The Actor Spotlight: Christian Bale

25 Jan

A method actor who undergoes both mental and physical transformations to bring the most to his roles, Christian Bale has delivered an excellent career of performances – from a breakout starring role as a child to leading the currently best ranked film of all-time.

Christian Bale’s Top 10 Films on Flickchart

The Dark Knight

Bringing in over $1 billion in revenue worldwide, The Dark Knight was on of the box office’s biggest successes, and continues to dominate Flickchart. It was also a critical success, with both Bale’s acting performance as well as his co-star, Heath Ledger as the Joker, gaining widespread acclaim and praise. Bale, reprising his role of Bruce Wayne/Batman from Batman Begins, brought his own debonair style to the superhero while giving audiences a chance to see a different take on the Caped Crusader.

  • currently ranked #1 of all-time
  • ranked 611,292 times
  • wins 79% of matchups
  • 13,173 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
  • 1,343 users rank it as their favorite movie of all-time

Batman Begins

Begins was Bale’s first foray into the Batman ethos. Just coming off of The Machinist, and severely under-weight, Bale was required to gain around 100 pounds to play the role. While not Bale’s first big budget action film, it was most definitely one of his most successful. The movie was a smash hit and critics praised it for Christopher Nolan’s direction and renewal of the ailing franchise. Bale successfully created a monster on-screen by letting audiences see a scarier side of Batman, which ultimately carried over into The Dark Knight.

  • currently ranked #29 of all-time
  • ranked 460,317 times
  • wins 57% of matchups
  • 7,234 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
  • 424 users rank it as their favorite movie of all-time

The Prestige

A wonderfully magical film chock-full of plot twists and turns where Bale plays the magician, Alfred Borden, who wishes to become the greatest magician he can be. Borden gets caught up in a rivalry against fellow magician Robert Angier, played by Hugh Jackman. The movie is a dark representation of magic and Bale manages to portray shadowed emotion, yet manages to also depict the wonder of magic at the same time.

  • currently ranked #78 of all-time
  • ranked 331,336 times
  • wins 58% of matchups
  • 4,515 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
  • 270 users rank it as their favorite movie of all-time

The Fighter

Based on real life events, Bale plays boxer Dicky Eklund, brother to Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg. Bale recorded audio of the real Dicky Eklund in order to capture his accent. He also lost a significant amount of weight in order to look the part. Dicky Eklund himself and director David O. Russell praised Bale for staying in character throughout filming.

  • currently ranked #213 of all-time
  • ranked 5,082 times
  • wins 64% of matchups
  • 27 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
  • 1 user ranks it as their favorite movie of all-time

American Psycho

American Psycho was one of Bale’s first films in which he demonstrated his method-style of acting. Bale trained physically for the role in order to get in the shape of the character in the novel. He was also distant from the cast and crew in order to bring the darkness of Patrick Batemen to the screen. There is a particularly memorable scene in which Bale is confessing to a friend over the phone his horrific deeds. One can only cringe at his powerful performance.

  • currently ranked #215 of all-time
  • ranked 263,870 times
  • wins 51% of matchups
  • 3,115 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
  • 163 users rank it as their favorite movie of all-time

3:10 to Yuma

One of few successful remakes within the western genre, 3:10 to Yuma tells the tale of a father whose morals are challenged by a criminal. Bale plays Dan Evans, a Civil War veteran and the father who must impress upon his boy the meaning of right and wrong. To critics and audiences alike, Yuma represents one of the best westerns since the movie Unforgiven, starring and directed by Clint Eastwood.

  • currently ranked #355 of all-time
  • ranked 188,907 times
  • wins 46% of matchups
  • 1,684 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
  • 87 users rank it as their favorite movie of all-time

Empire of the Sun

Bale’s first notable role at the age of thirteen was in his role as James Graham, a boy who become a prisoner of war during World War II and is sent to a Japanese prison camp. Bale won the Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. His unnerving performance was noted by many critics and helped to ignite his future career.

  • currently ranked #585 of all-time
  • ranked 29,677 times
  • wins 37% of matchups
  • 73 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
  • 1 user ranks it as their favorite movie of all-time

Public Enemies

Michael Mann’s film about the true story of John Dillinger, the 1930s gangster. Bale plays Melvin Purvis, a member of the Bureau of Investigation, who was tasked with apprehending Dillinger. Bale spent a significant amount of time with the real Melvin Purvis’s son, Alston, in order to determine the best way to play Purvis on screen.

  • currently ranked #621 of all-time
  • ranked 49,507 times
  • wins 42% of matchups
  • 68 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
  • 3 users rank it as their favorite movie of all-time

The Machinist

In his most controversial role, Bale lost over 60 pounds to get down to a skinny, emaciated 120 pounds. He plays Trevor Reznik, a machine operator who suffers from chronic insomnia. It is truly hard to watch Bale on-screen, as compared to his previous films. This is Bale’s ultimate transformation and required viewing in order to fully understand Bale’s devotion to his craft.

  • currently ranked #745 of all-time
  • ranked 69,013 times
  • wins 40% of matchups
  • 18 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
  • 258 users rank it as their favorite movie of all-time

Henry V

Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Shakespeare play of the same name was a grittier adaptation than the 1944 Laurence Olivier vehicle, but ultimately had many similarities. A young Bale played a small, but significant supporting role as The Boy. Interestingly, Bale considered giving up acting before accepting the role because of the attention and stress that came from working on Empire of the Sun. However, Kenneth Branagh approached him and convinced him to play the part of The Boy.

  • currently ranked #763 of all-time
  • ranked 6,403 times
  • wins 40% of matchups
  • 11 users have it ranked in their top 20 of all-time
  • 2 users rank it as their favorite movie of all-time

Upcoming Roles

Bale is currently attached to the film The 13 Women of Nanjing, which is based on the true event of the Nanking (or Nanjing) Massacre in the year 1937. These niche films are the type Bale revels in by exploring more experimental roles and pushing his acting boundaries to their limits.

He is eagerly anticipated to reprise his role in 2012 as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the final chapter of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. Bale will be flanked by Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Inception’s Tom Hardy as Bane.

The rumor mill also has Bale potentially starring in a Metal Gear Solid movie, based on the popular video game, in which he will play protagonist Solid Snake. This could very well be Bale’s next Batman-caliber project.

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  • Travis McClain

    I recently watched American Psycho with Amy Heckerling’s commentary track and didn’t get the sense from her remarks that Bale had really gone that deeply into character when not actively filming. In fact, she mentioned one day of shooting where he could be found on the set chumming casually wearing just a strategically placed sock and then he’d go right back into shooting on command.

    Heckerling did acknowledge the homework he had done in planning the notorious threesome scene, going so far as to sketch out position ideas and improvising the moment where he looks at his own reflection and kisses his bicep. I read the novel for the first time late last year before re-watching the movie and found myself marveling at how much of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel is still conveyed despite being excised. For my money, Bale’s performance as Patrick Bateman is textbook perfect. It is alternately sinister, foreboding, and perversely hilarious, and never once does he strike a false note.

  • John Murphy

    I agree whole-heartedly. American Psycho was, I think, the second Christian Bale film I had ever seen. The first being Batman Begins. I was floored by his performance. It was such a departure from his work on Batman Begins and I really started to wonder if this man was actually a little insane.

    It’s interesting to find out that he was not that deep in the character, yet was able to accomplish such an accurate portrayal of the character in the book.

  • Travis McClain

    The first movie I saw with Bale was Empire of the Sun though at the time only his family knew who he was. That was a VHS rental sometime in the 90s for me, by which point the movie was probably about a decade old. I saw American Psycho the first time around the time I heard he was cast as Batman, and it was actually this performance that gave me a lot of hope for his take on the character. If I were to make one suggestion to anyone making a movie with Bale in the future, it would be to be very conservative with his dialog. I think he’s most impressive in those moments where he hasn’t a line to say, but still inhabits the role in quiet. He’s very expressive, but never in a hammy way.