When Bob Kane and Bill Finger created The Batman for Detective Comics 27 in 1939, they probably had no idea that the Caped Crusader would become one of the most popular fictional characters of all time. In addition to his many comic book incarnations, Batman has appeared in tons of animated TV shows and movies, and of course, the classic Batman TV series in the 1960s. known for the 12 major live-action Batman appearances. But which of the Batman movies are the best?
With the latest movie, The Batman, making its online debut on HBO Max in the coming days, we’ve decided to rank all the live-action Batman movies from worst to best. Luckily, all but two of these Batman movies are also available to stream on HBO Max. You can also see a bunch of great Batman animated shows and movies on the service, and some of them are better than most of the movies on this list (Batman: The Animated Series and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm me come to mind).
Read more: The best HBO Max movies
Just a quick note: we won’t list spin-off live-action movies on this list, like Catwoman or Joker, and we’ll safely ignore the two Batman Saturday Afternoon series that were made in the 1940s. Both are just plain awful, and the first Batman series has some really offensive racial themes.
When and where can I watch The Batman at home?
HBO Max will make The Batman available to stream starting Monday, April 18. For old-school viewers, the film will debut on HBO at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 23. You can sign up for HBO Max at the link below:
HBO Max is your home for movies and TV shows made by Warner Bros like The Lord of the Rings, DC Comics superheroes, and more. It’s also the home of new and original movies and shows not available anywhere else.
The best Batman movies
12. Batman and Robin (1997)
Oh man. Joel Schumacher’s second and final time directing a Batman movie is a total and complete disaster. It looks and feels like an extended ad for figures and vehicles. Even George Clooney has distanced himself from his one and only time playing Batman. Everyone in this movie looks like they’re just there to get a paycheck. The only way to watch this movie is at home with a bunch of friends, all laughing at this unfunny wreck of a movie.
11. Justice League (2017)
This Batman movie is also pretty skippable, but only because there’s a much better version you can watch (more on that later). While Zack Snyder is credited as director, the vast majority of this movie was re-written and directed by Joss Whedon just months before it hit theaters. It shows, as the whole movie feels disjointed and put together with strings and tape. The Justice League characters team up to fight an alien threat on Earth and also to resurrect Superman. At least in this movie, Ben Affleck is trying to put on a good performance as Batman, just like the rest of the cast. But again, there’s no reason to watch this version of the movie.
10. Batman Forever (1995)
Joel Schumacher’s first Batman movie isn’t the disaster Batman and Robin turned out to be, but it’s not much better either. Nicole Kidman is wasted as Batman’s romantic interest, and Tommy Lee Jones is just doing a Jack Nicholson-Joker impersonation as Two-Face. Val Kilmer, in his only Batman appearance, is doing well, as is Chris O’Donnell in his first of two Robin appearances. The main reason this movie is watchable is Jim Carrey as The Riddler. He’s funny, over the top, and clearly having the time of his life playing a comic book villain.
After the success of the first season of the Batman TV show in 1966, it was decided to quickly make a feature film that would be released between seasons 1 and 2. This makes it the first real Batman movie. Adam West and Burt Ward do their usual fun performances as Batman and Robin, who are tasked with taking down no less than four villains (Joker, Penguin, Ridder, and Catwoman). While it’s not exactly a big movie, it’s an entertaining action-comedy that should keep kids excited, while giving enough audience winks to satisfy adults. And, yes, Batman running around with a bomb about to explode is priceless.
8. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Serving as the sequel to 2013’s Superman Man of Steel reboot, Zack Snyder introduces us to Ben Affleck’s older version of Batman in this film. He’s great as a brooding force who sees Superman as a planetary threat. Most of the actors do a good job here, but the film suffers from two problems. One is Jesse Eisenberg’s terrible performance as Lex Luthor, and the second is a final battle as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman take on a gruesome CGI version of Superman’s ultimate enemy, Doomsday.
7. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
After an outcry from fans wanting to see the “Snyder cut” of Justice League, Zack Snyder was allowed to go back and put together his version of this superhero team as an HBO Max exclusive. Yes, this movie is four hours long, but it doesn’t feel like a chore to watch. There are plenty of great character sequences from Ben Affleck and the others in the cast, and the enhanced visual effects work well. It’s a shame that Snyder felt the need to film a whole new sequence for the ending of the film which is set in a dystopian future. It just doesn’t work, especially with Jared Leto’s version of the Joker.
6. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The third and final film in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is also his weakest. This time, Batman must face that movie’s version of Bane. Played by Tom Hardy, he is certainly the villain with whom Christian Bale’s Batman has the most physical difficulty. After defeating Batman, Bane essentially takes over Gotham City and the rest of the world, and Batman must recover from his injuries to return for the final battle. Unlike Nolan’s first two Batman films, this one feels a bit too long to sit down, and Anne Hathaway’s strong performance as Catwoman feels wasted in this film. However, it’s still fun to watch.
The second and final time Tim Burton directs one of the Batman movies gets much darker and more grown up than his first outing. This is largely due to Danny DeVito’s performance as a mutated version of The Penguin. Michael Keaton is a bit calmer and more thoughtful in his second Batman appearance. The best performance by far goes to Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, who is perfectly balanced between good and evil. That costume she’s wearing is pretty cool too.
The first of the Batman movies to be directed by Christopher Nolan, it’s also the only one on this list that offers an expanded origin story for the Caped Crusader. Christian Bale does a great job portraying a young Bruce Wayne who wants to learn as much about crime-fighting as possible so he can return to Gotham City and make it a better place. Liam Neeson also does a good job, playing (at first) a mentor to Bruce Wayne, and Cillian Murphy steals every scene he’s in as this movie’s version of Scarecrow.
When Michael Keaton was first announced to be playing Batman for this film, many people wondered why this comedic actor won the role. In the end, they needn’t have worried: Keaton is great as both Batman and Bruce Wayne in the first of two Tim Burton-directed movies. He also does what many might have thought was impossible: he stands up to Jack Nicholson, who was really the only person who could have played the Joker at the time. This movie, while mostly serious and dark, has enough levity to keep it from getting too austere.
Batman’s latest live-action feature looks like a modern Batman comic that’s jumped off the pages and onto the screen. Robert Pattinson is great as a younger version of Batman, and this character actually does a lot of detective work in this film, which has only been touched on in the previous films. He has to solve some mysteries as he has to deal with the much darker version of Paul Dano’s Riddler. We also get Colin Farrell’s high crime lord version of The Penguin (under unrecognizable makeup) and Zoë Kravitz gave us perhaps the best performance of Catwoman ever. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait long for director Matt Reeves to make a sequel.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
While The Batman is the closest film to a faithful adaptation of the comic book version, Christopher Nolan’s second outing as director of the Batman films is still the best as an actual film. Much of this is due to the late Heath Ledger and his Oscar-winning performance as the Joker. His portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime as an agent of chaos is spot on. Aaron Eckhart is almost as good as DA Harvey Dent, who turns into Two-Face. The themes of personal privacy and security rather than freedom are well handled here and it really feels like Batman could be operating in the real world.
The future of the Batman movies
Although Warner Bros. has yet to announce plans to make a sequel to The Batman, we expect that news to be made official any day now. However, we also know that Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton’s versions of Batman will appear in the multiverse-themed movie The Flash, which is due to hit theaters on June 23, 2023.
However, we might see Keaton’s Batman even sooner. He is rumored to appear in Batgirl, the spin-off movie currently in production and set to release as an HBO Max exclusive movie in late 2022.