To celebrate Batman Day, we will be taking a look at every Batman film that has been given a true theatrical release and ranking them from the worst to the best. Despite how some might feel about the placement of these films, they are still considered influential and essential to the legacy of Batman. Good or bad, each of these films have had some impact on the way we see Batman and has created a persona on the Dark Knight for everyone to appreciate. We will be looking at films that either focus primarily on Batman, meaning Justice League will not be included.
Batman & Robin (1997)
This film will continue to be remembered as the film that ruined Batman, but fortunately paved the way to Christopher Nolan’s rebooted series. However regardless of what you may say about this movie it has some redeeming qualities to it, not very many but a few. Those who loves Adam Wests version of Batman, you can quickly make comparisons to that Batman or even the 50’s and 60’s age of Batman. Filled with bright neon lights and bat nipples, despite some of the cult following this film has garnered; the cheesy dialogue and terrible acting couldn’t redeem this film in the end. Still if you’re looking for a funny comic book film that doesn’t require much thought, this is a fun film to revisit.
Batman Forever (1995)
Coming off of Batman Returns, Warner Brother decided to take a different approach to Batman and his characters by creating a bigger and brighter version of Batman. Replacing Michael Keaton with Val Kilmer and introducing characters like Robin, The Riddler and Two-Face, this film came off as ambitious with interesting ideas and concepts. While this film still carries a great deal of appreciation by fans, it still contains many of the same issues into its sequel film with terrible dialogue and acting. Batman Forever surprisingly managed to pick up three Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Sound Effects. However, this entry still just doesn’t quite land with long time Batman fans, but is still much better than Batman & Robin.
Batman The Movie (1966)
An essential piece of Batman history, Batman The Movie is a part of the Dark Knights past that cannot be overlooked. Finally bringing the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder to the big screen and etches Adam West as one of the most influential actors to take on Batman. Much of what came out of this charming and light hearted show marked a specific time period of what Batman was in 1966 before taken in a darker direction during the 1970’s. Understanding that purpose of this film and its series after this, it still to this day carries so much love and respect by Batman fans.
Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)
Incorporated in the DC Animated Original Movie line up, it was the first to be given a special theatrical release after much anticipation. Unfortunately the film added an entire hour opening sequence to flesh out Batgirl (Barbra Gordon) and her relationship with Batman, which didn’t sit well with audiences in the end. However, the final 30-45 minutes of the film is exceptional. Bringing back Mark Hamill as The Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman gets any Batman fans excited, and considering they would be returning for an adaptation of Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic novel created one of the most anticipated animated films to come out of DC and Warner Brothers Animation.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Our first new look at Batman since The Dark Knight Trilogy with a new Batman/Bruce Wayne in Ben Affleck. Say what you will about this film, but one thing you cannot argue is the way Zack Snyder put the Dark Knight on the screen. Taking inspiration from Frank Millers graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns and applying it to the personality of Bruce Wayne, as well as the black and grey batsuit that is a common favorite among fans. Placing him next to Henry Cavill’s Superman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman wasn’t enough for viewers to gain an appreciation for Afflecks Batman, causing followers to plead for more of Afflecks interpretation for a solo film or possibly series.
Batman Returns (1992)
An underappreciated but worthy follow up to 1989’s Batman, brought back Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader and introduced us to Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Danny Devito as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin. A darker and grittier take then the previous film, Batman Returns was the final installment by Tim Burton in the Batman series. Since the first film was such a success, it allowed Burton to really cut loose by providing more of his unique style and flavor to his second film. While it wasn’t widely appreciated at the time, it has since earned its love from fans and is remembered as one of the best films in the anthology.
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Yes, we will be incorporating The Lego Batman Movie since it is still considered a Batman film. This film definitely comes off more as a parody and a love letter to Batman and the many other heroes and villains associated with him. Will Arnett provides the voice of Batman, with Zach Galifinakis taking on the Joker. What this entry manages to do is take everything we love about Batman and rather than just making fun of it, make it into something fans can laugh at due to the many understood jokes or inconsistencies throughout the many years of Batman. Instead this film pays homage to the legacy of Batman through film and comics
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The final installment in Nolans trilogy that brought closure and resolution to Christian Bales time as Batman. For this film, Batman faces off against one of his most formidable opponents Bane. Tom Hardy brings us a new variation of Bane instead of a Mexican wrestler pumped with the venom compound, Bane is a foreign terrorist here to finish what Ra’s Al Ghul started. As starring next to Bale and Hardy is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, straying away from a lot of the cat like elements of the character and focusing more on the manipulating personality with comes with and displaying her as a master level thief. The Dark Knight Rises was a brilliant way for Nolan and Bale to say goodbye to the series they crafted.
Bringing to the forefront the unique style of creator Tim Burton to the world of Batman gave the film the gothic and dark nature the character deserves. A casting decision that didn’t exactly sit well with fans, Michael Keaton managed to prove himself as Batman with his intimidating demeanor and stylistic approach to the Dark Knight. Other than Keatons performance though, the choice to bring on Jack Nicholson on as the Clown Prince of Crime was as brilliant of a cast as many. Taking reference from Jokers more comedic and silly aspects, Nicholson also found a way to make it his own in the end and provided a version of the Joker that would live remain as the pinnacle variation of Joker for many years.
Batman Begins (2005)
After the failure of Batman & Robin, it was time for a fresh new take on the Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan and Christan Bale brought to the screen a version of Batman that has added to the mythos and created a definitive version of the character and his various rouges gallery. Alongside Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard/Ra’s Al Ghul and Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow to face off against Batman, the world they inhabited was a dirty and crime riddled version of Gotham City. At the same time exploring the origins of Bruce Wayne and his transcendence into becoming the hero we all know and love.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
A commonly underrated film, this was the first animated comic book film to be given a theatrical release. Spinning off from the acclaimed Batman The Animated Series, the creators managed to continue their work of adding original content onto the mythology of Batman instead of just reusing stories from the comic books. Of course we love to see our favorite comic books get accurate recreations, but rather they created new characters such as Andrea Beaumont and The Phantasm to build on the origins of Bruce Wayne. At the same time bringing back Mark Hamill as the Joker to add more twists to their story in a way you wouldn’t have thought possible.
The Dark Knight (2008)
There has already been so much said about this film, there is no doubt this isn’t only a masterpiece as a comic book movie or Batman movie, but as a film period. Blowing people away with Batman Begins, the anticipation for the next film was high. The incorporation of the joker card at the end of Batman Begins altered audiences that the Clown Prince of Crime lived in this world, little did we expect pretty boy Heath Ledger to completely blow us away with the definitive version of Joker. Treating it with such love and care, Nolan gave us the pinnacle comic book movie that all other strive to be like. Once again setting the standard.
Over 80 Years of Batman and still be continues to be one of the most recognized and beloved characters ever created, we anticipate to see what other iterations and version of the Dark Knight we will see. With an animated adaptation of The Long Halloween, WB Montreal’s announcement of Gotham Knights, Matt Reeves The Batman coming next year and the comic books still going strong; we still welcome more and more Batman content.