When most people think of the Dark Knight, it is usually Kevin Conroy’s voice that reverberates in their heads. Conroy is the quintessential interpretation of Batman – or at least, his voice is. Kevin Conroy has voiced Batman for more than 20 years with Batman: The Animated Series serving as his debut appearance. Conroy garnered critical acclaim for his portrayal and has continued to receive further praise in the passing years, most notably in the Arkham video game trilogy. Kevin Conroy has become synonymous with the character within the voice acting industry.
However, I feel it’s time to recognize the actors who have voiced the character other than Kevin Conroy. While Kevin Conroy has done an exceptionally phenomenal job as Batman; many voice actors have given remarkable Batman performances in their own right, but barely receive any recognition for them. Voice actors rely solely on their articulation to realize the character’s emotions. Batman is such a complex character and being able to capture that level of emotional complexity with just an actor’s voice is a noteworthy feat.
In this article, we will count our top five favorite Batman voice actors. These five actors have done the Dark Knight justice and deserve recognition for their performances. As evident in the title, Kevin Conroy will not be included in this list.
5. Rino Romano (The Batman 2004)
When I was a kid, I was a massive fan of the 2004 The Batman series. Seriously, I would not miss a single episode and if I did, I would scour the internet for the very episode I missed. It was (one of my many) favourite Saturday morning cartoons. Many aspects of that animated series won me over from the animation style, the action, roster of characters and of course, the voice acting. Rino Romano’s youthful sounding voice perfectly fitted the character since Batman has only been operating for three years. At 26 years old, this stands by far one of the youngest depictions of Batman. Consequently, the police still don’t trust him enough and make every attempt to apprehend him. While this Batman portrayal is still the expert fighter hardened by death that’s commonly associated with the character, Rino Romano adds a layer of humanism to him.
In the second episode, Batman has his spirit broken after losing his first fight to Bane. This installment sets the stage for a truly inspiring character arc for the masked vigilante. I felt it was the right time too because it really emphasizes Batman’s inexperience. Prior to villains like Bane, Batman was accustomed to apprehending small-time criminals and thugs. Now after his fight with Bane, he’s uncertain if he can defeat someone of such physical aptitude. Fortunately, with help from Alfred, Batman regains his confidence and eventually defeats Bane. I feel Rino Romano is one of the most underrated Batman voice actors. He did his absolute best to realize Batman’s youthful yet relatable demeanour, while not rendering his voice gruff to make him more menacing. Who else could sound awesomely confident when confronting Dracula? Just writing about this series brings back so many great memories from my childhood and I owe it to Rino Romano.
4. Kevin McKidd as Thomas Wayne (The Flashpoint Paradox)
The fourth spot goes to none other than Kevin McKidd as Thomas Wayne. Yes, it may not be the Bruce Wayne incarnation exactly, but nevertheless, he’s still portraying Batman. Adapted from the 2011 Flashpoint storyline by Geoff Johns; The Flashpoint Paradox is set in an alternate timeline where Bruce Wayne was murdered, and as a result, his fathers bears the Batman mantle. The Flashpoint Paradox presented comic book fans with possibly one of the darkest depictions of Batman ever seen. Unlike the non-killing Bruce Wayne, Thomas Wayne holds no mercy whatsoever to criminals. He’s completely content with killing and even resorts to using firearms.
When I first watched The Flashpoint Paradox, Kevin McKidd’s performance captivated but frightened me at the same time. His deep, growling voice and merciless attitude sent shivers down my spine. He was so terrifyingly convincing that I felt sorry for the criminals he hunted down. I was shocked to witness this level of violence committed by Batman of all heroes. But despite his violent rugged exterior, McKidd manages to connect with the tortured soul underneath. My heart broke whenever Thomas Wayne lamented losing his only son and his wife’s descent into madness. McKidd himself openly expressed that he’s a longtime Batman fan and it resonated in his performance. McKidd’s portrayal had such a profound impact on me that it spurred me to read the Flashpoint storyline and the Batman spin-off series a few years after seeing the film.
3. Will Friedle as Terry McGinnis (Batman Beyond)
Since the previous entry honored the man voicing the father of Batman, I thought it would be fitting to honor the one who portrayed the son of Batman. Terry McGinnis had a rather unorthodox and unique origin. Just like Harley Quinn, Terry McGinnis did not originate from the comics, but rather he was created by legendary Batman aficionados, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, for the animated Batman Beyond series. This younger incarnation of Batman served as a successor to Bruce Wayne after the latter retired from crime fighting.
Considering Batman Beyond was a sequel to the highly revered Batman: The Animated Series and the series featured a 16 year old taking up the Batman mantle, Will Friedle certainly had large shoes to fill. At first, I was skeptical about this risky decision of trading the stoic Batman for the brash, impulsive Terry McGinnis. His motives for avenging his legal father feels too similar to Bruce Wayne. Fortunately, thanks to Paul Dini’s excellent writing and the series’s rich premise, Will Friedle succeeds in what is undoubtedly his best voice performance. Friedle brings a starkly realistic depth to the character. Like any other teenager, Terry struggles with balancing his personal commitments, such as his family, with other pressing obligations like his role as Batman. Friedle expresses Terry’s teenage angst and fights flawlessly while also providing a suitable voice to the character. Two instances where Friedle shined was in the Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker movie and the second season finale to Justice League Unlimited.
Nearing the conclusion of Return of The Joker, Terry finds himself in an battle of fists and wits with a reanimated Joker. The actual fighting itself was spectacular but it’s how Terry, metaphorically, turns the tables on the Joker, which is the real highlight. I was in awe the whole time at how Terry boastfully belittles the Joker. Will Friedle delivered each line in that memorable scene with expert precision. Although, it’s in the second season finale of Justice League Unlimited that Friedle cemented himself as one of my favorite Batman voice actors. Aptly titled “Epilogue,” the episode takes place 15 years after Batman Beyond where Terry discovers he is the biological son of Bruce Wayne and his whole purpose was to succeed his father. Descending into existential turmoil and thinking his entire life is a lie, Terry contemplates pushing away his loved ones. However, after conversing with the one behind his creation, Amanda Waller, Terry manages to move on with his life with renewed hope. This was Friedle at his finest. This episode was not only a testament to Terry’s character development, but a poignant homage and thank you to Friedle’s contributions to the character. Just like how Terry McGinnis proves he’s a worthy successor to Bruce Wayne, Friedle has shown he’s a worthy successor to Conroy.
2. Bruce Greenwood (Batman: Under the Red Hood, Young Justice)
Batman: Under the Red Hood is probably my second favorite Batman film of all time, right after The Dark Knight. What a movie and what an astonishing performance by Bruce Greenwood! I was fanboying when he returned to voice Batman again in the fantastic Young Justice series.
Batman: Under the Red Hood is the animated adaption of the comic book story arc of the same name. The film involves Batman investigating the sudden appearance of a violent new vigilante called “The Red Hood.” The Red Hood has been wiping out the criminals of Gotham by employing his own lethal methods. Suspicious of this crimson masked vigilante’s fighting prowess and skill, Batman is determined to uncover the Red Hood’s identity. Batman soon makes a shocking discovery that Red Hood is actually Jason Todd, the second Robin.
While I did love Greenwood’s performance in both Under The Red Hood and Young Justice, I honestly favor his YJ voice over the former. Not to say his voice was bad, it was just too gruff and consequently his lines sounded forced and strained. Greenwood’s YJ voice, on the other hand, sounded significantly less strained and he delivered his lines with evocative gravitas. However, regarding characterization, Greenwood’s performance in UTRH undeniably exceeds his YJ appearance. Well, to be fair, Batman only had a recurring role due to the show’s premise, but UTRH provides Greenwood the opportunity to invest in the character and holy Annie Award, does he do such a great job! Greenwood’s portrayal of a guilt-ridden Batman and HIS struggle to overcome his failure to prevent Jason’s death really struck a real chord with me. I did not become this emotionally invested in the character since Batman Beyond. Greenwood gave me a deeper appreciation for the character. Through his voice alone, Greenwood competently emulates Batman’s guilt, stern but tortured psyche and how much he risks being emotionally attached to people. Bruce Greenwood would have topped this list, if it weren’t for another noteworthy thespian.
Before I reveal our top pick, let’s look at some honorable mentions.
Jason O’ Mara (DC Animated Universe)
Known mainly for his live-action roles in television show such as Life On Mars, Terra Nova and In Justice, Jason O’Mara first voiced Batman in the animated Justice League: War film. Ever since then, he’s voiced The Dark Knight consistently with each DCAU film released per year. O Mara’s performance quality boils down to the actual projects themselves. I wasn’t a big fan of his performance in Batman: Bad Blood and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis. To be fair, he did try his best with the material he was given, and his performances have gradually improved over the years.
My favorite performances were in Justice League: War, Son of Batman and Justice League Dark. Mainly inspired by The New 52 continuity, Justice League: War served as a satisfactory introduction to O’ Mara’s portrayal of Batman. I thought his voice had the right balance of gruff and gravitas and was a faithful adaptation to the New 52 incarnation of Batman. O’ Mara definitely improved in Son of Batman, mainly because of the family dynamic between Bruce and Damian Wayne, his son. Working in conjunction with Stuart Allen (voice of Damian Wayne), O’ Mara forged a believable father/son connection with his younger co-star. While the dialogue may get a bit on the nose at times, Jason O’ Mara still delivered a nuanced and confident performance. Although Batman’s role was reduced to a supporting role in Justice League Dark, I thought O’Mara still made a great impression. His serious yet humorous interactions with the likes of John Constantine, Zatanna, and Deadman, were a joy to behold. O’Mara nailed Batman’s reactions to the supernatural side of the DC Universe, and I honestly look forward to what he’ll offer the character in the near future.
Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Okay, okay. I know Batman: The Brave and The Bold was sometimes looked down upon for its relatively campy tone, but I think that’s what made me enjoy it so much. Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer the darker, serious side of Batman more, but in an era where the somber tone of The Dark Knight dominated the Batman media, it was quite refreshing to have shows like The Brave and The Bold. While I do admit that the show has some cringe-inducing bits, I nevertheless enjoyed it, largely because of the comedic efforts of Diedrich Bader. Coming from a comedic background, Bader sounded naturally funny in his role. His gruff voice and campy delivery of lines adhered nicely to the show’s light-hearted, yet entertaining tone. Bader’s performance was a nostalgic homage to the Silver Age of comics, in a time before dark, gritty Batman films. Bader shared some brilliant comedic chemistry with the show’s expansive roster of DC heroes. Despite its bright tone, the show wasn’t afraid to turn to the dark side once in a while. In one of the show’s rare dark episodes is where Bader really (and surprisingly) stood out.
In the episode titled “Chill Of The Night!”, written by Paul Dini himself, Batman tracks down Joe Chill, his parents’ murderer. Two enigmatic beings, The Phantom Stranger and the Spectre, deduce whether Batman will enact justice or get revenge for his parents’ death. Eventually, Batman corners the now aged Joe Chill in a shadowy office. There, Batman unmasks himself in front of Chill and begins to pummel Chill. Despite the opportunity, Batman decides not to kill Chill and instead, Chill dies from fallen debris landing on him. The scene where Batman unmasks himself was one of the most emotional Batman moments I have ever witnessed. I was surprised Diedrich was able to pull off such a heart-wrenching performance in a momentous scene like that, especially within a brief amount of time.
Will Arnett (The Lego Batman Movie)
Now, for my final honorable mention! Here he is, the hilarious Will Arnett! How could I not mention Will Arnett after the sidesplitting performance he gave in both LEGO movies? This one comedian is funnier than Diedrich Bader, and Adam West put together. Bader and West were certainly funny in their own right, but I cannot deny that Will Arnett beats both of them. Will Arnett harnesses the full extent of his natural comedic charm and wit and channels it all into his uproarious performance. Regarding his Batman voice, I honestly can’t fault it for being too gruff, considering that is his natural voice. Even so, it still sounded a bit gruff even for Will Arnett and I felt it made his performance all the more hilarious. When you think about Will Arnett’s gruffer voice was a clever parody of the over-imitated Christian Bale voice. I commend Will Arnett for softening his voice as Bruce Wayne. As a Batman fan myself, I was laughing my guts out over how brilliantly he delivered all of his lines, especially the ones chock full of references. Despite the film’s overall comedic, colorful tone, Will Arnett manages to instill the character with a surprising amount of heart. Batman intentionally works alone and pushes people away because he’s afraid will lose them like his parents. Over time, Batman begins to accept to working with people and forms a fatherly bond with Robin. Will Arnett conveys Batman’s thoughtful character development admirably while never sacrificing his distinct comedic charm.
1. Peter Weller (The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and 2)
Finally, our top spot goes to Robocop himself, Peter Weller! All I have is nothing but praise for this man’s portrayal of Batman. He absolutely blew me away when I watched The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and 2. Everything about his performance was bliss. His voice, articulation of lines and faithful interpretation of the character is phenomenal. The moment where he says “Do you know who I am, punk?” I swear my inner Batman fanboy almost fainted.
The Dark Knight Returns is a two-part adaptation of the groundbreaking graphic novel by legendary comic book artist Frank Miller. The story features a 50-year-old Bruce Wayne donning his cape and cowl after a decade of retirement. Despite his age, Batman is determined to regain Gotham from the violent gang, The Mutants. With the help of Alfred, Gordon and new Robin, Carrie Kelly, Batman faces off against old foes such as Harvey Dent, the Joker and even the Man of Steel.
Whereas the previous entries altered their voices gruffer than usual, Peter Weller’s voice was the perfect fit for the aged crime fighter. I can only recount a couple of instances where he gruffed his voice, but those instances were immediately overshadowed by Weller’s spot-on delivery. Weller’s performance is one of the most faithful renditions of Batman I have ever seen. I was (internally) squealing with delight whenever he said awesome lines straight from the graphic novel like:
“You’re in no position to negotiate, let me show you” or
“You don’t get it, boy…this isn’t a mudhole…it’s an operating table. And I’m the surgeon.”
But the moments where Peter Weller utterly captivated me were in his scenes with Superman. That scene where Superman threatens to stop Batman’s war on crime and Batman just nonchalantly stands his ground against the likes of Superman was epically acted! And how could I not mention the jaw-dropping fight between the two DC heavyweights!? Peter Weller spoke every line in that phenomenal fight with superb gravitas combined with unrelenting determination. I’ll admit, Weller’s voice was the pinnacle of gravitas in that fight. But the icing on the cake was when Batman said these words to a weakened Superman:
“You’re feeling it now aren’t you? What the rest of us live with every day. Your own mortality.”
“In all the years to come, in your most private moments. I want you to remember the one man who beat you.”
(slow clapping) Bravo. Mr. Weller. Bravo.
Weller’s faithful realization of Frank Miller’s unique vision of Batman easily earns him our top spot!
Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite Batman voice actor? Leave your pick in the comments below!