“The Dark Knight” celebrates its 10th anniversary this week. Christopher Nolan’s film transcended superhero movies to become something greater, so there’s no better time to rank Batman movies.
The Caped Crusader’s screen adventures started in the 1940s with multi-part serial films. The character went on to star in everything from a 1960s television show, to a hit animated series, to multiple film franchises.
For this list, we’re counting only full-length theatrical movies, whether they be live-action or animated. The character has starred in dozens of straight-to-home animated releases, and those don’t count. We also only counted movies that are obvious Batman movies. So, while we didn’t count “Justice League” because that’s more of an ensemble team-up movie, we did count “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” because he got top billing.
Below are 11 Batman movies ranked from worst to best:
11. “Batman & Robin” (1997)
Bat-nipples and Arnold Schwarzenegger making outrageous puns are the least of this movie’s problems … well, the bat-nipples were pretty bad. But “Batman & Robin” is such worthless schlock that it’s hard to fathom that the movie even exists. It rises beyond (or falls below, depending on your perspective) fun camp and is truly cringeworthy. George Clooney is a huge miscast in the role, as is Schwarzenegger, who doesn’t even look *cool.* Mr. Freeze, if anything, should at least look cool.
10. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)
“Dawn of Justice” is a convoluted mess that is still living in the shadow of “The Dark Knight” while also trying to kick-start a cinematic universe akin to the MCU – but minus the fun. The movie is a long, tedious watch devoid of humour or any hint of a light spirit, not to mention it has one of the most asinine conflict resolutions of any superhero movie ever. Yes, both Batman and Superman’s parents are named Martha. But that shouldn’t be the solution to everyone’s problems.
9. “Batman Forever” (1995)
Just shy of being the joke that is “Batman & Robin,” “Batman Forever” has enough redeeming qualities to at least be a fun watch. Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face is no Aaron Eckhart, and the performance can be nauseatingly over-the-top. But Jim Carrey’s Riddler is just the right amount of over-the-top, and he steals every scene he’s in.
8. “The LEGO Batman Movie” (2017)
Will Arnett voices a LEGO Batman and it’s pretty darn fun. I love this movie, and the only reason it’s not higher is because it’s not as essential as the other ones. But “The LEGO Batman Movie” even rivals the already great “LEGO Movie” that it spins off from.
7. “Batman: The Movie” (1966)
This movie is pure camp, but not in a devastatingly awful way like “Batman & Robin.” This movie, the first full-length theatrical Batman movie and based on the hit 60s TV show starring the late Adam West, is a product of its time. It’s easy to look past the insanity of it and just play along. Batman fighting a shark with shark repellent? It’s absurd, but classic.
6. “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)
Maybe the most divisive Batman movie (aside from “BvS”), “The Dark Knight Rises” had a tough act to follow as the sequel to “The Dark Knight.” So instead of trying to replicate it, the movie instead tells its own story. Four years had followed since “The Dark Knight,” and in many ways this movie reflects where the superhero genre was heading better than its predecessor did. But it’s also a good reflection of the “Dark Knight” trilogy itself. Each movie in the trilogy is different than the others, with their own moods and stakes. “The Dark Knight Rises” has torn people on its epic, trilogy-ending scope and its gaping plotholes. But it’s lasting legacy will be that it followed “The Dark Knight,” which may not be fair. But movies are often prey to the history audiences and critics write for them.
5. “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” (1993)
Hardcore fans of “Batman: The Animated Series” will say this is the best Batman movie ever, and you can’t exactly fault them. “Mask of the Phantasm” captures the essence of Batman and his supporting cast better than most live-action Batman movies.
4. “Batman” (1989)
Tim Burton’s “Batman” was the first big-screen treatment of the character since Adam West’s 1966 flick. I find that it hasn’t aged entirely well, but it will always be a classic superhero movie. Michael Keaton is still the best Batman, and Jack Nicholson, while overshadowed by Heath Ledger in the last decade, delivered a great Joker performance.
3. “Batman Returns” (1992)
“Batman Returns” is even more goth and Tim Burton-esque than the director’s first movie, but I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s a better one. You’ve got Michelle Pfeiffer eating birds and Danny DeVito doing whatever it is he’s doing as the main antagonists, along with Michael Keaton returning as Batman. In other words, it’s a great movie. It’s weird, sometimes disturbing, but entirely satisfying.
2. “Batman Begins” (2005)
Batman had never received a proper origin story on the big screen until Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” the first movie of his “Dark Knight” trilogy. Burton’s “Batman” glossed over it. To be fair, it’s pretty straightforward and even those who aren’t familiar with comic books or superhero movies know it: a young boy vows to fight crime after his parents are murdered in front of him. But Nolan gave that origin a newfound screen purpose with “Begins,” detailing Bruce Wayne’s journey from billionaire to prisoner to vigilante to legend.
1. “The Dark Knight” (2008)
I wrote extensively about “The Dark Knight’s” role in shaping the superhero genre in my 10-year retrospective. There’s not much to say about the film that hasn’t already been said: Heath Ledger’s performance is an all-time great, and the movie influenced numerous others to be more “dark” or “grounded.” Studios learned the wrong lessons from “The Dark Knight,” and its success was hard to replicate because the movie is just one-of-a-kind.
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