From Adam West to Robert Pattinson: All the Live-Action Batman Actors in Order of Appearance
When you’re talking about the greatest comic book superheroes adapted for the big screen, Batman is one of the first that comes to mind. Along with Superman, the Dark Knight has had a big influence on superhero movies and TV shows over the years. A pop culture icon, Batman first appeared on our screens in the 40s and has changed and evolved with the times over the past 70-plus years. When looking at Batman actors in order from the first to don the Batsuit to the most recent, there are a lot of talented actors who have played the character.
Not only has Batman appeared in live-action movies and TV shows, but there are dozens of animated stories featuring Batman, with a long list of voiceover actors taking on the role. There’s even a Lego Batman who pops up in several movies. We will be focusing on the actors who have played Batman in live-action productions, but special mention must be made of Kevin Conroy who is regarded by most as the voice of Batman. He voiced the character in a slew of hit animated movies and series, and while he does pop up for a small cameo in Crisis on Infinite Earths, we want to focus on the actors who have embodied the character in more than just a guest spot. That said, Conroy was a legend who brought gravity to Batman. He sadly passed away in 2022 after a battle with cancer.
Each actor who has played Bruce Wayne’s alter ego has brought something different to the role, and while not every actor has managed to make it work, each take on Batman is interesting nonetheless. From the 60s camp of Adam West to the stoic goth of Robert Pattinson, here are all the actors who have played Batman in live-action features over the years.
From Adam West to Robert Pattinson: All the Live-Action Batman Actors in Order of Appearance
1. Lewis G Wilson
Appeared in: Batman (TV serial)
You might not be aware that Lewis G Wilson was the first man to ever portray Batman. The American actor was cast as the Caped Crusader in the 1943 15-part serial Batman. He was just 23 when cast as the Bat, and while he was in good shape and handsome like you’d expect Bruce Wayne to be, Lewis Wilson was also a little on the short side. As Den of Geek points out, critics were not sold on Wilson thanks to his stumpy figure and strong Boston accent.
Playing Batman these days usually means you’re a big deal, but back in the 40s, it was just another role for Wilson. He appeared in several more features, often uncredited, before bowing out of show business in the 50s and going on to work for General Foods.
2. Robert Lowery
Appears in: Batman and Robin (TV serial)
After Lewis G Wilson got the flick, DC Comics and Colombia Pictures were on the hunt for another actor to take on the role. Enter Robert Lowery. Having made his mark playing Zorro in the 1940s flick The Mark of Zorro, Lowery starred in several action movies before he was handpicked for the role of Batman in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin.
The 15-episode serial was a direct sequel to Wilson’s Batman and focused on the Dark Knight and Robin battling the Wizard, a hooded villain whose identity was only revealed in the final episode. Similar to Wilson, once the series was in the can Lowery was no longer required to wear that Batsuit, but he did pop up in cameo form in an episode of The Adventures of Superman alongside George Reeves, who played Superman. That was the first on-screen appearance by the two in the same television show or movie.
Robert Lowery went on to have a successful career in the movies, mainly starring in Westerns, before passing away in 1971 at the age of 58.
3. Adam West
Appears in: Batman (TV series) and Batman (movie)
When most people think of Batman on the small screen, Adam West is the name that comes to mind. After Batman producer William Dozier saw West playing a spy in a commercial for Nestlé Quik, he got in touch and offered him the role of the World’s Greatest Detective. West would go on to star as the character in 120 episodes of the campy television show between 1966 – 1968. His take on Batman was much lighter than some of the comics but was fairly well-received by viewers who enjoyed his goofy adventures.
Wearing a gray Batsuit, West and his co-star Burt Ward (Robin) also appeared in the 1966 movie Batman, which was the first official movie to feature the Caped Crusader. West fully embraced the role and was forever associated with playing Batman, which did harm his career.
After many years of appearing in less-than-successful projects, West embraced his inner Bat, voicing the character in numerous animated movies and TV shows before he had something of a renaissance in the 90s and 00s, even becoming a regular character on Family Guy. West passed away in 2017 but is still fondly remembered as one of the first men to play Batman.
4. Michael Keaton
Appears in: Batman and Batman Returns (both movies)
The announcement of Tim Burton helming the first Batman film in over 20 years had critics and fans up in arms. At that time Burton had three films to his name (Frankenweenie, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and Beetlejuice) and people weren’t quite sure what Burton would bring to the superhero. Over 50,000 letters protested Burton’s appointment and the casting of Michael Keaton, who at that point in his career was more known for his comedic roles.
It turned out there was nothing to worry about as Burton and Keaton’s 1989 Batman became the standard bearer for the character in future films. Dark and edgy, Burton’s gothic take on Batman was much closer to the comics than any other Batman movie or TV show, and Keaton’s performance was incredible. He made both Bruce Wayne and Batman compelling characters, with Variety magazine saying; “Michael Keaton captures the haunted intensity of the character, and seems particularly lonely and obsessive without Robin around to share his exploits.”
The success of Batman meant a sequel was inevitable, and Burton and Keaton came back three years later with 1992s Batman Returns. Another critical and commercial success, it marked Keaton’s last appearance as Batman, with the actor walking away from the role after Burton was passed over as director for a third installment.
Almost 30 years later and Keaton is set to reprise the role of Batman in a new wave of DC movies. He has filmed cameos in both Batgirl and The Flash, although Batgirl has been canceled and The Flash might never see the light of day due to star Ezra Miller’s bizarre behavior.
5. Val Kilmer
Appears in: Batman Forever (movie)
You can blame Joel Schumacher for the mess that was Batman Forever. Wanting to take the franchise in a more kid-friendly direction (meaning more money from selling toys), Batman Forever was much more in the mold of Adam West’s campy series and considered by many to be the worst Batman movie of all time.
After Keaton left, the likes of Ethan Hawke and William Baldwin were considered for the role of Batman, but it ended up going to Val Kilmer. Fresh from the success of Tombstone (where he played Doc Holiday), Kilmer was the next big thing in Hollywood, but Batman Forever turned out to be a major misstep in his career.
Although a commercial success, making a whopping $336 million at the box office, the movie was savaged by critics. Kilmer also clashed with Schumacher on set, making for a less-than-perfect production. People weren’t too sure about Kilmer’s performance either and coupled with his poor attitude, meant he was a one-time Batman.
The role didn’t really harm Kilmer’s career, as he would appear in the crime classic Heat that same year. He continued to be a big star in the 90s before his celebrity began to wane in the 00s and he become a direct-to-DVD star. Kilmer has battled major health issues over the past decade, including suffering from throat cancer that has led to him needing to use an electric voicebox to speak. That hasn’t stopped him from acting, with Val Kilmer surprisingly appearing in Top Gun: Maverick in a heartwarming scene alongside Tom Cruise.
6. George Clooney
Appears in: Batman & Robin (movie)
Just two years after Batman Forever in 1995, George Clooney stepped into the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman & Robin. After becoming a heartthrob on ER, Clooney was a breakout star when he got approached to play the third iteration of Batman in under a decade.
Once again going down the colorful and campy route of its predecessor, Batman & Robin was another disappointment. Although it made over $230 million, it was another Batman that was critically panned, with critics pointing out its terrible jokes, the nippled Batsuit, and over-the-top villains – chiefly Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, who was hamming it up to the max – as the movies biggest failures.
Clooney also copped a fair whack and it was agreed by many that he was miscast, although he did what he could with the broken script. Clooney has since gone on to say that he helped kill the franchise and has admitted that the movie was the worst in his career.
The good news for Clooney was that despite putting his career in reverse for a few years, he hasn’t felt any long-term impact from his failure as Batman. Widely considered one of the great actors of modern cinema, George Clooney has had a career most would be envious of and continues to be a top-draw star.
7. Christian Bale
Appears in: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises (movies)
Arguably the best actor to ever take on the iconic role, Christian Bale revamped the character in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Totally reinventing the character, Nolan went for a darker take on Batman, with Batman Begins a new origin story about how Bruce Wayne transformed into a crime fighter.
The movie got rave reviews, with many critics applauding Bale’s performance. Follow-up The Dark Knight introduced Heath Ledger’s Joker, the greatest villain in Batman history, cementing Bale as most people’s favorite Batman. While The Dark Knight Rises wasn’t as good as the previous two movies, it did bring the trilogy to a satisfying close.
Bale gave his Batman a gravely, hard-to-hear growl that is laughable at times but still manages to work for the character. There’s a lot of emotion in Bale’s Batman as he continues to deal with the trauma of seeing his parents murdered in front of him as a child. Bale gave Batman a new intensity and helped with the resurgence of the superhero genre which now dominates movie theaters worldwide.
8. David Mazouz
Appears in: Gotham (TV show)
Looking to cash in on the success of Batman Begins, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Television combined for Gotham. The show focused on a young Bruce Wayne as he dealt with the death of his parents while slowly turning from a timid child to crime fighting teen. David Mazouz was the lucky kid to get cast as Wayne, and he did a commendable job throughout the series’ five seasons.
The show also traced the rise of James Gordon and outlined the origins of several important Batman villains, including Penguin and Joker. By the final season of Gotham, Mazouz’s Wayne had transformed into a masked vigilante fighting for the city he loves. Mikhail Mudrik is also worth mentioning, as he played a grown-up Batman in the final episode that acted as a bridge between the TV show and the Christian Bale movies.
9. Ben Affleck
Appears in: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Justice League, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and The Flash (movies)
When Ben Affleck was announced as the new Batman after Christian Bale’s trilogy was done and dusted, the response was similar to that of when Michael Keaton got the nod. People were outraged and couldn’t believe Affleck would be given the opportunity to play one of the biggest superheroes in the world. But when you think about it, Affleck was the perfect actor to play the Dark Knight. He’s well built, handsome, and despite what people might say, can act. He brought a movie-star quality to the role, something no other actor had done.
Affleck might have copped a bit of flack after the release of Batman v Superman at first, but many now consider him the best thing about that movie (even more entertaining than Henry Cavill as Superman) His brooding Batman was over the hill and Affleck embodied him with a sense of fatigue and inevitability that his time as a crimefighter was coming to an end.
Although the long-mooted Affleck solo movie never eventuated, Affleck’s impact as Batman can not be overshadowed. He gave the character a new life and helped carry the DC Extended Universe into a new era.
10. Iain Glen
Appears in: Titans (TV show)
Titans is an adaptation of the comic book series Teen Titans that features a group of superheroes led by Dick Grayson, otherwise known as Robin. Although not a main character, Batman has shown up in 11 episodes of the series where he is played by British actor Iain Glen. While some aren’t fans of his American accent, Glen brings a lighter touch to the usually dark and somber Batman. His Bruce Wayne is much older and although slightly jaded by years of fighting crime, there’s still a likability about his character.
11. Robert Pattinson
Appears in: The Batman (movie)
Cloverfield director Matt Reeves was given the task of once again reinventing the Batman character for the big screen. Choosing Twilight star Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader drew a lot of criticism, similar to his predecessor Ben Affleck, but proved a masterstroke. Anyone that has seen The Batman can attest to Pattinson putting in a phenomenal performance as the Batman. Unlike other portrayals, Pattinson’s millionaire Bruce Wayne was a recluse who spent his nights fighting crime. He was more Batman than Wayne, with the movie more like a detective thriller than a superhero movie.
Pattinson was even grittier and darker than Bale’s Batman, having more in common with the Crow in the way he looked in the movie. The film also demonstrated his detective skills, something which was never really mentioned in other movies, despite Batman being known as the World’s Greatest Detective.
Hopefully, the sequel will delve more into Wayne’s history and the reasons for his bleak outlook on life. Discovering the inspiration behind his motivation to become a crime fighter could offer fans something new that hasn’t been done before.
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