With the news that Matt Reeves’, The Batman, will be released in 2021, fans also discovered that Ben Affleck will be stepping away from the role as the caped crusader. As Affleck steps away, the long list of actors who have taken on the role grows. Now Batman has been portrayed by eight different actors, more than any other superhero in movie history. As fans wait patiently to learn who will be next to dawn the dark knights duds, let’s take a look back at those who have gone batsy.
1. Lewis G. Wilson
The first actor to tackle the role, Lewis Wilson, didn’t fare well amongst fans. As the youngest actor to play Batman, the 23 year-old Wilson didn’t appear to have the right physique for the 15-part 1943 Columbia Batman serial. Critics complained he was, “thick about the middle” and that his high voice combined with his Boston accent didn’t fit the character. When this series ended so did Wilson’s career as Batman.
2. Robert Lowery
The more seasoned, 36 year-old, Robert Lowery would be next to play Batman in the 1949 series, Batman & Robin. While his suit was well fitting and his experience made him a better fit for the role, he never appeared in another Batman movie. Still Lowery would make history in uniting two of the most pivotal DC characters when he made a guest appearance as Batman in an episode of, The Adventures of Superman.
3. Adam West
One of the most memorable representations of the Batman has to be Adam West. His campy approach and exaggerated style of acting accounted for the most time on screen for one actor as Batman. Appearing in several animated series and a 1966 movie, Adam West became synonymous with Batman. After a long hiatus from the screen, West would return to the role in 1977 as Batman’s voice in The New Adventures Of Batman and later on Super Friends. He would make a couple more appearances in Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader and Batman vs. Two-Face. West passed away in 2017, leaving behind a massive body of Batman work that will continue to be revered.
4. Michael Keaton
When Michael Keaton was announced for 1989’s Batman, fans were in an uproar as Warner brothers received around 50,000 protest letters over this casting. Luckily Keaton lived up to the role, and Batman performed well at the box office. Keaton was championed by Variety magazine as they reported, “Michael Keaton captures the haunted intensity of the character, and seems particularly lonely and obsessive without Robin around to share his exploits”. Keaton would reprise the role for one more film in 1992’s Batman Returns and once again received favorable reviews.
5. Val Kilmer
When the Batman franchise changed directors, the character went through an actor change also. The new director, Schumacher, casted Val Kilmer for the role in Batman Forever after seeing Kilmer in Tombstone. The New York Times gave Kilmer mixed reviews, stating that, “The prime costume is now worn by Val Kilmer, who makes a good Batman but not a better one than Michael Keaton”. Kilmer would not appear as Batman in 1997’s Batman & Robin, hanging up his cape for good.
6. George Clooney
Looking back, Kilmer might be happy that he passed on the role to George Clooney for 1997’s infamous Batman & Robin. The movie was a flop, receiving 11 nominations at the Razzie Awards and preforming the worst at the box office among modern Batman movies. Clooney went on to explain that, “Joel Schumacher told me we never made another Batman film because Batman was gay”. Batman needed saving.
7. Christian Bale
Director Christopher Nolan helped pull Batman out of the grave, casting Christian Bale for the role of Batman in 2005’s Batman Begins. His portrayal of the caped crusader was deemed by Nolan as, “exactly the balance of darkness and light that we were looking for”. Going on to complete the trilogy that began with Batman Begins, Bale would also hang up the cape, leaving behind a trilogy that some would consider the benchmark for Batman.
8. Will Arnett
The LEGO Movie used Will Arnett’s voice for their Batman character that filled more of a comical role then the dark role fans were accustomed to. The younger audience the film targeted embraced the performance and Arnett secured the role once more for The LEGO Batman Movie in 2017.
9. Ben Affleck
Some fans argue that Affleck was the perfect Batman due to his physique and charming nature. This representation received some pushback however due to his more brutal style crime fighting. Batman was less of an altruistic hero when played by Affleck and more of a vicious vigilante. The release of Justice League helped redeem Batman’s reputation as a defender of justice rather than a punishing figure. It will be interesting to see who replaces Affleck for Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman solo film releasing in 2021.
Batman has seen a lot of turnover but it seems that the character now represents something that the fans can connect with. If the next actor to enter the Batcave embodies the same persona we will likely continue to see Batman’s popularity rise. In the meantime we would like to thank all the actors who have played this iconic role! Also thank you to Den of Geek for being the source of this post. If you would like to read more about each actor and character you can take a look at their post here. To get a sense of the costumes they wore you can take a look at our Batman Collection here! We have some awesome pieces that can help you transform into the Dark Knight just like these actors. Enjoy!