Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Roles That Batman Actors Want You To Forget About

From the 1940s to today, nearly a dozen actors have put on the cape and cowl and played DC's Dark Knight on screens big and small. Countless more have given "Batman" life in cartoons and animated films, while the hero's rogues gallery of iconic villains have been played by several award-winners. Of any superhero franchise in Hollywood, "Batman" may boast the finest group of actors and actresses ever to inhabit a comic book world.

But no actor is without a film they regret, a role they would erase from existence if they could. Even the most high caliber of stars can look back with discomfort on an old film that flopped at the box office or was slaughtered by critics. From Christian Bale, Jack Nicholson, and Adam West to Heath Ledger, Ben Affleck, and George Clooney, we've found some regretful roles from a litany of luckless stars throughout the Caped Crusader's history. These are roles that "Batman" actors would love for us all to forget about.

Adam West in Hell Riders

Though technically not the first actor to play Batman in live action (that would be Lewis Wilson in the 1943 Columbia serials), Adam West remains one of the most iconic in the role. Starring in the beloved 1966 "Batman" TV series that combined classic comic book crime fighting with over-the-top camp, West set the standard by which every subsequent Batman actor has been judged, whether they were silly or serious. Unfortunately, after his hit series was canceled, West struggled to find any work as memorable as the Caped Crusader — outside of reprising the role in animation for "The New Adventures of Batman" and "Super Friends." 

By the early '80s, West was making guest appearances on popular TV shows while also churning out a number of forgettable film flops, the worst of which might be "Hell Riders" from 1984. West gets top billing alongside another former sitcom star, "Gilligan's Island" alum Tina Louise, who plays a woman who becomes stranded in a remote town that's under siege by a brutal gang of leather-clad bikers. West is the town's gun-toting doctor, and one of the few willing to stand up to them.

A C-grade exploitation film of the lowest caliber, it's remarkable that the one-time TV superstars had both fallen so low to have to star in such reprehensible nonsense. Sleazy and cheesy, with enough uncomfortable scenes to make you wheezy, "Hell Riders" is a nonsensical mess, and easily the worst film in West's catalog.

Burt Ward in Robo-C.H.I.C.

When it comes to TV's original Robin Burt Ward, there's any number of movies we could choose from. During the late 1980s and early '90s, the former "Batman" sidekick appeared in a string of low budget direct-to-video garbage movies, including "Beach Babes From Beyond," "Assault of the Party Nerds 2: The Heavy Petting Detective," and the elegantly titled "Robot Ninja." But the worst of the bunch is without a doubt "Robo-C.H.I.C.," a film so bad that it may have caused the lead actress to quit halfway through filming.

Pop in an old VHS copy and right away you'll see why. The film looks like it was made on a negative budget, the stunts are hilariously pathetic, and its bizarre attempts at comedy make it a slog to sit through. Robo-C.H.I.C. herself is indeed played by two different actresses with no explanation, and the theory that the first one quit on this joke of a film seems as likely as any other explanation we can think of. But Burt Ward stuck it out, playing a villain with a fiendish plot to destroy the world. Opposing him is a nutty scientist named Dr. Von Colon who's created a robotic woman to stop him, the eponymous Robo-C.H.I.C., who is basically just a tall blonde in a bad wig who pushes people over.

More than just a bad movie, it's unforgettably awful, and on home video tried to market itself as a "Robocop" knock-off that it definitely isn't.

Kevin Conroy and Joseph Gordon Levitt in Hi Honey, I'm Dead

The unmistakable, most iconic voice of "Batman," actor Kevin Conroy in some ways has become more closely associated with the role than any other actor. First playing the Dark Knight in "Batman: The Animated Series," he continued to provide the voice of the hero through to the 2020s in any number of video games and animated appearances, as well as once in live-action for the Arrowverse "Crisis on Infinite Earths" event. Joseph Gordon Levitt, meanwhile, took a co-starring role in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" as John Blake, who at the close of the film is heavily implied to be a version of Robin. 

Both shared the screen, however, in a crossover of future "Batman" stars in the 1991 television movie "Hi Honey, I'm Dead." Conroy stars briefly at the opening of the film as Brad, a narcissistic, self-centered businessman who meets an untimely demise, only to be reincarnated as a bumbling housekeeper played by Curtis Armstrong ("Revenge of the Nerds"). Levitt stars as Conroy's young son Josh, and now Brad must get back into his family's life and learn to live without his good looks or wealth.

A terribly misguided family comedy, it's almost as bad as the similarly themed "Quigley," which somehow also starred Armstrong. Full of every cliché in the book — including the well-meaning and helpful angel who guides Brad in his quest back on Earth — "Hi, Honey I'm Dead" is as trite and eye-rollingly awful as early '90s TV movies come.

Michael Keaton in Touch and Go

Before he was Batman in the 1989 Tim Burton-directed blockbuster, star Michael Keaton was mainly known for comedies, including classics like "Mr. Mom" and "Beetlejuice." But outside of those memorable movies, Keaton had his share of flops, too. Thankfully those were forgotten by the time Burton had to convince Warner Bros. that he was the right man to play Bruce Wayne in his gothic comic book masterpiece. Because if the studio had been shown the 1986 comedy "Touch and Go," they might never have been convinced to let him take the title role in "Batman."

In the film, Keaton stars as Bobby Barbato, a big league hockey player and major star. When he's attacked by a gang of thugs, Barbato takes pity on one of them, taking him home and meeting his mother Denise, played by Maria Conchito Alonso (of "Total Recall" fame). Being a romantic comedy, you can guess where this one is headed, and the predictability doesn't stop with Bobby and Denise falling in love.

Filmed in 1984, the movie was so bad that it was shelved for two years due to a change in studio ownership, with the new people in charge obviously not believing in the film (per Hidden Films). In the end, after figuring out a better way to market the movie, it was released to theaters. But it was all for nothing, as the movie was a big flop just the same. Poorly received, the New York Times called it "dismally ineffective," and audience reaction wasn't much better.

Val Kilmer in Moscow Zero

Following a career-defining supporting role in the 1986 action drama "Top Gun," Val Kilmer finally landed some big movies of his own like "Willow" and the rock n' roll biopic "The Doors." In the '90s the actor became an action hero, succeeding Michael Keaton as the titular hero in "Batman Forever." Though the film was a financial success, Kilmer moved on from the role, only to land in the middle of a big budget disaster, "Red Planet," a movie that effectively killed his career. 

Over the next decade, Kilmer was sadly appearing in a slew of clunkers, many of which we could put on this list. But one of them definitely stands out, with the most abysmal IMDb rating in his robust catalog: the 2005 flop "Moscow Zero." A supernatural action thriller, it begins with nothing less than the search for the gates of hell, which are apparently located under Moscow. When the man searching for them goes missing, it's up to his American friend, a priest named Owen, to recruit a team to help find him.

Full of bad acting and cheap production values, the entire project was a bait-and-switch on unsuspecting viewers. Billed as a horror movie starring Kilmer, there's no horror to speak of, and the supposed star has less than 10 minutes of actual screen time. A review in Bloody Good Horror blasted the film for serious plot problems, and for inexplicably abandoning its horror thriller premise, where bloodless action quickly gave way to more than an hour of conversations in the sewers.

George Clooney in Return of the Killer Tomatoes

After a star-making turn as the handsome Dr. Doug Ross on the hit medical drama "ER" in the mid 1990s, actor George Clooney quickly left television for big-screen leading roles. One of his first major parts was taking over for Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne/Batman in 1997's "Batman and Robin." The series had grown precipitously more campy with each film following the 1989 blockbuster, and by this fourth installment, was basically a big budget version of the more silly 1960's TV show... but somehow even more ridiculous. Slammed by critics and audiences, it was a huge misstep that somehow didn't hurt Clooney's career. 

But what fans might not know is that long before his "ER" stint, he'd done several small films, including at least a few low budget B-movies. One of them was the 1988 sequel "Return of the Killer Tomatoes," just his third feature film. An unneeded sequel to the irreverent parody film "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" ten years before, "Return" was just a lamer follow-up that was more of the same. And while sometimes that might be fine, the original was only mildly entertaining even at its best, but was at least something new and fresh. The sequel was just rotten.

The young Clooney does not impress, and it's no doubt a film that Clooney would love to take back if only the Hollywood gods would allow. 

Christian Bale in The Prince Of Jutland

It would be almost a decade after 1997's "Batman and Robin" that the franchise would get a proper big screen reboot, but Warner Bros. wasn't messing around when they finally did. Back to the character's roots, "Batman Begins" went dark and gritty, and up-and-coming director Christopher Nolan cast Welsh actor and "American Psycho" star Christian Bale to play the Dark Knight. With a number of acclaimed performances under his belt, he was a choice that lent the film instant credibility, an actor with more than a decade of solid experience already.

But among his long list of films, Bale was not without a few mistakes. Though his first big screen role, at the age of 13, came in the well-reviewed "Empire of the Sun," he'd take the lead in a major misfire in 1994, the British film "Royal Deceit," known locally as "The Prince of Jutland." Based on the Danish folk tale that inspired Shakespeare's play "Hamlet," Bale takes the titular role of Prince Amleth, and the film follows his quest for revenge.

Sitting at just 25% audience approval on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the consensus is clear: It's a sloppy mess of a movie. Uninspired and downright boring, Bale himself gives an ill-advised performance that borders on hammy and cartoonish at times. In his defense, though, he isn't the only major star to want us to forget this one, as Gabriel Byrne, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, and Andy Serkis all probably wish this one could be scrubbed from their filmographies.

Ben Affleck in Gigli

If you thought casting comedian Michael Keaton as Batman was controversial, meet Ben Affleck, whose pick to play the role in Zack Snyder's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" was met with no small amount of derision from fans. But once again, the actor proved them all wrong, and while the movie (and its follow-up "Justice League") proved divisive, Affleck was widely praised for his performance as the world's greatest detective. While the actor is not one to lament many past roles — as he did the 2002 superhero movie "Daredevil" for different reasons – the worst movie in his career might be one he would take back if he could.

The 2004 drama "Gigli" was a bomb on all fronts. Critically panned, booed by audiences, it was even derided by the star himself. "It doesn't work," Affleck said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2022. "It's sort of a horse's head in a cow's body." Claiming the studio saw his burgeoning relationship with co-star Jennifer Lopez, they pushed the film to become a romantic comedy, thinking it was what the audience wanted.

Still, Affleck doesn't regret the film because that's where he met Lopez, with whom he is now back together after a near decade-long break-up. But the movie itself may be another story, because we can't imagine that Affleck enjoys looking back at his role in this bomb of a film that even his own daughter hates (via EW).

Robert Pattinson in The Haunted Airman

Young actor Robert Pattinson first came to audiences' attention with his co-starring role as Cedric Diggory in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." From there he of course took the lead role of Edward Cullen in the massively popular teen vampire franchise "Twilight." But when those films had wrapped up, the young star ventured into more serious territory, impressing in films like "High Life," "The Lost City of Z" and "Tenet." He would be director Matt Reeves' top choice for the lead role in "The Batman" in 2022.

But Pattinson had at least one early disappointment, a role he'd rather we all forget, in the 2006 WWII drama "The Haunted Airman." A psychological thriller, the film puts Pattinson in the role of an RAF pilot named Toby who is confined to a wheelchair after a mission gone wrong. Under the care of an enigmatic doctor (Julian Sands), Toby begins to suffer hallucinations and crippling nightmares that make him question his own reality.

Thinly plotted and barely long enough to be considered a movie, "The Haunted Airman" is a mix of ghost story and character drama, but fails at both. Aired as a BBC TV movie in 2006, it was released on home media three years later, and not-so-cleverly disguised as some kind of supernatural teen drama in an obvious attempt to capitalize on his starring role in "Twilight." 

Jack Nicholson in The Rebel Rousers

The Joker in Tim Burton's "Batman" was a role tailor made for actor Jack Nicholson. A huge get for the studio, Nicholson gave the film some massive star power, with the actor even getting top billing over Keaton. One of the biggest actors in Hollywood at the time, he was also an Oscar winner, but many forget that there was a time when the megastar Nicholson was anything but a bankable name. 

Early in his career, he starred in a spate of low-budget, pulpy B-movies including "The Terror," "The Cry Baby Killer," and "Hell's Angels on Wheels." But the worst by a longshot is "The Rebel Rousers," a movie so bad that TV Guide notes it was shelved for three years, languishing until Nicholson had gained notoriety for his breakout role in "Easy Rider." The film, like several others that he'd done before, was centered on a gang of rough and tough bikers. This gang rides in and takes over a small town and separates a young couple, Paul and Karen. The carousing gang wants Karen for their own twisted ends, and holds a drag race to decide which gross greaseball will get her. 

A seedy and salacious exploitation flick, it hardly rises above watchable, and is every bit as cringeworthy as it sounds. Nicholson probably wishes it had stayed on the shelf, but his own rise to stardom gave the studio enough reason to slap it in any drive-in theater that would take it.

Heath Ledger in The Order

In the early 2000s, Aussie actor Heath Ledger was a major talent on the rise, appearing in all kinds of films, from the teen comedy "10 Things I Hate About You" to the Oscar-winning drama "Brokeback Mountain." Then, the young star would be recruited by Christopher Nolan to become the controversial pick for the role of The Joker in his Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight." While skeptics crowed about how a teen heart-throb was the wrong choice for the Clown Prince of Crime, Ledger went about delivering a tour-de-force performance that won him an Academy Award.

But years before, he had at least one movie he likely would've loved to take back if he could: the 2003 dud "The Order." Reuniting director Brian Helgeland with the three stars from his earlier hit, "A Knight's Tale," Ledger took the role of world-weary demon-fighting priest Alex, who heads to Rome to investigate the death of the head of his order. There he encounters the legendary Sin Eater, who can help the damned find a place in heaven.

While Ledger is just fine in the film, it's a wreck on every other level. A nonsensical story, lame effects and amateurish direction contribute to an overall bad production. "The Order" was so bad in fact that it made Rotten Tomatoes' list of Worst Horror Movies of All Time, having scored a mind numbing 8% critic score. With this coming just a year before he was cast as the Joker, it's no wonder audiences were skeptical.

Michelle Pfieffer in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen

Actress Michelle Pfeiffer impressed as the sinister and alluring Selina Kyle in Tim Burton's bat-sequel, "Batman Returns." Star of hits like "The Witches of Eastwick" and "Scarface," she had a strong filmography when she joined the denizens of Burton's Gotham City. But in her long career, her most dreadful picture — and the one she'd probably like to wipe clean from her resume — is the 1988 comedy "Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen."

A quasi-sequel to a series of classic detective movies that ran from the 1920s through the '40s, this '80s revival takes a parody approach to the material. Its star-studded cast includes Peter Ustinov, Richard Hatch, Roddy McDowall, and Angie Dickinson in addition to Pfeiffer. The comedic spin was an ambitious send-up of the hard-boiled crime series, but wound up flat and offensive, casting the very white and Western Ustinov as the titular Chinese detective. On top of that, the film was stiff, boring, unfunny, and lacking any sense of intrigue, a particularly poor combination for a crime comedy.

In a case of universal agreement, noted reviewers Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both roasted the film as utter trash (via YouTube). The pair of critics called it a failed mystery that lacked any clues for the audience to spot and no motivation for its impassive characters, ultimately turning out to be little more than an impressive cast with nothing to do but "stand around looking silly."

Danny DeVito in Going Ape!

Like his "Batman Returns" co-star Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito was most known for comedies when he joined the 1992 film as the villainous Penguin, Oswald Cobblepot. Star of the Schwarzenegger buddy comedy "Twins" and the long-running sitcom "Taxi," four-time Emmy nominee DeVito was brought in to succeed Jack Nicholson as the movie's big name star antagonist. But if there's any genre that's sure to deliver as many misses as hits it's comedy, and DeVito definitely had a few failures in his day. The biggest, the one he might be miffed to see us remind you of, is the 1981 monkey movie "Going Ape!"

In this failed film, DeVito plays Lazlo, an associate of Max Sabatini, who dies and leaves $5 million to his son Foster (played by Tony Danza). But to collect on his father's inheritance, Foster has to foster a trio of wild orangutans for five years, a task he is definitely not up to. As part of the will, Lazlo comes with the mischievous monkeys and helps care for them, assisting Foster in his everyday duties. As expected, the orangutans are nothing but trouble, and in the midst of trying to make up with his girlfriend, Foster must fight off some hitmen who want the monkeys dead.

With a ridiculous premise and a lackluster cast around him, DeVito can only do so much to liven up proceedings, leaving "Going Ape!" a groan-inducing dud. In the end, it's a slapstick farce, a comedy with no laughs, with a story that will make you want to throw bananas at the screen.