With Christian Bale being selected to play John Conner in the new Terminator movie, I figured it was time to do a top ten list for this rising actor. For years, Bale has been on the fringe of fame and popularity, and it appears that he is finally breaking into the A-list. If you look back on his career, you’ll realize that Bale chooses his films very wisely for the most part (neither Harsh Times or Captain Corelli’s Mandolin were very good, though).
The movies are ranked on a combination of his performance, the size of his role and the quality of the film overall. Without further ado, here are the top ten movies of Christian Bale’s career:
- American Psycho
This satirical drama put Christian Bale on the map as a man obsessed with appearance and reputation, and with killing people in very brutal ways. While some people were put off by the not-quite-literal movie, no one can deny that Christian Bale turned in an Oscar-worthy performance.
- Batman Begins
The combination of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, along with a cast where every single major player had been nominated for an Oscar other than Katie Holmes, revived the Batman franchise and is arguably the best, if not at least one of the best, comic book adaptations ever. Between Nolan and Bale, the character of Bruce Wayne has never been more realistic or deep.
- The Prestige
It took me a second viewing to really appreciate this film, but The Prestige (directed by Batman Begins‘ Christopher Nolan) is a great character study set against a revenge/murder plot. Bale is terrific, and while it was not the kind of movie that would evoke awards, it shows his taste for smart, edgy films.
- Rescue Dawn
Few people have seen this war drama as of yet, but Bale is excellent as a real-life pilot who is captured in Vietnam and held in a prisoner’s camp for several years. Funny and powerful at the same time, Rescue Dawn is one of the best movies of 2007.
- The Machinist
The movie isn’t completely extraordinary, but the transformation Bale put himself through to become the tragic protagonist shows his dedication to his movies: he lost a record 63 pounds down to a startling 120 pounds. His performance is also quite memorable, too.
A lot of you may not realize that Bale is the lead actor in Newsies, the 1992 film about turn-of-the-century kids who sell newspapers. This was one of my favorite films as a kid, and is still a quality musical that stands the test of time.
- I’m Not There
Still out in theaters, I’m Not There tells the story of Bob Dylan in a very odd way. While Cate Blanchett overshadows for her portrayal of the artist, Bale, in a lesser role, is also quite good. At the very least, the movie is one of the most unique films ever made, and shows Bale’s capabilities in identifying as such.
- 3:10 to Yuma
A classic western made in 2007, 3:10 to Yuma has Bale up against Russell Crowe. While Crowe steals the show, Bale still is a solid edition and is one of the main reasons audiences were lured to theaters. The movie is pretty good, too.
One of the best action movies to never get a major theatrical release, Bale stars as an assassin in a future, Big Brother society who decides to turn on his handlers and join the rebellion. Spectacular visual effects and direction have Equilibrium rivaling The Matrix, which is not an easy task.
A pretty good reimagining of Shaft that never got the recognition it deserved, some may forget that Christian Bale played the ruthless villain in the movie. His character here is not unlike his rich-but-vicious character in American Psycho, but that’s a good thing.
Other honorable mentions are Reign of Fire, a surprisingly good dragon movie that also didn’t get the recognition it deserved (watch it a couple times and you’ll see what I mean), Howl’s Moving Castle, a movie you can’t really credit to Bale even though he did do voice work for the American version and The New World, my Best Movie of the 2005. The only reason The New World isn’t on the list is that Bale has a smaller role and I had completely forgotten he was even in it.
We’ll ignore the fact he did voice work for Pocahontas, my most hated cartoons ever.