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We look at the dark and intense roles in his body of work

Shaun Harrison
1 of 12 Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection


Empire of the Sun (1987)A young Bale won much praise as Jamie/Jim Graham, an English boy who struggles to survive at an internment camp after being separated from his parents when the Japanese occupied Shanghai following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
2 of 12 Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection


Velvet Goldmine (1998)As British journalist Arthur Stewart, Bale revisits the glam-rock scene of the 1970s as he traces the mysterious disappearance of Brian Slade  (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) for an article he's writing.
3 of 12 Lions Gate/courtesy Everett Collection


American Psycho (2000)Bale's  turn as unhinged yuppie investment banker Patrick Bateman earned him and the movie a cult following. His murderous misdeeds and mental breakdown also brought more attention  to his acting "chops."
4 of 12 New Line/courtsey Everett Collection


Reign of Fire (2002)In this sci-fi flick, Bale plays Quinn Abercromby, who survived a dragon attack as a boy, and helps Matthew McConaughey's Denton Van Zan fight against the beast when it returns.
5 of 12 Paramount Classics


The Machinist (2004)To play the eerily thin insominac Trevor Reznik, Bale dropped 60 pounds - and he had to maintain his 120-pound frame over a delayed shooting schedule. He did so on a reported diet of an apple and a cup of coffee a day.
6 of 12 New Line/courtesy Everett Collection


The New World (2005)Bale plays John Rolfe, an English settler who falls in love with Pocohontas and becomes entrenched in a love triangle between her and Captain John Smith.
7 of 12 Warner Bros.


Batman Begins (2005) Bale rejuvenated the Batman franchise in Christopher Nolan's origin story for the superhero. Bale brought charisma to billionare Bruce Wayne and brought intensity to the brooding Batman that had been lost in other film adaptations.
8 of 12 MGM


Harsh Times (2006)In this gritty crime drama, Bale plays an ex-Army Ranger suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who, after failing to be hired by  the L.A.P.D., resorts to selling drugs and guns on the streets.
9 of 12 MGM/courtesy Everett Collection


Rescue Dawn (2007)Again dropping weight to play a captured U.S. pilot whose plane crashed in Laos during the Vietnam War era, Bale reportedly ate maggots and suffered a snakebite while filming. His escape was both difficult to watch and inspiring.
10 of 12 Weinstein Company


I'm Not There (2007)Bale gave us his best Bob Dylan, playing two different parts in the representation of the artist's life. Bale plays Jack Rollins, a folkie protest singer and Pastor John, a "born again" Christian version of Dylan.
11 of 12 Warner Bros.


The Dark Knight (2008)Bale returned to the batcave in this record-breaking epic film that's more psychological crime thriller than comic-book movie. Bale's Batman was even darker and more conflicted as he battled the pure evil of Heath Ledger's Joker.
12 of 12 Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection


Terminator Salvation (2009)After rebooting the Batman franchise, Bale's taking on the role of John Connor in a much-anticipated fourth installment in the Terminator series. He leads the war against Skynet after it's destroyed much of humanity.