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Batman has been in more acclaimed movies than any other superhero. The most highly-regarded Batman movies are the three directed by Christopher Nolan: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. All three films starred Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader. Here’s why Bale was not in a fourth Batman film.

Christian Bale | Jun Sato/ WireImage

Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece trilogy

Prior to donning the cape, Bale was mostly known for his roles in disturbing films like American Psycho and The Machinist. His casting as Batman was a bit of a surprise, but his performance perfectly fit the universe that Nolan created in his Dark Knight trilogy. Fans and critics alike praised the film, feeling that it captured the macabre nature of Tim Burton’s Batman films in a more grounded and realistic way.

Many felt that the films in the Dark Knight trilogy were not just some of the best superhero movies ever made, but some of the best Hollywood films of all time. A major reason why the films were so acclaimed was Bale’s Batman. Here’s why the actor never portrayed the superhero again.

Why did Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan leave the franchise?

Christian Bale | KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

The actor discussed the possibility of a fourth film. According to The Times Herald, he said “When they came [to us after Batman Begins] and said, ‘You want to go make another?’ It was fantastic, but we still said, ‘This is it. We will not get another opportunity.’ Then they came and they said, ‘OK, let’s do the third one.’ Chris had always said to me that if we were fortunate to be able to make three we would stop. ‘Let’s walk away after that.’”

He added “Then when they inevitably came to us and said, ‘How about a No. 4?’ I said, ‘No. We have to stick to [Nolan’s] dream, which was always to, hopefully, do a trilogy. Let’s not stretch too far and become overindulgent and go for a fourth. That’s why we, well Chris, stepped away. After that I was informed my services were no longer required.”

How the Batman franchise has evolved

The Bat signal | Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Nolan’s belief it would be self-indulgent for him to make a fourth Batman movie is interesting. So far, Batman has appeared in sixteen official theatrically-released films as well as two film serials. Beyond that, he has appeared in numerous television series like The Batman, Gotham, and Beware the Batman. In addition, the character has been the subject of numerous direct-to-DVD films. One more Batman film doesn’t sound like it would stretch the character too thin.

Perhaps Nolan felt that he shouldn’t overstay his welcome since he already directed more Batman movies than anyone else. Before he made his mark on the franchise, only two directors had directed more than one Batman film: Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. Both Burton and Schumacher left the series after directing two films.

Did Nolan make the right decision? Many fans of his work would have preferred he directed another Batman film. Since he left the franchise, there have been several films with Batman in a major role, including Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League, and The Lego Batman Movie. None of these films reach the level of critical acclaim the Nolan films did. The world can only imagine what another it would have been like if Bale played his most famous role one more time.