When it comes to spending decades fighting crime and churning out blockbuster movies, no one has endured quite like Gotham’s caped crusader, Batman. Many assume that the first Batman movie was Tim Burton’s 1989 classic, but the Bat of Gotham’s theatrical debut was way back in 1966, with the movie adaptation of the popular ’60s show which starred Adam West.
To date, there have been 11 Batman movies (we’re counting both versions of the DCEU’s Justice League, seeing as Batman is the lead character). But the Dark Knight isn’t quite done with delivering justice in theaters just yet, as there’s a new Batman movie just weeks away, titled The Batman (2022), directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman.
There’s also The Flash (2022), which, unlike the upcoming Robert Pattinson-led action thriller, is part of the DCEU. It will star Ezra Miller (Barry Allen/The Flash), and will also see veteran Batman actors Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck reprise their roles as the cowl-and-cape-wearing vigilante. But for now, let’s rank all 11 live-action Batman movies, from worst to best.
11. Justice League (2017)
You might think we’re gunning for the Joss Whedon-directed superhero ensemble, but despite its underwhelming box office performance, and being slaughtered by fans and critics alike, it wasn’t until the 2021 “Snyder Cut” version of the film that we realized just how bad this film is. Over the last couple of years, it has also been caught up in all the Joss Whedon controversy.
It’s plain to see that Ben Affleck‘s then-personal issues trouble his performance as Bruce Wayne, while the script makes a complete mockery of his version of Batman. And then there’s the moustache-fiasco with Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/Superman), and all the Ray Fisher (Victor Stone/Cyborg) and Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman) controversy. Yikes.
10. The Batman (1966)
We agree that it might seem unfair to put the very first Batman movie so low on this list, but the fact of the matter is, we’re simply comparing it to every other live-action Batman movie out there, and unfortunately, this film offers very little in the way of competition! But is The Batman (1966) a bad film? Well, it’s a tough thing to measure, because this is Batman at his absolute cheesiest.
Fans of the ’60s show — something that’s cherished by fans of even the most brooding versions of the Dark Knight — will get the warm and fuzzies watching the big-screen adaptation. But if you’re no such thing, you’ll probably still find some enjoyment watching the late Adam West (Bruce Wayne/Batman) and Burt Ward (Dick Grayson/Robin) take on the infamous “Rogue’s Gallery”!
9. Batman and Robin (1997)
It’s a crime to suggest that Batman and Robin (1997) is a wildly entertaining superhero romp. On the other hand, while a follow-up to Batman Forever (1995), which was also directed by Joel Schumacher, the fourth entry is a true departure of the gothic nature established in Tim Burton’s first two films, instead opting for an insanely-camp vibe, with only one thing in mind: sell toys.
It’s fun to watch Uma Thurman (Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Victor Fries/Mr Freeze) join the fold, but whether or not this is a good film is no riddle — it isn’t, and it was the final nail in the coffin for a series of films it couldn’t feel further from if it tried. Not even George Clooney (Bruce Wayne/Batman) could save this mess!
8. Batman Forever (1995)
When it comes to superhero movies from the golden age of the ’90s and early ’00s, we can all be guilty of being unable to remove our nostalgia goggles. And this couldn’t be more true than in the case of Batman Forever, the third entry in the original Batman movie series. While the film retains some of the dark tones from its two predecessors, a gritty Gotham outing this is not.
Val Kilmer hardly shines as the Dark Knight, and his Bruce Wayne is far more wooden than he is stoic. However, it’s Jim Carrey’s The Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones’s Two-Face fans seem to remember fondly. But we think the only good things to come out of this film are the hit tracks, “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal, and “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” by U2!
7. Justice League Snyder Cut (2021)
After the backlash to Joss Whedon’s Justice League, and during the height of a campaign to see the “real” version of the film restored, Hollywood did something we’d never seen before — they gave Zack Snyder (who was set to direct the 2017 movie in its entirety, but had to leave the project due to a personal tragedy) the reins to “redo” the film in his original vision.
And in early 2021, Justice League Snyder Cut (2021) was released onto HBO Max, bypassing the movie theaters due to the global pandemic (and perhaps its beastly four-hour runtime). Not only is it infinitely better than the 2017 disaster, but Ben Affleck’s reshoots as Bruce Wayne/Batman, as he once again rounds up the Justice League, are also vast improvements.
6. Batman Returns (1992)
Many fans will scoff at seeing Batman Returns (1992) on the wrong side of the midway point, but there’s a lot of competition in its way. With that said, sometimes our views of Batman movies can be blinkered by our love for the lead character and the actor who portrays them. Make no mistake about it — Michael Keaton is as lovable as ever in the 1992 sequel. Unfortunately, very little else is.
While Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) is no masterpiece, it’s insanely fun, and is responsible for the darker version of Batman we know and love today. Batman Returns, however, suffers from “sequelitis”. Selena Kyle/Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Penguin/Oswald Cobbleplot (Danny DeVito) are wildly entertaining, but ultimately, the film feels a little bloated.
5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Not unlike 2017’s Justice League, the Zack Snyder-directed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), the long-awaited clashing of two titans, was met with critical backlash. However, it still stormed the box office, raking in more money than Bruce Wayne would know what to do with. But we think the Man of Steel (2013) follow-up deserves more appreciation than it gets.
While the film certainly has its flaws — namely a highly-pretentious Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and lots of superhero-shoehorning — Ben Affleck’s portrayal as a seasoned and sadistic Dark Knight is nothing short of jaw-dropping. And watching him best Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) proves that, despite the fact that he’s human, Batman is a force to be reckoned with.
4. Batman (1989)
Batman is one of the most beloved big-screen adaptations of the caped crusader, and it’s plain to see why. Right at the precipice of the ’90s, Tim Burton’s film became an instant classic, giving us our first “dark” Batman (at least on the silver screen), while also delivering a Joker (Jack Nicholson) who seemed impossible to top in a future film (how wrong we were!).
Michael Keaton steals the scenes as Bruce Wayne (and rightly so — he’s the star of the movie), and it’s fun to watch him beat Gotham scum to a pulp. Tim Burton’s gothic superhero movie walks a fine line between dark and camp, although, in hindsight, it’s obvious the director was taking more inspiration from the ’60s show than we were perhaps willing to admit at the time!
3. Batman Begins (2005)
The first entry in The Dark Knight trilogy is Batman Begins (2005), a film that paved the way for the “gritty reboot”, with Casino Royale (2007) drawing inspiration just two years later. Christian Bale is brilliant as the titular hero, whether it’s as the “playboy” facade, his true brooding-self, or his crime-fighting alter ego, while Michael Caine’s Alfred Pennyworth is the best yet.
Tim Burton’s Batman might remain one of the darkest depictions of the titular vigilante, but Christopher Nolan’s efforts are the most grounded (though that may change with Matt Reeves’ upcoming film, The Batman). But Batman Begins is also one of the most personal stories, and will forever be the first Batman film that really fleshed out the character of Bruce Wayne.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight (2008) hasn’t made it to the top of our list — shock horror! The sequel was a critically-acclaimed box office smash on its release way back in 2008, but was already infamous by the time it hit theaters, with Heath Ledger (Joker) having passed away before getting a chance to see his truly mesmerising performance as the Clown Prince of Gotham.
There’s so much to love about this epic crime thriller, from Ledger’s Joker to some thrilling action sequences. And though the stakes are much higher in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), this is the bleakest of the trilogy. With all that said, there’s no denying that the plot is a little convoluted at times, while Aaron Eckhart’s turn as Harvey “Two-Face” Dent leaves a lot to be desired.
1. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
To say that The Dark Knight Rises is a mixed bag is something of an understatement. One half of the crowd considers it to be a huge disappointment, while the other half appreciates it for what it is — an explosive and epic Batman movie, in which the stakes have never been higher for the caped crusader and his beloved city, Gotham. Needless to say, we fit into the latter camp!
Sure, like almost any other film, The Dark Knight Rises has its issues (largely the pacing), but watching Bruce Wayne/Batman crawl out of the darkness to fight Bane (Tom Hardy) alongside Selena Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and save Gotham from a nuclear bomb is thrilling stuff. The Dark Knight Rises is a truly fitting end to Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy.
The Batman will be released on March 4, and The Flash on November 4.
How would you rank all the Batman movies?