'Beverly Hills Ninja' at 25: The bizarre saga of Christian Bale naming Chris Farley comedy as his favorite movie of all time

Christian Bale, left, and Chris Farley in
Christian Bale, left, and Chris Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja. (Photo: Getty Images / The Everett Collection)

This story, originally published March 11, 2016, has been updated and republished here in honor of Beverly Hills Ninja turning 25 on Monday.

Is Christian Bale’s favorite film of all time really Beverly Hills Ninja?

It’s one of those unbelievable “fun facts” regurgitated on the Internet in slideshows and listicles. Oscar-winning actor Christian Bale’s favorite movie is, reportedly, the wackadoo, critically demolished 1997 Chris Farley comedy Beverly Hills Ninja, released in theaters 25 years ago.

Most of these sites don’t source this intel, though we were able to trace Bale’s first mention of the Farley film back to an Esquire interview from 2010. The now-47-year-old actor, while discussing his self-described low level of cinephiledom, casually mentions Ninja, saying “Chris Farley was just phenomenal” and the film “will always remain one of my tops.” The high-concept comedy, starring Farley as a grown-up orphan raised by a clan of ninjas who travels to Southern California to investigate a murder mystery, was the last film released in the beloved SNL star’s lifetime. He died seven months after its release at the age of 33.

So how did Bale’s shout-out balloon into widely accepted, fervently spread “fact” that Ninja is Bale’s biggest cinematic love? And is it accurate? We set out to get the bottom of this deeply important moderately intriguing mystery during a 2016 interview with the Dark Knight and American Hustle actor at a press junket for the Terrence Malick-directed drama, Knight of Cups, a meditative, almost experimental arthouse film that, tonally, is about as far – we’re talking galaxies here – from Ninja as you could imagine.

We asked Bale what his favorite film of all-time is … then secretly prayed for the sanctity of the World Wide Web that he would in fact fire back, without the slightest hesitation, “the 1997 masterpiece Beverly Hills Ninja.”

“That’s a tricky one there, innit, you know,” the Welsh-born Bale, who has been known to do press with an American accent, said in his natural British brogue. “There’s just so many that fulfill different moments … There’s a film for different moods that you have.” The disappointment seeps into our psyche.

A moment of reflection for Bale, then…

“Oh! I always choose … the default answer for me is Beverly Hills Ninja.” [Ding ding ding!] Bale lets out a hearty laugh at the thought of it. “It’s an easy one to give because most people go, 'What? Oh, okay.’”

He continued, “But Chris Farley’s fantastic. Clearly I’ve got other films, but I just watched that two nights in a row and was crying with laughter both times, so I just went, 'Yeah I’ll give that as my answer.’” It was the fact that he loved it so much the first time, that “straightaway” he had to rewatch it the very next night (when he “laughed at all the same jokes”) that’s made it resonate.

Still, Bale admitted he’s only seen his favorite movie ever a couple times: “I don’t watch films that much,” he said.

But there you have it. Christian Bale clearly knows you — no, we — love hearing that he loves the movie Beverly Hills Ninja.

So rest easy, Internet. He’s letting us have this one.