Batman Actors In Order: Every Actor Who’s Played Batman

Batman the dark knight hd wallpaper featuring actors in order.
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The Batman character has entertained fans for over 80 years, first showing up in DC comics in 1939. In that time, a bunch of talented actors have had the honor of playing the Dark Knight on the big and small screens in live-action. This article will go through every actor who’s suited up as Batman in live-action, starting with the first guy to do it.

Lewis Wilson Became the First Live-Action Batman in 1943

In 1943, a young actor named Lewis Wilson made history by becoming the very first person to play Batman in a live-action movie. Wilson was only 23 years old when he landed the role in the 1943 Columbia Pictures serial film Batman.

The movie serials were popular back then, with short 20-minute chapters shown each week in theaters, ending in cliffhangers to keep people coming back for more. Wilson played a cheerful, youthful Batman who fought crime in a light-hearted, campy way to match the comic books of the time.

As the first guy to play Batman on film, Wilson laid the groundwork for every actor after him to put their own spin on the iconic character. Even working with a tiny budget and wartime restrictions, Wilson pioneered portraying the Caped Crusader on the big screen.

While Wilson’s debut as the Dark Knight is largely forgotten now, he deserves props for breaking new ground as the first live-action Batman. The guy brought DC’s greatest hero off the pages and into theaters for audiences to enjoy for the first time.

A black and white photo of Batman with a young boy, showcasing their iconic dynamic duo partnership.

Robert Lowery Took Over the Cowl in the 1949 Follow-Up Serial

In 1949, a new actor named Robert Lowery became the second person to play Batman in a movie when he starred in the sequel serial Batman and Robin. Unlike the youthful Wilson, Lowery was 36 when he took over the role, making his Batman closer in age to Robin.

Lowery’s Caped Crusader was just as goofy and light-hearted as Wilson’s. He looked pretty silly fighting villains in a baggy, poorly-made batsuit with furry gloves and a weird belted belly. But hey, director Spencer Gordon Bennet was working with what he had. These old serials were the first crack at bringing Batman to life in live-action.

Lowery wasn’t exactly an amazing actor, but he marked the first time an older actor filled Batman’s boots both in age and temperament. He reprised the role one more time in an episode of The Adventures of Superman in 1953, Batman’s first appearance on the small screen. It was a big moment!

Adam West Made Batman an Icon of the 1960s

The most iconic live-action Batman of the 1960s without a doubt was Adam West. West starred in the super popular campy Batman TV series that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1968. He portrayed a cheerful Batman who often cracked silly puns while crusading against crime.

West’s Batman also starred in the 1966 Batman movie, cementing his status as the quintessential Batman of the era. His blue cowl and trunks over colorful tights defined the look of Batman for many fans.

For a whole generation, West’s hammy, tongue-in-cheek performance as the Caped Crusader was their Batman. The show’s “Pow!” and “Bam!” fight scenes became pop culture phenomenons. West turned Batman into an overnight sensation, even if the show was super campy compared to today.

Along with starring in the 1960s movie, West returned to voice his famous Batman in two animated flicks decades later in 2016 and 2017. This let him reprise his legendary role as the Bright Knight one last time.

Michael Keaton Reinvigorated Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 Movie

Though Batman lived on in comics and cartoons, he disappeared from hit movies for over two decades until Tim Burton’s 1989 flick starring Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight. Keaton instantly became the modern movie Batman a whole new generation loved.

Unlike West before him, Keaton played Batman as a serious, ominous hero in Burton’s dark Gotham City. He brought a quirky edge to Bruce Wayne that exploded into a dangerous, ruthless Batman. The movie made a boatload of money and remains one of the highest-grossing superhero films ever.

Keaton captured the grim, brooding essence of Batman from the comics for mainstream audiences again. He returned for Burton’s 1992 sequel, which introduced classic baddies like Catwoman and the Penguin. Keaton proved Batman could succeed on the silver screen again as a serious lead after years away.

Val Kilmer and George Clooney Took Turns as Joel Schumacher’s Batmen

Director Joel Schumacher took the reins from Tim Burton for 1995’s Batman Forever with Val Kilmer as the new Bruce Wayne. While relatively serious, Schumacher brought some color and campiness back into the mix. Kilmer’s Dark Knight duked it out with Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face and Jim Carrey’s wacky Riddler.

Just two years later, Schumacher recast the role again, with George Clooney wearing the cape and cowl in the universally-panned Batman & Robin. The movie went full-on ’60s camp with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze spouting awful ice puns and Uma Thurman vamping it up as Poison Ivy. Clooney didn’t leave much of an impression as a distracted, incompetent Batman.

While Kilmer and Clooney gave it their best shot, their short stints failed to match up to Keaton’s acclaimed run. Schumacher took things too far into goofy territory. After the dismal Batman & Robin, it would take eight more years for some brave soul to try live-action Batman again.

Christian Bale’s Gritty Dark Knight in Nolan’s Trilogy

That brave soul turned out to be director Christopher Nolan, who completely reimagined Batman in 2005’s Batman Begins starring Christian Bale. Bale wiped away all memories of Clooney and Kilmer, delivering an intense, gritty take on the Caped Crusader.

Batman Begins retold Bruce Wayne’s origin story in a dark, somber way. Bale physically and mentally morphed into a fearsome, intimidating Batman. He stuck with the role for 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. Bale’s Batman went up against baddies like Joker, Two-Face, and Bane.

Nolan’s acclaimed trilogy became one of the greatest superhero franchises ever. At its core was Bale’s committed performance as Batman across a complete character arc. He gave audiences the definitive big-screen Batman for a new era.

Batman actor holding cards.

Ben Affleck Took Over the DCEU as an Older Batman

Director Zack Snyder launched the DC Extended Universe with 2013’s Man of Steel. In the sequel Batman v Superman, Ben Affleck debuted as an older, weathered Bruce Wayne who had been fighting crime in Gotham for decades. This grizzled Batman contrasted Bale’s previous performances.

Affleck’s Caped Crusader was more brutal and cynical, willing to cross lines others wouldn’t. He had minor roles in Suicide Squad and Justice League before creative clashes derailed plans for his own solo Batman movie. Affleck’s time as the Dark Knight ended after only 3 movies, but he left his mark as Batman in a mid-life crisis.

Robert Pattinson Is the Latest Big-Screen Batman

With Affleck out, director Matt Reeves rebooted Batman again with The Batman released in 2022. This time, Robert Pattinson wore the cowl as a younger, vengeful Dark Knight still learning the vigilante ropes. Pattinson delivered a raw, intense performance that wowed fans and critics.

Unlike previous takes, Pattinson’s Batman relies more on fear, brute force and detective skills rather than gadgets. With two more films planned, Pattinson seems ready to cement his status as one of the great cinematic Batmen. He’s off to a very strong start bringing a fresh new energy and edge to the role.

Kevin Conroy IS Batman to Animated Fans

Live-action aside, no discussion of Batman actors is complete without iconic voice actor Kevin Conroy. Conroy voiced Batman for the first time in the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series and countless animated shows, movies and games since.

For fans who grew up with Conroy’s voice coming out of their TVs and game consoles, HE is the true Batman. Conroy perfected the dual voices of Batman and Bruce Wayne in a way no live-action star ever could. His smooth baritone will always define Batman for multiple generations.

To summarize, here are all the actors who have played Batman in live-action, in chronological order of their first appearance:

  • Lewis Wilson – 1943 Batman serial
  • Robert Lowery – 1949 Batman and Robin serial
  • Adam West – 1966 Batman TV series/1966 Batman film
  • Michael Keaton – 1989 Batman
  • Val Kilmer – 1995 Batman Forever
  • George Clooney – 1997 Batman & Robin
  • Christian Bale – 2005 Batman Begins
  • Ben Affleck – 2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Robert Pattinson – 2022 The Batman

In over 75 years, only 9 actors have played Batman in live-action theatrical films and TV shows. Lewis Wilson was the first actor to play Batman back in 1943. Adam West defined Batman for a generation in the popular 1960s TV series. Michael Keaton brought the Dark Knight back to the big screen in 1989 after decades of absence. Christian Bale starred in Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy in the 2000s. Most recently, Robert Pattinson has taken over the role in Matt Reeves’ gritty take on the Caped Crusader.

Each Actor Made Their Mark on the Timeless Batman Legacy

While not every portrayal succeeded, each live-action Batman actor left their own imprint on the Dark Knight mythos. Lewis Wilson created the prototypical Batman on a budget. Robert Lowery tried an elder statesman approach to fit his age. Adam West made the Caped Crusader a hilarious pop icon of the Go-Go 60s.

When Michael Keaton revived Batman as a serious lead in 1989, he redefined the character for contemporary audiences. Though Val Kilmer and George Clooney’s runs were brief, they kept the franchise alive in the 90s. Christian Bale embodied the ultimate comic book Batman in Nolan’s celebrated modern trilogy.

Ben Affleck played an aging, cynical Batman past his glory days. And today, Robert Pattinson brings his art house intensity to show a younger, unrefined Caped Crusader still learning the ropes. Others like Kevin Conroy defined Batman’s voice for animated fans.

Each actor tapped into different angles of this complex, multifaceted superhero. Together, they’ve kept the Dark Knight thriving across generations as an unmatched pop culture icon.

A collage showcasing the evolution of Batman costumes worn by various actors in order.

Batman Continues Evolving for Fans Young and Old

Batman first appeared in DC Comics way back in 1939. Eight decades later, this legendary character continues going strong across every form of media out there today. He remains compelling because of his complex duality as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. His war on crime pushes him to moral extremes that keep fans fascinated.

This rich inner conflict allows new actors and directors to reinterpret Batman for contemporary audiences. From Tim Burton’s gothic vision to Nolan’s gritty realism to Snyder’s mythic spectacle, the Dark Knight reinvents himself every generation.

While actors come and go, the essence of Batman remains consistently dark, complex and engaging. Batman has been brought to life in many ways by many stars, but still stands for justice against the forces of evil no matter who wears the cape and cowl. Here’s hoping Batman continues evolving for 80 more years!

About The Author

Matteo Martignago

Matteo Martignago

Matteo Martignago is a cinematographer, entrepreneur, and founder of the learning platform ArtisticHive. With over 8 years of experience as a director of photography on independent films, documentaries, and commercials, Matteo brings his creative vision and deep knowledge of camerawork, visual storytelling and lighting to educating aspiring artists.

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