There are some debates that can literally lead to physical brutality. Who is the best home run hitter? Lord of the Rings versus Star Wars? Who is the hottest actress named Jessica? However, no debate has inspired more thought, discussion, and threatening motions than, “who is the best Batman?” We are bold enough to take it on. Number one is at the bottom of list, but first take time to appreciate ten through two…
10. Andy Samberg
In 2011, Andy Samberg starred in a skit with Steve Buschemi on Saturday Night Live. Buschemi plays Commissioner Gordon, and cannot shake Batman. Batman shows up at Gordon’s house. Batman shows up in Gordon’s shower. Batman shows up in Gordon’s bed. Batman dresses up Gordon’s wife as the Riddler. Samberg plays it for great comedy in only one sketch, but the important thing here, is that Samberg’s mere existence knocks George Clooney off of any actual mention on this list.
9. Seth Green
Seth Green plays Batman for obvious parody on his Cartoon Network show, Robot Chicken. However, listen to the voice and the delivery. Green adds a dimension to Batman that is not generally seen. Green’s Batman has a legitimate sense of humor. There is also a certifiable nasty streak to Green’s Batman. Even though this is a toy representation, somehow Green’s interpretation of Batman just seems to be more true to real life.
8. Pete Holmes
Stand-up comedian Pete Holmes, working with Front Page Films, has made a series of skits focused on Batman. As anyone with a Facebook account can tell you, life is not all highlight films. The highlights are just what we show to others in carefully planned albums. Pete shows you the Batman that tends to end up in the emergency room, while Alfred gives a lame story. Holmes’ Batman is still trying to get everything down and hopes no one sees. In addition to the humor, Holmes gives Batman a sense of vulnerability, reminding you that this really is some rich guy in his twenties.
7. Olan Soule
When you look at a picture of Olan Soule, you will never fathom how Soule ever got onto a list of Batmen. If you grew up in the 1970’s – 1980s, you may not know Soule’s name, but you certainly know his voice. Soule was the voice of Batman in every incarnation of the Superfriends until Adam West himself took over the part for the Super Powers show. Every time anyone does a cartoon parody of Batman, they are trying to get Soule’s voice just right. Until Kevin Conroy, if you heard the voice of Batman in your head, there was a good chance the default voice was that of Olan Soule.
6. Lewis Wilson
Have you ever heard the story about the Batman television show being the result of a party at the Playboy mansion? Hefner, and a lot of women that you probably could not date even now, strung together old Batman serials. When Hef has an idea, network executives tend to use it. Voila, the 1960’s Batman show was born! The question then becomes “how did they get those serials in the first place?” The answer would be the serials starring Lewis Wilson. They were done in 1943, only four years after Batman was created. Lewis Wilson was the first cinematic Batman.
5. Michael Keaton
When the casting was first announced in the late-1980s of Michael Keaton as Batman, the question became “how can that pimply comedian from Beetlejuice do Batman?” The film was awesome, and went on to gross a quarter of a billion dollars domestically. However, the fact that Michael Keaton was able to make you convincingly believe “I’m Batman…” does not mean Keaton was the greatest Batman. It simply means that Tim Burton did not make a disastrous casting decision. It also begs the question of what would have happened if Burton went with young Edward Scissorhands star, Johnny Depp. Any series of films where you are consistently overshadowed by your villains may get you top five, but will not get you any higher.
4. Adam West
For many people to this day, there will never be any Batman other than Adam West. Others see the show as a campy relic from the 1960s. Part of the reason why you see the show in that way, is that Adam West is more than willing to parody his own image. West did Batman in both live action and animated forms, and parodies him with Catman on The Fairly Oddparents. Adam West did not let himself become a joke. Instead, he retold the joke, and always kept in front of the punch line. He continues to do so to this day.
3. Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer. Yes, Val Kilmer in Batman Forever played the best live action version of Batman up to that time. When Kilmer told Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson, “I can stop you,” he convincingly let the audience know that Bruce Wayne was Batman any time Bruce Wayne wanted to be. Kilmer’s Batman had a sense of aloofness, menace, and sexuality. Kilmer was handsome enough to Bruce Wayne, and tortured enough to be Batman. It is truly a shame that Kilmer and Joel Schumacher could not manage to get along longer than they did.
2. Christian Bale
Yes, the current incarnation of Batman directed by Christopher Nolan makes it all the way up the list to number two. Yes, there is a Batman out there who is better. Amazingly, the movie that probably propelled the current Batman/Dark Knight series to its present heights, is the 2000 film American Psycho. Watch American Psycho again, and you will see Bruce Wayne willing to use a chainsaw. Bale and Nolan also further enhanced their partnership with The Prestige. Bale exudes the cool insanity, and dangerous need, to pull off Batman. You can also tell that Bale is used to, as well comfortable with, wealth. As casting goes, choosing possibly the greatest actor of his generation is always inspired.
1. Kevin Conroy
Let’s review. From Batman: The Animated Series, to the present day, no one has played Batman more times than Kevin Conroy. Also (even though it was animation and video games) no one has played Batman any better than Conroy. He can give you the darkest of Batman’s pathos, as well as some surprisingly lighter moments. After twenty years, when Batman is needed, the call goes to Kevin Conroy. No one answers the Bat-Signal better.
Written By Jim Ciscell