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The Best Batman Movies:
A Retrospecticus

I just recently realized that there are ten Batman movies out there, so in this article I'm going to rank all the Batman movies in order of how good I think they are, 10 being worst and 1 being best. I'm not going to include the 40s serials that were collected as a movie (The Batman), or the Phillipino entries to the series (Batman Fights Dracula and Alyas Batman en Robin). You might notice that the top 3 spots are animated films. I can't help it if the WB animation crew understood Batman and did him better than anyone else! Hey, a couple of the lower spots (#8 and #7) are also by WB animation! So there! They can crap up Batman with the best of them.

Here we go:

#10: Batman and Robin (1997)

Every once in a while a movie comes along that makes you wonder: Did anyone attached to this film actually think they were making a good movie? Or a movie that anyone would enjoy actually watching?

Why, at no point, did somebody step in and go, hey, wait a minute, this is just a big load of fresh, steaming shit? It would have saved so many people so much time and money and effort. Hey, everyond, let's give a round of applause to Mr. Joel Shumaker, the genius behind the worst two Batman movies ever made!

And while we're at it, let's applaud Arnold's worst single performance since Hercules in New York. My God, who was supposed to be quality checking this film, weeding out the crap at every level? This movie is just a spectacular failure of the studio system. Just throw in some Larb Flavoured Pretz and the film would be complete.

#9: Batman Forever (1995)

Hey, I know: Let's get an actor of outstanding depth and personality, able to play with creepy intensity (The Doors) or hold his own easily in one of the funniest movies ever made (Top Secret) to play Batman!

Oh, wait. I forgot about director Joel. So let's get Val Kilmer not to actually play the complex Baman/Bruce Wayne character. Let's force him to strut around like a glorified action figure in a batsuit with BUILT-IN NIPPLES FOR THE LOVE OF GOD BUILT-IN NIPPLES.

Oh, let's also take one of the most complex villains in Batman's roster (Two-Face), get a great actor like Tommy Lee Jones to play him, and then state in public that Two-Face is "not a very deep character," and force him to prance around and giggle like a bad re-run of Tim Burton's version of the Joker! Bravo, Joel, Bravo.

#8: Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998)

Sigh. I had such hopes for this trashbag. Do you want to know how to ruin a mystery plot? First, you show exactly how the villain goes about his crime. Then, later on, you have the heroes stumble upon the scene of the crime and watch them step-by-step try to figure out the crime. You know, the crime you just saw happen, and so you already know how it happned, so watching other people figure it out is just about the most boring thing imaginable.

Again and again this film ruins any tension or mystery by just showing plain as day the answer to the mystery at the beginning, and then forcing us to watch the drudgery as Batman and Robin try to solve it. Ugh.

#7: Batman Beyond: The Movie (1999)

You know, for being towards the bottom of the list, this one really isn't half bad. I guess we're done with the crap, now onto the lesser of the good Batman Movies!

This is really just the pilot miniseries of Batman Beyond crammed together to make a movie. It tells the story of future Batman Terry McGinnis and how he put on the tights to fight crime alongside old man Wayne.

It's actually pretty well done, especially the scene in which Bruce Batman decides to retire. If you know anything about Batman, you would know that this is the perfect reason for him to retire. Man, that scene is effective. The rest of the movie is kind of by-the-numbers, but it's competently done, and the production quality is pretty good. Unfortunately the music is god-awful crap. It's like bad 80s guitar licks and other "awesome" stuff. Fortunately the music got better as the Batman Beyond series went along, but here it's just, oh my God awful.

#6: Batman: The Movie (1966)

This is such a bad movie. But it's so much damned fun that I can't help but kind of like it. 60s Batman camp was at a height when this movie was made, and it takes full advantage of it, taking itself even less seriously than the series (if that's even possible). I don't even remember the plot, but I do remember the bat shark repellant.


#5: Batman Returns (1992)

I know most people think that this is the better of the two Tim Burton Batman movies, but I haven't been able to figure out why. Batman is hardly in it. The plot is wandering and jagged and utlimately makes very little sense (by the screenwriter of Hudson Hawk). The set/costume design is good, but Bo Welsch is just no Anton Furst. Sorry. And for some reason Batman is still killing people. The wouldn't get this right until Forever.

Michelle Pfifer and Danny Devito are both spectacular as Catwoman and the Penguin. And how can you not like good ol' Chris Walken? It's good, but not quite as good as the next entry:

#4: Batman (1989)

This movie was the first time anyone had seen Batman on the screen in any form other than the campy Adam West version, and it was very suprising and delighting. The movie doesn't hold up very well over time, though, and now much of it is kind of painful to watch. Still, Jack Nicholson's Joker is one of the best movie villains of all time, and Michael Keaton's distracted, intellectual Bruce Wayne is a fascinating portrayal. Anton Furst's conceptual designs for Gotham still haven't been matched by anyone. But even though this Dark Knight seemed closer to the "real" Batman, there was a major problem: he kills about a dozen people during the course of this movie! Didn't the screenwriters know what Batman was about? They might as well have had him carrying a pistol around. Come on, it's basic!

#3: World's Finest (The Batman Superman Movie) (1998)

This is just a really good, fun action flick. The Joker gets his hands on Kryptonite and decides to go to Metropolis to kill Superman—if Lex Luthor will help. So Batman follows. Pretty basic setup, but the ensuing action scenes are all very well done, and the relationships between the pairs (Lex & Joker, Batman & Superman) are very enjoyable to watch. The sequence when Bats and Supes first meet and almost immediately discover each others' secret identities is a hoot. And the movie does a really good job of never favoring one superhero over the other. In the end, both come out as complete equals.

This movie also has some very high production values, a bit higher than series average. The only real problem with it is a lack of depth and feeling. It's all surface gloss, but it sure does shine pretty!

#2: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

This movie has what almost all the other Batman movies are missing: a heart. This movie has deep, difficult, heart-wrenching emotions throughout it. There's a scene in which a young Bruce Wayne pleads at his parents' grave to be let go from his vengeance duties that is just painful and beautiful to watch. By the end of the movie, when you see Batman sitting alone on the ledge of a building in the rain, you want to just wrap him in a blanket, give him some cocoa, and tell him everything'll be okay.

The plot flashes back and forth between Batman's origins and a present day "mystery" which has to do with a girl. I say "mystery" beacsue anyone with half a brain can figure it out. In fact, the Joker (who is involved in the mystery, and Bruce's past) figures it out before Batman even does. Mark Hamil's Joker is at the top of his form here in his full gleeful evil mode. The movie works because the action isn't about just action; it's about the emotions behind them.

The only thing really wrong with this movie is the too-inconsistant production values. Some scenes look fantastic, while others look pretty damned crappy-ass.

#1: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)

Oh, my God. I haven't watched a movie in a long time that made me shout "Holy shit!" out loud in surprise and shock like this movie made me do. Several times. This is the darkest, most disturbing Batman movie ever made (it's rated PG-13). Click on the title to go to my Movie Reviews section and read my full review of it. And please keep in mind that I'm only ever talking about the UNEDITED version of the film, not the cut-up version that was originally released.

Warner Bros finally decided to release the unedited version in April '02, so now we can all see every dark and disturbing moment as it was intended!

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