We currently live in an age where the term “movie star” has become a bit outdated. Actors’ popularity has become eclipsed by franchise recognition or famous IP—Robert Downey Jr. is famous, sure, but audiences aren’t flocking to The Judge, they’re turning out for Marvel movies. However, while the traditional “movie star” moniker may be dying, there are still a number of performers who instill curiosity with each and every choice, and certainly Christian Bale is among them.
Bale got his start as a child actor with memorable roles in films like Empire of the Sun and Newsies, but throughout the 2000s he became known for his steadfast commitment to character. Physically and emotionally, Bale became something of a chameleon, always going the extra mile to transform himself into a sociopath, American hero, or Caped Crusader.
To whittle down Bale’s filmography (thus far) into a “best performances” list is to acknowledge you’re leaving great performances off said list. So while I’ve crafted a Top 5 here, there are easily 10 more performances from Bale in other films that are noteworthy. And yes, I’m aware Bale was in three Batman movies—but my reasoning for leaving those off this list is that he’s solid in Batman Begins, but Bruce/Batman kinda gets upstaged by the villains and plot in the other two movies. Not his fault, nor the films’, but there are five films in which he’s not upstaged where he’s given the room to give better performances.
Christian Bale is one of our greatest living actors; a man capable of incredible transformation. And these are his best performances so far.