Total Recall

Every Batman Movie Ranked Worst to Best by Tomatometer

With The LEGO Batman Movie opening this weekend, we rank all of the Caped Crusader's big-screen adventures.

by , , and | February 8, 2017 | Comments

The Masked Manhunter. The Caped Crusader. Bats. You know who we’re talking about, film fans, and chances are you were anticipating The LEGO Batman Movie ever since Warner Bros. announced Will Arnett’s version of the character would be getting his own spinoff. In honor of this momentous occasion, we decided to take a (mostly) fond look back at the Bat in all of his cinematic guises, from the worst to the best, and now that The LEGO Batman Movie has premiered, you can find out where it ranks with the others. With the Bat-signal blazing, it’s time for Total Recall!


12. Batman & Robin (1997) 11%

BatmanAndRobin

One of the least-loved blockbusters of recent years, Batman & Robin brought the Batman 1.0 franchise to a screeching halt. Unlike the earlier installments, which returned the Caped Crusader to his brooding noir roots, Batman & Robin was a veritable camp-o-rama, closer in spirit to the 1960s TV series. Utilizing punny dialogue to a jaw-dropping degree were villains Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze (“Ice to see you!”) and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy (“My garden needs tending”). Even George Clooney made little impression as Batman, and his sidekicks (Chris O’Donnell as Robin, Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl) failed to drum up much audience or critical enthusiasm. As a result, a planned fifth sequel, Batman Triumphant, which would have pitted our heroes against the Scarecrow, never materialized, so it was left to Christopher Nolan to resurrect the series. “Fans of the movie series will be shocked at the shortage of original thought put into this project,” wrote John Paul Powell of Jam! Movies.

Watch Trailer


11. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) 27%

The established rules of superhero films require at least one blockbuster battle by the final act — the catastrophic damage from which is typically largely forgotten by the time the curtain rises on the inevitable sequel. Credit Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, then, for trying to take a more thoughtful approach, and using the aftershocks from Man of Steel‘s climactic orgy of violence to establish the titular conflict between two iconic superheroes. Unfortunately, director Zack Snyder was also tasked with setting up a slew of future films in the burgeoning DC Extended Universe, and the result was a sequel that juggles an unwieldy array of characters and storylines while trying to grapple with serious questions — and in spite of Batman v Superman‘s super-sized running time, many critics felt the whole thing was even more of a muddled mess than the much-maligned Man of Steel. Still, the CG-enhanced action was enough for some scribes, including Andrew O’Hehir of Salon, who admitted the movie was “kind of dopey” but shrugged, “It largely kept me entertained for two and a half hours, which is not nothing.”

Watch Trailer


10. Batman Forever (1995) 39%

BatmanForever

One can draw a fairly direct line from the 1966 Batman to Joel Schumacher’s mid-series reboot: Garish colors. Some tongue-in-cheek dialogue. The presence of Robin to draw in the young’uns. This may not be a great Batman movie, but it is a successful one — drawing in a legion of new viewers while shifting the series away from the twisted mindscape of Tim Burton (whose movies weren’t totally representative of the comics anyway). And if you were at the right age, there was nothing more fun in 1995 than this (except perhaps getting a PlayStation). It’s “a free-form playground for its various masquerading stars,” wrote Janet Maslin for The New York Times.

Watch Trailer


9. Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) 39%

Batman’s film history is fairly distinguished in its own right at this point, but he’ll always have his roots in the comics — and one of his most widely acclaimed stories, the 1988 Alan Moore graphic novel The Killing Joke, got its big-screen due with this 2016 animated effort. Aside from the acclaimed source material, in which the Joker puts Commissioner Gordon and his family through a particularly grueling ordeal, Killing had a lot going for it, including years of pent-up fan demand and the return of Mark Hamill as the Joker’s voice. Unfortunately, it didn’t add up to one of the better entries in the Batman filmography; critics were split more or less evenly over whether it did its inspiration justice — or whether its story was ultimately too misogynistic to deserve the treatment. “Alan Moore probably wouldn’t appreciate us saying it, but The Killing Joke story itself feels made for the screen,” observed SciFiNow’s Steve Wright. “It’s hard to truly critique something when it takes its cues from a truly excellent comic-book storyline.”

Watch Trailer


8. Batman (1989) 71%

Batman1989

One of the most hyped movies in Hollywood history, and one of the finest examples of movie tie-ins and cross-promotion (so successful it made t-shirt bootleggers filthy rich), Batman is also one of the weirdest event pictures of all time. Director Tim Burton jettisoned the plots (if not the dark tone) of Bob Kane’s original comics, and came up with set designs reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and freakish, brooding characters similar to… well, a Tim Burton movie. Particularly compelling is Jack Nicholson as the Joker, who gleefully relishes his plan to kill the citizens of Gotham City with lethal gas. Michael Keaton makes for a subdued Dark Knight, a hero who dispenses vigilante justice while living a morose existence in Wayne Manor. A precursor to more complex comic book adaptations, Batman made piles of money, and the bat-logo was ubiquitous in the summer of 1989. “Burton brings back film noir elements to the new Batman, elevating it to a dark, demented opera,” wrote Jeffrey Anderson of Combustible Celluloid.

Watch Trailer


7. Batman: The Movie (1966) 78%

BatmanTheMovie

For a Batman interpretation frequently derided for its campiness, Batman: The Movie has a surprisingly high number of quotable lines and memorable scenes. Remember how the dynamic duo deduce that all their archenemies — Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler, and the Joker — are working together to take over the world? Or the insane logic Robin consistently applies to Riddler’s questions, only to be right every time? But the best bit has to be the one involving bat ladders, shark repellent Bat-spray, and a high seas encounter with an exploding Megalodon. “Holy Cornball Camp, Batman!” exclaims Scott Weinberg of eFilmCritic.com, “This movie’s a hoot!”

Watch Trailer


6. Batman Returns (1992) 78%

BatmanReturns

Tim Burton has said he always sympathized with monsters, and so, for his sequel to Batman, he gave audiences not one, but two empathetic, pitiable villains. The Penguin (Danny DeVito) is a deformed orphan who leads an army of aquatic, flightless birds from the bowels of Gotham City. The Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a frumpy secretary who is killed by her boss (Christopher Walken) after she learns of his evil schemes but is brought back to life by a group of cats. Teaming up against Batman, the pair plan an assault on the city above. Batman Returns is so cold and dark it makes the first installment look like Amelie by comparison, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it still made a killing at the box office, and was Burton’s favorite of the two Batman movies he helmed. “Of all the Batman pictures, this is the most striking, atmospheric and effective,” wrote David Keyes of Cinemaphile.org.

Watch Trailer


5. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) 84%

MaskOfThePhantasm

Before the Nolan Batman movies, Mask of the Phantasm offered the most articulate exploration of the Bruce Wayne character. While the movie takes the action that made The Animated Series such great afternoon fun and expands it (but avoiding cheap, empty thrills that having a big budget can afford you), it also showers loving detail on a pivotal romance in Bruce’s life and an affecting scene of Bruce begging for release at his parents’ gravestone. It’s the rare movie that shows its protagonist for what he is: essentially insane. “[Mask of the Phantasm] managed to soar above the theatrical Batman adaptation,” states Kevin Carr of 7M Pictures, “And would remain the best Bat Movie to hit the big screens until Batman Begins shook things up in 2005.”

Watch Trailer


4. Batman Begins (2005) 84%

BatmanBegins2

With his lack of superpowers and a vast fortune at his disposal, Batman was always the most plausible of heroes. With Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan shucked off the direction of the previous big-screen incarnations and boiled the Batman mythos down to its essence, resulting in one of the most realistic superhero movies ever. Thankfully, Nolan didn’t skimp on action-packed pyrotechnics, and as the suitably suave and tortured Bruce Wayne, Christian Bale added a greater emotional heft to the Caped Crusader (he was also ably abetted by the likes of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, and Gary Oldman). Batman Begins signaled a bold new beginning for the franchise, and was a huge hit with audiences and pundits alike. “It’s a wake-up call to the people who keep giving us cute capers about men in tights,” wrote Kyle Smith of the New York Post. “It wipes the smirk off the face of the superhero movie.”

Watch Trailer


3. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) 87%

DarkKnightRises

After two critically acclaimed and commercially successful Batman films, it was up to Christopher Nolan to deliver the final chapter in similarly rousing fashion. And while it would have been difficult for anyone to replicate the phenomenal success of 2008’s The Dark Knight, Nolan came pretty close, picking up eight years after TDK and focusing on a half-broken Bruce Wayne who sees a chance for redemption when a new enemy disrupts the economy and takes the entire city hostage. Reliable supporting players Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman reprised their roles, while Nolan filled out the rest of the cast with similarly high profile talent like Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anne Hathaway, who slipped into Catwoman’s black leather as Selina Kyle. Thoughtful, explosive, and grounded in Nolan’s dark Gotham reality, the resulting film served as a satisfying conclusion to one of the most successful blockbuster franchises in recent memory. As the Boston Globe’s Ty Burr enthused, “This is what a superhero movie is supposed to look like.”

Watch Trailer


2. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) 90%

We’ve grown accustomed in recent years to the idea of Batman as a perpetually dour figure whose good works are only accomplished through his inability to shed a crippling survivor’s guilt and thirst for vengeance, but during his long decades as a cornerstone of the DC media empire, he’s been through a lot of incarnations, some goofier than others — all of which is why Will Arnett’s doofus Dark Knight in The LEGO Movie was a nod to the character’s colorfully complex history as well as a refreshing surprise. Spinoffs are obviously far from a sure bet on the big screen, but Arnett’s scene-stealing LEGO Movie turn laid a solid foundation for a standalone adventure — and it paid deliriously entertaining dividends with The LEGO Batman Movie, which delivered on that promise and then some. “Basically,” argued the Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz, “it’s a standard-issue Batman narrative — arguably better than 50 percent of history’s other Batman films — that just happens to take place in a Lego-fied world.”

Watch Trailer


1. The Dark Knight (2008) 94%

DarkKnight

Having already brought an end to the candy-colored, Schumacher-wrought nightmare that gripped the Batman franchise in the late 1990s, Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale had fans primed for a successful second act — but even after the smashing success of Batman Begins, few could have guessed just how popular The Dark Knight would be in the summer of 2008. A sprawling superhero epic that somehow managed to make room for jaw-dropping visuals, a compelling storyline, and stellar performances, Knight climbed out from under months of intense speculation — not to mention the shadow cast by Heath Ledger’s shocking death — with a worldwide gross in excess of $1 billion, a towering stack of positive reviews, and a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Ledger. Richard Roeper joined the chorus of near-universal critical praise, calling it “a rich, complex, visually thrilling piece of pop entertainment, as strong as any superhero epic we’ve ever seen.”

Watch Trailer


Lastly, vote for your favorite movie Batman in the poll below!

  • All Patriot

    I would say that assessment of “Rises” is off. It’s pacing was a little slow. The story was uninteresting. Bane sounded ridiculous. It started with a bang when that plane was cut in half. It continued and finished with nothing so interesting. Nolan made it too embedded in reality. When he ventured forth with the rest of the movie, he jumped his own shark. I’m not saying it was terrible. It just defied its own principles.

    • chewie

      Looking back though and understanding how hard it is to live up to what might be described as legendary standards with the bar set by his own previous work on the franchise, TDKR is a monumental achievement for even coming close to the impact of TDK combined with BB. Lightning should never strike in the same place twice. And if Ledger lived on, who knows what we should have actually gotten in the final installment of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Yes, a lot of what you say is a substantive critic, but TDKR is still a pretty good movie and even more so, a stunning success with the stakes at an all time high for the franchise.

      • All Patriot

        I will only argue that it is better than a lot of superhero movies. I really don’t judge a movie by its box office take. It just tried to do too much and made it from too little. He should have actually made Miller’s “TDKR.” Walking around with that varsity jacket (Miller’s TDKR) did make Nolan varsity. Know what I mean?

  • Ken

    I know they weren’t in theaters, but the other animated Batman movies (Under the Red Hood, The Dark Knight Returns parts 1 & 2, and Batman Year One, among others) are EXCELLENT, easily trumping all other find except for Nolan’s TDK.

Tag Cloud

Warner Bros. zombies YA PBS SundanceTV Britbox nature Nominations The Witch Winter TV jamie lee curtis ABC See It Skip It Comics on TV supernatural Dark Horse Comics Horror finale what to watch Box Office Opinion Nickelodeon Mudbound MCU DC streaming service TBS Rock Sundance Now award winner Freeform El Rey Food Network USA Network psychological thriller Year in Review ITV AMC anime Polls and Games justice league Bravo adventure Oscars 2015 Trophy Talk Lifetime police drama Trivia IFC Films Photos hist YouTube Red DC Comics YouTube Premium OWN Schedule Universal USA Amazon Prime Superheroes composers Emmys American Society of Cinematographers science fiction richard e. Grant Pixar Interview Song of Ice and Fire Musical aliens boxoffice anthology cooking 2018 spider-man FOX Set visit Biopics HBO A&E romance TLC MSNBC Election Martial Arts Pet Sematary Ovation vampires harry potter Spike Grammys SDCC based on movie National Geographic period drama PaleyFest Western Infographic Anna Paquin The Arrangement Elton John Tomatazos sitcom CBS All Access Mary poppins Red Carpet Comic Book Quiz Lucasfilm 007 social media Winners ratings 2019 crime thriller 2016 Animation 20th Century Fox History Shudder cats sports GIFs singing competition DirecTV discovery Tumblr transformers Marvel psycho Trailer mockumentary Holidays Film Festival Syfy The CW Disney Rocketman Epix Toys dc DGA LGBTQ Tarantino Adult Swim true crime Nat Geo political drama VICE dragons diversity RT History Spectrum Originals ESPN Premiere Dates streaming Chilling Adventures of Sabrina TNT Ghostbusters 2017 sequel Sundance GLAAD Reality Best and Worst Countdown Music TV Land ABC Family Amazon IFC zombie San Diego Comic-Con RT21 Acorn TV adaptation Lionsgate space dramedy Musicals dceu historical drama TIFF Sony Pictures Kids & Family FXX Action X-Men blaxploitation TV Cosplay VH1 strong female leads CMT Awards Calendar cops Video Games NBC Country Marathons NYCC biography Fall TV golden globes Heroines mutant comiccon CNN war Christmas green book crossover miniseries Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Stephen King medical drama Super Bowl politics Apple BET Cannes Superheroe theme song New York Comic Con BBC Paramount Network elevated horror Columbia Pictures WGN disaster Sneak Peek Watching Series zero dark thirty Netflix Brie Larson Sci-Fi Captain marvel travel Character Guide witnail Black Mirror Comedy 24 frames Disney Channel TCA Podcast Certified Fresh CBS doctor who Paramount crime Rom-Com TCM GoT Awards Tour Pop E! Comedy Central Star Trek Fantasy Fox News Ellie Kemper docudrama Thanksgiving Esquire Reality Competition Extras Starz Teen 21st Century Fox talk show Women's History Month SXSW Mindy Kaling festivals cinemax robots cults Crackle Spring TV Shondaland binge comic Pirates Hulu Star Wars technology Cartoon Network Creative Arts Emmys First Look Vudu Mary Poppins Returns APB unscripted Walt Disney Pictures 45 Writers Guild of America television thriller E3 CW Seed natural history MTV serial killer Masterpiece President facebook Showtime teaser Logo crime drama DC Universe Valentine's Day Drama TruTV Rocky spy thriller Mystery Summer Mary Tyler Moore TCA 2017 BBC America casting FX