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The Many Faces Of Batman On The Big Screen

by  |  November 12th, 2012  |  Blog

This amazing vigilante super hero has been entertaining audiences on the big screen for several decades!

A couple of months ago or so I went to the movies to watch the latest adventure of Batman on the big screen in, The Dark Knight Rises (2012)… and I got to thinking about the history of the Batman series in the whole.

I mean this series has literally made it through the generations, (since Bob Kane and Bob Finger released the character in Detective comics issue #27 back in 1939!) I mean rather it be in the various comic story lines, on TV, as a video game or even in the big screen, not only has the Dark Knight managed to stay relevant, but has managed to stay current and hugely popular!

The first appearance ever was in issue number #27, which had been released back in 1939!

Now with all of that in mind, I also got to check out freshly, the movie, Batman & Robin (1997), and was watching George Clooney (Solaris) play the caped crusader and I got to thinking about all of the people who have played Batman over the years on the big screen, and you know what? It turns out that after doing some research that character has a rich and varied history on the big screen!

Being that I was a huge fan of the Batman TV series from the 60s and having seen the resultant Batman movie that had come from that series, I had assumed that Adam West (Family Guy) was the first Batman to grace the big screen… He wasn’t!

It turns out that Columbia Pictures back in 1943 had released a 15 part serial for the big screen about the exploits of, ‘Batman’ and his faithful sidekick, ‘Robin’ as they worked tirelessly to stop the mad Dr. Daka and the nefarious plot that had been hatched at the height of world war 2, to turn people in the Pseudo-Zombies!

Now this movie would star Douglas Croft (King’s Row) as, ‘Robin/Dick Grayson’, and J Carroll Naish (Dracula Vs. Frankenstein), as the evil, ‘Dr. Daka’… But as for, ‘Batman/Bruce Wayne’, the lucky distinction of having played the first Batman ever would go to, Lewis Wilson (Craig Kennedy Criminologist):

Lewis Wilson was the first actor ever to portray Batman/Bruce Wayne on the big screen.

Now unfortunately though as it would turn out, about 6 years after  Batman and Robin fought Dr. Daka, Columbia Pictures would produce another 15 part serial that would pit Batman and Robin against the evil arch villian, ‘The Wizard’

You see, in this installment in the still at that time, relatively small series, had the Wizard in control of a device that could control vehicles that were in a 50 mile radius (Which left out the Batmobile…)

The one thing that this serial can say is that this serial would give us the introduction of Vicki Vale (a character the would later be played by Kim Basinger (Cool World) in Batman (1989)), but well in this movie, Vicki Vale would be played by Jane Adams (House Of Dracula).

Now this time though, ‘Robin/Dick Grayson’ would go on the be played by, Johnny Duncan (Million Dollar Kids), and Leonard Penn (The Ship That Died) as, ‘The Wizard’, and the man who had the special distinction of being the second person to ever play the role of, ‘Batman’ goes to, Robert Lowery (Johnny Reno):

Actor Robert Lowery had the distinction of being the second Batman ever to grace the big screen!

After this we wouldn’t see either of the dynamic duo come back on to the big screen until the swingin 60s! You see during this time on TV, the exploits of the dynamic duo as they tried to protect Gotham City against those more modern villains that we have all kind of grown to love, (using anything that they can put the word, ‘Bat’ in front of that is!)

Well this series, which starred Adam West (Family Guy) and Burt Ward (Batgirl) would go on to produce a movie which told the story of how the dynamic duo would face off against four super villains (played by: Lee Meriwether (The Munsters Today), Cesar Romero (The Thin Man), Burgess Meredith (Rocky) and Frank Gorshin (Twelve Monkeys)), as for the Batman and Robin… Well Robin obviously was played by Burt Ward, and this Batman would be played by Adam West:

Adam West would go on to not just be the third person to play Batman, but he would end up playing the Dark Knight on both the small screen and the large screen!

Now after this again it would be a little over twenty years before we would see Batman back on the big screen…

Tim Burton (Mars Attacks!), Michael Keaton (Jackie Brown), Jack Nicholson (The Witches Of Eastwick), Kim Basinger, and Warner Bros. would go on to make what some could say is the most successful and long running Batman series to date, starting with the latest adaption of the movie in 1989 called, Batman (1989)!

In this installment, we see a significantly darker Gotham city, and a significantly darker Batman, who has to protect the citizens of Gotham from the terror that was a recently transformed Joker!

Now obviously this movie did not have Robin but what it did have was, Jack Nicholson as the posh and debonair (yet completely psychotic) ‘Joker’, and Kim Basinger taking over the role of ‘Vicki Vale’, and Michael Keaton as the, ‘Dark Knight’ himself!

Michael Keaton would reprise the role of the Dark Knight in the late 1980s and help to create one of the most successful Batman series to date!

This wouldn’t be the last time that Michael Keaton would play this role though, you see, in 1992 we would see the return of Michael Keaton in the role of, ‘Batman’ as he faces off against both, ‘The Penguin’ (Played by: Danny Devito) and Catwoman (Played by: Michelle Pfeiffer) and their nefarious schemes to wreak havoc in Gotham City!

Now this next Batman movie I thought that I would mention here is one that I thought that I would mention because it tied in to the highly successful Batman animated cartoon that had been on TV at the time, that movie being, Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993).

This movie, which had Kevin Conroy (Batman Beyond) voicing the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne, tells the story of how Batman has to grapple with a lost love blowing back in to town, an arch enemy also blows back in to town, along with a new vigilante who is doing significantly deadlier things then Batman does, but who the authorities mistake for Batman!

Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm. An important animated movies, but not one that was apart of the series that was running at the time…

I just thought that I would mention that one as a fun little side note (that movie was not a part of Michael Keaton’s Batman movie series…

Speaking of those though, the next one that I thought that I would mention is, Batman Forever (1995). (Now don’t crucify me when I say this), but I actually liked this Batman movie! I mean I liked the story of how Robin came to be around, and even thought that having Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black) and Jim Carrey (The Cable Guy) were awesome as the comic super villains, and I also thought that they did a great job of not going to far over the top, also I thought that Val Kilmer (Thunderheart) did a great job in the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne… But then again, to each his own, eh?

Val Kilmer would go on to play Batman in Batman Forever (1995)

Now even I have to admit that this one was even to far fetched for me, and I was glad to see that this movie would see the coffin nails being put in to the coffin of this Batman series…

It had great acting from everyone in the movie, but the sets and the story were just a little to over the top… What’s this movie? Well this movie which had George Clooney as Batman is, Batman & Robin (1997)… Need I say more?

The final nail in the coffin of the Batman series that lasted from the late 80s in to the late 90s would be, Batman And Robin, and for this outing Batman was played by George Clooney!

This would end off Batman’s time on the big screen for slightly under a decade… That is until Christopher Nolan (Superman Returns) and Christian Bale (American Psycho) would breath new life in to a wildly successful, ‘Dark Knight’ series, which would pit Christian Bale as, ‘Batman’ fighting against the likes of the ancient order that is being lead by Ra’s Al Ghul (Played by: Ken Watanabe), ‘The Joker’ (Played by Heath Ledger) and, ‘Two-Face’ (Played by: Aaron Eckhart), and even, Bane (Played by Tom Hardy) and Catwoman (Played by: Anne Hathaway) in, The Dark Knight Rises (2012)…

Now supposedly, The Dark Knight Rises is to be the last in that series, but with the upcoming movie, ‘The Justice League’ (a movie which has to do with a lot of DC Comic’s superheroes coming together to team up against the forces of darkness), there has been some rumors that Joseph Gordon-Levitt my slip in to the Bat suit… So the question is… Is Nolan’s vision really dead, and we are going to see a new Batman come to life? Or is Joseph Gordon-Levitt going to become the new Batman (sans playing the role of Bruce Wayne)? Only time will tell…

Please enjoy these trailer for the history of Batman on the big screen:

Since there is no trailer for Batman (1943) I thought that you guys might enjoy this scene:

And here is the trailer for Batman And Robin (1949):

After this we have, Batman (1966):

And then we have Batman (1989):

After that we have the trailer for Batman Returns (1992):

Next up is the trailer for Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993):

Now we have Batman Forever (1995):

And the last of that Batman series, we have the trailer for Batman & Robin (1997):

The trailer for Batman Begins (2005):

Here is the trailer for, The Dark Knight (2008):

And last but not least, The Dark Knight Rises (2012):


Nathan Strack


Nathan Strack is a Writer/Director/Filmmaker & Owner/Founder of: Hell In Space, Strack Web Design Service & Strack Store.

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