Seven Best

Seven Best: Batmen

It’s funny to me that this list didn’t even have enough entries to make a full seven when I was younger. There’s been an explosion of Batmen in the past few decades, so let’s take a look at who’s best.

Let’s take a look at the candidates.

  • Batman (1966)—Adam West
  • Batman—Michael Keaton
  • Batman & Robin—Val Kilmer
  • Batman Forever—George Clooney
  • Batman Begins—Christian Bale
  • Justice League—Ben Affleck
  • LEGO Batman—Will Arnett
  • Batman: Year One—Ben McKenzie
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm—Kevin Conroy
  • Batman: Gotham by Gaslight—Bruce Greenwood

Feel free to watch along, and check back at the end of the month for a ranking of the seven best!!

7. Val Kilmer—Batman Forever

Make your case:

Definitely more athletic than Michael Keaton, but also more ridiculous. I mean, it’s not HIS fault, the writing…isn’t great. The Schumacher era relied too much on spectacle, and gadgetry/suit options to sell toys, and everything suffered.

I think Val Kilmer made for a really good Bruce Wayne. Kind and smart, and they started to get into investigating his psyche, albeit a ham-fisted attempt to shoehorn in a love interest.

And let’s be honest, he hit the eject button before having to deliver the Batman Visa card line.

Favorite scene:

Bonus points for…not being Batman and Robin.

6. Will Arnett—LEGO Batman

Make your case:

Hands down the funniest of all Batman performances. And you really have to pay attention because the jokes fly faster than you can comprehend. Yes it’s a comedy and yes it’s a cartoon, but it’s clearly done its research because this is the perfect amalgamation of all Batmen to this point.

Gadgets, brooding, camp. The psychology and duality of Bruce. The “I work alone” nature of Batman. And SO MANY PUNS.

“Life doesn’t come with seatbelts.”

Favorite scene:

Bonus points for best lobster thermidore.

5. Ben Affleck—Batman vs. Superman/Justice League/Suicide Squad

Make your case:

These are the last few I watched this month, which means I’ve now seen Thomas and Martha Wayne die about 872 times this month.

I loved the way this introduces us to Bruce with the alternate viewpoint from Superman. It establishes him as a hero OF the people, and his willingness to TOWARD danger. And while I don’t care for any of these movies, per se, Affleck’s Batman is one of the true highlights. Until Wonder Woman comes along…

Editor’s Note: Since so many people have brought it up, I should mention that this is for best Batman, NOT best Batman MOVIE. These movies were objectively bad, but Affleck was quite good.

Favorite scene:

Bonus points for best fight scene.

4. Adam West—Batman (1967)

Make your case:

Shark. Repellant. Bat. Spray.

He should win for those four words alone. But don’t get it twisted, Adam West was the gold standard. I grew up watching the BAM! BIFF! POW! every day after school; and sure, he was campy, but it was also a great introduction to the character, his world, and all the rogues.

Long before Batman got dark and brooding, he was a cheesy hero in a mask, fighting crime so the rest of the world could sleep at night.

Favorite scene:

Bonus points for best car, best sound effects, and best way to get rid of a bomb.

3. Christian Bale—Batman Begins/Dark Knight/Dark Knight Returns

Make your case:

Not much I can say about Christian Bale’s Batman that hasn’t already been said. Despite having its weak moments, the trilogy as a whole is superb, and gave us the full arc of Bruce’s story. Not only the full arc of his evolution as Batman, but an emotional arc as well.

They even nailed the boring stuff in the beginning. The logistics of the costume, and the architecture of the batcave. I can’t remember these kinds of things being covered in any other versions. He really nailed the billionaire playboy aspect in the first movie, though that rather trailed off in the second and third.

Favorite scene:

Bonus points for best Joker, best Lucius Fox, and best Commissioner Gordon.

2. Kevin Conroy—Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Make your case:

Is it hard to make a case for an animated Batman? Well this is the second on the list, so clearly not. But seriously, close your eyes and listen to Kevin Conroy, and tell me Batman doesn’t immediately come to mind.

I don’t want to put him at a disadvantage because he’s only a voice actor either, after all, he does more with just his voice than some actors do with a whole movie. He has the best “Batman” voice of all of them.

Favorite scene:

Bonus points for best quips.

1. Michael Keaton—Batman/Batman Returns

Make your case:

This is it. This is the pinnacle for me, and Michael Keaton is at the center of it all. Just like Christopher Reeve was to Superman/Clark Kent, Michael Keaton is to Bruce Wayne/Batman. You could make an argument that there are better Batmen, or better Bruces, but Keaton nails the dual persona the best of anyone on this list.

He understands the rich eccentricities and the brooding stares of Bruce Wayne, as well as the Playboy aspect. I mean, he and Vicki smashed on the first date. And he’s a great Batman too. Sure, not the best martial artist, but a lot of that can be attributed to the time period…and the limitations of the rubber suit.

Favorite scene:

Bonus points for the best theme song, best entrance, best Alfred…and Prince.

Honorable mention: Ben McKenzie—Batman: Year One

A better movie than some on this list, but I don’t like Ben McKenzie as Bruce. Also weird to hear him as Bruce when he plays Jim Gordon in Gotham. Meanwhile, Jim Gordon in this is played by Bryan Cranston who is fantastic. It’s as much as a Gordon origin story as it is Batman’s, and it’s one of the better Batman origins on this list.