Batman is the best superhero, that has never really been up for discussion (you either think that or you’re wrong). So in honor of Batman Day, here are how all the live-action films of the Caped Crusader stack up.
7.) Batman and Robin (1997)
This will be last on everyone’s rankings of Batman films, if not worst movies of all-time, period. It killed the franchise and left us Batman-less for eight years, and it really isn’t a wonder why. It tried to be campy and self-satirical like the old Adam West Batman but left out all the fun and joy that that style brings, and oh my god the puns…so many puns… The one plus I can give this film is it’s hilarious if you watch it as a comedy; like, it really is hysterical how badly they botched this. Oh, well. At least we’ll always have the Bat Nipples.
6.) Batman Returns (1992)
This one is often split among the Batman community; some appreciate its dark tone and twisted gothic looks, others (myself included) just didn’t enjoy what it was trying to be. Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer are perfect as the Penguin and Catwoman, however their performances aren’t enough to make this a good Batman film.
5.) Batman Forever (1995)
I think this one gets a bad rap. Much like “Batman Returns,” this film is highlighted by its villains. Tommy Lee Jones has the time of his life playing Two-Face and Jim Carrey, who was coming off 1994, the best year an actor has ever had at the box office and was as hot as anything, nails the Riddler. Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as Batman and does a solid job, and they at least tried to stick to the comics.
4.) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
This was never going to match “The Dark Knight,” but it was a little disappointing how much of a drop-off this was from its predecessor. The film is far from bad, but there are dozens of plot holes and Nolan goes from perfectly depicting Bane (my favorite villain as a kid) to turning him into a lovesick puppy dog with a horrible death (spoilers, but like if you haven’t seen TDKR by now and are reading a list of Batman films, you clearly don’t want to). It’s a fun movie, but unfortunately that’s where it ends.
3.) The Dark Knight (2008)
This film is grossly overrated but it is still great. Christopher Nolan’s crime drama created the new, gritty realism of comic book films (one could argue that may be more bad than good, as that tone is what ruined films like “Man of Steel”), and featured a fantastic performance from Heath Ledger (although not the best depiction of the Joker, more on that in a second).
2.) Batman (1989)
Tim Burton’s original Batman film in a way revolutionized the superhero genre. He put his faith in comic Michael Keaton to portray the Dark Knight and he crushes it, and Jack Nicholson gives the best Joker portrayal to date (read a comic book, haters). I have loved this movie ever since I saw it on VHS as an 8-year-old home sick from school, and is the second best-ever Batman film.
1.) Batman Begins (2005)
Yes, this is better than “The Dark Knight.” Just from a movie perspective it is more coherent and engaging than its successor, and when you take loyalty to the comics into account the separation between the two becomes ever greater. Christian Bale remains the best Bruce Wayne/Batman that we have, and Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul partnered with Cillian Murphey’s Scarecrow gives us the best (and more logical) bad guy evil plan of the Nolan trilogy. Gotham felt like a real, breathing city and not like Detroit (or Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles like in TDKR), and that is just one of the reasons why “Batman Begins” is, and likely will forever remain, the best Batman movie of all-time.