How Would You Rate the Batmen?

I was really hesitant to start this thread since I am in no way an aficionado in the matter.

Since I just watched the Dark Knight and saw blips of Batman Returns on HBO (the one where Danny DeVito is the penguin) I just got to thinking about this.

How would you rate the various incantations of Batman?

Your criteria is whatever you want it to be and we can include all of the various forms of portrayal including feature length films, the TV series, cartoons and comic book.

I’ll start –and again, I am no expert in this realm.

Number 1. **Michael Keaton’s **Batman in the two Burton films. I place him first since this role was a complete departure from his previous films which were generally light-hearted comedy. Also he seemed to make a distinction between the characters of Bruce Wayne and Batman that others tend to gloss over or not bother with.

Number 2. Adam West from the Batman show of the ‘60’s. I don’t know… I’m o.k. with my superheroes having some pudge and since his stylings with his vocal delivery of the role placed such a firm imprint on the character this for me is almost the true Batman with everything else being just derivative.

  1. Christian Bale. He does a good, serviceable job but nothing truly stands out.

I never really read the comic book so I won’t include it in my rating and don’t follow the more updated cartoon. (Again you can bring whatever you want to the discussion) So I will drop down to:

Second to last = Val Kilmer & George Clooney. Interchangeable Batmen who merely went through the motions for the easy pay check. Totally forgettable and barely worth considering.

Last place is the Batman from the Super Friends cartoon of the late 70’s. (I’m serious) In a bloated cast, this Batman was there as an afterthought, he had his useless sidekick Robin riding on his coattails and seemed to bring nothing to the table but an improbably stocked utility belt and a perfunctory sense of cleverness. Super Friend my arse.

I don’t really follow Batman, but I agree with Michael Keaton being number one. People are always hating on him, saying he’s too small and not believable as a superhero, but I really liked him. I felt the same way you did about Christian Bale–I guess I didn’t HATE him, but he came off as kind of obnoxious and douchey when he was Bruce Wayne and raspy when he wasn’t.

  1. Bale - Dark and tortured, like Batman should be.

  2. Keaton - Not nearly as dark or tortured, but at least made the attempt.

  3. Everybody else.

I’ll give a slight nudge to Keaton over Bale because he seemed a little more off-kilter somehow like he had a vicious streak just barely kept at bay. Bale was better at the dark at tortured, and I like the way he establishes a phony Bruce Wayne persona that is a douchey playboy. But as “dark and tortured” he’s still a good guy, Keaton comes across like someone who has a screw loose and might one day be a bad guy.

So, 1) Keaton 2) Bale 3) West because he’s got the Batmanliest voice.

3a. Adam West
3b. those other guys

I actually kind of liked Kilmer as Batman, but you’re right, pretty forgettable. He gets completely overshadowed by Carrey and Tommy Lee.

Clooney…I had never seen him in anything before Batman & Robin, and for the longest time I refused to see anything with him after. The guy is an amazingly good actor with loads of charisma, but he just…sucked as Batman.

If Bale could find a decent Batman voice without sounding like he gargles with rocks, I’d put him over Keaton.

So are we including voice actors? If so, Kevin Conroy is so far ahead of any other person to ever play Batman that it’s not even worth discussing his competition.

If not, then I’d go…

Adam West
Michael Keaton
Val Kilmer
George Clooney
Christian Bale

West’s is the most Batman-like of any of them, I think the middle three are just “meh,” and I can barely watch Bale’s Batman scenes in either of his movies without cracking up.

Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series)

(huge gap)
Bale (great bruce, wish he’d tone down the gravel for Batman)

But Bruce Wayne is obnoxious and douchey. I think that was the most brilliant part of Bale’s characterization. Who would look at that douchebag and think “He’s secretly a psychopath vigilante?” Even the guy who figured it out had access to files and numbers at Wayne Enterprises. For my money, Bale is the best Batman.

I think Val Kilmer gets shafted when people talk about the Batman actors. He’s a very good actor and he was trying to play the movie straight. Except, everybody around him was playing it completely over the top and campy. I think Kilmer had the angst and the dark edge. I think he did a really good job of conveying that Batman is a crazy person. I liked the way he played the conflict between being the Bat and being a man.

I don’t have an opinion on Keaton. I love Batman. He’s my favorite superhero (predating the Nolan films!). But when I watch the Tim Burton movies, I feel very, very bored. This, of course, scandalizes my husband, and so I’m sure he’ll make me sit through both movies sooner or later.

If I’m trying to be objective, it’s hard to rank them, because who’s to say how Clooney or Kilmer would’ve done in a movie directed by a director instead of Joel Schumacher? If I fed Uwe Boll a couple microdots and then you had to do what he said, people wouldn’t think much of your capabilities either.

Going by what’s on the celluloid, though, I’d have to go with:

  1. Keaton
  2. Bale
  3. West
  4. Kilmer
  5. Clooney

Kevin Conroy is Batman.

  1. Keaton

  2. Kilmer

  3. the rest

Well, first, I’d have Val Kilmer tied to the back of a female elephant, during mating season. Then, for Adam West I’d… Oh, you said “rate”! I misread the thread title…

< blushes furiously whilst backing out of thread >

It did have the classic line (as described in one of the Jabootu snark recaps):

Keaton’s movies weren’t really written to give him much to do, so he’s at a bit of a disadvantage in the characterization.

Kevin Conroy (Animated Series), without question at #1.

Keaton has the edge over Bale for me, mostly becuase I think he does a better job with both ends of the persona than Bale does. I think Christian Bale is the superious Bruce Wayne, without question, but I intesnly dislike his portrayal of the Batman side of the character. I also like the unhinged quality that Keaton brought to the character as a whole particularly when he was Wayne. Still his Bruce Wayne was a bit flat compaired to Bale, but it balanced and worked with his Batman, and Keaton’s Batman portrayal was damn near perfect.


  1. Conroy
  2. Keaton
  3. Bale
  4. Kilmer (an underrated Batman I think, he is almost on par with Keaton and Bale, and Keaton and Bale nearly tie for second in my book)


  1. West
  2. Clooney
    But really, I know the pysical action was animated, but no one comes close to Conroy as Batman.

West had the best Batman voice, no doubt. And really- it is hard to pull off camp like that with such a straight face.

Keaton played Wayne the best. Perfect.

Bale was good as Batman.

What, no love for Lewis Wilson?
I disliked Keaton’s performance primarily becuase of one scene that took place between him, Robert Wuhl and Kim Bassinger at Wayne Manor. Wuhl and Bassinger were wandering around during a party and stumbled into a room where Keaton had a number of historical suits of armor on display.

Keaton: [about a partcular suit] It’s Japanese.

Wuhl: [not recognizing Keaton as Bruce Wayne] How do you know?

Keaton: [taking a lengthy pause with a confused expression that implies the question is sufficiently baffling that extended analysis is necessary] Because I got it in Japan.
Keaton wasn’t scary as Batman or sauve as Bruce Wayne. His performance failed on both fronts.

  1. Adam West.

  2. There is no 2. There is only Adam West.

Batman is a man in outlandish garb, who conceals his face. This makes him a clown. Clowns are funny.

And so are Comics. They’re comical (funny).

Conroy/Bale for actual portrayal of the Batman.
West for an entertaining parody of the Batman.

Nobody else is worth talking about.