Batman has graced our cinemas and televisions for nearly 80 years. Each version has been drastically different, and each film or show has been varied in its quality and reception. Each person has their favorites, and their hated *cough* Clooney *cough*. The argument rages: Who truly is the best Batman? In this article, I hope to show you who I think is the best portrayal of the Dark Knight in live action film. Let me start back at the beginning, and I mean the very beginning, with Batman, starring Lewis Wilson.
Now, this was a 15 part serial that aired during World War II. Due to the time, this show revolved around fighting the Japanese, and was sort of propoganda, like many serials of the day were. As you can see, the suit is accurate to the earliest of comics, albeit ill-fitting. While this Batman was more serious than the 60's version, it just wasn't a good show overall, and the character had barely been introduced. There was no vigilantism, no dark brooding nature to this hero. Lewis Wilson looked the part, but, sadly, this was just not the best portrayal. Overall, I'd give this version a 4/10. The suit is accurate, but, overall, it just doesn't do the character justice.
Batman (1966 film, 1966-68)
During the '60s, Batman had reached a new low in the comics. He was campy, with outlandish costumes, and even more outlandish toys. His villains were caricatures. The show followed this trend, creating one of the greatest, campiest cult satires of the 20th century. Meant to poke fun at the likes of Lone Ranger and other such shows, as well as the comics, this show was meant to be bad. However, let's not focus on the show, but rather the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Adam West is the only person to wear the cowl who fit the requirements for Batman's build. 6'2", 210 lbs., with blue eyes and dark hair. So, in looks alone, Adam West was the most accurate. His suit and toys also completely matched the comic books. His performance, though campy, was good. It truly is a shame that the character was taken as a farce during that time. Imagine what it could have been had West played a serious Batman.
Batman/Batman Returns (1989, 1992)
Perhaps the start of real superhero films (cause who cares about Superman?). In all seriousness, this marked the beginning of the modern superhero film movement. Fortunately, men like Frank Miller had gotten hold of the comic books, and brought the Dark Knight back into the dark. The character was serious again, and Tim Burton's film showed this. I think that it's universally accepted that Michael Keaton was an incredible Batman. His voice and scowl were beautifully portrayed, and his calm demeanor in the midst of battle brought a wow factor to the character. As good as his Batman was, Keaton just didn't have the look of Bruce Wayne. His acting was solid, but, there is something to be said about looking the part, and Keaton just didn't. However, he certainly wins for an excellent, comic accurate portrayal of Batman.
Batman Forever (1995)
And, here we go back to farce-ville. This film had one good thing: Jim Carey. Now, Kilmer was hot stuff back in the day, and as Bruce Wayne he delivered. Even with a terrible script and movie, he still showed a slightly egotistical, but caring Bruce. However, his Batman seemed under-sized, He's not, necessarily, but, the Batman just seemed smaller than life. Kilmer does get brownie points for playing a serious role, even though he was known for comedy. Sadly, the film was just a big joke. Almost as big as the next film.
Batman and Robin (1997)
You know a movie's bad when Arnold Schwarzenegger is the best actor. Sorry Clooney, but, you just stunk in this. Of course, the film was so pathetic, it was past the "so sad it's laughable" stage. Clooney's portrayal of both Batman and Bruce Wayne matched. He was far too old, and way too small to be playing the Dark Knight in his prime. Now, I would like to point out that, were Batman Beyond ever to make it to the silver screen, then Clooney would make a great Bruce Wayne. Sadly, this was just not his film. Or anyone else's, for that matter. It would kill the dream of Batman for nearly ten years.
The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012)
So, feel free to argue with me, but, I contend that this trilogy is in the top three trilogies of all time. To me, Bruce Wayne will always be Christian Bale. His charm, looks, and intelligence are truly everything that Wayne is. His performance as Batman was equally impressive. Dark, frightening, and coated in armor: this Batman was the most "hard core" Knight we've seen. I understand the desire for realism, but, the armor actually was not what I imagined Batman to wear. I'll always love the classic grey and black spandex suit. But, all in all, Bale clearly is the best actor of the bunch (when it comes to playing Batman).
In conclusion, I would say that Adam West was the best Batman, in terms of accuracy, looks, and faithfulness to comics. A close second would be Keaton. Both of these were very close to their written counterparts, and played their role well. But, if you want the best display of acting, and the best marble-gargling voice, then Christian Bale is the best.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that, with the exception of Clooney, they all have redeemable qualities. Now, some are better performances, while some are more faithful (we are talking about book-to-film adaptions here.) to the source material. And some are just funnier. And, we'll have to wait and see what Afleck's Batman will be like. Personally, I would rank the Batmen in this order:
1. Adam West
2. Christian Bale
3. Michael Keaton
4. Lewis Wilson
5. Val Kilmer
6. George Clooney
So, what do you think? Who is the best Batman in your opinion? Leave your thoughts in the comments!