5 Best Movies of Christian Bale You Must Watch That Excludes The Dark Knight Trilogy

British actor Christian Bale is perhaps best-known for his role as Bruce Wayne, AKA Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy, but he's been in many other great movies as well.

5 Best Movies of Christian Bale You Must Watch That Excludes The Dark Knight Trilogy


  • English star Christian Bale appeared as Batman in Christopher Nolan's iconic Dark Knight trilogy, but he's appeared in many other great films.
  • A highly committed actor, some of Bale's roles have seen him undergo drastic transformations and many awards (including an Oscar).
  • His best five non-Batman movies include critically-acclaimed productions like The Fighter and American Hustle.
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English actor Christian Bale is one of Hollywood’s finest talents. The star is perhaps most famous for his eponymous role in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, where he played Bruce Wayne, AKA Batman, from 2005 until 2005.


Bale’s other memorable credits include 1987’s Empire of the Sun, 1995’s Pocahontas, 2000’s American Psycho, 2006’s The Prestige, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma, 2009’s Terminator Salvation, 2019’s Ford v Ferrari, and 2022’s Thor: Love and Thunder.

However, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises aside, these are his five best movies ranked.


5. The Machinist (2004)

Christian Bale in The Machinist
Christian Bale in The Machinist.

The psychological thriller The Machinist was a tragically under-watched movie when it was first released, but it has since obtained cult status – rightly so. Christian Bale plays the eponymous factory worker, Trevor Reznik, who endures paranoia and hallucinations after being unable to sleep for an entire year.

Reznik’s condition also renders him emaciated, and Bale’s commitment to the role saw him lose 27 kilograms (around 60 lbs), which was about 1/3 of his weight. He survived on a diet of cigarettes and coffee, putting himself at significant risk in the name of art. The Machinist is a dark film with a drab color palette and not one that will put viewers in a good mood, but it’s undeniably brilliant, and Bale is superb.

4. Little Women (1994)

Christian Bale in Little Women
Christian Bale in Little Women.

Little Women is the movie on this list in which Christian Bale had the most minor role, but he still played an integral part in making it so good. Based on Louisa May Alcott’s 1868-69 two-volume novel of the same name, this coming-of-age historical drama tells the story of the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy – as they live and grow up in post-Civil War America.


The fifth of seven feature film adaptations of the novel, it’s one of the finest. Bale suavely plays Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, the March family’s neighbor and Jo March’s childhood best friend who tries to marry her when they become adults. Little Women is a timeless tale that’s intelligent, heartwarming, and brilliantly acted by its all-star cast.

3. Rescue Dawn (2006)

Christian Bale is Rescue Dawn
Christian Bale is Rescue Dawn.

It’s hard to believe Rescue Dawn isn’t more well-known because it’s a tremendous film. The epic war drama is based on an adapted screenplay written from Werner Herzog’s 1997 documentary film Little Dieter Needs to Fly. It tells the true story of the German-American fighter pilot Dieter Dengler, who was shot down over Laos and captured by villagers sympathetic to the Pathet Lao – otherwise known as the Lao People’s Liberation Army – during the Vietnam War.

Christian Bale plays Dengler and is terrific, completely immersing himself in the complex role. Rescue Dawn is powerful, suspenseful, chilling, and unforgiving in an aesthetically stunning lush jungle setting. Bale himself believes it may be his best work.


2. The Fighter (2010)

Christian Bale in The Fighter
Christian Bale in The Fighter.

Biographical sports drama The Fighter tells the story of American boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his older half-brother, trainer, and former boxer Dicky Eklund. Christian Bale perfectly plays the quirky and eccentric Eklund, giving an intricately detailed performance that earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – his only Oscar win from four nominations.

He beat Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Geoffrey Rush, and John Hawkes to the award. Mark Wahlberg’s performance as Ward and Amy Adams’ performance as his wife, Charlene Fleming, round off a trio of superb acting masterclasses in The Fighter. This gritty, rousing, thoroughly entertaining movie is among the finest boxing films ever.

1. American Hustle (2013)

Christian Bale in American Hustle
Christian Bale in American Hustle.

The best non-Dark Knight movie Christian Bale has ever starred in is undoubtedly American Hustle. The black comedy crime movie is inspired by the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which led to the convictions of seven United States Congress members and several other individuals for bribery and corruption. Bale plays Irving Rosenfeld (based on Mel Weinberg), a con artist forced by an FBI agent to orchestrate an elaborate sting operation on corrupt politicians.


As is expected of him, he throws himself into the role. He gives a stunning performance that earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor (American Hustle received ten nominations but bizarrely won none). The film’s A-list cast – including Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence – is all in top form, making for a funny, energetic, and exhilarating viewing experience and a fantastic character study.


Written by Kevin Stewart

Articles Published: 77

Kevin Stewart is a full-time professional freelance writer and editor with 10 years of experience in the industry. He's produced more than 2000 pieces of published work on sports and entertainment topics - work that includes listicles, news articles, feature articles, voice-over scripts, quizzes, opinion pieces, and more. He's worked for the likes of NBC SYFY, Paste Magazine, FourFourTwo, Screen Rant, Digital Spy, CBR, WhatCulture, College Humor, The Richest, SportsKeeda, The Sportsman, and SugarScape. As an editor, he's managed the work of teams of up to 45 writers. He's a former business owner who's educated to degree level and has a BA Hons in Business Management. He loves movies (especially horror, 80s films, and superhero flicks), football (Tottenham Hotspur fan), keeping fit, and travelling the world.