Over the years, viewers have seen Batman’s role reprised by more actors than any other suited hero in the DC universe or movie history at large. 9 actors have played the role of Batman. Most of these actors only survived one film before they were replaced. Only Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck have played the role more than twice. When you think about Batman Face, you have to think about these 9 men who played Batman over the years.
Here, we do a quick run-through of the actors who have donned the cape at one point or the other. No one character is the true face of Batman. People think of when it comes to Batman’s on their favorite movie or maybe the era they grew up in. When they think of the main Batman Face, some people think of Adam West.
1. Lewis G. Wilson
Wilson was the youngest actor to wear the cowl as well as the first. He took the role at the tender age of 23. He was practically unknown at the time when he played a role in 1943. Although he had a dashing face that could pass for the playboy that Bruce Wayne was, his body was a stark contrast. Critics described him as a little too thick in the middle.
That was most likely the reason why his utility belt reached up to a little below his chest. His voice was also criticized for being a little bit too high. He was definitely the first but not the last Batman actor whose voice was criticized.
His role as Batman did nothing to boost his career, though. His next big role was in 1951 in a movie titled Bowanga Botswana. A few years later, he dropped out of Hollywood altogether. He died in the year 2000
2. Robert Lowery
Lowery took over as Batman in 1949’s Batman & Robin. He was a veteran at that time, already 36 years of age. He already made appearances in movies like The Mark Of Zorro (1940), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944), and Dangerous Passage (1944).
Unlike Wilson, the Batsuit fit him better, as his utility belt hung as it should on a non-octogenarian. Lowery, however, never took the role in another Batman franchise. But he did wear the suit one more time on an episode of the Adventures of Superman in 1956. This was the first time that Batman and Superman would share a screen.
Lowery went on to enjoy 20 more years in Hollywood before he died in 1971.
3. Adam West
William West Anderson, better known as Adam West, is probably the most hated actor that ever wore the cowl. He brought a certain goofiness to the role that didn’t quite sit well with Batman lovers. His overt representation of Batman in the 1966 movie and various animated series caught various people’s attention, both for good and bad.
He was rumored to have been selected by the movie’s producer, William Dozier, who saw him play a type of James bond spy in an ad called Captain Q. He beat Lyle Waggoner (who went on to play the co-star of Wonder Woman) for the role. Dozier was known to hate comics, so he decided to shake things up a little bit to the comic cult’s dissent.
4. Michael Keaton
Adam West was the face of Batman for a long time. Then, Michael Keaton came in 1989. Just like Dozier, the new Director, Tim Burton, was not into comic books. Batman fans went crazy as the “horror” West had put them through was still fresh in their minds.
They were afraid the movie would be given the Adam West treatment once again. In fact, 50,000 protest letters were sent to Warner Bros.’ offices for both the cast and the directors to be tweaked for culture’s sake. To appease the pessimists, the co-creator of the Batman character, Bob Kane, was hired as a creative consultant.
Keaton’s performance in the movie received high praise from fans and critics alike. The box office numbers were also amazing. This success was rewarded with him being reprised for Batman’s role in 1992’s Batman Returns, garnering positive reviews. Sometimes fans don’t know what they want until it’s handed to them.
5. Val Kilmer
When director Joel Schumacher was given the helm of operations for the new Batman movie, Michael Keaton decided not to return. Major actors like Jonny Depp and Ralph Fiennes were touted as replacements, but Vil Kilmer was cast instead. He is probably the most forgettable of all modern Batman actors.
Kilmer’s Tombstone made Schumacher interested in making him Gotham’s guardian in 1995’s Batman Forever. Kilmer was said to have taken the role without even going through the script or knowing who Schumacher was. The two ended up having various clashes on set.
Kilmer’s performance had a mixture of reviews. Bob Kane felt that Kilmer played the role better than any other Batman he had ever watched. The New York Times felt otherwise, claiming the biggest highlight of his performance was the Batsuit. After that, his performance was just fair.
The box office performance was way better than that of Batman Returns. However, Kilmer did not wear the cape again.
6. George Clooney
1997’s Batman and Robin was an absolute disaster. George Clooney’s portrayal of Batman was heavily bashed. Fresh from his breakthrough performance in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn, the producers decided that he was the best man for the role. They might be regretting that decision to date.
The movie was full of improprieties, homoeroticism, and the infamous Bat-nipples. The downhill of the franchise caused Clooney to claim that he helped kill it as it was probably a waste of money. Everyone agreed and still does.
This, however, did nothing to hurt his career. He went on to star in ‘Out of Sight,’ ‘Three Kings,’ and ‘O Brother, Where art thou?’ within the next three years. He hasn’t seemed to slow down since.
7. Christian Bale
People claim that Christopher Nolan came in and literally saved the Batman Franchise. There were an array of actors to be selected, but Christian Bale fit the bill the most. His plans to darken the world’s view about the Dark Knight fit well with Christian Bale’s person. He said Christian Bale had the perfect balance between light and darkness that he was searching for.
2005’s Batman Begins got a good review as many reviewers felt it reminded them of the American Psycho. His voice was, however, a bone of contention. It was said to have a feel of a child trying to mimic an adult voice. Well, as long as both his performances in Dark Knight and the Dark Knight Rises made the amount of money they did, who cares?
8. Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck’s movie, Argo, had just won the Best Picture at the Academy Awards when Zack Snyder called him to play Batman’s role in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. He was not universally accepted as Batman until after the movie’s release. He ended up enjoying a sort of fan adulation after years of intense backlash from personal mistakes as well as failed movies.
Affleck’s portrayal as Batman was more brutal as it showed him being excessively violent. It was described by critics to have bordered on fascism as he murdered villains. This dark side lightened up in the subsequent Justice League franchise after superman’s sacrifice as he began to see another perspective of life. He made a cameo appearance in Suicide Squad as Batman in 2016.
9. Robert Pattinson
For the next Batman movie, the director in charge, Matt Reeves, chose Robert Pattinson for Batman’s role. Having played the vampire Edward in the Twilight series and Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter franchise, Pattinson has made quite a reputation.
The next Batman is coming in the summer of 2021, looks to have brought on the Riddler as the main villain in this movie (deduction for the movie trailer). Let us sit back and watch how this one plays out.
Final Thoughts On The Batman Face
Batman is a character that can always have another movie-mad. The key reason being that Batman is not so much about who is playing Bruce Wayne. All of us can be Batman, so we need to be able to see ourselves in character. There will never be one Batman face because, over the years, it will continue to change.
The one thing that has happened over the years is that Batman’s role has become darker and darker to match the comics. Some very dark scenarios have not been covered yet, but they are working in that direction.