Ranking Batman’s Theatrical Releases

For over 60+ years, we have been going to movie theaters to watch Batman strike fear into the hearts of the criminals of Gotham City. Fourteen movies and nine actors have brought the Caped Crusader to life, with Robert Pattinson’s take on the iconic character hitting theaters this week (our spoiler-free review is here). I have been a fan of Batman since I saw Tim Burton’s Batman in theaters as a three-year-old, and have seen every incarnation of the character on day one ever since. Now that the newest Batman movie is out, I thought it would be a good time to rank all of the movies that feature either Batman or Bruce Wayne, from worst to best.

14. Justice League

This movie is just a mess. A miss-match of tones, poor character representation, and terrible CGI led to a slog of a movie that I’d honestly rather not remember.

13. Batman & Robin

Source: BlogSpot

This movie gets a lot of hate, and rightfully so. The film that almost single-handedly ended Batman’s run on film and caused him to go into an almost ten-year hiatus is low on most lists for a reason. Full of bad puns, terrible action, and horrible Batman in the form of otherwise-fantastic actor George Clooney, the less said about this movie, the better. I will say, though, that I enjoyed Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy, camp and all.

12. Batman Returns

Source: FanArt

A Batman movie in name only, the Dark Knight is barely even in this movie. Tim Burton’s second crack at the character was much more about Selina Kyle and Oswald Cobblepot and their descent into madness than it is about Batman or Bruce Wayne.

11. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Source: HD Wallpapers

To be honest, I like this movie more and more with each subsequent viewing. Ben Affleck is a surprisingly good Batman, delivering some of the most ferocious fight scenes we’ve seen the character in (until The Batman, that is). A bit of an operatic mess that came out of a board room filled with misguided businessmen who desperately wanted an Avengers-sized hit for the studio, this movie came way too soon and it showed. But there are quite a few things that work in this movie, and most of them have to do with Batman himself.

10. Batman: The Movie

Source: NPR

There is something to be said about the feel-good simplicity of this film. It’s zany and off the wall and wouldn’t work today, but it is iconic for a reason. And the sheer number of characters in this film—Batman, Robin, Catwoman, Riddler, Joker, and Penguin!? Talk about a stacked roster.

9. Batman Forever

I absolutely loved this movie as a kid. A huge Jim Carrey fan, I was thrilled when it was announced he would be the Riddler, and after the dark and morose Batman Returns, I was excited to see a more playful take on the character. Sure, it’s campy and there are moments that don’t work, but this is a good Batman film. It’s not perfect, but it isn’t trying to be. It’s just a fun adventure with a character we all love.

8. The Dark Knight Rises

Source: Slant Magazine

After the phenomenal success of The Dark Knight, expectations were sky high for The Dark Knight Rises. Alas, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy capper doesn’t quite reach the heights of the previous two films in the series, but its not for lack of trying. A bit too comic-booky for the realistic world that Nolan built but also somehow way too self-serious, the cast delivers great performances all around and it is a thrilling conclusion to one of the best interpretations of Batman we’ve seen yet. Not to mention the fact I was in the movie (as an extra during the football scene), but that’s just my bias showing.

7. The Lego Batman Movie

A celebration of Batman on film, The Lego Batman Movie takes everything that worked about Lego Batman in The Lego Movie and turned it up to one million. A bit too loud and crazy at times, this movie tries and mostly succeeds to pay homage to and tell a compelling original story about Batman and his Rogues Gallery. Though it isn’t quite the level of genius reached by the similar but much better executed Into the Spider-Verse, it is a fun time for kids and adults a like.

6. Joker

Ok, hear me out. I know Batman isn’t in this movie, but I was taken by surprise by how much Batman is felt throughout Joker’s solo origin film. There is a subplot about Arthur potentially being a secret Wayne child and he even visits and talks to Bruce Wayne at one point in the film. Not to mention the fact that the chaos brought on by Arthur’s actions leads to the death of Bruce’s parents, essentially making Arthur responsible for the birth of Batman. A harrowing film and an outstanding performance by Joaquin Phoenix, this is one Batman-related movie that should not be missed. It also interestingly feels like a prequel to The Batman, with Gotham City feeling similar in both films.

5. The Batman

Source: Screen Rant

We are in the top five now, which means that each of these films pretty much excellent. Maybe a result of recency bias, but Matt Reeves take on Batman is one for the history books. While it is too long and there are some issues with the Riddler’s performance, Batman himself is excellently, violently, and even emotionally brought to life by Robert Pattinson who is one of the best parts of the movie. This is a movie that sticks with you after you’ve seen it—I can’t stop thinking about it and can’t wait to spend more time in this world.

4. Batman ‘89

Source: Decider

I know that nostalgia plays a big part in how high this movie is on my list, but I just love this movie. Jack Nicholson’s phenomenal performance as the Joker; Tim Burton’s direction; Danny Elfman’s score; Prince’s soundtrack; and Michael Keaton’s unhinged performance as Batman all come together to make cinematic magic. This movie is responsible for legitimizing Batman and comic book movies for the general public, an astonishing feat in and of itself.

Honorable Mentions

Before I get to the top three, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions:

  • The Lego Movie – Not a Batman movie, and he get’s his own spinoff that’s already on this list, but I’d be remiss not to mention our introduction to the character in this wild and fantastic movie.
  • Suicide Squad – Batman appears in a couple of scenes, but it is the first and only time we see Ben Affleck’s Batman, Jared Leto’s Joker and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn interact (if only for a brief moment). There is another universe out there where this iteration of films was successful and I wish I could visit it to see what could have been.
  • Arthur – Not a Batman movie at all, but the movie opens with Arthur dressed up as Batman and driving the Batmobile through the streets, drunk as a skunk. I love this movie, but I love even more that this scene got press during filming, making people think that Russel Brand was going to be Batman. Hokay.

3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Source: Screen Rant

Set in the continuity of the excellent and iconic Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is just as much a story about Batman as it is one about Bruce Wayne. A tragic and beautiful story that is breathtaking in its scope and incredibly emotional by the end of it, it features fan-favorite performances by Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker. At one time considered for straight to DVD release, when studio execs saw the movie, they knew they had something special, so they pivoted to theatrical release. They were so right.

2. The Dark Knight

Source: Screen Rant

I feel like the tide has turned against The Dark Knight as we get further and further from the day it released, but this is an absolute gem of a film. Featuring the best interpretation of a villain, in my opinion, by the late Heath Ledger, his performance of the Joker would earn him a posthumous Oscar win. Christopher Nolan pulled out all the stops to make this film; a tragic tale that shows that Batman must morph to be whatever Gotham City needs him to be– whether that be savior or villain.

1. Batman Begins

Image: 123 Movies

Though many could argue that The Dark Knight is a superior film (it is), Batman Begins, the first chapter in the Dark Knight Trilogy, is a better Batman film. Chronicling the events that led to Bruce Wayne becoming the Batman, this movie has the distinction of being the only Batman film that has a perfect representation of both Bruce and Batman. A smaller scale film than Nolan’s other Batman movies, Batman Begins doesn’t have to try and live up to any expectations because no one knew what they were about to witness when this movie released. A true masterpiece in every sense of the word, and one of the most perfect Batman films to ever exist.

There you have it, my iron clad, can’t be proven wrong ranking of all the theatrically released Batman movies (I kid). What order would you put the movies in? Let me know in the comments below!

Mark Pereira is a senior writer for Boss Rush Network. He loves all video games, but his top three favorites are Skyward SwordSuper Mario 3D World and Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can find him on Twitter where he’s usually talking about Nintendo, video games, movies, and TV shows.

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