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Every Live-Action Version Of Commissioner Gordon Ranked Worst To Best

Every character –– protagonist, villain, civilian, or otherwise –– is the hero of their own story. Though Batman is typically the main character in his corner of the DC universe, plenty of other people fight evil alongside him. Robin, Batgirl, and Catwoman come to mind, to say nothing of his Justice League teammates. But there is one root-worthy character who never leaves the Dark Knight's side, yet tends to fly under the radar: Commissioner James Gordon. Gordon has the unenviable job of trying to keep the dark and eerie landscape that is Gotham City under some semblance of control. Though Gordon doesn't have superpowers, he does have an extensive amount of authority at his disposal, plenty of street smarts, and sheer, dauntless tenacity. And it certainly doesn't hurt that he's one of Batman's greatest allies, either.

Just as Batman has enjoyed many live-action incarnations, so too has Commissioner Gordon. Takes on the character vary dramatically: Some Gordons are grizzled, some are hapless, and some are outright goofy. Each and every one, however, has their own appeal. We're here to take a closer look at this stalwart Batman ally by ranking every live-action Commissioner Gordon from worst to best.

7. Lyle Talbot - Batman and Robin (1949)

All Commissioner Gordons are good Commissioner Gordons, but only one can be the very first live-action take on the character. That honor goes to Lyle Talbot's Gordon, who appears in the 1949 "Batman and Robin" serial. Though "Batman" movies have gotten darker over the last few decades, this series will remind you that this wasn't always the case: 1949's take on Gotham looks downright kooky to modern eyes, full of odd costumes and cartoonish plots. Talbot's Gordon is a similarly far cry from the character modern fans know and love. With his thin mustache, sleek hair, and dapper suit, he looks more like a high-class businessman than a toughened cop.

Not everything's different, however. Like every Gordon, this Commissioner has the trusty Bat-Signal at his disposal. But, given the fact that this was a much earlier time in movie-making history, the technology isn't quite what you'd expect. Gordon's Bat-Signal is a small, wheeled contraption kept in his office, which he points outside the window when Batman must be summoned. Kind of a step down from a gigantic light kept on the rooftop, which beams its blazing signal into the turbulent sky. Talbot's Gordon might assist Batman in fighting crime, but he's just not the stalwart hero fans adore.

6. J.K. Simmons - Justice League (2017)

J.K. Simmons' portrayal of Commissioner Gordon in 2017's "Justice League" is far from lacking. Notably, this version of Gordon is an ex-Marine, a detail Simmons brings to the fore with his strong physique. Batman might be one of the greatest heroes in Gotham City, but this Commissioner Gordon is clearly not a person to mess with. Combine that with the allure of Simmons' legendary career, and it's a no-brainer why plenty of viewers love him in the role.

However, Simmons' Gordon doesn't have as big a role in "Justice League" as many fans likely hoped he would. Given the ground the film has to cover, this makes sense, and he does shine in the scenes he's given. Simmons' Gordon is weary, but still clearly on Batman's side — when a fellow cop implies the Dark Knight has become an evil-doer, Gordon defends him without hesitation. This is a man who is beaten, but not broken, and even displays a bit of the edge Simmons famously portrays J. Jonah Jameson with in various "Spider-Man" movies. But still, Gordon appearances are thin on the ground. This portrayal is decent, but dragged down by its small stature.

5. Ben McKenzie - Gotham (2014)

Ben McKenzie's portrayal of a young James Gordon on "Gotham," a TV series that ran from 2014 to 2019, is unique. The show focuses on Gordon's early years in the police department, rather than the era in which he is already the established commissioner.  He starts out as a detective whose family has deep roots in the city, and grows to take up his most famous post in the series finale. "Gotham" stands out for many reasons, but one of the best is the fact that it puts Gordon in the limelight: This series follows his storyline for five full seasons, spanning a whopping 100 episodes. That's a whole lot of Jim Gordon for fans to enjoy.

McKenzie's Gordon is, without a doubt, different from other live-action Gordons, but anyone who loves the character is bound to enjoy this take. The fundamentals are all there, from his quick thinking to his good heart. Watching the character develop is fascinating, especially since "Gotham" follows his story well outside of Batman's long shadow: Bruce Wayne is just a kid, a teen, and finally a very young man on this series. Gordon's story does dip into soapiness, however, and some fans will miss the tried-and-true aspects of the character "Gotham" does away with. Still, this is a solid take worth checking out.

4. Pat Hingle - Batman (1989)

With director Tim Burton taking over the creative reins, viewers received, at long last, a truly Dark Knight in 1989's "Batman." Pat Hingle's Commissioner Gordon stands out as not necessarily having the buddy-buddy relationship with the Caped Crusader audiences have come to expect — or at least, not at first. Eventually, Batman wins Gordon over, despite his law-breaking ways. Gordon reveals the trademark Bat-Signal in the film's final moments, conveying that Batman and the commissioner will work together whenever a common enemy attempts to flood Gotham with crime.

Hingle went on to reprise the role in  "Batman Returns," "Batman Forever," and "Batman & Robin" — a major contrast to Batman himself, who is played by three different actors over the course of those films. His older Commissioner Gordon is more of an order-giving leader than a cop who's still working out in the field — he and Batman never really seem like peers, they're at such different points in their careers. This diminishes their bond somewhat, but is also an interesting direction to take the character in. Hingle's quiet dignity elevates it even further, making this Gordon a solid representation of a beloved hero.

3. Neil Hamilton - Batman (1966)

Neil Hamilton put Commissioner Gordon on the map in the 1960s  "Batman" TV series and accompanying movie. Like the production that surrounds him, this Gordon is not depicted with the seriousness that characterizes modern "Batman" projects: He reaches Batman through a bright red telephone, and frequently breaks the fourth wall to impress upon viewers just how awesome Batman and Robin truly are. This silliness might come as a shock to the uninitiated — where is the hardened cop who plays an integral role in keeping the streets of Gotham safe? This Gordon is cartoonishly dependent on Batman to do anything!

But this quirkiness is exactly what makes Hamilton's Gordon stand out. This "Batman" era is interested in far-out comedy, rather than all-out drama ... and that's okay. Superheroes are a goofy idea, after all, and Gordon's presence highlights that wonderfully. Watching him bemoan the fact that he and his officers are going to have to solve a case themselves when Batman's out of town in Season 2's "The Devil's Fingers" is genuinely hilarious. This sort of humor is as much a part of the superhero tradition as hard-bitten violence, and Hamilton delivers it with panache. The history of "Batman," and of Commissioner Gordon himself, can't be written without Neil Hamilton's name scribbled many times in its pages.

2. Jeffrey Wright - The Batman (2022)

Jeffrey Wright plays Gordon in 2022's "The Batman." Notably, this Gordon has yet to make it into the commissioner's seat — he serves as lieutenant instead. Though this is a departure from his most famous role, Wright's Gordon goes deep into the trenches with Batman. The fact that he's virtually the only authority figure the Dark Knight trusts says it all.

Wright is an A-list talent through and through, a fact made evident by his refreshingly real take on Gordon. Watching him and Batman work on cases together is enthralling, especially given this film's winding plot and gritty depiction of Gotham City. A bond of uncommon strength and complexity emerges between them, forged in the flames of respect, hard work, and the relentless commitment to justice they share. Wright's Gordon is also one of the most likable characters in the film, and one of the most emotionally affecting. He lives in a world infested with evil beings who crave power, yet he keeps his goodness intact.

1. Gary Oldman - the Dark Knight trilogy (2005)

Though Jeffrey Wright's Gordon might surpass him, depending on what Batman's cinematic future holds, Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon, who hails from Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, is the very best live-action portrayal of the character. This Gordon doesn't begin his journey as commissioner: Initially, in 2005's "Batman Begins," he's merely Sgt. James Gordon. Amid the chaotic and brutally fantastical excess of Gotham City, Oldman's Gordon brings the audience back to reality. He's a grounded character, performing his duties in a world of madness, but he isn't naïve — he knows he needs to do business with a vigilante to get anything done.

And so he does. Christian Bale's Batman and Oldman's Gordon are a team for the ages, with an especially emotional origin: Gordon is the cop on duty who comforts little Bruce Wayne after his parents are murdered. Oldman manages to walk the line between exhaustion and hope for three movies, portraying a man who is simultaneously laid low by his responsibilities and enlivened by them. Justice is scarce in Gotham City — no one knows that better than Gordon, who is under no illusions about his fellow officers — yet he never, ever stops pursuing it. That embattled righteousness never quite leaves him, which makes Oldman's Gordon the very best live-action version of the character.