Ranking The Batman Movies: Worst to Best

Batman has taken many forms over the years.  Here Christian Bale plays the Caped Crusader in The Dark Knight Trilogy.
Batman has taken many forms over the years. Here Christian Bale plays the Caped Crusader in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

The Batman Movies in Chronological Order

To go along with our rankings, here are the Batman movies in chronological order:

Batman: The Movie (1966)

Batman (1989)

Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Forever (1995)

Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman Begins (2005)

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

A History Of Batman Movies

The character, Batman, was first created for a 1939 issue of Detective Comics (which is worth an awful lot of money if you can find it), and since his creation there have been endless more comics, cartoons, graphic novels and of course movies containing the Caped Crusader. Batman movies are beloved by fans of the character and by action movie fans in general, and from the Tim Burton Batman to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, there is certainly a rich history of Batman in film.

Some of the films have been good, some have been bad and this is a topic that is up for debate. So here is my attempts to rank the Batman movies from Worst to Best. Please note that I am only including live action movies here, as these are the most famous and I certainly have not seen the many animated Batman movies that exist out there.

So here goes:

8. Batman & Robin (1997)

Well, I'm pretty sure that anyone familiar with Batman movies will not be surprised to see this hideous effort from Director Joel Schumacher coming in at the bottom spot of our list. With Val Kilmer dropping out of the franchise due to scheduling conflicts, George Clooney, who I love by the way, took over as our hero. I'll bet he wishes he didn't. Containing some of the dumbest bad guys in history, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, the film was basically a childish cartoon in live action format. Chris O'Donnell was horrible as Robin and Alicia Silverstone jumped in as Batgirl to an equal lack of success.

Quite simply one of the worst comic book movies ever made, it was highly nominated at the industries Razzie anti-award ceremony. It didn't completely tank at the box office of course, due to the Batman brand, but avoid this one at all costs.

Arnold schwarzenegger in a horrible turn as Mr. Freeze
Arnold schwarzenegger in a horrible turn as Mr. Freeze

7. Batman: The Movie (1966)

Many of you probably remember or have at least heard of the old Batman TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin. Well known for it's hilarious comic book style (HOLY SCHNIKEES BATMAN!) the series is often laughed at, but was strangely witty and inventive. If you're a fan of film history, and in for a bit of old fashioned entertainment you could certainly watch worse films. Not the best Batman movie but certainly a must see for fans.

Check out this trailer for the classic 1996 Batman Movie

6. Batman Forever (1995)

The first effort by director Joel Schumacher was definitely much better than the second. Taking over from Tim Burton was certainly no easy task, and with Batman Forever, he certainly made a respectable effort. Val Kilmer took over as our hero for the one and only time, and was joined by Chris O'Donnell as Robin. The villains are always so important to a superhero movie and Jim Carrey as Riddler was manic but entertaining. Tommy Lee Jones wasn't a great fit for Two-Face but he did a serviceable job.

Where the film fails is that it is often a little boring and unfortunately far more campy than Tim Burton's batman, which set the stage for the horror that was Batman & Robin.

Batman Forever was respectable but not great
Batman Forever was respectable but not great

5. Batman Returns (1992)

Tim Burton's second Batman movie, 'Batman Returns' is a film that is actually somewhat polarizing. Many review sites have it rated very favorably while many people say it was a big step down for his first Batman movie. I tend to lean somewhere in the middle, but it was definitely one of the most entertaining of the bunch. The film had some fantastic, dark set pieces, and a tone that was really quite menacing at times. Danny DeVito is great as Penguin, although that character is a little silly really. But his vicious violence is quite brutal at times, and combining this with Michelle Pfeiffer's sexiness as Catwoman, the film packs a punch.

Michael Keaton reprises his role as Batman, which he again excels in despite many people's massive complains prior to him taking on the role in the first Tim Burton Batman movie.

Danny DeVito played The Penguin in Batman Returns
Danny DeVito played The Penguin in Batman Returns

4. Batman Begins (2005)

After a long hiatus for the franchise, which saw many ideas for sequels fall apart for a variety of reasons, Batman was reborn by director Christopher Nolan in the form of an origin story about the creation of the Caped Crusader. Nolan was already known for his prowess, and with Batman Begins he created a world that was so real it immediately brought a sense that he was onto something epic.

He casted Christian Bale as Batman, and a host of other amazing actors including Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman and Cillian Murphy. Katie Holmes also joined on but of course he character was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal in the following film.

With great acting, a wonderful and complex plot, incredible cinematography and a fantastic take on much of the technology and gadgets, the film was truly the beginning of something great, which we now know as 'The Dark Knight Trilogy'.

Christopher Nolan's origin story Batman Begins was the first in The Dark Knight Trilogy
Christopher Nolan's origin story Batman Begins was the first in The Dark Knight Trilogy

Which is your favorite Batman movie?

See results without voting

3. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

After the success of 'The Dark Knight', the anticipation continued to build for another sequel from Christopher Nolan and company. Then, when he announced that it would be his last and that he would cap things off as a trilogy, it grew even more. Often that kind of hype can be difficult to live up to, but with Nolan at the helm it was never in doubt for me.

He brought back much of the same cast of the previous film, along with the additions of Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. While Heath Ledger's Joker will forever be considered one of the best villains of all time, in my opinion Tom Hardy was about as close to matching that performance as he could have been. Bane truly gave us all the feeling that Batman had finally met his match, which even The Joker never quite did.

With so much going on, it would be easy for the plot to be too convoluted, but in true Christopher Nolan fashion, what he did was create a movie that was truly epic in scale. A great way to cap off the Dark Knight trilogy.

Christian Bale's Batman takes on Tom Hardy's Bane in The Dark Knight Rises
Christian Bale's Batman takes on Tom Hardy's Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

2. Batman (1989)

The battle for the top spot is actually a lot closer in my book than many people might think. However, coming in at number two is the original Tim Burton Batman movie, simply titled 'Batman' which starred Michael Keaton as our hero, and of course Jack Nicholson in an iconic performance as the manic Joker. While Keaton was a controversial, but eventually successful choice, there was never any doubt that Nicholson was perfect for such a role. He is the reason that this film almost stole number one and was certainly a solid inspiration for Heath Ledger's future attempt.

Tim Burton's films take on a very distinct look, and this was no different. It had a tone that made it look very much like a comic book on the movie screen, but it was also truly dark and menacing in it's visual style. The Joker brought a humor to the proceedings, but in a rather sickening way and there was certainly nothing nice about his pranks.

In terms of pure cinematic enjoyment, there is an argument to be made for this as the best Batman movies ever made, and I personally could watch it over and over. A very close second.

Jack Nicholson was truly iconic as The Joker in Tim Burton's Batman
Jack Nicholson was truly iconic as The Joker in Tim Burton's Batman

The Dark Knight (2008)

To very few people's surprise, Christopher Nolan's second Batman movie, The Dark Knight, comes in as the best Batman movie ever made. With Batman Begins being a great critical and commercial success, a sequel was almost certain, but few expected something just as brilliant as what Nolan delivered.

When the news hit that he had signed on the late Heath Ledger to attempt to recreate The Joker, people went crazy. Having to follow Jack Nicholson's iconic Joker is no small feat, and very few people felt that Ledger was up to the job. However, after months of dedication and obsession in crafting his voice and mannerisms, what we got was perhaps the greatest villain ever portrayed on screen, which would eventually earn him an Academy Award. Unfortunately he had tragically passed away before being able to college his Oscar.

With a cast even bigger and better than it's predecessor, the acting here was insanely good, and the story was full of complexity, character development and moral questions which are on par with any political or crime thriller out there now. Real life and real world themes were blended seamlessly into a modern day Gotham city world that was not that different from the world we live in now, but just different enough to make it feel like a superhero movie.

Truly brilliant stuff, that will go down as not just the best Batman movie ever, but one of the best movies ever made.

The Joker tested Batman mentally and physically in The Dark Knight
The Joker tested Batman mentally and physically in The Dark Knight

Well, there's my list. Please feel free to let me know what you think, what you agree with and of course what you think is complete and utter nonsense. This is all up for debate! Except Batman & Robin. If you tell me that's not the worst, we'll have a problem!

For another perspective, check out the rankings below based on both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB.

The Batman Movies Ranked By Rotten Tomates & IMDB

(click column header to sort results)
Movie  
Rotten Tomatoes Score  
IMDB Score  
Batman: The Movie (1966)
79%
6.5
Batman (1989)
71%
7.6
Batman Returns (1992)
81%
7.0
Batman Forever (1995)
41%
5.4
Batman & Robin (1997)
12%
3.6
Batman Begins (2005)
85%
8.3
The Dark Knight (2008)
94%
9.0
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
88%
8.6
Sort this table however you want to see the films ranked by Rotten Tomatoes Score or IMDB Score

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29 comments

FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State

Cool stuff. I recently re-watched Burton's first "Batman" film for the first time in a long while and I thought it held up very well. My sons (age 6 and 11) watched it with me (for their first time) and they both loved it.

If this were my list the Adam West film would rank higher but that's because the TV show was my introduction to Batman as a kid so it's still a sentimental favorite. :D

Agree with "The Dark Knight" being in the top spot. It is not only the best of Nolan's trilogy, but it's the only one of the Nolan films that has had any re-watch value for me. I thought "Rises" was pretty dull and I can take or leave "Begins."


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Thanks FatFreddysCat, appreciate your insight.

I'm too young to know the Adam West version well, otherwise my opinion may be more like yours. Glad you and your kids enjoyed Batman - Nicholson is quality.

Interesting that you say you found Rises dull - I loved it, but I have heard some others say they were really disappointed.

Thanks so much for stopping by - appreciate your comment!


W1totalk profile image

W1totalk 2 years ago

I always ranked Batman Forever higher mostly because it had Robin and Jim Carey was this villain who was interesting. Great hub.


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Thanks for reading W1totalk - Jim Carey was a fan favorite for a lot of people and he did a nice job as riddler - I just wish Tommy Lee would have been able to do the same for Two Face!

Thanks!


gabrielthomas72 profile image

gabrielthomas72 2 years ago from Shrewsbury, England

I don't think anyone is going to disagree with you on the Batman and Robin point, woeful. But as a fan of the Bat and the genre as a whole, I've always thought that Batman Begins is the best Superhero film that introduces a character to both the novice and most dedicated fan. The way that Nolan weaves in the familiar characters, Gordon, Alfred et al and then introduces us to Ra's al Ghul, a character that would be unknown to most, is brilliantly done.

Wayne's pain and need for retribution is evident through the fantastic casting of Christian Bale and this platform set the film viewing public for the sequel and conclusion of probably the best trilogy of movies ever.

Nice Hub!


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Thanks gabrielthomas - I actually have a friend who argues vehemently for the same point, that Batman Begins is the best film. It is unique in the sense that it presents the origin story and for that reason I can totally see your point. It is truly a brilliant film.

It definitely set a perfect stage for the next two!

Thanks!


amandajoyshapiro profile image

amandajoyshapiro 2 years ago

The Dark Knight is by far one of the best graphic-novel movies ever made. Not only is Christian Bale the best Batman, but Heath Ledger is on a completely higher level than almost any other villain could possibly achieve. Even in the picture you posted above, his hair and bone structure are the only two qualities indicating it's him underneath all the makeup. But what's most impressive about the actor's portrayal is that you almost can't believe a real human is playing The Joker and not some super CGI creation. You pretty much nailed the rankings!


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Thanks amanda, I completely agree - it is a transformation that has very rarely been seen in the movies ever, especially without CGI like you said. Truly unreal, and it's really sad that he isn't around anymore.

Thanks for reading!


Noel Tanti profile image

Noel Tanti 2 years ago from Malta

for me the top spot will always be a bone of contention between batman returns and the dark knight, mainly because they are the two films which mostly exploit the grotesque aspect of the batman mythos...

i have no love whatsoever for batman begins (or nolan films in general)...


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Thanks Noel, that's interesting - I agree though that there is certainly a grotesque aspect of the batman mythos. The graphic novels definitely show this and perhaps better than the films.

It's cool to see someone with a different opinion about Nolan - what is it you don't like about his films?

Thanks for reading!


Noel Tanti 2 years ago

mostly the fact that he is a weak filmmaker who is over-reliant on the quality of the script he has...

for instance, much as i love the dark knight, the car/bat bike scene at night is technically a mess (in this respect (ie technically) the dark knight rises is way better)...

also, in a film like inception, he missed the forest for the tree, in this case, too keen on the special effects and the plot twists and not enough focus on the true soul of the story, marion cotillard...

like i said, with very few exceptions, i always feel cheated after watching a chris nolan film...


Noel Tanti profile image

Noel Tanti 2 years ago from Malta

hehe... sorry, that was me... i forgot i was logged out of hb...


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Wow, that is a really interesting take - although I can't argue that the scripts which he has filmed have been fantastic. Although I would argue that he has written all of the scripts which he has filmed himself - which is also part of the film making process.

Perhaps what you're saying suggests that he is a better screenwriter than he is a director? What would be interesting is to see someone else direct one of his screenplays and have him direct a screenplay that he didn't write himself, and see what happens. What do you think? Unfortunately I fear that we will probably never see that happen!

Appreciate your insights! His next film Interstellar is coming in 2014 or 2015 I believe so we will have to see what you think of it! (Oh and I liked inception, but I do agree that Marion Cotillard should have had more time and was pivotal to the film!)


superherojames profile image

superherojames 2 years ago from Manchester, UK

Glad to see Batman and Robin lagging behind in last place, as well as the Dark Knight in gold position. Just posted a blog on some of the strangest superheroes around which might float your boat. Fortunately Mr Freeze got nowhere near it.


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Ha thanks superherojames - I'll check it out now! Yeah, it's a good job, he's not even good enough to be considered strange.


Noel Tanti profile image

Noel Tanti 2 years ago from Malta

yeah it would be interesting to see someone else directing a script of his... and despite everything i've said i'll still be watching interstellar hehe...


bethperry profile image

bethperry 2 years ago from Tennesee

Very interesting list and your writing is entertaining. I have to admit, Adam West will always be Batman for me. And as much as I admire Tim Burton's other work, I detested his Batman series. The Dark Knight films are good, though.


AKSHAY GATKAL 2 years ago

Batman series has a secret .

always , its villains ! My faivorait is 'joker' .

I am very curios about emotions , expectetion , & plannings behind that face.

His face is unpredectable always.

I love to predect someones fellings , & joker always one step forword.

I appreciate if you write about Joker more in your next hub.

Its nice to read your hub


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Ha yeah that's the movie buff's curse Noel - you have to watch everything, even if you aren't sure


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Thanks bethperry, I appreciate that. I think I will have to get a hold of some of the Adam West batman series and watch them. I haven't seen much outside of that film, and it was entertaining!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State

^ The "Batman" TV series will finally be avalable on DVD later this year, the decades of fighting between 20th Century Fox (producers of the series) and Warner Bros. (owners of DC Comics, home of Batman) over the rights/ownership to the show have finally been ironed out... yay!


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Thanks Akshay! Joker's face by both Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson are both iconic!


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Thanks FatFreddysCat, good to know! I'll pick up a copy, thanks for the intel


peejay1980 profile image

peejay1980 2 years ago from Neston, UK

You've got it right here, although I would find it hard to put them in preferable order, basically omitting the Joel Schumacher gives you a good, mixed contrast of the Batman world. And hope fully the new 'Gotham' series will flesh out the detective more!


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

I agree peejay - I hadn't even heard of the new Gotham series until I started writing this article, so I'm excited to see how it turns out.

Thanks for reading!


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

I agree peejay - I hadn't even heard of the new Gotham series until I started writing this article, so I'm excited to see how it turns out.

Thanks for reading!


Ally Lewis profile image

Ally Lewis 2 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

I think I'm the only one on the whole planet who thought The Dark Knight Rises wasn't good! I love Batman Begins, though, and don't really remember The Dark Knight because it's been so long since I've seen it. And George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell? Gotta love it ironically haha. (The Arkham video game series is awesome too if you're interested in those.) I haven't seen all the Batman films, but this made me want to.


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan Author

Thanks for reading Ally!

I actually have a good friend who didn't like Dark Knight Rises, and also only thought Dark Knight was ok. His favorite was Batman Begins by a long shot. So you're not quite the only one! You're one of two ;)

I have actually played the first two Arkham games, and they're incredible. I rarely have time to sit down anymore, so I haven't tried the latest.

Thanks again for reading!


alexeya 20 months ago

I love your movies.

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