‘The Dark Knight’ Trilogy (2005-2012)
Christian Bale gave audiences a brooding billionaire Bruce Wayne and his buff alter ego in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. It was a breath of fresh air following four campy takes on the Caped Crusader, with Bale’s complex performance giving gravitas to the comic-book hero and reinvigorating the genre.
‘American Hustle’ (2013)
The potbelly is 100 per cent Bale, who once again proved physical transformations are no challenge for him in his portrayal of slick, suave, and comb-over-wearing Irving Rosenfeld. It's Bale's chemistry with frequent co-star Amy Adams and his natural comic timing that make this one of the actor’s best roles and earned him an Oscar nomination.
‘Empire Of The Sun’ (1987)
Steven Spielberg saw 13-year-old Bale’s potential when he cast him in his first major role as a spoiled British schoolboy struggling to survive under Japanese-occupied Shanghai in “Empire Of The Sun”. A coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of war, Bale earned the Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor from the National Board Of Review, the organization's first award to ever be bestowed on a child actor.
‘The Fighter’ (2010)
Bale took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as real-life former boxer and addict Dicky Eklund in 2010’s “The Fighter”. With co-star Mark Wahlberg giving a more low-key performance as his boxer brother, Bale grabs the spotlight and runs with it as the scene-stealing Dicky, giving a performance unlike anything that has come before – or since – in his career.
‘The Prestige’ (2006)
Full of twists and turns, Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige” is a period thriller with Bale pulling a sleight of hand with his performance. The film’s big twist leaves audiences agape, revealing an even more masterful performance by the actor, as all the subtle hints and clues finally drop into place, showing that he’s a master of control and minutiae.
‘Rescue Dawn’ (2006)
Another for which Bale transformed his physique, this role is often overlooked when considering the actor's filmography. Dropping nearly 65 pounds to play Dieter Dengler, a real-life Laotian P.O.W. camp survivor, Bale is intense as a man who refuses to give up the hope of escape. It’s as much a mentally demanding performance as it is a physical one.
Only director Adam McKay would look at the then-44-year-old Bale and see former vice-president Dick Cheney. While the film earned mixed reviews, there’s no denying that when watching Bale’s Oscar-nominated performance, the Welsh-born actor completely disappears into the role.
Never forget Christian Bale is a triple threat who can (sort of) sing, dance, and act. A floppy-haired 18-year-old Bale dances on tables and in the streets as a turn-of-the-century newsboy in New York City, rallying his fellow newsies to form a union and strike their way to decent pay in this Disney musical. It’s a fun look back at an actor who’s better known for diving into serious material.
While not one of the best movies of Bale's career, 2002’s futuristic sci-fi “Equilibrium” proved Bale could do action as well as the weighty period dramas he was routinely cast in. The movie about a future society where all emotion is outlawed has earned a cult following since its release in 2002. Bale faces the ultimate acting test of his career in the movie: Try to show zero emotion while looking into the eyes of an adorable puppy.
Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work out so well for the puppies.
‘American Psycho’ (2000)
Buff, bronzed, and out of control, Bale’s Patrick Bateman is the ultimate portrait of yuppie excess in “American Psycho”. A deadly satire that’s not without genuinely horrific moments, the Toronto-filmed movie gave a 26-year-old Bale a platform to showcase his talents as a man who will have you laughing one minute and screaming the next as Bateman literally gets away with murder.