Alongside Superman, Batman has been a staple of conversation for DC fans. He’s been something of a safe bet for popularity long before the current era of superhero movies. It’s not too surprising then, that he’s one of the few DC heroes to have some smash hits on the silver screen.
The idolized Caped Crusader has had Oscar-winning success (Christopher Nolan’s trilogy) as well as the good (Tim Burton’s films), the bad (Zack Snyder’s collection), and the ugly (Joel Schumacher’s flops) when it comes to his solo films.
So, to discover which of his blockbusters are worth watching, here’s our take on all Batman movies ranked worst to best…
9. Batman & Robin (1997)
While the movie may have shined for us as kids, Batman & Robin is still ranked as worst Batman movie ever. It tried to mix the key aspects of Tim Burton’s vision and the Adam West series – goth blended with childlike humor – and it failed miserably.
Starring the likes of George Clooney, Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger, this film sounded like the ultimate team-up in the 90s. Instead it was the result of a cringeworthy disaster. Campy examples of Mr. Freeze, Bane and Poison Ivy were placed in the gritty Gotham that Tim Burton brought to life alongside a dead serious Batman. Let’s not even get started on those Bat-nipples.
If it had been fully camp it would have been passable in all its cheesy glory. But with the meteoric success of Batman the Animated Series a few years before and the continuation of what was originally a Golden Age style atmosphere, the outcome was better described as embarrassing. So much so that even the Joker would struggle to find it funny.
8. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
The anticipation for this movie was as expected, wild. Watching DC’s most iconic heroes battle it out on screen is what every superhero nerd dreams of. But Zack Snyder’s 2016 result was nothing anyone expected. While the fight scenes and visual effects were top-class, the story was a mess.
Ben Affleck’s Batman wasn’t even the worst of it as fans had expected (he isn’t such a bad Batman actor). The dream sequences, Batman using lethal force, and the Martha thing were just a few of the nonsensical features of this film that raised eyebrows.
Zero fun, zero humor, and an abundance of gloominess that neither Batman or Superman’s fans were fond of.
7. Justice League (2017)
If it weren’t for Wonder Woman, Justice League would have probably been ranked worse on our list. It isn’t really a Batman film and his role in it is pretty much useless. The Caped Crusader is extremely and off-puttingly dark and broody, and his dreary aura makes you wonder why his superhero gang even choose to follow him.
Justice League as a whole was a disappointing edition in DC’s series of stories. While seeing the likes of Aquaman and The Flash team up was somewhat enjoyable, the film ended up being nothing short of boring and flat with an incredibly forgettable villain.
6. Batman Forever (1995)
While not too disjointed a story, Batman Forever was rather mired in Schumacher’s attempts to inject the Silver Age campness into Tim Burton’s Golden Age atmosphere.
Jim Carrey pulled off an entertaining off-the-wall version of The Riddler, but it wasn’t a good idea to have Tommy Lee Jones try and compete with him as the split-personality, Two-Face. You shouldn’t compete with Jim Carrey in the display of crazy, the man is a natural.
It’s the most forgettable Batman film for a reason – the brilliance of Michael Keaton was gone, the story was kind of adequate, if a bit heavy on plot logic, and everything else was just too kid-friendly.
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5. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
While not a poor film by any means (it was after all, Batman’s most successful movie), it wasn’t the strongest of the Nolan Trilogy. The largest flaw might have been the attempt to provide a version of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
While Nolan certainly isn’t unknown for waxing philosophical with his productions, the allusions of Dickens’ work felt out of place, like someone pressed a reset button. Did the League of Shadows need to come back? Was Gotham really still that much of a problem? It didn’t look that bad at all.
Were it a standalone film, it might have worked. But as the third part of what was a continuing film saga, there was a lot of build-up and context that was brushed aside for a clean slate. That’s not what you want for the third in a tale of three stories.
4. Batman Begins (2005)
At the time, Batman Begins was remarkable. A return to a version of the Caped Crusader that contemporary cinema-goers were comfortable with. It’s also noteworthy for being a success in the trend of serious comic book movies thanks to Christopher Nolan’s decision to tell a noir thriller rather than transcribe comic panels into frames.
Nolan’s touch perhaps improved Scarecrow in a way that other comic book adaptations usually watered down. Even The Animated Series has seen him imagined as a maniacal version of the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. Batman Begins gets props for a look at his persona of Jonathan Crane, a psychologist fascinated with the concept of fear.
Other than that, Batman Begins is a solid restart to the Caped Crusader’s film presence from a decline to a return to the Batman of the 1960s.
3. Batman (1989)
Marking the first big blockbuster picture since the 1960s Batman and Robin, Tim Burton’s brave vision for the Caped Crusader resulted in a classic superhero movie. Gone were the childish comic characters, and in were the serious, intriguing and complex heroes that meant business.
Burton catches lightning in a bottle with this one as it was a wild larger-than-life roller-coaster. It didn’t require a campy tone to do it, with the exception of the Joker, who was in most cases, a more lethal version of the Cesar Romero interpretation. Nor did it try to be too dour and serious.
Before Christopher Nolan, Burton’s idea for Batman is an example of how a great comic book movie can be made.
2. Batman Returns (1992)
Not content with one vial of bottled lightning, Burton struck again with the top hero movie, Batman Returns. This one was a lot more daring than the first, introducing a hideously deformed Penguin and a questionably supernatural Catwoman.
It’s a lot more quirky and Burton-like than his first go at the Dark Knight, and when it comes to silly, the display is more along the lines of Sin City rather than the old Batman TV show.
Batman Returns is so over the top by the end with a possibly indestructible Catwoman and an army of robot penguin rocketeers, that it somehow manages to match later films in its audacity without the whole thing coming off as wildly corny.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
And finally, we’ve arrived at the indisputable best Batman movie. Like Burton did with his first two films, this one kicks the narrative up a notch and provides a more authentic and charismatic Two Face – both visibly and in performance. Cementing “you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain” as one of the great lines of cinematic history.
The standout star has got to be the best Joker actor, Heath Ledger. Mostly by the way Ledger was able to completely transform himself from a more typical Hollywood pretty face into such a complex and driven maniac in front of the camera.
Rather than being known for romance movies, here he’s blowing people up, setting fire to money and impaling pencils in eyes without a hint of awkwardness.
Apart from its excellent superhero vs villain plot, The Dark Knight was an epic crime story that came across very real – you almost forgot it was ripped out of a kid’s comic book. Gripping action, a grounded plot, and breathtaking action that’s for the ages, it comes without a doubt that this Batman movie is not only the greatest superhero film, but also one the best movies of all time.
Our list of Batman movies ranked has mostly been ordered out of personal preference. Everyone’s got their own favorites and their cannot-bears, so feel free to tell us how you would rank these flicks differently…
Want more from Batman’s world? We’ve also made a list of the best and worst DC movies!