in the animated series and the games.

  4. I’d put Bale a bit higher. I always liked his bat-growl. Also, Aquaman is the best part of the Brave and the Bold. The Rousing Song of Heroism is the best.

  5. Peter Weller put it down as aging Batman and the dark knight returns is my favorite batman film of all time! It makes all other DC Animated films seem just kinda average in comperison. The score by composer Christopher Drake really is what made this film and the above mentioned Weller.

  6. Henry,

    I apologize for taking this list too seriously but I have to argue with Will Arnett before Christian Bale. In your own words it’s the most “complete” performance. Bale brings depth to Bruce Wayne and Batman equally,and that’s only rivaled by Conroy. Right now it seems, because of every other film being “dark & gritty” the Dark Knight trilogy is the uncool pick. Hank, be on the right side of history. Bale’s performance does the most justice to the character and it’s campy in it’s own right – “nice coat”.

    Now this is a long shot but I hope one day Bale’s batman voice will be remarked for being campy and in-character on the side trajectory as the new found embracing of West’s Batman 66.

    1. I’d say Bale definitely deserves the #2 spot behind Kevin Conroy.

      TO CLARIFY I’m DEFINITELY NOT saying Henry is in this boat, but I feel like ranting about it anyway. It’s very stupid that Bale has been getting a lot of flack lately, especially from DCCU fanboys who have been saying Affleck will make Bale look like George Clooney. I understand that we shouldn’t always shit on a movie or performance before the film is actually out (I have hope for Affleck), but the idea that he is suddenly Batman God Tier is ridiculous, and even if he ends up being great that doesn’t devalue Bale’s performance in the slightest. /rant over

  7. While I have to disagree with Will Arnett completely, I’m happy with the acknowledgement of Diedrich Bader in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I was worried the LT team didn’t know about it, and I’ve got a quote from Brett stuck in my head about “Batman The Animated Series is the only great Batman cartoon series”. Brave & The Bold’s fantastic, and Bader is superb in the role. Just watch the episode ‘Chill of the Night’ if you’re worried it’s too kiddy. It’s basically the team saying “right, screw you hater fanboys, we’re going to do a BTAS episode and make it better than anything that series ever did”… and did. With Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy.

    And I’m a complete convert to the ’60s series now. I thought it was campy nonsense, but instead it’s highly faithful to the ’60s era comics to the extent that they even adapted stories from the comics of the time. Plus they’re always in on the joke.

    I just got to the first Mr Freeze – holy s**t. A) I had no idea Freeze was German in the show, making Arnold Schwarzenegger’s casting make more sense, and B) before the Animated Series Freeze wasn’t a figure of tragedy, and yet the ’60s series actually makes him tragic! The campy fun don’t-take-this-seriously parody of Batman is the first instance of sympathy for Mr Freeze! I don’t get why he loves baseball, but still!

  8. I still think Keaton is a pretty terrible Batman/ Bruce Wayne. He’s a phenomenal actor, but the characterization of Bruce Wayne is so eclectic that one moment it seems like Burton wants him to be neurotic in a quirky-funny way, but at other times he just comes off as a psycho. It’s kind of reminiscent of ASM2 Peter, where his actions and emotions are never consistent enough to know who he is. At least Kilmer is very clearly a brooding Bruce Wayne who uses his wealth and charity in meaningful pursuits, rather than as a cover story (for instance, he takes an active role in running Wayne Enterprises). Then again I’d rather watch Batman Forever over Batman 89 or Returns any day of the week.

    Again, I love Keaton and all, but I despise those Burton Batman movies and Keaton himself was not a diamond in the rough thanks to bad writing and Burton not understanding the character.

    Not trying to pick at Henry or anything, I like that the Top 7s are back and this was an enjoyable (and surprising) read.

  9. Kevin Conroy is my #1 by far. I grew up in the Conroy era, when Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, various animated movies and Batman games were preeminent.

    Christian Bale has to be my #2 overall. His role helped bring Batman back to prominence on the big screen. I just wish The Dark Knight RIses wasn’t such a weak follow up to The Dark Knight. My opinion of course, but something about it felt off.

    #3 is Adam West. He was the first man to bring Batman to the masses in a meaningful way and if not for him I’m not sure if the Batman franchise would exist now.

    #4 is Michael Keaton mostly because of nostalgia. I LOVED Batman and Batman Returns when I was younger, but they don’t hold up as well. Though, I still consider them the two strongest Batman movies before the Christopher Nolan trilogy existed.

    #5 Would be a tie between Diedrich Bader and Rino Romano. I found both of their performances great and both shows were different takes on the current Batman. I’m curious what Henry’s opinion is on “The Batman”, since it was the only show I didn’t see him mention in this article.

    1. Since this is a Top 7 I think I’ll follow suit and try to come up with two more :P.

      #6 Val Kilmer just because he did a good job as a follow up to Michael Keaton.

      #7 James Woods. A bit of a cheat because he didn’t actually play Batman, but his portrayal as an alternate universe Batman named Owlman, in the animated film Justice League: Crisis, was great.

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