Ranking BATMAN Live Action Movies

ranking-batman-movies

Happy The Batman weekend, everyone! Holy ka-chiiing Batman!! If the Bat signal is any indication, perhaps the movie pandemic slump is behind us? Following the strong global box office of Spiderman: No Way Home ($1.8 billion worldwide + counting!), Matt ReevesThe Batmans global take so far stands at over $248 million as it opened in 4,417 theaters according to Box Office Mojo. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise given Batman is arguably the most popular superhero even in the era of Marvel Cinematic Universe. So even though DC has been substantially lacking in creating a cohesive universe for its heroes, its massive [and rabid] fanbase is undeniable, easily beating even its fellow DC hero that is Superman.

In any case, I’m in the camp that likes The Batman, heck I’m still thinking about it quite a bit and humming Michael Giacchino‘s haunting and hypnotic score. Suffice to say Batman is on my mind lately, as I had just rewatched Batman Returns last week and spent some time rewatching clips from other Batman movies, so I thought I’d do a ranking of the caped crusader’s cinematic adaptations, as in live action films only, so excluding Lego Batman Movie, animated versions and TV series. I’m also excluding the Adam West’s feature in 1966 for one simple reason, I haven’t seen it.

In judging these, I’m using these five criteria on a rating scale from 0-5:

batman-rating

Batman Portrayal
Bruce Wayne Portrayal
Villains
Replay-ability Factor
Memorable Action Scenes

I think these criteria are pretty self-explanatory and obviously there’s no ‘science’ to them, it’s just based on my gut feeling as a critic and personal preference.

So here’s my ranking is in the order of BEST TO WORST…

joker-tdk-herewego

1. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

Batman Portrayal batman-rating-3-5

Bruce Wayne Portrayal batman-rating-4

Villains batman-rating-5

Replay-ability Factor batman-rating-4-5

Action Scenes batman-rating-4-5

Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy is one of Hollywood’s best cinematic trilogies ever created. Now, the second film has always been my absolute favorite and it’s STILL the best-rated Batman films according to Rotten Tomatoes. It’s not just a good superhero movie… it’s a good movie per se. Having a good villain matters as much as the hero in a comic-book movie and Heath Ledger is simply spectacular. I know some people say he completely outshines Christian Bale but I don’t think that’s fair as both are phenomenal actors who do their characters justice, but Ledger transcends the role and made it iconic. This movie is the one Batman movie I’ve rewatched the most (over 2 dozen times!)

Most Memorable Moments:

1 | I’ve already highlighted this interrogation scene in this post a while back. Sheer brilliant writing and performances all around.

2 | THIS is the one action scene I simply can’t get enough of! I was kinda giddy like the Joker seeing the huge truck flips which is just SO much fun to watch. It’s incredible that Nolan pulled off such a challenging scene with mostly practical effects instead of relying on CGI.


2. THE BATMAN (2022) – full review

Batman Portrayal batman-rating-4

Bruce Wayne Portrayal batman-rating-3

Villains batman-rating-3-5

Replay-ability Factor batman-rating-3

Action Scenes batman-rating-4

Matt Reeves delivered on his promise of creating a noir thriller version of the Batman where the hero is seen doing a ton of detective work with his ally Lieut. Gordon. I think Robert Pattinson did an excellent job in the role, though I much prefer his version of Batman than his Bruce Wayne who’s far too morose and depressing. Now, I’m rating the replay-ability factor based on the one time experience (I’ll likely rewatch it in a few weeks at Dolby Cinema), but given the 3-hour runtime and the extremely gloomy mood, I doubt I’ll be rewatching this as many times as Nolan’s versions.

Most Memorable Moments:

1 | The extended car chase was fun to watch, but the big WHOA moment is when Batman emerges from the fiery crash and walks towards Penguin trapped in his car, that’s pure geek-gasm stuff!

2 | There’s no clip yet but there’s a brief scene where Batman, Gordon and Penguin are in the same scene trying to figure out a clue that’s quite hilarious! Colin Farrell‘s such a scene stealer and a comic relief here, can’t wait to see his Penguin spin-off show!


3. BATMAN BEGINS (2005)

I have a soft spot for Nolan’s Batman origin story. I’m a huge fan of Christian Bale as an actor generally, and his brooding, conflicted portrayal of Bruce Wayne is really compelling here. On top of the main hero casting, the movie is also chock full of brilliant actors: Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Tom Wilkinson and Liam Neeson (who balances the mentor/villain role exceptionally well).

Batman Portrayal batman-rating-3-5

Bruce Wayne Portrayal batman-rating-4-5

Villains batman-rating-3-5

Replay-ability Factor batman-rating-4

Action Scenes batman-rating-3-5

Most Memorable Moments:

1 | I love the moment Bruce discovers the bat cave below his Wayne Mansion and Hans Zimmer‘s score gives me goosebumps as the bats all came out and surround him as he stands still, embracing the thing he once dread the most. Powerful stuff!

“To conquer fear, you must become fear”

2 | There are quite a few memorable action scenes in this movie, but this one stood out in particular for two things – the awesome line ‘I won’t kill you… but I don’t have to save you’ to Ra’s al Ghul and Batman’s cool flying exit as the train derails and falls down.


4. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012) – full review

I somehow still remember the feverish anticipation for this one when the first trailer came out. Well, it turns out to be my least fave out of Nolan’s trilogy but hey, a so-so Nolan’s movie is still a good one. Tom Hardy‘s Bane started out promising and the moment he broke Batman’s back was terrifying, but he got overshadowed by Talia al Ghul midway through. I don’t really care for Marion Cotillard‘s portrayal of her which I find quite irritating. I’m not as fond of Bale’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne here… he’s not in top form and feels a bit melancholy. Anne Hathaway‘s Catwoman is delightfully playful, but in the end, not all that memorable.

Batman Portrayal batman-rating-3-5

Bruce Wayne Portrayal batman-rating-3-5

Villains batman-rating-3-5

Replay-ability Factor batman-rating-2-5

Action Scenes batman-rating-3-5

Most Memorable Moments:

1 | Dayum… this is how you open a movie!! Bane hijacks a plane in the most ludicrously spectacular fashion… I remember people went ‘woo wee’ in the theater. It’s no secret Nolan has always wanted to direct a Bond movie and this looks something a crazy Bond villain would do, ahah.

2 | Bane’s unintelligible voice notwithstanding, it’s perhaps one of the most memorable American football scenes and it’s not even a sports movie! What good is a touchdown when one loses the entire damn team, ahah. I think it’s extra eerie watching it now that the world’s experienced a pandemic as sport events were just in lockdown and the villain is the only one wearing a mask!


5. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)

Batman Portrayal batman-rating-2-5

Bruce Wayne Portrayal batman-rating-2-5

Villains batman-rating-3-5

Replay-ability Factor batman-rating-2

Action Scenes batman-rating-3-5

I actually just rewatched this recently so it’s still fresh in my mind. Tim Burton‘s production design is wonderful to look at while Danny DeVito‘s Penguin is genuinely disturbing. Now, I love Michael Keaton as an actor but I’m not too fond of his Batman which gets easily overshadowed by the other characters, esp. Michelle Pfeiffer‘s Catwoman who’s the absolute MVP. Every time she shows up, the energy of the movie just shoots right up. Heck they should’ve called this movie Batman & Catwoman.

Most Memorable Moments:

Pfeiffer’s performance is STILL the one to beat as Catwoman. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say it’s an iconic performance, as memorable as Ledger’s performance is as the Joker.


6. BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (1992) – full review

Batman Portrayal batman-rating-3-5

Bruce Wayne Portrayal batman-rating-4-5

Villains batman-rating-1

Replay-ability Factor batman-rating-1-5

Action Scenes batman-rating-2

As I mentioned in my review of the movie, the one I was most curious about in this movie is seeing Batfleck. If I were to judge the movie just based on Ben Affleck’s portrayal alone as Batman/Bruce Wayne, I’d give the movie a high mark. I like the grizzled, world-weary version of Gotham City’s hero and boy looked damn good in the role. He certainly has the gravitas of an older and wiser caped crusader, though he’s certainly far more brutal in knocking down bad guys.

Unfortunately, the movie itself is just blah, with terrible, cringe-worthy villains all around (Jesse Eisenberg makes me cringe as Lex Luthor) + the horrible clanging noises during the big, loud, bombastic action scenes. It’s such an ugly movie to look at too, the world of Gotham/Metropolis Zack Snyder built is such an eyesore.

Most Memorable Moment:

My fave moment of Batman VS Superman is when Bruce meets Clark. At least it’s amusing to see them together discussing the activities of their alter egoes.


7. BATMAN FOREVER (1995)

Batman Portrayal batman-rating-3

Bruce Wayne Portrayal batman-rating-3-5

Villains batman-rating-2

Replay-ability Factor batman-rating-1-5

Action Scenes batman-rating-1-5

Val Kilmer‘s Batman movie seems to have been forgotten but I actually think he makes for a good Batman AND Bruce Wayne. He’s got the cool, dignified look as Bruce Wayne, which is far more than what you can say about Chris O’Donnell‘s puny Robin. The supporting cast are filled with big names, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, with Carrey’s Riddler being the most memorable of them all. Joel Schumacher‘s circus-y style is garish, busy and overdone, far from the dark, gritty adaptations we’ve become accustomed today.

Most Memorable Moments:


8. BATMAN (1989)

Batman Portrayal batman-rating-3

Bruce Wayne Portrayal batman-rating-2-5

Villains batman-rating-3

Replay-ability Factor batman-rating-1-5

Action Scenes batman-rating-2

I didn’t put this as a criteria, but the best part of Tim Burton‘s Batman movie is Danny Elfman‘s phenomenal score. To this day it’s still one of the best superhero scores ever that easily elevates the movie. I actually like Michael Keaton a bit more here than in the sequel, alas he’s got one of the weakest love interests in Kim Basinger‘s Vicki Vale. Before his Batman was overshadowed by Catwoman, he was one-upped by Jack Nicholson‘s campy and creepy Joker. His performance is memorable but I still much prefer Heath Ledger‘s version of Joker as he’s genuinely terrifying while still being fun and entertaining.

Most Memorable Moment:


9. BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)

Batman Portrayal batman-rating-1

Bruce Wayne Portrayal batman-rating-1

Villains batman-rating-half

Replay-ability Factor batman-rating-half

Action Scenes batman-rating-1

This movie’s got 12% Rotten Tomatoes rating and rightly so. The overall consensus said Joel Schumacher‘s tongue-in-cheek attitude hits an unbearable limit…’ ha! I mean, those bat-nipples… ’nuff said 😀 Even George Clooney apologized for it years later in Graham Norton interview, as he poked fun at Schumacher’s directing style. Now, if they ever released a making-of documentary of this movie I’d watch it in a heart beat!

Most Memorable Moment: 

Sorry but I barely remember any from this movie and I’d like to keep it that way, so I’ll just include this funny moment from George’s interview.


Thoughts on my ranking? How would YOU rank the Batman feature films that’s been released so far?

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9 thoughts on “Ranking BATMAN Live Action Movies

  1. Here is my list as I think we’re in agreement though I have Tim Burton’s Batman higher as I grew up on that film. And yes, Batman & Robin is the worst. You can’t start a Batman movie with… “I wanna a car! Chicks dig the car!” “This is why Superman works alone”.

    I know Joel Schumacher got a lot of shit for the film but I’m willing to at least forgive him because he was forced by Warner Brothers to make something more family-friendly and he at least took responsibility into why the film sucked. In all honesty, I think a lot of the blame should go to Akiva Goldsman who wrote the film and it is obvious he’s never read a Batman comic nor read any comic books. He is definitely one of the worst screenwriters ever as I can’t believe he still gets work. I can never take anyone seriously who writes these awful lines such as… “HI FREEZE! I’M BATMAN!!!”

    The scene where Batman and Robin at a bidding auction where they fight over Poison Ivy is a key example of why the film sucks and I’m going to quote myself from my own review:

    For many purists and fans of Batman, they know Batman as simply as one thing. A superhero who brings fear to his enemies. This Batman however, doesn’t scare you. He doesn’t even do anything but make a fool of himself and say the most inane things while carrying a credit card. That is not Batman! Batman doesn’t go out, stop for Big Macs, hitting on women, fighting criminals with lame gadgets, and having to breast-feed Robin. NO!!!! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, HELL TO THE NO!!!!!!

    1. Thanks for sharing your ranking!

      I suppose we’ll always have a soft spot for films we grew up with. Somehow I didn’t remember much of the Burton movies, somehow they didn’t make a huge impression to me as much as the Nolan’s versions did.

      Ahahahaha, yeah the dialog is so awful, it was just hilarious!! It’s bad even for a cartoon flick, let alone a live-action movie. Good point there about Joel Schumacher, he’s more of a visual visionary and the art direction is more bearable to watch than the stupid dialog. Akiva Goldsman has made SO many terrible script, if he were a woman or a person of color he’d never be welcomed in any movie industry for decades!

      “Batman doesn’t go out, stop for Big Macs, hitting on women, fighting criminals with lame gadgets, and having to breast-feed Robin.” Mwahahaha!!! Great review there, it’s fun to review stupid movies sometimes.

      1. There is a sadomasochistic form of pleasure in watching an awful movie and then trash it in the worst possible way. There is also some joy in reading bad reviews as Roger Ebert wrote some legendary bad reviews. North is one of the best examples of that.

  2. You know, I’ve just watched The Dark Knight Rises the other night, haven’t seen it in a few years and I forgot I bought it the 4K disc and haven’t watched it yet. I think my top 5 is the same as yours but we disagree on the 6th. Here’s my ranking:
    1. The Dark Knight
    2. The Batman (this number might change once I see it a few more times but I think it will hold)
    3. Batman Begins (disagree with you about this film having memorable action scenes, I thought the action were terribly shot by Nolan. The fight scenes were unwatchable, I know he said he wanted to shoot the action from the POV of Batman but we the audience want to see good action in an action film).
    4. The Dark Knight Rises (this one didn’t really age well but I still enjoyed the heck out it)
    5. Batman Returns
    6. Batman (this film made me a fan of Batman, it opened in the same year that my family and I arrived to the States)
    7. Batman v. Superman
    8. Batman Forever (I agree that Kilmer was good as Batman/Bruce Wayned)
    9. Batman & Robin (there’s actually a behind documentary of this film if you bought the DVD or Blu-ray. It’s quite fascinating and Joel Schumacher did apologize for making it. You might find the doc on YouTube).

    1. Hey Ted!

      Glad our ranking is pretty similar. Val Kilmer is good as Batman but sadly he’s been forgotten, it’s not his fault the film is terrible.

      So you arrived in the States in 1989? I was still living in Jakarta at the time, so my memory of seeing movies are a bit hazy ahah. Somehow I remember watching those R-rated movies with my brother a lot, like 9-1/2 Weeks, Wild Orchid, etc. a lot of Adrian Lyne movies apparently, so weird!

      In any case, I saw a bit of a clip of Schumacher apologizing but I gotta see if I can find the full doc of the making-of.

      1. I watched the behind doc of Batman Forever, the reason the tone of the franchise became silly again was because Warner Bros. wanted to sell more Batman toys. They got so many complaints from big corporate sponsors like McDonald’s, Pepsi and so on because Burton’s Batman Returns was too dark to promote to young kids. They then asked Burton to tone down the violence and tone for the third film, he said no and basically they fired him from the franchise even though his name appeared as one of the producers on Batman Forever. Burton said he had nothing to do with that film and they put his name on there so that he won’t sue the studio and of course he got a huge paycheck for doing nothing. After he read the script, Keaton declined to reprise the role. He knew the franchise was going down hill.

        I remember watching Adrian Lyne’s movies with my friends on skinemax aka Cinemax channel back in grade school. Lol! I didn’t get to see Batman in theater but I remember how big it was that summer, everywhere you go, you’d see Batman toys and logos and clothes. I begged my parents to buy me the VHS when it came out on video that holiday season. I watched that tape too many times.

  3. I have no issues with your ranking. Still gotta see “The Batman”. Seems like everyone approves. I liked all the videos. Nice memories. Of all the Batman actors, I think my favorite is Michael Keaton. Even though I know the Christian Bale is most people’s favorite. What a franchise. So much more interesting than Superman or Spiderman (for me).

    1. Hey Cindy! I’m very curious to hear your thoughts on The Batman. The director Matt Reeves was inspired by Hollywood noir classics from the 1970s like The French Connection, Chinatown and Taxi Driver, so if you like those, there’s a chance you’ll like that one. I agree Batman is more interesting than Superman and Spidey as he’s more of a dark, conflicted character.

  4. Pingback: The Alliance Lately: Issue No. 50 – The Minnesota Film Critics Alliance

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