The legend of Bruce Wayne, who as a child saw his parents shot dead, henceforth dedicating his life to fighting the injustice and crime rampant in the streets of Gotham is commonplace now and is, again, an instantly recognized icon across the world right across the Super guy. Superman may be the most recognized superhero character across the world, but make no mistake, Batman’s popularity rivals that of Superman, almost shoulder to shoulder, surpassing it too on certain bare instances, owing to an ever-increasing fanbase of loyalists. Batman, as a character, resonates more. His stories seem closer to real life, and that is squarely because of the fact that Batman possesses no actual superpowers, well, other than being rich. He is clearly the most troubled and dark (both contextually and tonally) character in the DC-verse, and stories involving him and his comrades have a certain depth to them, that is unmissable and in many ways, signatory too.
The Batman, also most commonly known by other aliases including the dark knight and the caped crusader, has seen his popularity skyrocket over the years. The very fact can be attributed to the rich source material (which is in my opinion, the most engaging, and at times emotionally taxing out of all the other heroes in DC’s gauntlet) comprising arcs including the Bat-family and an ever-growing gallery of rogues, some of whom are the most interesting villains in the comic book world. The abovementioned popularity, apart from being attributed to his exceptionally powerful and discreetly distinguishable print media, also owes its fair share to movie adaptations. Incidentally so, Batman remains the most adapted superhero on screen.
Having already ranked all of Superman’s live-action appearances, we reckoned it was about time the dark knight had a list of his own. With that said, here is the list of all Batman movies, ranked in order of their merit (Note: Only theatrically released movies have been considered). In case you were wondering which Batman movie was the best, you finally will have an answer today. SPOILER ALERT: Details about plots of certain movies mentioned.
10. Batman and Robin (1997)
Talk about how much one could possibly muck up a reputed studio production in the fourth installment of a somewhat established franchise of one of the most popular superheroes in the world. This movie tells you: EVERYTHING. Right from the casting, to the dialogue, to the story and action, characterizations, performances (yes, despite the credibility of the names involved), everything is a disaster from the word go, and WB decided to wait out the stormy debacle that this film turned out to be until Nolan practically resurrected Batman on film with ‘Begins’. Rightfully so, it is frequently regarded as one of the worst made films in history, and you are welcome to be my guest to test it out.
9. Batman Forever (1995)
The third installment in WB’s ‘Batman’ franchise marked the departure of Tim Burton as director and Michael Keaton as Batman, and also when things started going downhill for the franchise. While the comedic happenings in the previous two may be accounted for a good bit of superhero-movie-fun, the ones in this have a somewhat campy tone, probably at the hands of WB that seems to have become a penchant by now. The cast of the movie is credible and delivers, mostly, it’s the execution that is a letdown, feeling more like a process of ‘tearing down’ than ‘carrying forward’. Rightly so, this was termed the beginning of the end.
8. Justice League (2017)
The polls are out by now, and it’s sufficiently clear that DC’s big teamup, while being entertaining throughout, has failed to deliver on multiple fronts. Studio interference systematically dismantled all that was meticulously built and established in the previous films to deliver a ‘safe’, harmless entertainer. Unsurprisingly, major complaints directed towards the film pointed out polar opposite tonal changes that seemed inconsistent with the whole scheme of things. Batfleck still seemed to be in his element following the critical debacle of BvS, but there is only so much the actor can do with the material and constraints at hand. There was so much more that could have been done to the film, even in Whedon’s hands. Alas, fans will have to make do with a Batman smiling during combat, and a CGI-faced Superman.
7. The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
This one had me in splits for a good portion of its runtime, owing to its hilarious writing and Will Arnett’s equally hilarious voice acting as the LEGO version of the crime-fighting Bat. The story is simple, the animation neat, and the performances funny; it’s marketing as a good time at the cinemas with the family holds completely true. The spinoff series was introduced taking into account the popularity of the character when first introduced in 2104’s ‘The Lego Movie’, and to be fairly honest, I wouldn’t mind a potential sequel with the same voice cast!
6. Batman (1989)
The birth of the summer blockbuster in Hollywood. Back in ’89, Tim Burton succeeded in creating a credible Batman film with immense potential for sequels, and the majority of it worked for two reasons: Jack Nicholson, terrifically cast as the Joker, and the incredible production design, which brings to life a rather different, darker Gotham, albeit laden in fantasy. I wasn’t completely sold on Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne, but minor shortcomings aside, this is an entertaining summer flick, nothing more, nothing less.
5. Batman Returns (1992)
The sequel to Burton’s critically and commercially successful go at Batman, ‘Returns’ expands on the fantastic world Burton created in the first one, and evidently has his share of fun doing it. This one is lighter in tone, but not overdone. Michael Keaton returns as the titular character but, as with the previous one, the villain steals the show here. Danny DeVito is perfectly cast as The Penguin/ Oswald Cobblepot, and is rightfully the highlight of the film. A word for Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, cunning and seductive in equal measure.
4. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The final installment in Nolan’s critically acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy, this movie succeeds in two things: Establishing the limits, will, cause and angst of the Batman as a character; and suitably capping a rather excellent trilogy of a completely new breed of superhero films. However, in many ways, it does fall short too, and suffers from a case of unmatched expectations, following a prequel that just couldn’t be topped.
3. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Say what you may, the film may have appeared to be messy, but this rendition of the caped crusader was the best one I had seen in a long time. Bale’s Batman scores on gravitas and a balanced performance, but Affleck’s Batman scores on comic book authenticity, and improving upon the fighting style and techniques of earlier films. Affleck bulked to a beast for the role, and it shows inside that intimidating costume. The simmering intensity, ruthlessness, the struggle with the darkness within, it’s all there and is surprisingly still investing enough in this slightly jaded version of the dark knight.
2. Batman Begins (2005)
Following Batman and Robin, the legend of the dark knight remained unadapted on screen for 8 years, until Christopher Nolan ran his Midas’ touch over the property, and it is precisely then that the character saw a major surge in its popularity. One of the best Superhero origin stories ever, Nolan’s introduction to Batman was darkly philosophical, brilliantly written and acted, and ticked off all boxes of being a cerebral blockbuster, that has now become Nolan’s forte somehow. Bruce Wayne’s tragic story, his rage, his drive to fight crime is as comprehensively displayed and performed as is possible, while his transition from the prince of Gotham to its protector is fascinating to say the least. The first installment in what is easily one of the best ‘film’ trilogies ever is a revival job extremely well done, I say.
Read More: All Spider-Man Movies, Ranked
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Allow me to quote a rather famous dialogue from an equally famous show, slightly altered to suit. “If you think this list would have ended any differently, you haven’t been paying attention!”
Read More: All Superman Movies, Ranked