Seeing as the tagline/hashtag for upcoming film Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice has been 'who will win?' for a good few months now, IBTimesUK have decided to not only pit the superheroes against one another but the actors that have played each iconic DC character against each other too. Here, we rank the stars that played both The Caped Crusader and the Metropolis Marvel from George Clooney and Christian Bale to Tom Welling and Christopher Reeve.
In the black (and really, really dark grey) corner...
5. George Clooney
Clooney's movie career was just taking off when he was cast in 1997's Batman & Robin, with his breakthrough performance coming just the year before in Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn. Producers probably felt they pulled off a major coup landing the soon-to-be mega-movie star. Those producers, along with Clooney, probably regret that decision now.
Whether it was the script, the acting or a combination of the two, Batman & Robin was a disaster, rife with homoeroticism, camp and those infamous Bat-nipples. Clooney once joked that he helped to kill the franchise. "Joel Schumacher told me we never made another Batman film because Batman was gay." The actor also called the movie "a waste of money."
4. Adam West
The man logging the most hours in the Batcave, of course, was William West Anderson, whom you probably know better as Adam West. Either you love him for his goofy charm or hate him for blemishing the Bat's image for several decades. His campy, over-the-top portrayal of Gotham's Dark Knight infiltrated nearly every medium, including a 1966 movie and several animated series.
Producer William Dozier, who supposedly hated comic books, decided the only way the show would be successful was if they camped it up. So blame him for everything you don't really like about West's version. Although, there have certainly been better renditions of the character since West's performance, in our eyes.
3. Val Kilmer
Kilmer's issues as Batman was not that he wasn't a great choice for the character – who wouldn't want to see that perfect pout peeking out from underneath the cowl? But he just didn't have the right material to shine. His voice is good for the character, but he had the same problem that West did in that department – there just wasn't that much difference between his voice and Bruce Wayne's, and if you're trying to disguise a secret identity, that could be a real problem.
That being said, his portrayal was pretty decent, and while other actors embodied Wayne's darkness a bit more evidently, Kilmer added a mystery to the character that we hadn't seen before. As The New York Times put it in a review of the 1995 film, "The prime costume is now worn by Val Kilmer, who makes a good Batman but not a better one than Michael Keaton." We can't help but agree.
2. Michael Keaton
We're not ashamed to say that one of our favourite Batman outings of all time is Tim Burton's Batman, which originally came out in 1989. Perfectly combining camp and some truly creepy, dark moments, it managed to pay homage to the older versions of the Batman mythology while also paving the way for something different in the genre too. Something a little more mature and sinister.
Obviously, multiple components went into making the film a polished success from Sam Hamm's story to Burton's direction but the tone in which the film exudes is held by Keaton throughout. Producer Jon Peters previously said he cast Keaton because: "The image of Batman is a big male model type, but I wanted a guy who's a real person who happens to put on this weird armour. A guy who's funny and scary. Keaton's both. He's got that explosive, insane side." Keaton was also the first actor to reprise his role as the iconic DC superhero on the big screen, which pretty much proves he was a good 'un.
1. Christian Bale
Now, when it comes to who played Batman the best on the silver screen, nobody nailed it quite like Bale. Often cited by modern fans as the best, the Welsh-born actor did something few other portrayals of Batman could: he made Batman adult through-and-through, and of course that's the point. Not only did it fit in with director Christopher Nolan's more realistic and darker tone for his Dark Knight Trilogy, but also what Batman should be, to strike fear into the hearts Gotham's criminals. Sure, complaints about Bale's gravel-swallowing Batman voice are abound on the web (it was ridiculous) but we'll forgive it as he does everything else right.
Also worth mentioning is Bale's physique and fighting style: he played Batman like a trained soldier, tough and intelligent who could sense every move before they happened. The same just can't be said for the other movie versions we've seen before.
In the red, blue... (and yellow) corner...
5. Brandon Routh
Most fans agreed that Routh's thoughtful, sincere performance as Superman was somewhat stand-out and really managed to ground the film in a genre that would usually be full of unbelievable events. His Clark Kent was as indebted to Christopher Reeve's version as the rest of the film was to Richard Donner's vision, Routh's Superman, while not the physical man of action we'd see in later versions, was a quietly heroic figure, haunted both by his place as the last son of a forgotten world and by his own decisions about his personal life.
However, the film in which he starred let him down according to many critics and cinema-goers. 2006's Superman Returns is a divisive film. On the one hand, its perceived lack of superheroic action and the controversial decision to have Superman father a child hurt its box-office returns and prevented a sequel.
4. Henry Cavill
Cavill certainly looks the part and he's arguably the coolest Superman that both the big screen and the small screen has seen. But unfortunately, for us, he took the 'steel' part of Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel movie title a little too seriously.
We understand both the actor and director's reasoning, so evidently collaborating to leave the humour and clumsiness of Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent firmly in the past, instead offering a brooding, grumpier version to match that post-Dark Knight 'Nolanised' style. But it can't but sit a little off with a character that always been rooted in optimism and all-American heroics.
Regardless of our thoughts however, Cavill's performance gained plenty of positive reviews and was seen as strong enough to build an entire interconnecting cinematic universe on top of it, with its follow-up Batman v Superman set to open doors to future Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash and Justice League films all set within the same continuity.
3. Tom Welling
At its core, Smallville tried hard not to be too bogged-down in the Superman mythology and actually managed to be not only a comic-book adaptation but its own angsty teen-drama too. But pretend as they might, Welling looks, even in the earliest episodes before he adopted the full Superman persona, said otherwise. Welling's features reminded some of Reeve, but by the end of Smallville's impressive ten season run, he had carved out his own place in the history of the superhero.
While the show may have taken a little too long showing Clark's journey to become the hero we all knew he could be, by the end of it, Welling had earned that cape. 218 hour-long episodes puts Mr. Welling in some pretty distinguished company as far as time spent as Superman...even if we never really got that "S" until the last shot of the show. A particular shout-out has to go to Welling's turn as red-kryptonite-induced evil Clark (in seasons 4 and 6), parts of the show that stick firmly in the memory and are definably his.
2. Dean Cain
Cain captured the public's hearts when he stepped into the coveted Superman costume for television series Lois & Clark way back in 1993. His performance was received well and the show ran for four seasons. Inspired by then-Superman comics writer John Byrne's philosophy that Clark was real and Superman the disguise, Cain played Clark as more assertive and less clumsy, in an important distinction from Christopher Reeve's previous portrayal. Clark even beat Lois (played in the show by Teri Hatcher) to a journalism award at one point.
Although this series may seem a small achievement next to some of the others on this list, Cain was proof that there was life after Reeve and is an undeniably core moment in Supes' popular culture history.
1. Christopher Reeve
Reeve is undoubtedly the most iconic actor who has ever donned the blue, red and yellow costume, subsequently casting quite the shadow over the other names on this list that each re-casting of Clark Kent/Superman after him had big shoes to fill.
Discussing his approach years later, Reeve stated that "by the late 1970s the masculine image had changed... Now it was acceptable for a man to show gentleness and vulnerability. I felt that the new Superman ought to reflect that contemporary male image."
The late actor's performance has been praised for generations, juxtaposing a softly-spoken bumbling Clark and a cool, calm and collected Superman to great effect. Although the developing franchise entered a downward spiral after creator Richard Donner left unceremoniously during Superman II, Reeve's performance always remained the series' one constant strength.