Critics' Picks: All 12 Batman Films Ranked Worst to Best

3:27 PM 3/23/2016

by John DeFore and Jordan Mintzer

Two THR film critics rank all the Batman films and spinoffs, from the worst (sorry, Halle Berry) to the best (featuring Heath Ledger's indelible Joker).

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  1. 12
    12

    Catwoman

    2004

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    Strike one: Halle Berry was donning shredded pleather in the wake of Michelle Pfeiffer, who made Catwoman her own in Batman Returns and should really have had a spinoff to herself. Strike two: This character, brought to life by some Ancient Egypt mumbo jumbo, bore nearly no resemblance to the mortal-just-like-Batman figure in the comics. Strike three: Despite putting his lead in one skimpy S&M-lite outfit after another, director Pitof couldn't make the film sexy.

  2. 11
    12

    Batman & Robin

    1997

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    For some, the words "bat-nipples" say it all. Joel Schumacher's second outing (starring George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell) killed the franchise, with production design like a Broadway musical and a winky approach just steps away from the jokey vibe of the '60s TV show. If the movie itself wasn't bad enough, let's nitpick the title: Why was the second movie featuring Robin given this name, when (given the introduction of Alicia Silverstone's lady crimefighter) it logically should have been Batman & Robin Meet Batgirl? Or Batman & Robin Will Be Embarrassed for a Long Time?

  3. 10
    12

    Batman Forever

    1995

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    Not so much a guarantee of eternal life as the beginning of the end, Forever seemed to tacitly apologize for earlier outings that took Batman seriously — amping up the candy colors, replacing our dark hero with a blond (Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne?!), and introducing Robin, the sidekick the comics have tried to kill off a hundred times.

  4. 9
    12

    Robin's Big Date

    2005

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    Not since Burt Ward has an actor had a take on Batman's who-needs-him sidekick as appropriate as Justin Long's in this goofy parody, a James Duffy-directed short in which Sam Rockwell's sleazy Bats thwarts his young ward's efforts to woo women at a wine bar. "So, sweetie, you want a date with the Boy Wonder? Or as The Penguin said — quite cleverly, I might add — the Boy Blunder?"

  5. 8
    12

    Batman: Dead End

    2003

    Two years before Christopher Nolan reimagined the masked detective, a Hollywood FX artist named Sandy Collora made this earnest and influential fan film, full of drizzle and billowing steam. The eight-minute short veers into geek fantasy midway through, pitting Bats against villains from the Alien and Predator franchises, but its stripped-down costuming and straight-faced performances reflect fans' fervent wish for Hollywood to treat the hero as respectfully as they do.

  6. 7
    12

    Batman: The Movie

    1966

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    A delightful cultural artifact that really exists in its own world, this big-screen predecessor of the ABC TV show is less adaptation than Roy Lichtenstein-like appropriation. Sure, the licensing is in place, but this ain't Batman any more than that pompous buffoon in The Lego Movie is. Adam West's bat-tongue-in-cheek self-importance holds together an entertainingly campy production that quickly spun off into a cliffhanger-centric series.

  7. 6
    12

    Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

    1993

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    Is it strange that cartoons often took Batman more seriously than live-action productions did? This feature spinoff of Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski's Batman: The Animated Series was embraced by die-hards; some have gone so far as to call it the most definitive version of the hero beyond the comics' pages. And casting him as the voice of the Joker for the first time, this series gave Mark Hamill something to do in the long decades between Luke Skywalker gigs.

  8. 5
    12

    Batman

    1989

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    A cultural phenomenon that took over the world at the close of the '80s, Tim Burton's film offered a vision of the Caped Crusader (played by Michael Keaton) much grimmer than casual fans had ever seen onscreen but which fanboys — who had watched as Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli transformed him in print — could take seriously. Danny Elfman's score, a gothic fantasia perfect for swooping from rooftops and perching behind gargoyles, helped keep the extravagant action from veering into camp.

  9. 4
    12

    The Dark Knight Rises

    2012

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    After getting so serious in The Dark Knight, Nolan and his team got a bit ludicrous in this ambitiously uneven conclusion to a trilogy that would reshape the comic book genre for years to come. There are some great things here (Tom Hardy’s Bane, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman) and some not so great things (Bane’s indistinct garble, Marion Cotillard’s death scene). The weakest of the three, The Dark Knight Rises (with Christian Bale as Batman) still rises above most superhero screen fodder.

  10. 3
    12

    Batman Returns

    1992

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    Truer to Tim Burton's dark vision than its predecessor, this second Michael Keaton installment stepped back from Pop Art and Jack Nicholson's hammy Joker, introducing an oily Penguin (Danny DeVito) and a Catwoman, Michelle Pfeiffer, who made us forget that no fewer than three actresses made the role their own when playing against Adam West's Bats.

  11. 2
    12

    Batman Begins

    2005

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    Christopher Nolan was not yet a household name when Warner Bros. hired him to reboot a franchise that had hit rock bottom in 1997 with Batman & Robin. What he delivered was a gritty, globetrotting origin story, defying expectations while channeling the haunting world of a classic film noir. As the billionaire orphan turned caped crusader, Christian Bale brought his own brand of tormented chic, while Michael Caine, as Alfred, brought the class.

  12. 1
    12

    The Dark Knight

    2008

    When it first hit screens in July 2008, The Dark Knight immediately raised the bar on a genre known mostly for its unfettered use of CGI and its inescapable cheese factor. With this breakthrough follow-up to his own Batman reboot, Christopher Nolan invented a new kind of superhero movie — a dark, realistic crime thriller steeped in the worlds of Michael Mann and Fritz Lang, with a plot grounded in post-9/11 hysteria. As sequels go, it rarely gets better. And as villains go, the late Heath Ledger’s Joker is one for the ages.

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