Da na na na na na na na Batman! He’s the best. One of pop culture’s greatest characters. An instantly recognizable titan of a character and one that has remained relevant for now almost sixty years on the silver screen. He can claim ownership to some of the greatest films ever made, and some of the most despicable as well. This list looks at those, and everything in between.
13. Justice League (2017)
A bastardization of The Avengers that looks to capitalize on Marvel’s success without doing all the hard work that made that team up film so successful in the first place. Justice League has no identity. It is a sloppy imitation of the tone of Marvel’s semi-comedic ventures with no good jokes. It is an imitation of their spongy CGI action without any good fight scenes. It is a shameful replication of their assembling of an all-star team of superheroes, but with almost all of the members having to be introduced in a sub-3-hour time period.
Justice League is a colossal failure on damn near every front. And as a Batman movie? Forget it. The character Bruce Wayne is buried underneath cheap laughs while Batman is proxy for faceless iconic superheroes to fight together. Without question the Caped Crusader’s worst effort.
12. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Batman v. Superman may be nearly as intolerable as Justice League, but it undeniably has a more singular voice. Granted, that voice happens to contain Snyder’s hideous imagery and some of the most mind-numbingly dumb decisions ever put into an adaptation.
Batman v. Superman is a predictable slog that sloppily tries to grapple with bigger questions about the jurisdiction of a superhero like Superman and ends up with nothing intelligent left to say about either of its two juggernaut leads. The warehouse fight is one of Batman’s better beatdowns, but Snyder barely even dives into what makes Batman tick. Affleck’s Batman is not a character that has layers underneath his iconic stoicism. He is a bland and oddly irascible character that is not even successful in getting the audience on his side. It barely edges out Justice League and is still leagues below the other films.
11. Batman and Robin (1995)
Batman and Robin is almost hard to despise because of just how hilariously bad it is. Every single scene is packed full of laugh-out-loud moments, just for the wrong reasons. It fundamentally misunderstands what makes the campy side of Batman endearing. It reduces Batman and all his allies to punchlines. The overstuffed cast of villains are somehow worse, having even shallower motives and more over-the-top one-liners. This cast of superstar talent all gives in career-worst performances. Silverstone may have less than ten lines where she speaks like an actual human being. Uma Thurman could not have missed the mark more in trying to capture the seductive Poison Ivy. And Clooney playing his usual suave self does not meld well with the goofy as hell tone.
There is something lovable about how much Batman and Robin faceplants, but to say it is one of Batman’s better endeavors is disingenuous. It can still be painstakingly boring with its contrived character setups and does not provide any narrative meat to chew on.
10. Batman Forever (1995)
What can be said about Batman and Robin largely stands for Batman Forever. It has no narrative sophistication while not being purposefully funny enough to be a successful comedy. It still can be torturous whenever some characters, such as Nicole’s Kidman’s, gets on screen. And it still has a sadly one-note turn for the main character. But it also is far better in the balance of seriousness and silliness. The chemistry of Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones is dynamite their backstage quarrels. And it is a superhero movie that can be goofy without rendering all the stakes and emotions totally irrelevant.
A lot of the gothic visual influence from Burton’s films still remain, and Batman remains slightly interesting even if it is due to just how plain he is set against two lovable and oh so 90s psychopaths. Still, it shouldn’t be getting too much credit. This can still be a slog with intermittent bursts of joy that do virtually nothing to expand and complicate Batman as a character. Definitely has merit, but overall, still needs to be harshly critiqued for how dull the story can be in spite of its colorful world.
9. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Mask of the Phantasm has become quite the cult favorite since first releasing in 1993, and there is plenty to admire. The action scenes are top notch, and The Phantasm is built up to be a mysterious and formidable foe for Batman himself, but Mask of the Phantasm shares a lot of qualities with Batman’s lesser adventures. The script here is severely hindered by the fact that this is an animated movie marketed towards kids. Even more than Lego Batman, Mask of the Phantasm’s exchanges feel childish. The playful exchanges between Andrea and Bruce are especially painful. Their conversations are labored beyond belief and try so hard to make you believe they are in love that you reject the relationship entirely.
Mask of the Phantasm has gotten props for how it explores Bruce after his parents’ death, but it ultimately spends way too much time with an emotionless love interest that ends up being an annoying distraction from the engaging action scenes. Mix that in with Joker being his predictable self, diminishing the impact of the Phantasm, and you have a rather middle-of-the-road Batman movie that does not do a lot to impress.
8. The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
Batman’s other animated showing is a pretty successful Batman movie. It is a humorous sendup of how introverted and lame Batman can be at times and is a surprisingly touching look at Batman’s father-son relationship with the boy wonder. Robin is such an integral part of the Batman character, but he gets virtually no justice on the silver screen, so it is especially rewarding to have him portrayed in a significant way here.
The Lego Batman, unlike Mask of the Phantasm, feels like it knows adults will be just as eager as kids to watch it. Consequently, its jokes are wonderfully done with so many winks to past iterations of the caped crusader longtime fans can pick up on. But is there anything extraordinary about the Lego Batman movie? It is yet another story of Batman vs. Joker, with a weak love interest and a plot that gets a lot less endearing past the halfway point. Lego Batman can still feel very cutesy which makes it overly sanguine at times and limits it from exploring the darker and poignant themes we see in the elite Batman adventures.