As we all eagerly await the next live on screen adaptation of Batman I decided to take a look back at my favourite performances over the years.
‘The Batman’ directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson is due for release in 2021. Until that arrives I waned to wet your appetite with a trip down memory lane. Below is my ranked list for all movies and series to feature Batman in the leading or joint leading role. This includes both animated and live action from the 1966 Batman TV series through to Batman Hush in 2019.
**This list is based solely on my own personal opinion. I rate movies on how much enjoyment I get from them and is not influenced by other critics reviews or box office numbers** Feel free to let me know your thoughts on twitter.
#40 – Batman and Harley Quinn (2017)
This movie was released in the the prime time of DC animation but failed to impress me. The biggest struggle I had with this movie is how it failed to have an audience. There was some humor in it not quite suitable for children but a lot of the story was quite childish so doesn’t grip the adults. The highlight for me was Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman.
#39 – Lego Movie 2 (2019)
I debated including the Lego Movie, movies in this list but decided i needed the first movie to get the credit it deserves. Unfortunately the sequel fell very short of the first movie with a silly story and joke after joke which did not land. Will Arnett’s Batman was one of the few positive parts of this movie.
#38 – Batman: Return of the caped crusaders (2016)
As a huge fan of Batman 66 as a kid I was very excited when this animated movie was announced. I also enjoyed the Batman 66 comic stories over the years, especially Batman meets the Green Hornet by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman. This animated movie did not quite meet my expectations. I don’ want to be too critical of this movie which comes with lots of nostalgia for the TV series, but I found that to also be the reason this didn’t quite shine for me. It heavily plays into the goofyness of the show but for today’s audience it doesn’t pay off.
#37 – Batman/Superman Apocalypse (2010)
This was a difficult movie to rank because I like it but I don’t love it and it simply falls behind movies I enjoyed more. This film is a sequel to Public Enemies which I did prefer and could be why this movie ranked so low. Parts of the story feel rushed but there is a lot of things done well here also. Its a lose adaptation of the Jeph Loeb story and as with many comic book adaptations it can be difficult to tell hundreds of pages of story in 90 minutes. A good cast and plenty of action, not the best animation but for a 2010 movie it was pretty good.
#36 – Batman Unlimited (2014-2017)
I have used this to bracket a number of movies in one. Batman unlimited was a series of animated movies specifically aimed at a younger audience much like some of the JLA movies and Lego movies. I don’t admit to have seen all the unlimited series but from those i have seen they are done well, as mentioned for a younger audience. If you have kids who enjoy Young Justice or Teen Titans Go then these are some movies I would recommend.
#35 – Batman vs Two Face (2017)
The second and final Batman 66 animated movie and the last appearance of Adam West who sadly died shortly before the movies release. I enjoyed this more than Return of the Caped Crusader for reasons i can only put down to William Shatner as Two Face. The animation, tone and direction are very similar to ‘Return’ but I just enjoyed the humor that much more to find it ranked higher. Almost the perfect way to cap of the long career of Adam West as our Bright Knight.
#34 – Batman Forever (1995)
Batman Forever is my lowest ranked live action Batman because its a movie which just never stuck with me. I think partly due to Val Kilmer never selling me on his version of Batman or Chris O’Donnell as Robin. The movie has some positives, I enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones as Two face and I liked the energy Jim Carey brought to the Riddler but it was not a very good Batman story and does not look good by today’s standards when you re-watch it.
#33 – Batman & Robin (1997)
This movie gets a lot of hate and many people will have expected it much lower (if not last) in my list. Those that know me will know that I do have a fondness for this movie. Part of that is probably down to the fact that this was the first Batman, if not first super hero movie i watched at the cinema. I will admit this movie has a lot of problems but for me it has a lot of fun positives. As a 90’s kid Schwarzenegger was my hero so his name on the poster was a huge positive and i love what he did with Mr Freeze. Yes i know its cheesy but I just loved it and must be still one of the most quoted Batman movies of all time. George Clooney was a decent Bruce Wayne and this was from a TV actor in the days when TV and Movies didn’t very often cross over. Uma Thurman was an underrated Poison Ivy and as I mentioned being a 90’s kid, seeing Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl was a young boys dream.
#32 – Batman Bad Blood (2016)
Bad Blood was a good animated feature which just lacked a few points which could have made it one of the greats. Written by the brilliant J.M.DeMatteis with Jason O’Mara as the voice of Batman i really enjoyed this clever story which highlighted the importance of the Bat Family when Bruce goes missing. A rushed ending and a few character introductions that needed fleshing out a little but other than that a well produced, high energy, action packed movie with plenty of Bat characters for your money.
#31 – The Killing Joke (2016)
Its never easy adapting existing material, this is something the director Sam Liu told me when i interviewed him last year. With a book like the Killing Joke, one of the highest rated graphic novels of all time, then I give this movie a little more lenience. I accept this was never going to be an easy task for any film maker, if you just animate a story page to page then where is the originality? The killing Joke is also not a large book, so there was always going to be a requirement to add more to the story. A 60 page comic book would be difficult to turn into a 90 minute movie with nothing new, so the decision was made to make the 30 minute opening to the movie original content. Unfortunately this gets the majority of the movies criticism and this is unfair in my eyes. The Killing Joke is more a Jim Gordan story than it is a Batman story and the pivotal moment is his daughter Barbara getting shot. This is why I accept the creative choice to open the movie with a focus on her back story and impact it would have on people.
#30 – Batman vs Dracula (2005)
A movie much better than it deserved to be. This movie was made prior to universe building as is a good old fashioned one and done story in which Batman Fights Dracula. The animation is better than the animated series but not as good as the current DC animated universe movies. The one thing I remember standing out for this was the deep and haunting score which accompanies quite a mature story.
#29 – Mystery of the Batwoman (2003)
Set in the world of Batman the animated series with Kevin Conroy returning as Batman. I wouldn’t say this was an introduction the the Batwoman character as her portrayal is very different to that in the comics, but it was another addition of the Bat family to this universe. The story is good with a great cast and a slightly upgraded animation to the original series.
#28 – Justice League (2017)
Let me start by saying I like Justice League. The movie has a history and has its problems but I find it completely entertaining with some great interpretations of my favourite characters. Ray Fisher is a great Cyborg, Gal Gadot is an amazing Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller brings something unique and different to the Flash, Jason Momoa embodied being Aquaman, Henry Cavil IS Superman and Ben Affleck is my favourite Batman. What makes it such a shame this movie isn’t universally liked is the fact that we had this amazing group of actors, who worked so well together and we wont get that again. #ReleasetheSnydercut
#27 – Batman Hush (2019)
Yet another animated adaption of a great comic book which didn’t convince everybody. There is one fundamental change to the plot from the book to the movie and that is what people did not like. Personally it didn’t really bother me and putting that to one side this is a very slick movie. The animation, voice cast and script are all of the highest animated standards and people should give Hush a watch.
#26 – Batman vs Robin (2015)
I would actually class this as more a Robin movie than a Batman movie but because his name is in the title I felt compelled to include it. The follow up to Son of Batman, Batman vs Robin is brilliant movie which deals with issues of morality and fully embraces the father son relationship between Bruce and Damian conflicted with their relationship as Batman and Robin. Jason O’Mara was the voice of Batman but it was nice touch to have Kevin Conroy as the voice of Thomas Wayne in a flashback sequence.
#25 – Batman Begins (2005)
Batman Begins is an incredibly important movie for many reasons. Firstly it was the first live action Batman in 8 years, far to long if you ask me. Secondly and more importantly, it was the movie which proved to the world that comic book movies could be aimed at a mature audience and make money at the box office. The final reason this is important is because of how it sets up everything for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. All the ground work is laid in this movie which allowed Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises be as brilliant and successful as they were. The reason this ranks so low on my list is simply because it don’t like it as much as the movies ahead. I understand its important but its not a movie that blows me away and makes me want to re-watch it regularly.
#24 – Lego Batman Family Matters (2019)
There were many Lego movies prior to the big budget ‘Lego Movie’ but they have mainly been Justice League related. Batman Family Matters is the only inclusion on this list from that brand of movies because its the only one I think warrants being classed as a Batman movie. Also, its a very good movie. A really clever story when a mystery villain arrives and kidnaps members of the Bat Family in significant places they came into Batman’s life, meaning the villain is someone very close to the family. This is for the younger audience so if you have kids or grand kids then this should be a must for their Batman education.
#23 – Batman & Mr Freeze: Sub Zero (1998)
Another movie in the Batman Animated Series universe and another good one. As the title suggests Mr Freeze is the main villain trying to find a cure for his dying wife. Whats interesting about this is how its the same story we see the the live action Batman and Robin with Arnold Schwarzenegger and this was released only 1 year later. Maybe it was due to the popularity of Arnie or maybe Warner Brothers were trying to write some wrongs.
#22 – Batman Gotham Knight (2008)
Gotham Knight is such a unique movie which is why I rate it much higher than many people probably would. This is an animated movie which consists of six different stories, all written and directed by different people which tells the story between the live action movies Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I was so impressed with how these different stories were blended together and how well it worked. With different styles, tones and visuals this is a very unique and inspiring experience.
#21 – Son of Batman (2014)
I enjoy Son of Batman a lot because it tells such a great story. He isn’t my favourite Robin but I am a big fan of Damian Wayne and his origin story, that’s why I like this so much. Being the son of Batman, raised by the League of Assassins at such a young age. I can not wait for Damian to age and see where his story goes as he has the potential to be one of the greatest. Origin movies are always good fun and this is a great example of that.
#20 – Batman Assault on Arkham (2014)
One of the more graphic animated movies, Assault on Arkham does a tremendous job in telling a mature story without going over the top. This movie really does have it all, a dark and brooding Batman, the insanity of the Joker and a super fan, violent and comic accurate Suicide Squad who steal the show in every scene they are in. Also, Troy Baker as the Joker proves why he is the only person to challenge Mark Hamill’s crown as the voice of the clown prince of crime.
#19 – Gotham by Gaslight (2018)
An Elseworlds story of Batman in Victorian age Gotham chasing down Jack the Ripper did not sell it to me when I first heard about this movie. Boy did it surprise me and boy did I enjoy it. The whole movie just works, with Batman’s cape slightly altered cape to look like a trench coat it looks and feels authentic. A really well written script with crisp animation in an original setting makes this a hit for me.
#18 – Batman/Superman Public Enemies (2009)
One of my all time favourite animated movies. Public Enemies presents a brilliant script, with non stop action and a perfect voice cast. Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tim Daly as Superman and my favourite Lex Luthor Clancy Brown. What tops this movie off is the accompanying score which compliments the action and suspense perfectly.
#17 – Batman Year One (2011)
Year One is such a great story and adaptation of the Frank Miller story mainly because of its realism. Batman may be a superhero but he has no powers (other than being rich ;}) and this movie does a wonderful job of showing Batman as a person trying to do good for his city. This also serves has an origin story for Jim Gordon who was voiced by my dream live action Jim Gordon, Brian Cranston. This movie is brilliant at telling Batman’s early story from a street level.
#16 – Batman Ninja (2018)
There was a lot of mixed feelings about this movie when it came out and I understand why. Does Batman belong in feudal Japan? No. Does it work? Oddly yes I think it does. I like originality in my movies and that is something this has plenty of. Batman and other residents from Gotham are transported to ancient Japan in a loosely similar story to No Mans Land. Japan is ruled by different villains and Batman has to fix this and get them back to Gotham. With this movie being produced with Kamikaze Douga who are a Japanese animation company, there is a genuine anime feel which gives this movie its own distinctive feel. I have never seen a Batman movie like this.
#15 – Lego Movie (2017)
I wanted to give this an honourable mention but it had to be included because Will Arnett gives us easily the funniest Batman on screen. Lego Movie as a whole was a complete breath of fresh air appealing to both young and old on a level not seen. Batman is almost a comedy relief but not intentionally. He brings us a version of Batman with such self confidence and arrogance that its seems silly in the real world, and its hilarious.
#14 – Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
Batman Beyond was a brave new show putting someone behind the mask other than Bruce Wayne. What better way to set up the first movie from the franchise but to bring back Batman’s oldest enemy The Joker. As I mention in my Batman Beyond (number 13) summary this is a great setting with a new Batman for today’s audience. Return of the Joker retains all the attributes of the series with the addition of Mark Hamill returning to voice Joker.
#13 – Batman Beyond (1999)
Batman Beyond was a risk, but one that paid off. Everyone knows Bruce Wayne is Batman so what happens when you skip 30 years in the future and Bruce Wayne is retired? The get young and dynamic Terry Mcginnis stepping forward and continues the legacy. Moving Bruce Wayne into almost the Alfred role was a smart move to please the hardcore fans but I urge people to give this is watch if the haven’t yet as a refreshing alteration to world of Batman.
#12 – Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 & 2 (2012-2013)
I have grouped the two movies into one because I feel you need to watch them both together. Comic story adaptions are hard to get right, but when they do boy are they good. These movies play perfect homage to the master piece that is Frank Millers The Dark Knight Returns. With some amendments to the script which somehow manage to elevate the story these movies are pure entertainment and should be watched by all. No disrespect to Kevin Conroy but Peter Weller gives you the voice of Batman you didn’t know you wanted.
#11 – Batman Returns (1992)
Batman Returns is such a great sequel to Batman 1989 that it is often preferred by many to the original. Personally the fact that the Penguin scared me when I watched this as a kid is the only reason it doesn’t rank higher. Michael Keaton returning as Bruce, Michelle Pfeiffer was dazzling as Catwoman and as I mentioned a very scary and sadistic Danny Devito as Penguin. Tim Burton back as the director and Danny Elfman’s score takes this movie just that bit darker than the original, whats not to love?
#10 – Lego Batman (2017)
With his popularity from the Lego Movie, Will Arnett took Batman one step further with his own movie and created a piece of unimaginable joy. Exposing the complex relationship between Batman and Joker and twisting it to suit a younger audience was a stroke of genius. The icing on the cake was all the easter eggs and inside jokes layered throughout to please the older audience who were more than likely watching with their kids.
#9 – Batman vs TMNT (2019)
A lose adaptation of the James Tynion IV comic series of the same name. When I heard about two of my childhood favourites coming together I was a little skeptical but also very excited. This movie did not dissapoint and I loved every minute of it having become one of my most re watched animated movies. It takes everything you love about Batman and conflicts it against everything to love about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and finds a synergy you wouldn’t think possible.
#8 – Batman 66 (1966-1968)
This series really needs no introduction as I know for many Batman fans this was their gateway into Gotham. Its a camp, silly and over the top version of Batman but a show made with such love and passion became one of the main things I looked forward to on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Being born in the 80’s i grew up on the re runs and Adam West was my Batman for a number of years, the bright knight will never be forgotten.
#7 – The Dark Knight (2008)
I know this will have been many peoples number one movie but for me it isn’t simply because I don’t think its a good Batman movie, its a great Joker movie. Heath Ledger gave a phenomenal performance here as the clown prince of crime, so good in fact I felt he stole the entire movie. I think the Dark Knight is a master piece of modern cinema and love every minute of it but very little of that praise actually goes to any of the Batman elements of the movie. In a ‘favourite Batman’ list I couldn’t bring myself to place this any higher.
#6 – Batman The Animated Series (1992)
If Batman 66 was my introduction to Batman then The Animated Series became my education. This series means a lot to millions of people around the world and even DC Comics as a whole would be a very different place without it. Bruce Timm and Paul Dini deserve so much more credit than they get. This series hooked so many people, young and old, on Batman because it was telling good, compelling and gripping stories with its own unique animation style. Would the Bat brand be as powerful as it is today without this series? I honestly think not. Lets also not forget that the most popular DC character in the market today Harley Quinn was created for this show.
#5 – Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
This movie has everything a big Batman movie should have. A great Batman, a menacing villain who can challenge Batman and a compelling story to keep you guessing. For me the best spin off from the animated series just aching to be made into a live action version. Going back to watch this nearly 30 year old movie is captivating to see how well it still holds up in today’s standards.
#4 – Batman (1989)
I was too young to witness this on the big screen but thankfully got to see it last year when it was given a limited release for its 30th anniversary. What Tim Burton did when making this movie was prove to the world that comic book characters are not just for kids. This was a serious, mature movie with A-List stars set in a fantasy playground of comic book lore. People watched this movie and finally took Batman seriously as a Hollywood blockbuster. This story is dark and gritty and I love how street level it feels, something that is important for an origin movie. Michael Keaton delivers a great Bruce Wayne, still regarded by many as the best live action Batman.
#3 – The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
I know again this isn’t everyone’s favourite from the Dark Knight trilogy but for me it ticks every box. I love this movie for many different reasons. I think the best Batman stories are those which strip him back to his basics and leave him in unimaginable danger, yet he still manages to keep fighting till the very end. That is what this movie did so well for me. Facing the menacing Bane, his fiercest adversary from the comics and actually allowing Bane to break the bat is something we have never seen before in live action. Bruce’s will and determination to get back to Gotham whilst being helpless to stop Bane destroying his beloved city is everything Batman stands for. Tom Hardy was amazing as Bane and Anne Hatherway played a delicate and cunning Catwoman but this was the movie Christian Bale won me over as Bruce Wayne.
#2 – Batman Under The Red Hood (2010)
My favourite animated Batman movie which i’m sure will be no shock to many people. A story depicting one of the best comic book stories ‘Death in the Family” in which Jason Todd who was Robin at the time is killed by Joker only to return as a new villain in Gotham called Red Hood. This movie is dark, graphic, fast paced and action packed. It packs an emotional punch and we see Batman struggle internally and externally. This is another movie desperate for a live action remake but it would be hard to beat as this movie really has it all. The action, art, fight choreography, music, sound, story and voice cast are all at 100%. I know Kevin Conroy is regarded as the voice of Batman but Bruce Greenwood does a fantastic job in this just like he has in Young Justice and Gotham by Gaslight.
#1 – Batman vs Superman Ultimate Edition (2016)
Is this choice controversial? Yes, I know it is. Do I genuinely class this as my number one Batman? Yes 100%. Ben Affleck gave to me my favourite Bruce Wayne and Batman I had seen on screen. The movie itself took one of the greatest Batman stories in the Dark Knight Returns and blended it with one of the best Superman stories, Death of Superman and still managed to create an original, engaging story. I know the movie isn’t flawless but what movie is? This movie did so much right that it out weighs any of the bad for me. The ultimate edition is a must watch because it adds just that extra bit of dialogue and back story to some key moments later in the story. The Ultimate edition doesn’t make the Martha situation seem as odd as it did in the cinema.
The main reason for ranking this number one is because its the Batman movie I enjoy watching the most and has the biggest re-watchability. I have seen this dozens of times and always entertains me. Ben Affleck is charismatic and charming as Bruce Wayne while being brutal, strong and unforgiving as Batman. My image of Batman is the Frank Miller esq big, oversized character who strikes fear into his enemies just by looking at them. This was the first time I genuinely felt that was represented in live action. The scene when we first see the trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman fighting side by side is one of my favourite moments in cinematic history. The style, the cinematography and the costumes with the Hans Zimmer music sends chills down my spine every time I see it.
This in my opinion is Zak Snyder at his best. There are so many moments which I am in absolute awe over. Bruce’s nightmare sequence and seeing Parademons for the first time. Superman’s entrance to the movie with his God like stature. The one sequence which trumps them all is the warehouse fight scene as Batman goes to rescue a hostage. This was a comic book completely brought to life with the brutality levels turned up to a 10. I love everything about this movie and what makes this the best Batman feature is that Batman is the best thing in the movie. He doesn’t get out shone by his co stars and the villain doesn’t steal the show. Ben Affleck is as good at Bruce Wayne as he is as Batman. Most other actors have either shined at one or the other, Ben in my opinion is consistent as both. His interactions with Alfred are humorous but realistic and I love his meet cute with Diana at the party. I am gutted we wont get to see any more from Ben Affleck at Batman but this movie will take some beating, can Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson do it in 2021? Lets wait and see.
Thank you for taking the time to read my list and I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to find me on twitter and tell me what you agree or disagree with. The best thing about these types of lists is they are opinion based and everyone’s opinions are different.
Take care and long live the bat.