Batman may be one of the most famous comic book characters ever created. With his dark origin story, brooding demeanor and a slew of high-tech gadgetry, Batman has been played by several talented actors across many movies throughout the years. He made his television debut in 1966, and the bat has been a mainstay in modern pop culture ever since. Of course, with Batman comes his many allies, enemies and associates — including the world’s most capable butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
Originally a more muted character, Alfred has skyrocketed into the spotlight as a sleeper hit character. Intelligent, posh, and a little cheeky, he’s the grounding force and voice of reason that balances Bruce’s intense personality. Just like Batman himself, Alfred has been reimagined over the years, and each interpretation brings something fresh to the table. If you’re still waiting to see Matt Reeves’ The Batman in theaters, we can tide you over in the meantime. Check out our ranking of every actor to step into the perfectly polished shoes of Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth, ranked.
7 Eric Wilton in Batman and Robin (1949)
The biggest problem with Eric Wilton’s portrayal of Alfred is that his character doesn’t play a major role in the film; his appearances mostly involve phoning Bruce in the Batcave, looking out the window for the Bat Signal, and letting people into the Wayne household. Otherwise, we sadly don’t get to see much of him in the movie. What we do see is the most professional version of Alfred, as he’s constantly moving around the house and giving the impression that he’s busy and passionate about his job. He comes off as very distant from Bruce, but they have their moments together. Though they’re not very close, Alfred’s head is always on a swivel, and he’s prompt to alert Batman and Robin when anything happens. This is a prime example of the director wasting his character, but Wilton did his best with the source material, and it’s very much appreciated.
6 William Austin in Batman (1943)
Stepping away from the intelligent, fatherly versions of Alfred is William Austin’s naive take on the Wayne family’s lifelong butler. He’s a little over the top and silly, but he’s a joy to watch and one of the funniest portrayals of Alfred to date. Though charming and enthusiastic about Batman’s work, he makes it abundantly clear that Bruce Wayne is his superior. This is more of a classic hero-and-servant type of relationship, and seeing such an important character reduced to the butt of practical jokes and swift dismissal is disappointing. That said, Austin made it work, and he gives us a quintessential ‘kindly old man’-type of character: shy, but endearing and eager to support. Interestingly enough, he’s the one leading the car chase scenes throughout the film, which suggests that this timid butler is secretly a fantastic stunt driver.
5 Douglas Hodge in Joker (2019)
We don’t see much of Alfred in Joker, but Douglas Hodge does know how to make an impact. This is a younger spin on Alfred, and seeing him with Bruce as a child emphasizes how important he is as a caretaker. Right off the bat, he’s highly protective and quick to put himself between Master Wayne and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. He’s harsh and unafraid, and his demeanor is unforgiving to anyone who interferes with the Wayne family. This is one of the few versions of Alfred to be physically assaulted by the Joker, who chokes him out through the iron bars of a gate; while he doesn’t put up much of a fight, he’s still on his feet when all is said and done. Hodge’s Alfred isn’t as memorable as the other entries in this list, but he did a great job with what little screen time he had.
4 Andy Serkis in The Batman (2022)
It’s amazing to see Andy Serkis bring Alfred to life, and his take doesn’t come off as fatherly as the others. He’s much younger here, and his military background comes through in his serious, straightforward demeanor — Alfred openly argues with Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne, and he’s not afraid to give him a harsh wake-up call when needed. Surprisingly imposing, he seems like a stronger, more readily involved version of the butler. He strives to get right in the thick of the action, and Serkis does a beautiful job of balancing tension and cooperation with Pattinson’s character. The changes he brings are very welcome, and he gives us a fresh look at a beloved character while staying true to the source material. Plus, his accent is nearly on par with that of Michael Caine, and it’s a treat to listen to.
3 Michael Gough in Batman (1989)
One of the best things about Michael Gough‘s portrayal of Alfred is his chemistry with the three different Batmen he worked with. Where their characters were constantly weighed down by heroic exploits and the pervasive darkness in Gotham, Gough is a warm foil that balances them out and keeps them on the straight and narrow. His attitude suggests that he’s judgmental and disapproving at first, but his actions always show that he cares for Bruce. This Alfred understands him even when he’s not communicating clearly, and he isn’t afraid to ask the big questions and challenge Batman. The two are comfortable sitting down and talking together, and he offers much-needed advice and comfort. Gough is a little sassy, and it adds the right amount of sharpness to his otherwise very reserved character.
2 Michael Caine in The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012)
More like a father to Bruce than a simple servant, Michael Caine attacks the role of Alfred with wit and love. He’s highly outspoken and understands the world and its villains, and he’s swift to speak up when Christian Bale’s Bruce talks down to him. The two spend a lot of time deliberating on the state of Gotham and its many criminals, and Alfred shows an impressively thorough knowledge of Batman’s enemies. Their open line of communication and straightforwardness make this relationship come off as an almost father-son duo, which is very appropriate given Alfred’s presence in Bruce’s life since the day he was born. In fact, this Alfred loves Bruce so much he’s willing to risk severing their relationship just to keep him alive; we see him choke up when he reminds Bruce that he first heard his cries echoing through the house, and it’s enough to break your heart every time you see it.
1 Jeremy Irons in Justice League and Batman v. Superman (2016-2017)
The legendary Jeremy Irons brings a fantastic new twist to Alfred’s character. Irons shows us a young, spirited butler, and he seems more like Batman’s equal in this film. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne actually serves him a cup of coffee in Batman v. Superman, and Alfred actively works on devices and technology to support the cause. Bruce depends heavily on Alfred, and his deep involvement with Batman’s campaign for justice shows the level of trust between these characters. Most notably, this Alfred goes the extra mile to separate the ideas of Bruce Wayne and Batman, making it very clear that Bruce is more than enough without the suit. He’s straightforward, no-nonsense and his brutal honesty serves as both a great form of sarcasm and a means of expressing his concern for Bruce and all of Gotham.