All the Batman movies ranked


Lauren Nelson, Senior Editor

Friends, Batman lovers and DC comics enthusiasts, lend me your ears, as I rank all of the live action Batman movies by quality and impact on viewers. Although I may have some slightly controversial placement, this is essentially gospel.

  1. Batman (1989)

This was the start to the first iconic Batman trilogy and helped pave the path for future comic book movies, as it was the only other comic book movie to win an Oscar since the 1978 Superman. It starred Michael Keaton as Batman, who played the role especially well. He played Bruce Wayne as he was meant to be played: attractive and polite, yet detached from all people. Not only did Keaton nail the role of Bruce Wayne, but his Batman was not to be trifled with. He was a major crime deterrent with all the gadgets, and a scary figure of the dark. This was also when The Joker hit the big screen for the first time. Played by Jack Nicholson, the Joker was insane and unsettling, but also great at planning big schemes and controlling those around him. He was essentially the crime boss from hell, being a former gangster before his dive into acid. Nicholson played the Joker so well, it would be easy to feel Nicholson is insane himself. To top it all off, Prince sang basically the whole movies’ soundtrack.


  1.  The Dark Knight (2008)

This is arguably the movie that made comic book movies mainstream. Although both Marvel and DC comics had been putting out movies, nothing took the world by storm like the second installment of the Batman trilogy, especially The Dark Knight. In 2016, it was voted 33rd among 100 films considered the best of the 21st century by 117 film critics from around the world. It really is just that good.  While the first Batman trilogy took a dark turn in Batman Returns, the Dark Knight holds true to its name with dreamy Australian actor Heath Ledger going dark for the role of the Joker. While Jack Nicholson’s Joker was clearly insane, Ledger’s was demented. The ends always justify the means for the Joker, and towards the end of the movie, he escapes from jail by putting an explosive inside another man’s stomach, to which he literally explodes. The Joker burns thousands or even millions of dollars, dresses hostages up as his masked goons and makes two large boats carrying civilians on one and inmates on the other choose which one to blow up. The psychological and physical terror that this Joker brings on Gotham makes the movie great alone. To add onto his evil doings, he turns idealistic golden boy Harvey Dent into Two Face, then gets him to join his team against Batman. Although Christian Bale puts on another great performance as Batman in this film, the Joker takes the cake.


  1. Batman Returns (1992)

The dreamy Bruce Wayne becomes extremely melancholy and madly in love with a woman with an alter ego in the second movie of the first installment. Keaton adapts well to play the darker role in a much darker movie directed by Tim Burton. The visuals of the film are dark and gloomy and portray the feeling of the whole movie well. Michelle Pfeiffer played the femme fatale Catwoman, who went from meek office worker Selina Kyle to being reborn as a mentally unstable yet very confident Catwoman after being killed by her corrupt boss, Max Shreck. The chemistry between Catwoman and Batman but also between Bruce and Selina is almost too much to bear. Batman wants to save Catwoman so they can both share the love they’ve been needing their whole life, but Catwoman is too caught up in her revenge scheme against her former boss, and ends up dying for it. This movie amazingly mixes the regular superhero movie plot with a sort of Romeo and Juliet tragedy, plus Tim Burton, and sets it apart from the rest.


  1. Batman Begins (2005)

This is where Christian Bale’s legacy as Batman began. This movie provides important backstory on Bruce Wayne’s youth and where he disappeared to, and moreover, how he became Batman. Bale plays a handsome and playboy bachelor Bruce Wayne, but also a terrifying and fierce Batman, with the famous line “I’m Batman” being uttered in this very movie. It also introduced the complex secret multi-villain story arc to Batman, with Scarecrow being posed as the main villain, but in reality it’s Bruce’s former trainer, Ra’s Al Ghul. Batman Begins is important to the series and sets up the backstory and relationships that continue throughout the series, but it’s not strikingly amazing.  


  1. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

This movie ended Bale’s reign as Batman, but did it very well. This once again has the secret multi-villain plot, with Bane being posed as the only villain and lost child of Ra’s Al Ghul, but Miranda Tate, the possible love interest of Bruce Wayne, was the mastermind of Bane’s terrorism and daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul. The major let down was Anne Hathaway taking on the role of Catwoman. The portrayal lacked the confidence and feline femininity that the Catwoman character usually has. Anne Hathaway is a lovely actress, just not in this role. The portrayal of Bane, who seemed weirdly Shakespearean, was a huge deviation from the comic book character who was more brain than brawn, the exact opposite of the usual Bane. But unlike Catwoman, this deviation was executed well. This movie was a good ending to this era of Batman, and although not overwhelming, it provided a satisfying and overall happy finish.


  1. Batman Forever (1995)

Val Kilmer takes first place as the hottest Batman/Bruce Wayne, and it’s easy to see why Nicole Kidman’s character, psychiatrist Chase Meridian, has such a strong attraction to both. The ending to the late 80s trilogy contrasted the first two majorly, as it was filled with neon and vibrant colors. Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey play Two Face and the Riddler, but both characters feel like another version of the Joker. Nevertheless, the two actors carried out their roles well, even if they weren’t totally on par with the comics. This movie is a little campy and its colors and scenes feel overwhelming at times. It’s not a bad movie whatsoever, but it does feel like the directors tried to put so many details and story lines into one small movie. The best way to describe this movie, despite its incredible actors within it, is underwhelming.

  1. Batman V. Superman (2016)

This was set up to be a great movie and finally put the fight everyone was looking forward to on the big screen. But, with two directors both putting in what they want and an already unpopular portrayal of Batman (Ben Affleck), it wasn’t as good as everyone was hoping. There were insanely cliche and cheesy scenes, and almost everyone hates Ben Affleck as Batman. The few winners in this movie are Jesse Eisenberg playing a sprouting Lex Luthor, with intelligence and existential thinking that’s off the charts, and then the fact that Wonder Woman was introduced in this movie. But other than the biggest problem being Ben Affleck, this movie isn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be, as nothing is as bad as Batman and Robin.


  1. Batman and Robin (1997)

This movie should have never been made. Batman Forever walked the line of campy and overwhelming, while Batman and Robin crossed the line and drove head on in the opposite lane of traffic. While this movie was also packed with great actors, like George Clooney, Uma Thurman, Chris O’Donnell and the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, the characters for this movie were poorly written and executed. There were so many flaws within the movie, including its overwhelming amount of characters. There’s Batman and Robin, then Batgirl joins. On the opposing side, there’s Poison Ivy, who gets Bane to join her team and Mr. Freeze is on his own, missing his wife. Three heroes and three villains is a lot to keep up with. Batgirl, who is supposed to be Barbara Gordon, is actually called Barbara Wilson in this movie, for whatever reason. Batman and Robin feels like a parody movie but isn’t, and is literally one of the worst movies ever. The only redeeming feature was Uma Thurman playing Poison Ivy, as she had the look and sex appeal that Poison Ivy has. That’s seriously as good as it gets.


Good or bad is subjective, and Batman fans can rank their favorites however. But Batman and Robin should never make it into the top four. Or the top. Batman and Robin being terrible is not up for debate.