Lists · Movies

The Batman Movies, Ranked

To celebrate the release of Matt Reeves ‘The Batman,’ we’re ranking every theatrically released Batman movie.
Batman Movies Ranked
By  · Published on March 10th, 2022

It’s Batman season and after answering one important question — Who is The Best Batman? — we’re ranking the Batman movies.

What makes a great Batman movie? There are elements that they all share — an iconic suit, a badass car, plenty of expensive and bespoke gadgets, brooding over the death of one’s parents, and plenty of grandiose action. What often separates them is the details and tone, often supplied by a strong directorial vision. From Tim Burton to Joel Schumacher to Christopher Nolan to Zack Snyder to Matt Reeves, each director that’s taken on the Caped Crusader has done so with their own unique spin. The good news for today’s audience is that we’re now living in the fourth consecutive decade in which Batman is a dominant cinematic force — we are, as Bat-fans, spoiled. And it’s important to recognize that before we get into a discussion about which one is best.

It’s also important to remember the purpose of a list such as this, itself a form of entertainment. One of the things we love most about Batman movies is the variety of conversations that can be had about them. If we polled ten people and asked them to give us their ranked list of Batman movies, it’s entirely possible that no two of them would be the same. In fact, when we assembled four members of our team to write this list, there was no clear consensus as to what the final order would be. But with a little bit of math, some spirited debate, and many hours spent revisiting the cinematic adventures of a billionaire who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands, we believe we’ve come to a satisfactory result — a definitive (as far as we’re concerned) ranking of every theatrically released Batman movie. Without further ado, here are the Batman movies, ranked.

16. Justice League (2017)

Justice League
Warner Bros.

Mistakes were made. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when we look back at 2017’s Justice League. It began as Zack Snyder’s film, an expansion of the world he’d been building through Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But after months of tensions with studio execs and an unthinkable personal tragedy, Snyder and his wife/producing partner, Debra, stepped away from the project. And the studio, in a move that reeked of panic to compete with Marvel’s successful Avengers franchise, brought on director Joss Whedon to not only finish the movie but complete significant reshoots that would change the entire tone of the film.

The end result was disastrous, as Whedon’s quippy sensibilities ran in stark contrast to the otherworldly myths that Snyder had wanted to build for his Justice League saga. So much so that, to date, Zack Snyder has avoided ever watching this version himself. Instead, thanks to a chaotic groundswell of support from fans and a studio looking to save face as critics began to write off its DC cinematic universe, Snyder would eventually get an opportunity to finish and release his version of the film, further relegating Joss Whedon’s cut to the dustbin of superhero cinema history. (Neil Miller)

15. Batman (1943)

Batman 1943
Columbia Pictures

Back in 1943, the first film appearance of Batman was probably a real treat. Especially for little kids going to the movies every Saturday in order to catch the latest installment of this live-action serial. And at the time, the anti-Japanese sentiment of its plot and villain were no doubt just as accepted as internment camps were. It was World War II, after all.

Unfortunately, Batman ’43 doesn’t have a lot else going for it. And watching it today as one long movie (even longer than The Batman), we lose the serialized nature of the story and the constant danger that would have come with it. The acting and directing are too stationary for any dramatic or visual appeal, and the action gets awfully repetitive. It also just doesn’t feel like a Batman story, with its spy ring plot and its daylight adventures. Columbia could have put any of a number of pulp heroes in the Caped Crusader’s place and not had to change much of the script. It also might be the only Batman movie in which Alfred is occasionally comic relief.

Is there anything to like? It does occasionally reach so-bad-it’s-good levels of entertainment. I find it amusing how you have to take a ride on a carnival attraction to get to the villain’s lair, as it reminds me of Supergirl. The goofiness of Alfred is kind of funny in how out of place it feels. And who can say no to a sudden pit of alligators at the end of the four and a half hours runtime for the villain to meet his doom? (Christopher Campbell)

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

Batman V Superman
Warner Bros.

Opening this film during Man of Steel‘s Metropolis destruction and placing Bruce Wayne at its center is a masterstroke. As buildings tumble and citizens run screaming in the other direction, Wayne charges into the devastation. Even without his costume, he’s Batman. He goes where he’s needed.

And it’s easy to imagine the rage the event stirs in Bruce Wayne. While the gods brawl in the sky, he’s with the dead on the ground. While many questioned the v between Batman and Superman, we fully understand why these two DC titans will come to blows a few minutes into the film.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice goes to obsessive, nearly tantric lengths to pleasure delay the title bout. When it arrives, it’s all too short and undercut by two Marthas. How you feel about this motherly connection between the two demigods probably dictates how much you enjoy the film as a whole. Whatever the case, Zack Snyder’s Batman is definitely a Batman. Maybe not yours, but he is a mean, mean man trying to channel his anger into something productive, and often failing. (Brad Gullickson)

13. Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman And Robin
Warner Bros.

Even more than Batman Forever, Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin feels like an homage to the ’60s TV show. Why would we want that? Maybe because ’90s audiences seemed to want silly movies based on classic television series? Or, at least ’90 Hollywood seemed to think ’90s audiences seemed to think they wanted that. So, they got a TV actor (George Clooney) to replace the unavailable and unhappy Val Kilmer, added some cartoon sound effects, and framed everything like it was shot for viewing on a mid-century living room television set – but went for IMAX scope when it came to the epic proportions of Barbara Ling’s production design.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman also brought some oversize performances to the party, understanding the assignment better than anyone involved. For Schwarzenegger, this was his last really fun role, and one of his best from the whole decade. Every one of his lines is as sharp and as slippery as an icepick. Thurman clearly studied Catwomen Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Merriwether but went flora instead of fauna. Too bad Clooney is no Adam West. And while Chris O’Donnell sometimes steals Clooney’s thunder in his second Batman movie, the dynamic duo’s continuous conflict is at odds with the rest of the movie’s tone.

Maybe one more installment of that era would have found everyone on the same page having fun together? We’ll never know. But I bet Gossip Gerty could have gotten us the scoop. (Christopher Campbell)

12. Batman and Robin (1949)

Batman And Robin
Columbia Pictures

A bit of an improvement over the 1943 Batman serial, Batman and Robin does feature some greater action sequences, clearly higher production value, and most importantly, a villain who isn’t based on racial prejudice of the time. That said, it does feel like a remake at times, with a lot of set pieces and plot points lifted from the earlier story with an intention of delivering a better version of those moments. Plus, the addition of some decent invisibility special effects.

As a whole, I don’t know if I’d call Batman and Robin a better work of cinema than Batman ’43, but it’s at least more enjoyable because it’s so much more ridiculous. There’s a Mystery Science Theater 3000 sort of laughability. Like when a guy steals Batman’s costume and then dies — and of course, we’re first meant to think Batman has died, in a classic serial cliffhanger moment — but then the real Batman, as Bruce Wayne, leaves the costumed corpse on the sidewalk with onlookers surrounding the body as if that’s not going to cause confusion and a headache for him later. Another time he, hardly in a rush, tells girlfriend Vicky Vale he doesn’t have time to untie her and she’ll be alright. It’s as silly as the ’60s Batman TV show but, as far as I can tell, not intended to be a comedy.

Running as long as four and a half hours and playing very episodically at times, Batman and Robin can get terribly convoluted and also redundant in its plot, and it’s full of ups and downs in its storytelling. I’m not even sure I understand the surprise twist ending that introduces too much information too suddenly and quickly, but that’s more of the fun nonsense. There’s a line midway through where a cranky scientist tells Wayne, “Get out, I’m busy… you’re welcome to stay for dinner.” And I feel like it sums up the whole serial. It’s often frustrating and you want to turn it off, but then you can’t because you want to entertain its charms. (Christopher Campbell)

11. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Zack Snyders Justice League

This might be the most scandalous placement on our list, especially as I, the person in charge around here, would rank Zack Snyder’s four-hour epic much higher. But democracy can be messy, even among colleagues and scholars. That Zack Snyder was able to go back and finish his vision is nothing short of a miracle. The fact that it came out as coherent and seamless as it ultimately did makes the feat even more impressive, given the film’s chaotic journey. It’s a grand vision from a filmmaker who views DC’s classic heroes as god-like figures, forever locked in battle with the greatest threats imaginable.

The knock against ZSJL, as a Batman movie, is also one of its strengths as a film overall — Snyder gives each of his Justice League members plenty of room for their own stories. And while Ben Affleck’s Batman is an important cog in the machine, it’s not entirely his story. If anything, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is more of a Cyborg movie, as Ray Fisher’s character comes alive in this one, especially when compared to his limited role in the 2017 cut of the film. It’s great to see Batman assembling and leading a team alongside other icons, but it’s hard not to be left wanting more. I will continue to regard Ben Affleck’s Batman fondly while always wishing that he and Snyder were able to make a signature Batman solo film. (Neil Miller)

Next Page

Pages: 1 2 3

Related Topics:

An author similar to Hydra. Its articles have many authors. It has many heads. Please don’t cut off any of its heads, we’re trying to work here.