Please, step up to the mic, Batman.Image: Justice League Unlimited (Warner Bros Animation)
Many actors have donned the bat-mantle to provide a voice to Gotham’s Dark Knight– the latest example being the delightfully loopy Batman Ninja, out now on Blu-ray and DVD – over decades of film, TV, and games.
But who’s done it best? Here’s our bat-ranking of Gotham’s finest voice actors.
There have been so many interpretations of Batman over the years that a lot more than the 20 names below have lent their best gravelly tones to Bats. To narrow it down, we’ve kept this list focused on primary starring Bat-roles (so no alternate-reality Batmans like the era-specific cameos in Batman: The Animated Series or The Brave and the Bold, or one-off shorts), and to actors that specifically play the Batman, Bruce Wayne, rather than a descendant (so sorry to Batman Beyond‘s excellent Will Friedle).
Oh, and apologies to Jimmy Kimmel of all people, who is a) apparently playing Batman in the new Teen Titans Go! movie and b) we’ve only heard about three seconds from, so it’s unfair to judge him just yet.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the Bat-ranks!
20) Dave Gazzana
The voice of Batman in the ludicrous Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe crossover fighting game, Gazzana’s Batman just sounds unexcited to be here, let alone punching the likes of Sub-Zero or Raiden in the face repeatedly. And we don’t mean in that aloof, Batman-y way, just the … well, dull way.
19) Benjamin McKenzie
Yes, McKenzie has played both Batman and Jim Gordon! McKenzie played Bruce in the animated adaptation of Batman: Year One, meaning a younger, less inexperienced Bruce.
But alas, McKenzie’s Batman is a little too murmur-y for his own good. Interesting given that it’s a young Bruce trying to mask his voice with something more intimidating, less interesting when it just sounds like a bad Batman impression.
18) Ron Perlman
Ron Perlman is a great actor (and, of course, an excellent Clayface in Batman: The Animated Series). But he’s not a great Batman. Perlman voiced Bats in the awful 2006 game Justice League Heroes, drolly delivering his lines with little in the way of personality.
17) Kirk Thornton
Thorton briefly played Batman in the online motion comic adaptation of the famous Red Son Superman storyline. If you want a bad fake-Russian-accent Batman, well … here you are?
16) Daran Norris
An homage to the classic Batman performances of Superfriends, Norris’ portrayal in the animated companion to the kid-friendly Imaginext line of Superfriends toys is a bit general (there’s no attempt to “mask” his Batman voice, like many other interpretations of the character), but it’s a serviceable callback to the Silver-age era of Batman adaptations.
15) Peter Weller
Weller’s Batman is a bit slurry and sullen, but it’s perfect considering he’s playing the older, ailing Batman of the world of The Dark Knight Returns in DC’s animated adaptations in 2012 and 2013. It’s not quite what you’d expect for a Batman a little past his peak, but it works.
14) Jason O’Mara
A stalwart of the DC Animated Universe’s direct-to-video movie series, O’Mara’s Batman is a bit more reserved than most versions of the character. That means he can come off a bit bland at times, but it avoids leaning too much in on the gravelly growls that can push some Bat-performances a bit too far.
13) Olan Soule
The classic voice of Batman in the ’60s cartoon Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder, as well the first four incarnations of Superfriends, Soule’s performance is perfect for the less grim-and-gritty version of Batman from the Golden and Silver ages of comics.
12) Rino Romano
In 2004, The Batman offered an experienced, still young version of the Dark Knight – in his mid-’20s when the series opened. So Romano’s Batman is similarly youthful, leading to a more emotive lilt underneath the typical Batman growl.
11) Anthony Ruivivar
Beware the Batman‘s stylised CG animation may have been off-putting to some, but Ruivivar’s performance as Batman on the show was pretty great. Less snarly than most Batmen, but still imposing.
10) Diedrich Bader
A pitch-perfect balance between the quirky bravado of Silver-age Batman and more modern Batman interpretations, Bader’s turn as the Dark Knight in the delightfully charming Brave and the Bold is just the right amount of silly without veering into an overt parody of the character. An earnest goofiness is not something you can often say about Batman, of all characters, but it fits this Batman pretty well.
9) Michael Dobson
The narrator of the gorgeous Batman: Black and White web series, Dobson’s Batman leans a little more into the stylization of the project with a tone that feels a little more like a noir detective than you’d typically expect from the character, but his sultry tones work brilliantly for this classy interpretation of Batman.
8) Adam West
Adam West may be best known Bat-wise for his iconic, beloved turn as TV’s Caped Crusader in the 1966 Batman show, but he’s also played the character beyond the spandex of TV. First up, West replaced Olan Soule for the final two seasons of Superfriends, carrying on his legacy while injecting some of the style and intonation he used to play Batman on TV.
Then, in the few years before his passing, West donned the cowl again to play the Batman ’66 interpretation of the character in two animated movies. You could hear West’s age breaking through in these two films, but he was still as charming a Bright Knight as ever.
7) William Baldwin
The Batman of Crisis on Two Earths, Baldwin’s Bruce doesn’t trade an imposing deepness for overt gravelly murmuring. Although it’s a movie filled with great performances, his still stands out as one of the best performance among some pretty great co-stars.
6) Jeremy Sisto
DC’s adaptation of the incredible Darwyn Cooke series The New Frontier gives us a Batman performance quite unlike any other with Jeremy Sisto. An intriguing combination of a classical cadence and the usual deep Bat-voice makes for a pretty intimidating turn (even if this Batman admits he’d rather be frightening criminals than children).
5) Roger Craig Smith
Roger Craig Smith plays the Batman of Batman Ninja, but his best take on the role can be found in the video games – specifically, Batman: Arkham Origins, a prequel that explores an earlier version of a Batman that would eventually sound like the wonderful Kevin Conroy.
He does a great job of making the role his own while sounding like a reasonable earlier version of Conroy’s Batman, making for one of the better “young Batman” interpretations.
4) Troy Baker
Baker has played both a pretty goofy Lego Batman and the much more serious Batman of Telltale’s fascinating adventure game series, so he’s got Bat-range. But if we’re picking bests, it’s easily the Telltale interpretation of the character, which sees Baker turn in excellent performances not just as the Dark Knight, but also almost more predominantly as Bruce Wayne outside of the cowl.
3) Will Arnett
I’ve knocked some prior performances in this list down for being so growl-y that they sound like a parody, but Arnett’s Lego Batman is basically meant to sound like that absurd level of parody, so him being a booming, growling self-serious Batman totally works for the lunacy of The Lego Movie and its Bat-centric spinoff.
2) Bruce Greenwood
Greenwood’s Batman in Young Justice acts as a perfect sort of mentor/father figure to the team, but it’s only a billion times worse getting a parental dressing-down when it’s coming from the goddamn Batman. Imposing without snarling, it’s a great performance.
1) Kevin Conroy
Look, this answer might have always been obvious, but there are very obvious reasons Kevin Conroy is the reigning Batman voiceover king. His interpretation of the character defined Batman for a generation of fans with Batman: The Animated Series, a gravelled voice that fits the intimidating persona of the Dark Knight while never crossing over into garbled, Christian Bale-esque parody.
He is vengeance, he is the night, and he is a damn good Batman.