Christian Charles Philip Bale was born on January 30, 1974, in the UK. His mother, Jenny James, was a circus performer, while his father, David Bale, was an entrepreneur and activist. Bale moved around a lot in Europe, having lived in 15 towns by the time he was 15. The English actor described the family’s nomadic lifestyle as being driven by “necessity rather than choice” and noted that it had a major influence on his career selection. He left school at 16 and moved with his older sister Louise and their father to Los Angeles after his parents’ divorce.

Bale’s Acting Career

Bale trained in ballet as a child, but his first paid gig was at eight years old in a commercial for fabric softener. He also appeared in a Pac-Man cereal commercial. After his sister was cast in a West End musical, Bale considered taking up acting professionally. He said later he did not find acting appealing but pursued it at the request of those around him because he had no reason not to do so. After participating in school plays, Bale performed opposite Rowan Atkinson in the play The Nerd in the West End in 1984. He did not undergo any formal acting training. Bale credits his wife of over 20 years, Sibi Blažić, and his daughter, Emmeline Bale, for his career success. He told Parade back in 2008 that the two come with him on location. “It’s the most ideal mix,” he told the publication at the time. “These wonderful distractions actually make me better at what I do.” With 55 acting credits beneath his belt, Bale has starred in several global box office successes as well as accolades to compliment his great acting.

Take a look below at our favorite seven Christian Bale movie roles, ranked:

  • 7. 'Ford v Ferrari'

    In this 2019 biographical sports drama film, a determined team of American and English engineers and designers, led by automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and his hot-tempered British driver, Ken Miles (Bale), are hired by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca to build a race car to defeat the Italian racing team Scuderia Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. Together, Shelby and Miles develop the Ford GT40 Mk I prototype. After multiple kinks to work out, including a dangerous brake malfunction that causes Miles to crash, the two continuously have to make quick, precise fixes to be ready for the race. For those who aren’t typically drawn to films like this, the drama between Shelby and Miles as well as the rivalry with Ferrari is what makes this film so great.

  • 6. 'American Hustle'

    This 2013 dark comedy crime film stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams as con artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser. The two are forced by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) to set up an elaborate sting operation on corrupt politicians, including the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner). The film is inspired by the FBI Abscam operation of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Jennifer Lawrence plays Rosenfield’s unpredictable wife, Rosalyn Rosenfeld. All the characters give a riveting performance, but Bale went the extra mile for his character, putting on 43 pounds and shaved his head. His slouchiness and weight gain resulted in him herniating two of the discs in his spine.

  • 5. 'The Prestige'

    This 2006 psychological thriller film, directed by Christopher Nolan, is based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Christopher Priest. It stars Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier and Christian Bale as Alfred Borden, rival stage magicians in Victorian London who feud over a perfect teleportation trick. The two continuously sabotage each other’s tricks after Angier blames Borden for his wife’s drowning and death during a failed water tank trick. This film is thoroughly gripping from start to finish, with a plot twist at the end that we never could see coming. Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, and a special appearance of David Bowie round out the film’s star-studded cast.

  • 4. 'Batman Begins'

    Bale’s abilities to transform his body and to disappear into a character influenced the decision to cast him in the 2005 Christopher Nolan film, the first chapter in the director’s definitive trilogy that proved a dark-themed narrative could resonate with audiences worldwide. As a movie, The Dark Knight remains our favorite of the trilogy, but the late Heath Ledger’s performance is what made that film shine as it still does. However, in Batman Begins, Bale’s Batman goes darker and so close to being a villain himself. In this film, Bale’s Bruce Wayne travels around the world for seven years, training in combat and immersing himself in the criminal underworld. He makes his way to a Bhutan prison before returning home to inherit his family company Wayne Enterprises during the day, while bringing justice as a bat-masked vigilante as night.

  • 3. 'Howl's Moving Castle'

    Our favorite Hayao Miyazaki film of all time is this 2005 timeless classic. After seeing 2001’s Spirited Away, Bale immediately agreed to play any role in the film, not expecting to get the titular role. Howl’s Moving Castle contains strong anti-war themes, and explores the theme of old age and how it should be seen as a positive thing. Miyazaki said in 2013 this film was his favorite creation, explaining, “I wanted to convey the message that life is worth living, and I don’t think that’s changed.” The beautifully animated film has symbols and metaphors throughout the story, which, if you watch closely, see how Howl’s castle represents the wizard himself. The black gateway on the portal is the way to Howl’s psyche and subconscious, while Calcifer is the heart. It is a beautiful story equally matched with beautiful animation and Bale’s vocal acting is sublime.

  • 2. 'The Machinist'

    The 2004 psychological thriller stars Bale as Trevor Reznik, a machinist struggling with paranoia and delusion after being unable to sleep for an entire year, resulting in his emaciation and paranoia. His guilt literally eats him alive, but while watching the film, the bizarre and unfortunate turn of events surrounding Trevor makes the audience wonder what is real and what isn’t. Producers of the film claim that Bale dropped from about 173 pounds in weight down to about 110 pounds in weight to make this film. His diet consisted of one can of tuna and an apple per day, taking up smoking cigarettes to help curb his appetite. Staying awake for a year, as mentioned in the film, is physically impossible for a human being, with 11 days, 25 minutes being the record. However, while filming, Bale admitted he slept just two hours a night because he was hungry for reading and would stay up doing so in his free time.

  • 1. 'American Psycho'

    He is simply not there. Of his most iconic role, Bale described his character as an “alien” of sorts, not needing to know his origin story when auditioning for director Mary Harron. The two had the same sick sense of humor and were the perfect match for this 2000 psychological horror with overarching satire of capitalism in the 80s. As is his style, Bale became immersed in the role, always having the book on hand, reading it constantly.

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