Warning: Spoilers for The Batman follow.
With Matt Reeves’ The Batman delivering some dark and gritty justice at the box office, we’ve now met our 13th official live-action Bruce Wayne. Yup. That’s a lot of traumatized vigilante orphans, for sure.
But Master Wayne isn’t the only character we’ve gotten a new version of, naturally. Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin, and more from Batman’s cabinet of colorful characters have all returned to the screen, with entirely new costumes, gadgets and – well – vibes in general.
With two sequels planned, and a spinoff series (or two) for HBO Max in development as well, “The” Batman isn’t going anywhere. As the Caped Crusader is DC and Warner Brothers’ most popular hero, we’re almost always guaranteed a new take on this character and his three-ring circus of allies, enemies, and assorted Gothamites.
Having first appeared on the screen in 1943, Batman has delivered close to 80 years of live-action awesomeness, so let’s take a look at the live-action legacy of the characters in The Batman: from Bruce to Alfred to Selina to Jim Gordon and beyond.
Lewis Wilson (1943) and Robert Lowery (1949)
Before Batman would find his massively groovy heyday in the 1960s he headlined two 15-part black and white movie serials in the ’40s. First he was played by Lewis Wilson in 1943’s Batman and then by Robert Lowery in 1949’s Batman and Robin. These films would also give fans their first big screen glimpses of Dick Grayson, Vicki Vale, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon.
Adam West (1960s Batman series & 1966 Batman movie)
Batman would soar to new heights of popularity thanks to Adam West’s portrayal of the character in the fun, campy 1960s TV series and that series’ big Batman movie spinoff. For this generation of TV viewers (which included director Joel Schumacher amongst its ranks), West was THE Batman. And the tongue-in-cheek tone of the series was the ideal Batman presentation.
Michael Keaton (1989’s Batman & 1992’s Batman Begins – plus 2022’s The Flash)
Director Tim Burton brought the darker elements of Batman to light in his gloriously gothic Batman movies, casting (mostly) comedic actor Michael Keaton in the brooding lead role (much to the dismay of some fans at the time, who, lacking internet, were just to forced to be mad alone in a room). But Keaton was magnificent and mesmerizing in the role, with the drawback being his two movies focused more on the villains than Batman himself.
In a miraculous move though, Keaton’s returning to the Bruce Wayne this year, in The Flash.
Val Kilmer and George Clooney (1995’s Batman Forever and 1997’s Batman & Robin)
Val Kilmer and George Clooney played the Bruce Wayne/Batman role in Joel Schumacher’s lighter, cartoon-ier 90s Batman films, neither one exactly creating a lasting impression with the part. Clooney even still considers himself to be the man who killed the Batman franchise for a long stretch.
Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Trilogy)
It may have taken us a few beats to get used to his “Batman voice,” but Christian Bale’s absolutely nailed his Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking Dark Knight Trilogy. Playing the most “grounded in the real world” Batman to date, Bale let us into Bruce’s shattered psyche like no one else before him.
David Mazouz (Bruce Wayne on Gotham series)
David Mazouz played a young Bruce Wayne on “Batman show without Batman” Gotham, which ran for five seasons, and 100 episodes, on Fox. In this particular Bruce Wayne’s Gotham, the outrageous villains weren’t a response to Batman’s arrival, but rather Batman was an answer to Gotham already being filled with crazy costumed criminals. So Mazouz’s Bruce tangled with Penguin, Riddler, Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, and many more before even donning the cape and cowl.
Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne in the DCEU)
Sadly, Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne never got to be the solo star of his own movie, instead being swirled into the DCEU mix with Man of Steel sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. His was the first movie Batman to enter the scene with decades of vigilantism, and Joker chasing, already under his (utility) belt. Affleck’s final stint as Bruce will be in this year’s The Flash.
Kevin Conroy and Warren Christie (Arrowverse Bruce Waynes)
The CW’s dense Arrowverse gave us two different versions of Bruce Wayne. In crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Kevin Conroy (famous for voicing Bruce Wayne on Batman: The Animated Series) played an alternate Earth-99 version of Batman while on Batwoman (taking place on Earth-Prime), Bruce Wayne was played by Warren Christie. Though the catch was that the character was actually Bruce’s childhood friend Tommy Elliot, just changed to looked like Bruce.
Dante Pereira-Olson (2019’s Joker)
In Joker, Dante Pereira-Olson played a young Bruce Wayne who lets his older half-brother, Arthur Fleck, Gotham’s would-be Joker, put his thumbs in his mouth.
Iain Glen (Bruce Wayne on Titans)
Game of Thrones’ Iain Glen gave us an older, battle-worn Batman on DC Universe’s (now HBO Max’s) Titans.
Robert Pattinson (The Batman)
Robert Pattinson is the latest actor to fill Batman’s formidable boots, describing his version of Bruce Wayne as a rage-filled insomniac – a freak who inflicts his own brand of justice.
Cesar Romero (1960s TV series & 1966 Batman movie)
Have mustache, will terrorize Gotham! Cesar Romero’s facial-hair-gifted Clown Prince of Crime was always cackling on the 1960s Batman show, and in the movie version too where he and his ‘stache got to team up with the rest of the A-list Bat-villain crew. For many folks, Romero’s was the first Joker they ever laid eyes on.
Jack Nicholson (1989’s Batman)
As is the case with several of the characters on this list, a darker incarnation of the Joker emerged with Tim Burton’s take on Batman. Played by Jack Nicholson, iconically so, this Joker also was a key part of Bruce Wayne’s origin story, having killed Bruce’s parents back in the day. That younger Joker, called Jack Napier, was played by actor Hugo Blick.
Roger Stoneburner/Voiced by Mark Hamill (Joker in 2002’s Birds of Prey series)
In a brief flashback in the also-brief 2002 series Birds of Prey, Joker was seen shooting Barbara Gordon, which of course is a callback to the events of the comic The Killing Joke.
Heath Ledger (2008’s The Dark Knight)
Perhaps the most popular version of a Batman villain in live-action or animated form (according to IGN’s readers, that is certainly the case), Heath Ledger’s Joker brought yet another new spin to the character. His Joker was one whose full story most certainly could not be trusted, for he may not even have known the truth to his origin himself. Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal.
Jared Leto (2016’s Suicide Squad, 2021’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League)
Though presumably envisioned for a larger role in the DCEU, Jared Leto’s more gangland-style Joker wound up only appearing in the first Suicide Squad movie before being revived for a brief scene in The Snyder Cut.
Cameron Monaghan (Jerome Valeska/Jeremiah Valeska on Gotham Series)
The FOX TV series Gotham teased a Batman/Joker situation for years, relying on a time-jump in the series finale that basically gave us a Joker, as played by Cameron Monaghan. Getting to that point, though, was a long story involving twin brothers, murder, and disfigurement… you know, real Joker-type stuff.
Joaquin Phoenix (2019’s Joker)
Joaquin Phoenix won the Oscar for his role as Arthur Fleck, a.k.a. the future Joker, in Todd Phillips’ origin story of the character. This Batman-less movie (more or less; young Bruce Wayne does appear, and just might be Fleck’s half-brother it turns out) plays off various past interpretations of the character, while also leaning on 1970s-style urban crime dramas to present a more realistic, disquieting look at the up and coming psychopath.
Barry Keoghan (The Batman)
Barry Keoghan is the Joker in The Batman, although he’s only billed as “Unnamed Arkham Prisoner” in the film and is obscured by shadow. But director Matt Reeves confirmed to IGN that it’s the Joker in that cell, and he also told us all about the inspiration behind his version of the character and more. Warner Bros. has also released a deleted scene featuring the Joker.
Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Meriwether (1960s Catwomen)
Catwoman became immensely popular as character thanks to the ’60s Batman TV series, though casting was never consistent. Julie Newmar originated the role while Lee Meriwether played the part for the 1966 Batman movie. Famous singer Eartha Kitt then appeared as Catwoman on the third and final season of the series.
Michelle Pfeiffer (1992’s Batman Returns)
Catwoman would roar back into the public eye in 1992’s Batman Returns, played with gusto by Michelle Pfeiffer in a story that would explore Selina Kyle’s transformation (and resurrection via alley cats) into a latex-clad vengeance-driven vandal.
Casey Elizabeth Easlick (Catwoman in 2002’s Birds of Prey series)
Catwoman appeared in flashbacks, played by Casey Elizabeth Easlick, for 2002’s short-lived Birds of Prey series on The WB.
Halle Berry (2004’s Catwoman)
Halle Berry’s Catwoman is the most maligned out of all who played the role, though much of that is due to the movie itself being a bit of a regrettable shambles. Even she knew the 2004 Catwoman film didn’t feel right when she was making it.
Anne Hathaway (2012’s The Dark Knight Rises)
Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle swooped into the Dark Knight Trilogy for its final film, playing a thief desperate to erase her online records and start her life over. Bane and the League of Shadows had other plans for Gotham, however, which merged Selina’s quest for survival with Bruce Wayne’s crusade to save all of Gotham.
Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle on Gotham Series)
Gotham reimagined Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle as childhood friends, with Bruce being the orphaned billionaire and Selina the orphaned street rat. Camren Bicondova played the young Selina for all five seasons as her friendship/courtship with Bruce went through many phases, until…
Lili Simmons (Adult Selina, Gotham Finale)
…Lili Simmons played the adult version of Selina in the Gotham finale, which jumped ahead 10 years.
Zoë Kravitz (The Batman)
Zoë Kravitz will now play the role of Selina Kyle in The Batman, as a morally ambiguous cat burglar who meets Batman while searching for her missing roommate.
Frank Gorshin and John Astin (1960s Riddlers)
In the ’60s, Frank Gorshin’s giddy, squealing portrayal of Riddler on the Batman TV Series and in the Batman movie turned the villain into a classic foe. The Addams Family’s John Astin played Riddler briefly though, in the show’s second season.
Jim Carrey (1995’s Batman Forever)
Jim Carrey, riding a huge wave of ’90s success, brought his popular mania to the Riddler character in 1995’s Batman Forever, going wildly over the top (in a way that also channeled a bit of Frank Gorshin).
Cory Michael Smith (Edward Nygma on Gotham series)
On Fox’s Gotham we watched Cory Michael Smith’s awkward, well-meaning Gotham PD forensic tech transform into a dangerous split-personality pill out to prove he’s the smartest man alive.
Paul Dano (The Batman)
Paul Dano’s Riddler looks to be the most maniacal and menacing version of the character yet, with the actor stating that he had trouble sleeping while shooting some of The Batman’s intense scenes.
Burgess Meredith (1960s TV series & 1966 Batman movie)
Burgess Meredith fit the ’60s Penguin role to a “T,” in both the series and the movie, popularizing both the classic look of the character and the “squawking laugh” voice. No one else would play the character for almost 25 years, until…
Danny DeVito (1992’s Batman Returns)
…Tim Burton kept the umbrellas and suit that the Oswald Cobblepot character had become famous for but also put his own monstrous spin on the character for 1992’s Batman Returns, with Danny DeVito playing a flipper-handed man, abandoned by his parents, out for revenge on the city that shunned him.
Robin Lord Taylor (Oswald Cobblepot on Gotham series)
Gotham’s Oswald Cobblepot was a high-strung, hair trigger criminal ruled by his emotions. Played by Robin Lord Taylor, Cobblepot journeyed from a measly underling to a full-fledged crime boss, though one usually undone by his own actions.
Colin Farrell (The Batman)
Colin Farrell layers on the most makeup and prosthetics since DeVito to play Cobblepot, whom the actor says was inspired by the Fredo Corleone character from the Godfather movies.
William Austin (1943) and Eric Wilton (1949)
Bruce Wayne’s trusty, devoted butler Alfred was introduced to moviegoers back in the 1940s, with William Austin playing him in 1943’s Batman and Eric Wilton taking over the role for 1949’s Batman and Robin.
Alan Napier (1960s Alfred)
For many, Alan Napier was their first-ever Alfred. His warm and dutiful portrayal of Bruce’s butler, and the only other person besides Dick to know Bruce’s costumed identity, easily turned that Dynamic Duo into a Triumphant Trio.
Michael Gough (1989’s Batman, 1992’s Batman Returns, 1995’s Batman Forever, and 1997’s Batman & Robin)
Michael Gough played Alfred in the ’80s and ’90s, lasting through two different directors and three different Bruce Waynes. Through it all, this Alfred was gentle, wise, and resilient (he survived MacGregor’s Syndrome!).
Ian Abercrombie (Alfred on 2002’s Birds of Prey series)
Army of Darkness and Seinfeld’s Ian Abercrombie portrayed Alfred on the first and only season of The WB’s Birds of Prey. In Batman’s absence, Alfred transfers his services over to Huntress and Batgirl.
Michael Caine (The Dark Knight Trilogy)
Perhaps the most beloved Alfred was played by the equally beloved Michael Caine over the course of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. A guiding light for Christian Bale’s immeasurably damaged Bruce Wayne, Caine’s Alfred was both a father figure, a “man in the chair,” and a true partner in Bruce becoming Batman.
Sean Pertwee (Alfred Pennyworth on Gotham series)
Sean Pertwee’s Alfred on Fox’s Gotham was a scrappier, more hardened version of the character, charged with looking after young Bruce Wayne following the murder of his parents. And you’d have to be a fighter in this Gotham given that Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Firefly, and more all ran roughshod over town before Bruce was even in high school.
Jeremy Irons (Alfred in the DCEU)
Jeremy Irons’ Alfred Pennyworth, in both Batman v Superman and Justice League, was just as worn out as Bruce. The both of them, rode hard and put away wet. So many years of fighting crime in Gotham together, and Alfred actually adept at repairing all of Bruce’s evolving crime-fighting tech. He was also ready with both tea and quips.
Jack Bannon (Pennyworth series)
Designed at one point to be the backstory for Michael Caine’s Alfred in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Pennyworth’s Alfred, played by Jack Bannon, wound up being more explicitly tied to Sean Pertwee’s Alfred from Fox’s Gotham. On Epix’s Pennyworth (which will move to HBO Max for its third season), Alfred is a former British SAS officer who runs his own exclusive London club.
Douglas Hodge (2019’s Joker)
The Great’s Douglas Hodge appeared briefly in 2019’s Joker, portraying Alfred as a strong-arm type in a version of the Batman saga where Thomas Wayne was a bit of an overarching villain.
Andy Serkis (The Batman)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy’s Andy Serkis takes the reins on Alfred for The Batman, though this might be the most strained Bruce/Alfred relationship ever put on screen as Alfred cares for Bruce but is also convinced the young man has gone insane.
Lyle Talbot (1949’s Batman and Robin)
Stalwart justice-seeker Commissioner Gordon can be seen on screen as far back as 1949’s Batman and Robin, where he was portrayed by Lyle Talbot.
Neil Hamilton (1960s James Gordon)
Neil Hamilton played Gordon opposite Adam West’s Batman in the ’60s. It’s a good thing this commissioner had a direct phone line to the Caped Crusader as he was always in over his head thanks to Gotham’s peculiar parade of nogoodniks and ne’er-do-wells.
Pat Hingle (1989’s Batman, 1992’s Batman Returns, 1995’s Batman Forever, and 1997’s Batman & Robin)
Pat Hingle’s Gordon, Mike Michael Gough’s Alfred, lasted through all four ’80s/’90s films, though his character was sorely underserved, transforming from earnestly inept to cringingly buffoonish.
Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Trilogy)
Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon had major story arcs in The Dark Knight trilogy, most of the time being intricately integrated into the main plot while also rising up through the ranks: from patrolman to detective to commissioner. He, like Michael Caine’s Alfred, was an anchor for the series and a much-needed ally for Batman.
Ben McKenzie (Jim Gordon on Gotham series)
Ben McKenzie holds the honor of playing Jim Gordon for possibly the most insane Gotham ever portrayed. And since Fox’s Gotham did Batman stories sans Batman, Gordon became the leading man “Batman surrogate” for most of it. A true action hero battling back Riddler, Penguin, Mad Hatter, Hugo Strange – and even a villain version of ex-fiance Barbara Kean.
J.K. Simmons (Jim Gordon in the DCEU)
J.K. Simmons, undeniably great in everything, didn’t get to show us all that much in the one DCEU film he’s in though HBO Max’s upcoming DCEU movie Batgirl will feature Simmons’ return as Gordon and Leslie Grace as his daughter Barbara.
Jeffrey Wright (The Batman)
Jeffrey Wright plays Jim Gordon in The Batman, appearing as a GCPD lieutenant for the film. It’s likely Wright will also be in the Matt Reeves-developed HBO Max spinoff series, Gotham PD, which is said to take place one year before The Batman.
Tom Wilkinson (2005’s Batman Begins)
Of the non-flashy, non-overtly gimmicky ghouls in Batman’s coterie of villains, mob boss Carmine Falcone is the most powerful. In Batman Begins, Tom Wilkinson’s Falcone is integral to Bruce’s transformation into Batman and represents the first villain he wants to take down upon his return to Gotham.
John Doman (Falcone on Gotham series)
The Wire’s John Doman played Carmine Falcone on Fox’s Gotham, a crime boss warring with both David Zayas’ Sal Maroni and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney for control of Gotham’s underworld.
John Turturro (The Batman)
John Turturro plays Falcone in The Batman, presenting a crime boss with a future so bright he’s gotta wear shades. Apparently.
Note: This story was updated on March 24, 2022, with the latest information about The Batman. It was originally published on March 1, 2022.
Author: Matt Fowler. [Source Link (*), IGN All]