best film:  Three options here for Christian Bale’s best film: American Psycho, The New World, and The Dark Knight (and Rises is not far back). It is Terrence Malick’s film that reigns supreme. Though perhaps not quite as dogmatically rigid as Days of Heaven with the natural lighting and magic hour photography – The New World (complete with Emmanuel Lubezki on board as director of photography) measures up with just about any other film ever shot. The exterior location shooting (largely in Virginia, but certainly in England as well as the story dictates) is as much (if not more so) of a character as Colin Farrell’s John Smith, Q’orianka Kilcher’s Pocahontas, or Bale’s John Rolfe. Bale does not arrive until the 120-minute mark in the director’s cut version. Bale’s Role is kind, patient, a man of virtue. This love triable feels similar to Days of Heaven. Bale does not give one of the best performances in the film (Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher) but without Bale the second half of the film does not work as well – his John Rolfe is warm, and their relationship is complex. He is so sensitive and kind that it really moves the sympathies of the viewer. The Dark Knight is a right there near The New World in quality and American Psycho is both a moral horror film and a black comedy masterstroke.


best performance:  American Psycho is a sensational film where the lead actor (Christian Bale of course) is not just along for the ride, but behind the wheel. The writing is razor sharp, but it does not work without Bale’s tour-de-force work here at Patrick Bateman. Bale’s intensity makes for a fantastic obsessive character but really it is his comedic talent that is on full display here (a trend in his best performances). He would touch on this character again when he is faking smugness as Bruce Wayne later in the Batman trilogy with Christopher Nolan.


26-year-old Christian Bale gives a transcendent performance as Bateman. Leonardo DiCaprio was rumored for years during the film’s preproduction, but thank God (with no offense to Leo) Bale eventually landed the role. Bale’s combined work with David O. Russell (The Fighter, American Hustle) may trump American Psycho, but, this is still Bale’s single greatest performance. He is side splittingly funny one minute and manic the next – screaming Nancy Reagan’s 1980s anti-drug mantra “JUST SAY NO!” Bale is given the hypnotic musician monologues (Huey Lewis, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston—the cost getting the music for the film took up much of the film’s budget) and one of the great phone booth scenes (that frazzled comic cry/laugh).


stylistic innovations/traits:  Christian Bale, like many on this list, started as a successful child actor. He beat out hundreds of others earning the coveted lead in a Steven Spielberg film (Empire of the Sun) at the age of thirteen (13). He gives one of the best child performances in cinema history in the film. Bale was sort of an indie film god in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Bale really starts his argument to be one of the best actors of his generation during the early 2000s but had not quite got the notoriety yet (all four of his Oscar nominations are in the 2010s).  Batman Begins in 2005 made him a big star and paired him for the first time with Christopher Nolan. His collaborations with David O. Russell have been important as well (two nominations, one win, and two of his best three performances). Bale has gone the Robert De Niro weight change route for films – losing it in films (The Machinist, Rescue Dawn, The Fighter) and putting it on in others (American Hustle, Vice).


from American Hustle – in a longer take – the film opens on Christian Bale’s bad hair and big gut. Bale is one of the greatest actors of his generation and this is certainly one of his best performances. He apparently gained over forty (40) pounds for the role (going the other way from his previous collaboration with David O. Russell where he lost a bunch for The Fighter in 2010). Russell starts with Bale’s voice over. There are three needle drop songs in the first eight minutes (Duke Ellington’s “Jeep’s Blues” is an important part of the text).


directors worked with: Christopher Nolan (4), David O. Russell (3), Todd Haynes (2), Terrence Malick (2), James Mangold (2), Scott Cooper (2), Adam McKay (2), Steven Spielberg (1), Jane Campion (1), Werner Herzog (1), Michael Mann (1)


Bale’s work gets better and better in the Batman trilogy with Christopher Nolan – in The Dark Knight Rises (pictured here)  Bale excels as both the prisoner and the Howard Hughes type billionaire recluse in the beginning of the film.


top five performances:

  1. American Psycho
  2. The Fighter
  3. American Hustle
  4. The Big Short
  5. The Dark Knight Rises


Bale’s Oscar win as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter (2010). Bale has long a proud career ranging over decades already – but this stretch with The Dark Knight (2008), The Fighter, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and American Hustle (2013) all in a six (6) year span – two (2) films with Nolan and two (2) with David O. Russell feels particularly special.


archiveable films

1987- Empire of the Sun
1989- Henry V
1994- Little Women
1996- Portrait of a Lady
1998- Velvet Goldmine
2000- American Psycho
2005- Batman Begins
2005- The New World
2006- Rescue Dawn
2006- The Prestige
2007- 3:10 To Yuma
2007- I’m Not There
2008- The Dark Knight
2009- Public Enemies
2010- The Fighter
2012- The Dark Knight Rises
2013- American Hustle
2013- Out of the Furnace
2015- Knight of Cups
2015- The Big Short
2018- Vice
2019- Ford v. Ferrari
2022- Amsterdam
2022- The Pale Blue Eye