To date we have had a total of 10 live-action Batman films with an 11th appearance, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, slated to hit in 2016. We also have a Lego Batman movie coming in 2017 and another solo Batman reboot coming from Warner Bros. in 2018.
What is the most common debate regarding these films? That would probably be the argument of which are the best and which are the worst.
For this list I decided to reflect on Batman in film and discuss the good, bad, and the hideous. I want to warn that this list will only include Batman films I have seen, so not all 10 films will be on this list. Plus, you can also argue the fact that the 1943 and 1949 serial films aren't really Batman movies so In addition to not ever seeing them, I will not be including them in this list.
Think I messed up or would have your list in a different order? Give a shout in the comments, but let's keep the comments clean. Nolan fanboys beware, not everyone loved the entire trilogy. Keep things respectful to everyone, please.
8. Batman & Robin (1997)
This shouldn't even need explanation. Between a convoluted plot, horrible casting, cheesy dialogue, bad jokes, containing a ridiculous amount of villains, and basically being an overall mockery of the characters and the DC Universe there really isn't a way to pick which was the worst part of Batman & Robin.
Come on... it was so bad it got Batman canceled until Christopher Nolan brought it back in 2005. Batman went through five studio proposals in its 8 year hiatus and no one would bite because of this movie. People who defend Batman & Robin make me sad.
7. Batman Forever (1995)
Similar to Batman & Robin, it just wasn't good. Val Kilmer was a pretty lousy Batman, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton left the project, and the villains were a bit too overly campy for my taste.
Jim Carrey should have been the perfect Riddler, but I felt he turned the character into more of a joke than an intelligent, calculating nemesis. Tommy Lee Jones was a disappointment for Two-Face, as well.
6. Batman (1966)
You can't mess with a classic, but at this point the old Batman is just a bit outdated. We all love "POW!" and "ZAP!" but compared to the films we have received since Adam West was the Caped Crusader, it just falls to the bottom of the pack. It's by no means bad. It's just been outdone.
5. Batman Begins (2005)
I've never been a huge fan of Batman Begins. I'll even admit that I didn't even see Batman Begins until after I saw The Dark Knight. With that said, even after repeat viewings to try and get into it I just found this origins story to be a bit too long and boring.
Katie Holmes was horribly miscast as Rachel Dawes and she didn't really bring anything to the table. Cillian Murphy, however, was perfectly cast as Scarecrow (aka, Dr. Jonathan Crane) but I thought his character got cheated a bit. I wanted more Scarecrow and less Ra's al Ghul. For an origins story they should have focused on just the one villain because it just felt like Batman couldn't decide which was a bigger threat and that irritated me as a viewer.
4. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
I will warn you that this movie is tainted for me because I am from Aurora, CO. The shooting sort of ruined the overall experience for me back in 2012 as it hit just miles away from home and affected people I knew. I have had a difficult time watching it ever since.
However, I have been able to watch it quite a few times and it's not a bad movie but I don't think it was the epic finale we all wanted from Nolan's trilogy. Fast-forwarding so many years was interesting enough and that isn't what bothered me. What got me about The Dark Knight Rises was the fact that Bruce wasn't handled in a way that I expected him to be. It was almost like they took us back to Batman Begins and we had to watch him become Batman once again. I got it but at the same time it really bothered me.
Add to that downright dumb casting for Catwoman and an extremely underwhelming and lame exit for Bane, it just fell down on its face for me. I still enjoyed it more than Batman Begins, but it wasn't anywhere near the finale I was expecting and it wasn't the finale we deserved.
3. Batman (1989)
No shame, I really loved Tim Burton's Batman movies. I thought Michael Keaton was a great Batman and he was able to balance being both Bruce and the Caped Crusader which isn't something every actor has been able to do.
The big thing was this movie brought Batman and The Joker together for the first time since the 1966 film and it quickly became one of Jack Nicholson's most recognized and perhaps one of his best performances of his career. It also became a defining moment for the tone and overall perception of the modern superhero film.
2. Batman Returns (1992)
I made a bold statement in my post ranking the films of Tim Burton by stating that Batman Returns is my favorite Batman movie. That is a true statement. However, just because it's my personal favorite doesn't mean I think it's the absolute best Batman film to reach the silver screen. It gets edged out for #1 for numerous reasons.
I love Batman Returns for it's dark and somewhat sinister tone. It shows Gotham for what it is and almost makes the city itself a supporting character of the film. For the first time you really get a glimpse at how nasty and corrupt this city and its government is. The version also gave us a violent but fantasy-like feel which fit the versions of the character and the villains like a glove. It even got complaints back in the day from parents for being a little too violent and adult for children.
The cast was spot on and although many disagree, Michelle Pfeiffer is the best Catwoman we've had and the way she brought Selina Kyle to life was 100% perfect. Danny DeVito was also the perfect choice to portray Penguin, at least the version of Penguin that Tim Burton gave us.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Did you expect any different? What Christopher Nolan gave us with The Dark Knight isn't just a stroke of genius regarding the DC Universe, but it is easily one of the best films ever made. Period.
The film itself is incredibly well put together and the balance that Christopher Nolan brought to the characters was flawless. He attempted to ground Batman in a semi-believable reality with Batman Begins, but it wasn't until The Dark Knight that you actually believed it. The introduction of the mob underground within Gotham and the way The Joker slithered his way into the mix was clever and it showed how seemingly crazy but manipulative he could be. Bruce's struggle with being viewed as a wanted vigilante and not someone who is simply trying to clean up the city was visible and there are times as a viewer that you find yourself on the fence. Should Bruce turn himself in or keep running from the law?
Even with all of the great plot points, casting, character development, and everything else there is no getting around the fact that The Joker made this movie. Heath Ledger's portrayal of the villain was masterful. Many people were nervous about Ledger's casting but he managed to prove everyone wrong and showed that he had the versatility, discipline, and ability to bring this iconic villain to life in a realistic way that was so believable it was a bit creepy. His death came far too soon as many hoped he would reprise the role in a future film, but his legacy will continue to live on within the Batman film category. He deserved the Academy Award. It's just a shame he wasn't able to accept it in person.