Even before an actor gets measured for that iconic suit, the opinions roll in from every nook and cranny of the Internet.
Fanboys, movie buffs, casual comic book enthusiasts, even those just looking for an entertaining summer flick have a hot take on just who is worthy of wearing Batman's cowl. Despite general respect for his acting ability, one opinionated gent called the casting of Robert Pattinson for 2021's The Batman as "actually heartbreaking," while late 80s/early 90s-era Bruce Wayne Michael Keaton was lambasted for his relatively diminutive stance.
At 5-foot-10, "If you saw him in an alley wearing a bat suit, you would laugh, not run in fear," one West Virginia resident reportedly told The Wall Street Journal at the time. "Batman should be 6-2, 235 pounds, your classically handsome guy with an imposing, scary image."
Holy criticism, Batman!
But no one received quite as much abuse as Ben Affleck. Deeply unhappy that the actor would get another shot at superhero status after Marvel's Daredevil, DC fans took to the internet in droves to express their displeasure, even starting a change.org petition to get him booted from Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
"His acting skill is not even close to being believable as Bruce Wayne and he won't do the role justice," read the solicitation signed by more than 97,000 supporters. "He's not intimidating enough for the role of Batman. Batman is someone that strikes fear in the hearts of men. His portrayal of Daredevil was atrocious and he's not remotely close to an action star or a superhero. Please find someone else and deliver to the fans what they want."
No wonder George Clooney tried to dissuade him from taking the part.
"Before I took the role, Warner Bros. gave me a bunch of past reactions to casting and said, 'Are you sure you want to get into this? This is part and parcel of these movies now. There's a lot of active fans with a lot of opinions," Affleck recalled to Entertainment Weekly, explaining he was more than willing to face the heat. "You know what? It's great that people do care that much. They want to see the movie that much. And it is incumbent on you to honor the story. There are the Greek myths and these are the American myths. The American myths are these superheroes. People care about 'em a lot. And it's incumbent on you to do a good job and make it as excellent as you possibly can."
Which he did, fairly handily.
In fact, each of the six actors who have slipped into the Bruce Wayne persona (we're not counting animated versions—sorry Will Arnett!) has brought something different to the role. And we'd argue each fresh nuance is valid. For example, Christian Bale, in the Dark Knight trilogy, helped shift Bruce into grittier, more realistic territory. And after Clooney suited up, they realized that maybe superhero costumes don't need nipples.
As with anything in life, though, some rose to the challenge better than others. And with today marking the 25th anniversary of Batman Forever and 15 years since Batman Begins (Batman Returns came out 28 years ago tomorrow, while Batman & Robin was released on June 20, 1997), it felt like a good time to judge their work.
We consulted several comic- and movie-themed outlets as well as some self-described superfans to cobble together this definitive, yet entirely subjective, ranking from worst to first. Don't @ us, but do answer the call to check out this list.