Back in May I ran a feature to coincide with the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past where I ranked the X-Men movies from worst to best. As it is Batman’s 75th anniversary I wanted to run a few features to celebrate the year of the Batman, and where better to start than with the various live action films?
The idea behind the feature is pretty self-explanatory, but in case you’re wondering I will run through all eight live action Batman in the order of how good I believe them to be. If you don’t agree with my choices, you can use the comments section to tell me how wrong I am, or simply use the poll at the bottom of the list to cast your own vote.
8. Batman and Robin
Batman and Robin is the absolute nadir of the Batman franchise. I’ve spoken at length in the past about why this is such an awful film, but for those of you who haven’t already seen my reasons, here are just a few. The terrible dialogue, the neon lit Gotham, the hammy acting especially from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze, the ridiculous plot and the way the entire film feels like a huge toy commercial are just a few reasons why Batman and Robin is at the bottom of this list.
7. Batman Forever
The seeds of awfulness that grew into the form of Batman and Robin were planted here, in Batman Forever. While Batman Forever may not compare to its sequel, it was obvious to anyone watching that the Bat franchise was on a downward spiral. Val Kilmer was a better Bruce Wayne than he was a Batman, while Chris O’Donnell’s Robin came across as annoying and unnecessary. The villains didn’t fare much better either, with Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey doing their best to see who can go more over the top in their scenes together. After two successful Tim Burton directed films, Batman Forever felt more like a camp Saturday morning cartoon, and we all suffered for it.
6. Batman (1966)
When watching either the Batman film from 1966 or the TV show that accompanied it, you need to take things with a serious pinch of salt. Both are known for their high levels of camp and Adam West’s Shatner esque performance of Batman. But as long as you don’t take things too seriously, and maybe have a drink or two along the way, then there’s some great fun to be had with this film. The invisible boat, the shark repellent bat spray and an exploding shark are all so over the top that it’s impossible not to enjoy this film. It also has the distinction of being the only live action Batman film to feature the Joker, Penguin, the Riddler and Catwoman all together on-screen.
5. Batman Returns
Directed by Tim Burton, Batman Returns is possibly the darkest of all the Batman movies. The movie introduced the Penguin (Danny DeVito), whose origin is even horrifying than Batman’s, and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) as the two villains who would bid to take down Michael Keaton’s Batman. Batman Returns is definitely more Burton than Batman, and his dark mind is all over this film.
4. The Dark Knight Rises
The final entry in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, is perhaps the weakest of his trilogy but is far from being a bad film. Two strong performances from Christian Bale and Tom Hardy anchored the film, while spirited young newcomers to the series Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt gave the film a further energy. The film also had a great emotional edge that made for a great ending to an outstanding trilogy.
3. Batman Begins
The first effort to be directed by Christopher Nolan, was by his most fun effort and also the most comic book in style of his Dark Knight trilogy. The film redefined the comic book genre and kick-started a whole new generations interest in Batman.
2. Batman (1989)
Tim Burton’s Batman is one of the first films I remember seeing on VHS, and it’s a film that has stuck with me ever since. The dark imagery, the almost noir style and an iconic performance by Jack Nicholson as the Joker make this one of the most memorable films in the Batman series.
1. The Dark Knight
What more can possibly be said about The Dark Knight? The film just works on so many levels. Heath Ledger’s iconic performance stands out, but there’s so much more going on here. The various themes of fear and escalation, along with terrorism and anarchy play throughout the film. While a strong cast bring out the best of the source material and make for not just one of the greatest comic book movies of all time, but also one of the greatest movies of all time in any genre.