Christopher Nolan’s Batman is the character you’re most likely familiar with. Whatever the case may be, you’ve got it exactly right there. And he’s even more than that, too. Really, though, we’re here to speak about his standout performances in the many roles he takes on. The fact that he’s worked with some of the biggest names in the business is one of the highlights of his career, but it’s not always the case. So, starting with number 10, here is a list of the top ten Christian Bale performances.
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10. Reign of Fire (2002)
If you’ve watched it, please bear with me for a moment. Even if it’s not the best film, and the special effects are very antiquated, my focus is on our guy’s performance, not on the overall quality of the film. It’s at the bottom of today’s list, which I’m sure you’ll be able to understand. It’s the wrong day for a kid to go to his mother’s mine, for the dragon she wakes kills nearly everyone but him. Since then the dragons have multiplied, and Quinn (Bale) is now the leader of an entire pack of survivors who live in a castle and do their best to survive. A chance discovery of Christian Bale during a fatal night of alone led me to see this picture, which I now refer to as my “guilty pleasure.” In either case, this film is entertaining and has a unique and creative storyline that is sure to get the creative juices flowing. It’s time to let the guards down. Christian Bale portrays a wide range of human emotions in the picture, which is to be expected from a man tasked with protecting loved ones against ash-spewing, flesh-eating dragons. That’s not all; it actually works. McConaughey as the American scapegoat really helps, and I thought these two worked well together.
9. Equilibrium (2002)
Equilibrium is an action-packed sci-fi thriller with an Orson Welles futurism theme. When “peace” has been attained, humans will be forced to take medication every day in order to repress their emotions. There will always be rebellion in a society where there is a lack of freedom. It is the job of the “Cleric,” played by Christian Bale, to locate and eliminate dissidents and any object that elicites human emotion—whether it be a book or an artwork or a puppy. Action-packed sci-fi entertainment with Taye Diggs as a rival Cleric and Sean Bean doing what he does best is what this movie is all about. Despite the low-budget nature of the picture, Preston’s narrative has surprising complexity for a Syfy channel short. Additionally, this is the first time we get to witness Bale in action scenes that are akin to a Batman-like style, but with the addition of an anime/kung fu flavor. For those times when the picture isn’t amusing, Bale is there to help us get over the metaphorical “mud puddles.”
8. The Machinist (2004)
In Brad Andersons’ The Machinist, Bale undergoes his most dramatic physical change as a 120 lb insomniac. Bale hasn’t slept in over a year because of his sleeplessness as an industrial factory worker by the name of Trevor Reznik. As time passes, he becomes increasingly unable to tell the difference between reality and dream. In order to prepare for the filming of the film, Bale consumed a daily diet of water, an apple, coffee, and a large number of smokes. One time he described how his physical metamorphosis had put him in a “Zen” frame of mind, which suggests that he was constantly on the edge of falling asleep. It Bale lost weight to play a chronic insomniac in this movie is well-known, but that doesn’t detract from the suspenseful storyline that skillfully challenges audiences to examine the same truth. The last surprise in this picture, like in a few others in which Christian appears, is what elevates it to the status of a must-see thriller.
7. The Dark Knight (2008)
“The Gloomy Knight” is known for being a dark story that makes you question whether or not there are any sides at all in the second and most successful movie of the franchise.” They’ve kept crime down to an all-time low with their unblemished serving of justice, which has given Bruce Wayne the thought that retirement and a happy life with Rachel might be possible. The Joker (Heath Ledger), a new villain bent on total anarchy, twists everything upside down. While Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance takes center stage, Christian Bale does his best to flesh out Bruce Wayne’s flaws and inner turmoil. Bales’ portrayal in the third act shows Bruce’s deep pain as his spirit is slowly but definitely broken. As Batman, Bale conveys the idea that he and Bruce Wayne are two distinct individuals who have sworn an unbreakable moral vow not to harm anyone.
6. Empire of the Sun (1987)
Before he was even a teenager, Christian had already appeared in some of the biggest films in the industry, including one of Steven Spielberg’s most popular historical dramas, Empire of the Sun. Jim, an English child living in Shanghai at the time of Japan’s occupation of China during World War II, must learn to fend for himself in these difficult and terrifying circumstances. This movie stars Christian Bale as a 13-year-old, which is hard to believe given how complex and nuanced his performance is. Even if Spielberg’s direction included having Bale run a few laps and jump around before each take, the very real emotions we see a young Christian show aren’t diminished in the least by Spielberg. It’s easy to get a sense of how young Jim feels from his experiences and subtle facial expressions because of the cultural complexity only heightened by incorporating Japanese culture to the already alien Chinese norms. Gene Shalit asks a young Christian in 1987 what he expects to do next in an interview. “I want to do another film,” Christian says. Because of English legislation, I’m only allowed to make one film. But today, I’m really interested in acting.” As we all know, he went on to become a household name and a legend.
5. Vice (2018)
VICE investigates American history through the lens of black comedy and political horror in a surprising film from filmmaker Adam McKay. George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) nominates Dick Cheney (Bale) as his vice president, and Cheney is more than happy to take the job, which comes with complete control over the bureaucracy as well as foreign and military policies. More like an exposé than a dramedy, the story’s facts are exaggerated for dramatic effect and shock value, but they’re mostly accurate. Bales’ acting as Dick Cheney is spot on, despite the film’s occasionally shaky premise. “I’m going to do as much as I can to come at it from a good point of view,” Bale stated in an on-set interview, admitting that he came to the set with his own political bias at the door. Even yet, it’s hard not to regard Cheney as the great bad wolf of recent American history through this prism, given the enormous impact that he and Bush’s two administrations had on the whole world. While portraying this character, Bale gained over 40 pounds, which he admitted to regretting.
4. Batman Begins (2005)
It’s hard to argue that Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins isn’t the best superhero origin narrative of all time. When Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a child and his parents are killed, he seeks vengeance but is stopped in his tracks by someone else with vested interests. Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) teases him about his violent ways, so he runs away to the Far East to learn to defend himself. There, he meets the enigmatic Ducard (Liam Neeson), who trains him to become the Batman. Nolan’s Batman tells a story about Bruce Wayne’s shortcomings as a human being, unlike any other version of the character. Christian Bale took this to heart in his portrayals of both the younger, more angst-ridden Bruce Wayne and the more experienced, more psychologically and physically fit Wayne. Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman will likely be one of his most recognizable roles for years to come. After The Machinist, Bale had just six months to put on nearly 100 pounds of muscle for this feature, which started filming just six months later.
3. Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Ford vs. Ferrari, Bale’s next film, sees him play a lesser-known historical figure. Only a few things connect Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale): They are both car designers. Their passion for automobiles and speed. In order to beat Enzo Ferrari and his fast cars at Le Mans, they’ll have to work together against all odds to build a Ford vehicle that’s fast and efficient enough for them to win. Ken Miles was the ideal candidate for the job because he was both an accomplished racer and an expert mechanic. Throughout his career, however, his refusal to accept corporate authority became a source of frustration for him. Bale’s Miles is wonderfully aggressive, which I can only guess is precisely how he behaved in this unique biopic, given the level of detail in it. The film does an excellent job of depicting the sibling bond formed between the two men while also providing an engaging story with stunning visuals.
2. The Prestige (2006)
“Are you keeping an eye on things?” Magicians in Edwardian England compete to dazzle and astonish their audiences in The Prestige, an intense period drama inspired by Christopher Priest’s novel. When a prior cooperation between two magicians goes poorly, they’re forced to compete against one other to pull off the greatest magic trick of them all: teleportation. Both Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman’s characters, who feverishly build their illusions and sacrifice compassion and decency in the process because magic is all they have, vie for your sympathies in this film. It’s difficult to pick a favorite, and even more difficult to determine who the genuine protagonist was meant to be, because both people had tragic and controversial backgrounds. However, while we’re on the subject of Christian, this is unquestionably one of his finest efforts. Without giving anything away, the ending revelation is great and makes a second watching that much more magnificent, making it easier to perceive all of the intricate details and differences Bale provides to the character. This is one of Christian Bale’s best performances, and it’s also one of Christopher Nolan’s best films yet.
1. American Psycho (2000)
Christian Bale gives a frighteningly unstable performance in the psychological horror/thriller/black comedy American Psycho. While Patrick Bateman (Bale) is a well-off investment banker who has a beautiful wife and a nice life, he enjoys religious exercise, daily skin care routine, fine dinners, as well as scheming and carrying out personally motivated murders. Bale’s performance in this film is one of the most complex of his career, displaying the whole range of human emotions on a massive scale. By mixing rage, joy and despair, Bale perfectly captures Patrick Bateman’s conflicted and tortured demeanor. Bale was later told by co-star Josh Lucas that many of his other cast members thought that Christian was “the worst actor they’d ever seen.” Unfortunately, this tells me nothing more than that the audience simply didn’t get what the film was attempting to convey.
Christian Bale Through the Years
Bale began his acting career at the age of 12 and starred in Empire of the Sun, a major picture on our list today, in just one year. Then he appeared in a number of additional movies before he was even 18, including Henry V, The Treasure Island, and Newsies. Christian has been in the acting business for the bulk of his life and is known for his flexibility and method acting (45 years). This makes him one of the most widely recognized actors in the world, and he’s definitely in the top 50.
In order to play the character he is portraying, he undergoes dramatic transformations, never shying away from a physical challenge. He has gone from 120 pounds to 228 pounds, fat or muscle, in order to embody his character’s persona. As a result of his public pronouncements, Bale has promised to stop his transformations when he is older and that they are harmful to anyone. At the time of the Ford v. Ferrari movie, Bale commented in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, “I worry when it becomes sort of a marker of, ‘Oh how dedicated are you to a role? “I’m concerned that this will become a regular topic of conversation because it isn’t good for individuals to talk about their weight all the time. As a result, it becomes a symbol of one’s dedication to one’s craft, and it was never… “That’s not how I ever saw it.” Even if his tactics were successful, his health suffered as a result, and many people are delighted to hear him admit so.