ByJake Swinney, writer at

The Dark Knight, The Caped Crusader, The World's Greatest Detective...whatever you refer to him as, Batman is undeniably one of the most recognizable icons in pop culture. Since first gracing the pages of a comic book in 1939, the masked hero has created an ever-growing fan-base of passionate enthusiasts. Though I read my share of comic books growing up, where the Batman truly captivated me was on the silver screen.

I remember being a toddler sitting on the floor of my Batman themed bedroom, watching a VHS of Burton's Batman Returns (1992) while pretending not to be afraid of DeVito's Penguin. Burton's 1989 film was almost surely fastened in the portable rewind machine, so I could continue the daily routine of Batman, Batman Returns, Batman, Batman Returns, etc. I was never one to discriminate when it came to my all-time favorite character, so I would watch the campy 1966 film just as often as the dark, German-expressionistic Burton films. It was different, yes, but it was still Batman.

I even heavily fancied the Schumacher films upon their release (granted, I was in elementary school). Growing up with the releases of these films created such a gradual flow that I never really noticed the very distinct change in tonality. The films weren't as "scary", but I wasn't as young. It wasn't until 2005 that I began to realize that this beloved hero I grew up with was evolving right before my eyes. On June 15, 2005, I ditched my 8th grade class to catch the first matinee showing of Nolan's Batman Begins. At the age of thirteen, I remember being confused by the concept of a reboot, and thought that this film would simply be a prequel to Burton's '89 film. I was wrong, and I knew it immediately--something just felt different about this film.

On an extreme Batman-high after leaving the theater, I returned home to watch my collection of other Batman films. After being away from them for a while, I viewed them all with a very different, more matured eye. I remember being almost off-put by the dark and Gothic nature of the Burton films, and laughing at the cheesiness of the Schumacher films. Why did I never laugh at Kilmer's mid-flight thumbs up to Commissioner Gordon? And how could I ever think that Schwarzenegger's ice puns Sorry. One thing was for sure, Batman had been changing over the years.

In light of being just over a year away from the next cinematic interpretation of Batman, I decided to make this video in order to chronicle the character's big screen transformations over the past 70 years. In doing so, I realized that the essential characteristics of the hero never truly change. He simply molds to fit the vision of different creative minds and different eras of filmmaking. Burton's vision shook Hollywood out of its superhero apathy, the Schumacher films appealed to a larger audience, and Nolan's transformation helped to shift the genre into the box office powerhouse it is today. And let's not forget that none of this would have been possible without the serials of the '40s and the notoriously campy Batman: The Movie (1966). Enjoy!

Films used:
Batman (1943 serial)
Batman and Robin (1949 serial)
Batman: The Movie (1966)
Batman (1989)
Batman Returns (1992)
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Batman Forever (1995)
Batman & Robin (1997)
Batman Begins (2005)
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Lego Movie (2014)


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