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All 11 Batman Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

05 July 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Tom Lorenzo

The Caped Crusader. The World’s Greatest Detective. The Dark Knight. The Batman. The world has been neck deep in love for Batman, making him arguably the most popular hero in comicdom. Although, that wasn’t always the case. There was an ebb and flow for a long time.

There was a peak in the 60s with his super popular TV show that was broader than comic fans. But then that drifted away as he went back to the niche market at the time. Then he came back to the popular consciousness with the late 80s 1-2 punch of Frank Millers work on The Dark Knight Returns/Year One and the 1989 release of Tim Burton’s truly iconic Batman.

Since then? Nonstop Batman, reaching an absolute fever pitch with Christopher Nolan’s work in the mid to late 2000s with The Dark Knight Trilogy. Prior to Wonder Womans massive success, WB was really leaning on Batman’s massive popularity to bolster the then struggling DCEU being set up.

With announced Nightwing, Gotham City Sirens, and Batgirl entries in addition to Matt Reeves’ The Batman, we’re not gonna have a shortage of the Bat on the big screen for a long time. So while we wait for the November release of Justice League, the next time we’ll see the Bat, let’s take a look back on his cinematic excursions thus far and give them the definitive ranking. Well, definitive until the requisite comment on this article that says I’m a doofus or some such nonsense. Let’s go!

 

11. Batman Forever (1995)

Batman-Forever

This is truly the only movie Batman has been in that can be considered boring. It’s stuck in this weird little limbo, trying to be a Burton Batman movie and Joel Schumachers version. It never really reaches an apex for either version, becoming this boring little stew that is just limp and obnoxious.

Boring being Val Kilmer’s sleepwalking in a nippled bat suit and Chris O’Donnell playing the oldest ward history has ever seen, with a little dash of a gorgeous but nothing else Nicole Kidman as the love interest. Obnoxious being pretty much everything else.

Jim Carrey’s first cinematic scream for help, a warning plea to the world that he is a damaged soul that just constantly needs attention and will derail a movie if he has to and a sign to the world that he wasn’t gonna be bulletproof forever. Tommy Lee Jones, a man who very rarely sanctions buffoonery, is acting as if his contract stipulated a paycheck that gets bigger and bigger equally to his performances’ decibel level.

The plot itself is just a weird mish mash of nothing happening, with The Riddler coming to be because Bruce Wayne doesn’t give him enough respect and Two-Face just happening to be around. So Batman is thrown into this situation, that isn’t actually an issue until the third act, for no reason other than wounded pride. Which could be interesting if the movie did anything with it, but it doesn’t. The action isn’t even on a level that can be enjoyed.

All of this is bad enough, but the truly monumental sin is that the movie cures Batman. Yeah, that’s right. Batman is cured, finally getting over the death of his parents. So he is ready to quit, until he’s brought back after a raid on the mansion. But then he stays Batman, but is also over it. Just a stunning, fundamental misunderstanding of the character.

 

10. Batman and Robin (1997)

batmanandrobin

Long considered the worst movie in the Bat bunch, there is some fun to be had here. It’s not a boring movie at the very least. There’s some interesting elements that could have been special, but aren’t executed very well. Like the storyline with Alfred’s mortality. It could have been something really cool to do. Just that execution is lacking.

But the attempt is there and helps elevate it above Batman Forever. The biggest issue is that Schumacher isn’t the guy for these kinds of movies, incapable of utilizing the big screen for comic book cinema. He’s also not the guy who should be in charge of Batman, as he obviously isn’t much too keen on the character. There’s no passion to the movie, just the madcap insanity of man in too deep in a world he doesn’t know.

Some fans of the movie like to argue that it is a big screen redo of the 60s tv model, going for camp as a direct rebuttal to the success of Burtons darker work. Which would be fine, except the movie doesn’t reach that shows delirious heights. It doesn’t feel earned, like the movie is off the rails whereas the show did exactly what it was trying to do.

The acting isn’t much better than it was in the last entry, Clooney not doing anything to justify his replacement of Kilmer. O’Donnell is still around for some damn reason. The new love interest is Elle McPherson, although you wouldn’t be wrong for not remembering that since she’s not a great actress and doesn’t make much of an impression in her 3 minutes of screen time.

What is more successful and helps tone the obnoxiousness levels down a good deal is Arnold Scwarzenneger and Uma Thurman. They know exactly what movie they’re in and are having a blast. This is not a good movie. Gotta get that out of the way. But it’s a fun movie, especially in group, and it was luckily so bad that we were able to get the Nolan movies out of it.

 

9. Batman (1989)

Batman

The movie that helped to start it all. A big ole piece of marketing perfection, selling a movie based on it’s logo that dominated the country in 1989. The bat logo was on everything and it was everywhere. The movie itself, at the time, didn’t disappoint. It was one of the biggest movies ever at the time, a true phenomenon. It put a little life into the comic book movie market, which was still in it’s infancy at the time, after the colossal collapse of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.

Slowly but surely, it paved the way for Blade and X-Men, which then helped birth the world we are in now. But with a little hindsight, it is not a very good movie. It’s not bad, far from awful. But it really does not hold up well at all. The biggest issue that causes these problems are a very bad script, one that has no cohesion at all.

There’s no drama, no propulsion from one scene to the next. It’s a collection of moments that culminate in a moment that feels really unearned and reliant on a twist that completely hinders Bruce Wayne’s tragedy, turning it into a world narrowing crutch for the narrative.

Another big problem is partly on Burton and partly on the time/budget. The action scenes are bland. They can’t do much because the suit is not built very well and the budget doesn’t allow for much more than anything other than badly choreographed fist fights in the suit. A problem that is also kind of a positive?

Jack Nicholson, not even close to playing The Joker but is an absolute delight to watch anyway. He’s here to chew up all the scenery in a role that would more accurately be considered Jack in face paint. It’s a performance that becomes the only thing the movie is interested in, letting nothing else breathe.

It’s a crutch for the weak script, especially when you realize there’s nothing to the Jokers story. He just does stuff, and not in the chaotic way Heath Ledgers would attack things. No, it’s just underwritten chaos for no other reason than the script says so. Which is a shame that he takes so much away from the movie, as Michael Keaton is an interesting Batman/Bruce Wayne.

He wouldn’t really get a chance to shine until Batman Returns. He’s interesting because it’s a different way for Bruce to be portrayed, as a barely controlled maniac instead of the highly intelligent detective/ninja he’s usually portrayed as. Kim Basinger is fine? She doesn’t have much to do, other than be a kind of audience surrogate.

The biggest strength of this movie has to be the production design by Anton Furst, a truly beautiful work of art that catches the eye. Credit also has to go to Burton for managing to make something worth watching with all the issues he had to deal with. Not a great movie, no. But one that is definitely watchable and very important to cinema.

 

8. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

TheDarkKnightRisesEnding

One of the most anticipated sequels of all time, following up the landmark The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan delivers his first true disappointment of his career. Not to say that this is a bad movie. It really isn’t. There’s a lot to like in here. But it doesn’t even come close to living up the Batman Begins, let alone The Dark Knight. Maybe the hype had something to do with it? Possible, but doubtful, since there are way too many storytelling flaws to really make a legitimate case for its superiority.

For a movie as long as it is, there feels like way too much story is missing here. For the most interesting aspect of the narrative isn’t there, that being the time that Gotham is under Banes thumb. It could have been really fascinating to see the city fall like that, in a way much more severe than the case of chaos that The Joker delivers in The Dark Knight.

Then there’s the issue of Bruce Wayne himself and the narrative arc that he is given. Bruce going into hiding/retiring after the events of the last movie isn’t a problem on its face. The real issue comes with the reasoning and execution of the idea. It’s implied that Bruce retired because of the death of Rachel Dawes, not that the government instituted a law that severely dampens crime or that he is a fugitive. It’s a weird arc for him to take, especially with much juicier ways to take that arc. And while Bane himself is a great character with some great moments that delivers quite well on the thematic front, there’s some issues within this narrative too.

Mainly one of too much convenience that borders on insulting, especially within a series that has typically gone to great lengths to show how everything works. Add in the ending twist that just lands with a thud, Talia Al Ghuls introduction is silly and her farewell is even worse. Maybe the biggest problem is Joseph Gordon Levitt, having to portray a character that doesn’t work at all.

The movie tries to set it up that he could be the next Gotham vigilante, but it rushes through it to the point that the ending feels more conceptual than logistical. Yet, despite these flaws, the movie works pretty well as an action vehicle. The big scope of the thing works in it’s favor, as does the typically stellar visuals.

Anne Hathaway just kills it as Catwoman. And the third act, while involving some narrative flubs, contains some of the most fist pumping moments of pure cinematic ecstasy in Nolan’s career. Flawed on some surprising levels, considering the pedigree, but it works.

 

7. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

The biggest hot take in this article? Possibly. Even hotter? Ben Affleck is probably the best live action version of Batman we have seen thus far. While this movie may have taken its fair share of beatings (some of it earned), the movie is far from a dumpster fire it is made out to be and contains some of the best Batman material we’ve seen. The movie is quite large and is spread between the two titular heroes, focusing on Batman seems correct.

What this movie does is something quite ingenious, a relative to something being done in the comics currently. For decades, Batman has been defined by the darkness imbued into him by Frank Miller. What this movie presupposes is, what if that’s a bad thing? A man so driven by rage and obsession would only get worse as he gets older, right? Especially in a world we he feels like he’s constantly losing his war against crime, seeing supervillains rise up with ease to keep the fight going and seeing his allies either die or become villains themselves.

It’s a real interesting thematic choice to follow, essentially making Batman the bad guy of the narrative. To make a movie that is structured around a fight between these two titans, it stands to reason that there needs to be some excuse for them to fight. A misunderstanding that is brushed aside quickly would be the easy choice to make.

But to follow this thread, allowing Superman to obviously stay in the right during the bout, is a stroke of genius. And by having the DCEU exist as one where most of the heroes have existed before the events of Man of Steel, it allows Batman to have an arc going forward built into a preexisting history that doesn’t need to be dealt with.

Much like the movies and the world of the movies, Batman is starting dark but moving towards the light. Ben portrays it perfectly too, the rage just simmering at all times. But you get a sense of his intellect and detective skills, while also getting the sense that he does kind of enjoy being Batman/Bruce Wayne. Or at least, he did in his past and the enjoyment is few and far between these days. Not to mention the best on screen portrayal of Batmans skills as a fighter in the amazing Warehouse brawl, this is a pretty complete package for Batman.

Bonus points for Batman barely taking part in the final fight with Doomsday, just having to dodge some lasers a few times as he’s essentially worthless in this fight, a brief flit of humor that works thematically. Justice League should keep this thread going, as the idea of building a team in and of itself is growth for Batman towards shedding his loner skin yet again.

Then there’s The Batman that is being helmed by Matt Reeves, a visionary blockbuster director that is smart enough to see where the Bat has to go. Ignore the cries of misery from some. The future is quite bright for Batman.

 

 

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  • Zwei

    Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)????

  • Wyatt W.B

    Nah dude, Batman(1989) easily top 5.

    • Agreed.

    • Rich Aitken

      Yup.

    • ArmitageX

      Call me crazy, but it’s still #1, to me.

  • Paul

    The writer is a Neanderthal. Sorry. But what a screwed up list.

    • Tom Lorenzo

      Batman will never love you my dude. Probably because he’s not real but also because you’re an immensely ignorant asshole.

    • Michael Kobe Junior

      Triggering clickbait at its most cynical

  • Here’s my list not counting the animated films and the recent Lego Batman as I haven’t seen the latter.

    1. The Dark Knight
    2. Batman Begins
    3. Batman (1989)
    4. The Dark Knight Rises
    5. Batman Returns
    6. Batman (1966)
    7. Batman Forever
    8. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
    9. Batman & Robin (one of the worst films ever)

    • Rich Aitken

      Im Btman Begins, Batman 1989 and BvS as my top three. The Dark Knight is good but it just bores the hell out of me.

    • sailor monsoon

      I’ll take Batman and robin over Batman v superman any day of the week.
      But are bad but i remember every single thing that happens in Batman and robin and it’s been at least 8 years since I’ve seen it.
      I remember nothing about Batman v superman

      • Yeah but Batman & Robin didn’t start off very stupidly w/ “I wanna a car! Chicks dig the car!” “This is why Superman works alone” or have Batman introduce himself to Mr. Freeze idiotically as “Hi Freeze! I’m Batman!!!!” All of this come from some hack writer who won an Oscar for the very overrated A Beautiful Mind. Fuck Akiva Goldsman.

        • sailor monsoon

          True but you can quote that film.
          I can’t quote Batman v superman

          • Yes you can! WHY’D YOU SAY THAT NAME?!!!!!!!

          • sailor monsoon

            Touché sir.
            Unfortunately you win

  • Keith D Suchland

    How could you not list the first film appearances of Batman?
    The serials Batman (1943), and Batman and Robin (1949)
    The certainly have more credibility than the Batman Lego film.

    • sailor monsoon

      He’s got to watch 8 hours of serials!?
      That’s insanity

      • Keith D Suchland

        No, fawning off an incomplete list as complete, is insanity.
        Believe it or not, there are people with the attention span longer than that of a 3 year old on a sugar rush..

        If the author couldn’t be bothered watching the films, due to length, then the list should have been titled to “Modern” or “Color” or something of that ilk, to acknowledge the list was incomplete, regardless of reasoning..

        The list as “ALL 11…” so the author is inferring that that there are ONLY 11 Batman films, which is incorrect, hence my initial post.

        The two aforementioned films were theatrically released, and even more so, are historic as the first appearance of Batman, and later Robin, in film.
        For this reason alone, they should be included.

        Arguing against the inclusion of these two films, based on duration, is….odd.

        • sailor monsoon

          They would still be on the bottom.
          Because they were terrible

  • Gill

    Batman Forever is OK in my book. Not amazing by any stretch, but a bit of fun. Batman and Robin is practically unwatchable.

    I’d rank them something like this:

    The Dark Knight (2008)
    Batman Begins (2005)
    Batman Returns (1992)
    Batman (1989)
    The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
    Batman vs Superman (2016)
    Batman Forever (1995)

    Batman and Robin (1997)

    I can’t remember Batman: The Movie (1966) or Batman: Mask of
    The Phantasm (1993) well enough to rank them, to be honest, and I have no interest in Lego Batman (2017).

  • bd

    And just like that, the search for the worst Taste of Cinema ranked list (and possibly contributor) comes to an end.

    There are so many incredibly shallow and painfully ignorant “criticisms” written in this piece that it was a struggle to finish. But by far, your ranking of Batman (1989) and literally every “criticism” you wrote takes the grand prize of ridiculous assertions.

    • Tom Lorenzo

      What a very reasonable take on this whole thing. I’m glad you survived such a horrible ordeal and don’t shoot up the dead end job you work at in protest of this list.

      • Brian Anderson

        I completely agree with this.

      • bd

        I’ve written actual critiques of ToC articles several times before that include counter claims and supporting reason, but now I don’t bother since longer and more formatted comments are auto-marked (i.e., deleted) as spam based on Disqus’ comment policy and ToC’s own moderation — it’s happened to me 3 times in the past couple months. So I don’t care to be reasonable in this site’s comment section when actual reasonable comments get auto-removed. Now it’s just brief comments (but still longer than the norm) that reference issues held with the article and/or the writer’s style.

        One thing I also don’t do is attack any writer as a person unwarranted — There’s a clear, thick line between personal attacks and attacking a person’s writing, the latter being separated even further if the writing is an opinion piece. Writers practicing in any field, style, or exposure recognize this and (usually, anyway) are able to separate their professional reactions from the personal if they choose to respond.

        So when you choose to respond to my comment with a blind assumption of my “job”, or anything concerning general daily life, it’s clear that you’ve failed to make that separation and are responding out of insecure aggression. Your response is a narcissistic deflection — Whether or not I’m even employed currently is irrelevant; even if I were homeless it wouldn’t give you this imagined higher ground. If you’re going to make those kind of baseless and condescending remarks, you better have enough self-awareness to see that you’re attacking someone’s credibility based on their irrelevant job status when you’re submitting listicles to ToC — a platform that just announced last week that they’ll publish virtually anyone — and describing yourself at the end of each submission as the “preeminent culture critic” of an area.

    • Palash Mitra

      I’m with bd on this. I’ve seen some bad lists on TOC, but this one takes the cake ! Tom, if you’re gonna put out a wall of text on such an iconic character & not expect people to give you shit, especially after such a terrible piece & then insult your readers on top of that, you’re delusional. Stay off social media. Looks like you’re the one about to shoot up at the dead end job you work. -_-

      • Jesse Waitkoss

        Actually, a few people here aren’t offering much in the way of constructive criticisms as they are outright attacking him. I don’t agree with the list but I’m not attacking the guy. It’s his opinion.

        • Bergkamp

          Totally agree with you. People seems to think that just because someone did a “public job” that its ok to shit on that person and that he or she needs to take it like a man and not say anything to defend him or herself. Like: “well you know, if you’re a public figure then don’t be so sensitive if someone it’s attacking you”
          Seriously??? the person that wrote the article is exactly that: A PERSON. Not a robot, so of course that PERSON is gonna be offended if you’re pissing on top. So don’t be surprised or get upset if the author from the article in question does the same thing you guys are doing, which is: ATTACKING someone. It’s not like, well, we, as viewers are entitled to bash someone just because we don’t share their opinion, but God forgive if we receive the same kind of hate In response.

          It’s the internet man. Everyone thinks it’s ok to be an asshole apparently.

        • J Deviant

          Well said. Fanatism takes away people’s capacity to reason on that very last point.

          • bd

            I’m not a big fan of Batman, or comic book media in general, outside of Burton’s two films.

            If someone attacks another person’s writing, it’s very telling of the writer’s capacity for self-control and security if they respond with irrelevant and personal stabs in the dark about that person’s daily life. The writer may as well be in here telling all the naysayers that he had sex with their mom last night, or some other comeback popular among middle schoolers.

          • Adrih

            You’re not a fan of comic book batman but yet you can destroy a list and telling that it’s shit but you can understand that comic book fans can see the adaptations from a different angle and in my opinion the Dark knight is the best adapted movie of the comic book, the atmosphere feels like in the comic book.
            Thus it’s always hard to do a superhero movie but I think Nolan did a great job (I know it’s fashion to criticize Nolan in cinéphile world)
            Chill out man it’s not a list about artistic and author movie it’s about batman

            (sorry for my English I’m French)

          • bd

            Yes, as a fan of film but not a big fan of the comic book superhero subgenre, this list isn’t well reasoned or supported. Big fans of superhero films are indeed more likely to attack the article, but fans of films in general can do the same.

            And I never said Nolan’s Dark Knight wasn’t good or anything of the sort — I think it’s a solid and wholly unique adaptation of the character, and it was executed well — though I don’t think it’s necessarily the best.

            And some of those films and are indeed auteuristic (e.g., Burton’s and Nolan’s), and any distinction between entertainment films and being artistic is inherently forced. Unless you meant that they aren’t arthouse, then yeah.

      • Michael Kobe Junior

        Guys guys guys can’t you see this is allll part of the clickbait plan!!! Triggering people over an iconic character is the goal in the goal of sites like this

    • Rich Aitken

      Agreed. The Dark Knight is okay – but its certainly not an amazing film by any means.

    • Keith D Suchland

      Your criticisms are no better. You cite no examples, only vague opinions.
      Glass houses, and all that…

  • David Pollison

    What about The Killing Joke? List is rubbish by the way. Nolan’s films are the top 3 and Batman vs Superman is number 4 & Adam West number 5. The rest including Lego are all unwatchable though I haven’t seen Mask of the Phantasm.

  • Stephus

    Wrong order. Tim Burton’s first Batman is a great movie and in the top 3. Joel Schumacher’s movies are even in crappyness

    • There’s no right or wrong because the quality of movies is subjective, not objective and factual.

      • Stephus

        True, however the author made a list with an objective categorization of the movies, for the author that order is right, not for other people so even though you’re right about the subjective thing, this is an objective list so the order can be wrong

        • No, his list is subjective. It’s impossible for a ranked list to be a statement of fact. Every single list of this type is simply someone’s opinion.

          • Stephus

            No one said it’s was a fact, it’s an opinion, but the criteria to make that opinion is objective, even though taste is subjective.

  • Palash Mitra

    How? How are you a writer on ‘Taste of cinema’, with such a weird taste in cinema? The moment I saw Batman Forever is lowest on this list, lower than Batman & Robin in fact, I knew this would be all kinds of wrong & boy, was I right?! How is Lego Batman #2 ! How is 1966 Batman, for all its campy glory, higher than half the other films ! Ben Affleck as the best live action Bats, please !! And if you’re gonna include animated films, I could name half a dozen iterations that should make the list. And seriously, 1989 Batman is #9 ! Wow.

    • Rich Aitken

      I agree with his Affleck being best live action Batman…. but apart from that… ach!!!!

    • sailor monsoon

      Mask of the phantasm had a theatrical run.
      That’s why it qualifies.

  • VyceVictus

    Is it my turn to huff and puff in impotent consternation?
    My only contention of this piece would be the 100% success rate of Batman’s animated exploits. I’d definitely put UNDER THE RED HOOD in my ranking (which showcases an alltimer fight sequence in action movies as a whole), but every DCAU straight to video film since then has been middling to execrable. Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get an animated BLACK MIRROR adaptation feature sometime down the line.

  • Rich Aitken

    The Dark Knight better than Batman Begins? The only good thing ABOUT the Bale trilogy is th first half of Batman Begins. The rest? meh…..

  • Nico Finger

    nobody agrees with THIS list… 😀

  • J Deviant

    Good list. Batman (1989) is terribly overrated, and Jack Nicholson’s Joker is -to me- simply shameful.
    “Just call me, The Joker” Ugh! ¬_¬

    • Mortimer

      Danny Elfman’s score > Hans Zimmer’s score (not even close).
      Feel and look of Gotham is much better in Batman (1989) than that standard “modern day Chicago” look from The Dark Knight.
      Nicholson’s Joker entry was pretty epic. And Keaton’s Batman doesn’t speak like he has a cancer.
      I must say, the scene were Ledger is wearing that silly “nurse” wig looked corny as hell.

  • Michael Spiteri

    Lego Batman at 2…. really? We can decipher that the writer of this list is a 4 year old then… 😛

  • Dreaming Wanderer

    Say NO to drugs!

  • Ricardo Correia

    Tom, let be clear, you are the least prepared guy wroting for Taste Of Cinema, “best villain performance in cinema history”, rlly?

  • Ricardo Correia

    “It’s perfection, the lights we wouldn’t ser until 2015’s Mad Max”
    Cmon, there are many films better than both Batman and Mad Max that came in that period
    Synecdoche New York, A Separation, Upstream Color, The Master, A Prophet, but I guess you have not seen any of this

  • David Westry

    This is a great list. You’re 100% right on Batman 89; I’ve never liked Nicholson Joker, and a recent re-watch confirmed how boring and scattershot the film is.

    As good as Batfleck is, his performance is couched in a terrible movie. For me BvS is the bottom rung of the bat-ladder.

  • o9869kjh$@$#

    batman no 9? the dark Knight #1?

  • Spencer Malley

    This list is a really bad joke.

    BvS ahead of TDKR and Batman 89? Wrong on so many levels.

  • Francisco

    Muy mal ordenadas.
    No pueden poner una pelicula de lego (obviamente aunque no vi) antes que el resto de las de batman.
    Ademas Batman (1989) es mejor que Batman v Superman.
    Aunque Batman v Superman tiene partes importantes(pero muy desaprovechada) ademas de que es muy aburrida.
    Y Batman (1989) tiene una de las mejores interpretaciones(Si no es la mejor es la segunda mejor si la mejor fuera la del Joker del caballero de la noche) y en Batman v Superman esta el peor o uno de los peores villanos de todos los tiempos (La actuacion del que hizo de Lex Luthor Jr.)

    Yo solamente vi las pelicuas de Batman live action.(Es decir las que no son animacion)

  • Ben Friedman

    The Dark Knight Rises gets way too much hate. Its the popular movie effect. Same thing happened with Titanic, Avatar, and La La Land