As Batman Month draws to a close, let’s rank the feature films!
It’s often the case that as a character is adapted to cinema often, a clear consensus can be made on what worked and didn’t work. However, with the thoughts of individual fans at work, there’s room for discussion. As a result, I’m going to rank the feature films of Batman from worst to best. A few notes beforehand:
First, this is for original feature films, so the 60’s movie of the classic TV show and the big screen entry for the animated series will not be included.
Second, they have to be cinematically released, so while I do love the direct-to-video movies, they’ll have to wait for next year.
Third, this is all based on my own opinion, and thus all comments and thoughts are my own. I will explain my reasons, and you’re more than welcome to comment with your thoughts. Now, let’s begin!
7. Batman & Robin
Is it possible to bash this movie too much? The obvious answer is “of course not.” But given how some comic adaptions have come out that were actually worse in how they chose to adapt their source comic (Frank Miller’s The Spirit and 2015’s Fantastic Four being major examples), I don’t think it’s fair to call this the worst superhero movie ever anymore. That said, it is still the worst movie for Batman. The story is silly, the dialogue childish, and it looks more like I’m watching a big budget toy commercial than an actual movie. And yet I still have to say that if this movie didn’t show what not to do when making a superhero movie, we wouldn’t have the awesome films that now exist.
6. Batman Forever
A lot of people hate this movie now due to its connection to Batman & Robin, but we tend to forget that this was a major commercial hit. It actually earned more than its predecessor did at the box office, and it was basically a film that parents felt okay taking their kids to see. The action scenes were pretty well done, the story was okay despite some goofy dialogue and neon visuals (the story arc that Robin goes through is well-done) and Jim Carrey managed to bring the Riddler to the big screen with his own style that still felt right for the character as portrayed by Frank Gorshin from the 60’s series. There were flaws of course, like the visuals going from Gothic art deco to full-on over-the-top neon, and Nicole Kidman is wasted as one of the most pointless love interests in the series (at least until Julie was introduced and did nothing in the sequel). While nowhere near the top of this list, you could still find something to enjoy when watching this.
5. Batman Returns
I can hear the Tim Burton fans getting angry that this is so low on the list, but I have good reasons. The main one being that this is more a Tim Burton movie that happens to feature Batman than it is a straight-up Batman movie. From the creepy circus minions to the grotesque redesign on the Penguin, it’s got Burton’s fingerprints all over it. That said, it still is a great flick as we watch Batman clash with Penguin and Catwoman, we get a great original villain with Christopher Walken as Max Shreck, and some of the most memorable visuals that the franchise has had. The plot does veer towards some very dark territory and Catwoman’s arc deals a lot with gender-roles and perceptions, but it’s a decent entry.
4. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan’s final entry in his trilogy ended things with a bang. This truly was an epic film in terms of scope, with a war for Gotham, a massive cast of characters, and a satisfying conclusion to Bruce Wayne’s story. That said, it was not quite as good as its predecessor, which may be one reason it has an odd relationship with fans. Still, it’s a great flick with awesome fights between Batman and Bane, as well as the most comic-accurate portrayal of Catwoman ever by Anne Hathaway. That’s more than worth the somewhat groan-inducing reveal of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character’s full name.
2/3. Batman/The Dark Knight
Yes, we’ve got a tie! And odds are fans of both films are planning to lynch me now. But allow me to explain. Both films are essentially about the same story: Batman facing the Joker for the first time. Both have similar ideas, especially the idea of Batman operating for a while before Joker appears. How they approach this, story and style-wise, is what makes them tied in my mind. The 1989 film has a very gothic look to it, with a story that’s more reminiscent of the Bronze Age stories of the 70’s and 80’s, and in that film, Batman always seems to have the advantage. The 2008 film has a more modern and grounded look, the story is closer to modern DC comics, and Joker always seems one step ahead. It really does depend on what mood I’m in when I’m debating which to watch. It helps that both films have iconic portrayals of the villain by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. Both films raised the bar for superhero films, with the early one being the first major blockbuster and the second showing how intelligent the genre can be. Both are great in their own way, and you’d be surprised how fun it is to watch both back-to-back.
1. Batman Begins
Yes, I know you’re all shocked and angered that I didn’t put either the ’89 film or the Dark Knight in the top spot, but keep in mind: I’m a professional author. I love stories, and I often judge things by how the story affects me. As a result, Batman Begins is my number one pick. It’s the only film on this whole list that is entirely about Bruce Wayne’s story. We get to see him grow from frightened child to legendary hero, see all the things that went into his decisions for his alter-ego. The other films on this list are more about other things that he ends up reacting to, while he’s center-stage here. One of my favorite moments from a superhero movie is from this one, when after feeling that he’s failed, he picks himself up and goes to save Gotham. And there is another, more profound reason I love it. This was the movie that resurrected the Batman film franchise after Batmand & Robin throughly killed it, and sowed the seeds for the Dark Knight. This fact, plus the extremely satisfying and complete story, makes it my top pick for the best Batman movie yet.
Agree with my list? Have your own thoughts? Let us know in the comments section.