I am the night...
As many of you know, Batman is my personal favorite superhero and one of my favorite fictional characters. I absolutely love the character, and we've gotten a ton of great adaptations of him. I saw The Batman two nights ago, which was my most anticipated film of the year, so I have a bunch of Batman rankings planned. This is the first. I only included live-action Batman adaptations, so films like The LEGO Batman Movie and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm are not on this list. With that said, here are all ten live-action Batman movies ranked worst to best.
NO SPOILERS for The Batman!!!!!
10. Batman & Robin
Yuck. Batman & Robin is one of the worst films of all time. Besides the production design and a subplot that isn't entirely horrible, this film has nothing going for it. The performances, from George Clooney to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Uma Thurman, are all rock bottom. The story makes no sense. The script is full of cliches and painful one-liners from Mr. Freeze. I don't know how this movie exists. I don't know why this movie exists. All I know is that it is one of my least favorite films ever. And I am definitely not in the minority there.
9. Batman Returns
I don't understand the positive reception for this film. It's a complete mess. While I do enjoy the interactions between Batman and Catwoman, I think that everything else is a dumpster fire. Penguin has this strange, convoluted plan that seems so nuts and over-the-top but also so dark at the same time. Burton added a gothic layer to the Batman mythos that was not in the first movie, and I don't think it works. Keaton's Batman is sidelined even more than he was in Batman. I don't think this movie is good. And I don't understand people who think it is.
8. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
I have not seen the ultimate cut of this movie, so that could factor in here, but Batman v. Superman is one of the worst cash grabs I've ever seen. It came out around the same time as Civil War...and it just cannot match that film. While Civil War understands its characters and makes their conflict make sense, BVS gives us a Batman that kills people and a Superman that can easily fix the situation but chooses not to because it elevates the conflict of the film. This movie has been out for six years now and I still don't know why Batman and Superman fight. So, yeah, I don't like this film.
7. Batman Forever
Batman Forever is not good. But it is watchable. There are hints of good Batman things in here. I don't mind Robin. It's almost like a mix of Batman '89 and Batman & Robin. There's a few good things in here, but there's a lot of campiness and cheesiness. The tone is all over the place. The villains are loud and annoying. The film is even boring at times. But I actually kind of like Val Kilmer's Batman. I think that this film does a good job of utilizing Batman instead of sidelining him. It's not a good movie. But it definitely is not terrible.
6. Batman: The Movie
Batman: The Movie is a strange mix of fun and over-the-top cheese that has not aged well. Its biggest positive is also its biggest flaw. In a world where seven out of these ten movies are relatively dark and brooding, this film is very light. It's the only Batman movie that I'd say is a kids' movie. And that is a good thing. But it's also a bad thing, because it's so over-the-top and untrue to the nature of the character that it just feels wrong. I'm very mixed on it, but it is definitely better than the other movies before it.
I'd say there's a relatively large jump in quality from the last film to here. Batman is the true on-screen debut of the character. It gives us a dark, broken version of the character while not fully re-treading his origin. Yes, we see the Waynes get murdered in the film, but we don't really explore how that affected Bruce. What really makes this movie pop is Jack Nicholson's Joker. Tim Burton took things from the comics, like laughing gas, that seemed silly. And then he turned those cartoony things into these horrifying weapons of terror that the Joker uses to take over Gotham. He's a great villain that does overshadow Batman, which is my main complaint of the film. Batman is sidelined in his own movie as he so often is, and that is really frustrating. Otherwise, this is a good movie.
4. The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises is a flawed but fun final chapter of Nolan's trilogy. I think Bane is a great villain that poses an imminent threat to Gotham and proves a worthy opponent to the Dark Knight. The film does a great job of finishing off Batman's arc: he's overcome fear by defeating Ra's al Ghul. He paid a price to stop the chaos in Gotham that was coming from the Joker. And now he has a physical test, a test of strength, when Bane comes in. I love his sacrifice at the end. I think the ambiguous ending is great. But, once again, Batman is sidelined, and I really don't like that. I also think Catwoman doesn't really serve a purpose in the story, and Anne Hathaway is not particularly memorable, so she feels forced. I do think Nolan could've done a better job of finishing off the trilogy, but this is still an awesome film.
3. Batman Begins
Batman Begins is the origin story of Batman. It is the definitive origin. It shows us the raw, uncensored murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. We see how that affects a young Bruce Wayne. We get him training with the League of Shadows in the mountains. We understand why he has to leave and how his ideology changes throughout the movie. His first real test comes when Ra's al Ghul threatens to destroy Gotham and he has to muster up all of his strength, both mentally and physically. This is the movie where Batman is prominently featured. We understand what makes him tick. We understand why he's doing what he's doing. He isn't sidelined, and I really, really love that about this film. It's a great telling of a great origin, and it will always be one of the best Batman movies.
2. The Batman
The first two-thirds of The Batman honestly rivaled The Dark Knight. It was a complex noir mystery that benefitted from some of the best characters we've seen in a Batman film. It leans much more into the Dark Knight's detective side, which I loved. The Riddler is a great villain. Sadly, the film's final act doesn't fully live up to the first two acts, but this is still one of the best superhero movies of the last ten years, and I cannot wait to see more of Pattinson's Batman.
1. The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is my favorite movie of all time, so there was no competition. I wanted The Batman to at least be second on this list, because I know there was no realistic possibility that it could be number one. This movie is flawless. It's perfect. The Joker is one of the greatest villains all time and his match with Batman is one of the greatest rivalries of all time. This film has deep themes about morality and explores how far someone would go to stop a madman. It shows us Batman at his lowest point. It adapts some of the best of Batman comics, from The Long Halloween to The Killing Joke. It's just the best of the best of the best. I can't gush about it enough. It's perfect.