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Top 10 Christian Bale Performances

VO: Rebecca Brayton
This actor has made a career out of impressing audiences and critics with his deep characters, attention to detail and personal involvement in his characters. Over his long career, he has redefined himself several times, going from child actor in 'Empire of the Sun', to controversial work on 'American Psycho' and becoming 'The Dark Knight'. Join as we count down our top 10 favorite Christian Bale performances.

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Top 10 Christian Bale Performances

Few actors are as intense or committed to their characters as this cinematic shape shifter. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our top 10 favorite Christian Bale performances.

#10 – Jim Graham: “Empire of the Sun” (1987)

Kicking off our list is the role that launched Bale’s career when he was just 12-years-old. The young star-to-be was handpicked by Steven Spielberg from a group of hopefuls to portray a youth who’s abducted by the Japanese and forced to witness wartime horrors. Despite Bale’s inexperience, he gives the coming-of-age role an authenticity that transcended his years, making this one of the greatest child performances ever filmed.

#9 – John Preston: “Equilibrium” (2002)

Bale takes the dystopian future to terrifying new levels as an elite government official who enforces a ban on emotion, music and art. But, he secretly opposes the injunction, and behind closed doors he dares to feel and becomes a “sense offender” in the process. Sure, it’s not the finest sci-fi flick ever, but Bale brings his trademark dedication and intensity, while also showing off his action star potential.

#8 – Jim Davis: “Harsh Times” (2005)

As a former U.S. Army Ranger who’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Bale lures us into this dramatic tale by taking his character down a dark path filled with crime. And, even as an unlikeable, mentally unstable man who’s drowning his sorrows, he is truly compelling. Also, major points for nailing the American accent, military terminology and Mexican lingo.

#7 – Dan Evans: “3:10 to Yuma” (2007)

In this remake of the 1957 classic, Bale portrays a Civil War vet who’s become an impoverished farmer. Down on his luck and desperate to take care of his family, he accepts the task of delivering a gang leader to a prison train. Bale turns in a mesmerizing performance, filled with depth, complexity and perseverance, making him a Western hero we truly feel for.

#6 – Alfred Borden: “The Prestige” (2006)

This is the most magical role of Bale’s career – literally. As a working-class magician who’s caught in a rivalry with Hugh Jackman, Bale shows us just how obsessed, jealous, understated and deceitful he can be. Without giving too much away, we think his character can best be summed up by the word “sacrifice.” But unfortunately, this role was, and still is, criminally underrated.

#5 – Dieter Dengler: “Rescue Dawn” (2006)

Bale plays a U.S. Navy pilot who is captured during the Vietnam War in this tale of survival. His depiction of this real life character is nothing short of amazing – and, by all accounts, physically harrowing: Bale was so committed to realism he performed his own stunts, and ate real maggots and worms. That’s one actor who earned his paycheck.

#4 – Bruce Wayne/Batman: “The Dark Knight Trilogy” (2005-2012)

With help from Christopher Nolan, Bale revived this franchise by painting Batman as a dark, complex and conflicted hero. Taking the character in new directions, Bale makes his Bruce Wayne a lonely, private, sad, child-like man who puts on a façade in more ways than one, and his Batman a conduit for rage with a sense of injustice and one unmistakable voice…

#3 – Dicky Eklund: “The Fighter” (2010)

By portraying an overbearing figure who’s contending with substance abuse, Bale helps tell the tale of a real-life boxer-turned-trainer as the loyal brother to Marky Mark’s Micky Ward. In preparation, Bale not only lost weight, but also studied the real-life Eklund’s mannerisms and accent, and tried to gain an understanding of how the man’s mind worked. For all his hard work, he was awarded a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

#2 – Trevor Reznik: “The Machinist” (2004)

It takes a special kind of commitment and sacrifice for an actor to willingly take on a skeletal appearance. By losing a terrifying 63-pounds on a diet of one apple and one can of tuna per day, Bale transforms into the paranoid man who’s been plagued by insomnia for a year. With this role, Bale can earn your respect with nothing more than a tormented glance in the mirror.

#1 – Patrick Bateman: “American Psycho” (2000)

Taking the top spot on our list is Bale’s cult hit performance as a well-groomed, serial-killing businessman. Without a doubt, this film made him the star he is today because it showcases his talent and range: he continuously hits different notes, bouncing from creepy, to insane, to terrifying, relatable and even funny. It’s easy to see why many consider this the actor’s greatest cinematic achievement.

Do you agree with our list? Which Christian Bale performance is your favorite? For more great top 10s, be sure to subscribe to

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