Project-Nerd Ranks the Batman Actors
Batman! He’s everywhere. On the big screen. On your newsstands. On television screens across the world. And in your head!
But in his time on the screen, both big and small, only nine men have played the character (*in a recurring or large role). Nine very different Bruce Waynes and nine very different Batmen.
So who was the best to put on the cowl? Who was the worst at playing the Dark Knight?
Project-Nerd took it upon ourselves to determine a ranking of all the men who have played Batman in a movie or an ongoing series. From the original serials starring Robert Lowrey, to the new DC Cinematic Universe that has Ben Affleck portraying the billionaire vigilante.
Lowrey and Affleck are joined by Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Kevin Conroy, and Will Arnett as the elite list of men we ranked from worst to best.
The ranking was somewhat surprising in areas and somewhat obvious in others. Lowrey had the misfortune of coming before our time and being missed by most of those who enjoy Batman, otherwise a modern Batman would have been the clear least favorite. Christopher Nolan’s take on the franchise catapulted one actor into a good spot on the rankings while our love for the dark Batman movie that kicked off a new era went toe-to-toe with the voice our generation recognizes as Wayne for the top spot.
Note: We know there have been others to portray the character, especially in animated film, but these are the most notable names to take on the character.
9. Robert Lowrey
Lowrey had it the hardest. Taking place before any of the voters were born, the original black and white serials starred Lowrey as the first ever man to play the famed comic hero, Batman. The serials may have been classics, but still not good enough to get him out of the cellar of our list.
Highest Rank: 6; Lowest Rank: 9
8. George Clooney
Putting on the cowl for Joel Schumacher’s second take on the franchise, Clooney was unlucky enough to deal with an hour and a half of constant puns, a rave party of a city for Gotham, two supporting heroes who were terribly portrayed, and bat nipples. The fact that somebody ranked him fourth has already caused us to restructure that part of our brand.
Highest Rank: 4; Lowest Rank: 9 (a lot)
7. Val Kilmer
Kilmer in this list is our constant reminder that Schumacher did terrible things to this franchise and that Batman Forever was just kind of there. Had it not been for the two Tim Burton flicks I feel that many would have felt differently about Kilmer. Side note, Kilmer received zero last place votes; so that’s a win I guess.
Highest Rank: 6; Lowest Rank: 8
6. Ben Affleck
Polarizing. Affleck, the newest member of the club, is the only one on the ballot to receive both first place and last place votes. His portrayal of Batman in the new franchise is not seen as terrible, but he was not a loved Bruce Wayne…and he also likes to murder things (something Batman doesn’t do). Much like Kilmer, I think Affleck suffers from the product around him starting with the man calling the shots on set.
Highest Rank: 1; Lowest Rank: 9
5. Will Arnett
This is where the list gets tight. Nine, eight, and seven were left in the dust, while six still suffers from some recent anger with fans, but the ballots were much closer looking at the top five, starting with the recent LEGO Batman, Will Arnett. Arnett played Batman in the LEGO movie, reprised his role at the Academy Awards and is now taking on the character in a standalone LEGO Batman flick.
Highest Rank: 2; Lowest Rank: 8
4. Adam West
Adam West beat Arnett by just one point in the polls. West also suffers from being Batman before many of the voters were born but also from taking a more whimsical and comical approach on the character. The ability for the 1960’s franchise to still have relevance though has helped him in this ballot greatly.
Highest Rank: 1; Lowest Rank: 6
3. Christian Bale
Between a one point race for 4th place and a one point race for 1st place sits Christian Bale at 3rd. The Dark Knight franchise, ran by Christopher Nolan, was an overwhelming success and Bale’s take on the character was rather pleasing. Overall he didn’t take home the title of favorite but he clearly sat comfortably on most people’s ballots.
Highest Rank: 1; Lowest Rank: 7
2. Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton may not have been number one on our list, but he was very close. Never voted lower than fifth, Keaton helped set the tone for a new, darker, and more real Batman on the big screens. Something fans and eventual fans needed and wanted.
Highest Rank: 1; Lowest Rank: 5
1. Kevin Conroy
Benefiting from four first place votes, Conroy took the win from Keaton by the smallest of margins. Conroy is of course the voice of Batman, voicing him through the hit series, Batman: The Animated Series, and reprising his role through countless animated adventures after that. When Conroy says he is Batman, we all know it to be true.
Highest Rank: 1; Lowest Rank: 7
Even though he’s on the bottom third of the list, Affleck is our new Batman for now. With Affleck set to direct the upcoming standalone movie I feel views on him might end up less skewed due to the damage Zack Snyder caused. But only time will tell.
In the meantime the Project-Nerd team has once again spoken, with more than a dozen ballots cast and a close race at the top. But now that we’ve shared our opinion we are eager to hear yours. Rank your favorite Batman actors in the comments below, and don’t forget to tell us why you selected your number one.