Now, I don’t have the best knowledge on superhero movies or really just superheros in general. In fact, even as a kid, the villains were always more interesting to watch than the heroes. But the one superhero that I always seemed to stick with was Batman, no Superman or Spider Man (even though I did grow up with the Sam Raimi films, but still not the same). That’s not to say I had anything against any other superhero, I just found the whole universe of Batman so much more interesting than the rest, it was dark, brooding and wouldn’t hold back. And since the recent release of Suicide Squad (which I still haven’t seen but will get around to it eventually, even if there are bad reviews damnit!), I thought what better than to make than a list of the movies featuring the very hero these villains loath? So with that being said, here is my list of all the live action Batman films released to date starting with the worst and ending with the best!
8. Batman & Robin
How could I NOT put this last? It almost would’ve been a disgrace not to! It’s hard to even process how bonkers this movie is. There is so much wrong with it that it’s impossible to try to pile it all up in my brain. The sad part is that when I was younger this is one of the Batman movies I would watch the most! I’ll never forget, whenever I would go to my cousin’s house they would have a VHS copy of it and we would watch it on repeat; it probably helped that there were excessive bright colors and insane amounts of shiny product placements. At this point it seemed that the Batman franchise had kind of taken a weird turn, this was Joel Schumacher’s second Batman flick, George Clooney was Batman and the movies had kind of turned into big shiny, colorful kids movies. It’s funny because this movie has become sort of the Showgirls of the franchise, it’s just so bad that you can’t help but laugh at it’s insanity. Let’s start with the performances; in the previous film we had Val Kilmer as Batman (who was fine but I guess wasn’t feeling this one?), but this time around we have the wonderfully odd casting of George Clooney. Then of course we have Chris O’Donnell as Robin (who is possibly the most annoying part of the movie), and then there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze (more like Arnold painted blue yelling puns every second), who is hilariously bad. And don’t worry I saved the best for last, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. When watching you can just tell that Uma Thurman knew that this was going to be a pile of shit so she decided to just go all out and give her hammiest performance, and let me tell you …it’s amazing. Any scene she pops up in is so random and wonderful I can’t even explain. There’s no doubt that this is still to date the worst Batman movie, and I don’t know if anyone will be able to beat it, especially when you can just use it as a what not to do for next time.
7. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
I was debating whether or not to even include this one because it is such a shared movie with Superman, but it also felt wrong not to include it so I said to hell with it! Either way, it’s not a great movie, at least for my standards. When they announced Ben Affleck was going to be the next Batman way back when, there seemed to be a mixed reaction to it. I really didn’t mind, Christian Bale was clearly done portraying the character and we all know that Affleck can act (even if a good chunk of his career says otherwise), so it was nothing to be mad about. And when I actually saw the movie I thought he was probably the best part and kind of what saved the movie. I don’t know if I loved what they did with Batman (I wasn’t exactly for the kill everyone version of him they tried to bring to the table for some reason), but I thought Affleck did a fine job. The rest of the movie is sort of a mess, and a boring mess at that. No, I did not watch the Ultimate Edition that is longer, I’m sorry but I didn’t feel like trying to sit through the movie again along with an extra chunk of time in there. I liked Wonder Woman thrown in there too even if she seemed like she was just stuffed in there for fan service and a prologue to her own movie. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was cringey and Henry Cavill as Superman always fell a little flat for me. Maybe it’s the direction that Zack Snyder has taken that I’m not really fond of, but either way I’d say this is one you could skip and not miss much. And yes, I do realize I chose the gayest picture I could’ve for this one, I thought it was beautiful alright?? Now let’s move on!
6. Batman Forever
I think this is that Batman movie that kind of gets forgotten about/no one really remembers, mostly because it’s not really that great and pretty forgettable …but I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. This was the first Joel Schumacher Batman movie and it starred Val Kilmer as the bat. Chris O’Donnell was also introduced as Robin, who wasn’t nearly as bad as he was in Batman & Robin (it’s hard to beat that one), he was just kind of there. As for the villains go we have Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face and Jim Carrey as The Riddler. It’s obvious that Jim Carrey was the selling point for this movie, it was 1995, he was a big deal, and a lot of people like to say he was the best part of the movie. While I do think he’s fun to watch and makes the whole experience a lot more fun at times than it should be, he’s still just Jim Carrey dressed up as The Riddler (in a lot of what seem like onesies with question marks on them), and not an actual layered performance. Now I know that these Batman films were supposed to be more fun and cartooney, but even the cartoons weren’t this silly. Even in Batman: The Animated Series, Gotham is still dark and scary and the villains are still all pretty fucked up people. And even when you had villains like The Joker, there was still actual character development there (especially in his relationship with Harley Quinn). Here it just feels like we get yet another before and after case where you have Jim Carrey playing Dr. Edward Nygma and then something crazy happens to him and he turns into The Riddler (exactly what happens to Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin). It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before a million times. As for Tommy Lee Jones, he also just feels like a version of Two-Face that was created for a silly cartoon like movie that has no depth. I guess it’s worth mentioning that Nicole Kidman is in this too? But at the same time she just serves as the love interest and that’s all she gets to do. So I’d say that Val Kilmer is a fine Batman, but the movie itself is something you’ll completely forget in a few days.
5. The Dark Knight Rises
This is the Nolan Batman film that doesn’t ever seem to get much love. I’m somewhere in the middle about it (hence it being somewhere in the middle of the list), I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it. First let’s start with the good; there are great performances (as always in the Nolan franchise) from Christian Bale and Tom Hardy along with some others. The version of Gotham that Nolan has built is a full world and you definitely get the dark side of it here (it might not be as dark as it was in the previous two, but it’s still a fully realized city). Now the bad is with the story and the actions of some of the characters. While I do enjoy a lot of the characters and arcs in this one, there’s definitely a lot happening and it gets to the point where it almost doesn’t feel like a Batman movie anymore. That’s where Dark Knight Rises seems to get it wrong, and while all the Nolan films have been kind of about the study of Bruce/Batman himself, this just doesn’t feel the same. The two main villains in this one are Bane played by Tom Hardy (a fully realized Bane this time not the steroids version from Batman & Robin), who is great, still nowhere near as great as Ledger in the previous film but we’ll get to that. We also get Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and even though she feels less like a villain and more just a robber (which she is I guess but she’s just more humanized here, which isn’t necesarilly a bad thing), I still enjoyed her performance, it’s hard to fill in Pfeiffer’s shoes and I think she, for the most part, made it her own. We also get a plethora of other new characters whom I don’t want to spoil for you if you haven’t seen the movie, so I’ll just move along. So I think that Dark Knight Rises is a nice conclusion to the world that Nolan has created with these films and I think if you’re in the mood for something after you’ve already seen Dark Knight a million times, maybe plop this one on.
4. Batman Begins
I’ll never forget when this came out and watching it for the first time. It was kind of unlike any Batman we had seen before. You have to remember that up to the release of Batman Begins the last Batman movie released was Batman & Robin and this was a new kind of world that Nolan was creating. And as far as origin stories go, this is one of the best ones I’ve seen. Christian Bale, I thought, was perfect casting for both roles, he was a tough Batman but also still a hero (unlike another version of Batman). Our bad guy this time is Scarecrow played by Cillian Murphy to creepy perfection, and Ra’s Al Gul but I would say Scarecrow is the main villain. I always thought Scarecrow was such a random bad guy to choose to put front and center in a Batman movie but seeing it now, he’s done so well and he’s so creepy that it works. I guess really the only reason why this one is at #4 is because it’s really good for what it is, but it still doesn’t measure up to some of the best. It’s a great origin story and that’s all it needed to be.
While not the first live action Batman to be shown on the silver screen, Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman was definitely the first one to kind of popularize the live action movies. It definitely seems like this and The Dark Knight are the two that everyone seems to love, and I agree for the most part. I do think that this is a well done Batman flick and it is a lot of fun, it really isn’t my favorite. It used to scare the shit out of me as a kid whenever Jack Nicholson’s abnormally white face would pop up and that horrifying laugh would appear (I was scared of the weirdest things), but it never wowed me or hooked me. The setup/plot is pretty much just to take down the crazy man that is The Joker, and as much as I do think Nicholson is great as the colorful mad man, it just doesn’t suck me in all the way. I do have this one at #3 for a reason, don’t get me wrong, it has a lot of positives, but there are just a handful of negatives that make it less than #1 or #2 for me. One of them is Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, sure the character is no Willie Scott, but my god she is useless. Really all she gets to do is be a reporter, but not even a very good one. By the time we get to the third act, she’s being kidnapped by The Joker and screaming every 2 seconds, it gets old …I’m sorry to all you Vicki Vale fans out there, but no. My other issue is basically what I said before, there’s nothing to pull me in. It’s a simple Batman story, which isn’t a problem, but I always get to the end of the movie wanting more. Maybe it’s just because I’ve seen so many other Batman movies that I’m spoiled!
2. Batman Returns
Sue me, I like this one better than the first! I’m not entirely sure what it is, but there’s something about this one that I love, maybe it’s Catwoman, maybe it’s the overall darkness, but I really enjoy it. For the sequel of the 1989 version, Tim Burton returned to direct and Michael Keaton returned as Batman. You can instantly tell that this movie is more Tim Burton-y than the last and I completely see it. Some take it as a bad thing, like it’s more of a Tim Burton movie than a Batman movie, but even if that is so I don’t see the problem with that. Sure, this one is very much so a Tim Burton movie but unlike The Dark Knight Rises, it’s refreshing and if feels different than any other Batman movie out there. Michelle Pfeiffer alone is a reason for me to watch this movie. She is just perfect as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and she eats up every scene she’s in. But the best part about her incarnation of Catwoman is that there’s more to her than just being a robber that has a whip, she’s emotionally damaged. The dynamic between Pfeiffer and Keaton in this is another one of the reasons why I love this so much, they have a chemistry that comes out of the screen. The scene where they’re at a ball is maybe one of my favorite scenes from a Batman movie, it’s complex and it shows you how messed up these two are. I guess really my only gripes about the movie are Danny DeVito and Christopher Walken. While I think they’re both interesting characters individually, they’re scenes together tend to drag. DeVito is a good Penguin and gets a kind of depressing demise, but I almost always find myself looking more forward to seeing Catwoman when there’s a scene involving Penguin. Walken is also great as kind of the ultimate baddy, but I think maybe he has one too many scenes for my taste. But overall, I think this is one of the most interesting Batman movies out there and if you haven’t seen it yet, ignore what people say and check it out!
1. The Dark Knight
Similar to how I felt with Catwoman in Returns, Heath Ledger as The Joker alone is a reason to watch this. Not to mention that it’s just a superbly well done film and was maybe one of the most exciting movies to see in theaters. This is the golden movie in the Nolan franchise, it’s way above the other two (which aren’t bad but just don’t quite measure up to this one), there’s an energy to it that’s hard to ignore. What’s even better is that we don’t just get Joker as our villain, we also get Two-Face; he doesn’t come in till the third act sure, but I’ll take it nonetheless. I also think that one of the best elements about The Dark Knight is how it stands by itself too, it’s not just a Batman movie, it’s so much more than that. There’s crime, heartbreak, death, madness and so much more that makes the film feel so fresh. To this date, it’s still the best Batman movie I have seen and I hope that doesn’t change anytime soon.
Anywho, thanks for tagging along with me on this ride of a list! Maybe I’ll do more superhero lists as time goes on? Who knows, but I was thinking of possibly doing a Harry Potter post sometime soon because of the new play/book, so look out for that!
Have a good rest of your week!