BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — “The Batman” is the latest feature film featuring the crime-fighting character who has been gracing comic books since 1939. The release of the latest version comes almost 79 years after Lewis Wilson portrayed the Caped Crusader in the first film adaptation of the comic, “The Batman.”
There was a delay caused by the pandemic getting this version with Robert Pattinson under the cowl to theaters but it arrives and that will trigger new arguments as to which are the best Batman movies. Here is the ranking of Batman movies including where the new movie stacks up in the long history of the franchise.
Please note that only films that focused mainly on Batman have been included. Productions such as “The Justice League” or “Joker” were not considered. Also, there is a long list of animated Batman movies that have not been included with the exception of one with “Batman: The Long Halloween.” It earned a spot because it is superior to most of the live-action offerings.
1. “The Dark Knight” (2008): Why be so serious about this film? That’s because superhero movies are only as good as their villains and no one has done a better job playing evil than Heath Ledger as the Joker. His sterling work is matched by Christian Bale’s best performance as Batman and a strong performance by Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face.
2. “Batman Begins” (2005): Christian Bale’s gravelly-voiced portrayal of Batman being torn between inwardly hating himself and externally trying to adjust to the mantle of being a hero is the most on-target portrayal of Batman so far in films. Christopher Nolan’s dark visual style was not used as a gimmick in the way Tim Burton designed his film but provides a backdrop that falls between insanity and dystopian.
2. “Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One and Part Two” (2021): This animated version of the much-heralded series of Batman comics from the mid-1990s from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale eclipses any of the live versions of Batman. A holiday-linked story results in Batman, Police Captain James Gordan and District Attorney Harvey Dent joining forces to take down The Roman, head of the notorious and powerful Falcone Crime Family. There’s also a famous Batman villain who laughingly arrives to make matters worse. The two halves were released on DVD and Blu-ray.
3. “Batman” (1989): The world wondered if the lack of a strong jawline would keep Michael Keaton from being a good Batman. It didn’t matter because the real star of the film was the dark and quirky design courtesy of director Tim Burton. A wild-eyed Jack Nicholson as the Joker was also a good distraction. This film is the bedrock on which any Batman film since then has been built.
4. “The Batman” (2022): The brooding performance by Robert Pattinson and a depressingly dark visual style by director Matt Reeves are the high points of this battle between Batman and The Riddler. This production would have moved up a spot if the story had not been so bloated and the villains more interesting.
5. “Batman: The Movie” (1966): Holy nostalgia! Of course the film with Adam West in the starring role was campy and corny. But director Larry H. Martinson inherited the structure from the TV series. It gets points for being the real starting point for the Batman franchise.
6. “Batman Returns” (1992): Michael Keaton comes across as more comfortable in the costume and Tim Burton expands on the bizarre nature he used in “Batman” (despite the fact he had not planned on directing a sequel). Bonus points go to Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito for their performances as Catwoman and The Penguin.
7. “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012): All three of the Batman movies by Christopher Nolan are good but the fact the director was not excited about doing a third movie shows. The film gets caught up in Batman’s reclusive ways and Bane is not very interesting as a villain.
8. “Batman Forever” (1995): Too many over-the-top villains canceled out anything Val Kilmer brought to the role. Jim Carey’s Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face were so broad it is a wonder their pictures fit on the movie poster.
9. “Batman and Robin” (1997): The major weakness of the film – other than some weird costume options – is that George Clooney always looks more comfortable as Bruce Wayne than he does as Batman. Almost as bad is how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of Mr. Freeze comes across campier than Otto Preminger’s work as the icy villain in the ‘60s “Batman” TV series
10. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016): Ben Affleck’s lifeless performance almost killed the franchise. Granted, Batman is brooding and sullen but Affleck played the role as being more annoying and uncaring. That’s not the same thing. Zack Snyder didn’t help as the film featured a forgettable villain and story holes you could drive the Batmobile through.