Today is Batman Day, the one day a year that we celebrate the Dark Knight who protects all of Gotham City with his fists, his cool gadgets and vehicles, and his nearly unlimited wealth.
A total of eight actors have played Batman over the course of the last 73 years, ranging from virtual unknowns to internationally famous actors.
Just about everyone has an opinion on who played Batman the best, and that includes us here at ComicBook.com.
So without further ado, here's our definitive (until we change them) rankings of live action Batman.
From Lewis Wilson to Ben Affleck and everyone in between. Please note that we've left out voice actors, so don't expect us to cop out and name Kevin Conroy the best Batman of all (even though that's a very legitimate opinion to have). So, sit back and get ready to argue over your favorite Batman in the comments below!
Honorable Mention: Unknown Actor from Birds of Prey
The title says "every" live action Batman, which means we need to include even the folks whose identities remain a secret. The 2002 WB TV series Birds of Prey included a very brief Batman cameo, played by an unknown actor. For years, actor Wayne Thomas (who played Batman in series of commercials for OnStar) was credited for the role, but he's recently claimed he never appeared on Birds of Prey.
Since it was just a cameo, we're not going to include "Unknown Actor" to the list, but he'd probably rank higher than at a couple of the Batmans on this list.
8) George Clooney
Along with Joel Schumacher, George Clooney is the man who almost killed the Batman movie franchise. Starring in the 1997 disaster Batman and Robin, Clooney's Batman was more bark than bite, full of not very witty one-liners, and totally non-threatening.
And the less said about the infamous "Bat-Nipples", the better.
Even Clooney wasn't a fan of Batman and Robin, saying that the movie was a giant "waste of money" and jokingly claiming responsibility for the downfall of the once popular Batman movie franchise.
To this day, Batman and Robin ranks among the worst comic book movies ever made, and that's why Clooney ranks dead last on our list.
7) Lewis Wilson
The first actor to play Batman on film, Lewis Wilson starred in a 15 part serial made in 1943.
While Wilson was the first man to don Batman's cowl on film, he's probably the least impressive actor to play Batman. Wilson had a thick Boston accent and didn't have the trim physique we expect from our superhero actors nowaday. The cheap costume did Wilson no favors, either.
Despite a mediocre performance by Wilson and the serial being practically propaganda, the 1943 Batman serial did add to the Batman mythos by introducing the Batcave.
So, even though Wilson wasn't the best Batman, he did contribute something to the Batman legacy...which is more than we can say about George Clooney.
6) Robert Lowery
Columbia released a second Batman serial in 1949 called Batman and Robin, with Robert Lowery replacing Wilson as the Caped Crusader.
Unlike Wilson, Lowery had acting experience prior to stepping into the role of Batman. He also fit into the costume a little bit better, although the cowl still looked more like a devil costume than the pointy-bat cowl we're used to seeing in the comics.
Still, Batman and Robin wasn't very good, even for a serial of the time. It was low budget, the costume looked terrible, and Robin had to wear pink tights because the actor playing him refused to shave his hairy legs.
Lowery went on to enjoy a successful career in Western movies and even guest starred on an episode of The Adventures of Superman, albeit playing a different character as Batman.
5) Val Kilmer
With Clooney and the 1940s Batmans out of the way, it's time to rank the "good" Batman.
Coming in fifth is Val Kilmer, who played Batman in Batman Forever.
Batman Forever marked a crossroads for the 1990s Batman movie franchise. Tim Burton had left the franchise after Batman Returns, and star Michael Keaton left the movie with him. New director Joel Schumacher picked Kilmer to replace Keaton, an idea he first had after watching the movie Tombstone.
Kilmer captured Batman's brooding side perfectly, but he never really stood out, especially compared to the over the top performances of Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones. Kilmer didn't hurt the Batman franchise, but he certainly didn't advance it either.
In the end, Kilmer was a transitional Batman, standing in while the franchise moved away from Tim Burton's unique vision and moved towards the monstrosity that was Batman and Robin.
4) Adam West
For many baby boomers, Adam West IS the Batman.
West played Batman on ABC's extremely popular Batman television series during the 1960s. West's Batman was decidedly campy but serious at the same time. No matter how absurd of a situation he found himself in (and there were a lot of absurd scenarios in the Batman television show), West's Batman always took his mission very seriously.
Fans are decidedly divided on Adam West's legacy and his portrayal of Batman.
The Batman television show helped solidify the Caped Crusader as part of pop culture and gave Batman millions of new fans. But others are critical of the campy tone of the show and felt that its legacy has hindered comics as a whole, as many still look at superhero comics as a bunch of brightly colored heroes punching each other as a bunch of "Boom! Bam! Pow!" graphics pop up on the screen.
3) Christian Bale
Before readers get out the pitchforks, please remember that this is a ranking of the live action Batman, not the movies they appeared in.
The Dark Knight trilogy are clearly the best Batman movies WB has ever produced...but that doesn't mean that Bale was the perfect Batman.
The biggest complaint that people had with Bale's version of the Dark Knight was his awful "Batman voice", which was meant to be intimidating but just came off as silly. There was also Batman's hangup with his childhood sweetheart Rachel Dawes, which was a radical departure from the stoic and un-emotional Batman fans are used too.
The Dark Knight trilogy was a grounded and realistic take on the Dark Knight, but that came at the cost of Batman's detective skills and also many of his cool gadgets. Bale's Batman rarely "out-thought" his opponents, which is why he ranks so low on our list.
2) Ben Affleck
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice wasn't a very good movie, but Ben Affleck's Batman was one of its few bright points. Affleck really captured a version of Batman broken by time and the cruel realities of his mission, but determined to protect his city (and the world) at all costs.
While Bale's Batman was more of a brawler than a detective, Affleck's Batman was smart, perhaps too smart for his own good. His systematic takedown of Superman during their big fight scene was probably the best depiction of the "Batgod" version of Batman we've seen in comics for years.
The other big difference between Bale and Affleck is that Affleck actually bothered to add some character to Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne. It was no accident that Batman V Superman's opening scene introduced Wayne first instead of his alter ego. It showed that there was a real human being behind the mask, instead of a ninja warrior wiped of all personality or emotion.
1) Michael Keaton
Holding our the top spot in the rankings is Michael Keaton, the star of Tim Burton's two Batman films.
Keaton's Batman is the most well rounded of all the Batman of the list, and certainly the most superheroic. Bale's Batman is a bit boring when he's not punching people, Affleck's Batman is bogged down by old age and anger issues, and the less said about Kilmer and Clooney, the better.
Keaton is the only actor to portray Batman as a complete and well-rounded character, neither too brooding or too goofy. Burton's Batman is dark but earnest, showing both compassion and a dangerous psychotic side. He also fits perfectly in the world of Tim Burton's Batman movies, which are both brilliant, crazy, and unmistakably weird.
Keaton ranks as our top Batman, but we want to know who your favorite. Be sure to let us know how wrong we are in the comments below!