12 Batman movies ranked from worst to best

From 'Batman and Robin' to critically acclaimed 'The Dark Knight', the Caped Crusader's story has been told countless times over the years

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With the imminent release of The Batman across the globe, Robert Pattinson takes on one of the most popular characters in pop culture history. It’s time to look back at the other movies in which DC Comics’s Caped Crusader takes centre stage.

Here, ranked worst to best, are 12 Batman movies.

12. 'Batman and Robin' (1997)

No serious list ranking Batman movies could place this abomination any higher. Joel Schumacher’s second stab at The Bat brought George Clooney after Val Kilmer. Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone (remember them?) were cast as Robin and Batgirl. The villains were Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and Mr Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who encased Gotham in ice. Schwarzenegger spent the film trotting out terrible one liners (“Allow me to break the ice”), while Clooney looked ridiculous in a costume that emphasised his nipples. It still took $238.2 million worldwide, shockingly, but almost sank the franchise.

11. 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' (2016)

Director Zack Snyder’s domination of the DC Extended Universe reached its nadir with this utterly miserable match-up between Batman and Superman, starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, respectively. In truth, Affleck was well-suited to playing the square-jawed hero, but was cut adrift in an incoherent plot that had Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), mischievously playing the Man of Steel off against the Caped Crusader. A film swamped by Snyder’s bombastic style, the only thing going for it is Gal Gadot’s inaugural turn as Wonder Woman.

10. 'Batman: The Movie' (1966)

Adam West in 'Batman: The Movie'. The film was released in 1966. Photo: 20th Century Studios

Running for three season and 120 episodes, the high camp TV series Batman, starring Adam West, was to be the first introduction to the character for generations before Tim Burton’s 1989 movie. A movie spin-off duly arrived, featuring West and most of the original cast, as Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder (Burt Ward), take on the United Underworld — a quartet of Gotham villains made up of the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler and Catwoman. Though tongue-in-cheek, it did showcase more Bat hardware than any other movie. The Batmobile, Batboat, Batcycle and Batcopter all get a run-out.

9. 'Justice League' (2017 and 2021)

The only reason this film is higher in the list than Batman v Superman is because of the “Snyder cut” — the result of a fan campaign to get Warner Bros to release, in 2021, the version the director intended. The 2017 film, overseen by Joss Whedon after Snyder departed the project for personal reasons, is an absolute shambles, but Snyder’s restored vision marginally improved it. Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, the one responsible for assembling the Justice League of superheroes, at least brings the humour, especially in his interactions with Ezra Miller’s The Flash, who asks what exactly his superpower is? “I’m rich,” Batman quips.

8. 'Batman Forever' (1995)

With Burton and Michael Keaton ducking out, Warner Bros brought in Joel Schumacher to direct and Val Kilmer to star — though the actor had clearly used up all his rock star swagger playing Jim Morrison in The Doors, offering an anonymous performance. Schumacher’s day-glo aesthetic put the emphasis on the character’s comic book origins, cemented by a cartoonish Jim Carrey as the Riddler (complete with carrot-coloured hair and green leotard). Tommy Lee Jones was a high point as Harvey Dent, aka "Two-Face", but after Burton’s two movies, this felt like disposable summer fluff.

7. 'The Dark Knight Rises' (2012)

Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to his Dark Knight trilogy had the near-impossible task of following up The Dark Knight, and as such, it was always likely to falter. The casting of Tom Hardy as Bane felt like a masterstroke, until everyone heard (or rather didn’t) his dialogue, muffled under the breathing apparatus this muscular menace wears over his face. But there’s still much to enjoy here: the opening mid-air heist, as a C-130 Hercules plane collars a smaller aircraft, and the football field that collapses as Bane’s explosions take hold, are thrilling. Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman was also purr-fect.

6. 'Batman' (1989)

Michael Keaton in Batman. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s impossible to emphasise enough how massive Burton’s Batman was when it came out. A blockbuster that saturated cinemas and media coverage, it had style, spectacle, and a soundtrack from his purpleness, Prince. It also boasted an outrageous turn from Jack Nicholson as the Joker, who demanded top billing over Keaton, Burton’s star from Beetlejuice and cast here as Batman/Bruce Wayne. There was still a hangover from the 60s TV show — the Joker terrorises Gotham residents with a chemical that will cause them to die laughing — but Burton brought real verve to the storytelling.

5. 'The Lego Batman Movie' (2017)

Voiced by Arrested Development star Will Arnett, this comic incarnation of Batman had already popped up in the brilliantly irreverent CG animated The LEGO Movie. So it was only natural that he’d get his own spin-off, with Batman tackling the Joker (Zach Galifianakis), who has been so offended by a verbal slight from the Caped Crusader that he decides to wreak havoc on Gotham. Just about every Bat villain worth their salt turns up — even Killer Croc — while the arrival of bad boys from other franchises (such as Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort) add to the fun.

4. 'Batman Returns' (1992)

Burton’s second outing drew on his favourite theme — the outsider. Danny DeVito’s Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin, starts out life as a deformed child, returning years later to Gotham to exact revenge on the city as he plans to kill all firstborn sons in an almost Biblical plot. Thrown into the mix is Batman’s sizzling relationship with Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose PVC-clad alter-ego Catwoman channelled the kinkier side of the franchise. As Burton later stated, “the line between villain and hero is blurred” — a notion that plays out spectacularly here.

3. 'The Batman' (2022)

It’s already divided critics, but Matt Reeves’s three-hour epic, starring a surprisingly robust Pattinson in the title role, feels like an artistic triumph. Like Joker before it, the film delivers the gloomier side of Gotham, conjuring up a Se7en-style mystery as Paul Dano’s Riddler sends Batman on a merry dance through the city’s rain-sodden underbelly.

Loaded with atmosphere and terrific performances (Colin Farrell’s Penguin — take a bow), the film harks back to the Frank Miller-era comic books that began to shade the character in darkness.

2. 'Batman Begins' (2005)

Nolan’s first Caped Crusader effort didn’t need to do much to eclipse the preceding Bat film — the wretched Batman and Robin. But Batman Begins utterly reinvented the character and his world from the ground up. Nothing is obvious here, from the tank-like design of the Batmobile to the choice of more obscure opponents — The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), who spread a fear toxin through Gotham. Best of all, Christian Bale nailed both the privilege of Bruce Wayne and the physicality of Batman.

1. 'The Dark Knight' (2008)

At the end of Batman Begins, Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon hands Batman the calling card of his next opponent: the Joker. Yet even Nolan probably couldn’t imagine back then that Heath Ledger would take this “agent of chaos” to new extremes in The Dark Knight. From leading the opening Heat-style bank robbery to his explosive assault on a hospital (dressed in a nurse’s uniform), Ledger’s hurricane of a performance (which won a posthumous Oscar after the actor sadly died just months before release) elevated The Dark Knight to one of the greatest superhero films this century. It also took more than $1 billion at the box office, which wasn’t bad either.

Updated: March 03, 2022, 12:19 PM