The Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, the Winged Avenger – there are few characters in fiction more iconic than Batman. Bruce Wayne’s vigilante alter-ego has been stalking Gotham City’s criminals through the night since the late 1930s, and in that time, he’s evolved quite a bit. Through every iteration and variation, Batman has remained one of fiction’s most steadfast heroes (even if he could be interpreted as a villain from another point of view).
This also means that Batman has seen his fair share of movie adaptations. After a couple of serials in the 1940s, Batman took a hiatus from the big screen before returning played by Adam West in the 1966 movie Batman. After over 20 years of absence, Batman returned to Hollywood in 1989 with Tim Burton’s Batman, this time played by Michael Keaton. Since then, the role has passed from actor to actor, with various incarnations telling variations of the character’s story.
For the purposes of ranking these actors, we’re looking only at actors who have played Batman in live-action movies. If it’s animated, it doesn’t count. If it was purely for TV, it won’t be here. The list is ranked by how well the actor played the part, which also covers how well it was written for them. Things like comic accuracy and longevity have also been taken into account. It may be upsetting to some Bat-fans, but not all Batmen were created equal.
7. George Clooney
Ah, George Clooney. Some would consider him one of Hollywood’s most overrated actors, and they would usually cite 1997’s Batman & Robin as an example of why. Widely considered the worst Batman movie ever made, Batman & Robin is perhaps best known as the film that inexplicably gave Batman’s suit nipples – “Bat-Nips”, as they’re now known.
Clooney’s Batman isn’t good, and honestly, it’s not his fault. The blame partly lies with the late Joel Schumacher, who tried valiantly to make Batman more appealing to a younger audience in a futile attempt to appease Warner Bros., but it also lies with a wonky script and a fundamental misunderstanding of what the character should represent. Clooney is far too clean-cut to convincingly play a vigilante like Batman, and it seems a little like he was cast in the wrong genre.
The world that Clooney’s Batman inhabits is cartoonish in the worst way, because it still tries to hold on to the gothicism of Burton’s era without any of the actual darkness. Combined with the bastardization of not one, not two, but three Batman villains, Batman & Robin did such a disservice to the world of the Dark Knight that it was practically impossible to deliver a respectable iteration of the hero. Clooney himself has condemned the film and his performance, so it’s probably no surprise that he’s ranked dead last.