We've arrived at the 30th anniversary of the release of Tim Burton's "Batman," the film that you could argue ushered in the modern age of big screen superheroes. But whether or not you agree with that idea, you can rest assured that you will almost certainly disagree with our rankings of all the Batman movies. Because that's just how these things go.
15. "Batman and Robin" (1949) is just an abysmal experience, with a bad lead actor wearing a floppy-eared Batsuit. Though The Wizard, a villain original to this serial, is admittedly cool looking, it's not enough to stem the boredom in this four-hour slog.
14. "Batman" (1943) gets points for novelty thanks to its hilariously over-the-top old fashioned World War II racism. But Batman's first onscreen appearance lacks pretty much everything that would mark it as an engaging filmgoing experience today. It's cool that a grandfather clock provides the entrance to the Batcave, though.
13. "Justice League" (2017) is just total nonsense, and unlike "Batman v Superman" can't even boast a good performance from Affleck as Bruce Wayne. And it doesn't have the decency to be enjoyably bad like "Batman and Robin" or "The Dark Knight Rises."
12. "Batman and Robin" (1997) is rightly hated, but it's tremendously entertaining here and there. Uma Thurman
and Arnold Schwarzeneggar are going so far over the top I can't help but admire them.
11. "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012) probably wasn't intended to be a grim and gritty Shumacher Batmovie, but that is indeed what it is. This is Nolan going full Hollywood, smashing plot points into place by sheer force of will rather than because they make sense. An extremely theatrical Tom Hardy
as Bane is amusing front to back, and a nuke with a countdown clock on it will never get old.
10. "Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice" (2016) is nearly saved by Ben Affleck
going all-out as Bruce Wayne, but director Zack Snyder
just couldn't keep his plot on track. There's too much ground to cover, and the movie is too unfocused to ever really cover any of it.
9. "Batman" (1989) is fondly remembered mostly because it was the first Batmovie in a couple decades. It isn't actually very good, though. The reveal that a younger version of the Joker killed Bruce Wayne's parents is as hamfistedly dumb as it gets in a "Batman" movie.
8. "Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition" does so much to improve the experience of watching it that it warrants its own entry -- it's basically a completely different move with all the important story beats and character moments it adds.
7. "Batman Forever" (1995) hits just the right tone for what Joel Shumacher was trying to do with the two films he directed. Tommy Lee Jones
, as Two Face, is doing stuff in this movie that is hard to believe even today, given his perpetual sour face in nearly every other movie he's been in.
6. "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (1993) Remember that time they released a "Batman" cartoon theatrically? It gets lost amongst all the live-action ones, but "Mask of the Phantasm" is better than most of them.
5. "The Dark Knight" (2008) should be way shorter, but Heath Ledger
's Joker is far and away the best villain in any of these movies. Ledger elevates what would otherwise be just another self-indulgent Christopher Nolan
exercise into an endlessly watchable picture.
4. "The LEGO Batman Movie" (2017) is funny, sweet and self-deprecating -- exactly what we needed in the wake of the disaster that was "Batman v Superman."
3. "Batman Begins" (2005) is the most complete film, on its own, in the entire franchise. It's just, like, a regular movie except it's about Batman. It has actual characters and everything, and Christian Bale
's Bruce Wayne even has emotions. It's weird.
2. "Batman Returns" (1992) is one of the best of the franchise because it's really just a political thriller. The Penguin emerges from the sewer and runs for mayor of Gotham! It's great stuff, especially now that Donald Trump is president.
1. "Batman: The Movie" (1966) has a timelessness that none of the other films do, and it's just a delight from beginning to end thanks to Adam West
's winking Batman and the coalition of villains who can't stop cackling maniacally. Watching it again recently, I found it functions almost perfectly as a parody of the super-serious Christopher Nolan
Batfilms, which is incredible.