Every major Batman movie ranked

Gabriela Silva
Christian Bales Batman leads our ranking of all the Batman movies.

One of the greatest heroes to ever make the leap from the pages of a comic book to the silver screen is the Caped Crusader himself, Batman – but what are the best Batman movies?

There have been many Batman movies over the years, but they all share the same essential elements. After witnessing his parent’s death at the hands of a mugger, Bruce Wayne dedicates his life to becoming the ultimate crime fighter. Then, following years of training, he returns to Gotham City and becomes the feared vigilante, Batman.

Widely considered one of the best superheroes of all time, the Dark Knight’s stories and villains have become a staple of pop culture, yet not all Batman films are created equally. 

So, we’ve been through all the major movies (sorry, we’re not talking about The Flash) in the Caped Crusader’s filmography — from Michael Keaton’s classic movies to newcomer Robert Pattinson’s latest entry in the character’s dark canon — to bring you a definitive list of the best Batman movies.

12. Justice League (2017)

What it’s about: Following the death of Superman in Dawn of Justice, Batman begins to recruit a team of superheroes to save the world from the looming threat of Steppenwolf and the forces of Apokolips.

What we think: A confusing muddle of bad ideas and poorly executed plots, Justice League is a mess of a movie that does the incredible DC heroes at its core a huge disservice. While Zack Snyder’s cut is an improvement of sorts, it still suffers from an overly complicated plot full of ideas that ultimately go nowhere. If you’re a dedicated Batman scholar or a DCEU completionist, it might be worth your time, but honestly, you’d be better off watching anything else on this list.

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

What it’s about: Batman v Superman revolves around Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) growing paranoia about Superman following the destruction of Metropolis. Believing Kal-El represents a threat to humanity, the Dark Knight plans to take down the Man of Tomorrow, never realizing he’s being manipulated by a scheming Lex Luthor.

What we think: Zack Snyder’s follow-up to the Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, marks a seminal moment in cinematic history when two of the most famous superheroes of all time, Batman and Superman, finally meet. It’s just a shame the film isn’t great, and while the movie performed strongly at the box office, it received a mixed reception from fans.

While Superman’s death (spoilers!) was a shocking and impactful moment for many fans, the film’s disjointed editing and over-stuffed storyline made it a confusing watch. Compounding matters was the fact that Affleck’s Batman was very aggressive, openly killing people left and right, which didn’t sit right with anyone who knows anything about the Dark Knight’s backstory.

10. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker movie poster

What it’s about: This dark and surprisingly adult tale brings back Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis as they try to solve the mystery of the Joker’s sudden, shocking return to Gotham City.

What we think: Anyone who grew up watching Batman Beyond will have fond memories of Return of the Joker. An impressive flick (and arguably one of the best animated movies ever made), Return of the Joker is a mature exploration of Batman and the Joker’s rivalry, which also examines the Harlequin of Hate’s twisted psychology.

Return of the Joker also gives Terry his time to shine. Over the course of the film, we see him finally step out of Bruce’s shadow and become the Batman he was born to be. Overall, Return of the Joker is a fun treat for fans, balancing some great fan service while also exploring exciting new story opportunities.

9. Batman & Robin (1997)

What it’s about: A sequel (of sorts) to Batman Forever, Batman and Robin stars George Clooney as the Caped Crusader while Chris O’Donnell returns as his sidekick, Dick Grayson/Robin. This time, the Dynamic Duo team up to take down Mr Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a chilling new villain who is terrorizing Gotham.

What we think: Batman & Robin is one of the most polarizing Batman films. For many, the movie’s a camp and garish misstep, with a poorly written script and cringe-worthy one-liners. For others, though, it’s a fun cult classic that deliberately pokes fun at the absurdity of a man fighting crime while dressed as a bat. Is it a perfect depiction of the comic book character? Absolutely not. Still, it’s not unenjoyable to watch, and there’s plenty to laugh about if you’re in the mood for a more carefree Batman movie. 

8. Batman Forever (1995)

What it’s about: A loose sequel to Batman Returns, this film sees the Caped Crusader (Val Kilmer) battle The Riddler (Jim Carrey) and Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones). How will he beat two villains at once? Well, it’s a good thing he recently took in Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell), aka the boy wonder Robin.

What we think: Bright and bonkers, Batman Forever captures the gaudy cinematic essence of ‘90s superhero films while Val Kilmer does a great job portraying the brooding and enigmatic Bruce Wayne. As a result, Batman Forever holds a nostalgic charm for many viewers.

While it’s often criticized for its cartoonish villains — Tommy Lee Jones gives a particularly one-dimensional performance — some regard the film as a lighthearted classic. Overall, Batman Forever might not be the best film starring the Dark Knight, but it’s still a Batman movie worth watching.

7. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1994)

Best superhero TV shows: Batman jumps onto the Joker

What it’s about: When Bruce Wayne’s former fiance, Andrea Beaumont, returns to Gotham, the Caped Crusader starts to question whether his one-man war on crime is at an end. Things are complicated further, however, when a murderous new vigilante, known as Phantasm, starts killing prominent members of Gotham’s criminal elite, forcing Batman to make the most difficult decision of his life.

What we think: A beautifully animated film, Mask of the Phantasm is a layered and mature film that asks difficult questions of the world’s greatest detective and offers no easy answers. It’s not all deep philosophical musings, though. It’s also an exciting adventure romp that leans into Batman’s pulpy origins. Who are we kidding, though? The real reason to watch this is for Kevin Conroy’s brilliant vocal performance.

6. Batman (1989)

What it’s about: A dark and moody adaptation, Batman ’89 sees the Dark Knight battle the Joker for the first time.

What we think: Directed by Tim Burton, Batman ’89 revolutionized comic book adaptations. Keaton is brilliant as the brooding Bruce Wayne (there’s a reason he’s considered one of the best Batman actors), effectively conveying the complexities of the Caped Crusader’s tortured psyche, while Burton brings a deliciously gothic aesthetic to the film.

Most noteworthy, though, is Jack Nicholson’s iconic portrayal of the Joker. His performance was a standout, delving deep into the twisted mindset of the infamous comic book villain. It’s clear to anyone who’s seen it why Batman was a box office hit, earning the adoration of both die-hard fans and newcomers alike.

5. Batman Returns (1992)

What it’s about: Tim Burton’s dark follow-up to the original Batman, Batman Returns, sees Bruce Wayne fall head over heels for the villainous Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) while the Penguin (Danny DeVito) attempts to become Gotham’s new mayor.

What we think: Batman Returns gets a higher spot than its predecessor for one main reason: Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer stole the show as Selina Kyle, and her portrayal of the comic book character is believed by some to be one of the best live-action Catwomen we’ve ever got(Sorry Halle Berry fans). Danny DeVito, meanwhile, was the perfect actor to play the grotesque Penguin, and his deliberately gross performance made audiences across the world cringe.

Unfortunately, Batman Returns wasn’t a success among critics who disliked its darker, more adult themes. But these are the exact reasons it was well received among fans, giving beloved characters a far darker edge than ever before.

4. The Batman (2022)

What it’s about: Set before Batman becomes infamous across Gotham, the movie focuses on a reclusive Bruce Wayne still mourning his parent’s death. When The Riddler, a serial killer hellbent on eradicating Gotham’s corrupt elite, emerges, Batman is forced to dive deeper than ever before into Gotham’s criminal underground. 

What we think: Robert Pattinson may be the latest actor in a long line to play Batman, but he’s already considered one of the best to wear the cape. Inspired by Christopher Nolan’s more grounded take on the Caped Crusader, The Batman is a gritty and realistic adaptation that puts emphasis on Batman’s inherent darkness.

What’s most impressive about The Batman is the way it takes characters like Penguin and Carmine Falcone and makes them into criminal masterminds instead of the cartoonish characters we’ve seen in prior versions. These villains felt like real cold-blooded killers with deep ties to elite and dirty politics, basically they’re terrifying because they feel like people you might meet in everyday life. Bring on The Batman 2.

3. Batman Begins (2005)

What it’s about: A thorough exploration of Batman’s origin, Batman Begins follows Bruce Wayne in the earliest days of his vigilante career as he battles the Scarecrow and uncovers a conspiracy to destroy Gotham once and for all.

What we think: Arguably the most underrated film in Christopher Nolan‘s incredible Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman Begins is an exciting and thrilling action movie that explores an often forgotten part of Bruce’s story. What’s most impressive about it, however, is the focus it puts on character. Batman Begins is a film that’s less interested in the legend of Batman and instead seeks to understand the man behind the mask and what drives him.

2. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

What it’s about: Following the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has retired from crime fighting and is living in quiet seclusion. When a dangerous new villain, Bane, appears in Gotham using methods similar to Batman, the Dark Knight suits up once again to take him down.

What we think: While The Dark Knight Rises is the last movie in Nolan’s trilogy, it gets the number two spot on our list. Nolan returned to craft a stellar storyline, putting the focus on the new villain, Bane, played by Tom Hardy. Hardy made Bane dangerously charismatic and a brutal force to be reckoned with.

Brilliant and compelling, The Dark Knight Rises perfectly paired exciting action with moving drama and deep character work. Whether you’re a Batman fan or not, you’ve got to admit that Rises is much more than your average live-action comic book adaptation.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

What it’s about: As Batman’s one-man war on crime takes its toll on Gotham’s criminal underworld, the mob turns to the Joker to take down the Dark Knight. Unfortunately for them, it turns out that the Clown Prince of Crime is more interested in causing chaos than helping them deal with their bat problem.

What we think: The Dark Knight improves on Batman Begins in every conceivable way and is unarguably the best Batman movie ever made. Serving as the second installment in Nolan’s franchise, the film received universal praise from basically everyone, and for good reason. It’s a tense thriller disguised as a Batman movie that perfectly balances deft character work with tense spectacle.

Bale reprised his role as Batman, facing off against Heath Ledger’s legendary portrayal of the Joker. Ledger’s performance was widely credited as a key factor in the movie’s success, and rightly so. He masterfully captured the character’s mercurial nature and psychosis, even earning himself a posthumous Oscar.

Like its predecessor, The Dark Knight continued to take a more realistic approach to comic book characters, giving them some real emotional depth. Who could forget Bruce’s horror when he realizes he’s been tricked into saving Harvey Dent? I’m getting shivers just writing about it. Ultimately, The Dark Knight is a perfect movie and proof that sequels can be better than their predecessors.

Dive into the world of Batman and his fight to save Gotham with our pick of the best Batman comics, or check out new movies streaming this month.

This list is part of Dexerto’s HeroFest, which is a week celebrating all things superheroic; for more, check out our full HeroFest schedule here.

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