Who is the Best Batman?

8 Actors have played Batman on Screen. Who is your favorite?

Growing up in the 60s, I vividly remember Batman’s short prime as a hugely popular, if campy, television show on ABC followed by a 1966 movie iteration. Adam West and Burt Ward in the roles of Batman/Bruce Wayne and Robin/Dick Grayson rocketed to stardom and just as quickly faded into typecast oblivion.

When Michael Keaton took on the role in the Tim Burton directed film version in 1989, Batman’s bankability at the box office was reaffirmed and a franchise bloomed.

Batman on Film
Batman (1943); Batman and Robin (1949); Batman (1966); Batman (1989); Batman Returns (1992); Batman Forever (1995); Batman & Robin (1997); Batman Begins (2005); The Dark Knight (2008); The Dark Knight Rises (2012); Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016); Suicide Squad (2016); Justice League (2017); Joker (Coming in 2019).

Batman’s first appearances on the big screen were in two 15 part serials, produced in 1943 and 1949. Both were eventually compressed into full length feature films. (Video-Batman) (Video-Batman and Robin). Lewis Wilson and Robert Lowery  were the first two actors to don the cape and cowl. The 1966 film featured West and Ward reprising their Television roles with popular guest villans Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, Cesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin and Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. It received mostly favorable reviews for its tongue in cheek camp.

The 1989 Tim Burton film was heavily promoted and eagerly anticipated as a darker, more serious take on the caped crusader. Michael Keaton, previously known for less serious roles, delivered the goods, with Jack Nicholson‘s frightening portrayal of The Joker mesmerizing audiences worldwide. The film topped $411.35 million in total revenue and was the highest grossing film based on a DC comic book until 2008’s The Dark Knight. (Wikipedia)

Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck contributed their interpretations with varying degrees of success. Bale’s nemesis in 2008’s The Dark Knight Rises was Heath Ledger, in a show stealing performance as The Joker.

The two decade lifespan of the franchise introduced the character to several generations of fans, each associating the star-of-the-day with the titular role. But inevitable “Worst to Best” lists have been created. Zach Snyder likes Ben Affleck.  Variety thinks Christian Bale is the best and serial star Lewis Wilson as the worst, with Val Kilmer a close second-from-the-bottom. Business Insider ranks Keaton at the top and George Clooney at the bottom.

Any franchise is hard to sustain. Just ask the Broccoli family, who has produced 24 James Bond films with six different actors in the title role. Sean Connery, George LazenbyRoger MooreTimothy DaltonPierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig could not be more different from one another. But like the Batmen, each made the role their own and built fan bases who revere their performances.

Will Batman continue to be at the center of our consciousness? As long as there are comic books and kids, we think so.

For the record, I like Connery best as Bond and Keaton head and shoulders above all the others as the Dark Knight.

We leave you with Looper.com’s video review of worst to first Batman films. You may not agree (we don’t) but it’s worth the watch just to see the clips. “Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed.” Let’s go!

Get a sixty second shot of memories on my Rock and Roll Revisited Soundcloud Playlist, updated daily!



Scott Westerman
Host and Producer – Rock and Roll Revisited
Author: Motor City Music – Keener 13 and the Soundtrack of Detroit