Best Batman Movies

For over 50 years, Batman has patrolled the silver screen in live action across multiple eras and iterations. The Bat symbol has been worn by stars ranging from Adam West to Christian Bale to Robert Pattinson, portraying The Dark Knight Detective in tales light and dark.

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Related: Best DC Animated Movies

We’ve seen the over-the-top lows of the 60s, the vintage cool of Burton’s gothic vision, the mastery of Nolan’s grounded trilogy, and new beginnings with grittier reboots. But which take on the Caped Crusader truly rules the screen? We’re counting down every Batman live-action film to declare definitively which soared highest and which collapsed into box office chaos.

14 Batman & Robin

Batman & Robin Theatrical Poster

Batman & Robin

The franchise killer.

Batman and Robin attempt to thwart a punny Mr. Freeze, eco-terrorist Poison Ivy, and the monstrously steroidal Bane from enacting a catastrophic plot to freeze Gotham City.

Director
Joel Schumacher

Cast
George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Elle MacPherson

Runtime
125 minutes

Box Office
$238 million

Director Joel Schumacher steering the Batman franchise into a neon-soaked nightmare led to one of the most ridiculed sequels ever in Batman & Robin. Protagonists George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell wear goofy costumes with anatomical perplexities, and Arnold Schwarzenegger hams it up nonstop with corny ice puns as Mr. Freeze. It was also disappointing to watch Uma Thurman play Poison Ivy like an obnoxious cartoon, given her brilliant performance in Pulp Fiction.

Everything about Batman & Robin just feels like a desperate attempt to sell toys to kids. There’s no real storytelling or characters, only a noisy mess of gaudy visuals as stale as flat soda. It’s definitely the worst Batman movie, caring nothing for integrity. Both fans and critics hated it alike, and the movie scored so terribly at the box office that it ended up killing the series for years.

Now don’t get us wrong, George Clooney is a decent actor, but unfortunately, he makes for the most mismatched Batman under Joel Schumacher’s clueless direction. We’d honestly take Adam West’s intentionally silly old show over this brainless mess any day of the week.

13 Batman: The Movie

Batman The Movie Theatrical Poster

Batman: The Movie

West’s Bright Knight.

When Batman and Robin face off against a quartet of their most notorious foes who unite to take them down using a dehydration device, Batman must deploy his “Shark Repellent Bat-Spray” among other gadgets to prevail.

Cast
Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Burgess Meredith

Runtime
104 minutes

Box Office
$3.9 million (rentals)

Emerging from the playful 60s TV series, this film encapsulated the irresistible lightweight charm of Adam West’s Caped Crusader. West delivered his trademarks deadpan wit and alliterative dialogue as a guilelessly earnest Batman, remaining unfazed no matter the ridiculous death traps thrown his way.

Clearly not made to the same standards as today’s comic book epics, Batman: The Movie delivered precisely the goofy popcorn thrills it aimed for. The flimsy plot involves all four of the show’s core villains, Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman, uniting to defeat the Dynamic Duo through a comically convoluted dehydration device.

The storyline takes a backseat to zany gags and cheeseball cliffhangers that epitomized the show’s brand of harmless all-ages absurdity. While not in the upper echelon, Batman: The Movie still occupies an important place in Bat-history for its pop art aesthetic and nods to the character’s Golden Age comic roots.

12 Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad Theatrical Poster

Suicide Squad

Batfleck cameo for the win.

Suicide Squad focuses on a team of criminals and supervillains, brought together in the wake of Superman’s death to combat metahumans under the control of US government official Amanda Waller.

Director
David Ayer

Cast
Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne

Runtime
123 minutes

Box Office
$747 million

Suicide Squad criminally squandered its potential, yet deserves an honorable mention for Batman’s minor but entertaining role. Margot Robbie shines as Harley Quinn, though Leto’s Joker sorely disappoints with none of the character’s menace. But Batman himself provides a bright spot amidst the messy production.

His screen time is brief, limited to a car chase confrontation with Harley, and a tiny showdown with Deadshot. We see Batman’s imposing physicality on display as he pursues her and Joker through Gotham, along with his signature grappling skills and tactical use of his vehicles. Turns out Affleck captures Batman’s intimidating presence better than Leto does the Clown Prince of Crime.

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Batman fans ultimately got a short yet sweet highlight reel reminding us how commanding Bale and Affleck’s incarnations could be in action. It’s barely a cameo, but Affleck makes more impact in one Batmobile sequence than essentially anything in the abysmal Batman & Robin. However, we do mourn Suicide Squad’s failure to fully realize its potential, particularly regarding Leto’s Joker.

11 The Flash

The Flash Theatrical Poster

The Flash

Multiverse spectacle, two Batmen?

The Flash accidentally time travels between parallel realities, meeting an older grizzled Batman played by Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton’s returning classic Caped Crusader.

Director
Andy Muschietti

Cast
Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdú, Kiersey Clemons, Antje Traue, Michael Keaton

Runtime
144 minutes

Box Office
$270.6 million

The Flash graced big screens earlier this year, pairing Ezra Miller’s Scarlet Speedster with dual generations of Batman. Director Andy Muschietti nailed homages to Burton’s gothic aesthetic that should delight fans. But the convoluted reality-altering plot left coherence near the popcorn machines.

The idea of two Batmen potentially colliding brought major nostalgic appeal to fans. Too sad it never actually happened. No sir, instead, we got maybe a self-deprecating Batfleck cameo (courtesy of Wonder Woman) and an overstuffed multiverse storytelling that came at the cost of depth. Also, a brief look at what would happen if Bruce Wayne decided to abandon crime fighting and turn into a spaghetti-loving hermit.

The Flash clearly aims more for frenetic comic book spectacle than dramatic weight. Miller’s jittery charm meshes well with Keaton’s gravitas to provide lively chemistry, enhanced by propulsive action scenes. But messy plotting, an over-reliance on fan service, and the worst possible choice for a third Batman cameo (you guessed it, Clooney) hampers the film from reaching its full potential.

10 Batman Forever

Batman Forever Theatrical Poster

Batman Forever

Kilmer’s decent sequel.

Batman and his new sidekick Robin strive to stop the flamboyantly sinister Riddler and Two-Face from using brain manipulation to learn the secret identities of Gotham’s heroes.

Director
Joel Schumacher

Cast
Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar

Runtime
122 minutes

Box Office
$336.6 million

Joel Schumacher took the Batman franchise in a radically different direction for 1995’s Batman Forever, ditching Tim Burton’s gothic vibe for a more comic book look. While it was a breath of fresh air, Val Kilmer’s performance ultimately lacked the quirky charm of predecessor Michael Keaton brought to the franchise.

However, we absolutely cannot ignore Jim Carrey’s manically over-the-top antics as the Riddler, which gave the film some truly demented energy. Tommy Lee Jones camped it up to rival Carrey’s hyena-esque giggling as vengeful Two-Face. Even the Bat-suits and production design gleamed it up a bit, delivering a visual treat.

While it was no masterwork, Batman Forever showcased enjoyable rollercoaster entertainment, and scored at the box office, thanks to Batman’s marketing dominance.

9 Justice League

Justice League Theatrical Poster

Justice League

Rushed cinematic universe builder.

Batman joins forces with Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash to revive Superman and defend Earth together against the invading forces of the evil cosmic tyrant Steppenwolf.

Director
Zack Snyder, Joss Whedon

Cast
Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons

Runtime
120 minutes

Box Office
$657.9 million

It’s obvious that DC aimed to craft an Avengers-style crossover with 2017’s Justice League. But director Zack Snyder stepping down mid-production (very understandably so) meant extensive reshoots overseen by Joss Whedon. The clashing visions resulted in a blenderized concoction lacking focus.

Ben Affleck’s world-weary Batman found himself marginalized amidst the haphazard world-building and weak villain. Surprisingly enough, Gal Gadot’s earnest Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa’s gruff Aquaman outpaced Batman’s shallow presence. Aside from a touching heart-to-heart with Wonder Woman about loss, Batman lacked standout displays of his detective skills or hand-to-hand mastery.

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The audience could easily tell that Whedon aimed for Marvel-style quips that felt jarringly out of character from BvS’s grimness. Lackluster action scenes against a forgettable CGI villain Steppenwolf failed to showcase Batman’s strategic leadership or abilities. The competing directorial visions underserved Affleck’s Batman, missing the opportunity to portray his hard-won wisdom mentoring the team.

8 Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Zack Snyder's Justice League Theatrical Poster

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Snyder’s Batfleck showcase.

Batman takes on a mentor role assembling the Justice League to fight Steppenwolf’s invasion of Earth, while grappling with the world-changing consequences of Superman’s death.

Director
Zack Snyder

Cast
Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons

Runtime
242 minutes

Zack Snyder’s 4-hour director’s cut of Justice League aimed to fulfill his original vision after stepping down during initial filming. The sprawling runtime spotlighted Ben Affleck’s weary, Frank Miller-esque Batman mentoring the fledgling Justice League as a grizzled general. Deeper dives into his tragic backstory finally added a shade of humanity to the character.

The expanded scope brought Batman more centrally into the team dynamic, with Affleck giving an outstanding late career performance as an aging hero passing the torch. But even his gravitas couldn’t fully overcome Snyder’s signature leaden pacing and oppressively gray gloomy aesthetic.

The film arguably improved upon Joss Whedon’s scattershot theatrical cut via focused world-building. However, critics still derided the bloated four-hour runtime, chemical color palette, and thinly sketched characters. Even Batfleck’s boosted presence couldn’t save the League from feeling like a dour CGI spectacle. While Snyder Cut was undoubtedly a step-up, the flaws inherent in Snyder’s DC universe kept Batman and the Justice League from truly taking flight.

7 Batman Returns

Batman Returns Theatrical Poster

Batman Returns

Creepy-good Burton sequel.

Batman clashes with the sinister Penguin, who seeks power over Gotham, and shares a complex bond with the dangerous Catwoman.

Director
Tim Burton

Cast
Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Michael Murphy

Runtime
126 minutes

Box Office
$266.8 million

Tim Burton cranked up the macabre with 1992’s Batman Returns, a worthy, if imperfect sequel that took risks in portraying more adult themes of corruption and duality. Danny DeVito startled as the grotesque yet oddly sympathetic Penguin, developing political aspirations that masked his criminal intent.

But the provocative feline chemistry between Michael Keaton’s Batman and Michelle Pfeiffer’s leather-clad Catwoman dominated the film. Their morally complex bond transcended hero and villain dynamism, showing two conflicted kindred spirits beneath the masks.

The villains’ twisted carnival-inspired designs encapsulated Burton’s delight in showcasing flamboyantly abnormal outcasts. Batman himself had a dreamier, more softly-lit look contrasting the harsh urban shadows. Returns embraced edgier themes than its predecessor, from Penguin’s implied incestuous origins to Catwoman’s liberating sexuality. The movie shook up expectations, but Burton’s vision did maintain a stylistic continuity of sorts.

6 The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises Theatrical Poster

The Dark Knight Rises

Flawed epic trilogy finale.

Broken and reclusive after years in seclusion, Batman must rise again to save Gotham City from Bane and Talia Al Ghul’s reign of brutality and terror that culminates in a nuclear bomb attack.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Cast
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman

Runtime
165 minutes

Box Office
$1.082 billion

Christopher Nolan brought the all-encompassing, extra-awesome Dark Knight trilogy to an epic conclusion with 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, a sprawling spectacle that fell short of its beloved predecessors for some fans and critics. This movie saw Tom Hardy’s hulking terrorist Bane pushing Christian Bale’s aging Bruce Wayne and Batman to their physical and psychological breaking point in a very…brutal fashion.

Full props to Anne Hathaway, who brought electric flair to antiheroine Catwoman, clashing and bonding with Bale’s increasingly ravaged protagonist. However, inevitable complaints emerged around pacing issues, lackluster plotting, and empty bombast outweighing substance. After the masterful character focus of The Dark Knight, it seemed like even the tiniest of flaws hampered the trilogy finale’s impact.

But then again, these criticisms could have also stemmed from the impossibly high expectations for the antagonist following Heath Ledger’s stunning Joker performance. In a way, the audiences were almost primed for disappointment. Honestly, awe-inspiring set pieces like the midair plane hijacking showcased Nolan’s ambitious scope.

The Dark Knight Rises still highlighted the self-sacrificing nature of Bale’s Batman as a tragic hero who inspires Gothamites to rise up themselves. No Batman fan is going to forget the impact that the final scene brought, when he steps out of the shadows and into the daylight to fight Bane. Minor Shortcomings aside, Nolan’s finale honored the character’s cinematic legacy with certified grandeur.

5 Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice Theatrical Poster

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

DC’s ultimate clash.

Batman prepares to battle Superman, seeing him as an unchecked threat, but the two iconic heroes eventually unite against the monstrous Doomsday and Lex Luthor’s manipulations.

Director
Zack Snyder

Cast
Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

Runtime
152 minutes

Box Office
$873.6 million

Zack Snyder’s showdown Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice clashed DC’s two biggest icons in mythic fashion, although Batman’s ruthless characterization deeply divided fans. Ben Affleck embodied Frank Miller’s aged Dark Knight Returns interpretation, portraying Batman as an obsessive, paranoid vigilante wrestling with Superman’s status as an unchecked alien godlike power threatening humanity.

Their ferocious dueling worldviews fueled explosive battles where Batman employed shockingly vicious measures like branding criminals and agonizingly fighting Superman with the intent to kill. Jesse Eisenberg’s twitchy Lex Luthor, in true fashion, manipulated their ideological distrust, while Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman grounded their rivalry with reason.

While Snyder’s visual grandeur and Hans Zimmer’s apocalyptic score brought a godlike vibe to the movie, many fans were surprised at this harsh take on Batman’s moral code. His severe methods provoked debates around Batman possibly violating his no-killing rule and substituting thoughtful detective work for unchecked brutality. This grimmer, crueler Batman felt to some an inaccurate betrayal of the character’s legacy.

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Yet Affleck’s outstanding performance as a grizzled veteran crime-fighter contrasted with Cavill’s messianic Superman to inject the mythic fight with emotion. Batman’s armor, tactical genius and gritty determination still shone, particularly in the epic warehouse brawl scene spotlighting his hand-to-hand mastery, and an affinity for guns. For better or worse, Batman v Superman depicted DC’s icons as an operatic spectacle. But we can’t deny that the liberties taken with Batman’s morality provoked intense divisions that still flare today.

4 Batman (1989)

Batman 1989 Theatrical Poster

Batman

Dark Knight resurrection.

Batman protects Gotham from the Joker’s crime spree to avenge his parents’ murder and rescue Vicki Vale.

Cast
Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance

Runtime
126 minutes

Box Office
$411.6 million

Director
Tim Burton

Tim Burton’s nightmarish neo-noir vision reinvented Batman for the modern blockbuster era, washing away the lingering “Pow! Zap!” association of Adam West’s 60s TV series and cementing a darker Gothic aesthetic that influenced superhero films for decades to come.

Gothic industrial architecture and Danny Elfman’s sweeping orchestral score captured the gloomy urban nightmare of Gotham City where criminals rule the shadows. Michael Keaton reinvented Bruce Wayne as an unassuming recluse whose near pathological dedication to nighttime vigilantism revealed a deeply obsessive and tortured psyche behind the mask.

Jack Nicholson devoured the screen as the Joker, fully embodying the anarchic role with diabolical charisma and demented showmanship. Despite occasional flaws in pacing and excessive length, Batman endures as an achievement in the genre that helped pave the way for comic book movies to be treated with serious dramatic weight.

3 Batman Begins

Batman Begins Theatrical Poster

Batman Begins

Dark Knight origin story.

After training with the mysterious League of Shadows, Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City and becomes Batman to wage a one-man war against the injustice and corruption plaguing the crime-ridden city.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Cast
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Morgan Freeman

Runtime
140 minutes

Box Office
$373.7 million

Bat-fans, prepare for one of the most awesome superhero origin stories ever filmed. Christopher Nolan’s genre-redefining Batman Begins revived The Dark Knight on film as a tortured icon while grounding Bruce Wayne’s evolution into a badass vigilante in starkly realistic terms.

Christian Bale embodies Bruce as a brooding force of unrelenting justice shaped by trauma. We feel his simmering rage as he trains under Liam Neeson’s warrior Ra’s Al Ghul and confronts the merciless League of Shadows. Cillian Murphy exudes creepy menace as twisted villain Scarecrow, master of fear-induced hallucinations.

After years of failed experiments, cult fans finally found a director who understood their beloved hero. Nolan treats Batman as a complex figure, an angry orphan hellbent on channeling his pain into justice, yet struggling with the consequences of his ruthless methods. The film fleshes out Bruce’s traumatic backstory alongside the economic inequality breeding Gotham’s underworld violence.

2 The Batman

The Batman

The Batman

Gritty neo-noir detective film.

A young Batman investigates a series of gruesome murders by the Riddler, leading him to uncover political corruption rotting Gotham City from the inside.

Director
Matt Reeves

Cast
Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell

Runtime
176 minutes

Box Office
$771 million

Matt Reeves’ neo-noir detective thriller The Batman stands as an impassioned love letter to the essence of The Dark Knight. The 2022 reboot rewound the clock to showcase Robert Pattinson as a raw, angsty Year Two Batman, prowling the shadowy streets and delivering bone-crunching fury to Gotham’s corrupt criminals. Gorgeous neo-noir stylings immersed viewers in Batman’s detective origins as he tracked down the Zodiac-style Riddler serial killer.

With commentary on urban corruption and Paul Dano’s sadistically chilling take on the Riddler, The Batman echoed 1970s crime sagas like Taxi Driver and Chinatown with stylish comic book panache. Zoë Kravitz also stood out as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, bringing a sly gritty charisma to her morally ambiguous anti-heroine role. Backed by Michael Giacchino’s haunting orchestral score, Reeves crafted an instant modern classic that came closer than any previous film to dethroning The Dark Knight as the greatest Batman movie.

The Batman’s gritty atmosphere and fierce emotional depths portray Batman’s world with a visceral passion that many fans argue even exceeds Nolan’s trilogy. Pattinson’s raw vulnerability adds layers of trauma and humanity beyond Bale’s stoicism. A year later, debates still rage among fans over whether Reeves’ detective noir vision or Nolan’s operatic spectacle ultimately make the superior Bat-film.

1 The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight Theatrical Poster

The Dark Knight

Crowning superhero masterpiece.

The Joker spreads chaos and terrorizes Gotham City, pushing Batman to his moral and physical limits in an epic clash of order versus anarchy.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Cast
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman

Runtime
152 minutes

Box Office
$1.006 billion

Not just the greatest Batman film, but arguably the apex of all superhero cinema. Christopher Nolan crafted an engrossing crime epic doused in moral complexity throughout a sprawling yet intimate narrative with The Dark Knight. Christian Bale built upon the gritty foundations of Batman Begins with a nuanced portrait, encompassing Bruce Wayne’s complex motivations and Batman’s relentless determination to save Gotham through any means necessary.

However, Heath Ledger mesmerizingly stole the show as the Joker, an irrepressible agent of chaos reveling in spreading mayhem and pushing Batman’s limits both mentally and physically. Even fifteen yearslater, Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance reverberates throughout pop culture and remains a masterclass in balancing colorful theatricality with disturbing realism.

The chilling interrogation scene where the Joker toys with Batman’s one rule, the harrowing ferry scenario testing the citizens’ morality, and the bittersweet sacrifice that ends The Dark Knight, cemented its status as the crowning achievement of superhero cinema. It’s not an exaggeration when we say that Nolan pushed the artistic boundaries of the superhero genre through acting, writing, and cinematic craft to create an experience that transcends easy labels.

Batman’s legacy on the big screen stands tall as a benchmark for blockbuster artistry, evolving with the times to reflect cultural hopes, fears and ideals of justice. He remains compelling because underneath the mask, he is so deeply human. As long as the night beckons outcasts and guardians into its shadows, Batman will endure as an icon ready to be reimagined and reborn.

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