Christian Bale’s acting career began on television but after an early starring role as Jim in Steven Spielberg’s Empire Of The Sun, a future in Hollywood beckoned. Today, he is well known for being Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy but he has starred in many other great movies, a few of which you will find below.
Check out our list if you want to be reminded of the actor’s great talents and take the opportunity to re-visit the highlighted movies whenever you get the time to do so.
Empire Of The Sun (1987)
Bale was only 13 when he took on the role of Jim in Spielberg’s World War 2 drama. The film is based on JG Ballard’s semi-autobiographical novel about a privileged young boy who is forced to survive alone when he is separated from his parents after Japanese forces invade his home.
This movie is often overlooked in conversations about Spielberg’s best work which is something of a surprise as it is well worth seeing. He captures the horror of the war well while still retaining his ability to move and inspire in some of the movie’s more uplifting scenes.
Bale excels as the boy who lets his imagination run wild as he uses the war-torn landscape as his personal playground and he ably holds his own against more established actors, such as John Malkovich and Leslie Phillips who appear in supporting roles.
The Fighter (2010)
David O’Russll’s film is based on the real-life story of Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), the young boxer who was shepherded to fame by his half-brother Dicky, a former pro-welterweight boxer who hit upon hard times after succumbing to crack addiction.
Both actors light up the screen with their performances, with Bale’s manic energy offset by Wahlberg’s soft-spoken turn as the deeply sensitive brother. This is as much a moving family drama as it is about boxing so even if you’re not a fan of the sport, you might still appreciate the brotherly dynamics between the two men and their desperate need for redemption.
Le Mans ’66 (2019)
On the surface, James Mangold’s movie is about the Ford Motor Company and how they tried to build a car that was capable of taking on the Ferrari, in preparation for the grueling 24-hour Le Mans race in 1966. But beneath that, this is also a story about the friendship between Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), two men who were able to use Ford to fulfil their dream of bringing the fastest car to the track.
As you would expect from a movie of this sort, the racing scenes are tense and breathtaking, with a real sense of peril as Miles and the competing drivers face off against one another on the road towards victory. However, it is equally gripping off the track, largely thanks to the two actors in the lead who are the real heart of this exciting but emotionally heart-wrenching movie.
Little Women (1994)
You might be surprised to find this within the list of Christian Bale movies as there are many others that we could have chosen. Vice, The Big Short, and American Hustle may seem more deserving of a place, but in a list that is bereft of movies that are funny, romantic, and delightfully charming, Little Women should get a mention.
As you can probably tell from the title, this isn’t a movie where Bale takes centre stage. This one is all about the women as you will already know if you are familiar with Louisa May Alcott’s 19th-century novel and the other adaptations of her work. The focus is on the close-knit March sisters and their attempts to find both love and their place in the world.
Bale stars as Laurie, a young man who is particularly close to one of the sisters but who ends up marrying another, and he gives a beautifully tender performance in this early role.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
This remake of the 1957 film (which was based on a novel by Elmore Leonard), stars Russell Crowe as a notorious outlaw who is captured in a small town and then put under the watchful eye of a small-time rancher (Bale) who is hired to escort him on a 3-day journey to a railway station where he will be put on the next train to Yuma.
As expected, the journey is not one without incident as the rancher and his men have to contend with the outlaw’s gang who try to set him free, as well as railroad workers who want to dispense their own form of justice. Bale impresses as Dan Evans, the man who shows tremendous courage when up against almost impossible odds, and Crowe is as reliably good as always as the outlaw who becomes less of a villain as the movie goes on.
Exodus: Gods And Kings (2004)
Ridley Scott’s biblical epic about Moses, the man who delivered God’s people out of Egypt, is often awe-inspiring to behold and it is far more faithful to the original Old Testament story than the same year’s Noah which bizarrely integrated rock monsters into the tale!
Thankfully, Moses doesn’t have to battle something that looks like they have walked off the pages of a Lord Of The Rings novel as his journey of faith contains all of the moments we are familiar with, including the release of the Israelites from the wicked Pharaoh, the 10 plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea.
Bale’s casting caused a few eyebrows to rise, not because of the quality of his talents but because he was a white actor portraying a part that should have gone to a person of colour. He still manages to convince as the painfully flawed leader, however, and gives a grounded performance that isn’t overshadowed by the surrounding spectacle.
The Prestige (2006)
A year after Bale donned the Bat-suit for Christopher Nolan, he worked with the director again, this time as stage magician Alfred Borden. He gives an outstanding performance as the man who dares to go up against rival magician Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and he even learned a few magic tricks in preparation for his role.
This twisty and mischievous tale is a dark and wondrous delight with a final reveal that you probably won’t expect unless you have seen the movie before. Nolan manipulates the viewer as any good magician should, asking us to “watch closely,” but distracting us from the clues that we should be looking for.
The Machinist (2004)
Not many actors would go to the lengths that Bale did for his starring role in this challenging mood piece. He allegedly went from 173 pounds in weight to about 110 pounds in weight to portray the sleep-deprived machinist of the title. As Trevor Reznik, the literal shell of a man who is tormented by paranoia-soaked delusions, Bale gives a very convincing turn.
It’s not always easy to watch him on screen due to his emaciated condition but he can be commended for showing a dedication to his craft.
Trevor is detached from reality which is probably why director Brad Anderson decided to match his psyche with the movie’s tone, which is quite dream-like in nature. It’s a disturbing piece and is possibly the strangest movie Bale has acted in to date, but because of his performance and the mysteries surrounding his character, it manages to be compelling even though it is outwardly off-putting.
American Psycho (2000)
Mary Harron’s film divided audiences upon its release. Some considered it sick and pretentious while others praised it for its satirical study of toxic masculinity. But despite the mixed critical response, Bale’s performance as the twisted Patrick Bateman can’t be faulted. As the drug-addled investment banker who leads a double life as a serial killer, he gives a captivating turn; smug and charming one moment and deliriously insane the next.
The movie’s ending is frustratingly ambiguous and the violent acts that are committed during the run-time will upset some. But if you can excuse the more difficult aspects of American Psycho, you may be able to appreciate the dark humour, the underlying themes of greed and vanity, and Bale’s unhinged turn as the smiling psychopath.
The Dark Knight (2008)
After Joel Schumacher’s brightly coloured cheese-fest Batman And Robin failed to impress critics, the world wasn’t exactly ready for another Batman movie. Thankfully, Christopher Nolan came along to renew our faith in the Caped Crusader as in Batman Begins, he gave us a movie that was far darker, more serious, and a great deal better than Schumacher’s pun-laden disaster.
Nolan’s follow-up movie, The Dark Knight, is arguably the best of his movie trilogy. Bale fits comfortably into the Bat-suit for the second time and he manages to impress, even though Health Ledger often steals the movie with his menacing turn as the Joker. The movie is darkly funny one moment and breathtakingly exciting the next, with many memorable set pieces, not least the explosive hospital scene where an actual building was blown up for real.
Is Bale the best Batman ever to grace the screen? Quite possibly yes and it’s just a shame that a fourth movie was never released.
And there we have it, our picks for our 10 favourite Christian Bale movies!
What do you think of our list? Have we included your favourites? Or have we missed any must-watch movies? We love to hear from you so do feel free to let us know in the comments below!