Source: DC Comics
Source: DC Comics

Let’s Settle This: Who Is the Best Live-Action Robin?

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Robin has been portrayed on-screen by only a handful of actors, but who has been the best so far?

Superhero fans have seen many an iteration of Batman but his sidekick, Robin, hasn’t had that many appearances on the big or small screen.

Of the Robins that have been featured on film and television, not all performances have been true to the character, though they work well within their own property.

We look at the live-action Robins who have appeared on-screen so far to decide which one is the best.

Douglas Croft

The first-ever live-action Robin is one not many would have heard of—Douglas Croft was the first and only teenager to portray the teen hero way back in 1943.

The Batman serial is unwatchable now, and it’s a surprise it even aired at the time with such offensive portrayals, but Croft’s Robin wasn’t half-bad in it.

Competent in a fight and often Batman’s rescuer rather than the other way around, this version of Robin did have one major flaw—he got distracted too easily, letting the bad guys kidnap at will. Not what one would expect from a hero like Robin.

Grade: 2 out of 7 Robins

Johnny Duncan

Duncan is not a familiar name to superhero fans, unless they’ve really done their digging. Portraying Dick Grayson and Robin in a 1949 serial, Duncan’s version of the iconic sidekick had little to do but play lookout for Batman.

Despite being a superhero in his own right, this iteration reduced Robin to a Watson-esque character to an uber-smart Batman. Robin fans would be disappointed with this instalment.

Grade: 1 out of 7 Robins

Burt Ward

Burt Ward as Robin. Source: TV Insider

The Robin to launch all Robins, Burt Ward’s portrayal in the 1960s Batman TV show is so iconic, that he continues to rank number one on many best Robin lists and even appeared in a cameo in the Arrowverse’s ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’.

Ward’s Robin certainly looked like he stepped right out of the comics and he had tons of personality. Smart, kind, funny, often impulsive, and always eager to learn, Ward’s Robin gave viewers plenty to enjoy.

Though this Robin was generally good in a fight, he did sometimes find himself needing rescuing and never quite pushed for leadership, which put the burden of saving the city on Batman’s shoulders.

Grade: 3 out of 7 Robins

Chris O’Donnell

Chris O’Donnell as Robin, with George Clooney’s Batman. Source: NME

The first Robin to appear on-screen some 30 years after Ward, O’Donnell cemented himself as a heartthrob for comic fans, despite the prominent Robin-nipples on his suit (or maybe because of them?).

O’Donnell’s Robin was closer to modern comic iterations of the character, dealing with the tragic loss of his family and donning the Robin mantle to avenge his family. This Robin already had some serious skills, which made him a worthy ally to Batman.

Personality-wise, O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson didn’t have much opportunity to grow. He was introduced in Batman Forever as a willful, angry young man bent on revenge. By the time Batman and Robin happened, the character had metamorphosed into a whiny man-child who easily fell under Poison Ivy’s sway. That was the least of the film’s problems.

Despite the abrupt end to his arc, O’Donnell lived in our collective consciences as one of the most memorable Robins for a long time.

Grade: 4 out of 7 Robins

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt-TDKR-IMDB
Joseph Gordon-Levitt-as John Blake. Source: IMDB

In The Dark Knight Rises,Joseph Gordon-Levitt played a character who was Robin in every way—except for his name, which was John Blake. Most people associated with the Nolan trilogy refused to have Robin in the films which led to the creation of Blake—an amalgamation of all the Robins from the comics rolled into one.

Even without the obvious comics references, Gordon-Levitt’s Blake embodied the characteristics that make fans love Robin.

He was an excellent detective—and figured out Batman’s identity on his own—as well as being fearlessly protective of his city and those he cared about.

Blake knew when to step back and take care of the citizens, and when to run into a fight, making him an excellent ally for Batman. And though he did need rescuing, he was generally capable of taking care of thing himself. A pretty solid Robin, we would say.

Grade: 6 out of 7 Robins

Brenton Thwaites

Brenton Thwaites_Robin_Titans_IMDB
Brenton Thwaites as Robin. Source: IMDB

Following Gordon-Levitt’s faux-Robin, it seemed like fans were never going to see another Robin on-screen until the announcement of DC Universe’s Titans,which would be led by none other than Dick Grayson, aka Robin.

Brenton Thwaites had won the role but from the first trailer onwards, fans knew that this was not the Robin they had grown up with.

The foul-mouthed, angry, bloodthirsty Robin in Titans is not only R-rated but a far-cry from the lovable dork of the 60s, or the polished, upstanding John Blake.

But Thwaites has made the character his own—taking Dick through the turmoil of knowing that Bruce Wayne wasn’t always right, dealing with his own deadly actions, and coming out at the other end realising that he is more than just Robin.

By the end of the second season, Titans gave fans their first ever live-action Nightwing and Thwaites seemed to relish every moment in the blue and black suit.

This may not be the Robin we know and love—Thwaites’ Robin makes a lot of mistakes and puts people in jeopardy—but Titans is giving the character room to grow. Not perfect, but human, and an excellent vessel for giving the world Nightwing.

Grade: 5 out of 7 Robins

Curran Walters

Curran Walters_Robin_Titans_IMDB
Curran Walters and Robin 2.0. Source: IMDB

Not all Robins are Dick Grayson, and Titans gave fans what they’ve been asking for for years—a live-action Jason Todd/ Robin.

Unlike the boy-scout Dick Grayson, Jason Todd is not a wholesome Robin. He literally got his job when Batman caught him stealing the batmobile’s tires (Jason almost succeeded).

We can all imagine loving being Robin but Jason Todd loves it a bit too much—especially the getting into fights part.

Partway through season two, that really comes back to bite Todd when he is thrown off a building by Deathstroke. Todd is rescued by Superboy but not all pain is physical—he suffers a psychological break and needs his fellow Robin, Dick, to come to his rescue.

In terms of personality, Walters’ Robin is wild, angry, dangerous, and emotionally unstable. He fits his comic book persona brilliantly and is already edging his way to becoming Todd’s future alter-ego, Red Hood.

It will be interesting to see how Walters’ Robin grows in upcoming seasons of the show—because, thus far, he’s doing a great job of bringing Robin 2.0 to life.

Grade: 7 out of 7 Robins

Who is your favourite Robin from the live-action versions thus far? Let us know in the comments.

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