The Batman has hit theaters and taken the world by storm! Director Matt Reeves and actor Robert Pattinson's new film is a dark, gritty, and intense new take on the dark knight: a three hour detective noir in the vein of David Fincher's Seven. And in this humble reviewer's mind, it does NOT disappoint. Robert gave us a fantastic turn as Bruce Wayne.
So I thought now would be the perfect time to rank the best of the Batmen. But I'm not going to rank them based on their actor's performance or their director's eye. No. This time, I ask who played the best Batman... based on their THEME SONG! That's right! A good Batman is only as good as his theme music. So listen up and check out my listing of who played the best Batman... Ranked By Theme Song!
13. Anthony Ruivivar - Beware the Batman (2013-2014)
The hell is this Beware the Batman? A single driving drum beat and a voice repeating "beware" over and over again? C'mon. This theme song is just lazy. Bottom of the list lazy.
12. Will Arnett - The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
Will Arnett is a hilarious Batman and Lorne Balfe composed some really good music for The LEGO Batman Movie. But it never really coalesces into a specific theme. There are a couple notes here that could work as the main theme, but none of them really take center stage, which is why this is so low on the list.
11. Rino Romano - The Batman [Television Series] (2004-2008)
The Batman Television Series has a recognizable theme, but nothing about it really says "Batman" to me. This could be the theme song to a spy tv show and it would work perfectly fine. Give it some more "Batman" qualities and it would be better.
10. Diedrich Bader - Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-2011)
This is a fun one. Batman: The Brave and the Bold took its cues from the 60's television series starring Adam West. As such, it displays a driving, fun, and boisterous theme. At one point you can almost hear the music say the word "Batman". It's a bit cartoony, but a fun little theme song.
09. Will Friedle - Batman Beyond (1999-2001) & Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
Ah yes. Composer Kristopher Carter's rocking and "futuristic" take on the Batman theme was a huge part of my childhood. But as it stands twenty years later, it does sound a bit dated. Everything had to be extreme in the late 90s/early 2000s and this take on Batman was no different. The electric guitar still works though. I'll still rock out to this one from time to time.
08. Kevin Conroy - Batman: Arkham Tetralogy [Video Game Series] (2009-2015)
Voice veteran Kevin Conroy lent his talents to this game series which broke all kinds of new ground. The Arkham games brought Batman into the realm of modern gaming in a big way, and even influenced the feel of Matt Reeves' newest film The Batman. But the games simply wouldn't work if the music didn't feel right. Good thing composer Nick Arundel gave us a moody and gripping theme song to match the gritty tone of this fantastic game series.
07. Ben Affleck - Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)
Ben Affleck had his own theme in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but composer Tom Holkenborg chose to give Batman a new theme for his follow-up film. This new theme is much more triumphant and heroic to keep with Batman's change in character. And it works. The four note build-up is simple, strong, and hopeful. It even builds and expands into the full Justice League theme. A perfect way to represent Batman's founding status on the team.
06. Val Kilmer/George Clooney - Batman Forever (1995) & Batman & Robin (1997)
The Schumacher era of films may not have been Batman's finest hour. However, those films were only HALF as good as they were because of composer Elliot Goldenthal's incredibly dynamic film scores. Val Kilmer and George Clooney shared what I like to call the "flarey Batman scores" because this is where those blaring trumpet flares came into play. In a BIG way. Listening to the first few notes, you could almost mistake it for Danny Elfman's gothic theme, but Elliot branches off into a slightly lighter (yet still moody) march that still feels definitively "Batman". This theme defined my childhood. These movies may not have been top tier, but hot damn this music soars higher than Mr. Freeze's escape rocket. "Holy rusted metal, Batman!"
05. Ben Affleck (AGAIN) - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Ben Affleck gets to be on the list twice because he got two completely separate themes, the lucky son-of-a-bitch. Tom Holkenborg's first crack at a Batman theme was a hard hitting, bombastic, and aggressive assault of a song. And it fit perfectly with Ben Affleck's bitter and rage-driven take on the character in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This theme song is perfect for going for a run, or when I'm angry. But it's not all intense baselines and loud crescendos. The soft piano theme and solo trumpet highlighting Bruce's childhood trauma (titled Beautiful Lie) brings me to tears every time.
04. Kevin Conroy (AGAIN) - Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) & Four Films (1993, 1998, 2003 & 2017)
But Bat-fleck isn't the only Batman that gets to be on this list twice! Take a bow Kevin Conroy! The theme for Batman: The Animated Series is an interesting one. The Tim Burton films were a massive influence on the show. As such, composer Shirley Walker purposefully wrote a theme that could weave in and out of the Tim Burton music at will, while also being able to stand on its own. It's quite the feat to accomplish. But Shirley is a master craftsman and gave the world what many would consider their definitive Batman theme song. This theme continued into the four films that stayed within the style of The Animated Series and fully flourished into it's own gorgeous behemoth in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
03. Robert Pattinson - The Batman (2022)
Composer Michael Giacchino was tasked with giving Batman a new theme song to match the intense grittiness director Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson planned to bring to the role. And he did not dissapont. This theme song is about two notes away from being a villain's theme which really underscores how unhinged Pattinson plays Bruce Wayne. The low slow piano notes remind me of a lone gunslinger which emphasizes the fact that Batman is fighting his war on crime alone. And the bell brings to mind the gothic nature of the character that Danny Elfman imbued him with. It all builds to a fantastic crescendo that feels like it's a cousin to Shirley Walker's epic television theme. In short, it's kind of perfect.
02. Christian Bale - The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012)
Hans Zimmer was tasked with bringing the sound of Batman into the modern era while also making sure it remained distinct and different from what had come before. That was a very tall order. Especially considering that the Tim Burton and Neal Hefti themes had become icons of pop culture. But Hans Zimmer is one of the greatest composers on this planet. Not only did he give us a defining, unique, and memorable theme song, but his Batman film scores have influenced the musical scores for dozens of super hero films that have come out since (including Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League). His theme song for director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale's Dark Knight Trilogy is bold, heroic, and captivating. For over a decade this two note motif defined the sound of modern Batman. God bless you Hans.
01. Michael Keaton - Batman (1989) & Batman Returns (1992)
The King. The one that set the groundwork. Michael Keaton's Batman hands down has the best music. Danny Elfman forever defined the sound of serious Batman when he came up with this brooding, dark, yet playful and addicting song. The theme so perfectly encapsulates the tone of Tim Burton's live action films. Gothic, dark, and exciting; with a hint whimsy and camp. Play this theme song to anyone and they will instinctively know it's the Batman theme. There is no other hero that could possibly have this music. Every single Batman theme song since has taken a note from this absolute masterpiece of musical composition. Danny Elfman's music will endure for eternity.
GOAT. Adam West - Batman [The Television Series] (1966-1968) & Three Films (1966, 2016 & 2017)
This one is a bit of an outlier. Neal Hefti's Batman theme has endured in the zeitgeist ever since its creation. But unlike the other theme songs, this one was purposefully crafted for a comedy show as opposed to a more action oriented and serious television series. Like the Danny Elfman theme, Hefti's tune has become a defining element of the character and has also influenced dozens of follow-up themes (including the theme song to Batman: The Brave and the Bold). It's iconic; everyone knows the 'na-na na-na na-na na-na Batman' rhythm! But seeing as how it comes from a completely different point of view, I felt it deserved to be slightly separate from the rest of the more serious theme songs. Still though, it is one groovy tune!