So, here's my latest list; the best to the worst Batman actors of the last 50 years. Please note, this is live action only. Otherwise, Kevin Conroy would win by default and anyone who questioned it would have their sanity questioned by me haha. However, live action only, so let's begin with the worst.
5. George Clooney ('Batman & Robin', 1997)
Okay, so I'm biassed here. This is the man who did it. This is the man who has admitted, and worried, that he'd "killed Batman." He was guilty of many travesties. He played up the campiness which we hadn't seen since the 1960s series (more on that later) and, tone wise, was so far removed from the portrayals of the last two actors in the role, that we wouldn't know it was in the same universe as the last three films if it weren't for a few hints!
Did he perform a good Bruce Wayne? Yes, but let's be honest, we all know George Clooney can play a good playboy. Except he wasn't a freaking playboy! And what was up with his girlfriend in that movie? She was present in, like, three scenes, and one of them was to show him fantasizing about Poison Ivy! However, he sucked in one respect; he was a terrible Batman. He didn't feel like he should be called the Dark Knight, or the World's Greatest Detective. He felt like he should be called judgmental dick.
4. Adam West ('Batman the TV Series' and 'Batman the Movie', 1966-1968)
So, here's where I'm going to get the hate. I don't worship Adam West as a great Batman. I view him as the William Shatner of Batman actors; he was the first one I watched, he makes me laugh, but he is by no means the best. That being said, I do like some of the puns in that; unlike the previous entry (which was saved from a tie by this point), tonally, this version of Batman was supposed to be campy, that was the time he was from! Take a look at this clip for more proof...
Batman and Robin had felt like a throwback to three decades before, whereas this Batman was of its time, which makes it much better in my book. Of course, it's not without issues; the scene in the movie where Batman runs around with a bomb and refuses to throw it in the river because of some ducks, while funny, made no sense whatsoever, and for me, paints Batman as a bit of an idiot.
However, next we have the Patrick Warburton of Batman;
3. Val Kilmer ('Batman Forever', 1995)
Why did I describe him as the Patrick Warburton of Batman? Because, like Warburton does with the majority of his roles, admittedly to amazing comic effect, Kilmer portrayed Bruce Wayne and Batman with minimal inflection. Honestly, even when he was supposedly being emotional, he lacked emotion.
That was one of my issues with this portrayal of Batman; he's a man driven by his passions, and by his thirst for vengeance and justice. In this movie, he felt kind of like he'd just as soon kill his love interest as kiss her. Which is kind of appropriate, given the use of 'Hold me, Thrill me, Kiss me, Kill me' as part of the soundtrack. However, in spite of this, he did portray Batman in a way that was good to watch. Plus he had the best incarnation of the Batmobile in live action. However, he also portrayed one of the worst incarnations of Bruce Wayne.
Next we have;
2. Christian Bale ('The Dark Knight Trilogy', 2005 - 2012)
So now we're onto the two heavy hitters of Batman portrayals. Bale sounded like he had chain smoked twenty a day since the night his parents were murdered when he was a child. He was fierce, he was powerful, and, for the first time in a long time, we had a Bruce Wayne that almost felt like Bruce Wayne. However, similar to Kilmer, at times, Bales's performance was a little flat in that regard. That being said, he did very well while in the suit, and all I'm going to say; Dark Knight Rises and the use of Knightfall.
I actually believed that Bale's Batman had been beaten and broken. Plus, his had the right use of comedy, unlike Clooney's; it was seldom through use of jokes, instead being a dry wit much more akin to what you read in the books. If it weren't for how they broke characterization of some of the villains, such as the Joker (Ledger performed it well, but that wasn't the Joker; where was the acid flower or the bleached skin?), I would actually call Nolan's trilogy the best adaptation of Batman in terms of how faithful it was. It doesn't achieve that, but Bale certainly did perform the role of Batman amazingly. Just a shame he didn't get a proper Robin.
Finally, we have;
1. Michael Keaton ('Batman' and 'Batman Returns', 1989 and 1992)
This guy. This guy got it right. Keaton gave us an intimidating Batman and the flaky, eccentric Bruce Wayne. He was believable as a Billionaire playboy and as a Dark Knight Detective. He also, same as Kilmer, had a totally badass car.
Of course, his wasn't without faults; after all, Batman doesn't kill, but Keaton's did on several occasions. However, it could be worse; it could be Superman breaking someone's neck (the one moment that was wrong in Man of Steel IMHO, btw) but it's Batman killing people. Plus, unlike Bale's Batman, he didn't feel omnipresent; there were things he didn't know, whereas, at times, Bale's Batman seemed to make wild jumps of deduction.
So, there we have it. Now, the honorable mentions
David Mazouz ('Gotham', 2014 - Present)
Here's one in the grey area. Whilst Mazouz portrays Bruce Wayne, he doesn't portray Batman, hence why he's an honorable mention rather than on the list (he'd probably be somewhere around the Kilmer area if he were). He portrays the young Bruce Wayne very well, and, especially in Season 2, you can see him evolving towards the Batman we know and love (the last two episodes of the first half of Season 2 especially show this).
However, sometimes he has too much foreshadowing, especially in Season 1 where there'd be a Batman allusion in virtually every episode! However, I am looking forward to seeing his version of the character develop, and do hope they get a long enough run to finally show Batman.
Ben Affleck ('Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice', 'Suicide Squad', 'Justice League: Part One' and 'Justice League: Part Two', 2016, 2017 and 2019)
Another honorable mention, simply because we've seen all of about two minutes of his portrayal, all out of context. I won't discuss it too much here, beyond saying we're looking at an older Batman, who's clearly experienced some level of loss (the allusions to Death in the Family are definitely there) and has a pretty slick car! Plus, he's going to be the first one to face Superman on screen, so props for that. I had serious doubts when Affleck was initially announced (not because of Daredevil; I actually liked that movie. I just find his acting hit or miss) but my doubts have been eased somewhat since.
And for the final honorable mention:
Kevin Conroy ('DCAU', Too Many Animated Movies to List, 'Arkham' Games, 1992 - Present)
Yes, I know, I said this is live action only, hence, honorable mention. However, if we'd included voice portrayals as well, Conroy would top the list. He, along with Mark Hamill's Joker, have become the bench marks for the characters. Other actors can voice them, but they never seem to do as well (and in the case of the Joker, there seems to be a level of imitation occurring too!) He's the quintessential voice of Batman and, honestly, if they wanted an older Batman, they probably could've considered Conroy for Batman v Superman! Still, at least we're going to get to hear his Batman again in an adaptation of The Killing Joke very soon!
So that's the list! Comment below with your own lists, let's see how your views stack up against (or alongside) mine!