DC’s Caped Crusader is one that’s had his fair share of takes in movies and television. Some of which, are better than others. With Matt Reeves’ new Batman movie coming up in 2021 I decided to do a ranking of all theatrically released Batman movies from worst to best.
10. Batman and Robin
Good grief Schumacher you screwed up completely with this one. This movie had a horrible blend of endless camp trying to go relive that feeling of the Adam West TV show but had the unfortunate problem of trying to tell a genuine Batman story at the same time and the two do NOT go hand in hand at all. Clooney was horribly miscast as Batman and O’Donnell and Silverstone screwed up the characters of Robin and Batgirl so badly that they haven’t been portrayed in live action since (no Joseph Gordon Levitt’s John Blake doesn’t count). Mr. Freeze is nothing more than an endless barrage of bad puns, Bane is an idiot, and Poison Ivy is the only one who really embraced the silliness of the whole thing. And while Gotham portrayed these villains light years better than what this movie did, it didn’t redeem them. The whole thing is just pure cringe to the end.
9. Batman Forever
Well parents, you wanted a family friendly Batman after Batman Returns. You got what you wanted. Was it really worth it? Val Kilmer was just boring in portraying Bruce/Batman, Nicole Kidman’s Dr. Chase Meridian did nothing as a love interest and while the storyline for Robin is not necessarily a bad idea, Chris O’ Donnell felt irritating in the role. While Jim Carrey however brought a maniacal energy as the Riddler that shined, Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face just…no. Seriously why did they get rid of Billy Dee Williams? The problem with this movie is that it doesn’t know when if it wants to be serious or all out camp and sadly it flies high. It has its moments but sadly this was the beginning of the end for this era of the caped crusader.
8. Batman v. Superman
Technically this counts since it is trying to be a solo Batman movie in addition to a Man of Steel sequel and a Justice League prequel. And if I’m being honest Batman is the best part of this movie. I do kind of like the approach Snyder took on this version of the character with him being this battle-weary guy who’s been trying and failing to crusade against evil for years and Ben Affleck’s portrayal here was surprisingly good enough. But beneath all of that is so much muddled storytelling, dreams that really make no sense, philosophical remarks that are trying to be deep but never comes full circle, and just an overall lack of soul. I mean contrary to popular belief DC can do something different without being Marvel or copying the Dark Knight trilogy. What this version of Batman would have amounted to however we will never know.
7. Batman: The Movie (1966)
Now THIS was Batman’s debut on the big screen. It goes all out in its silliness but carries the strengths of the show that created it. From the very awareness of its campy nature, to Adam West’s tongue-in-cheek humor, and the large ham of four Batman villains all of which are pulled off with great wit to keep the movie interesting and charming. This is a rather nonsensical movie but it’s the kind of nonsense that knows how to succeed and it has a charming sense of innocence to it in the way it’s executed and fully embraces its ridiculousness much like the show it stemmed from.
6. Batman Returns
With Batman (1989) turning out to be a huge hit it only made sense to make a sequel 3 years later. Thus, we got this one. Unlike the last one it was far more Burton-Esque so to speak and it proved to be a double-edged sword. Michael Keaton’s Batman is still good though he shines even less in this movie. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman remains my favorite live action version of the character to date really showing her issues with duality and her vulnerability as well as Bruce and using that as the driving force in their relationship. There’s also Christopher Walken and well…the man can make anything awesome really. But while Danny Devito was a nice pick to play Penguin with a good performance his look is a tad too grotesque and it unlike the first movie, it really doesn’t always know how to balance itself in its dark and Burton-like nature. Some moments even by Batman or DC standards are quite dark and disturbing don’t always fit the spirit of Batman or heck even DC in general. In any case though this is definitely a Batman movie that is unique and despite its flaws I wouldn’t have minded continuing this story.
5. The Dark Knight Rises
While this saga of Batman did very much peak with this movie’s predecessor that doesn’t keep this from being a good movie but it does have some flaws. Joseph Gordon Levitt’s John Blake was fine until they did that name reveal at the end. But the story as a whole does have some glaring plot holes and that Talia twist wasn’t all that great. But seeing Bruce having given up being Batman and become a recluse in the last eight years and spurred out of retirement to Alfred’s dismay was surprisingly genuine. Anne Hathaway’s version of Catwoman, while it definitely doesn’t match Pfeiffer’s version in Batman Returns is a moderately good and clever take on the classic Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle dynamic. Tom Hardy’s Bane was definitely a worthy villain although he dragged on a bit. But most of all the core cast, particularly the ones that have been there since the beginning shine in giving this movie its emotional edge. The cinematography as expected from this trilogy is fantastic. Overall though it does capture what makes this trilogy so compelling in every movie with a different tone, mood, and overall stakes.
4. Batman Begins
Eight years after Batman and Robin effectively killed the caped crusader on the big screen Christopher Nolan brought him back with a whole new realistic take. Bale proved himself to be an effective Batman and Bruce Wayne bringing a previously unseen depth to the character with the downfall of Gotham weighing down upon him and also brings a delightful charm when interacting with others such as Michael Caine’s Alfred and Gary Oldman’s James Gordon. And why couldn’t they keep the Batman voice he used here in the sequels (seriously the sequels make him sound like the Cookie Monster). The movie also knows how to use its comedy to avoid its dark and grittiness being too depressing. And it was really interesting in how this story was crafted as a story about fear and how Bruce’s training with the League of Shadows crafts his ideals. However, it does struggle with Katie Holmes as love interest Rachel Dawes and its third act is somewhat disorganized. But this movie blended drama, action, and comic book lore into one heck of a movie. And this was just the start of what was to come.
3. The Lego Batman Movie
Why is THIS the best version of Batman on the big screen we’ve gotten since the Dark Knight Trilogy? In any case this movie is amazing. It definitely has a way with humor and visuals but definitely takes a look at Batman and his humanity in a way no Batman movie had done prior in his psyche and humanity as well as how he chooses to live. It’s definitely not as big or emotional as other Batman movies but it definitely places a focus on Batman in a silly and thought-provoking way. And I was grinning from start to finish with this movie. And on a side note thank GOD they brought back Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face even if it was brief.
2. Batman (1989)
This was the Batman movie that truly established the dark gritty Batman for the first time. And man is it awesome. Tim Burton’s vision here really shines in creating Gotham into this frightening and mysterious place with a look and feel that defined Batman in so many subsequent adaptations that has a perfect blend of dark and grittiness with the 60s camp. And nowhere does that shine brighter through the characters of Joker and Batman. Jack Nicholson’s Joker did well to channel the traits of Ceasar Romero’s Joker to a dark and disturbing place and despite Batman often being in the shadows by comparison I love how the movie portrays him as this fascinating other-worldly person even so when he’s just being Bruce Wayne. And Michael Keaton will always be the definitive Batman being able to make the smallest amount of dialogue and movements do so much. Even though there was not much in the action department this movie overall had just so much of an atmosphere that it almost does not matter it really keeps you invested in just how fascinatingly crafted everything this movie has to offer is. It’s too bad not all of the potential for the future got to be used.
1.The Dark Knight
Yeah, I’m sure no one is surprised by this but let’s face it: This is just an awesome movie that improves so much upon its sequel and its overall style and substance truly made Batman unique. Elaborate themes of justice, chaos, and the like are well woven within every character and everything surrounding that movie from the talking, the action, to the performances do well to embody those themes to the end making for one heck of a roller coaster whose impact is still felt at the end of the movie. Heath Ledger did amazing to establish the high bar for the Joker in terms of humor and terror, Aaron Eckhart shined as broken white knight Harvey Dent, and Maggie Gyllenhaal was a good replacement as Rachel Dawes giving far more layers to her character than Begins ever did. The only downside to this whole movie is that Christian Bale made Batman sound like a kid playing monster any kind of threatening demeanor he tries to pose is just completely gone through that voice. Overall this movie just has such a substance to it and weight to it that puts me on the edge of my seat every time I watch it. And definitely something I cannot forget. Just a single scene alone can say so much.
No one knows what Matt Reeves Batman will hold (PLEASE LEAVE OUT THE DEAD PARENTS FLASHBACK). But it definitely seems to be doing something different and with a character like Batman with so many adaptations we need something different. In any case though, all these Batman movies, even at their worst have definitely offered…something. How do you rank the Batman movies. Any rankings you disagree with? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!