What would Batman be without his trust man servant, Alfred Pennyworth? Throughout his life, Bruce Wayne has had the de facto father figure in Alfred, doing his best to keep Batman alive while also secretly praying for the day when Bruce will hang up the cape and cowl and try to start a normal life. We of course know that this is a day that will never come, which makes Alfred's lot in life all the sadder. In media, there have been a LOT of Alfreds as in nearly almost interpretation of the Dark Knight, Pennyworth has, in some way, been a part of his adventures.
In our list, we'll be ranking the movie Alfreds. What's so great about this list is that every interpretation of Pennyworth has ranged from either great to outstanding! It makes the ratings that much more difficult in that all of them offered something new to the mythos, presenting new attributes of the most famous butler in comic book history. Let's get to it!
The Alfred Pennyworth from the 1966 movie obviously extended from the old Adam West series. Napier presented an Alfred who was cheery, stalwart, and a tad on the goofy side, as is the case with nearly everything from the series. Heck, this Alfred even decided to slap on the Bat costume a few times to help Bruce out of a jam, which is certainly something none of the other Pennyworths in this list have done.
Considering Alan's last name, you have to wonder if Tim Burton's Joker had the same last name as something of a tribute. All the same, even though he's last on the list, this says more about the other actors on this list than slighting his performance as Alfred Pennyworth.prevnext
In Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Jeremy Irons was one of the strongest aspects of the movie, presenting an Alfred Pennyworth who was contradictory, but presented a genuine care for Bruce Wayne. Taking a page from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Irons' Alfred was a technological wizard, guiding Batman through many obstacles while out in the world while also fixing up his gear on a few occasions. You could tell from his performance that Irons and Affleck's characters had a long and trying history, ultimately looking out for one another but quarreling over which direction their lives should be headed. Pennyworth has always tried to preserve Bruce Wayne's well-being, but never quite manages to stop Batman from a crash course in self-destruction.
Batman V Superman had a ton of moving pieces, so Irons' performance shines all the brighter in that it never feels overwhelmed by the super hero action surrounding it. Irons takes a harsher approach to the role, offering catty barbs to Bruce's requests whether that be fixing his mask or directing him through a warehouse full of goons. I, and clearly most people who have seen the film, are eagerly anticipating the Batman solo picture starring Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons to expand on their relationship and give more screen time to the strict Pennyworth.prevnext
The Alfred Pennyworth with the most Batman movies under his belt, Michael Gough presented an Alfred who genuinely cared for Bruce Wayne and offered a sense of warmth and kindness that was needed in the series of films. Gough passed away in 2011 but he lives on through his silver screen career. From the original Tim Burton's Batman to the much panned Batman and Robin, this Alfred managed to always be a bright spot in the life of Bruce Wayne, holding chemistry with each Batman in the line. Whether working with Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, or even George Clooney, you always got a portrayal of an Alfred who acted as a father figure to Bruce Wayne growing up.
In the comics, Pennyworth always acted as a rock to Batman, offering the advice he needed in order to stay alive and Gough exemplified this idea. Surprisingly, I think the most emotional performance we received from Gough was in Batman and Robin! On death's door, Alfred and Bruce spend what may be his last days with one another, recollecting Bruce's early days in the manor following his parents' deaths. It's quite an emotional scene and is certainly a stand out among the four films.prevnext
Michael Caine's Alfred Pennyworth was a tour de force in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight series. There are numerous scenes of Alfred talking to Bruce that are still quoted and extremely memorable to this day. One such scene is the story in the Dark Knight where he describes his days as a soldier, relating the idea of a foreign warlord to the current situation with the Joker. It's a surprisingly nuanced performance and not only gives Bruce Wayne some expertise to rely on but it also explores a part of Alfred's life that we hadn't really explored in previous films. Caine's Pennyworth exemplifies all the best aspects of the character and works fantastically off Bale's Wayne.
The best scene with Pennyworth in the series is during the Dark Knight Rises in which Pennyworth believes Batman to have died. Shaking and sobbing, he goes to Thomas and Martha Waynes' graves, begging for their forgiveness in not being able to save their son's life. It's arguably the most emotional scene in any Batman film and Michael Caine nails it. There's no better Alfred in the movies at this point, but who knows, Jeremy Irons still has some films ahead of him in the DC Cinematic Universe so stay tuned.prev