10) American Hustle
It was Bale’s first collaboration with David O. Russell – The Fighter – that won the actor his Oscar, but Russell more than any other director indulges Bale’s worst tendencies (include his occasional desire to grandstand and over-perform). That said, their second film together American Hustle, though similarly sloppy, still yields some special moments.
For one, American Hustle shows off Bale’s underrated comic skills. See his con man Irving Rosenfeld’s exasperation dealing with precocious ex-wife Jennifer Lawrence, his death-stare when a love rival lifts up his wretched combover in front of the woman he loves. It’s a uniquely vulnerable display from Bale, who – complete with protruding belly and 70s disco fashion sense – has never looked less like a movie star.
9) The Flowers Of War
Christian Bale has, since Batman Begins, played nothing but the hero, studios apparently assuming audiences can’t buy him as a villain anymore. It took Bale going to China to play something approaching a ‘bad guy,’ in Zhang Yimou’s war epic The Flowers of War. As John Miller, Bale isn’t an antagonist, but simply a man thrust into heroism against his own will.
This American mortician is an opportunist simply caught up in the Japanese invasion of Nanjing, initially out only for his own survival and the promise of booze and money. Forced to pose as a priest in order to keep himself and a group of Chinese schoolgirls alive, at first there’s a complete disconnect within Bale, whose entire being suggests a man that couldn’t care about anything other than making a quick buck.