Batman Movies Ranked

Not all the Batman movies because I’ve no idea how many early movie serials there were prior to the 60’s or how many feature length animated Batman direct-to-videos there may have been.

Why am I even ranking Batman movies? Because I had a bad night’s sleep and rather than worrying about stuff I decided to rank Batman movies. The trick, so I’m told, for falling back to sleep is losing your train of thought.

1 to 3: Good films that I like to see again. 4 to 7: Films that I enjoyed but which I wouldn’t rush to watch again. 8 to 10: Time I could have spent doing something else.

  1. Batman Returns 1992 Michael Keaton. There’s a lot to like about this weird film. Mainly penguins and Cat Woman, but also the weird story and Danny DeVito. It isn’t a funny film but it likes being absurd. Seriously silly, the film accepts that a man dressing as a bat is not a serious concept and hence plunges Batman into a world that is sinister and far more strange than dressing up as a bat. Also: penguins.
  2. The Dark Knight 2008 Christian Bale. The super-serious take on Batman has a super-serious take on the Joker. While the other Nolan Batman films can feel a bit dry, this one gets the contrast right. It works not by making Batman plausible directly but by making the Joker both plausible and very strange.
  3. The Lego Batman Movie 2017 Will Arnett. By using Lego the film allows Batman to be played for laughs AND respect the history.
  4. Batman Begins 2005 Christian Bale. It’s OK. It goes on a bit. It’s interesting because it is an essay on how it might be possible to make a film in which Batman is a serious concept set in a non-fantasy world.
  5. Batman 1989 Michael Keaton. Tough to balance this one against Batman Begins. Both films are more notable than really enjoyable. The plot of this first Batman film wanders around too much.
  6. Batman 1966 Adam West. The movie version of the TV show. Silly and great for sight gags and deadpan humour.
  7. The Dark Knight Rises 2012 Christian Bale. The story doesn’t make a lot of sense and the cracks in the suspension of disbelief required start showing.
  8. Batman v Superman 2016 Ben Affleck. Affleck is a plausible Batman, maybe even the most like the Frank Miller Batman. However, the film is a mess and only enjoyable in fragments.
  9. Batman Forever 1995 Val Kilmer. It was a film with Batman in it.
  10. Batman & Robin 1997 George Clooney. It was a worse film with Batman in it. I think the idea of George Clooney as Bruce Wayne makes a lot of sense and Clooney has the range from comedy to seriousness to be a plausible pick for Batman but…well the film was just not worth the time anybody spent on it.

As for the insomnia, I ended up typing a list of Batman films in the dark.



10 thoughts on “Batman Movies Ranked

  1. There were two serials with Batman. “Batman” (1943), and “Batman and Robin” (1949).

    The first features a yellowface “Japanese” villain and is about as racist as such a thing shot during WWII could be.

    Which is “very”, obviously.


  2. I’ve always said Clooney was the best Bruce Wayne, hands down. With a different script and director, he might have been a good Batman. His scenes with Alfred were good. Also one other thing that bothered me was that Batgirl had more facial hair than Robin. My BFF and I sat together whispering “she knew her face was going to be 30 feet tall on movie screens and she didn’t wax?”

    Your #1 is good, because penguins, and for the one scene where Bruce and Selina are dancing, all flirty and then he realizes who she secretly is. Keaton’s face says it all without a word.

    Your extrapolation looks probable.

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  3. Too few people appreciate the genuine greatness of Batman Returns. It made great use of ideas about codependency and the “adult children of” concepts that were a huge part of the 80s-90s Zeitgeist, and as much about second-wave feminism as they could figure out.

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  4. The 1989 Batman has faded a bit (plus, it borrowed its plot from a 1934 Spider novel and I’d rather see a decent adaptation of that), but Batman Returns still holds up very well and is probably the best of the Burton/Shoemaker films. Coincidentally, I don’t dislike the Joel Shoemaker Batman films as much as many others do. Batman Forever is okay, though Val Kilmer’s not very good performance lets it down. Batman and Robin has a great Bruce Wayne in George Clooney, but pretty much everything else about the movie does not work, including seriously miscast villains.

    Besides, the Burton/Shoemaker movies have the best Gotham City of them all. The look of Gotham City is very important to me, I basically want a gothic Art Deco extravaganza and the Burton/Shoemaker films really deliver on that front.

    I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t like Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman at all. Christian Bale is pretty good in the role, but everything else about the movies is off. Batman Begins is okay, but The Dark Knight tries to shoehorn some kind of message about terrorism and “Sometimes it’s necessary to make sacrifices and hard choices” into what should be a Batman story. I never bothered with the third movie. Nolan’s Batmobile looks awful and his Gotham City is just dull.

    I’m very fond of Gotham, the currently airing TV show about the origin of Batman. It’s the sort of thing that shouldn’t work – who wants to see a bonkers gothic crime drama about Jim Gordon, where Bruce Wayne is still a teenager? – but for some reason it does. The show plays fast and loose with the Batman mythos, but it’s always entertaining and the acting is top-notch. Gotham’s Penguin and Riddler are among the best (and both are up against strong competition from previous portrayals) and the teen actors who play Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are amazing, especially considering how young they are. Sean Pertwee makes a great Alfred (but then I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad Alfred) and looks so much like his father (Jon Pertwee ak.a. the Third Doctor) that it’s now my headcanon that the Third Doctor took a few years off to raise Bruce Wayne into Batman. Besides, Gotham’s Ras-Al-Ghul is finally played by an actor of Middle Eastern origin (Alexander Siddig) rather than the three white Celtic men who portrayed him previously. I also like what Gotham does with Gotham City, since they use the grittier and more gothic bits of real life New York City to portray the fictional Gotham.


    1. Gotham is on Netflix now so I might check it out. I concur with you on Nolan’s Gotham. The city itself is supposed to be a character and Nolan’s Bat-films don’t have that.


      1. Do check out Gotham. It’s not just Batman’s and Jim Gordon’s origin story, it’s basically everybody’s origin story.

        The Nolan films are set in a generic big city that just happens to be called Gotham. Meanwhile, in the Burton and Shoemaker films, the animated series and the TV show Gotham, the city itself is a character. IMO, the perfect Gotham City is a distillation of what you always imagined New York City to be like, but what the real New York City isn’t or at least isn’t anymore.

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