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The best Batman movies ranked (and the worst, too!) by Popverse

From Adam West to Robert Pattinson (with some diversions for Will Arnett and Kevin Conroy, amongst others), here's the best and worst of the Batman movies

Batman Movies Ranked
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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We’ve done the TV shows, so now it’s time to do the movies. After all, not every superhero can claim to be cool enough to have conquered both big screen and small as easily as DC’s Dark Knight, but then again — not many superheroes could claim to have anywhere near the iconic quality as Gotham City’s favorite son. He might want to make criminals into even more of a cowardly, superstitious lot, but for everyone else, he inspires adulation, elicits excitement, and makes us all wonder where he gets those wonderful toys. That’s right: it’s a ranking of the best Batman movies.

For those thinking that we’ve covered this in the ranking of every live-action DC Comics movie, you’re almost right — except, this time around, we’re including the animated Batman movies originally intended for theatrical release as well, which does switch things up just a little bit. (After all, Batman does pretty well when it comes to animated projects…) Keep reading and you’ll see for yourself.

As for what makes this list, let’s get things in order before we go any further: we’re counting every movie intended for theatrical release that centers around the Batman or one of his big-name villains — which means that, yes, the Catwoman and Joker movies get included here. Birds of Prey doesn’t, even though there’s that Harley Quinn collection, and neither do the Justice League movies, even though Batman is a big player in both. What can I say? We’re keeping you on your toes. Also, as with all of these rankings, this is an entirely subjective ranking, which means that you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed that the Christopher Nolan movies aren’t ranked higher. I’m sorry, but not that sorry; feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments.

Now, in the words of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier… let’s broaden our minds.

Batman Movies: Ranked Worst to Best

14. Catwoman (2004)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s certainly an arch appreciation to be had of this accidentally camp masterpiece — in many ways, a great double bill with Supergirl — but it’s one that has to wrestle with the lack of charisma displayed by Halle Berry as the movie’s titular burglar.

13. Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman and Robin
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

If there was a way to take Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy out of this movie and place her — and George Clooney’s much-derided, unfairly so in my opinion, Batman — into something that has more of the weird, off-kilter energy she brought to proceedings, cinema would be a healthier thing. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a mess.

12. Batman Forever (1995)

Batman Forever
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

People will complain about Val Kilmer’s Batman, and I can see why, but… Jim Carrey’s Riddler is very, very watchable indeed, even if he arguably is more Joker than Riddler in many ways. I’m not quite sure what Tommy-Lee Jones is up to for most of the movie, but he looks like he’s having fun, at least.

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

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Yes, it’s over-stuffed, yes it’s melodramatic and features a near-psychopathic Batman and a denouement that makes no real sense if you stop to think about it for even a second, but… there’s something thrillingly superheroic about quite how ridiculous and operatic this movie ends up being. The 1990s comic book boom made celluloid.

10. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy falls apart under the weight of its own pretentions and intent, but there’s a lot of fun to be found in both Tom Hardy’s Bane and Anne Hathaway’s delightful, should’ve-gotten-a-spinoff Selina Kyle.

9. Joker (2019)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Joker appeals to two types of people: Those who’ve never seen 1982’s The King of Comedy starring Robert DeNiro, and those who have, but also like the weird metatextual appeal of a Joker movie that just rips that movie off wholesale, entirely shamelessly. (I’m in the latter group, if you’re wondering.)

8. Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s a strange hunger at the core of Batman Begins, as Christopher Nolan attempts to use the Dark Knight to establish his own voice, and succeeds — a reminder of a time when superhero movies could be used to advance a director’s own vision, as opposed to that of a studio’s cross-universe needs.

7. The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

The Lego Batman Movie
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s so much of this movie that shouldn’t work — it’s extending what is essentially a one-note joke from another movie into another feature all by itself — but… somehow, The Lego Batman Movie is an utter joy, and a very strange celebration of the Dark Knight as much as it’s clearly a parody of the character. Sure, there are the obvious jokes being made all over the place — any comic book fan has already lived through countless “what if Batman and the Joker are… like… actually in love with each other?” takes so many times before — but the sheer volume of comedy in this movie means that, even if one joke flops, there will be seven more waiting to make you laugh before you even realize it… and most of them will hit pretty hard.

Also, let’s be honest: the voice cast of this might make it one of the best Batman casts ever.

6. The Batman (2022)

The Batman
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

In what had by this point become a tradition, Batman finds himself upstaged by Catwoman in this reboot for the franchise — but when Zoe Kravitz is the Catwoman in question, it’s hard to believe anyone else could’ve fared better… especially given Robert Pattinson’s weirdly magnetic anti-charisma as the Caped Crusader.

5. Batman (1989)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Jack Nicholson’s Joker is a distraction from what makes this movie so enjoyable, as Michael Keaton manages to key in on the tension implicit in Tim Burton’s take on Batman and his world. Everything is simultaneously overblown and understated, and Keaton’s whispering man dressed as a bat exemplifies that in every frame. Even if he can’t move his head.

4. The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Almost literally a movie of two halves, The Dark Knight sings when the late Heath Ledger is onscreen, and suffers when he’s absent. The Two-Face material pales in comparison, but how could it not? (I remain unconvinced by Christian Bale’s Batman, but he was never the draw of any of these movies, let’s be real.)

3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The spin-off from the classic animated series from the 1990s might feel a little bit like an over-extended episode of the show, but let’s be honest: even a subpar episode of that show is better than 95% of most superhero movies. There’s a wonderful sense of ambition to the writing here — it’s the Citizen Kane of Batman movies, in so many ways! — and even if the animation occasionally betrays the television budget and scope of the series rather than the more polished, technically proficient finish of theatrical animation of the period, it’s still a beautifully designed movie that’s visually stunning. In other words: one of Batman’s great triumphs.

2. Batman (1966)

Image credit: 20th Century Fox

The original superhero movie, and in many ways still the best, the 1966 Batman is gloriously, un-self-consciously silly, but never dumb; it’s a comedy that runs with the source material and heads for the hills, but wants to make sure that you’re following and having a great time in the process. I maintain that this movie has the best on-screen Riddler, for what it’s worth.

1. Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Returns
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Never mind the good guy: in Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and Danny DeVito’s Penguin, Batman Returns provides two all-time great supervillain roles, and allows them to get away with the ultimate crime: stealing the movie every single time they show up onscreen. Why can’t today’s bad guys be this fun?

If this has left you wanting to keep track of the Dark Knight across media, we have a guide to help you do that for the movies, and also a quick primer about how to get into his comic book adventures, too. We have a ranking of his many TV projects, and we’re happy to share the tale of how McDonalds changed the shape of the Batman movie franchise, too. Maybe you’re thinking about the future, though; that’s fine; we have a guide to all of DC’s upcoming movies and shows, as well.

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