Batman Through the Years—From Wilson to Pattinson

A black-and-white promotional image of an older depiction of Batman by an unspecified actor in an unspecified project against a light background alongside a promotional image of Christian Bale as Batman for either The Dark Knight (2008) or The Dark Knight Rises (2012) against a dark grey background

Batman—The Caped Crusader has been portrayed by more actors than any other superhero in movie history! Nine to be exact. Not to mention the countless television and animated series that have featured the masked vigilante. We’ve seen Batman played by the classic Adam West onwards to Christian Bale, arguably the most celebrated take on the character in his performance in The Dark Knight (2008). 

The Best Superhero Movie Performances Of The Decade

With news of the new face behind the mask coming to the big screen by none other than Robert Pattinson, we decided to take a look back at Batman, and the actors that played him, throughout the years. 


Lewis Wilson
Batman (1943)

(left to right) Robin (Douglas Croft), Dr. Daka (J. Carrol Naish), and Batman (Lewis Wilson) in Batman (1943)

Being the very first Batman to be on the big screen, one would expect he would have been the model that all successors to the cape would have looked to for reference; unfortunately for Wilson, that wasn’t the case. As the youngest and least experienced actor to play Batman, he was also the least remembered. Though he filled the part of the suave playboy to a tee, his appearance as a superhero didn’t quite hit the mark for fans.


Robert Lowery
Batman and Robin (1949)

Batman and Robin-1949
(left to right) Commissioner Jim Gordon (Lyle Talbot), Batman (Robert Lowery), and Robin (Johnny Duncan) in Batman and Robin (1949)

The next actor to take up the mantle was Robert Lowery, a more seasoned veteran on the big screen, who played the titular superhero in Batman and Robin. Though he only played Batman in one movie, he was the first Batman actor to cross over into the Superman storyline when he appeared in an episode of The Adventures of Superman in 1956. It would appear, though, that the child’s Halloween costume-esque Batsuit would still be the standard until the 1980’s. 


Adam West
Batman (1966-1968)

Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) in Batman (1966-1968)

Logging in the most hours behind the mask, Adam West brought on a different, more campy approach to the superhero’s character. Though this take on Batman would go on to receive mixed reviews from fans, nobody can deny that West became one of the most iconic Batman actors of all time. I mean, Batman and the Joker facing off in a surf contest? That is some crime-fighting technique that will forever be lost somewhere in the 60’s. 


Michael Keaton
Batman (1989)

Batman (Michael Keaton) in Batman (1989)

When Tim Burton and Michael Keaton were announced to bring us the next chapter of Batman, fans were initially worried that the character would be (yet again) disgraced. However, after the release of Batman in 1989, fans were elated by Keaton’s performance, even leaving Variety to comment that he perfectly “capture[d] the haunted intensity of the character.” Looks like Batman is making a comeback! 
Until . . .


Val Kilmer 
Batman Forever (1995)

Batman Forever-1995
Batman (Val Kilmer) in Batman Forever (1995)

Granted he had a tough act to follow, Kilmer didn’t seem to really leave his mark on the role of Batman. Once Burton handed the franchise over to director Joel Schumacher, Keaton decided not to continue the role. Though featuring the iconic smolder of a young Val Kilmer, he became perhaps the least-memorable, modern Batman in the franchise. 


George Clooney 
Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman & Robin-1997
Batman (George Clooney) in Batman & Robin (1997)

Clooney was probably one of the better portrayals of Batman placed in one of the worst Batman movies. Though riddled with terrible one-liners, an overstuffed cast, and a, uhh . . . rather chesty Batsuit, Clooney still managed to play very convincing roles as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. 


Christian Bale
Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises-2012
Batman (Christian Bale) in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

With Christopher Nolan now at the helm of the Batman franchise, the masked vigilante was not only given a major face-lift as far as costume and his collection of toys, but the Batman himself was given a much more satisfying character arc that stretched across three movies. This retelling of the classic superhero tale was much darker and, frankly, more believable than the preceding movies, securing Bale’s performance as one of the most beloved and hard-hitting takes on Batman of all time!


Ben Affleck 
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Justice League (2017) 

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice-2016
Batman (Ben Affleck) in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Similar to Kilmer, Affleck had some pretty big Batshoes to fill, and it is safe to say he did an excellent job portraying the physical and psychological turmoil that would be faced by a caped crusader. Donning the most heavy-duty Batsuit to date, Affleck’s Batman dealt out some significant damage in the controversial Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice as well as the following movie Justice League (2017). 


Coming Soon - Robert Pattinson

The Batman-2021
Robert Pattinson (Getty/Everett Collection, 2019)

In case you haven’t come out of your Batcave, the media has been flying off the handle with the recent announcement that Robert Pattinson will be the latest star to put on the Batsuit! With a script focusing on a younger Batman (or Bruce Wayne, we should say), director Matt Reeves and Warner Bros. will have a clean slate to work up the new movie. You can expect to see the latest Batman movie hitting Regal theatres in the summer of 2021! 


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