Jeffrey Wright made history as soon as he joined The Batman cast as James “Jim” Gordon, becoming the first Black actor to ever play the trusted Gotham City cop (most commonly referred to in comics and DC movies as the city’s Police Commissioner). Of course, each of the previous portrayals of this unmasked ally of the Dark Knight from various comic book adaptations are special and important in their owns ways, but only a chosen few have stood out to true Batfans.
As a Batfan myself, I thought I would share my picks for the all-time best James Gordon depictions in Batman movies and TV shows we have seen so far. So, let’s flip on the Batsignal and start things off with a portrayal that surely no list of this kind would be complete without.
Neil Hamilton (Batman, Batman: The Movie)
I will admit, I would call Neil Hamilton’s overly cheery, occasionally fourth wall-breaking performance as Commissioner Gordon in the 1960s Batman TV series and theatrical spin-off one of the cheesiest and least badass depictions of the character to ever grace the screen. However, not only does the portrayal perfectly match the fun, campy tone of the series, it also shows a winningly authentic reflection of the mutual trust and admiration between Jim and the Caped Crusader (Adam West), which is key to their dynamic.
Bob Hastings (Batman: The Animated Series)
One show that captures the relationship between Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne’s alter ego perfectly is Batman: The Animated Series, in which Bob Hastings and Kevin Conroy voiced the respective roles, in addition to doing so in a few feature-length spin-offs. Amid the Emmy-winning cartoon’s earnest storylines, Hastings - who previously voiced Superboy in some 1960s animated DC TV shows - brought a certain optimistic charm to the character that remains refreshingly unique in any medium.
Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Trilogy)
As far as I am concerned, no live-action Batman movies so far have ever nailed the Jim Gordon/Batman dynamic nearly as well as the Dark Knight Trilogy, which traces the incorruptible cop’s rise from Gotham City police detective to Commissioner as Bruce Wayne begins his own war on crime. The chemistry between future Academy Award winners Gary Oldman (as Gordon) and Christian Bale (as Batman) as they discreetly join forces amid criticisms of the vigilante's methods is key to the lasting impact of director Christopher Nolan’s grounded take on the comic.
Ben McKenzie (Gotham)
A flashback in 2005’s Batman Begins reveals how Jim Gordon came to know young Bruce Wayne years before unwittingly forming an alliance with his alter ego, which is also, essentially, the basis of Fox’s hit prequel series. Former The O.C. star Ben McKenzie does an excellent job leading the Gotham cast as a younger Gordon hoping to make a difference in the titular, crime-ridden metropolis after joining the police force around the same time as Thomas and Martha Wayne’s untimely murder.
Bryan Cranston (Batman: Year One)
Ben McKenzie is actually one of the few Jim Gordon actors who have also had the honor of playing another Gotham city character: Batman, whom he voiced in 2011’s brilliant animated DC movie, Batman: Year One - based on Frank Miller’s 1986 reinterpretation of the Dark Knight’s origin. However, the true star of this gritty noir is Emmy winner Bryan Cranston, who voices a version of Gordon that is traditionally good-natured and courageous, but willing to bend the rules to show his new, crooked GCPD colleagues that he is not one to be messed with.
Ray Wise (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Batman: Year One is also keen to show that Jim Gordon is still prone to vulnerability, but he has rarely been so vulnerable as in Alan Moore’s groundbreaking one-shot Batman: The Killing Joke. In 2016’s animated adaptation, Twin Peaks cast member Ray Wise voices the Commissioner, whom Joker (Mark Hamill) nearly drives to his breaking point with a torturous psychological experiment that involves shooting and paralyzing his daughter, Barbara (Tara Strong). Luckily, he is, at least, still strong enough by the end to urge Batman (Kevin Conroy) to defeat the Clown Prince of Crime “by the book.”
Christopher Meloni (Harley Quinn)
Very little about Christopher Meloni’s performance as Jim Gordon on HBO Max’s animated Harley Quinn series is “by the book,” but it is certainly a welcome and irresistibly hilarious departure at that. This commissioner is far past his breaking point and resorts to using the Batsignal just to vent his marital woes to Batman (Diedrich Bader), who must be the one to reiterate the importance of the rules to his ally this time around. In any other instance, I’d be offended by the idea of a Gordon who has grown numb to Gotham’s endless crimewave, but it is handled with such clever wit and empathy that I have nothing but praise for it.
J.K. Simmons (Zack Snyder’s Justice League)
Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons has the honor of starring in both Marvel movies (as a pitch-perfect J. Jonah Jameson) and (technically two) DC movies as Jim Gordon, who really does seem like old friends with Ben Affleck’s Batman in the sole scene they share. For a while, fans assumed that his appearance in Zack Snyder’s Justice League (the preferred version) would be the last we saw of him as the commissioner, until the exciting announcement that he will reprise the role in the upcoming Batgirl movie for HBO Max.
I would like to also give an honorable mention to Pat Hingle for his solid performance in Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies as the version of Jim Gordon that I, and surely many others, first became associated with growing up. Yet, in retrospect, the character is not painted in the most flattering or accurate light in those films, which also portray him and Michael Keaton’s Batman as no more than workplace acquaintances, which is why I chose to leave him off this list. Of course, at the end of the day, each and every iteration of Gotham’s commissioner is still worth honoring as one of the many stages in his enduring legacy.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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