Batman is a superhero icon that has both graced and dominated our movie and television screens for as long as most of us can remember. What I find incredible is the Caped Crusader has managed to maintain such a strong presence even in light of some pretty serious cinematic stinkers! So here are fiver iterations of Batman we have seen ranked in order on a zero to hero spectrum.
1. Batman & Robin
Bane's lack of intelligence alone was enough to ruin this movie. When a villain's vocabulary only consists of his name and the word "bomb," you're in for a terrible movie. While Batman's grammar was far superior, I doubt that would keep anyone from arguing that Clooney's interpretation of Batman should be the definitive example of how NOT to be Batman. I could forgive the bat-nipples if he actually made any effort to change his voice and/or persona when shifting between Batman and Bruce Wayne. Even with a good script, Clooney's portrayal of the Dark Knight still would have been completely one-dimensional and half-baked. Clooney himself later apologized for ruining Batman for people. The movie itself was very polarizing as well. It's as if the movie didn't know whether to be campy or gritty. As a viewer I found this to be both laughable and frustrating. I could go on, but I won't. While there were a whole host of other things wrong with Batman & Robin, Clooney's Batman was a rather buoyant cinematic turd that managed to float to the top of the surface of the film.
Batman & Robin: ZERO
2. Batman Forever
After the success of Batman and Batman Returns, Mr. Kilmer had some serious bat-boots to fill. The man who was the face of Bruce Wayne/Batman had refused to sign on for the third installment and so did the director. A lot of things were working against Batman Forever actually being a good movie. Lo and behold, it wasn't. While it wasn't as bad as Batman & Robin, this marked the beginning of the demise of the Batman franchise of the 90s. Kilmer does a much better job of distinguishing Batman fromBruce Wayne, but that polarizing darkness/campiness started to creep its manic head into the Batman universe. That ruined it for me. Plus, Kilmer was reportedly an insufferable tool on set. C'mon, Val. Be a team player.
Batman Forever: ZERO
3. Batman (TV Series)
My earliest childhood images of who Batman is and should be was shaped by two actors: Adam West and Michael Keaton. West's Batman came onto the scene during the post-WWII ere where there was a significant push to make superheroes more palatable and family friendly. As a result, the Batman comics and TV show moved away from the dark and gritty into the goofy and campy. For its time, West's portrayal of Batman was excellent. Until recently he was the only one to sport the classic grey costume in full color! By today's standards, this Batman may seem silly and over-the-top, but nostalgia has its place in the hearts of many a Batman fan.
Batman (TV Series): HERO
3. The Dark Knight Trilogy
As a story arc, The Dark Knight Trilogy is simply astounding. Christopher Nolan is a masterful storyteller who knows how to keep audiences in an almost continual state of tension. Even with plot holes and some forced tie-ins, top notch acting and suspense manages to keep the audiences engaged. Many believe Christian Bale's iteration of Batman to be definitive. Excelling in the dark and brooding nature is one of his signature qualities. However, there were some unintended laughs stemming from his Bat growls which did take away from some of the magic these films produce. Nevertheless, Bale's performance as well as the interconnected narrative flowing throughout all three movies make The Dark Knight Trilogy not only a great set of superhero flicks, but great films in general. Nolan's directorial abilities managed to both redeem a failing franchise and up the ante when telling the story of superheroes as a whole.
The Dark Knight Trilogy: HERO
When Batman hit the big screen in 1989, it was in a league of its own, at least when it came to superhero movies. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton brought Batman back to his roots in a fresh and faithful spin on the beloved character with the original film and Batman Returns. If you ask millennials which Batman is definitive out of all the men who portrayed him, many will say, "Michael Keaton." And lets not forget the incredible work done by Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer as the infamous villains. Even though Batman Returns took a surprisingly dark turn (Remember that scene where Batman lights one of Penguin's henchmen on fire? Kind of dark, right?), these two movies are still hailed as definitive portrayals of Batman.
Batman/Batman Returns: HERO