Holy Rankings Batman!

Batman entered our lives all the way back in May of 1939, created in response to the overwhelming popularity of Superman, who came around a year earlier. Since then, we’ve seen several different versions of the Caped Crusader in print, on the small screen either in live-action or as a cartoon, and on the big screen. A few years after his inception, the first Batman movie came out in 1943. The plot revolved around Batman acting as a government agent helping to stop World War II.

Twenty-odd years later, came the television show with Adam West playing Bruce Wayne/Batman. The Adam West era seems like it lasted for a while but in actuality, it ran from 1966 to 1968. The era included the series as well as a movie both of which spawned endless jokes and references to the show’s dialogue, catchphrases, and the use of on-screen graphics. But then things got kind of quiet for Batman outside of the comics and it would be a while before he would return to the big screen.

Everything changed with the release of Tim Burton’s 1989 movie, Batman. Coming off the heels of Superman IV, which was a dumpster fire, the idea for a Batman movie was largely prompted by Frank Miller’s 1986 Dark Knight Returns comic-book miniseries, a dark and gothic reimagining of the Caped Crusader, one where Batman was grappling with old age and his own mortality. It made the idea of an updated take on Batman, one sans catchphrases and 1960s camp, possible.

As for the movies that immediately followed, I’m on board with Batman Returns (it’s become a solid rewatchable) and decidedly off the board with the next two films- Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. File those two under Let’s Pretend They Don’t Exist.

It took seven years for the stink of Batman and Robin to wear off, which is a minor achievement because the stink was massive. In 2005, Christopher Nolan took the helm of the franchise and proceeded to kick off the Dark Knight Trilogy: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, all three with Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Next to the 1989 Batman, they’re the Catwoman’s pajamas of Batman movies. Two years after The Dark Knight Rises, Batman appeared in Lego form in the Lego Movie, an appearance that paved the way for The Lego Batman Movie in 2017. Sandwiched in between those two movies was Ben Affleck’s turn as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and then again in 2017 in Justice League. I think the less said about that movie the better and even with The Snyder Cut, we don’t really need to say that much about it at this point.

From a Batman perspective though, one of the winners of the long-awaited Snyder Cut, Zack Snyder’s vision for the movie that he was unable to see through because of a family tragedy, was Batfleck/ He’s more fleshed out and developed than he had been in the past two films, it helps and there, that’s all that needs to be said about both versions of Justice League.

But just when it seemed like Batfleck was our guy going forward, Robert Pattison has entered the chat. Pattison plays Batman in 2022’s The Batman. And wait, there’s also the return of Michael Keaton as Batman in upcoming movies Batgirl and The FlashThe Flash is also set to feature the return and official goodbye of Batfleck because damn it, we love multiverses in 2022.

And I love rankings, so let’s do an all-encompassing ranking of Batman. Pattinson’s not eligible here but everything else is fair game.

Atomic batteries to power…turbines to speed…on to the rankings!

The Movies

1. Batman (1989)

The grand pupa of Batman movies. Without it, would the Nolan movies even exist? Tim Burton re-established a new tone for Batman, one with decidedly less camp and color and significantly more doom and gloom. No dancing here. Just straight brooding.

I just remember that movie being so incredibly huge and even now all of these years later, I watch it and I’m all in. I love the visual style of it. It seems to take place in a mish-mash of time periods- ranging from the 1940s to the 1970s. I didn’t have any opinions about Michael Keaton as Batman at the time, but now I can see that his casting was probably a little jarring. But in 1989 I was too young to know any better. He was awesome. Thumbs up perfect. I don’t think this movie will ever get old.

2. The Dark Knight

The second Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movie is by far the best of the Nolan trilogy. It feels like Heat meets your traditional Batman movie. It moves in a way most blockbusters, especially comic book blockbusters, don’t. If the 1989 Batman felt huge, then this movie felt gigantic. It still feels gigantic, as if it were able to crush movies like The Green Lantern with its thumb. Broken into acts like a Shakespearean play, if The Dark Knight is on television, there is a damn good chance I’m watching at least thirty minutes of it. At least. Probably more.

Heath Ledger makes this movie, though. His performance is at a Daniel Day-Lewis level in that it completely dominates the movie. When he’s not on the screen, you’re just waiting for him to come back.

3. Batman Begins

The 1989 Batman didn’t bother with any kind of origin story. It just started. Oddly enough, that’s kind of a Nolan move.

Batman Begins spends the first half of the movie digging into the origin of this particular Batman and it pays off- not just in this one, but the two that followed. It made you infinitely more invested in this version of Bruce Wayne/Batman. It doesn’t add a well-known villain, going with Scarecrow instead and then Ra’s al Ghul, but the film is better off for it. It lays out the groundwork for what’s to come and it does so flawlessly.

4. Batman Returns

A sequel to Batman felt almost too good to be true. It’s not as memorable as the first one, but it’s still good. And we’ll never look at penguins the same way again. It hasn’t aged as well as the first one, but that’s to be expected. I think as the years have gone by we’ve underrated Michelle Pheiffer’s portrayal as Catwoman.

Also, don’t let clowns babysit your children. Hopefully, you don’t need me telling you that, though.

5. Dark Knight Rises

The summer the Dark Knight Rises came out I got married, bought a house, and got a new job. Seeing this movie was easily the fourth most exciting thing I experienced that summer. It was akin to seeing a statue unveiled or taking in a sunset while swimming in the Pacific Ocean- just a truly momentous event.

Unfortunately though, once the shine wore off, the cracks started to show. Because really, what was going on again? Bruce Wayne is now broke? And then physically broke, but then all better thanks to some pushups and pep talks? And he goes from a pit in the Middle East to Gotham in no time. With an empty bank account mind you!

Whatever. Questions about anything as big and highly anticipated as Dark Knight Rises will always exist. Either way, I appreciate the third Nolan Batman movie because of its scale and scope; similar to how I love big rock ‘n roll albums. I love when artists just effin’ go for it and with Dark Knight Rises, Nolan went for it.

6. Batman (1966)

Props where props are due. It’s not the best Batman movie out there, but it’s the granddaddy of them. That’s worth something.

7. Justice League (The Snyder Cut)

It’s better than the original and yes, that’s not saying a lot but it’s saying something. I did kind of enjoy watching it and also am cool with never watching it again.

8. Batman Forever

Michael Keaton bailed, so enter Val Kilmer. Val Kilmer? Yeah. Also, Tim Burton exited stage left, resulting in Joel Schumacher entering stage right. And then Robin shows up and all the doom and gloom is replaced by enough LED lights to rival an EDM show shot through an industrial-sized leaf blower.

In a pile of dung, Jim Carrey as the Riddler perhaps comes out the cleanest. Although that’s not saying much.

9. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Dear God this movie is bad. Like, so bad. So incredibly bad. It’s so bad that even hate-watching it is out of the question. Are there any positives that can be taken away, any at all?

(thinks for a moment)

Yeah, no. None.

10. Batman and Robin

Val Kilmer bailed. Enter George Clooney. GEORGE CLOONEY? And Bat Girl? I don’t know if I’ve ever even finished this effin’ movie.


1. Christian Bale

The Dark Knight RisesHe narrowly edges out Keaton. Why? Well, I’m not entirely sure why. I just think he was really good and did a great job.

Bale was also slightly more believable as Batman. However, I could barely understand a damn word he said when playing Batman. Enunciate damn it! How are you supposed to strike fear in the heart of the criminal element if they can’t understand what you’re saying? Confused? Yes. Scared? TBD.

2. Michael Keaton

The people’s Batman. A Batman we could all relate to. Not the strongest, just the smartest. Batman is a smart dude. Michael Keaton looks like a smart dude. I think it was an inspired choice.

3. Adam West

The O.G., so we give credit where credit is due, just like we gave the original Batman movie props where props are due.

4. Ben Affleck

The movies he was in were certainly terrible with The Snyder Cut being the exception but Affleck’s Batman wasn’t horrible. I kind of liked his older, grizzled version of Batman. I would have gladly watched a stand-alone Batfleck movie or two (something that SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED before Justice League by the way.)

5. Legos

Hey, we can’t leave out Lego Batman. And yes, he’s better than two other Batmen.

6. Val Kilmer

Awesome as Jim Morrison, not awesome as Batman.

Such is life.

7. George Clooney

The fact that Clooney’s turn as Batman didn’t completely torpedo his career is most likely a testament to his unstoppable charm and charisma than anything else. Batman might not be a superhero per se, but Clooney might be one for being able to not let this gig drag him down.


1. The One from Batman (1989)

batmobile-655x433Always been my favorite. It’s not the most practical one for city-livin’ and city-drivin’, but if we’ve learned anything these past years, it’s that Batman doesn’t do practical.

2. The One from Batman (1966)

i0135976719677.7003-655x288Seeing as how this Batmobile seemed to most likely roam the California countryside, a convertible makes complete sense. But when it rains? Well, that’s no good. The scenes where Batman tells Commissioner Gordon that sorry, they can’t save Gotham today due to inclement weather are notoriously absent from The West Era.

3. The One from the Dark Knight Trilogy

batcarNo side mirrors seem like a kind of liability. Gets bonus points for turning radius.

4. The One Batfleck Drove

It’s got the tank vibe from the Nolan movies, but the length of the Burton movies. Thankfully, it has absolutely nothing from the Schumacher movies.

5. The One from the Schumacher movies

history-of-the-batmobile-51373_5I knew this guy in college who installed black lights and flashing LED lights inside his car. I thought that was stupid. I think this version of the Batmobile is just as stupid. Let’s just save the black lights for the stoner college kids and the LED lights for the raver college kids, huh?


1. The Joker (The Dark Knight)

Related image

The Joker was never legitimately terrifying until this version of the Joker came along (and then Joaquin Phoenix took that up to 11.) A completely different Joker than the one in the 1989 Batman, Ledger’s Joker was more maniacal, more sadistic. Ledger’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actor has to go down as one of the most satisfying and deserved in recent years.

2. The Joker (Batman – 1989)

Joker_560x330This version of the Joker is slightly more traditional, more on par with what we had thought the Joker was. Which Joker is better in your opinion, Nicholson’s or Ledger’s most likely comes down to personal preference. There’s really no right or wrong answer.

Just kidding. There is a wrong answer. It’s Nicholson’s. I still love Nicholson’s Joker but it’s not better than Ledger’s. Nicholson’s Joker is like the Red Sox 2007 World Series title. A great achievement, but in the long run, completely overshadowed by the 2013 Championship.

3. Penguin (Batman Returns)

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Creepy, scary, unpredictable. Even the backstory they show for him is amazing. Probably the most underrated Batman movie villain.

4. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

Ranking_The_Top_10_Cinematic_Batman_Villains_1343319348Who cares if you could only understand half of what he said, he was a beast. Literally. Big shoes to fill, following in Heath Ledger’s clown shoe footprints, but Bane gets the job done. He was just a totally menacing dude.

5. Ra’s al Ghul (Batman Begins)

Who? Oh yeah, Liam Neeson’s angry kung fu master from the Himalayas. First place for facial hair, fifth in villain rankings.

6. Catwoman (Batman Returns)

Is she really a villain? Kind of, but tough to say. We’ll give it a maybe. But we’ll also give her a thumbs up.

7. Scarecrow (Batman Begins)

Definitely not the main villain in Batman Begins, but still an important one. He plays the fringe role well. He would, however, not be welcome at your next hippie festival.

batman-forever-jim-carrey-and-tommy-lee-jones8. Riddler (Batman Forever)

Uh…he wasn’t terrible.

9. Two-Face (Batman Forever)

Uh…he wasn’t half bad? (cue: rimshot)

10. Poison Ivy (Batman and Robin)

Uh…better than Mr. Freeze.

11. Mr. Freeze (Batman and Robin)

Uh…I don’t want to sound cold here but…

The Miscellaneous

1. Bob the Goon (Batman – 1989)


Bob didn’t say much and he didn’t have to. Gunslinger, sidekick, amateur photographer, the eventual fall guy. There wasn’t much this guy couldn’t do.

2. The First Five Minutes of The Dark Knight

How do you make a massively eagerly anticipated movie that much more exciting? By ditching the formalities and getting right into it. To hell with table-setting and the like, Nolan starts his movies as soon as the lights in the theater dim.

I love the beginning of The Dark Knight every single time I see it. Nolan tried a similar thing in The Dark Knight Rises, yet it wasn’t nearly as cool. But that’s no dig on Nolan. There was no way he was going to have a better opening than he put together for The Dark Knight.

3. Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale (Batman – 1989)

batman-1989-kim-basingerOne of the big differences between the first run of Batman movies and the Nolan movies is a Bruce Wayne love interest. The 1989 Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman and Robin all had one. Vicki Vale was the trailblazer though and rocked the shit out of a beret, which is admittedly hard to do.

4. The Two-Face CGI (The Dark Knight)

Image result for two face dark knight

He doesn’t come into play until the movie’s third act and by then, Two-Face is a role player, ultimately a pawn in the Joker’s incredibly elaborate plan. But that’s not the story. The CGI job is the story. It’s effin’ the real deal, man. It puts the hatchet job they gave Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever to shame.

5. The Roof Top Scene (Batman – 1989)

There’s a right way and a wrong way to introduce Batman. This is the right way.

Nice kicks, too.

6. The Batman Warehouse Fight Scene (Batman v Superman)

I actually wasn’t even sure why Batman was in this warehouse but at the same time, eh, whatever. It’s pretty badass.

7. Anne Hathaway as Catwoman (The Dark Knight Rises)

Catwoman always seems to straddle the line between good and bad, whether it’s the comics or on screen. Hathaway’s Catwoman is no exception. Overall I’m neither a Hathaway fan nor a hater, but I thought she did a great job. I think that gal might have a future in cinema.

8. The Batwing (Batman – 1989)

Batplane_2Limited screen time, didn’t matter! The Batwing looked cool as hell in Batman.

But here’s the thing, did Bruce Wayne build that himself? I mean, I’m not going to tell you how to keep your identity a secret Bruce, but a contractor is going to remember building a plane shaped like a bat- especially when said plane is being piloted by an increasingly famous Batman.

Christopher Nolan definitely gets points for providing a back story for all of Batman’s toys.

Also, the Batwing gets dropped by one shot from the Joker’s gun. Looks are great and all, but you can’t sleep on functionality.

9. Batman’s First Appearance in The Dark Knight Rises

Again, there’s a right way and a wrong way when introducing Batman. This is once again the right way.

10. The Joker’s Gun (Batman – 1989)

Never mind trying to figure out what kind of gun manufacturer would even make such a thing, it took down the Batwing with one shot. Regardless of your thoughts on guns, that’s pretty impressive.

Note: guns suck.

11. The Gotham City of Batman (1989)

My favorite Gotham City- dark, dirty, depressing. Nolan’s Gothan always felt like Chicago. Burton made a Gotham that felt like nothing else.

Photos: Warner Bros


Categories: Movies

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2 replies

  1. I want to give a shout out to Alan Napier, from the TV series, for Best Alfred.

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