Every Batman and Superman actor, ranked


Which actor made the best Superman, though and who’s the best Batman?

Batman and Superman have dominated the comic book scene for decades and become household names, so it was only natural that Hollywood would come knocking. Throughout the years, Superman and Batman have seen a lot of screen adaptations, both in the movies and on TV. All of that will culminate in a battle between the two in the upcoming flick Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, hitting theaters on March 25, 2016.

With so many different versions of each iconic superhero, each film or TV show has offered something unique when it comes to the actors playing the parts. Which one was the best Superman, though? And who was the best Batman?

All of these performers brought something different to the table, and having seen every single one of them in action, I’ve taken it upon myself to rank these actors, in order, based on those questions. Picking the order was a little painstaking, but I’m confident about the results. Did I get the order wrong? If so, let us know in the comments section below.

Next: 12. A Superman for the 90s

12. Dean Cain (Lois & Clark)

Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman, was played by Dean Cain on the 90s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Teri Hatcher played the part of Lois Lane. At the peak of its popularity, the show pulled in around 15 million viewers per episode, spanning a total of 4 seasons. Lois & Clark made people care about Superman again, inspiring an animated series and feature films to follow in the coming years. The primary focus of the show, however, was more on the relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent, and it wasn’t as heavy on superhero action.

Dean Cain certainly looked the part, as he was believable as Superman. He loses some points here because he isn’t quite convincing as Clark Kent, who’s supposed to be more of a nerdy kind of character, a bumbling and awkward type. Cain came off much more as a confident, smarmy, handsome jock kind of character. The series hasn’t exactly held up very well in the years since, and you’d be hard-pressed to find just one person out there who’d say that Dean Cain was the best Superman. However, he deserves to be recognized for helping to bring the character back into the mainstream.

Next: 11. We're kind of taking this one on faith

11. Ben Affleck (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

Sure, it’s too early to be sure just how good or bad Ben Affleck is going to do playing the part of Bruce Wayne/Batman, as the upcoming Batman v Superman film hasn’t been released yet. I’ve got to say that, just to clarify that this is technically an educated guess based on the trailers and sneak peeks we’ve seen from the movie thus far, and I would love to be proven wrong about this. After all, I’m a big fan of Batman, and it’s not like I want to hate the character in a movie.

With all that said, I’m not very excited at all to see Ben Affleck as Batman. While I think he deserves a ton of credit as a director, he’s never impressed me as an actor, and I have no reason to believe he’ll suddenly do so here. Seeing him in the batsuit was enough to make me cringe, and the way he delivered his lines as Bruce Wayne was even worse. He just doesn’t come across as a very believable Bruce Wayne, and I’d bet the biggest reason he got the part was by campaigning for it like hell to make people forget about his even more embarrassing stint as Daredevil.

Next: 10. A portrait of a superhero as a young man

10. Tom Welling (Smallville)

Originally conceived as a prequel story about Bruce Wayne in the years before he became Batman, the concept of Smallville evolved into an origin story about Superman. Years before the caped superhero first donned his red and blue tights, he was merely an alien from Krypton attempting to live a normal teenage life in the small city of Smallville. The series ran for 10 years from 2001 to 2011 on the WB and CW networks, enjoying a very successful run as a TV drama.

At the heart of Smallville was actor Tom Welling, who played the main role of Clark Kent. In a contrast to Dean Cain, Welling was very believable as Clark Kent, but not so much as Superman. The series worked, overall, because of the fact that it was essentially a show about Clark Kent rather than Superman, and we didn’t even see Welling in the cape until close to the end. Still, when we finally did see him in the suit, it just looked…well, weird. Likewise, Welling wasn’t exactly intimidating during those times when he did have to use his powers, and at the end of the day wasn’t the most convincing superhero.

Next: 9. Rubberman

9. George Clooney (Batman & Robin)

1997 saw the release of Batman & Robin, otherwise known as the worst Batman movie to have ever been made. That’s not just my opinion; an embarrassing 11% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes only confirms that sentiment. Although the film was entertaining (albeit for the wrong reasons most of the time), most Batman fans will agree that it’s the Dark Knight’s worst on-screen outing to date. It basically took everything we loved about Batman and turned him into a joke.

The man who played Batman, George Clooney, agrees with the consensus. So embarrassed by the film and his own portrayal of Batman, Clooney literally apologized to Adam West personally for “ruining” Batman. Kudos to Clooney for acknowledging his own failures, and it’s certainly easy to look back in hindsight to see what an abomination the film was, but I’m still thinking George should’ve seen the writing on the wall beforehand. Why did he even agree to wear a batsuit with nipples? Perhaps Clooney got caught up by the chance to play one of the greatest characters in pop culture history, but even though he’s a very talented actor, his stint as Batman is the biggest blemish on his resume.

Next: 8. A Superman for the 00s

8. Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)

Comic book fans across the globe were ecstatic when Superman Returns hit cinemas in June of 2006. It had been nearly two decades since a Superman movie had been made, with the last being Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in 1987. After such a long hiatus, people were ready to see the Man of Steel once again on the big screen doing what he does best, with rookie actor Brandon Routh stepping in to don the iconic red and blue tights. With only a few TV roles under his belt, producers cast Routh based on his look and similarities to Christopher Reeve.

A a decent enough actor, Brandon Routh wasn’t terrible as Superman. It’s just that he wasn’t particularly amazing, either. Although Superman’s boots are some pretty heavy ones to fill, Routh’s inexperience came through onscreen, and as Superman he wasn’t particularly engaging. Perhaps his performance would have been better received if this had been for a TV series, but for a movie nearly 20 years in the making, audiences were less than impressed. The legendary film critic Roger Ebert described it best by saying, “Routh lacks charisma as Superman, and I suppose as Clark Kent, he isn’t supposed to have any.”

Next: Batman with Robin

7. Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)

While Batman Forever is technically the third installment of the original Batman film trilogy, it certainly didn’t feel like a true sequel. While still serving as a producer, Tim Burton stepped down as director (having directed the previous installments, Batman and Batman Returns), causing star Michael Keaton to step away from the role. Ethan Hawke and William Baldwin were considered for the part before The Doors actor Val Kilmer officially replaced Keaton as Bruce Wayne.

In an attempt to make Batman more family-friendly and to increase ticket sales, Warner Bros. demanded Batman Forever be much more tame than the other movies, which meant toning down the dark and violent overtones. While the hokey, over-the-top comic book action might have worked for the 1960s TV series, it was much stranger to accept coming off the heels of two very good, yet very dark, movies. With that said, you could make the argument that the chips were stacked against Val Kilmer when it came to pulling off an excellent job as Batman. Surprisingly, while he’s definitely not the ideal actor for Bruce Wayne, Kilmer did a pretty good job given what he had to work with, although I still wouldn’t place him at the top of the list.

Next: 6. A Superman for whatever you call this decade

6. Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice)

When Superman Returns didn’t do as well as studios had hoped, the Man of Steel was put back onto the shelf for the next several years. It wouldn’t be until 2013 when the superhero would be seen back in the box office with the reboot film Man of Steel, effectively relaunching the character with actor Henry Cavill replacing Brandon Routh as Clark Kent/Superman.

Interestingly enough, Henry Cavill had nearly landed the role of Superman for a planned 2004 film, but lost out when director Joseph McGinty “McG” Nichol left the project. He would go on to be passed over for lead roles as Edward Cullen in Twilight and James Bond in Casino Royale before signing on to be the new Superman. As a talented actor who definitely looks the part, fans by and large accepted Cavill as the new Superman.

In any case, taking on the role of Superman role for Man of Steel has given Henry Cavill some job security, and we better get comfortable with him in the part. Not only is he set to reprise the role for Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice, he’ll subsequently return for the Justice League Parts One and Two films.

Next: 5. Bam! Smack! Pow!

5. Adam West (1960s Batman)

Is there anything more campy than the Batman TV series from the 1960s? Starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, the show’s presentation of Batman was basically the polar opposite of how we usually see the character nowadays. Very bright and colorful with cheesy fight scenes and goofy one-liners, this iteration of the franchise certainly sticks out as its own entity amongst all of the live-action adaptations of the superhero’s adventures.

While I like Batman best as a dark character, Adam West brought so much charisma to the winged superhero that he still made it work. And as goofy as he is, you still get the feeling that he is legitimately a badass. His gray batsuit certainly looks a bit dated, but even that has qualities about it that make West’s Batman a cool character. His voice, really, was what sealed the deal, especially considering how his face was covered much of the time. Adam West has a very peculiar voice that makes you want to keep listening to him, which is likely why he’s gone on to have even more success as a voice actor on shows such as Family Guy and The Fairly OddParents.

Next: 4. A Superman for the 50s

4. George Reeves (Adventures of Superman)

Superman had all but taken over the comic book scene by the early 1950s, and his first TV series, Adventures of Superman, hit the airwaves in 1952. The show was picked up based on a TV film that also served as the series’ pilot: Superman and the Mole Men. In that film, struggling actor George Reeves took on the role of Superman, despite initial hesitations about TV not being a very good avenue for his acting career. After the show became successful and Reeves found himself becoming a celebrity, he learned to embrace the role to the extent of being an excellent role model for children behind the cameras as well.

George Reeves was a great actor with exceptional charisma, and he naturally nailed the part of Superman. He had become so synonymous with Superman that he even appeared on the massively famous I Love Lucy in character as the superhero. Reeves helped introduce Superman to an even larger audience, and fans loved him so much that he remained Superman until his untimely death in 1959. At the time of his passing, several more new episodes featuring Reeves as Superman were in pre-production.

Next: From Beetlejuice to Batman

3. Michael Keaton (Batman, Batman Return)

It seems blasphemous now to say anything negative about Michael Keaton’s performance as Bruce Wayne and Batman in Tim Burton’s movies based on the comic book character, but that’s what people were doing when the news of his casting was first announced. Known mostly for comedic roles, many questioned Keaton’s abilities to play such a tough superhero, and do so convincingly. However, just like Heath Ledger would later do with his version of Joker in The Dark Knight, Keaton shut all of the critics up by taking the role and knocking it clean out of the park.

I’m glad Tim Burton stuck to his guns, because he had a vision for Michael Keaton as Batman and it turned out to be excellent. As billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, Keaton was a natural, and behind the bat mask, he was just as convincing. Keaton also proved just how smart he was by dropping out of Batman Forever when Tim Burton was replaced as director, sensing problems with the new screenplay approved by the new director. While it was definitely no Batman & Robin, it was a big drop down in quality from the Burton and Keaton movies.

Next: 2. The greatest Superman ever

2. Christopher Reeve (Superman 1 through 4)

While the Man of Steel has struggled to put out content in Hollywood in more recent years, there was a time when he was a box office mainstay. That was when he was portrayed by Christopher Reeve over the course of four feature length movies, beginning with Superman: The Movie in 1978 and concluding with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in 1987. Never before, and likely never again, will we see a better man for the job.

The amazing actor Christopher Reeve was just the perfect package when it came to portraying Superman, bar none. He literally had it all. With his chiseled good looks and handsome features, you could believe him as Superman just by looking at him…and yet, when he was the nerdy, bumbling Clark Kent character, he was just as believable. Critics unanimously agreed that Reeve expertly nailed the dual role, likely because of how very seriously the actor took the part. For example, concerned about being too skinny, and refusing to wear fake muscles underneath his tights, Reeve underwent a very intense training regimen until he reached what he felt was an appropriate mass. That was just one of many ways the prolific actor brought to life the iconic character.

Next: 1. The king of all Dark Knights

1. Christian Bale (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises)

As great as Adam West and Michael Keaton both were at playing Batman, I’d say Christian Bale is definitively the greatest actor of all to have ever donned the black cape. When director Christopher Nolan put Batman Begins into production, he was looking for a skilled enough actor to effectively reboot the franchise, which had previously been obliterated by the release of Batman & Robin. Wisely, he went with the very talented Christian Bale, an actor who has seemingly never turned in a bad performance, and now it’s hard to picture anybody else playing the part in Nolan’s awesome film trilogy.

Like Christopher Reeve did with Superman, Bale took his role as Batman very seriously, to the point of altering his muscle mass to a satisfactory physique for the character. His acting prowess also enabled him to nail the dual role effectively. While roaming around Wayne Manor as Bruce, Bale comes off as highly confident and intelligent, yet very likable; meanwhile, he’s nearly horrifying while kicking ass as Batman. In or out of the batsuit, Bale owned the role, and while time will tell if we’ll ever see a better Batman, chances are it won’t be anytime soon.