Batman Films: Best-to-Worst

Over the weekend I saw the new The Batman movie, and so it’s time to update my rankings. If you disagree, I’d love to talk about it down in the comments! Light spoilers ahead.

The Batman

That’s right, best Batman movie ever! My favorite non-comic adaptation of Batman is the Arkham video games, and I feel like this movie is the closest on screen version of that we’ve seen. Gotham is dirty and gothic in all the coolest ways, Batman’s suit is clearly handmade and has a ton of functional features, and the goons he fights are brutal yet cartoonish. It is a wonderful movie. The only piece of Batman that we don’t get much of is eccentric-billionaire-playboy Bruce Wayne.

Best – We get to see some amazing trial-and-error in this movie, as it’s only Batman’s 2nd year being a superhero, and he’s still trying out new things.

Worst – The romantic subplot. To be specific I liked Catwoman, and I liked their dynamic and chemistry, just the romance itself was a bit much.

The Dark Knight

Now, I want to make a nuanced delineation. The Dark Knight is a better movie, but The Batman is a better “Batman” movie. All of the best parts of this movie aren’t actually Batman/Bruce Wayne, because he is just reacting to the chaos around him. But, with amazing acting from the stellar cast, a level of realism that is almost exclusive to Christopher Nolan films, and the standard that all great comic book movies are compared to, this movie is probably the greatest movie based on a comic book of all time.

Best – The Joker. Every second he is on screen, you can’t help but be completely engrossed in what he might be thinking.

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Worst – The Lau storyline that just kind of ends. It’s because of the Hong Kong business man that the mob decides to hire the Joker, but after Batman captures him in the middle of the film, that’s it. I would have liked to see a little bit more from the accountant of all mobs’ storyline.

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Batman (1989)

The first time in 23 years that Batman reaches the silver screen, and it was fantastic. Tim Burton knew how to revive this character in a way that modern audiences would give it some attention, since at the time all they knew was Adam West in his bright blues. This movie shows Batman facing off against his greatest villain, in a way that still hasn’t been touched. We haven’t seen another Joker like Nicholson’s anywhere, because who else is going to pull a revolver with a 3-foot barrel out of his pants?

Best – The style of this movie is truly fantastic, with the ridiculousness of comics, with the timelessness that Gotham tries to emulate.

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Worst – Was that a Prince song that the Joker is dancing to? Why?

The Lego Batman Movie

If you’ve read The Nerdd for a while, you might be surprised that this movie is so high up on this list, because one of my biggest things is “Take It Seriously.” That’s why I truly did not like Thor: Ragnarok, because even though Thor’s dad/friends/hammer died, he was still cracking jokes the entire time, never acknowledging or taking seriously the devastation in his life. However, in the Lego Batman Movie, they not only make it clear that this isn’t a true and dark film, but they also take their own world seriously. Sure, they are fighting Condiment Man and Daleks at one point, but Batman learns to come to the realization that without friends and family, everything becomes very moot.

Best – Robin in all of his Robinness.

Worst – Why are all the more powerful villains working for the Joker?

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Batman Returns

Batman is a lot of things to a lot of people, but something that he sustains in (almost) every version, is that he is the darker side to heroism. Tim Burton, if he knows anything, it’s the darker side to heroism. Juggling two amazing villains, and a love story, this movie knows how to play into some deeper parts of the Batman mythos.

Best – DeVito and Pfieffer were both so fantastic as the villains, they stole the show.

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Worst – Maybe a little too weird and Burton-esque for my taste at times, but that’s what you should expect honestly. Not necessarily bad, just too much for me.

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Batman: The Killing Joke

One of the greatest Batman comics brought to screen, with the amazing voice acting from Batman: The Animated Series, this movie was almost perfectly what it was going for. The only downside, is that the movie was too short for feature film release in theaters, so they added a weird prologue where Batman and Batgirl have sex.

Best – Page to screen adaptation.

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Worst – (CinemaSins voice) Girl talks about boys with her gay best friend cliche.

Batman Begins

The film that restarted DC films after Batman & Robin almost killed it seven years previous. Once again, the realism that Nolan aims to achieve, giving a purpose to every piece of classic Batman art and design. It was never good enough just to look cool, Batman is very specific and intentional, and his suit needed to reflect that.

Best – The casting. The amazing team of actors that make up these films are what give them the weight that is necessary for us to take them seriously, as opposed to the Bat-Credit Card.

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Worst – After fighting with Ra’s Al Ghul about whether or not you should kill people, Batman kills him.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

This is going to get a lot of flak, that this isn’t closer to the top of the list, there are just a lot of great Batman movies. This movie, which is based on the amazing Batman: The Animated Series, and was released between the shows first and second seasons, got to keep the amazing cast of those movies. With the purest representation of Batman on screen, at the end of the day, the movie doesn’t have as many “big swings” that other Batman films do.

Best – The voice acting. If you ask any DC diehard, they’ll tell you that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are the definitive Batman and Joker respectively.

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Worst – There is a whole lot of brooding in this movie.

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The Dark Knight Rises

My least favorite of the Nolan trilogy, this movie isn’t as bad as it feels. It was impossible to make a better film than it’s predecessor, and it would have been idiotic for Nolan to try to top himself. So instead of a madman that just wants chaos, we get an amazing villain with clear goals and planning, who is far more prepared than Batman is. Tom Hardy puts on an amazing performance, and truly inspires fear. The only major story problem I have is trying to make Christian Bale into old-man Batman who can hardly walk, because he took an 8-year hiatus. That doesn’t feel like enough time to become as bad at Batmanning as he is at the beginning of the movie.

Best – The sense of dread from the amount of destruction. Between the bombs, the cops waiting in the sewers, and the bomb-trucks driving around, it really feels hopeless in Gotham.

Worst – So much sitting around in beds, healing. Just, so much.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I’m not a fan of Zack Snyder, I’m going to open with that. However, I will say that this is better than Justice League, because this actually knows what it wants. Zack Snyder had a very specific vision of the movie that he wanted, and it seems like he got to make that movie. Sure, it’s a movie none of us really wanted to see, but I would rather see a singular focused piece of nonsense, than a film that gets chopped up by a studio. Good on Snyder for making what he wanted, even though it wasn’t great.

Best – This was actually really cool.

Batman V Superman GIF

Worst – Obviously it’s the Martha scene.

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Batman (1966)

Similarly to the Mask of the Phantasm, this movie was really just an extension on it’s respective show, being released between the first and second seasons. The first onscreen iteration of these characters, we see just how silly Batman is and can be, but it’s place in DC History cannot be understated, and it deserves some respect.

Best – “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

Worst – “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

Justice League

Yes, Justice League, right. Technically not a Batman movie, but since he’s in the movie, and kind of the leader of the team, I had to include it, but I’m only talking about the Batman parts. Anyway, we never really see Batman do his thing, and the most interesting part is when he helps Flash find the confidence to be a hero with the rest of them. I will say that the style of his batsuit is one of my top favorites of all time.

Best – This jump looks so cool.

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For those of you wondering, I have not seen Zack Snyder’s Justice League and have little interest to.

Batman Forever

Oh no. This nonsense? After the studio realized that kids don’t particularly love Gothic Art Deco, they decided to completely switch directions with a super colorful, over the top style, that just looks like everyone was on drugs.

Best – Jim Carrey is a great chaotic and cosmic force.

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Worst – What. Is. This?

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Batman & Robin

How do you get worse from Batman Forever? How? Between Bat-Nipples and Bat-Credit Cards, this movie is the most painful thing to have “Batman” in the name. Can we just go home? Please?

Best – I will say, Arnold Schwarzenegger actually knew what he was getting himself into.

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Worst – Please stop. Please.

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What are your favorite Batman moments and films? Let me know in the comments below!

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