1. The Dark Knight
I don't think this is a really a surprise to anyone at this point. Truth be told if you ask a bunch of your friends what their favorite Batman film is, most are going to flat out say The Dark Knight with their main reasoning behind Heath Ledger's incredible performance as The Joker. Of the three Batman films in the Christopher Nolan trilogy, The Dark Knight, feels like the crown jewel of the bunch as well as being the crown jewel of Batman films in general. The opening bank robbery scene is amazing with major inspiration being lifted from Michael Mann's Heat. The film balances it's action with grand storytelling perfectly and keeps the Joker on the sidelines, making him appear and disappear like the shark from Jaws. When Ledgers Joker appears on screen, the audience is engulfed in his brilliant performance, and when he disappears the audience waits anxiously for his return. The second best performance out of the entire film is Aaron Eckhart's performance as Harvey Dent aka Two Face. He makes for a perfect combination of a man with two different sides to him, and often steals scenes that Ledgers not in such as the climatic sequence involving Batman, Commissioner Cordon, and Gordon's child. Not to mention the film is also one of the fastest 2.5 hour movies I've ever sat through in the cinema, and the script brings up some thought provoking and ethical questions such as what would a person do if they were on a boat set to explode and their only means of surviving is to blow up the other boat. Would you do it? The writing, directing, and genius acting speaks high volumes about the greatness of this movie with his weakest points being Christian Bales over the top Batman voice. He makes for a terrific Bruce Wayne but one wishes Nolan had Bale tone down the raspy voice. The finale with Batman taking the blame for Dents murder and running from the cops is one of the most powerful movie endings in cinema, as well as giving the story it's proper closure. You almost don't need to watch The Dark Knight Rises to see if Batman regains his innocence or not. More on that one later. The Dark Knight until further notice remains the definitive Batman film of all time as well as the greatest comic book movie ever made garnering 8 Academy Award nominations, a record feat that no comic book film since then has came close to matching with a well deserved win for Ledgers unforgettable take on The Joker.
2. Batman 1989.
Before The Dark Knight, there was Tim Burtons 1989 blockbuster classic Batman starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Before there was Christian Bale and Heath Ledger donning the title roles, there was only these two who blew the socks off audiences at the cinema during this films initial release. This movie was hyped very much like The Dark Knight and turned out to be an enormous success for Warner Brothers, becoming the second major comic book franchise in existence after Christopher Reeves Superman movies burned out. What makes Batman 1989 a great movie and a classic 27 years later is how spontaneous and utterly badass it is. No one thought Michael Keaton could pull off being The Dark Knight upon the announcement of his casting but here he proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he is Batman. The film doesn't bother with giving his character a proper origin story much like Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins did, and just begins with Batman terrorizing the criminals of Gotham one month into his reign. Keaton's Batman is dark, mysterious, terrorizing, and undeniably cool all rolled into one. His suit is completely old school and Batmobile is unforgettable. Jack Nicholson's Joker, is the second greatest behind Heath Ledgers and here he's portrayed more as complete psychopath. Burton directs this film with a great deal of energy and imagination, giving it a pace that moves fairly quick and never stops for a beat. Batman 1989 is the second greatest Batman movie behind The Dark Knight because much like that film, it gets right to the point and never waste its time on useless subplots. The romance in this movie doesn't feel tacked on but appropriate with Kim Basinger playing a desireable Vicky Vale who questions the kind of person Bruce Wayne presents himself to be. Danny Elfman's electrifying score also outdoes Hans Zimmer's theme to this day, and gives the film an incredible adrenaline rush. Batman 1989 is the ideal comic book film of it's time as it delivers on dark spectacle, thrills, great fan service, and two iconic performances even if the villain at times overshadows the main character but that's also the case with Heath Ledgers Joker in The Dark Knight. A near flawless movie which remains to this day as being one of the greatest blockbuster films ever made.
3. Batman Begins
Before The Dark Knight, there was this little film that many audiences overlooked in 2005 titled Batman Begins also starring Christian Bale in the title role along with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Wilkinson. Unlike that film, this movie had a smaller budget and no major villains as it gave complete attention in regards to telling the origin story of how Bruce Wayne became The Dark Knight. Batman Begins, is the film that was very much needed after the disastrous results of Joel Schumacher's 1997 critical dud Batman and Robin, a film so bad it killed the careers of Alicia Silverstone and Chris O Donnell, and left Batman in development hell for 8 years before finally getting off the ground again,. Batman Begins is unquestionably the greatest reboot film ever made as well as being the definitive origin story for the character. What makes the film special is it gives audiences answers to questions they had while watching Michael Keaton's Batman films such as where did Batman get those wonderful toys and where did he learn how to fight? Nolan being a longtime James Bond fan, brought some of that to the table with the invention of Morgan Freeman's character serving as a D.C comics version of Q for Bruce Wayne. What makes Batman Begins such a great movie, is it understands the essence of the character it's glorifying, and makes his journey towards becoming Batman a personal one for the audience. This is essentially The Fellowship Of The Ring for Nolan's Batman saga as it proves to be smart, intelligent, well-filmed, dark, brutal, but most importantly it got the character down absolutely right. As Roger Ebert put it eloquently in his review for Batman Begins, it was the first Batman film for him to get it right, to get it ABSOLUTELY right. As great of a film Begins is, Tim Burton's 1989 Batman still stands slightly above it for being more legendary and iconic. Begins has a few issues in regards to how it's fighting scenes are filmed with poor choreography and Katie Holmes performance as Rachael Dawes brings it down a notch. Still, fans should realize that without Batman Begins, there'd be no Dark Knight and sometimes you need to go backwards in order to move forward.
4. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm
Ah yes, who could forget about Batman: The Mask Of The Phantasm. Before there was Batman Begins, Batman: The Mask Of The Phantasm, was the definitive origin story of the Batman and Bruce Wayne tale. One almost wishes that this was a live action movie that was the undisclosed Batman 3 to Michael Keaton and Tim Burtons films. It would've been the perfect way to close out their batch of movies as this one shows Bruce Wayne reflecting on a past lover named Andrea Beaumont who got away from him and helped push him to become The Dark Knight we know him as of today. While reiminiscing, Bruce investigates a series of murders involving mobsters committed by a vigilante named The Phantasm with the police assuming Batman committed the acts. Meanwhile The Joker hovers in the background with connections to the mob members that are being hunted down by the Phantasm. This movie is an essential Batman film because what it does so great at the time of it's release is it showcases Bruce's humanity with key moments such as him at his parents grave in the rain begging them to let him live a normal life with Andrea and let the police handle the crime, or Bruce completing his first mission as a crime fighting vigilante, and the police chase he endures later on in the movie. What makes The Mask Of The Phantasm succeed where many of the live action adaptations of Batman were lacking at the time is it gave the character the origin story that was needed as well as showcasing his human side. The film is deeply and admirably respectful of the source material and can be taken seriously as an emotional drama despite the animated part of it.
5. Batman Returns
One of the pinnacle movies of my childhood growing up. As a kid, I preferred Batman Returns over Batman 1989 but as time goes on, I see the greatness as well as the flaws between the two films and find Batman Returns to be slightly below Tim Burtons movie. Batman Returns, is a great sequel to the first Tim Burton movie with Danny Devito and Michelle Pfeiffer playing unforgettable roles as both The Penquin and Catwoman. The film is much darker than the first film Burton directed making the movie look like a twisted circus nightmare that just happens to have Batman in it. While the script may not be as well written as the first movie and the central villains may indeed overshadow Batman at times, Returns has some terrific Batman moments that ring true to the comics and the character. Examples are Bruce Wayne sitting alone in his mansion waiting for a reason to go out and fight crime and the shining of the Bat Signal into his living room with him stepping into the light is profound. Other great sequences are Selina Kyle's transformation into Catwoman, Catwoman and Batman's first fight, their first kiss under the missletoe, the ballroom dance scene where they both discover each others identities, Bruce unmasking for Selina, and the final scene which is a darker and more depressed version of the ending of Breakfast At Tiffanys with Bruce being alone in the alley with Selinas cat. Danny Elfmans music is also much better this time around, and the romance between Catwoman and Batman is steamier than what is shown between Bruce and Vicky Vale in the first Batman movie. Burton's dark and brooding atmosphere along with Keaton's performance as a tragic hero, the insane yet perfect casting of Devito, Pfeiffer and even Christopher Walken as Selina Kyles boss max Schrek make Batman Returns one of the most iconic Batman films to date. I go back and forth some nights on whether this film was better than Batman 1989 but in the end, I feel Batman 1989 wins over this as well as Batman Begins and Mask Of The Phantasm. The story drifts away too much from Batman at times.
6. The Dark Knight Rises.
Perhaps the most divisive film of Christopher Nolan's otherwise stellar Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises takes place 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight with a retired Bruce Wayne being summoned once more to fight a terrorist named Bane, who has connections to the League Of Shadows, a group that trained Bruce in the first movie led by Ra's Al Ghoul and later turned out to be bent on destroying Gotham. The Dark Knight Rises, is made more so as a sequel to Batman Begins than The Dark Knight as this film mentions Harvey Dent but never of The Joker. Rises greatest strengths are showing a more eccentric side of Bruce Wayne even if his retirement seems a bit far fetched given how The Dark Knight ended. Anne Hathaway gives a terrific performance as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman with Joseph Gordon Levitt stealing the show as a Robin type figure named John Blake. Michael Caine is the true star of the film giving a heartfelt performance as Bruce's longtime Butler and father figure named Alfred. The few scenes that Caine has pierces into the hearts of comic book fans everywhere as you truly do feel that this man looks upon Bruce as his own son and wants what's best for him. A lot has been said about The Dark Knight Rises from it's endless amount of questionable plot holes to it's no mention of The Joker policy. Many fans think the film is a satisfying finish to the Nolan trilogy while many others wish that Nolan went a different route with how he chose to end the story. I personally would've preferred Riddler as the main villain as he feels more consistent with Joker, but Bane is great nevertheless. Talia Al Ghoul, one wishes she was fleshed out more but her big reveal scene is one of the films best acted scenes. Rises is a good finish to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy although one will wish that Nolan did things a little differently.
6. Batman vs Superman
Much like The Dark Knight Rises, this film is very divisive among comic book fans. While this movie isn't entirely focused on Batman as it pairs him up with Superman and WonderWoman, the Batman side of the story with Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons is one of the best we've seen on film thus far. Affleck gives a great performance as The Dark Knight with a quick flashback origin scene that feels similar to the one shown in Nolan's Batman Begins as well as a great introduction for the character of Bruce Wayne. Affleck gives us a merciless man whose more terrifying and creepier than Christian Bales bringing back the spirit of Michael Keaton's. One factor that may put off some fans of the comic book is that Batman actually KILLS in this movie compared to Bales Batman who stated that what separates him from the other criminals is that he won't kill them. Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons Bruce and Alfred feel so much like the characters we've grown up seeing from the Animated cartoon series that aired on FOX back in the 1990s. This Alfred isn't afraid to throw witty remarks back at Bruce but also demonstrates that he does care about him. He also delivers his Michael Caine wise Alfred moment where he tells Bruce that Superman is not his enemy and shouldn't be concerned about him. The scenes between Batman and Superman in the movie are terrific even if the fight itself is a bit shortchanged given the anticipation and build up to it. Regardless of what one person feels about Batman Vs Superman as a whole movie, they'll be hard pressed to not think that Affleck is one of the best interpretations of the character we've ever had. I look forward to his solo film with great interest.
7. Batman Forever
I feel like Batman Forever gets an unnecessary bad rap with people. There was actually a time where this movie was looked upon in high regard, certainly not as high as the Tim Burtons first Batman movie but def more so than Batman Returns upon it's release. Batman Returns proved to be too dark for children and many parents complained about the merchandise being sold for it at McDonalds for kids meals given how dark the movie is. The filmmakers instead decided to make Batman in a much lighter tone and hired Joel Schumacher to take the reigns as director once Tim Burton stepped down. Schumacher hired Elliot Goldenthal as the composer of this film in the place of Danny Elfman and created a more heroic theme for Batman that goes in line with the superhero aspect of the story. Batman Forever's reputation has steadily declined over the years due to being associated with Batman And Robin with George Clooney that came out two years after Forever and essentially killed the old Batman franchise. Because of Batman Forevers association with Batman And Robin, audiences look down upon it and outcast it from the list of good and decent Batman movies. Batman Forever, still remains a fun and lighter toned Batman film than what was seen before it. Sure Tommy Lee Jones Two Face is awful in comparison to Aaron Eckhart's more serious approach but Jim Carrey is terrific as Riddler and Chris O Donnell steals the show as Robin. The Batmobile looks sicker than ever and Val Kilmer is certainly no Michael Keaton but gives a solid performance as Bruce Wayne, even if some of his lines are borderline ridiculous. Examples are the rooftop scene with Nicole Kidman where he asks her "You trying to get under my cape doctor." Batman Forever garnered three Academy Award nominations including Best Cinematography, and popularized Seals hit song Kiss From A Rose. Batman Forever is a decent Batman film which deserves some slack as it's a far better film than the one that came after it.
8. Batman The Movie 1966
There's only one line that sums this movie up perfectly. It's delivered by the Caped Crusader himself. "An exploding shark...WAS pulling my leg." That's all that really can be said to describe the campy tone of this movie. This is by no means a dark and serious Batman film like the others but totally bathes in the campy and fun nature of the 1960s. If you were a child growing up watching this movie, then it was heaven. I used to rent this film from Blockbuster video all the time as a kid. I loved it, I loved Lee Meriwether as Catwoman along with the combination of all four villains teaming up to destroy Batman such as Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, and Penguin,. This movie is a blast and makes no effort to hide it's true nature which is tongue-in check humor while turning it's camp into an art form, as well as cult classic status. Batman: The Movie 1966 is nowhere as strong of a Batman movie as the others listed but its damn good fun if you watch it with the right mind state.
9. Batman Beyond: The Return Of The Joker
If you are or ever were a fan of the animated cartoon show called Batman Beyond that aired on WB network, then this movie is one to cherish as a piece of Batmsn cinema. While not as good as The Mask of the Phantasm, the film takes the Batman Beyond concept of an older Batman training a younger person to be his successor Mask of Zorro style and throws an old enemy into the mix such as The Joker. One could watch Return Of The Joker after Batman 1989 and the stories would connect nicely since its Joker looking for revenge against Batman. Kevin Conroy who did the voice of Batman in Mask Of The Phantasm and Mark Hamill as The Joker are the souls of this movie. If you're a fan of Batman Beyond the TV show then this movie is not to be missed. I've seen this film fewer times than the others which explains its low ranking even though I endorse it to fans.
10. Batman And Robin
Generally considered the worst of all Batman films as well as the worst of all Superhero movies as well as the WORST of all movies period, Batman And Robin proudly reigns as being the worst movie of this entire list even though I tend to put it in the category of "It's so bad it's good" type of movie. This is not great filmmaking even in the slightest but the film is so damn awful it's great to watch especially if you had a few drinks. This movie completely ditches the dark tone of past Batman movies for a much lighter one with the soul intention of selling toys to kids. This movie lacks a soul and feels like a commercial film, that has one objective which is to sell action figures. That's such a shame because the first Batman film began with huge promise and ended on an epic note. For Burton to start the way he did so amazingly well and the series end here is heartbreaking but sometimes it takes the most awful things to happen to force out the best things which in this case are The Dark Knight trilogy and Ben Affleck's version of Batman. This may be one of the most important comic book movies ever made because it showed what NOT to do when doing a comic book adaptation but to forever insist that if you're going to do one, you do it right. This movie is not a good film cinematically, but if you look at it from the standpoint of it's so awful it's great then you'll have a great time with it.
9 out of 10 for being so awful its great.
Real Film 3 out of 10