Batman: 10 Actors Who Should Play the Role

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice | Warner Bros.

There are a handful of iconic roles in Hollywood that are passed down from actor to actor. Unlike someone like say, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, the character is often bigger than the actors portraying him or her, dating back decades. Batman is one such character. Throughout the years, the Dark Knight has been played by everyone from Adam West to Christian Bale, stopping for an odd, yet surprisingly successful Michael Keaton detour somewhere in the middle. Anytime a character takes on such a wide range of faces, the question always boils down to, “Who else should play them?”

Anyone who plays Batman requires a certain air of grimness. They need to be able to exude the grief and insanity that goes hand-in-hand with a billionaire orphan who dresses up like a bat and beats the living tar out of bad guys. At the same time, they also need to be an actor who can balance that emotion with a certain physicality. Suffice it to say, it’s not a role that every actor is capable of taking on. Here are the actors who could though.

1. Thomas Jane

The Punisher

Thomas Jane as The Punisher | Lionsgate Entertainment

Thomas Jane has already dipped his toe into the world of superheroes, having played the Punisher way back in 2004. Additionally, he’s also voiced DC hero, Jonah Hex in a series of animated shorts, so he’s no stranger to comic books. His collective work as an actor showcases his abilities as a gruff action star, all culminating in his most recent role as jaded detective Joe Miller on SyFy’s The Expanse. There’s little doubting his resume, it’s merely a question of whether he can graduate from the Punisher all the way up to DC’s most iconic hero not named Superman.

2. Clive Owen

Rosario Dawson and Clive Owen in Sin City

Clive Owen in Sin City | Dimension

Clive Owen’s name is one that came up frequently back when they were choosing the successor to Pierce Brosnan for James Bond. Owen was allegedly a favorite for the role, but turned it down, citing the fact that “playing James Bond would have been like entering a golden prison.” Would he be willing to enter an even darker prison with Batman? We sure hope so, because his brooding acting style perfectly embodies the world-weary and violent Bruce Wayne. We even saw him play a similar role in 2005’s noir thriller, Sin City. Batman would merely be the next logical step for Owen.

3. Joe Manganiello

Joe Manganiello

Joe Manganiello | Paras Griffin/Getty Images

OK, so Clive Owen is in his 50s, and that’s definitely getting up there in years for a superhero (Robert Downey Jr. excepted, apparently). Joe Manganiello would lean on the younger side of the spectrum. He definitely has the physicality for the role, and managed to parlay that into getting cast as Deathstroke in Ben Affleck’s standalone Batman movie. The qualifications for playing Deathstroke are strikingly similar to the ones you’d expect for the Dark Knight, so it’s not hard to see how well Manganiello would translate over if he ever decided to switch characters.

4. Idris Elba

Idris Elba

Idris Elba | Marvel

Nowhere is it written in stone that Batman needs to be played by a 30 to 40-something white guy. Knowing that, Idris Elba would be a fantastic choice to don the cape and cowl, having already proven his superhero mettle in the MCU. Much like Owen, he’s also frequently been in the conversation for James Bond, with the marked difference being that he actually wants to play the role. If he’s willing to sign on for a multi-picture deal to be 007, you can bet he’d be willing to ink a similarly lucrative deal with DC.

5. Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling in Drive

Ryan Gosling in Drive | FilmDistrict

In his mid-30s, Ryan Gosling checks in as the youngest entry on our list. That doesn’t make him any less qualified than his elder contemporaries though. His chilling performance in Drive solidified his talents as an action star, and as the years have gone on, he’s only made himself into more of a dramatic fixture in Hollywood. He definitely fits the mold of Bruce Wayne too, with more than enough versatility to pull off the playboy billionaire with depth. He has yet to join the world of superhero cinema at any juncture in his career, but playing Batman would certainly make for a stylish entrance.

6. Eric Bana

Eric Bana in Lone Survivor

Eric Bana in Lone Survivor | Universal

OK, so we all know that Eric Bana’s Hulk movie was less than stellar. And the fact that he wasn’t asked to reprise the role in the 2008 reboot likely speaks volumes to his viability in the MCU. Still though, perhaps the issue was that he was simply in the wrong superhero universe. Much of Bana’s acting resume includes heavy, military-centric pieces, like Lone Survivor, Munich, and Troy. His action chops are beyond reproach, and we know he has the sheer talent to cover the depth of Bruce Wayne’s character. So let’s give Eric Bana another shot at being a superhero, shall we?

7. Michael C. Hall

Dexter Morgan in the series finale

Michael C. Hall as Dexter | Showtime

If we’re looking for someone who can play dark and introspective, then you won’t find a better candidate than Michael C. Hall. Playing a sociopathic serial killer with family issues on Dexter may not be an exact translation over to Batman, but there are a lot of shared elements between the characters that would lend a special sort of depth to Batman. Hall’s also helped by the fact that he’s actually already played Batman, voicing the character in the Justice League: Gods and Monsters animated miniseries. Now we just need to get him into the live-action version of character.

8. Dominic Cooper

Dominic Cooper

Dominic Cooper in Preacher | AMC

Sure, Dominic Cooper is currently under contract at AMC as the titular hero in Preacher. But that doesn’t make him any less qualified to play the Dark Knight. We’ve already seen him pull off the whole “rich guy with a heart of gold” act as Howard Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Preacher has more than solidified his status as an action star. That combination of skills makes him uniquely qualified to don the cape and cowl.

9. Joel Edgerton

Joel Edgerton in The Great Gatsby

Joel Edgerton in The Great Gatsby | Warner Bros.

While not the biggest name on this list, Joel Edgerton is still a qualified candidate. He’s proved his fighting mettle as an MMA fighter in Warrior, flexed his dramatic muscles in The Great Gatsby, and showed his considerable range in Zero Dark Thirty. Suffice it to say, the talented Australian actor would be a natural fit as Batman, a character steeped in nuance.

10. Matt Bomer

Matt Bomer on American Horror Story

Matt Bomer on American Horror Story | FX

Matt Bomer wouldn’t exactly fit the more grizzled, beat-down Batman narrative. Still, he would make for an interesting change of pace, having proved himself already in American Horror Story, White Collar, and as a cold-blooded assassin in The Nice Guys. 

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