Ranking the Film Appearances of Batman


I struggled with whether to rank all the Batman appearances between TV and movies, animated and live action, but that going to be too complicated to rank. I would need to do a re-watch of shows, and watch shows and films I have never seen. To keep things simple I decided to only include theatrical film appearances of Batman; I did leave off Suicide Squad because Batman's appearance was so brief in the film. If I had more free time, I would have done all movie appearances (including the DC animated movies), but there are just too many of them. I am ranking these films based on the film itself, but also how Batman/Bruce Wayne was portrayed in the film. There is a film on this list which will be ranked high that a lot of people did not like; this ranking is my preference, and not based on how other felt. Batman has been one of the popular comic book characters ever created, but the films have been a mixed bag. It is hard to capture the character correctly; depending on what version of the character you first connected with will likely determine which film version you will pick. Each film is different, each new interpretation of the character varies from one another in such a way that allows each to be easily separated. I am a comic book reader, so my opinion of what makes a great Batman is different from someone who has never picked up a Batman comic book. There is even a large difference between the different versions of the Batman comic book; things changed when Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns in 1986. Miller's depiction of Batman in that series changed comics forever, his Batman was the darkest version of the character we had met at that point. There are those who prefer the more heroic version of Batman, but there are those like me who enjoy the darker version who is a bit of anti-hero. I found this list difficult because I really liked a lot of these films, but the older ones I was less connected to now. 

14. Batman & Robin (1997)

Anyone who has Batman & Robin anywhere other than last on their list is just plain wrong, I know it is your opinion, but you are wrong. This is a terrible film that has zero things good about the film, the only way to appreciate the film is either a hate-watch or a laugh at how bad the movie is watch. George Clooney was a really poor choice for Batman, Chris O'Donnell is still miscast as Robin, Uma Thurman is okay as Poison Ivy, Alicia Silverstone was miscast as Batgirl and Arnold Schwarzenegger was laughably bad as Mr. Freeze. Joel Schumacher is not a bad director, but you would think he was based on Batman & Robin. The dialogue in this movie was written by an Oscar winning writer Akiva Goldsman. The dialogue is so painful to watch, for a movie with the budget Batman & Robin had it is shocking that anybody read that script and didn't think the movie was going to be terrible. If you watch the Nolan films you will realize just how bad this film was, I don't want to blame the late Joel Schumacher, but his style was just all wrong for this franchise. If you think the 1966 Batman film that based on the TV series than maybe the Joel Schumacher films are your thing; I can say for certain they are not for me as this is a 4/10 for me (that is me being generous).

13) Batman Forever (1997)

When I was younger (over twenty years ago) I enjoyed this movie, I really liked the performance by Jim Carrey. When I recently tried to watch the film again, I turned it off less than 20 minutes into the movie, after seeing Batman Begins (much higher on the list) everything that came before was made to look like garbage. The style of this film (also directed by Joel Schumacher) is almost as bad Batman & Robin, and the dialogue is slightly less terrible. I still think Jim Carrey's performance is the only reason to watch this film, it is way over the top, but also a lot of fun. Val Kilmer is an okay (if not incredibly brooding) Batman/Bruce Wayne and Nicole Kidman was okay as but wasted as Batman's love interest. Chris O'Donnell made his debut as Robin in this film, and his performance is why there has never been a film live action appearance by Robin. This is a bad movie, not just a bad Batman movie; after the first two great Batman films the studio decided to insult fans with increasingly bad sequels. Batman Forever is a 6/10 for me, and it is only that high because I appreciate how truly gigantic Jim Carrey's performance is.

12) Justice League (2017) - The Theatrical Cut (Joss Whedon version)

I am shocked that this film has a 6.1/10 on IMDB, I am an admitted easy reviewer, and I would feel incredibly generous giving this a 6/10. When I saw this in the theaters, I was shocked that this turd was released, then I saw reports that Warner Bros/ executives had bonuses tied to earnings made sure the film released on schedule to get their bonuses. This version of Justice League is a broken mess of a movie, and it becomes even worse when you watch the Zack Snyder Justice League film. The issue with this film is what Joss Whedon did with the film, he cut the heart out of it and replaced it with not funny jokes. Based on the reports over the last few years it seems that no actor on set enjoyed working with Joss Whedon, which is a shame because so much of his earlier work feels tainted now. The Henry Cavill mustache issue is one of the most unintentionally funniest things of the film, the fact that Paramount would not let him shave it for the reshoots of Justice League was the chef's kiss. I know there are a lot of people that hated what Zack Snyder did with these characters, but I don't any issues with his choices. This film was hurt the tone of Snyder and Whedon not meshing together, Whedon was obviously under a lot of pressure to make the planned release date. This is just a waste when compared with what Zack Snyder did, I am a Zack Snyder fanboy, and I could care less what anyone else thinks about his work.

11) Batman (1966)

The campiest portrayal of Batman by a country mile is the 1966 version (though Joel Schumacher tried and failed to outdo it). While I liked the TV series when I was a kid, I never really enjoyed the portrayal of Batman and Robin. Something always seemed off about it to me, even as a kid I knew it was not for me. The movie and the series had my intention because of the style and the villains; the rogue gallery of villains in the movie is very impressive. The film features the Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman teaming up to defeat the dynamic duo once and for all. I have not seen the film in many years, but I remember the over-the-top villains very fondly, I think Jim Carrey's portrayal of the Riddler was largely influenced by the villains from the movie/series. It is a weird choice for the movie to be made shortly after the first season came out; it is something that would never happen today. Adam West is loved by some for his portrayal, but it is too campy for me to enjoy especially since my introduction to the character was the 1989 film. Based on how much fun I thought the villains were in the film I would score the movie a 7/10, for the time it was made I thought they did a good job.

10) Lego Batman (2017)

It is hard for me to explain, but I have never enjoyed the Lego Batman movie as much as everyone else did. I don't know why, but the movie is just boring to me; I don't think I have ever been able to watch it one sitting and not fall asleep. The voice cast for the movie is amazing, and I do think the performances were all good, but I did not find the concept all that funny which was the point of the film. The movie is making fun of the fact that Batman is too serious and narcissistic to the point of being funny. Maybe my issue is that I like the character too much to see him being made fun of for being too serious. The visuals, the jokes (there are some that are funny) and the voice acting were top notch I just found the story not something I enjoyed. The film is a 7/10 and for those looking for a funny and family friendly film I think Lego Batman has a lot to offer even if not everything works for me.

9) Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)

As I am writing this, I just finished watching this movie again (not even sure how many times I have seen it), it is amazing, and I wish I could put it higher on the list. In the review I wrote for the film I mentioned that I felt the film was fantastic, after yet another viewing I am still amazed at how good the film is. It still stings that Warner Bros. (WB) failed Snyder so badly, this film was amazing, and we should have gotten a sequel to it. To WB this film existence is a reminder of their ineptitude, to make a sequel would only highlight their failure. Anybody who said Snyder got Batman wrong in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice needs to watch the Snyder cut of Justice League; we see what his vision for Batman was meant to be. Batman in this film is a hopeful Batman who is trying to do better, Ben Affleck proved to be a great choice for the version of Batman that Snyder wanted. I think this film is a major improvement on the theatrical version of Justice League, everything is better with this version. Batman was the leader of the Justice League in this film, it was his determination and faith that allowed the Justice League to win (with a huge assist from Superman). If Batman was in the movie more it would be higher on the list, but this film is a 10/10 for me, I know it is not perfect, but I just love this movie so much. 

8) Batman (1989)

It seems to be a running joke that when an actor is cast to play Batman that fans will freak out and reject the actor, until they see them do the role and then change their minds and think they're great. Michael Keaton as Batman was a choice that drew a lot of criticism at the time, he was known as being a comedic actor who had no action roles under his belt. Keaton proved that having action chops is meaningless but being able to project humor into a dark character was more important. The 1989 batsuit looks fantastic even still to do this day, but it is incredibly impractical as it was too tight, and he couldn't turn his head. The action in this film suffers greatly from the suit being hard to move in, but the visuals are still very impressive. Jack Nicholson as Joker was another piece of brilliant casting, he was over the top, but in the best way possible. Tim Burton brought his stylish filmmaking to this movie, and it really worked. The reason this film is low on the list is because when I go back and watch it now I get taken out of the film by the many minor issues that I have with it. When Christopher Nolan made Batman Begins it ruined every previous Batman film for me. When I see Batman now, I am annoyed at all of the impracticality of everything from the batsuit to batmobile. The miniature sets used for Gotham stand out, they're amazing but they also take me out of the film because I notice them now. Batman is a very well-made film, but for me it will never be the same as when I saw it theatres as a kid it is now only a 7/10. 

7) Batman Returns (1992)

Tim Burton's sequel to Batman was just as good as Batman, but for me the two villains worked better especially because of the performances. Danny DeVito as Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman were both outstanding (not that Jack Nicholson wasn't). Batman Returns leaned more into the absurdity of the premise, the style of the first film remained, but Burton raised the craziness up to an 11/10. Michael Keaton was still really good, but the villains were even better, we also got Christopher Walken as another villain. The problems I had with the first film are still here for the sequel, there is a lot that makes no sense and that takes me out of the movie. When I compare Batman Returns to Batman, I find the sequel to be more watchable due to the performances of the villains. Depending on how crazy you want the film to be, this will either work better for you or worse. It will be interesting to see Keaton in the role of Batman after more than 30 years next year when he appears in The Flash. The Keaton/Burton collaboration worked really well, while they might no longer appeal to me; they are still films I can enjoy parts of. Batman Returns is not a better movie than Batman, so for me it is a 7/10; it is essential viewing for any Batman fan.

6) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The final chapter in Christopher Nolan's Bat trilogy was a let down for a lot of people; it did not live up to the hype of The Dark Knight. I include myself in those who were disappointed, but I still very much enjoyed the film, and the ending makes me emotional every single time I watch it. Nolan's very practical take on Batman has led to villains like Bane feeling less threatening, but the true villain reveal makes total sense. There are things about Rises that annoys people, but for me I just enjoy it; it is similar that Batman and Batman Returns no longer work for me. The film was truly epic (the opening scene is amazing), it is worthy of the finale of a trilogy. Anne Hathaway was great as Selina Kyle (Catwoman), her take on the character was great, and I wish we she would have appeared earlier in the trilogy. The Dark Knight Rises is an 8/10 for me, it is a good film that does have issues, but I think it really nails the ending of the series. I thought Rises delivered the most emotional film of the trilogy, it has big action and an unfortunately convoluted plot. 

5) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) - The Ultimate Cut

This choice is where I think people are going to want to scream at me, Dawn of Justice is a very flawed movie, but it is awesome. This is the definition of a guilty pleasure movie for me, I know it is far from good, but I just enjoy it so much. Dawn of Justice's biggest issue is the convoluted plot that forces Batman and Superman into a fight (which is amazing). Lex Luthor (played by Jessie Eisenberg) is going for it with his performance, while I enjoy his Lex, I do not think the film makes good use of him. The main reason I placed this film as high on this list is the performance by Ben Affleck, I think he proved to be a great Bruce Wayne and Batman. This film suffers from excess, there is just too much happening in this film; a lot of it is really good, but some of it was unnecessary. The action in this film looked amazing, the fight between Batman and Superman felt straight out of the pages of The Dark Knight Returns. The ultimate cut filled out the Clark Kent and Lois Lane storylines that were cut from the theatrical cut. When I did article where I ranked the films of the DCEU I had BvS fourth, it is a film I like a lot, and I think it is an entertaining film. Batman v Superman is an 8/10 for me, this film gave a great batsuit, batmobile, Alfred, action, and visuals. The plot is a little weak, but Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) also require the viewer to leave their brains at the door; BvS is just so awesome and watching Batman in that warehouse scene was phenomenal.

4) Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Batman: The Animated Series (BTAS) was so groundbreaking at the time; it used a great visual aesthetic for the design of the show. Mask of the Phantasm was released in the middle of the second season of the show, it tells a very interesting story that has ties to Bruce Wayne's early years as Batman. The animation and style of the film is really cool, but the story is the real masterpiece here. One of the shocking things about BTAS is that for a kids show the storytelling was so mature, the movie and show tell a tale that approaches adult subjects in a thoughtful way. This film is a 9/10; Mask of the Phantasm and BTAS are great Batman depictions and I hope people give the movie a chance. The voice cast led by Mark Hamill (the Joker) and Kevin Conroy (Batman/Bruce Wayne) give very dynamic work. The movie features Batman being a detective, a fighter, a lover and a hero; this a great Batman story that manages to capture the essence of the character.

3) Batman Begins (2005)

This movie blew me away when I saw it, I still remember the night I saw this movie; it was a Friday night and me, my friend and his brother saw this at midnight. I came out of the theater so pumped despite it being almost 3am, we had to walk home from the theater which took an hour. Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman and Christian Bale were all perfectly cast in the film. I never liked the Alfred (played by Michael Gough) in the first four Batman films, he seemed too feeble and useless. I liked what Caine brought to table, he had a vitality to his performance; I also found his humor fit perfectly in the film. Neeson was so great in this film; his performance was my favourite, and I liked how his character was used in the film. Christopher Nolan's ground take on Batman was a welcomed departure from the over-the-top campy films that preceded it. Batman Begins is a 9/10; it is a fantastic film, and also a great pivot for comic book films. The score by Hans Zimmer is great, and it really sets the tone for movie.  

2) The Batman (2022)

reviewed The Batman just a few days ago, and since then I keep thinking about the film and that is why I placed it as number two on this list. Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz had amazing chemistry together, it is exciting that we will have Catwoman in more than one movie in the Matt Reeves series. Paul Dano gave a totally unexpected take on the Riddler, I am curious if his Riddler will change into the Riddler we are more use to later in the series. Michael Giacchino's score for the film was also really good, as the movie went on, I loved hearing the Batman theme. The new batmobile was so cool, the way engine started and the way the car sounded was awesome. This is the first Batman film to explore Batman being the world's greatest detective, the mystery of the film was not the point it was watching Batman figure things out. The Batman had a fantastic first trailer that set the bar for the film so high, but Matt Reeves and the cast delivered over and above what the trailer promised. The Batman is a 10/10, before I forget to mention it, Jeffrey Wright gave my favourite portrayal of Jim Gordon so far. The Batman is not just a great Batman movie, it is an exceptionally well-crafted film that deserves to be seen by everyone (though maybe not for kids).

1) The Dark Knight (2008)

This is probably the least shocking choice on my entire list except maybe Batman & Robin being last; The Dark Knight (TDK) is possibly one of the best films of all time. Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker was so intense; there is a reason he won an Academy Award for the performance. Aaron Eckhart also gives a really good performance as Harvey Dent, he is overshadowed by Ledger, but he gave the second-best performance in the film. I'll give one little critique, the end involving the two ferries was not the most captivating. The car chase involving the trailer, the batmobile and the prisoner transport was so cool, the end of that chase was surprising in the best way possible. The movie is so intense, the Joker depicted in this film was the perfect agent of chaos that the comics depicted. I think it goes without saying that this film is a 10/10, Christopher Nolan is a master filmmaker. Just three years after Batman Begins changed the landscape of comic book films, TDK did it again and proved that comic book films can get major film awards recognition.

That is my ranking of Batman films, thank you for reading and please let me know what your ranking of the films are. 



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