‘The Batman’: All of the big-screen Dark Knights (including Robert Pattinson), definitively ranked

‘The Batman’: All of the big-screen Dark Knights (including Robert Pattinson), definitively ranked

‘The Batman’: All of the big-screen Dark Knights (including Robert Pattinson), definitively ranked

You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight? Because a bunch of dudes in Hollywood sure have.

To play Gotham City’s favorite son Batman on the big screen, you’ve got to have thick skin, a square jaw, six-pack abs (not really, the Batsuit will take care of that) and the ability to play both Dark Knight and unmasked rich-guy alter ego Bruce Wayne. With former “Twilight” star Robert Pattinson officially joining the club in director Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” (in theaters Friday), it’s a good time to celebrate the pantheon. Who can forget Tim Burton’s “Batman” unleashing “Batmania” and a hero in Michael Keaton who has no problem getting physical (“You wanna get nuts? Come on, let’s get nuts”)? Or Christopher Nolan’s recent trilogy with a tortured Christian Bale?

In honor of a new Caped Crusader arriving to punch pop culture right in the face, here’s our definitive ranking of cinematic Batmen over the years.

9. George Clooney

If only sporting Bat-nipples was his biggest problem in “Batman & Robin” (1997). Clooney’s take on Bats was surrounded by a terrible Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a terrible Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), a terrible Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone) and just a terrible movie. If we’re being honest, though, his hero was way too earnest – like Doug Ross dressing up in the ER for Halloween – and he’d probably be a better Bruce Wayne now than he was back then. It’s OK, though; his career turned out just fine.
Val Kilmer definitely had the right chin for the Caped Crusader of “Batman Forever.”
8. Val Kilmer

Like Clooney, he should really be given an “incomplete” grade after only one movie: 1995’s “Batman Forever,” a colorful romp that went completely away from Burton’s darker vibe but might as well be “Citizen Kane” compared to Clooney’s Bat-flick. Kilmer totally had the chin for the Batman cowl (though he never got the voice quite right), and he wore the Wayne tux well. Then again, anyone probably would have looked serviceable around Jim Carrey’s over-the-top Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones’ bonkers Two-Face.
7. Kevin Conroy

For a generation of fans, Conroy was Batman, voicing the Caped Crusader in the seminal 1990s animated series and then taking his earnest tones to the big screen with 1993’s “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.” The film, which retells Batman’s origin story, plus pits him against a vigilante taking out Gotham mob bosses, showcases what the versatile Conroy does best, shifting back and forth from soft-spoken Bruce to gravelly superhero. Also in his favor: He never had to deal with Bat-nipples.
Adam West’s “Light Knight” (right, with Burt Ward) in “Batman: The Movie.”
6. Adam West

Who cares if it’s more than 50 years old? The 1966 “Batman: The Movie” is still a hoot to watch and gave TV’s resident camptastic Caped Crusader a chance to hit the cinema with his boy wonder Burt Ward and most every villain in their rogues’ gallery. Also, who else would be so cool dealing with almost getting eaten by a shark (thanks, shark repellent Bat-spray!) and taking the time to avoid blowing up a bunch of cute ducks while trying to dispose of a bomb? Now THAT, kids, is heroism.
Bat-Bale in “Batman Begins.”
5. Christian Bale

Two things work in his favor. One, the dude’s a great actor – an Oscar winner, even. But also, Bale’s the only guy to (thus far) get a whole character arc for his Batman in Nolan’s trilogy: “Batman Begins” (2005), “The Dark Knight” (2008) and “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012). His journey from novice vigilante to Gotham “villain” and back to hero is an epic one, though Bale does his strongest work overall in “Begins.” (“Dark Knight” is all about the late Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker, and the cluttered “Rises” brings everyone down with multiple villains and a jumbled plot to destroy Gotham.)
Batman (Ben Affleck) needs to put together a supergroup to ward off an otherworldly force in “Justice League.”
4. Ben Affleck

The Batfleck over Bale? What?! Maybe a controversial choice for some, considering his role lasted only three DC universe movies: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), “Suicide Squad” (2016) and “Justice League” (2017). However, Affleck did well inhabiting an older guy jaded by the deaths and destruction in his life but still finds hope and humanity when surrounded by his super-friends. What worked with Affleck was the sense that Batman and Bruce are the same guy: In one “BvS” scene, he rips off his cowl and just goes to work feverishly in the Batcave without bothering to change into, say, a smoking jacket or high-end PJs.
Robert Pattinson’s hero is on a quest to avenge his parents’ death in “The Batman.”
3. Robert Pattinson

The new Batman is a work in progress, by design: Everything’s a little DIY in his second year fighting crime in Gotham and meeting Riddler (Paul Dano), Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) and Penguin (Colin Farrell) for the first time. Pattinson’s hero is one of the more emotionally engaged Batmen, as he’s forced to deal with his late parents’ legacy – and therefore his own – in a city poisoned to the core by murder and corruption. He’s the best detective of the bunch, dreamy in a My Chemical Romance sort of way and a bit unhinged (which you like to see in a Dark Knight), though his Bruce Wayne could use polish. Something to work on for “The Batman 2.”

‘The Batman’:Zoë Kravitz talks sweaty first day on set, breaking the ice with Robert Pattinson
After making a splash in “The Lego Movie,” Lego Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) debuted strongly with his own animated movie.
2. Will Arnett

Who needs a Bat-bod when the voice is macho perfection? Arnett’s animated Lego Batman made appearances in 2014’s “The Lego Movie” and its 2019 sequel, but he rocked truly hard in “The Lego Batman Movie” (2017). It’s the rare Batman movie that understands at his flawed core, he’s a complicated loner and a hot mess who often can’t get out of his own way long enough for the greater good. Arnett’s growly dude-bro vocals do wonders in first masking but later revealing the warm-hearted guy underneath yearning for a family.
Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is a feline femme fatale for Michael Keaton’s hero in “Batman Returns.”
1. Michael Keaton

Burton’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns” three years later not only did wonders for the character in pop culture, but also gave the generation who grew up on those movies their Dark Knight. Keaton looked extraordinarily cool tooling around in his Batmobile and tackling (but never getting overshadowed by) Jack Nicholson’s kooky Joker and Michelle Pfeiffer’s purr-fect Catwoman. And as Bruce Wayne, Keaton brought a hint of crazy to Batman’s alter ego, enough where you think, “Of course THIS GUY is going to dress up as a bat and go fight crime.”