18 July 2012

Ranking the Batman Movies

Its almost here! The Dark Knight Rises arrives in just two days and while many of the elite have already had the privilege of seeing it, us shlubs still have to sit tight and wait. But while we wait, why not check out some of the previous Bat-movies? Lets rank all the previous Batman films from worst to best.


Bonus) Catwoman - Though not really a Batman movie, even if its working title was "Untitled Batman Returns Spin-off" I just want to make my disdain for this movie clear. Catwoman did more to set back the character of Selina Kyle than Batman and Robin ever dreamed of doing for the Dark Knight. Unfairly, it wasn't even the real Catwoman, Selina Kyle, being portrayed in the movie. This Catwoman, Patience Phillips was the next in some theoretical line of Catwomen that were never mentioned again after this bombed. Hopefully rises gives Catwoman new life.

Villains: Laurel Hedare

Worst Scenes: Ordering, "Milk, straight up" and Basket-Brawl

15) Batman: Gotham Knight - All style and no substance, so if you don't like the style you are really out of luck. Gotham Knight promised a mature bridge between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and delivered a hodgepodge of freakish Batman designs loosely connected with a story that doesn't deserve to be remembered. It pains me greatly that I didn't fall in love with Batmanime, but try as I might, even on attempted repeat viewing I haven't been able to invest in this stylish mess.

Villains: Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Deadshot

Most Stylish Scene: Batman vs Deadshot

14) Batman Returns - I know that some people praise this as being the greatest Batman movie ever made (or at least they did until The Dark Knight came along) but there are a lot of things wrong with it. Its just a little too goofy thanks to Tim Burton's "wild imagination." The 1989 Batman set up a great world, but this movie seemed to slip into an alternate fantasy dimension. Also, pretty much every Penguin related subplot was awful. I mean, why were Emperor Penguins living in the Gotham City sewers? I have to admit though, I think Penguin is one of the worst supervillains ever made, so I am a bit biased. On the other hand, Catwoman was great, and in my mind was the definitive onscreen portrayal of the character. Her inclusion is what makes this a worth watching film.

Villains: Penguin, Catwoman, Max Schreck

Redeemable Scene: Any scene with Catwoman

13) Batman Forever - You may think you liked this movie, but that probably means you haven't seen it lately. Some things were okay. The Robin origin was not terrible, the riddles themselves were fair, and the Riddler's take on being a mirror image of Bruce Wayne was interesting - but everything else Riddler related - including pink haired Jim in spandex - was a bit yikes. Two-Face was even worse. All the neon and camp were just a hint of things to come, but overall Batman Forever was just a lot of soulless noise.

Villains: Riddler, Two-Face

12) Batman (1966) - Starting the fine tradition of over-stuffing Batman movies with villains, Batman 1966 had no less than four baddies. This movie is okay for what it is, a comedy. But the stretched out diabolical scheme involving dehydrating world leaders lacked any tension.

Villains: Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman

Most Comedic Scene: Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb

11) Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman - Where some bad movies are terrible, this one's greatest flaw is that it is just so forgettable. I am not sure how the writers thought leftover villains Penguin and Bane, two of Batman: The Animated Series weakest foes, could make for an interesting conflict. The actual mystery is somewhat interesting but the movie doesn't escape the feeling that it was stuck with scraps. Maybe The Dark Knight Rises will propel Bane to the A-list, but in this movie he still seems like just a goon.

Villains: Penguin, Bane, Rupert Thorne

A Forgettable Scene: Batman vs Bane

10) Batman and Robin - Now that the Batman franchise has been revitalized and this movie stands as just another chapter rather than the FINAL chapter, my hatred for the movie has transformed. Since the movie is so over the top, it actually provides a sadomasochistic delight. Besides, if it weren't for the public rejection of B&R, would we ever have been given the modern version of the Dark Knight?

Villains: Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Bane, Floronic Man

Worst Scene: So many choices, but Bat Credit Card is among the worst


9) The Batman vs Dracula - Probably the best thing that came out of The Batman. The movie had a surprisingly darker tone than the series and managed to pull off an interesting showdown with "the original Batman." The long capes and animation style also worked well here in a movie that should not just be written off by critics of The Batman. Even the chronically over- and misused The Batman versions of Joker and Penguin added to the story.

Villains: Dracula, Joker, Penguin

Best Scene: Batman vs Dracula

8) Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero - Very similar in plot to the Batman and Robin live action movie (sans Ivy and Bane), but hands down the superior movie, even with the polar bears. Having said that, the movie although enjoyable, doesn't quite seem to escape feeling like an extended episode of the TV series. Granted, the series was awesome, but this entry failed to raise the stakes to a whole new level.

Villains: Mr. Freeze

Best Scene: Oil rig rescue

The Good

7) Batman: Mask of the Phantasm - Beloved by fans, I am just not quite as won over as some. I really enjoy the first half of the movie, in particular I enjoy the flashback sequences which show Batman beginning as well as any I enjoy any scene in Batman Begins. The movie's last act just doesn't do it for me as the inclusion of the usually welcome Joker seems too shoehorned in. Don't take my criticism too harshly; this is a solid movie, but for my money, there are a few better.

Villains: Joker, The Phantasm

Best Scene: Big rig take down with a ball peen hammer

6) Batman (1989) - Tim Burton's Batman didn't get everything right ("Ever dance with the devil..." and no Joe Chill), but it deserves credit for turning out a pretty solid tale. Even after Heath Ledger's reinvention of the Joker in The Dark Knight, Jack Nicholson's Joker still holds up. Of the 90's live action Batman movies, this is the one that found the balance between fun and grit and deserves to be remembered. 

Villains: Joker

Best Scene: Final showdown


5) Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker - Yes, its a teen Batman and its not Bruce Wayne in the suit, and yet Bruce is key to the story. This movie shows how the Joker's twisted legacy haunted Bruce Wayne even after his apparent death and gave the new hero a chance to prove his worthiness of the title of Batman. Plus, there were plenty of flashbacks to the good ol' Batman and Robin days as well.

Villains: Joker, Joker Gang

Best Scene: Robin pulls the trigger

The Great

4) Batman: Year One -This is a masterful adaptation of one of the greatest Batman stories ever told and a great cop story. Unfortunately, by the time this movie got made, some of the best parts had already been mined for other movies. Even though its a little unfair to ding this movie for using its own source material, there is a bit of a "been there, done that" feel to the film.

Villains: Carmine Falcone, Comissioner Loeb, Catwoman, Detective Flass

Real Hero of the Movie: Don't let anyone fool you, this is more a Jim Gordon film than a Batman one.

3) Batman: Under the Red Hood - Short, but oh so sweet and it really should not have worked at all. The movie effectively condensed the Death in the Family story arc into a few minutes and still maintained tension while Batman sought the identity of the Red Hood. Also, despite its economical 70 odd minutes, the movie managed to utilize three primary villains, some secondary villains, and a pair of Robins, yet no one felt unserved. Although dark, the movie was surprisingly heart felt even making use of upbeat flashbacks that leave the viewer with an unsettling yet satisfying aftertaste.

Villains: Red Hood, Joker, Black Mask, Ra's Al Ghul, AMAZO, Riddler

Best Scene: Red Hood vs Batman

2) The Dark Knight - Don't get me wrong, this is an excellent movie. My only criticism is that the whole Two-Face arc feels a little tacked on making the movie feel slightly clunky. Two-Face could easily have carried his own film. Its still darned near perfect giving fresh interpretations of the Joker and Two-Face while masterfully demonstrating Batman's skills as a detective and gadgeteer.

Villains: Joker, Two-Face, Scarecrow, Maroni

Best Scene: Hong Kong extradition

1) Batman Begins - I know picking The Dark Knight as #1 would be the "correct" choice, but I give BB the slight edge. First off, this is a Batman-centric movie which delivered a compelling Batman origin story for the first time in live-action. The fear theme was also a perfect way to explore Batman. This movie resurrected the Batman franchise and made audiences realize that yes, they do need more Batman movies. Additionally, even though this was a complete film, I have a feeling all the groundwork laid with Ra's Al Ghul and the League of Shadows will pay off in The Dark Knight Rises, just as the films final tease of the Joker card paid off in the sequel. This is THE definitive Batman movie... if only they had lost the one-liners (Nice coat).

Villains: Ra's Al Ghul, Scarecrow, Carmine Falcone, Zsasz

Other interesting comparisons

8.9 The Dark Knight
8.3 Batman Begins
7.8 Batman: Under the Red Hood
7.7 Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
7.6 Batman (1989)
7.6 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
7.3 Batman: Year One
7.0 Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero
6.9 Batman Returns
6.8 Batman: Gotham Knight
6.7 Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman
6.6 The Batman vs Dracula
6.3 Batman (1966)
5.4 Batman Forever
3.5 Batman and Robin
3.2 Catwoman

Domestic Box Office (Adjusted for Inflation)
$497,316,106.46 Batman (1989)
$308,399,312.36 Batman Returns
$10,664,901.75 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
$332,525,181.68 Batman Forever
$183,785,628.04 Batman and Robin
$50,884,170.52 Catwoman
$251,794,393.70 Batman Begins
$583,857,174.64 The Dark Knight


  1. poor list mainly for your low placing of Batman Returns which is the best Batman film.

  2. Solid list! I think there's too much love going around the Internet for Batman Beyond. I couldn't stand that show when it was on mainly because I would have preferred to see more BTAS episodes.

  3. nice job with the list. I appreciate you stating BB is better than TDK because it is about Batman. I agree. And B&R is better than BF by far. I only would have rated BR ahead of them, though. Pfieffer and Keaton were terrific and their story was better than anything Schumacher did.

  4. Good list but I kinda liked Batman Returns but I see why people don't like it.

  5. Batman Begins is garbage and the WORST Batman movie. I'd even watch Catwoman before I rewatched BB.

    Batman Returns is hands down the best, no question.

  6. Wow..... what a s**t list. Why on earth is Batman and Robin rated HIGHER than Batman Returns? this list is absolute garbage!

  7. Terrible list. Batman Returns as #14? Are you insane? It was one of the best they've made.

    1. Yeah sure it was. I can only assume its been a long time since you have seen it.