For nearly three years, Batman-starved audiences have tried to wrap their heads around Ben Affleck’s coming assumption of the role, which finally arrives this weekend in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But there was another casting choice that felt at least as radical. Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth—Batman’s indefatigable, slightly surly right hand—caps a transformation for the character. Once madcap comic relief in early screen versions, Alfred has developed sharper edges over the years, and Irons is no one’s idea of sexless grandpa.
In the video above, we trace more than 80 years of Alfred on screens big and small. No matter the incarnation, he’s always the hero we need.