There’s much more to Batman than the cape and cowl. His core identity lies beneath Wayne Manor, within the Batcave, and underneath the suit. It’s not his gadgets, his Batmobile, or even his butler. It’s his voice, the one that scowls at his enemies and tells them, “I’m Batman.”
Admit it. You've said it to yourself at least once your life. From childhood to adulthood, we have all quietly envied the actors who have been fortunate enough to call themselves Bruce Wayne. It's no wonder the character has been adapted in live-action and animated form for over 75 years, steadily assembling an elite crew of performers who have had the chance to become the Batman. Though movies and television like to emphasize the look of the Dark Knight, animation cares about one thing: your sound. Some Batman voices are big and booming, while others are quiet and menacing. When it comes to voicing the guardian of Gotham, it’s a competitive world.
From live-action blockbusters to the animated series, here is Every Batman Voice, Ranked From Worst To Best:
17 Diedrich Bader (The Brave and the Bold)
Of all the animated shows to host the Dark Knight, The Brave and the Bold was perhaps the most unabashedly comedic. Cast in a mold reminiscent of vintage Scooby-Doo cartoons, this 2008 show explored lesser-known Batman villains and revived some of the campy humor from the days of Adam West. Diedrich Bader took up the mantle for all 65 episodes, giving Batman one of the deepest and most sonorous voices on record. Though far from being the best-known sound of Batman, Bader’s voiceover work fits perfectly with the tone of the show. It’s simultaneously absurd and serious, and Bader’s focus on playing it “straight” helps him fit the show’s ever-evolving tone.
While the rest of the cast gets crazy with their characters, Bader keeps his cool and bellows the bulk of his lines. It’s not the most iconic Batman out there, but it’s definitely the Dark Knight with the lowest vocal register.
16 George Clooney (Batman & Robin)
Time has not been kind to Joel Schumacher’s Batman series. We’ve tried to view the movies in a more positive light (being over 20 years since their debut), but it's a struggle. Both the director and his cohorts have been apologetic about the finished product, and while there are many areas deserving of mockery, one has often been overlooked: George Clooney’s Bruce Wayne sounds exactly the same in the cape and cowl as he does at a dinner party. There is literally no attempt made at masking the tenor of his voice while battling bad guys in Gotham.
Just take a listen to this madness. Not only does Batman introduce himself by rollerblading down a Brontosaurus, but he announces his presence by blandly declaring, “Hi Freeze, I’m Batman.” This ranks among the least effective Batman reveals of all time, and it's not helped by the fact that George Clooney’s Batman sounds the same in the Batcave as he does in battle.
15 Rino Romano (The Batman)
There’s a certain masculinity associated with Gotham's greatest hero. He’s grounded, driven, and maybe a bit jaded, so his voice rarely rises above a certain decibel level. In the early 2000s series, The Batman, Rino Romano imbues the Dark Knight with a different sort of sound, one that breaks the mold we’ve come to expect of the Caped Crusader. Romano’s voice is effective, if not overly musical for someone as terse as the Dark Knight. Inflection is all well and good, but when he kills Dracula in the series’ one-off animated movie, he shouts like he’s doing live theater.
There’s also something youthful in Romano’s voice, a tone that turns his Batman into a more nasal-sounding hero. Though his animation looks quite cool in The Batman, his voice makes him sound more vulnerable than your typical Caped Crusader. To be fair, the series infused animated the Dark Knight with new life, and Romano’s work was a contributing factor to the show’s success. Ultimately, this particular incarnation got lost in the shuffle of greatness from Batman’s more familiar voices.
14 Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)
Joel Shumacher struck twice, and in holding Batman Forever to the same standard as Batman & Robin, we also take issue with Val Kilmer’s voice. To be sure, he wasn’t hired to play the Dark Knight because of his mellifluous sound or menacing frame. No, he got the job because of his kisser. As the cinematographer for the film lovingly reflected, “Val Kilmer was the most beautiful man. The perfect face for that mask. Those lips.” So yeah, given the creative team's completely-missing-the-point approach to the character, it's no wonder the "Val Kilmer Batman impression" never became a thing.
To be fair, Kilmer did attempt to distinguish Bruce Wayne from Batman, but only with a modicum of tangible difference. Throughout the movie, he’s alarmingly quiet both in and out of the Batcave. Like the rubber cowl of his suit that renders any peripheral vision obsolete, Kilmer’s Batman sounds like he’s frozen in carbonite, squeezing words out with rigid specificity.
13 Adam West (Batman: The Movie)
It’s a total double standard, and Adam West's Bruce Wayne sounds the same as his Batman, but we don’t care a bit. This is the definitive campy Dark Knight, a hero who doesn’t need an alternate voice because the world he inhabits would never guess who’s underneath the flimsy, silky mask. Without verging into hyperbole (hard to do when discussing Batman), Adam West’s vocals excelled in a way that most other actors have been unable to equal. As the World’s Greatest Detective, West’s Batman actually sounds like a guy who’s trying to foil the plots of his enemies. He’s always thinking, even if his logic is beyond all understanding: “Let’s go. But, inconspicuously…through the window.”
Adam West’s famed Batman voice helped the show become the legend that it remains today. He’s at once serious and thought-provoking, but when the frustration creeps in, he doesn’t hesitate to let you know. It’s no wonder Adam West has been reprising the role for decades.
12 Jason O'Mara (New 52 DCAU)
Since 2014, Jason O’Mara has been leading the charge as Batman in the new animated movie continuity. Starting with Justice League: War, O’Mara introduced us to the soft sounds and quiet inner-monologue of Batman. Whether he’s walking beside an over-excited Hal Jordan or addressing the Justice League, O’Mara’s Batman is calm, cool, collected, and perhaps a bit monotonous.
Though he’s fierce on the fighting line and has as much resolve as in any of his other adaptations, the Batman of JL: War, Throne of Atlantis, Bad Blood and the upcoming Justice League Dark ranks among the least animated-sounding Caped Crusaders of all. This Batman seldom sounds enthusiastic about his line of work, as if he’s being coerced into crime-fighting against his will. Animated movies require a bit more oomph, even for someone as detached as Batman. Still, O’Mara gives his man very unique sound, if not one that lacks the vocal chutzpah of his competition.
11 Ben McKenzie (Year One)
Ben McKenzie’s Batman is a tortured soul. His every word drips with pathos, evidence of an internal war that he’s looking to win on the streets of Gotham. McKenize’s vocal understanding of the character is on point for what’s needed in Year One, where the Dark Knight is a fledgling hero, one who learns the ropes of crimefighting on the go. Though we meet Batman early in his career, this iteration sounds distinctly weathered, like he’s been embroiled in battle for decades.
It’s highly unlikely that those watching to Year One would guess the star of The O.C. and Fox's Gotham series is the man behind the mask, but to his credit, McKenzie makes his Batman surprisingly grizzled. When he crashes Carmine Falcone’s dinner and delivers the monologue, “from this moment on, none of you are safe,” his performance hit its peak. It’s a haunting moment that benefits from McKenzie's choice to underplay the theatrics. Flanked by the support of Bryan Cranston’s note-perfect Jim Gordon, McKenzie’s Batman gets bonus points by proxy.
10 Peter Weller (The Dark Knight Returns)
Embittered after the loss of Jason Todd, we find Batman living the life of a retired bachelor in The Dark Knight Returns. In his absence, Gotham turns into a cesspool of crime that sees a horde of Mutants run the city into madness. When he returns, the Caped Crusader is less patient and more brash than ever. He’s in a state of recklessness and vengeance that actor Peter Weller perfectly captures. If Batman has ever hesitated in the line of duty or balked at the idea of unleashing the full range of his physical powers, those insecurities are gone in The Dark Knight Returns.
Weller sounds downright savage with every sentence, and even when Clark Kent begs him to go back to retirement (at the behest of
President Ronald Reagan an entirely fictionalized American President), Weller’s Batman is openly scornful: “We are criminals, Clark.” Though Superman is his old colleague, this Batman licks his chops at the prospect of fighting the Man of Steel. Peter Weller’s Batman doesn’t give a hoot what people think about him.
9 Will Arnett (Lego Batman)
Batman’s introduction in The LEGO Movie said it all. While hitching a ride in the Bat-plane, his girlfriend tells Emmet (Chris Pratt), “this is Batman.” Eager to say his own name, the plastic hero confirms, “I’m Batman.” This the Dark Knight of the LEGO universe, and Will Arnett is indisputably the best man for the job. While delivering what may be the most self-serious Batman voiceover of them all, every syllable Arnett utters has an “I’m super cool” undertone. The trailer for his own movie has a Wiz Khalifa song, for goodness sake. This is a Batman who takes unbridled pride in his digs, hosting “Gotham Cribs” to one-up MTV. As Will Arnett’s Batman describes his home (while sliding down the bannister), it’s “the most tasteful and insanely extravagant mansion in all of Gotham City.”
Below the infrastructure of Wayne Manor, Arnett gives the Caped Crusader his own vocabulary: “Hey ‘puter!” Like kids with Legos, plastic Batman has no rules, and the actor drives the point home with aplomb. Given the success of The LEGO Batman Movie, it's clear that everything is awesome with the Will Arnett Batman.
8 Michael Keaton (Burton Batman)
Before he became Batman, Michael Keaton was the eccentric star of Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice. Known for his off-beat style and sense of humor, Keaton came to Gotham City from the least likely of backgrounds. Thanks to Tim Burton’s inspired vision for the 1989 Batman, he turned Keaton into the fearsome and complex Dark Knight that no one else could have foreseen. Ben McKenzie’s Batman owes a debt of gratitude to Keaton, who popularized the low-key and grumbling version of the Caped Crusader. With a stoic face, unblinking eyes, and a throaty voice, Keaton’s Batman is a straight-up intimidator.
Contrast that brooding with his more ebullient Bruce Wayne, the bachelor who has the hallmark tics and traits we’ve come to expect from Keaton. While he’s introspective and thoughtful, as Bruce Wayne should be, he’s markedly different than he is in the suit. Michael Keaton’s Batman almost seems to enjoy his time in the cape and cowl, like it’s an escape from his otherwise neurotic and schizophrenic persona.
7 Jeremy Sisto (Justice League: New Frontier)
Though reminiscent of Peter Weller’s voice in The Dark Knight Returns, Jeremy Sisto gave Batman one of his most unique sounds yet. With a hint of resonance not commonly heard from beneath the cowl, Sisto’s voice has a sneering sound that makes his Batman particularly menacing. In Justice League: New Frontier, he keeps Martian Manhunter in check with one of his best one-liners of all time: “I have a $70,000 sliver of radioactive meteor to stop the one from Metropolis. With you, all I need is a penny for a book of matches.” Though the metaphor needs no explanation, Sisto’s sizzling voice seems to light J’onn J’onzz’s confidence on fire in an instant.
It’s a shame the actor hasn’t been back on the scene lately, as he would surely be a choice addition to the DCAU. Either way, Sisto’s terrifying rendition of animated Batman shows the range of possibilities the character brings to the table.
6 Batfleck (DCEU)
“Funnel ferry bubble bath, funnel ferry bubble bath.” This is the voice-modulating mechanism Alfred built into Batman’s suit, one that does all of the growling and masking for him free of charge. That’s not to say Ben Affleck doesn’t deserve credit for creating his own Bat-voice, and indeed, the final product is seriously scary. There’s no debating the fact that the Batman of the DCEU is the most demonic live-action incarnation of the character we've ever seen. Contrasted with Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney and even Bale, Ben Affleck’s bulked-up suit, deadened eyes, and terminator-lite voice make him a truly frightening superhero.
Batfleck doesn’t need to talk to be intimidating, but when he does, he manages to make phrases like, “I don’t deserve you, Alfred,” sound like a threat. Or, when he saves Martha Kent from certain doom, Batfleck’s intent to calm her still sounds vaguely malicious. There’s a reason Ben Affleck was almost universally praised for his take on the Batman, and his simple but effective voice played a significant role in his success.
5 Roger Craig Smith (Arkham Series)
Roger Craig Smith has taken up the Bat-mantle on more than a few occasions. From Batman Unlimited (and it’s direct-to-video counterparts), to Batman: Dark Flight, Smith is no stranger to the Gotham universe. Though his Dark Knight resume is diverse, he is perhaps best known for his work in the stellar Arkhamverse, where he filled in for Kevin Conroy in the prequel game, Batman: Arkham Origins.
While distinct in his own unique way, Roger Craig Smith captured the essence of his predecessor in a way that impressed even the most loyal Kevin Conroy fans. As you’d expect, Smith sounds a bit younger, a little greener, and less grizzled than he’d become in the games leading up to Arkham Knight. While imbuing the masculine sound associated with Kevin Conroy, Smith gives his Batman a more youthful edge that hints at his inexperience, though not without adding quite a bit of growling along the way. Like DeNiro doing his best to portray a young Marlon Brando in The Godfather Part II, Roger Craig Smith had an equal challenge in the world of superhero voice actors. He hit his mark with room to spare.
4 Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Trilogy)
If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Christian Bale’s Batman should have an over-sized ego. Love it or hate it, but Bale’s voice has become the definitive sound of the live-action Dark Knight. Though his Bat-voice is vicious and feral, it's also worlds apart from his showboating and smug Bruce Wayne. It’s made clear in Batman Begins that Christian Bale successfully got into the psyche of the Caped Crusader, but the seeds planted in the origin story bloomed into the monstrous screams heard in The Dark Knight and its sequel. If you thought “Where’s Rachel?!” was extreme, then your standard for Bat-voices was shattered again when Batman desperately sought the famed “trigger” from an increasingly helpless Bane.
Though his is the most easily lampooned iteration of the Bat-voice, Christian Bale gives his Dark Knight an undercurrent of urgency. Nothing about him is laid back and cool, and that sense of panic always breaches the sound barrier. He’s someone who’ll “rattle the cages.”
3 Bruce Greenwood (Under the Red Hood)
Bruce Greenwood had the unenviable task of arriving in Gotham City to deliver one of Batman’s most harrowing stories. In the animated film Under the Red Hood, we find the Dark Knight haunted by a masked vigilante and a ghost from his past. With the return of Jason Todd, Batman is confronted with the only memory that haunts him as much as the deaths of his parents. Though thrown to the wolves with such a demanding story, Bruce Greenwood artfully handles the complex material and delivers one of the best Batman voices on record.
While making this Batman an unquestionably virile and forthright hero, Greenwood digs into the insecurities of the character and tests the strength of his moral resolve. This is a Batman with an easy out, a chance to kill the Joker and save his relationship with his old partner in one fell swoop. Things aren’t so simple, however, and though Batman admits that all he’s “ever wanted to do was kill [the Joker],” he knows that such an action would forever compromise his integrity. This was an excellent Batman performance, highlighted by Bruce Greenwood’s note-perfect voice.
Having made a triumphant return to the role in the first two seasons of the animated series Young Justice, we're hoping Greenwood has time in his busy schedule for another turn behind the mic when the show returns for a third season later this year or in early 2018.
2 Kevin Conroy (The Animated Series)
“I am vengeance! I am the night! I am Kevin Conroy!” Since 1992, the voice of Batman has belonged to none other than Kevin Conroy. He starred in Batman: The Animated Series and brought the character to a whole new generation, helping evolve the formerly campy hero into a truly Dark Knight. Leading the stellar direct-to-video movies like Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero and The Return of the Joker, Conroy then continued his streak with The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Justice League, and countless others.
Though he gives a warmer sound to his Batman, one that's full of intelligence and strategy, Conroy has played Batman in all manner of stories, even the more thematically mature ones like The Killing Joke. He is the voice of the Arkhamverse and is currently on TV with Justice League Action. To many, Kevin Conroy is Batman, so don't expect him to relinquish his twenty-five-year claim to the throne anytime soon.
1 Honorable Mentions:
- Will Friedle: With Kevin Conroy's Bruce Wayne in the passenger seat, Batman Beyond was forced to lead the Dark Knight in a new direction. As Terry McGinnis, Will Friedle's take on the Caped Crusader is like punk-rock to Conroy's smooth jazz. He's full of wit and one-liners, and with his voice ratcheted up a few octaves, he makes the old Batman sound like the voice of God.
- Kevin McKidd: According to The Flashpoint Paradox, Bruce and Thomas Wayne don't have much in common. Whereas Batman #1 is fairly restrained, his father puts on the Batsuit and becomes a lean, mean, killing machine. He drinks from a flask. He shoots Professor Zoom through the dome. All of these intricacies are captured by Scottish-American actor Kevin McKidd, who brings his brogue to make Thomas Wayne the most badass Batman this side of Frank Miller.
- Olan Soule: From 1968-1974, Olan Soule was the leading voice of Batman. With a hint of Adam West's drollness and a boost of added energy, Soule led The Batman/Superman Hour, Super Friends, and even showed up as Batman in one-offs like Sesame Street and The New Scooby-Doo Movies. You won't find a more exuberant-sounding Batman than Olan Soule.
- Troy Baker: Though perhaps best known for his work as the Joker, Troy Baker has played the Dark Knight in a handful of video games, including the widely-praised Batman: The Telltale Series. Given the choose-your-own-adventure aspect of the game, Baker is tasked with keeping his Batman interesting in a variety of scenarios. Proving the versatility of his voice, Baker's Batman is as solid as any.
- Anthony Ruivivar: Depicting a CGI version of the Dark Knight, Beware the Batman has a sanitized aesthetic to its show. While everything looks sharp as a tack, its themes don't always cut deep below the surface. So it was with Anthony Ruivivar's take on the Caped Crusader, which certainly had its own quality, but lacked the vocal gravitas we've come to expect of the Batman.
Who has your favorite Batman voice? Let us know in the comments!