Robert Pattinson is set to blow minds as Batman when he dons the iconic cowl in 2022. Directed by Matt Reeves, The Batman is only the 1036th movie to star the Caped Crusader. Yes, that’s an accurate number, and I didn’t just make that up on the spot.
Jokes aside, given the large list of Batman-related content over the years, Reeves and Pattinson have a lot to live up to. Master Wayne has graced the small and silver screens since the ’60s, leading some of the finest films in moviedom. That said, some others aren’t so good. But which Batman movies rank among the best? Let’s see…
10) Batman: The Movie (1966)
The 60’s Batman Tv series is iconic in its own way. Rather than dip into the darkness of its contemporary comics, the series gave audiences a family-friendly take on the Caped Crusader. This movie took the TV Show to the silver screen (“an in full color!” its advertisement enthuses. Ah…what a time that must’ve been).
Now, scold this writer for being an ignorant millennial who wasn’t around back in the day, but Batman: The Movie takes last place because its cheesiness just doesn’t fly well in this era. Even George Clooney’s infamously terrible Bat-film offers some entertainment compared to this. This low-stakes child-friendly comedy takes last place.
9) Batman & Robin (1997)
“There are certain films I just go, ‘I want my wife to have some respect for me,” says Clooney in a recent Variety interview. He is, of course, referring to the superhero dumpster fire that is Batman & Robin. Clooney’s turn as Bruce Wayne is shallow and uninspired, not helped by Schumacher tossing in everything except the kitchen sink and hoping to create something consumable from it. He doesn’t.
I could go into all manner of bad creative decisions, including the Bat credit card, the suit nipples, and having Arnold Schwarzenegger spout terrible ice puns. I could also go into how they make a character as exciting as Batgirl a boring and tedious introduction. But I’ll save it because everything wrong about this movie has already been said.
8) Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2015)
The problem with Dawn of Justice is that it tries to do three things at once and consequently does none of them particularly well. Firstly, it’s a Man of Steel sequel that explores the repercussions of its predecessor’s events. Secondly, it’s a Justice League origin movie. Thirdly, it also serves as an introduction to Ben Affleck’s Batman.
Just by reading that, you know it’s cramming in way too much in its 2-and-a-half-hour runtime. When the film isn’t depicting Bruce Wayne dreaming of future events in movies that’ll now never happen, it throws in several scenes of him brooding in silence, trying to pass it off as deep subtlety. This is a shame because Affleck is a good Batman – it’s just his material is highly lacking.
7) Batman Forever (1995)
Val Kilmer jumps into the batsuit for this light-hearted sequel to Batman Returns. Now, the fact the execs are aiming for younger audiences this time is disappointing – however, despite that, this movie can be good fun if watched with the right attitude.
This is thanks in no small part to Jim Carey and Tommy Lee Jones hamming it up as the Riddler and Two-Face, respectively. They almost make the lackluster double-act of Kilmer and Chris O’Donnell bearable. And its lightness aside, it doesn’t take it as far as its universally panned successor.
6) Batman Returns (1992)
Tim Burton reprises the director’s chair while Keaton puts on the cape and cowl once again in this 1990 sequel. Now Returns is by no means a brilliant film, but it at least soars in comparison to the two sequels that followed. Burton brings back his signature quirks for Christmastime in Gotham and, once again, the vibes of the place are painstakingly realized.
You also have to hand it to Danny Devito as Penguin. He clearly enjoys his turn as the creepy penguin-obsessed villain. Michele Pfieffer also kills it as Catwoman. It’s a shame that these characters overshadow Keaton’s Batman – but a bigger shame still that the film’s disappointing returns inspired producers to go lighter for Returns’ successor.
5) Batman Begins (2005)
The first Nolan movie does a fantastic job of adapting the Caped Crusader and reviving the ailing franchise. Choosing to toss away the cheesy antics of Joel Schumacher’s films, Nolan gives us a more grounded version of the hero as we follow him from orphan to trained assassin to superhero.
The movie also does a stellar job of depicting the corrupt nature of Gotham and its gritty atmosphere. The only downside that can be noted is that its villains aren’t as memorable as those from its sequels. But pickiness aside, Begins is a great rejuvenation of a once dormant movie franchise.
4) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Dark Knight Rises has the unfortunate fate of being a follow-up to an almost universally praised sequel. And look, I’m not going to beat around the bush – it’s not as good as The Dark Knight. But that being said, is it any good? That’s a resounding yes, people.
Anne Hathaway thrives as a smartass Catwoman alongside Bale’s Batman, and a pre-Venom Tom Hardy manages to make Bane as iconic as the Joker. The plot also does an excellent job incorporating the new characters while acting as a satisfying swansong for Bale’s Batman.
3) Batman (1989)
Christopher Nolan is often credited for making Batman serious business, but the truth is, Tim Burton laid the groundwork years before Batman Begins. Staring the brooding Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and his caped alter-ego, Burton gives the hero a movie worthy of his big name.
While Jack Nicholson does a great job as Joker, clearly having fun in the role, you also have to hand it to Burton for exquisitely creating Gotham’s unique atmosphere on-screen. Look, it has aged somewhat, and it’s obvious the action takes place in a studio (Pinewood Studios, to be specific), but the gothic character of the city oozes magnificently from its every brick. There’s almost otherworldly magic captured here that Nolan’s grittier movies can’t capture.
2) Mask of the Phantasm (1998)
Much has been said of how outstanding Batman: The Animated Series is. But if you wanted to start somewhere, its offshoot theatrical movie, Mask of the Phantasm, is a fantastic place to start. Criminally overlooked during its initial theatrical release, this film is regularly cited as one of the best Batman movies ever made.
Told with gorgeous traditional 2D animation, the film is the first to truly explore who the Dark Knight is and why he’s Batman. The return of an old flame has Bruce reconsider his crime-fighting career – meanwhile, a mysterious phantom is roaming Gotham, murdering crime lords in its wake. I can’t possibly put into words how good this movie is – just that you should watch it now if you haven’t already.
1) The Dark Knight (2008)
Is this a predictable choice? Perhaps. But there’s a damn good reason why Christopher Nolan’s dark superhero epic tops critics’ lists. Heck, it even earned itself a spot in the USA’s National Film Registry. Even skeptics can’t deny the movie does a lot of things right.
The film pits Christian Bale’s Batman against Heath Ledger’s anarchic Joker. Batman is pushed to his limit by locking horns with the madman, wondering how far he must go to protect Gotham City. While Bale is commendable as the titular hero, he is almost overshadowed by Heath Ledger’s iconic performance as his archnemesis. The Dark Knight takes everything that Batman Begins started and built on it tenfold.
Do you agree or disagree with this list! What do you think are the best Batman films of all time? Are you looking forward to seeing Robert Pattinson take up the role? Let us know in the comments below!