With The Dark Knight Rises hitting theaters tomorrow, it marks the occasion when one single actor was able to play the titular role for three straight movies. In the past, Batman was seen more as a “Bond” character, which meant that different actors played the same role. Of course, older Batman movies were nowhere near as successful and serious as The Dark Knight series, so it’s obvious that something had to change. With Christian Bale at the helm, the Batman franchise has been given life support to – you guessed it – rise again. But what about past Batmans? Let’s pay homage to some of the actors who took on the mask.

Christian Bale. Please, is there any contest? While other Batmans did a good job, it was Christian Bale who took out all of the do-gooder stuff to make Batman a more complex character. Tortured, confused, and extremely attractive, Bale is arguably the best Batman of all time. Which is funny, considering he was second choice to play the role; yup, David Boreanaz, of “Bones” and “Buffy” fame was offered the part and turned it down. Let’s all have a moment of silence for his bank account. Luckily, Bale stepped up, and men and women everywhere are glad he’s the one protecting Gotham nowadays.

Michael Keaton. It’s hard to forget about the characteristics that Michael Keaton gave the original Batman back in the 1990s. The voice, the stiff posture, and the dry wit were all some of the devices that Keaton used to make Batman his own. Of course, Keaton probably didn’t know that Batman would end up being a major franchise, leaving all other Batmans scrambling to work on the same voice, posture, and characteristics. Whatever the case, Keaton kills it as a less polished version of the big black bat.

Adam West. Even though Keaton gets credit as the original Batman, it was Adam West who originally portrayed the superhero in the ’60s. Sure, the show was unbearably cheesy and the villains’ oh-so-wholesome, but West worked with it. He was the first to don the iconic suit and even made a Batman movie during his run. In fact, Batman was more of a ladies’ man when it was Adam West’s turn, so what he lacked for in cool costumes and painted-on eyebrows, he definitely made up for in suave pickup skills.

Val Kilmer. Kilmer was Batman in “Batman Forever,” which is known forever as “the one with Jim Carrey.” You’d think that cool-guy street cred, paired with dangerous lips, and major action chops would make Kilmer the perfect Batman, but he lacked personality. When paired with Carrey, Kilmer looked like he was in the middle of his first acting class, rather than a seasoned pro. What’s more, his costume may or may not have molded pecs, complete with nipples. I think that qualifies as an over share, Batman.

George Clooney. Undoubtedly the worst Batman of all time would have to go to Clooney. Yeah, we love him as Danny Ocean and he’s dead-on in almost every other award-winning movie he does, but somehow, some way, he completely bombed as our favorite winged superhero. Pair him up with Chris O’Donnell for “Batman and Robin,” and you had a recipe for disaster and one that shelved the franchise for almost a decade. While Clooney has publicly apologized for the flick, he also acknowledges that it skyrocketed his career, so it isn’t all bad.

Hopefully, the Batman producers know a good thing when they have it. Rumors are swirling that “The Dark Knight Rises” will be the last of the Christian Bale franchise, which just leads us to hope that he can be talked in to at least three more. Please, don’t make Val Kilmer come back!

Photo source: Nerds On The Rocks

Tagg writes for CableTV.com. He typically writes about sports and entertainment. When he’s not writing about or watching the latest movie, he’s an avid golfer. You can follow him on Twitter @CableTV.