With his upcoming movie, Amsterdam, releasing this October 7th, it’s as good a time as any to do the impossible task of choosing Christian Bale’s five best performances. If you agree or even if you disagree with some of these, let us know on our instagram (@fiufilmstudies). Without further ado, let’s get into the rankings!
5. Newsies (1992)
Now hear me out on this one.
Before Bale was known for playing a suave sociopath on American Psycho and a superficial playboy in The Dark Knight, he was a dancing 17 year old singing about the newsboys’ strike of 1899 in a Disney movie. Newsies is your typical feel-good musical, except we’re blessed with Bale’s incredibly nasally voice and mediocre New York accent. Nevertheless, it’s still a treat to watch and is a staple in Bale’s early career.
4. The Machinist (2004)
This psychological thriller is, debatably, Bale’s breakthrough role. He lost over 60 pounds for the part as a machinist who is slowly descending into madness. His ability to take the time to physically change, no matter how drastic, is a testament to his acting and his dedication to the art. And this is just one of the multiple extremes he’s reached in his method acting.
3. The Fighter (2010)
After his Oscar snub for the movie in our number one spot, winning for Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter was only fair. Not only does Bale nail the meth addict and boxing fanatic character but he completely steals the show and makes this sports drama memorable. Even among notable actors like Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams, this is his movie through and through.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
If we were ranking the best Christian Bale movies, this would indisputably be at the top spot. But, performance wise, Heath Ledger’s Joker makes this movie the marvel that it is. Yet, Bale’s take—tiring as the endless Batman movies get—is a different angle of the hero than we usually see.
Sure we’ve had plenty of great Batman interpretations, but what sets Bale apart is his ability to play both Batman and Bruce Wayne. In this movie, the second from his Batman trilogy, we see his internal battle with protecting what makes him vulnerable versus protecting the city he feels obligated to save. Typically, all we get is the playboy side of Bruce Wayne, but Bale isn’t afraid to show us the dark bits of his character.
1. American Psycho (2000)
As if this spot belonged to any other performance.
Bale’s role in American Psycho is something we still talk about over 20 years later—and for good reason. His portrayal of the master manipulator, Patrick Bateman, is dramatic, amusing, and compelling. It’s quotable, twisted, and completely insane, which is what makes it so iconic.
This film solidifies why Christian Bale is truly one of the best in the game.
Carla Rubio is an English major on the Writing and Rhetoric track with intentions of going to law school. Film studies to her is something to look forward to in the midst of all the essays and cases and research papers.