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Batman: How to watch all DC's Dark Knight movies from West to Pattinson in chronological and release order

How to watch every Batman film in order, from live-action to animation

Image credit: Warner Bros.

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There's no event quite like the release of a new Batman film.

Think about it - every new bat-emblem-sporting flick that hits theaters is talked about in just about every corner of culture, from Saturday Night Live to cereal boxes. Batman is a billion-dollar-asset not just to the fictional Gotham he inhabits, but to the real-world producers who keep churning out his movies. And over eighty years after the Caped Crusader first appeared on film, the movies show no signs of slowing down.

As we sit now with Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck, and George Clooney all returning as Batman for the recent The Flash, while the main cinematic Dark Knight Robert Pattinson prepping for a second movie and a new actor needs to be chosen for James Gunn's new DCU, it's high time to revisit what's gone on before as we prepare for the future.

Related: Every DC Comics movie, ranked by Popverse

For those wishing to dive into Batman’s filmography, but unsure where to start, we’ve got you covered. This article contains multiple watchlists and explainers to guide your Batman film journey. If you’re wondering which order to watch the films in, and the difference between each film’s continuity, I’ll answer all your questions. With that in mind, let’s dive in!

Batman movies in release order

Michael Keaton as Batman
Image credit: Warner Brothers

If you wanted to watch every live-action Batman film in release order, here's how you would do it.

It’s worth noting that Batman only appears briefly in the Suicide Squad. However, the film is part of the DCEU series (more on that later), and features Ben Affleck’s Batman, so for completion’s sake it’s worth noting here.

Why are their two Justice League movies? Are they the same film?

Zack Snyder's Justice League
Image credit: Warner Brothers

In 2017 director Zack Snyder left the Justice League film after experiencing a personal family tragedy. Director Joss Whedon took over the project, making some heavy changes. The script was rewritten, and new scenes were shot with the cast. Although the 2017 theatrical release credited Snyder as the director, only a portion of his scenes were used.

Fans of Snyder spent years campaigning for the release of his original cut. The social media movement got Warner Bros.’s attention, and in 2021 Zack Snyder’s Justice League was released on HBO Max. Snyder was brought on to complete post-production on his original footage, and film select new scenes.

Are they the same film? Yes and no. Both films share the same basic story, and even some of the same scenes. However, Zack Snyder’s Justice League contains subplots and characters that the 2017 theatrical film didn’t. Because each film has a separate home media release, and have separate entries on HBO Max, I am classifying them as two separate films for this list. As you track Ben Affleck’s journey as Batman, you might question which film is canon since both can’t exist in the same continuity. Until Warner Bros. makes an official statement, I would suggest thinking of them as different versions of the same story.

What about the Batman serials?

Batman 1943 serial
Image credit: Columbia

In 1943 a 15-chapter theatrical serial was released starring Batman. This was followed by a serial called Batman and Robin in 1949. In the days before televisions were in every household, serials worked the same way modern television shows do. Viewers would go to their local cinemas to watch chapters of a serial, which were usually between 15-30 minutes. The chapters would end in a cliffhanger, enticing audiences to return the next week for the resolution.

Since serials have a different format than full-length theatrical movies, Batman and Batman and Robin aren’t usually considered Batman films. For that reason, Batman (1966) is usually classified as the first true Batman film. However, there is no denying that Lewis Wilson is the first actor to portray Batman in live-action. Robert Lowery replaced Wilson for Batman and Robin.

The films have a mixed legacy. Before the serials were screened, Alfred appeared in the comics as a portly man. The comics changed Alfred’s appearance to resemble his serial actor William Austin, who was tall and slender. The Austin template is Alfred’s iconic look to this day. The serials also inspired the 1966 Adam West Batman television series.

Unfortunately, the serials contain racist attitudes and caricatures. The first serial was screened at the height of World War II, and the script glorified the idea of Japanese internment camps. Various Japanese characters are played by American actors, and portrayed as racist caricatures and villains. Some of the home media releases cut out a portion of the racist dialogue.

If you’re interested in watching the original Batman serials, here is the release order:

Batman movies in chronlogical order

The Adam West Batman

Adam West as Batman
Image credit: 20th Century Studios

Many actors have played the Batman, just as many actors have played James Bond. For decades they were thought to have existed in their own distinct universes for the most part, but during the Arrow-verse crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths they established that all the major Batman film series happened in the same multiverse, but in different universes.

That might seem like a one-off treat for ardent fans never to be brought up again, but Warner Bros. is bringing it up again by re-enlisting Michael Keaton to play Batman alongside Ben Affleck's Batman in the upcoming The Flash film.

So while many of the Batman film series don't chronologically exist in the same timeline, they do chronologically exist in the same m multiversal timelines - just on different tracks.

Confused yet? It's best to think of each series based on the actors and directors guiding them.

The Adam West Batman movie series in chronological order

The Adam West version of Batman exists in an interesting place. A movie starring West’s Batman was produced in 1966 at a time when the television show was a cultural phenomenon. Five decades later, Adam West and his costar Burt Ward reprised their roles as Batman and Robin in a pair of animated films set within the continuity of the television series. These films act as sequels to the 1966 television show and movie, picking up as if no time has passed.

In other words, if you wanted to do a complete viewing of Adam West’s time as Batman, you’d have to switch from live-action to animation after the first movie. Here’s how to do it.

The Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman movies in release order

Michael Keaton in Batman Returns
Image credit: Warner Brothers

The Burton-Schumacher films were the first big budget Batman film series. The first two films were directed by Tim Burton and starred Michael Keaton as Batman. Joel Schumacher directed the next two films, which starred Val Kilmer, who was then replaced by George Clooney - who reprised his role recently in The Flash. If you want to watch them, here’s the correct order.

Are the Burton and Schumacher Batman movies in the same continuity?

Chris O'Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, and George Clooney in Batman and Robin
Image credit: Warner Brothers

There is some question about the continuity between Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Batman films, and the answer isn’t clear cut. There is evidence the Schumacher films are meant to share a continuity with the Burton movies, but there is also evidence against it. Schumacher’s Batman Forever was initially developed as a sequel to Batman Returns, and Michael Keaton was set to return. However, Keaton left the project during the early development stages.

Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as Batman, but some of the original cast members remained. Michael Gough and Pat Hingle respectively reprised their roles as Alfred Pennyworth and Jim Gordon, giving the films a continuity link with the Burton movies. However, Tommy Lee Jones replaced Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent. It’s not inconceivable to imagine that Jones is playing the same character as Williams, but it can also be considered evidence that the films take place in a different universe.

At one point during Batman Forever, Bruce Wayne ponders his relationship with Chase Meridian and comments that he’s never been in love before. This comment flies in the face of his relationships with Vicki Vale and Selina Kyle in the Burton movies. There’s also the Batman ’89 comic series that DC published in 2021. The comic served as a direct sequel to Batman Returns, ignoring and contradicting the events of Batman Forever.

The 2023 film The Flash will feature the return of Michael Keaton as Batman. It’s unknown how this film will address the Schumacher movies, or if they’ll be ignored. In the end, the question of continuity is in the eyes of the beholder. If you want to imagine Batman Forever and Batman and Robin as continuations of the Tim Burton movies, then that is a valid viewpoint. If you want to consider them separate series, that also works.

The Christian Bale/Christopher Nolan Batman movies in chronological order

Christian Bale as Batman
Image credit: Warner Brothers

Christopher Nolan directed three Batman films which starred Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader. These films put Batman in a more serious and grounded lens than the Burton-Schumacher films. These films are usually referred to as the Dark Knight Trilogy or the Nolan Trilogy. Here is the order they were released in.

The Ben Affleck Batman in chronological order

Ben Affleck as Batman
Image credit: Warner Brothers

In 2016 Ben Affleck suited up as Batman for the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The film took place in the shared continuity known as the DC Extended Universe, otherwise known as the DCEU. This watch order list will look at the DCEU films that Batman appears in. For a full DCEU watchlist check out this article.

What’s next for Batman in the DCEU?

Ben Affleck as Batman
Image credit: Warner Brothers

Ben Affleck’s Batman is set next in Aquaman the Lost Kingdom. There were plans for a Batman solo film after the release of Justice League, but Affleck stepped away from the project for personal reasons. Between the current Robert Pattinson led Batman film series, and Affleck’s reluctance to do a solo film, it seems like Affleck’s Batman will mostly be used for cameos and supporting roles going forward.

Is the Matt Reeves/Robert Pattison Batman film connected to the DCEU?

The Matt Reeves-directed Batman film exists in its own universe separate from the DCEU. The Batman (2022) isn’t a prequel to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), it’s a different take on the character. Although the film isn’t set in the DCEU, Matt Reeves is planning to expand the world of the film with its own cinematic universe. Currently The Batman is the only film in that continuity, but a sequel and several spin-offs are planned. One spin-off is an HBO Max series focusing on Colin Farrell’s Penguin. The other HBO Max television series will spotlight Arkham Asylum.

Where do the Catwoman and Joker movies fit in?

Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker
Image credit: Warner Brothers

Catwoman (2004) and Joker (2019) exist in their own weird place in the Batman film canon. The 2004 Catwoman film focuses on an original character named Patience Phillips instead of Selina Kyle. A photo of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman appears in one scene, implying that the film shares a continuity with Tim Burton’s Batman series. Aside from that, Batman doesn’t appear and there aren’t many references to the world of Gotham. For those reasons, Catwoman isn’t considered a Batman film, and it isn’t included on this list.

Joker is a bit different, since it has closer ties to Batman’s world. Thomas, Martha, and Bruce Wayne all appear, along with their butler Alfred Pennyworth. The film takes place in Gotham City, and the ending depicts another version of the Wayne family murder. However, the film focuses on Arthur Fleck’s journey to becoming the Joker.

Although Bruce Wayne appears in the film, he’s a small child and never suits up as Batman. The film also takes place in its own continuity, with no ties to the DCEU or the Matt Reeves Batman series. For these reasons, Joker isn’t considered a Batman film, and it isn’t included on this list.

That's quite a film career, and it doesn't seem like Batman will be slowing down anytime soon. Keep your eyes peeled to Popverse as we continue to cover the Dark Knight's future films, along with other superhero movies.

Want to be Batman? We have the closest thing, with our recommended 10 best Batman games.

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