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All 17 Batman (and Bat-Family) TV shows, ranked from best to worst

The Caped Crusader and Gotham have been on TV quite a few times - here's how they stack up

Image credit: Warner Bros, Fox, ABC

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"I'm Batman" - popularly thought to be the two coolest words you can say (followed closely by "Detective Pikachu"), are actally a bit of a gamble. You see, after so many years of being at the forefront of pop culture, there are plenty of Batmen one can be, some objectively cooler than others. That's why, to help make sure you're claiming the iteration of the character most likely to impress, I've put together this list of every Batman TV show, ranked from worst to best.

Really quickly, though, let me just explain what you're getting into. I'm ranking the following shows based on my own (admittedly perfect) opinion, with which you may very well disagree. In fact, let me know in the comments if you do. But even more importantly, I'm only ranking shows that either star Batman, star one of his cohorts, or take place primarily in Gotham. As you'll see, a certain butler-centric prequel does make this list, Justice League Unlimited does not. Love that show though I do.

Without further delay, let's get to Bat-ranking.

17. Gotham Knights (2023)

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Our lowest entry on this list centers on young Turner Wayne. If you don't know who that is, well, you're on the same wavelength as the makers of this show. The adoptive son of Batman (who never appeared in any comic), Turner and his friends set about solving Batman's murder and attempting to fill his role in Gotham. The problem was - the characters had little depth beyond that. For its Batmanlessness, this show couldn't find its way out of the Shadow of the Bat.

Maybe there could have been some character growth in a potental second season, but in June of 2023, The CW cancelled the critically-panned the growing-up Gotham gala, leaving the series forever at its first season.

And perhaps that's for the best.

16. Batman (1943)

Image credit: Columbia Pictures

Originally released in movie theaters, the 1943 Batman serial is not an amazing iteration of the character, but it is undoubtedly an important one. Not only is this the Caped Crusader's first time on film, but it also introduced the concept of the Batcave and forever altered the appearance of Alfred Pennyworth based on William Austin, the actor that portrayed him.

And yet, this adaptation falls pretty low on the old Batscale, milestone though it may be. Intense anti-Japanese sentiment from the time it was released led to Batman strangely being an official agent of the US Government and, more uncomfortably, a villain in yellowface.

Not the best look, Dark Knight.

15. Birds of Prey (2002)

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Another Batmanless entry to the list, Birds of Prey at least had more for their characters than just being Bruce Wayne's replacements. Eskewing the grounded take on the Bat-mythos that would become popular after Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, Birds of Prey leaned into comic bookiness by envisioning a Gotham criminal underworld that was largely metahuman.

However, even the idea of an X-Men-like Gotham universe couldn't overcome the trite plots and cringey dialogue of Birds of Prey. Still props to the show for being lead by an actual DC Comics character, Helena Wayne, who would return to TV for The CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths event.

14. Batman and Robin (1949)

Image credit: Columbia Pictures

Following up the first Batman serial was 1949's Batman and Robin. Get the nipple imagery ouut of your head, this serial was released nearly fifty years before the Joel Schumacher film with the same name.

Though the second Batman serial was not as important a marker as the first, it featured a fun, pulpy plot and a villain that was blessedly less offensive, a hood-sporting deviant calling himself The Wizard.

Ah, wait.

13. Batwheels (2022)

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Despite the dopamine hit Zack Snyder fans got when Batfleck said "fuck," a significant portion of Bruce Wayne's 85-year tenure as protector of Gotham was written with kids in mind. Following in that tradition is Batwheels, which turns the Batcave's ample supply of cool veehiclees into characters of their own. It's Pixar's Cars for superheroes and, as parents reading this will probably agree, it's a fun idea.

And yet, the TV-Y7 sticker at the top of a screen isn't an excuse for dumbed-down plots and thin characters, which Batwheels is pretty well full of. Still, the franchise was likely created to give parents a break and sell toys, and there's probably little reason for producers to change that.

Until, of course, Zack Snyder gets his hands on it.

12. The New Adventures of Batman (1977)

Image credit: CBS

Speaking of Batman for kids, next up is a 1977 cartoon that's exactly as odd as that description implies. Introducing the world to Batmite as a kind of a Scrappy Doo with the power of God (tremble at that, mortals), the series wasn't the brightest and featured less-than-original animation. So yeah, if you saw that picture and thought it was from Super Friends, you'd be more than excused.

But despite its blase performance in the Bat spotlight, The New Adventures of Batman featred some pretty satisfyiing stuff, such as a talking Bat-computer, the animated debut of Clayface, and most excitingly, the return of Adam West and Burt Ward to the roles they made famous. So maybe check it out, Silver Age Batman fans - at just 16 episodes, it's not like getting through it would take long.

11. Pennyworth (2019)

Image credit: Max

Before we even get into it - no, I'm not adding the "Origin of Batman's Butler" subtitle to this entry because A.) Batman is very much not in the show, B.) Alfred is far from just a butler here, and C.) it sounds like someone wrote a title based on David Zaslav's "no more than five words" rule for understanding IPs.

Similar to that godawful title, there was some muddled intention going on in the Pennyworth writer's room, and that kept the show from being as good as it could've been. For example, it's a bold move to use elements from V for Vendetta, but personally, I don't feel like the writer's really grappled with the themes of that seminal comic enough to justify using it as a plot piece.

All that said, Pennyworth was a Batmanless show that actually committed to a world apart from Bruce Wayne, which is respectable. Plus, it was stylish as all hell, so points for that.

10. Beware the Batman (2013)

Image credit: Warner Bros.

As you'll come to see, I really appreciate when a Batman show tries something different. Call me a non-purist, but when I come into a comic adaptation, I don't want to have an experience exactly like the comics I've already read. Such is the strength of Beware the Batman, a show that purposefully strays away from common Batman villains such as the Joker and angles toward different relationships with more obscure Batman allies, such as Katana.

Unfortunately, Beware the Batman had the tendency not to commit to being different, occasionally leaning on the Batman tropes that its cast was seemingly meant to forego. Probably the best example of this is the character of Magpie, who is Catwoman in all but name.

All the same, Beware the Batman is the first entry on this list that I'd say is definitely worth a watch - if nothing else because it is only 26 episodes, and I am a huge Anarky fan.

9. Gotham (2014)

Image credit: Fox

As you can see by the little bar on the side of your screen, we're at just about the halfway point in this list, which is exactly where Gotham deserves to be. Admittedly, there are some pretty awesome things about this show - a solid first season, Robin Lord Taylor's Penguin and Cory Michael Smith's Riddler, and memorable visuals that were part Tim Burton, part CSI. Buut on the other hand, there were also some noticable problems.

I hate to put it as bluntly as this, but at some point, Gotham just sort of... lost the plot. Every Batman rogue that was introduced got sucked fully into their comic personas, but without changing the status quo of a Gotham without its vigilante defender. Perhaps if the series had stuck to that idea and gave us a decimated, dark Gotham fully in the grip of already-developed baddies it would've been interesting, but by the end, James Gordon was just solving the problems that we've been told only Batman could, undermining them both as characters.

Oh God, and that Mr. Freeze suit was awful.

8. Batman (1966)

Image credit: ABC

Goofy, absurd, but never the slightest bit insincere, the Adam West Batman has inspired video game skins, LEGO sets, and even an excellent comic series from DC. And personally, I think it deserves every homage and tribute it's ever gotten. In terms of sheer fun, ABC's live-action Batman ranks among the greatest superhero adaptations of all time.

The reason that it's not higher on this list, though, is that there's more to Batman than his Silver Age days, which are the only ones reflected in this series. In fact, there's even an upcoming entry on this list that improves even on the Silver Age-ness of this show, but we'll get to that later. And yet, I will die on the hill that the Adam West/Burt Ward rendition of Batman and Robin is essential viewing for any superhero fan, dated though it may be.

7. Batwoman (2019)

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Of all the Batman shows without Batman, Batwoman holds to the Caped Crusader's absence the most. Bringing in newer, fresher villains liike Alice and the Wonderland Gang makes Gotham City a different flavor of dangerous, and both the women that hold the show's titlar role have a different flavor of crimefighting than their predecessor.

At least, that is, until the third season, when the show does sadly revert to sing Batman's typical rouge gallery by proxy. I suppose it's impossible to portray a post-Bruce Wayne Gotham without the ramifications of his villains, but still, it felt like Alice and her goons had more trouble to cause before being replaced by season 3's Arkham wannabes.

6. The New Batman Adventures (1997)

Image credit: Warner Bros.

OK folks, from here on out it's only modern animated Batman, which as fans know, is where the absolute cream of the Batcrop resides. Having nothing to do with the 1977 cartoon of a similar name, The New Batman Adventures was the second Batman-centric cartoon in the DCAU, notable for its slightly darker tone and the introduction of Nightwing to cartoon-watching, non-comic-reading audiences.

But for all that's cool about it, you can't help but see this show as an attempt to captalize on the success of its forebear (we're getting there, don't worry) without actually adding much in the way of style, animation, or types of story. Mind you, it doesn't fail the animated series that preceded it, but it also doesn't add much, putting it at the bottom of the top, as it were.

5. The Batman (2004)

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Despite his reputation as the World's Greatest Detctive, most modern adaptations lean into Batman using his incredible skill in martial arts rather than his impressive mind. No TV show has leaned harder into the Batman-as-ninja idea than The Batman.

Along with impressive action sequences, The Batman boasted a completely overhauled catelogue of character designs, taking characters in new directions just by their outward appearance.

(A personal favorite of mine was The Riddler, who bore a distincly creepier costume and, to match, was played by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund.)

It might not be as well-regarded as the Batman of the DCAU, but The Batman deserves to be watched and remembered, if only as a take on the character and world that still stands out as unique.

4. Harley Quinn (2019)

Image credit: Max

I'll be honest - I almost didn't include this show. Reason being - it does so wonderful a job at staying true to its titular character, rather than becoming a "substite Batman" show as other series have. And yet, the show is irremovably Gothamite in nature - although what puts it so high on this list is the way it treats Gotham.

In Harley Quinn, nearly everything is played for a laugh, especially the character of Bruce Wayne. And while that's a far cry from the Batman from any era of comics, it works well; this is definitely the funniest show on this list.

Oh, and Alan Tudyk is a genius, so there's that.

3. Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008)

Image credit: Warner Bros.

No, The Brave and the Bold doesn't do anything particularly new in the realm of the DC Universe, but the way it uses pre-existing material is nothing less than genius. Particularly, the show uses Silver Age sensiblities better than any other superhero adaptation done yet, turning ridiculous plots into well-constrcted, self-contained episodes with plenty of humor and heart.

The Brave and the Bold may not be the first on this, but it is the best Batman-centric show that regularly interacts with the larger DC Universe. In fact, Batman occasionally acts as an audience stand-in, providing a familiar lens with which to view an unfamiliar set of characters such as Kamandi, Enemy Ace, and my personal favorite.

Oh, and don't ever forget it - B:TBATB did Kite Man way before Harley Quinn did.

2. Batman: The Animated Series (1992)

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Here it is folks, the most lauded superhero show on the planet and the program that made Batman fans out of multiple generations. To list everything that Batman: The Animated Series did for Batfans is impossible, but I can at least start by reminding you that the character of Harley Quinn, the voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, and an art deco style for Gotham that is still aped today all became part of the Dark Knight's history thanks to this 1992 cartoon classic.

But even more than its innovations, BTAS's miracle was distilling every character in Gotham to their perfect, most human selves. How many episodes ended with Batman lending the villain a hand, rather than a fist? Bruce Timm and Co. put a beating heart behind the symbol on Bruce Wayne's chest, instilling a compassion unlike any other superhero cartoon before it. This show so good, so human, and so important... that you might've forgotten that it was only the second best on this list.

1. Batman Beyond (1999)

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Burn me as a heretic, I don't care - Batman Beyond is better than Batman: The Animated Series. As I mentioned earlier, a comic adaptation should be more than just what readers are familiar with, and even though BTAS reworked Batman and his rogues to their arguably perfect forms, it was still largely treading on paths already blazed (ok, except Mr. Freeze - that was completely new).

Batman Beyond, however, built an entirely new universe for pre-existing Batman fans. It treated its viewers as intelligent, building off of what they already knew rather than simply reworking or repeating it. And yet, for all services it did Batlore, the show was also thoroughly accessible, a welcome entry point to Batman and DC as a whole.

For every good thing that any Batman series has done with the characters and the universe, Batman Beyond not only matched it, but refreshed it, creating something better and newer than the sum of its parts. And so far, no other Batman series has topped that.

Then again, Batman: The Caped Crusader heads to Amazon Prime Video August 1. Perhaps the only thing that can top the Batman of the future is a Batman of the past - I'll let you know as soon as I form an opinion.

He is vengeance, he is the night, he is... one of Popverse's favorite subjects. Learn how to do a Dark Knight movie marathon right with our Batman movie guide, and for the true World's Greatest Detectives out there, dive deep into the heart of Gotham City by getting to know Batman with Popverse.