Who Plays Batman in the Movies

Who plays Batman in the movies? As you sort through the Batman DVDs available, you'll find that several actors have played Batman, from Adam West to Christian Bale.

Batman Hits the Big Screen
Batman comic books first appeared in 1939, as part of the Detective Comics series. The character began as a super-detective alter ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne, who used high-tech gadgets and considerable intelligence to solve mysteries.

During the 1940s, Batman traded in straight detective work for battles against a colorful cast of arch-villains. The campy elements of the comic books were the inspiration for a television series on ABC, which ran from 1966 to 1968. The original Batman was character actor Adam West, who played the role in Batman: The Movie, which was a two-hour version of the successful television show.

Batman Gets Darker
In 1986, writer Frank Miller created "The Dark Knight Returns," a series of Batman comics that had a darker, grittier tone. The comic became a hit again, and director Tim Burton was tapped to create a new Batman movie. Simply titled Batman, the film featured Michael Keaton as the brooding, tortured billionaire who donned a costume in search of justice. Batman was the highest grossing film in 1989. Keaton and Burton reunited for Batman Returns in 1989. The film was a top box-office draw, but it failed to hit the same highs as its predecessor.

Batman Forever was released in 1995. Tim Burton served as the producer and hired Joel Schumacher to direct. Michael Keaton did not want to play the role of Batman under Joel Schumacher, so the role was given to Val Kilmer. Batman Forever also introduced Robin into the film, with Chris O'Donnell cast as Batman's sidekick. This movie made money, but it was not as successful as the previous films.

The franchise nearly died in 1997, with the release of Batman & Robin, featuring Schumacher as director and new group of producers. This movie starred George Clooney as Batman, with Chris O'Donnell returning as Robin. Schumacher's film dropped the dark elements that Burton had introduced, in favor of a campier approach reminiscent of the original TV series. Moviegoers were not amused, and the film frequently appears on "worst movie of all time" lists.

Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale
In 2005, director Christopher Nolan resurrected Batman with a darker, real-world feel. Batman, now played by Christian Bale, was a young man troubled by the death of his parents, motivated equally by a desire for justice and a thirst for revenge.

By combining mythic elements of the struggle between good and evil with technology that just barely stretched the limits of what was possible, Nolan's film won acclaim from critics and found huge success at the box office. Bale and Nolan returned for 2008's The Dark Knight, and a third film is planned for 2011.

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