Batman is worldwide icon, and therefore his fashion choices are matters of worldly importance. There have been onscreen versions of Batman stretching back to the 1960s, and the look and sophistication of the Bat-Suit has changed dramatically since then.
While everything about Batman's costume holds weight and importance, one piece of the suit that has been through a lot of development and advancement is the cowl. The headpiece of Batman's costume can be one of the hardest props for designers to craft, and one of the most uncomfortable pieces of costuming for an actor to wear, but the look it creates always takes hold of the zeitgeist.
Below you will find a breakdown of the Batman cowls that have appeared onscreen, as we rank them from worst to best. Don't agree with our rankings? Let us know @ComicBook!
Adam West was the original live-action Batman, turning the 1960s TV series into a iconic institution that is still alive today (see: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders).
Even though West holds a trailblazer's place in the pantheon of live-action Batmen, his costume is not going to ever top the list of greatest adaptations, and his cowl, with its soft fabric and silly "ears," is (by modern standards) the worst of the bunch.
Val Kilmer's Batman cowl is in the vein of the iconic one worn by Michael Keaton, but with upgraded details and molding. The problem is, with this cowl falling into the time period between the stiff restrictions of the Keaton version, and the maneuverable version worn by Christian Bale, Kilmer's cowl is equivalent to being the Laserdisc of Bat-cowls. As in: totally forgettable.
George Clooney's version of the cowl was so similar to Kilmer's (and as forgettable) that it doesn't even warrant a spot on our list.
Kevin Conroy has earned his spot from years spent making the animated version of Batman an icon. While Conroy, the actor, has never actually worn a Bat-Cowl, his Batman has become a big part of the character's fashion history, thanks to the Arkham video game series.
Conroy's Arkham Bat-Cowl has both the look of a traditional Batman and the functional engineering to make it believable for a real-world setting. The reason it isn't higher on our list is because it obviously was never tested in the realm of live-action.
Christian Bale's Bat-Cowl got an upgrade for The Dark Knight, finally giving our live-action Batman the ability to turn his head while in costume.
Bale's upgraded Dark Knight costume has become iconic in its own right, and the functionality of the cowl is definitely one of its distinguishing features.
For Batman v Superman, director Zack Snyder decided to lean heavily on the version of Batman envisioned by comic book guru Frank Miller in his iconic 1980s storyline, The Dark Knight Returns.
Affleck's "Brawler Batman" looks just like Miller's TDKR artwork come to life - including the cowl, with its notable distinction of looking like a maniacally laughing Bat-demon even when Bruce Wayne takes it off.
At the top of our list sits the iconic Bat-Cowl which totally reinvented and re-invigorated the era of Batman in live-action, and was the pioneer of the Batman movie franchise.
Michael Keaton's Batman costume changed the character in a number of ways, but its two biggest achievements were no doubt bringing the color black to the character (who used to only sport blue and gray), and making him look fearsome with a cowl that added a threatening element to the character.
Sure, Keaton couldn't really move his head, and was suffocated by the rubbery material - but those sacrifices just earn him more respect. It's hard to believe that Batman will ever again go through such a milestone (and successful) transformation.