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Ben Affleck Vs. Christian Bale: Here's Who Played The Best Batman

Since May 1939, when the iconic character co-created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger was first introduced in the pages of Detective Comics #27, Batman has made the leap from comic book to screen on several occasions. He was even one of the first superheroes to receive a live action adaptation when Lewis Wilson played him as part of a 15-part serial in 1943 (via 13th Dimension). This may have been in part because the character didn't require any special effects to appear on screen, unlike fellow DC heroes Superman and Wonder Woman.

Adam West then played a rather campy interpretation of the Dark Knight in the 1966 "Batman" television series. It really took Tim Burton's 1989 "Batman" blockbuster smash, starring a brooding and tortured Michael Keaton, for the image of Batman in popular culture to become more aligned with the bleaker tone of the comics (via Bam Smack Pow).

With "Twilight" actor turned fearless indie darling Robert Pattinson now taking on the legendary role in 2022, it's time to focus on which recent screen actor portrayed the Caped Crusader better. Both of these thespians played the character in several different films, but one portrayal proved to be divisive, while the other appeared in a  highly successful, critically acclaimed film trilogy. Which actor was better as Batman: Ben Affleck or Christian Bale?

Bale played a realistic, grounded version of the Dark Knight

Cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman in 2003 (via Variety) after roles in "Velvet Goldmine" and "American Psycho," actor Christian Bale was part of a much more grounded, realistic version of Gotham City as envisioned by director Christopher Nolan. Taking cues from "Blade Runner" and the '70s comics incarnation of the character, "Batman Begins" depicts Wayne in the early stages of his crime-fighting career.

Bale had the especially daunting job of playing a brand-new screen version of Wayne, and he does so with aplomb. In his "Batman Begins" review, Roger Ebert wrote that as the lead, Bale "suggests an inward quality that suits the character." The actor's interpretation of Batman in "Batman Begins" and the sequels, including "The Dark Knight" and "The Dark Knight Rises," is introspective, but not without intensity or even humor. 

If there's a big critique to be made of Bale's interpretation, it's almost certainly his over-the-top Batman voice. The effect is meant to be scary, and indicate a separation between Wayne and Batman as distinct personalities, but the growly deep voice can feel silly. Voice actor Kevin Conroy, who has voiced Batman for many years in animation, even derided Bale's vocals at a Q&A: "Christian Bale is a great actor...[but] he just got steered wrong."

Affleck's DCEU character was charismatic but violent

Ben Affleck was in a much different place than Christian Bale when he agreed to play Batman. He was older and had already been a veteran movie star and director before taking on the role. Affleck was also entering the DC Extended Universe by joining the 2016 Zack Snyder film "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." When it came out, the extremely dark tone of "Batman v Superman," especially the depiction of an older, vengeful Batman who brands criminals with a Bat symbol and plots to kill Superman, proved controversial with fans (via Goliath). 

Yet to many, Affleck gave a good performance as Batman, embodying Wayne's intelligence and natural charisma, with Baltimore Magazine calling him "sophisticated." He really looks like a handsome billionaire going to a gala, but you can also see the real person behind the façade. While in costume, the actor's intense, physical performance "telegraphed a deep-rooted pain and exhaustion that gave us a different kind of Batman" (via Collider). As Affleck put it, he wanted to present a superhero "at the end of his rope physically and psychologically and emotionally" (via Entertainment Weekly). 

Christian Bale is the better Batman by a wide consensus

This is a much tougher debate than some film buffs would acknowledge. "The Dark Knight Trilogy" is far more beloved in pop culture than the Snyderverse films, but those movies have their fans too. Neither interpretation is perfect and both are ambitious attempts to bring the superhero to life.

But of the two performances, Christian Bale is the better Batman over Ben Affleck. His realistic interpretation of Bruce Wayne/Batman in "The Dark Knight Trilogy" received strong reviews from critics, with "The Dark Knight" even ranking as the most acclaimed Batman film ever at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. In a 2020 fan poll, Bale was also voted the best version of Batman, beating out Michael Keaton and Adam West with 42% of the votes (via Radio Times). 

The English actor may have remarked that he wasn't quite satisfied with his performance (via EW), but The Guardian summarized why Bale is, for many fans, the greatest Batman: "Bale gave us a Batman we could believe in, in more ways than one." His creation of a plausible screen superhero is still a true accomplishment.