Special Report

All the Batman Actors Ranked From Worst to Best

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“I don’t know how many there are, like 77 Batmans. They think they should form their own union,” Michael Keaton joked in a recent interview. And he should know, being one among a small legion of well-known actors to play the role. With each new performance comes a new take on the character and a unique adjoining tone, which ranges from kitschy comedy to relentless gloom. 

Indeed, one will never confuse Christian Bale’s Dark Knight with that of Adam West’s campy crusader. (Speaking of Bale, check out the actor’s best movies).

Despite the dizzying array of interpretations, Batman’s origin story remains more or less the same. As in the original DC comic, young Bruce Wayne loses his parents to a violent tragedy. He grows up to become a millionaire playboy by day and Gotham City’s foremost vigilante by night. When not taking on petty criminals, he squares off against supervillains such as The Joker, The Riddler, and others. (Looking for more superhero fare? Here is every Marvel movie ranked from worst to best). 

Given the consistent nature of Batman’s backstory, it’s all the more impressive that the character has been portrayed in so many different ways. Judging by current trailers, actor Robert Pattinson will keep things in dark territory when he appears in “The Batman,” scheduled to arrive in 2022. 

Meanwhile, both Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton will reprise their respective roles as the Dark Knight in the upcoming DC film “The Flash,” which is likewise slated for a 2022 release. And so the wide-reaching legacy of this endlessly alluring character continues into yet another decade. But who played him the best? Let’s find out.

Click here to see all actors who have played Batman, ranked
Click here to read our detailed methodology

Source: Getty Images / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

9. George Clooney
> Appearances as Batman: 1
> Top-rated Batman film: Batman & Robin (1997)
> Avg. IMDb rating for Batman films: 3.8/10
> Avg. RT audience rating for Batman films: 16%
> Avg. Tomatometer rating for Batman films: 12%

Clooney’s turn as the caped crusader was so disastrous that he later apologized for destroying the franchise (at the time). It didn’t help that “Batman & Robin” was also one of the most famously terrible films in recent history.

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Source: By unknown (20th Century Fox) - eBay, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20126292

8. Robert Lowery
> Appearances as Batman: 1
> Top-rated Batman film: Batman and Robin (1949)
> Avg. IMDb rating for Batman appearances: 6.1/10
> Avg. RT audience rating for Batman appearances: N/A
> Avg. Tomatometer rating for Batman appearances: N/A

Six years after the first official Batman film came a similarly serialized follow-up, with Robert Lowery now playing the title role. It was later released through Video On-Demand by audio commentary mocksters Rifftrax, a spin-off of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

Source: Archive Photos / Moviepix via Getty Images

7. Lewis Wilson
> Appearances as Batman: 1
> Top-rated Batman film: The Batman (1943)
> Avg. IMDb rating for Batman films: 6.3/10
> Avg. RT audience rating for Batman films: 61%
> Avg. Tomatometer rating for Batman films: N/A

Lewis Wilson made his big screen debut when he became the first actor to depict Batman in a feature film, which took the form of a 15-chapter serial. He was replaced by Robert Lowery for the 1949 sequel and left show business altogether soon after.

Source: Jack Taylor / Getty Images News via Getty Images

6. Val Kilmer
> Appearances as Batman: 1
> Top-rated Batman film: Batman Forever (1995)
> Avg. IMDb rating for Batman films: 5.4/10
> Avg. RT audience rating for Batman films: 32%
> Avg. Tomatometer rating for Batman films: 38%

Kilmer was exploring a bat cave in Africa the same day he was offered the role of Batman, which he took as a promising sign. He soon found himself saddled by a cumbersome suit and the outsized performances of co-stars Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones. “Batman Forever” was a major hit nevertheless and the highest domestic grosser of 1995.

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Source: Dave Kotinsky / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

5. Will Arnett
> Appearances as Batman: 3
> Top-rated Batman film: The Lego Movie (2014)
> Avg. IMDb rating for Batman films: 7.5/10
> Avg. RT audience rating for Batman films: 84%
> Avg. Tomatometer rating for Batman films: 90%

Comedian Will Arnett drew praises from former Batman actor Michael Keaton for his voice work in three animated Lego films. When asked if he’d ever play the role in a live-action movie, he responded, “What? And go through all that, and have to squeeze into the suit?”

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

4. Ben Affleck
> Appearances as Batman: 3
> Top-rated Batman film: Justice League (2017)
> Avg. IMDb rating for Batman films: 6.1/10
> Avg. RT audience rating for Batman films: 63%
> Avg. Tomatometer rating for Batman films: 32%

It took DC fans by surprise when Ben Affleck was announced as the next Batman back in 2013, though he appears to have exceeded expectations. He’ll tackle the role for the fourth time in “The Flash,” which is scheduled to arrive in 2022. The film also stars Michael Keaton as an older version of the caped crusader who exists in an alternate reality.

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3. Adam West
> Appearances as Batman: 4
> Top-rated Batman appearance: Batman (TV Series) (1966-1968)
> Avg. IMDb rating for Batman appearances: 7.5/10
> Avg. RT audience rating for Batman appearances: 79%
> Avg. Tomatometer rating for Batman appearances: 62%

Adam West’s performance of the Dark Knight was anything but dark, with both the early TV series and companion film being campy comedies. He later provided the voice of Batman for a number of animated shows and also reprised the role for a 1979 live-action TV special called “Legends of the Superheroes.” Singular in his style, West remained a pop culture icon long after he hung up the batsuit.

Source: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

2. Christian Bale
> Appearances as Batman: 3
> Top-rated Batman film: The Dark Knight (2008)
> Avg. IMDb rating for Batman films: 8.6/10
> Avg. RT audience rating for Batman films: 93%
> Avg. Tomatometer rating for Batman films: 89%

Bale brought a gruff tone and grim disposition to the role of Batman for Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster trilogy. Both he and the director turned down an offer from Warner Bros. to deliver a fourth installment.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

1. Michael Keaton
> Appearances as Batman: 2
> Top-rated Batman film: Batman (1989)
> Avg. IMDb rating for Batman films: 7.3/10
> Avg. RT audience rating for Batman films: 79%
> Avg. Tomatometer rating for Batman films: 76%

Michael Keaton’s version of Batman took the character into serious terrain and helped redefine comic book movies in the process. He later parodied his own legacy in the Oscar-winning drama “Birdman,” playing a former superhero actor with some egotistical baggage. He is playing the role once again in the upcoming film “The Flash.”

Methodology

To rank all actors who have played Batman, 24/7 Tempo developed an index based on Google search popularity, average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator. Relative Google popularity for the search query of an actor’s name plus “Batman” from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020, a neutral period with no Batman film releases, came from Google Trends and was included in the index at double weight. The average IMDb user rating for all Batman films starring each actor was calculated using the number of votes as weighting and was included in the index at full weight. The average Rotten Tomatoes audience rating and average Tomatometer rating were also calculated using the number of votes and reviews as weights and were both included in the index at full weight. Television data was used for Batman actors who have primarily portrayed the character in television series or serials. Data was collected November 2021.

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