Every Batman Movie Ranked


From 1966 to now, there have been thirteen films starring the Caped Crusader, ranging from terrible to near perfect. I have now watched every Batman movie ever released in theaters, and it has been quite the journey.  To make it a little easier, I’m not counting the Justice League movies or any of the straight-to-video animated films, or the unauthorized 1966 Filipino Batman/James Bond mashup, James Batman, pictured above. There were certainly some surprises, and of course this list won’t match up perfectly with yours. But, I love Batman, and talking about his movies is one of my favorite things to do. So, here we go!

13. Batman and Robin (1997) – dir. Joel Schumacher

Surprising absolutely no one, Batman and Robin is lowest on this list. Especially for someone like me who has grown up with the Dark Knight trilogy as my definitive take on Batman, this cheesy, unfocused toy commercial is a pain to get through. George Cloony is a terrible Batman, he doesn’t have the look or the voice, and the anatomically correct batsuit isn’t helping. Chris O’Donnell’s Robin is as annoying as ever, and Alicia Silverstone’s character only compounds my irritation with Batman’s teammates. The villains are all complete jokes. Uma Thrurman is useless as Poison Ivy, Arnold Schwarzenneger’s Mr. Freeze is a pun-filled mess that completely wastes a beautiful character from the Animated Series, and Jeep Swenson’s Bane makes Tom Hardy’s performance in The Dark Knight Rises look like a faithful and accurate adaptation. The city of Gotham is a neon-colored mess where nothing can be taken seriously. I knew from the opening sequence, a montage of Batman and Robin suiting up that contains several uncomfortable close-ups, that this was going to be a rough two hours. I was not wrong.

12. Batman Forever (1995) – dir. Joel Schumacher

These Schumacher Batman films often get a bad rap from most of the fan base, so I went in with very low expectations and just tried to enjoy myself. There are some redeeming factors. Val Kilmer is a decent Batman and Bruce Wayne, and Schumacher has an interesting visual flair with lots of sweeping shots and tilted angles. Jim Carrey is watchable if you forget he’s playing the Riddler, wearing a stupid costume, and saying unfunny things. The batsuit looks good, except for the inexplicable nipples and codpiece. Everything else is awful. Gotham City is the first victim, transforming from the dark, gritty and gothic crime city displayed in the Burton films, into a neon, flashy, mid 90s-CGI boring background. Tommy Lee Jones is entirely miscast and misdirected as two-face; he’s really just a poor imitation of Jack Nicholson’s Joker with bad makeup. Every action scene is incomprehensible visual noise, poorly shot and edited. The dramas are dull and uninteresting, and the duality stories for each character are unimaginative and predictable. Robin is an annoying college kid who shows no signs of the trauma he’s experienced. The dialogue is always cheesy and surface level. The only reason it’s above Batman and Robin is because it’s five minutes shorter.

11. Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) – dir. Sam Liu

This animated adaptation of the seminal graphic novel technically had a short theatrical release, so I have to put it on this list. The Killing Joke book is one of my favorites. Written by comic legend Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), it tells the definitive Joker origin story, as well as presenting a dual character study of the Joker and Batman. It is near perfection. The adaptation stars the iconic voice actors from the Animated Series, Mark Hamil and Kevin Conroy. So, why is it so low on this list? This is a film of two parts. The second half is a direct adaptation of the graphic novel, not exact but close enough. The performances are good if not great, and the animation is perfectly adequate for adapting Brian Bolland’s artwork. However, the first half is a totally original story that has nothing to do with the second part of the film or the original graphic novel. It tells a story of Batgirl in conflict with Batman, and a romance that feels wrong to anyone who knows the characters. It’s boring, poorly made, and doesn’t add anything at all. So, unfortunately, this adaptation is a serious disappointment.

10. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – dir. Zack Snyder

I can’t believe this came out in 2016; it feels like it came out yesterday. This overly dark interpretation of both of the titular characters has caused more controversy than almost any other superhero film to date. I haven’t actually seen the original theatrical release- I’ve only watched the extended, “Ultimate Edition” director’s cut, which runs 31 minutes longer and receives an R rating. While it was better than I expected, it was not as good as I wanted to be. To put it bluntly, the ending really, really sucks. It comes out of nowhere and fails to pay off most of what the story has been building towards. There are lots of good ideas, but every good idea has an equally terrible bad idea. It looks great and sounds great, Snyder has a distinct style that I really like, and Hans Zimmer’s score is absolutely iconic. Unlike most people, I don’t have any major problems with the characterizations. Batman killing people works in this version of the story and Jesse Eisenberg’s eccentric Lex Luthor is over the top and fun, similar to Paul Dano in The Batman. I have discovered a fan edit of this film entitled No Justice, where someone has recut the film to remove all of the Justice League setup and the Doomsday ending. This trimming of the fat works very well, makes the movie flow more, and highlights its strengths. That version of the film would be much higher up on this list. Sadly, the version we did get is immensely flawed and remains one of the weaker Batman films.

9. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) – dir. Chris McKay

This is where things start to get good. No, seriously. It’s Legos and Batman and all of the Warner Bros. characters crossing over, of course I’m going to like this. Obviously there’s the heavy handed emotions from all kids movies and some annoying pop songs. But they also break apart the character of Batman, making fun of all of his past movies, and keeping it very self referential. Will Arnet is one of the finest Batman voice actors: he’s got the perfect voice with a great comedic style. It’s lots of fun, definitely a kids movie, but it still works for me. I was the ideal age for the first Lego Movie, and I definitely have some nostalgia for this follow-up, but as a Batman fan specifically, this is perfect.

8. Batman Returns (1992) – dir. Tim Burton

The follow up to 1989’s Batman is much more a Tim Burton film than a Batman film. It’s definitely darker, but it’s also a lot weirder. Batman isn’t even the main character; it mainly focuses on the two villains. Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman is fantastic. She’s having so much fun playing the absurd character, you can’t help but have some fun too. Danny DeVito’s Penguin is also over the top, but doesn’t work nearly as well. He’s gross and sometimes a little hard to watch. Each actor is acting their heart out, it’s fantastic. It occasionally drifts into camp, mostly with the penguin stuff, but it’s still fun and dumb all the way through. While it’s a lot weirder than the first, it’s still pretty good.

7. Batman: The Movie (1966) – dir. Leslie H. Martinson

Unabashedly silly but still lots of fun. I love how everything is labeled or themed or both. Totally over the top comic book camp, and definitely of its time. Adam West and Burt Ward are great leads, though the costumes could use a little work. Cesar Romero is a fun Joker, but doesn’t get nearly enough screen time as a lead. All the villains are one-note, but they fit the overall camp of the story. Perhaps the most absurd plot point is that the UN security council is portrayed as the group upon which the fate of the world rests. It works because it’s intentionally silly, rather than accidentally silly. The Schumacher films attempt to include some drama and fail, while this doesn’t even attempt. Sometimes you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

6. Batman Begins (2005) – dir. Christopher Nolan

The first of the revered Nolan trilogy is good, but not as tight as it could have been. The first 30 min are fantastic, quickly moving through Batman’s origin and Bruce Wayne’s character development. But unfortunately, it keeps moving at that pace throughout. It’s just too fast paced. Scenes aren’t given room to breathe and establish atmosphere, it’s always the next thing. I think it was a little too ambitious, having to establish Batman’s origin, two villains, and the Wayne corporation. Scarecrow is wasted as a villain, not really established as a main threat and taken care of easily. Ra’s al Ghul has never been an interesting villain to me. Liam Neeson is really good, yet the motivations for the character are strange. All the fight scenes are shot terribly, close up and quick cut. You can never tell what’s happening. The scarecrow fear toxin special effects have not held up. However, there’s a lot of good too. Bale is my favorite Batman; he portrays all three aspects of Batman and Bruce Wayne perfectly. The score is amazing! I love Nolan’s camera, lots of epic sweeping shots that establish the city. Gordon and Alfred are also fantastic, comic accurate, and portrayed perfectly. However, the best thing this movie did was set up its sequel.

5. Batman (1989) – dir. Tim Burton

The studio reeled in Burton a bit and got the perfect mixture of darkness and vision. Besides the two Prince music videos, and the fact that Vicki Vale is an entirely uninteresting character, this is a fantastic movie. Jack Nicholson is of course the standout; he has so much fun with the Joker. The fact that he’s overshadowed by Heath Ledger only shows how good Ledger’s performance was. Michael Keaton is a good Batman- he doesn’t quite have the look, but he plays it well. Billy Dee Williams is sadly underutilized, and by the time we get a real Harvey Dent story, both he and Batman have been recast. The music is good, but the theme is really the only standout. The production design with the beautiful matte paintings and model work, with quite a lot of explosions, add to create a perfectly dark and dreary mood for Gotham. I don’t think we could’ve asked for a better Batman film at the time to reintroduce the public to the darker version of the caped crusader.

4. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – dir. Christopher Nolan

This might be the most controversial placement on this list, but once you get past the fact that it’s occasionally silly and unrealistic, it’s a lot of fun. Lots of it doesn’t make sense, and it’s definitely over the top. Bane is a good villain, and while Tom Hardy doesn’t do the comic character justice, his performance still works for this version. Much more of a sequel to Batman Begins rather than The Dark Knight. Mostly, it’s just a cool movie. The action scenes are great, especially the hand-to-hand parts. Nolan has come a long way since Begins when it comes to shooting action; the Batman versus Bane fights are brutal and brilliant. Everything to do with Bruce Wayne and Batman interacting with Bane and Bane’s past is fantastic. Anne Hathaway is a good Catwoman, although the face mask is a little silly. Also, this has by far the best live-action Robin. While not perfect, and doesn’t even hold a candle to its predecessor, it’s still good fun.

3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) – dir. Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski

If this film was a half an hour longer, it would be at the top of this list. I was late to Batman: The Animated Series, only discovering it about a year ago. I have seen a few episodes, and while some have dated or youthful tones that aren’t my preference, I have enjoyed what little I have seen. As opposed to the much lower ranked Killing Joke, this film has the voice actors from right in their prime. Mark Hamill’s Joker is brilliant, somehow embodying the character so much that I will often forget he’s Luke Skywalker. While Conry isn’t my favorite Batman, he does a great job portraying the switch between Batman and Bruce Wayne, and the conflicts between. The story follows Batman attempting to stop the crimes of the newly created villain, The Phantasm. We learn more about his past, his love life, his relationship with his parents, and much more. It is a perfect dive into the psyche of a broken hero, while still giving us the action and mystery we’ve come to expect from the Caped Crusader. The scene in the graveyard is probably my favorite scene from any Batman film. However, due to its smaller budget, the runtime was capped to just over an hour at 78 minutes. Because of this, some of the plot points are rushed or underdeveloped, and we don’t feel that the time spent in Gotham has truly given us the epic weight of a full Batman story. However, what we do get is brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, go check it out. It is also one of the more accessible films on this list.

2. The Batman (2022) – dir. Matt Reeves

The most recent Batman film is also one of the best. My first viewing was marred by a misaligned projector that cut off the left, right, and bottom sections of the frame. Even after complaining to a staff member, nothing was done, and I will never be going to see a movie at an AMC theater ever again. Besides that, I enjoyed the movie immensely. The dark and gritty tone was at its darkest and grittiest, practically ripping off David Fincher movies like Se7en and Zodiac. The story itself is slow and episodic, stretched out over a 3-hour runtime, but it’s never boring. It intelligently cuts between the Catwoman story, the crime family story, and the Riddler story. It’s smooth; each naturally blends into the other. There’s a distinct texture to the film, the constant rain and unmistakable color palette create the grimy Gotham city that envelopes the characters and the film. Obviously, the Dark Knight Trilogy was a hard act to follow. However, this is an entirely different movie. The Dark Knight is all about the mythology of Batman, exploring it in all different ways: how that symbol affects the city, Bruce Wayne, and everyone he knows. In this, we never get to see the fake billionaire playboy side of Bruce Wayne that I believe is essential to the character. The Nolan films are crime-thriller-action movies, high on spectacle with lots of sweeping, grand shots. This felt very small in comparison. It’s more intimate. The scope is wide but not large. The shots are mostly close, and we rarely see the city from a bird’s eye view. The action suffers from this style, often too jumbled. It’s an epic in the way that The Godfather is an epic, rather than Lawrence of Arabia. It never felt iconic in the way that The Dark Knight does. At the end, I realized what they were doing with the character and wow, it is smart. They rebuild the mythology of the character; he becomes the symbol and servant of Gotham standing against crime, rather than the symbol of vengeance and a violent, divided city. The final battle scene, and most of the last 20 minutes, feels tacked on, a studio mandate perhaps to an otherwise uncompromised director’s vision. Overall, it’s a great crime story with amazing performances—I didn’t even mention how much I enjoyed Pattinson’s Batman—and a grim and gritty texture that fits it so well. As long as there’s no Joker in the sequel, I’m very excited for more.

1. The Dark Knight (2008) – dir. Christopher Nolan

I know it’s cliche, but the second film in the Nolan Trilogy is simply the best. It’s often in contention with Logan, Infinity War, and Spider-Man 2 as the best superhero movie of all time, and it’s certainly got my vote. I’m a sucker for great performances, and I know it’s been harped on endlessly by Joker fanboys and edgy middle schoolers, but Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in this film is unsurpassable. It’s my favorite performance after Brando in The Godfather, and Ledger definitely deserved the posthumous Oscar. The subtleties, the little ticks and movements stick in my head, the physicality of the performance is matched only by Christain Bale, and the voice has an unsettling melody to it that is capped by the hauntingly chaotic laugh. This is the Joker, not Nicholson, not Hamill, not even the many iterations from the comics. When I think of the Joker, I think of this movie and this performance. Besides that, we get a crime story full of twists, developments, and action scenes to rival any of the good Mission: Impossible films. The story is based heavily on my favorite Batman comic, The Long Halloween, in which a year-two Batman tracks down a serial killer who only kills on holidays, and creates a mob war in Gotham that ushers in the era of the super villain. Nolan’s epic style lends itself perfectly to the story, especially in the final 30 minutes, in which a morality play is presented and the soul of Gotham city is at risk. This is a film worthy of its place at #4 on the IMDb Top Movies list, its 94% Rotten Tomatoes score, and its place at the top of my list for the best Batman movie ever made.