All Theatrical Batman Films Ranked: From 1966 to 2022

Last Updated on July 12, 2022

Batman Films Ranked

While we are currently in the midst of a comic book movie boom, there’s one character that is so popular that the genre as we know it simply wouldn’t exist without him: Batman. Some of his outings are better than others, but it’s undeniable that Batman reigns supreme above just about every other cinematic superhero. He’s been going strong on-screen since the 60s and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. Of all his movies which ones are at the top of the list? Let’s get these theatrical Batman films ranked and find out.

14) Batman & Robin

It’s not hard to argue that 1997’s Batman and Robin is the worst of the Batman films not just on a ranked list, but really any discussion about Batman in media. The previous film had been a big hit and director Joel Schumacher wanted to wait a couple of years before going back to Gotham but Warner Bros. insisted on pushing forward with the film as soon as possible. He set out to write the next film when the studio came to him with a list of things that HAD to be in the film.

Multiple vehicles for the toy market, multiple costumes, so they could make multiple action figures, oh and Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to be in the film. Figure out how to throw him in there. Schumacher, in the Batman Box Set, went as far as to apologize for the film saying he wanted to deliver a good film for the fans and while also doing what the studio wanted but it turned out to be a mess. He says he should have said ‘no’ to things but pushed forward.

13) Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice

As Marvel was destroying the box office with their connected universe, DC wanted to try to get in on the action as well. They put out Man Of Steel and then immediately pushed to bring their two biggest characters together in this film. Fans had complained about the dark tone of the Man Of Steel film and had no idea how these two characters would work together since the brighter of the two heroes was already really dark. We got an older Batman trying to keep Superman in line but they ended up bonding over the fact that their mothers have the same first name. Then add in that they kill Superman at the end of the film and you have a recipe for disaster. Things weren’t helped by the fact that the theatrical cut was a mess, with a half hour being excised at the eleventh hour. While there are a few great scenes (such as the warehouse fight) on the whole the film rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way, and worse, made the studio nervous. Not hard to place this one near the bottom of our ranked Batman films.

12) Justice League

And because of BvS, we end up here. This film has to go down as one of the most problematic shoots in history. Halfway through shooting, Zack Snyder had to leave after a family tragedy. Thinking they were going to help the film Warner Bros. brought in nerd icon Joss Whedon to finish up the movie. After all, he had pushed the first Avengers movie to box office glory and was well-known for being able to handle ensemble movies really well. Little did they know that would be a big mistake. Whedon rewrote and re-shot most of the film and famously clashed with multiple people on the set.

His version took away the dark veneer of the previous couple of films and added in the usual Whedon jokey shtick. At first, fans thought that was what they wanted. Turns out they were wrong. The tone of the film was all over the place and having to use a badly CGI-ed Superman for some scenes made the film laughable. This ended up being a giant mess with poor reception and many investigations into Whedon’s actions on the set. It left fans clamoring for the return of Zack Snyder’s original vision of the film.

11) Batman Forever

For the third entry into the Batman 89 franchise, the film went in a completely different direction. Gone was the palette of Burton’s blacks, grays, and dark blues. We instead get a neon-infused Gotham with brightly colored villains. Jim Carrey pushes aside the dark and moody characters of the previous films and instead summons his best Frank Gorshin for this movie’s Riddler. Tommy Lee Jones’s Two-Face laughs his way through most of the film instead of being the psychologically broken character most fans knew from the comics. This began the franchise spiraling back down to the laugh-filled version of Batman we got from the 60s version that fans had thought was long gone.

10) The Dark Knight Rises

When Christopher Nolan came into the franchise he wanted to make it as grounded as you can for a movie about a man that dresses up as a bat and fights crime. After the highs of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, fans hoped his last film would send it off with a bang. Sadly it was more of a whimper. This film saw a Bruce Wayne that had been out of the crime-fighting game for eight years. When a man called Bane shows up to take over Gotham he tries his best but ultimately fails to save the city. We are shown a broken Batman that can only watch as his city is destroyed. When he does come back, the city has fallen so far it might not even be worth saving anymore. And let’s not get started on Bane’s voice.

Batman The Movie

9) Batman 66

The TV version of Batman was a big hit when it premiered on ABC in 1966. Originally a film was going to be released into theaters that would act as the springboard for the series but the premiere date of the show got bumped up. Instead, the film hit theaters in the summer of 1966 between Season 1 and Season 2. Here, four of Batman’s deadliest foes, The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin, and Catwoman, try to dehydrate and kidnap members of the World Security Council. The film keeps the same campy tone the TV series had while adding a few new things into the mix that would carry over into later seasons of the show. On a ranked Batman films list it can help but come in lower than what was to come, but its charm helps it rise above some later entries.

8) Batman Begins

When Christopher Nolan took on the character he planned on grounding him as much as possible in the real world. His pitch to Michael Caine to get him on board as Alfred was “Superman is powerful because he’s an alien from another world. Batman is powerful because he does a lot of push-ups.” Christian Bale stepped into the role and told the story of Bruce Wayne going off to train before becoming the hero. It worked and showed a new side of Batman besides the usual origin story with the death of his parents.

7) Zack Snyder’s Justice League

After the theatrical release of Justice League, fans were left wondering what Zack Snyder’s vision for the film would have been. He left due to a family emergency and most of the film was re-shot by Joss Whedon. Snyder claims there was a cut of his film but Warner Bros. kept denying that such a thing existed. For years fans clamored to see what the original film could have been until Warner Bros. finally gave in. They even gave Snyder more money to finish the film and put together what ended up being a four-hour cut. The film is easily superior to its theatrical sibling but weirdly sits alone. Any films made with the characters seem to recognize the theatrical cut as canon and it doesn’t seem like the WB has any plans to continue any stories based on this alternate version. The original cut ranked low on this list of Batman films, but this one secure an easy middle-of-the-pile placement.

6) Batman 89

While this is not the first Batman film, it was the one that set off the modern Batman era. In the summer of 1989, you saw the Bat Symbol EVERYWHERE. It was a serious pop-culture milestone. At the time it was thought of as a darker and grittier version of the hero, but we have seen that it was only a step towards that from the 1966 Batman. Michael Keaton was cast as the hero much to the confusion of the audience and Jack Nicholson was brought on to play the Joker.

While this version of the character did borrow from the Caesar Romero incarnation of the 60s, he also had a much darker side to him that hadn’t been on screen before and help set the bar going forward for comic book villains. Tim Burton’s visuals helped launch this film into the stratosphere and would be the basis for every comic book movie going forward.

5) The Lego Batman Movie

After the success of The Lego Movie, Warner Bros. green light this spin-off to capitalize on the popularity of Will Arnett’s version of the character. He plays Batman as a self-centered, egotistical, jerk and for whatever reason, it really works. The film is full of fun jokes aimed at other DC properties and kept up the fun aspect of The Lego Movie. We get to see an expanded roster from the DC Universe with the inclusion of Robin and Batgirl. Most importantly it fulfills a promise made by the original 1989 Batman movie that we would see the always awesome Billy Dee Williams get to play Two-Face.

4) Batman Returns

With the giant box office success of the first Batman film, Warner Bros. gave Tim Burton permission to go in whatever direction he wanted for the sequel. What we get is a much bigger film with more villains and even bigger ideas. Now Batman not only has to contend with the resurfaced Oswald Cobblepot but also manage his love life with the anti-hero Catwoman. On top of all that we get more action, more gadgets, and a bigger Gotham than we had seen before.

He really upped his game for the film and brought to life a great Batman film that may have been darker than intended. There was some controversy after the film was released and parents saw how dark the film really was. The fact that they had been selling toys for this movie at McDonald’s made consumer groups very upset. Regardless, Burton raised the bar on what a superhero movie could be once again.

3) The Batman

The newest film in the Batman franchise sits in a weird spot. When DC launched their cinematic universe the idea was to spin all the characters off into their own films after Justice League. With Ben Affleck in the cowl it was assumed that he would be the Batman we would see on screen first. As their cinematic universe failed to connect with audiences it was decided to move away from that and Affleck himself dropped out of the stand-alone Batman film.

Instead, Matt Reeves opted to reboot the character and tell a story about a younger Bruce Wayne in the early days of being Batman. The idea was to set itself apart from the hyper-action, comicbooky, version that had been in the Justice League films and instead goes for a darker and moody piece. We get to see Batman lean more on his detective side as he faces off against a twisted Riddler who seems more at home in the films of David Fincher. Fans seem to agree with this take as it has garnered a huge box office take and has been lauded by fans everywhere, making it an easy high placement on a list of ranked Batman films.

2) Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm

While it’s a spin-off of the animated series, this film is held in high regard as one of the best Batman films of all time. The story borrows heavily from the Batman: Year Two story arc and includes a couple of items from Batman: Year One. It uses a new villain in The Phantasm which replaces The Reaper character out of the comics.

It’s not hard to see why this film is so held in such esteem, one which can place high on any list of ranked Batman films. For many generations of Batman fans, Kevin Conroy has become the best version of Batman through his voice performances while Mark Hamill has all but taken the podium as the ultimate version of the Joker through his various performances of the character in video games and animated movies. He has since retired from the role but it’s obvious that everyone after him is just doing a poor imitation. If you haven’t seen this one seek it out at once and you’ll see why it’s held in such high regard.

1) The Dark Knight

It had to be number one right? Christopher Nolan not only delivered a great Batman film but a great crime movie all together. We see Christian Bale become his best version of Batman, and they finally seemed to get a proper working Batsuit. Everything up to this point seemed really stiff and hard to move in. They give him some sleek armor while changing the cowl to more of a helmet. This helps him move with greater range and agility.

Without a doubt, the biggest and best part of the film is Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker. While other films gave the character an origin or a reason, we are introduced to him as a whole character. No background is given on why he is doing what he is doing or where he came from. All we need to know is that he is the most dangerous person in the city. He completely captures the ‘agent of chaos’ characterization that has been in the comics for decades. The best description comes from the Joker himself in the movie. “I’m like a dog chasing a car. I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I caught it.” This mixed with the themes of the film and the storyline with Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face and the film just works on every level.

How have you ranked all the Batman films? Do you agree with this ranking? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: JoBlo

About the Author

Bryan Wolford is a feature writer for JoBlo, and also writes scripts for both JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals, including a multi-part retrospective on the Highlander franchise. When not writing for the site, he’s an avid podcaster.