For almost 50 years, Batman has graced the silver screen. Whether working solo or accompanied by sidekicks and associates, Gotham City is continually saved by his enduring presence. Even though the eight theatrical live-action films featuring the Caped Crusader have had their ups and downs, there is no denying his appeal as a lead character.
With that in mind, these are all theatrical Batman releases, ranked from worst to best:
8. Batman and Robin (1997)
The dark cloud over a struggling franchise, Joel Schumacher’s second directorial outing in the Batman franchise hammered the last nail in the coffin and became known as one of the worst sequels, nay films, of all time. From the garish set design, poor character development, uninspired casting and hideously unfunny pun-filled script, Batman and Robin was a mistake from the moment it went into production.
7. Batman: The Movie (1966)
Occasionally forgotten as the first theatrical Batman film, this fed on the cult fandom of the 60’s TV series, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. What saves the film from being placed at the bottom of the pile is its faithfulness to the television show and its influences from the Batman stories from the 1940s. Due to these factors, its overuse in bright colours, as well as its over-exaggerated acting and dialogue, seem somewhat justified as it essentially provides a benchmark for others to unsurprisingly succeed.
6. Batman Forever (1995)
With a new lead actor and director taking over the franchise, the third film in Warner Bros. series features a drastic change of tone in comparison with Tim Burton’s commercially successful instalments. Through the visuals and the appearance of its villains (The Riddler and Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent, pictured), Batman Forever readopts the saturated colours from the TV series and combining it with a family-friendly direction in the vain hope of creating a popcorn blockbuster, it managed to make the most of an increased number of franchising opportunities. Unfortunately, it paved the way for the ill-fated Batman and Robin.
5. Batman Begins (2005)
The first film of a new franchise under the help of Christopher Nolan, who had already made a name from directing thrillers such as Memento (2000) and Insomnia (2002). Doubts over reviving a franchise the failed eight years before were cast aside as Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer revived the origins of Bruce Wayne and how he became Batman. Drawing inspiration from graphic novels such as Batman: Year One and Batman: The Long Halloween, the darker tone, the continuous theme of paranoia and the emphasis on plot and character development, rather than special effects, won fans over. Batman Begins launched Nolan and his lead actor Christian Bale into mainstream cinema, while setting the stage of one of the most celebrated comic-book film trilogies in recent history.
4. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Following on from the phenomenal success of The Dark Knight, anticipation was high for the third instalment in Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. However, it is due to this pressure where the film falters. From the lengthy running time to the strange plot developments, it seems like an almost long-winded way for the story to come full circle, but the idea of having an adversary that can ‘break’ Batman, as well as feeding teasers among its supporting characters, is superb.
3. Batman (1989)
For most film fans, this is considered the first Batman film. After the success of Beetlejuice, director Tim Burton and lead actor Michael Keaton took on this more serious project that redefined the modern comic-book superhero film. During production, Warner Bros. faced numerous problems over doubts from fans, Keaton’s casting and and the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. However, critics were won over by the entertaining yet stylised comic-book film and Jack Nicholson ended up walking away with most of the critical praise, not to mention the higher salary.
2. Batman Returns (1992)
The second Batman film by Tim Burton encapsulated the director’s filmmaking themes and styles that have since become his trademark. A more chilling and adult-themed instalment than its predecessor, the fact that it had a certain edge in its story makes it stand out from the Burton/Schumacher anthology. The appeal of the film is also aided by Batman’s two nemesises, played brilliantly by Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer, whose portrayal as Catwoman propelled her into the hearts of fans everywhere.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
One of the very few rare sequels that surpass its predecessor, The Dark Knight has everything that makes a true superhero film: tension, a great story with twists and turns and most importantly, fantastic acting. Bale has evidently settled into the role, the additions of Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal bring in the emotive element and the late Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the demented, sadistic Joker will be remembered as one of the greatest modern performances in film.