Few actors have managed to walk the line between tiny-scale indies and mega-sized blockbusters like Christian Bale has. He’s played a wide range of different roles – from John Connor to Patrick Bateman; Dick Cheney to Batman – working with all kinds of acclaimed, masterful directors, from Inception’s Christopher Nolan to Anchorman’s Adam McKay. Bale also has a longevity that not many movie stars can hope for, starting out as a child actor in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun and still going strong today. He’s made a ton of movies: some good, some not so good, and a few great. Here are Christian Bale’s 10 Best Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes.
10 The Dark Knight Rises (87%)
There was no way that The Dark Knight Rises would live up to expectations. Tom Hardy’s Bane had to top Heath Ledger’s Joker, the opening IMAX sequence had to top The Dark Knight’s opening bank robbery, and the whole thing had to conclude Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy in a satisfying way. The fact that the movie ended up being praised by fans and critics – albeit acknowledging that it wasn’t as great as its predecessor – is nothing short of a Herculean feat. Nolan cashed in all of his chips, bowing out the trilogy with a gargantuan epic inspired by A Tale of Two Cities.
9 3:10 to Yuma (89%)
Ever since the western genre died out, it’s been tough for Hollywood to turn out a memorable entry in the genre. However, James Mangold managed it with 3:10 to Yuma, his remake of the 1957 movie of the same name that was an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard short story of the same name.
Christian Bale plays a rancher whose livelihood is threatened by a drought. He takes on the difficult task of bringing an outlaw, played by Russell Crowe, to justice. It has the same black-and-white view of good and evil that has given the western genre such longevity.
8 Rescue Dawn (90%)
In this biopic directed by Werner Herzog, Christian Bale plays a German-American pilot named Dieter Dengler, who was shot down over Laos and captured by communist-sympathizing villagers during the Vietnam War. Rescue Dawn may have been a box office bomb, but it’s still a brilliant movie. Herzog’s direction immerses us deep in the jungles of Thailand, where the movie was shot. There’s no mistaking it for a backlot or a forest in California – this is the real deal. Plus, Bale’s performance as Dengler is captivating. He anchors the whole movie. It feels much more raw and honest than your average prisoner-of-war movie.
7 TIE: Little Women (91%)
There’s another film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women in the works from Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig. It’ll star Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, and Timothée Chalamet. The last major film adaptation came out in 1994. In the 1994 version, Christian Bale played Laurie, the childhood best friend of Winona Ryder’s character Jo (the lead role to be played by Ronan in the new one) who grows up to fall in love with her. He spends the movie trying to get her to marry him, but she doesn’t want to, so he ends up with her little sister.
6 TIE: The Fighter (91%)
Christian Bale won an Oscar for his turn in The Fighter, David O. Russell’s impeccably crafted biopic of boxer Micky Ward and his half-brother Dicky Eklund. Bale lost a ton of weight to play Eklund, but playing the role required Bale to do more than just impersonate his Boston accent. He has very distinctive mannerisms that Bale had to lock down, and his dedication to the part was unparalleled. His performance is seamless from start to finish. Performances like this are why they hand out Oscars in the first place (even though no one really cares about them anymore) – they need to be recognized.
5 The Big Short (88%)
The mortgage crisis has been used as the basis for a number of movies in the past decade or so since it first happened, but the world of banking just doesn’t look that exciting when it’s portrayed on-screen. Adam McKay made his best effort to pull off an entertaining movie about men in suits looking at numbers on computer screens with celebrities explaining financial jargon in cameo appearances and A-list actors like Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell in the lead roles, but he still fell a little short. Although it’s not a particularly riveting movie, Christian Bale is still fantastic in it.
4 American Hustle (93%)
Years ago, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi set out to make a darkly comic movie about the FBI’s Abscam operation, but it never got off the ground. David O. Russell’s revival of this subject matter is just as darkly comic and star-studded as that movie would’ve been. It takes pretty obvious inspiration from the works of Martin Scorsese – the only downside being that it has Scorsese’s style without his substance. While the plot itself isn’t too compelling in American Hustle, its humor is as hilarious as it can be. One running joke in particular, involving Bradley Cooper trying to guess the end of Louis C.K.’s ice-fishing story, is brilliant (although, unfortunately, it involves Louis C.K.).
3 The Dark Knight (94%)
After 11 years of MCU installments, with a handful of inspired gems and a dozen others following a winning formula, it’s astounding that The Dark Knight still remains undefeated as the greatest superhero movie ever made. Christopher Nolan’s sequel succeeds due to pretty primal elements.
It builds on the dichotomy of Bruce Wayne and Batman (with a layered performance by Christian Bale to back it up), it presents the quintessential movie villain with a personal connection to the hero (making way for Heath Ledger to win an unprecedented posthumous Oscar), and it’s impeccably made, shot mostly on IMAX to feel genuinely cinematic.
2 TIE: Henry V (100%)
This movie based on William Shakespeare’s play Henry V was directed by Kenneth Branagh, one of the world’s foremost directors of Shakespearean film adaptations, who also wrote the script – retaining the play’s tight five-act structure – and played the lead role. Henry V is widely regarded to be one of the best Shakespearean movies of all time. Christian Bale only had a small role as Robin, the luggage boy, but he was just a child actor at the time, and any child who can keep up with that unwieldy, old-timey Shakespearean dialogue and follow what’s going on is pretty impressive – hell, that’s impressive for an adult.
1 TIE: Ford v Ferrari (100%)
Just two years after helming a beautiful, Oscar-nominated send-off for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine with 2017’s Logan, director James Mangold is back with the true-to-life tale of the Ford racing team’s desperate efforts to finally beat the undefeated Ferrari team on the track. Matt Damon stars as the renowned car designer Carroll Shelby, while Christian Bale is playing his British driver, Ken Miles. Ford v Ferrari won’t hit theaters until this November, but it’s already had its world premiere and the critics’ verdict is in. From the film’s rare 100% score, it’s pretty clear that this one isn’t to be missed.