Which Actors Rose in The Dark Knight Rises — And Which Ones Did Not (Hint: One of Them Is French)

Rare is the movie in which every cast member performs at the same level — unless maybe you're talking about the uniformly jaw-dropping performances of everyone in Witless Protection. So, here at Movieline, we'd like to begin a tradition of ranking performances within movies — a sort of intramural Oscars, if you will — and asking you to weigh in with your own.  We'll introduce polling and a catchy title soon enough, but we just had to start with The Dark Knight Rises — a movie in which the performances range from sublime (Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to wince-inducing (Marion Cotillard). See how your favorite — or least favorite — character rates below, and then leave your own ranking in the comments section.

1. Tom Hardy:  Yes, comic-book villains are usually way more interesting than the heroes who inevitably vanquish them, but thanks to a considerable piece of hardware strapped to his face, Hardy had a tougher  acting job than the late Heath Ledger did when he played the Joker.  Okay, the Vader-ish voicebox torqued up the creep factor (and made his dialogue hard to understand at times), but Hardy left his pretty-boy aura in his trailer and gave a performance—essentially using his eyes and body language — that was pure, cold malevolence.  Darth gave us nightmares when we were kids, but it’s Bane who’ll wake us in a cold sweat for years to come.

2. Anne Hathaway: Hathaway's tough, tender — and mouthy — performance as Catwoman erased once and for all the bad taste that lingered in our craw after her loopy Oscars-hosting performance. We knew she could act, but boy does she act in TDKR. And she looks totally hot in her costume, especially while draped over the Batpod.  Spin her off into her own film and she'll make us forget Halle Berry's turn as Catwoman, too

3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt:  Gordon-Levitt made the most of a one-note role. His orphan speech to Bruce Wayne could have been as gloppy as bad macaroni and cheese, but he put some sharp Gruyere into it.  And we won't spoil the picture entirely, but let's just say the boy could carry his own superhero movie.

4. Ben Mendelsohn: Yes, Ben Mendelsohn. Although his onscreen time, as the construction magnate Daggett, is relatively brief, Mendelsohn is memorable — and, judging from the few narcissistic, weasel-thin corporate titans we've met in our travels — extremely realistic. We want to see more of this guy.

5. Michael Caine: We did NOT want to see Alfred cry. But since we had to see Alfred cry, we're glad that Caine got to regulate the waterworks.

6. Christian Bale: Bale is by far the best actor to wear the  bat-cowl onscreen--and we'll always give him extra credit for his performance in Empire of the Sun. But he didn't give us anything new in his third outing as the Caped Crusader. His freak-out on the set of Terminator Salvation was more revealing.

7. Morgan Freeman: Same beef. We've seen Freeman play this role before — and not just in the Batman franchise.

8. Gary Oldman: We're sorry, but we couldn't take our eyes off that damn moustache.  No doubt the talented Oldman was acting his heart out, but while he was doing that, we were imagining cleaning trash-strewn Gotham City streets with his facial hair.

9. Matthew Modine: We were glad to see him playing a substantial role, and he sure does d-bag arrogance well. Maybe too well. We swear we saw him smirking to himself during a few scenes.

10. Marion Cotillard: She made us cry in La Vie en Rose. She made us snicker in TKDR. Without giving away too much, let's just say, we hope you're not swigging from your Hefty can full of soda when you find out her character's true identity.  The same goes for the emoting she does in her final scene, which would have been more at home in the pre-talkies part of The Artist.

We doubt you agree. (Even our own Jen Yamato would put Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the top spot.) So tell us what you think.


  • 1. JGL
    2. Hathaway
    3. Hardy
    The rest of your order I agree with...

    • Gisela Diaz says:

      Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Blake is a self righteouos young policeman whose woodsy performance put me to sleep, I like flawed characters not perfect, preachy ones. I just hope they don't plan to make a series out of his character. It would be Bale's Batman all over again

  • st says:

    i don't understand your view on christian bale's performance. he played according to what the charecter and the script required. revealing oneself does not equal good acting. playing what a charecter requires with accuracy is good acting. the rest is just drawing attention.

    • Frank DiGiacomo says:

      I think you make an interesting point, ST, but I wanted to see more fear and self-doubt after Bane whupped him. Instead I got push-ups.

      • Mike says:

        What I think didn't make sense about Bain is the air tubes around his mouth. You mean all batman had to do was go for the mouth in the first fight and he would have won? WOW, They dumbed down Batman to make Bane look stronger then he really was!!


  • Kari says:

    2. Hathaway
    3. Bale/Hardy -- You can't chastise Bale for being consistently solid.
    4. Caine
    5. Oldman
    Everyone else, including extras. . .
    Then, Cotillard, who was shockingly bad.

  • Please fix your HTML tags.

  • Maud says:

    I agree about Gary Oldman's moustache, it detracts from his acting and his bright eyes. Shave it off Gary.

  • Jake says:

    I generally agree, but I might have put Christian Bale in two categories. As Bruce Wayne, I think he's pretty good. As Batman, he's lame. I know a lot of people complain about his Batman voice, but it really comes across as stupid if he's saying more than a few words. Anything where the Batman is having a conversation, it's so dumb, it's comical. Nothing against Bale himself, that's probably more of a gripe with Nolan's decisions.

    Tom Hardy continues to impress. He's good in everything. I get a young Brando vibe from him. Strong, hulking and brooding with acting chops to boot.

    JGL was good. Hathaway was good.

    Gordon kind of felt like a bumbling fool in this one. Like someone's goofy dad. With some minor tweaks, he could have been the comic relief.

    • Frank DiGiacomo says:

      I agree with you about Oldman as Gordon. His role should be comic relief--like that SNL skit where Batman shows up in his shower and at other inopportune moments.

      • Gisela Diaz says:

        Sorry but Gary Oldman is a very good actor and you guys are judging him because of a prop (a mustache). I think he did a pretty good job and by far he was better than Bale and Hardy. Of course there is so much he can do with a secondary role. I love Commissioner Gordon. Bale's Batman I can do without.

        • Jake says:

          You are right. Gary Oldman IS a very good actor. But so is Sir Ben Kingsley and he's been terrible in a couple of stupid roles that he has taken on. And for the record, my comments have nothing to do with the mustache.

          It's strange but Oldman's Gordon was used very well in TDK. He was more involved and was more than just a police chief hanging out on the roof with a costumed bat man who talks like an idiot. And I liked that. But somewhere along the line in TDKR, he went from involved commissioner to an Al Bundy type in the back of a truck getting slammed around. Maybe it was some of the plot twists that were tough to swallow, but it just felt a little different, that's all. And I didn't really dig that difference.

  • Jake says:

    Oh, and Modine was terrible. Eye rollingly over the top. We get it, you're a douche. Very one dimensional, so when he shows up to fight at the end, you just shrug, thinking, "The cops were probably better off without this idiot showing up."

  • Megan says:

    People, PEOPLE. Commissioner Gordon MUST have the stache. Without the stache, there is no Commisioner Gordon. It rivals that of the great Ned Flanders, and that's something.

  • Frank DiGiacomo says:

    Megan, your Flanders comparison is spine-tingly-dingly!

  • carole says:

    I dont know what kind of "new" you wanted from Christian Bale as Batman...the setting of the movie is taken place years after harvey dent and he feels broken....I think Christian Bale showed a side of Batman that was more human than cocky...The Joker mentally broke him down and i think Christian Bale did a great job showing that. Out of all the people who has played Batman in film Christian Bale has been one of the best next to Michael Keaton.

    Tom Hardy really brought Bane to life, when we first saw Bane in Batman and Robin the character had a small part and was very cartoonish...But Bane is an important villian in the series because he was the one that is the "Bat Breaker". While the Joker did his damage mentally, Bane broke Batman physically. And Hardy did an amazing job to bringing some humor and the "creep" factor to the character. I must say that everytime Bane was shown in the film, my heart would race a little bit because of how creepy he was. Tom Hardy has proven over and over again how much of an amazing actor he is and Christopher Nolan could not had picked a better person to play Bane.

    Anne Hathaway, did a good job at Catwoman i praise her for reviving the role after Halle Barry destroyed it. (sorry Halle but its true you did). But Michelle Phfiefer is by the best catwoman ever.

    Gary Oldman..I love him. He is an amazing actor and there is really nothing you can do to commissoner Gordon because in the the previous films before Nolan took over. Gordon did not really have huge parts. And im glad Nolan in his films gave the Commissoner a huge part and really showed the relationship between Batman and Gordon because it is in fact an important one.

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt. is a great young actor. Without giving anything away for those who have not seen the film, I think Nolan played it right when he picked him for the part.

    Marion Cotillard. All i have to say about her character is....in one particular seen she was really lame in it and i kind of chuckled at it without giving that scene away.

    All in all i think everyone played their characters well couldnt have had such a better cast. But Tom Hardy topped it all with his amazing performance. 🙂

  • Mystic Crone says:

    1.Anne Hathaway
    2. Gary Oldman
    3. Michael Caine
    4. Tom Hardy
    5. Joseph Gordon Levitt

    • Frank DiGiacomo says:

      Would love to read your reasons for putting Oldman so high on your list, Mystic Crone.

  • Sabina Johnzon says:

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt, easily the best thing about the whole movie! 🙂
    Tom Hardy did okey but i had a problem with Banes voice, to much Sean Connery for my taste.
    Oh, and about Marion Cotillard, i couldn't agree more. During her final scene i actually said "this is soo bad", loud. I can't belive it made the final cut!

    • carole says:

      well i was reading one of the interviews that tom hardy did about bane. Actually, he did not want to speak at all in the film, because he said the mask was very challenging to wear. But Nolan wanted him to speak, so he suggested to nolan that he had minimal speaking parts. The reason why his voice turned out to sound like that was because of the mask. So Hardy said that he just mummbled a lot to see what would come out lol. The thing with actors and i have been in acting my whole life. Is that its all in your eyes and face, which is why i think he did awesome in the movie. A good movie to see would be 2008 Bronson then you would see his talents besides Inception.

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  • kitvancleave says:

    Marion Cotillard is an acting genius who hasn't put a foot wrong during a lengthy career. Whatever she does in DKR, she was following the director's lead. as she always does. For those who didn't care for her performance in this film, she will quickly be back in theaters with 4-5 new films THIS YEAR and early next year. Remember that the acting in THE ARTIST was stylistic, and the movie won Best Picture in 2012. And that Cotillard is currently at the top of every film director's casting list. There are reasons for this kind of status.

    • Jake says:

      I'm sorry, but are you suggesting that Marion Cotillard was in The Artist? That was Berenice Bejo. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what you are saying by "and that Cotillard is currently..."

      Or maybe all French women look the same to you.

      • kitvancleave says:

        No, I was not suggesting Cotillard was in THE ARTIST. French women are wonderfully stylish and smart, but they don't all look alike. Read more carefully, my friend.

    • carole says:

      I never said she was not a horrible actress, ive seen several films with her in it and i think she is a good actress shes not the best actress on the top of my list but she is good. I was just saying that in one particular scene that Nolan probably shouldnt have made that a final cut. I want to say the scene but i dont want to give it away for those who have not seen it.

  • Jo D says:

    Loved Christian Bale! Cotillard - I don't know, but for what she was given to play with, I didn't think she was bad. But I did think Oldman was great, too. Michael Caine - well, he was just Michael Caine. And the script is cruel to him for no reason. But script and plot are obviously not, what this film was about. Again - thumbs up to Christian Bale!

  • Izzy says:

    I didn't even know Ben Mendelsohn was in the movie considered the amount of press everyone else did for the movie. Was very glad that he did not disappoint even with his limited role: slimy, bully, threatening and scared for his life in the hands of both Selina and Bane. Was very sad that his part ended so soon.

  • Xin says:

    Marion Cottilard was so-so only in Inception and now her standard just drop to the bottom. Her acting is so bad and wooden. Each time she appear, all i want to do is fast forward the scene. What's with the hookup with Bruce Wayne and Miranda Tate? Was it even necessary?

  • anonymous says:

    I thought Bale was great. I think this was his best performance out of the three movies.

    I thought Oldman was really good too.

    Tom Hardy's Bane was a menacing villian. Not as great as the Joker but I didn't expect him to be.

    I was surprised by how good Hathaway was. I thought she was miscast when I first heard about her playing Catwoman but she was great.

    I haven't seen Marion Cotillard in much but I thought she was fine up until the last scene. That was badly done.

  • K.L. says:

    1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
    Best thing in this movie. The Blake role could've been so one-note and cliche, but JGL brought such charisma and nuance. Genius with the details, too, like the way he shows Blake's realization about where to find Gordon, and later, his reaction to having shot someone. Like you said, sharp Gruyere to what could've been gloppy mac-n-cheese. As much as I enjoyed TDKR, it still felt like another blockbuster action movie--except every time JGL came on and made it real and human.

    2. Michael Caine
    That one tearful scene sealed it. A great performance by a great actor. Too bad he had so little to do, and his motives and actions were so poorly written (esp. that key scene with Bale, totally baffling and inexplicable in terms of character).

    3. Gary Oldman
    Great as always, the scene with Gordon-Levitt where he's defending his past being one example. But he's high on my list simply because--as with JGL and Caine--he was utterly real and engaging. To me that's the bottom line when it comes to good acting. (Whereas Hardy and Hathaway, though good, still came across more as stereotypes than flesh-and-blood people...)

    4. Tom Hardy
    His performance is difficult for me to judge because of the mask and voice effects. The way an actor uses their face and voice are essential aspects of performance, so if I can't see all of an actor's face and expressions, and if an actor's lines are delivered with sound enhancements, then I feel we aren't getting a complete and authentic presentation. This isn't a criticism of Hardy, it's just that I think in creating Bane, Nolan also incidentally created barriers--an element of artifice--that make it impossible to evaluate Hardy's performance fairly and accurately.

    Yes, Hardy was undeniably ominous and threatening, so credit his screen presence and line delivery for that. But how much credit should also go to his mask and the sound effects that amped his voice to about 5,000 decibels above everyone else's?

    5. Anne Hathaway
    When she was playing sexy, sultry, and possibly unbalanced, Hathaway was great. But when she played it straight (especially in the scene where she confronts some guys with grenades(?)), her lines came across really flat. I marveled at her in the beginning, but cringed toward the end. Good, but uneven.

    6. Morgan Freeman
    Like you said, we've seen this role and performance before, in Batman and elsewhere.

    7. Christian Bale
    He's done great work in his career, so I was surprised to find his performance here a little tired and uninspired. And this was as Bruce Wayne. (As Batman, I could hardly understand what he was saying half the time; Bale using such a gravelly voice was a bad choice.) There's a scene in particular with Morgan Freeman where he's venting anger and frustration; I felt like I was seeing and hearing Bale instead of Wayne. And though he did very well in that scene with Michael Caine, overall I felt like I've seen all this before from Bale--maybe even in other movies?--like he's nearly phoning it in.

    Or maybe he's just THAT good at portraying Wayne as burned out. All I know is I didn't find it interesting, moving, or enjoyable to watch. Also, I miss Michael Keaton's humor.

    8. Marion Cotillard
    I loved her in La vie en rose, and liked her in Inception and Midnight in Paris, but here she was a one-note caricature. I don't think Nolan is an actor's director, and his characters aren't that much for actors to work with, but look what JGL did with John Blake. He was stand-out terrific, even though his character, when you think about it, hardly did anything. Yet Cotillard goes from apparent protagonist and lover to stone-cold killer, and somehow the entire performance was utterly boring and uninspired. Miscast?

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  • Christian Bale delivered what he was supposed to deliver. From the beginning of this trilogy his Batman has been driven by anger and the desire to protect Gotham. After that there isn't anywhere for the character to go - he has to keep being angry (and, admittedly, quite 2 dimensional).
    Is Hathaway's Catwoman bisexual? There are suggestions of a 'close' relationship with her fellow thief that remain unanswered.
    Joseph Gordon-Levitt had too much access to stuff that a newly-made detective wouldn't be able to gain access to.
    I can't blame the actors on any level. I blame the writers and the director for creating a film that almost hits the mark, but which is 30 minutes too long and has a few scenes that were repeated unnecessarily.
    Overall I enjoyed it, but you shouldn't blame the actors for any shortcomings. The director has control over whether a scene makes the cut or doesn't.