I'm not exactly subtle when it comes to the fact that I love Batman. He's one of my favorite heroes. I love his rogues gallery, comics and shows. Also, I'm a big fan of Batman's movies. If you count animated films, Batman's appeared in over three dozen films! Ranking all of those films would take more time than the Clock King can give me, so I'll just be ranking the live-action films.
Warning: In order to properly discuss some of these films, I will have to give spoilers.
This ranking will just be for official Batman films, with one exception given to a film that I loved too much to exclude. Something to remember about my ranking is that I'm judging by my personal enjoyment rather than quality. I have shared my Batman rankings with other Batman fans who were baffled by a lot of my choices. I freely admit that I have some unusual choices, but I'm simply ranking the films by the amount of joy, happiness and entertainment that I got out of them.
14. The Dark Knight
Yes, I'm ranking the most popular Batman film in last place. I know some people will think I'm a troll for doing that, but hear me out. Like I said before, I'm judging my personal enjoyment. Also, it should be noted that I have given this film so many chances. I have watched it over a dozen times. I wanted to absolutely love this film, but despite how hard I tried, I wasn't able to.
On the positive side, the film has great music by Hans Zimmer. Also, I think that the film is full of good casting choices. None of my problems with the Joker come from Heath Ledger's performance. He earned all the praise and honors that the fans have given him. The best thing to come out of this film is that people are still paying tribute to Heath Ledger and holding onto their memories of him in their hearts.
One of the biggest problems with The Dark Knight is that it's the film where the Joker wins. Yes, the most beloved Batman film is the one where the bad guy gets what he wants. His goal was to prove that anybody, even somebody as good as Harvey Dent, could be corrupted. The film was so focused on making Joker an intimidating mastermind that the story feels more cynical and heroic than it should.
I'm also not a huge fan of the way this film portrays Batman. Bruce Wayne is jealous of Harvey Dent, who is dating his childhood friend, Rachel Dawes. Bruce wants to quit being Batman and leave the hero stuff to Harvey, so he can start a relationship with Rachel. Bruce is aware that Rachel's dating Harvey, yet he's still trying to get together with her! It's pretty sad that the film makes Two-Face more sympathetic than Batman. Also, this film makes a big deal about how Batman doesn't kill people, yet the climax has him kill Two-Face.
13. The Dark Knight Rises
On the positive side, Michael Caine's Alfred and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake are very likable and noble characters. Also, Tom Hardy's Bane and Anne Hathaway's provide some enjoyable moments.
On the negative side, Bruce Wayne has given up being Batman for eight years. In fact, he's given up on doing anything productive. Wayne Industries and the charities Bruce was funding are doing worse than ever, because Bruce was moping around for eight years! Bruce had some rough stuff to deal with after The Dark Knight. I totally understand why he'd need to take some time to deal with his grief, but eight years?! That's way too long.
The film is about Bruce rising up and going back to being a hero, which is good. However, after saving Gotham, Bruce fakes his death and moves to Europe so he can go on dates with Selina Kyle in Europe. The ending to this film is so wrong that 2016's Return of the Caped Crusaders had a hilarious scene making fun of it. In that film, Julie Newmar's Catwoman asks Batman if he'll retire and move to Europe so they can relax and sip tea. Adam West's Batman responds that he would never do such a thing.
12. Batman (1943 movie serial)
The very first live-action version of Batman was this movie serial. It's notable for introducing Alfred Pennyworth and the Bat-Cave.
Both Batman movie serials have pacing problems, but this can be excused for being made before editing on films was tighter. However, the war-propaganda nature of the movie serial can be seen as offensive by today's standards.
The 1943 movie serial is a simple adventure story of the Dynamic Duo foiling the war-related schemes of Dr. Daka. For me, the movie serial benefits from being made before superhero films were loud, overly-complex and full of franchises. This movie serial isn't trying to set-up twenty sequels and spin-offs. It's just an old-fashioned adventure with an old-fashioned type of charm.
11. Batman and Robin (1949 movie serial)
A lot of what I said about the 1943 movie serial also applies to this one. However, this one is somewhat better, because there's no propaganda and the mystery-style storytelling is decently done. The 1943 movie serial had an unlikeable police captain, who was named Arnold, but this movie serial has the first live-action appearance of Commissioner Gordon.
10. Batman Begins
On the positive side, Batman Begins is my favorite of the Nolan trilogy, because of it's story about Bruce having to get over his fears and become a hero. As someone who deals with anxiety problems, seeing Bruce deal with his fears is great to see. The hero vs. fear dynamic between Batman and Scarecrow is very well done. Also, Batman's rivalry with Ra's al Ghul is very smartly written. Liam Neeson does a great job as the well-intentioned, but misguided Ducard. Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer and Ken Watanabe also give memorable and enjoyable performances.
On the negative side, this was the beginning of Batman's films becoming darker and less entertaining. The colorful, creative style of the previous films is replaced with a more realistic and grounded look.
Most of the scenes in this film are good, but there are two that really bother me. One of them is a scene where Ra's al Ghul orders Bruce to kill a criminal. Thankfully, Bruce refuses to do so. However, the scene falls apart when Bruce sets the place on fire, which leads to the deaths of several henchmen. Bruce saves Liam Neeson's character, but he led the other men in that room to their doom. Also, the climax doesn't quite work, because Batman has a very cringy line: "I can't kill you, but I don't have to save you." Batman fans will likely disagree with me on this, but I believe Batman would try to save everyone, even his enemies.
9. Justice League (2017 version)
The 2017 version of Justice League has become hated by fans, because of all the great stuff that was cut out of it. After seeing the Snyder Cut, I can't deny that the 2017 version isn't as good. However, I still don't think it's a bad film.
The 2017 version lacks a lot of the backstory and emotional moments from the Snyder Cut. However, it's still a film about six heroic individuals coming together to save the world from an opposing threat. It's got enough optimism, action and fun to be an enjoyable blockbuster. Henry Cavill's Superman is full of optimistic moments, while the villainous Steppenwolf is a menacing and quotable threat.
8. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman V Superman was hated by a lot of critics and fans, but I've always liked it. While I agree that the tone is a little dark and dour, I believe there's still a lot of great things in this film.
As a big fan of both Batman and Superman, seeing them share a film was a great experience. As a kid, my all-time favorite Superman fight scene was when Superman sacrificed his life to save the world from Doomsday. This film has that scene, with the bonus addition of having Batman and Wonder Woman join the fight.
Jesse Eisenberg was a very controversial casting choice as Lex Luthor. Lots of fans didn't like him, but I thought he was a great scene-stealer. Both Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons were excellent casting choices.
7. Batman and Robin
Batman and Robin is often considered to the worst Batman film of all time, but I really enjoy it. I can't deny that George Clooney wasn't a great choice to play Batman, but the fact that he's spent years apologizing for the film shows how humble he is.
As for the positives, this film has two incredibly fun villains. Arnie's Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy are so much fun to watch in every scene they're in. I'm sorry to all The Dark Knight fans, but Batman and Robin brought me far more joy and smiles than that film.
Joel Schumacher was unfairly mocked for this film. I truly believe that Joel Schumacher was an easygoing and compassionate man who was trying to make a film that people would enjoy. He had to deal with pressure from the studio, who wanted to make the film more family-friendly so they could sell more toys and other types of merchandise. Unlike some of the other versions of Batman, this film's Batman didn't kill anybody. He was a friendly hero. He saved the city and the world. It's a great feeling to witness a Batman that actually acts like a true hero. This film may be more simplistic and campy than what the fans wanted, but I truly believe that Joel Schumacher captured the heart and soul of Bill Finger's classic character.
6. Batman Forever
Batman Forever was Joel Schumacher's first Batman film. Although it's considered to be a silly film, I believe it has some emotional moments. Bruce's arc in the film revolves around him seeking therapy from Nicole Kidman's character, because he's dealing with guilt from his past. Bruce has to think about if he should keep being Batman or not. In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce stopped being Batman for eight years! In Batman Forever, Bruce considers retiring from being Batman, but he realizes that being a hero is something that he genuinely wants to do, rather than just being something he does because of the loss of his parents. In my opinion, it's a much better story arc for Bruce than the storyline he had in The Dark Knight Rises.
Jim Carrey's take on the Riddler received lots of mixed reception. Jim Carrey earns a lot of respect for basing his performance off of Frank Gorshin's Riddler. Frank Gorshin's Riddler is one of my favorite villains of all time, so Jim Carrey taking inspiration from him is great.
5. Justice League (2021 version)
The 2021 version of Justice League has the same charming elements of the 2017 version, but this version has so much more to offer.
This film gives much more backstory to Cyborg. Cyborg is the least well-known of the film's main heroes, so going into detail about his emotional past and heroic journey was welcomed. The film even makes the main villain, Steppenwolf, somewhat sympathetic. Darkseid, one of Jack "the King" Kirby's greatest creations, finally gets to appear. The crew did an excellent job at bringing this great villain to life.
One of the most important additions to the film is the heart. Zack Snyder, the director, dedicated this film in his daughter's memory. The heartwarming bond between children and their parents is a recurring plotline in the film. There's Cyborg and his dad, Superman and the voices of his birth father and adopted father in his head, the Flash and his father, etc. These all contrast well with Steppenwolf, whose nephew, Darkseid, treats him like a mere henchman. In Batman V Superman, Batman made a lot of the wrong choices. In this film, he gets to do more than make up for his past mistakes. He gets to save the world. The final scene of the film, where a special guest comes by and lets Bruce know that his parents would be proud of him, is a truly touching and beautiful moment.
4. Batman (1989)
Tim Burton's one of the most creative directors of all time. His visuals are full of endless charm and style. Making him the director for Batman was a brilliant decision. He gave the Batman franchise a memorable sense of gothic beauty.
Michael Keaton gave a very unique and entertaining performance as Bruce Wayne, while Jack Nicholson's Joker is full of scene-stealing antics. The Batman/Joker rivalry is greatly done in this very enjoyable and beautiful film.
3. Batman Returns
Tim Burton's second Batman film is even better than his first. Batman Returns benefits from having a storyline about outcasts. Batman, Penguin and Catwoman are all outcasts, while Max Shreck is successful but corrupt and eccentric. Penguin uses his outcast status as an excuse to be evil, while Batman ignores the fact that he's an outcast and does what needs to be done to save the day. As for Catwoman, she struggles to figure out where she fits in. Michael Keaton continues to do a great job as Batman. Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken all give excellent performances.
The visuals in this film are even more impressive than the first film. I'd go as far as to say this is the most visually-beautiful superhero film there's ever been. Considering how gross the Penguin looks, that's saying a lot.
2. Alyas Batman En Robin
This is the one unofficial Batman film I included on my list. This film is a 1991 Filipino film that serves as a parody of Batman.
Alyas Batman En Robin is the weirdest Batman film that I've ever seen. The plot is about Kevin, a high-schooler and his older brother dressing up as Robin and Batman. The reason they're doing this is because Jocson, one of Kevin's classmates, has started doing his crimes as the Joker with his uncle, the Penguin.
All of the other films on this list have better production values and more comprehensible plots than this one. However, none of that changes the fact that this is one of the most entertaining films that I've ever seen. The creatively bizarre plot, the goofy characters and the campy humor bring me an endless amount of joy and happiness.
Joey de Leon is a hilariously-eccentric Batman. A lot of comedy comes out of the fact that Robin is a better fighter and hero than Batman for most of the film. Rene Requiestas' Joker isn't a scary or gross monster. He's just a goofy guy who is extremely hilarious and full of energy. The film's songs are some of the catchiest and most upbeat songs in superhero history.
1. Batman: The Movie
The 1966 Batman film is the undefeated king of superhero films. Yes, there's been films with bigger budgets, more serious storytelling and all that sort of stuff. However, no superhero film is a bigger delight than this one.
Adam West is the heart and soul of the Batman franchise. Adam West's Batman is known for being campy and hilarious, but there's so much more to him than that. Out of all the live-action versions of Batman, Adam West's Batman was the most lovable and heroic. He was a wholesome, fun-loving gentleman. The scene that bests demonstrates this is the scene where Batman attempts to get rid of the bomb. The scene is hilarious for all the people that accidentally get in Batman's way, but more importantly, the scene shows how noble Batman is. Batman wouldn't let anybody get hurt by the bomb. Several of the other movie versions of Batman were responsible for tons of damage, but Adam West's Batman protected everybody from the bomb. He even saves Catwoman's cat, which shows that he loves both humans and animals.
As for the villains, Cesar Romero's Joker, Burgess Meredith's Penguin, Lee Meriwether's Catwoman and Frank Gorshin's Riddler are the most entertaining group of baddies ever assembled in a superhero film. The scenes of them interacting are some of the most memorable, fun and delightful scenes ever put into any comic-book film. Modern superhero films desperately need more bad guys like the ones in this film.
Batman: The Movie is the sweetest Batman film there's ever been. With the best Batman actor and the best group of scene-stealing baddies, it'll be hard to ever top this film.