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The Purple Quill

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The Purple Quill

The online student news site of Elder High School

The Purple Quill

The definitive ranking of every Batman movie

Objectively ranking every movie starring The Batman.

For over nine decades, the caped crusader Batman has entertained audiences in various media forms. Still, there’s no denying that Batman movies are the most iconic and popular among them. From Tim Burton’s gothic vision to Christopher Nolan’s gritty realism, Batman has been reimagined and reinvented time and time again. With so many Batman movies out there, determining which is the best can be challenging, but once the character of Batman is understood, the rankings become glaringly obvious. 

To summarize, Batman is a fictional DC Comics superhero. The character was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, and he first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. Batman’s secret identity is Bruce Wayne, a wealthy American playboy, philanthropist, and owner of Wayne Enterprises. As a child, Bruce witnessed the murder of his parents and swore vengeance against criminals. Wayne trains himself to near human perfection, physically and intellectually, and dons a bat-themed costume to fight crime.

What are the criteria for a good Batman movie? Batman movies should all have core components that any self-respecting Batman portrayal must respect. Foremost, all Batman movies should be good movies in their respective genres, using classic film elements such as good cinematography, music, editing, themes, pacing, acting, etc. 

Additionally, Batman movies need to understand the hero Batman and his morals and qualities. This could be a whole essay in itself, but Batman doesn’t kill people because he knows the inestimable value of human life. “[Batman’s] parents were killed right in front of him. Batman would never kill because in the tragedy that crafted Batman himself, Bruce determined that the worst thing anyone could ever do is take a life” (Alex Jaffe, DC). 

While most superheroes’ personas are not their true identities, Bruce Wayne is Batman’s actual disguise. Bruce Wayne should be an outrageously grandiose, self-centered womanizer, while Batman should be a symbol of hope, inspiration, and an ideal to strive for. A good Batman and a good Bruce Wayne are necessary for a Batman film, for both are almost different characters. 

Finally, Batman should at least be competent in every scene he’s in. Batman is a crime-fighting detective who always strives to solve even the most complex cases. Although he may be caught off guard or taken by surprise occasionally, Batman should consistently demonstrate intelligence and the ability to think on his feet. The little things like piecing together clues make Batman a remarkable character, which sets him apart from others who may appear incompetent.

Now that a rough idea of what makes a good Batman film has been established, what Batman films qualify? Any film released in theaters nationally with Batman or any of his other aliases in the title will be considered in the rankings, so only films with Batman as the main character will be ranked. Additionally, the film must be over 1 hour and 30 minutes long, so no short Batman animated films—sorry Mask of the Phantasm.

11. Batman and Robin

This movie feels like a fever dream. Everything that happens in this film makes the viewer question whether they’re hallucinating and whether Batman and Robin is a form of psychosis. Batman and Robin finds Batman (George Clooney) and his partner, Robin (Chris O’Donnell), attempting to foil Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), as Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone) joins the Batgang. Batman and Robin is poorly written, lacks character work, and tackles too much content for one film. Batman is incompetent and becomes incapacitated by actions such as getting hit by a door. Mr. Freeze’s plan to earn money to unfreeze his wife makes no sense. He plans to steal diamonds and blackmail the government into giving him money for the diamonds; why doesn’t he just steal the money or sell the diamonds? Poison Ivy is here for some reason, and nothing she does makes sense. This movie also tries to tackle the inevitability of death. It bounces from goofy to semi-serious in a way that gives the viewer whiplash, and this is probably one of the worst superhero films ever made. 

10. Batman vs Superman

Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman makes viewers question whether Snyder likes Batman or Superman. Convinced that Superman (Henry Cavill) is now a threat to humanity, Batman (Ben Affleck) starts a mission to kill him. At the same time, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) also tries to kill Superman. In this film, Batman loses all nuance and is distilled into an angry punching machine. Snyder continues comparing this dark, murderous Superman to Jesus, which is lazy and inaccurate. Jesse Eisenberg’s performance can only be described as cringe. This movie is boring. Lex Luthor’s plan makes no sense; what is his obsession with having Batman fight Superman? Both of them want to kill Superman, why don’t they team up? This gray-scale snoozefest movie tries to make the viewer deeply question the limits of Superman’s murders while Batman is murdering people the whole movie. The only highlights of this film are the action and the occasional badass line.

9. The Dark Knight Rises

Having The Dark Knight Rises so close to Batman vs. Superman feels disrespectful, but critics on Rotten Tomatoes have this movie at 87% fresh. It should be closer to 50%. In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman (Christian Bale) assumes responsibility for Harvey Dent’s death and goes into exile. However, the arrival of Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and a terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy) forces Batman back into action. While this isn’t a bad movie, some parts of this film don’t work. Christopher Nolan almost seems embarrassed to be making a Batman movie, relegating Batman to a side character in his own film. Alfred’s sudden obsession with marriage and turning on Bruce is ridiculous and makes no sense. This movie lacks the pacing and tension seen in its predecessor The Dark Knight. The action is some of the blandest in any modern superhero movie, but this movie does pick up pace and become more enjoyable after the halfway mark. While The Dark Knight Rises may be a slightly better film than those ahead, it just doesn’t feel like a Batman movie.

8. Batman Returns

Tim Burton’s Batman Returns is fun, but just a little too much Tim Burton. The Penguin (Danny DeVito) teams up with businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) to topple Batman (Michael Keaton) once and for all. But when Shreck’s assistant, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), discovers his plan, Shreck tries to kill her. This movie is a lot of goofy fun. Batman is essentially down bad for Catwoman, and Penguin is running for Mayor, but Tim Burton created the villain Max Schreck to be in this movie for some reason, and no one knows why he is here. Schreck adds nothing to the story, and more Penguin could easily replace him. Micheal Keaton’s Batman and Bruce Wayne are vanilla, and Batman solves Penguin’s simple plan with minimal murder. The best parts of this film focus on Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and Danny Devito’s Penguin, who give it their all in every scene. 

7. Batman Forever 

Ignore some critics; Batman Forever is where things start to get decent. In many ways, this is the campy film Batman and Robin wanted to be. Batman (Val Kilmer) faces off against the former District Attorney Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), and the Riddler (Jim Carrey), a disgruntled ex-Wayne Enterprises inventor. Additionally, Batman starts a romance with psychologist Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman). In Batman Forever, Val Kilmer’s Batman is surprisingly good; Kilmer somehow balances being campy while still trying to be cool. Jim Carrey’s and Tommy Lee Jones’ pairing as a dynamic villainous duo works so well. Jim Carrey’s Riddler is one of the best Batman villain performances ever; Jim Carrey’s sarcasm is somehow more sarcastic. The romance scenes with Nicole Kidman are so ridiculous that they are amazing. This film’s issues result from excessive Dutch angles, the inclusion of Robin, and a lack of emotions, but Seal‘s Kiss From a Rose is still hilarious: why is this song in a Batman movie?

6. Batman Begins

What a solid flick. Batman Begins is a strong foundation for one of the greatest superhero trilogies ever, but it isn’t unique enough to move higher up the list. A young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels to the Far East, where he’s trained by a secretly villainous Ra’s al Guhl (Liam Neeson). With the help of Alfred (Michael Caine), his loyal butler, and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), a tech expert at Wayne Enterprises. Is Batman Begins formulaic and predictable? Yes, but it doesn’t mean it’s terrible. All of the performances are great. The grounded story and core theme of fear are explored well. Christian Bale’s Batman is serious and menacing; his Bruce Wayne is probably the best Bruce Wayne ever in a film. The only major gripe with this film is Katie Holmes’ Rachel Dawes. It’s a little bland but well-paced, a decent bit of fun, and a good starting point for a Batman trilogy. However, Batman shouldn’t have killed Ra’s al Ghul.

5. Batman ’66 

This list is now officially controversial. This ranking does not give extra points to dramas over comedies, and Batman ’66 might be the greatest absurdist comedy ever made. Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) battle sharks, Catwoman, The Joker, and The Riddler on the big screen as they try to prevent the bad guys from taking over the world. Batman ’66 is wild, from the shark-repellent Batspray to Cesar Romero’s painted-over Joker mustache. A viewer might think that this campiness is a product of the 1960s, but the people making this film knew what they were doing. Adam West’s Batman, who plays everything straight and makes absurd jumps in logic, is hilarious. The villains aren’t even evil, just mildly inconveniencing. This movie’s only downtime is when it tries to tell a story. Batman ’66 is so insanely inaccurate in its portrayal of Batman and all the other characters it somehow ends up being a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece that still holds up nearly 60 years later. 

4. The Lego Batman Movie

Wow, this ranking really does not favor dramas. The Lego Batman Movie is one of the funniest animated comedies ever made and offers a sound character arc for Batman. Batman (Will Arnett) wants to save the city from the Joker (Zach Galifianakis). Meanwhile, his new superhero sidekick, Robin (Michael Cera), and loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) try to show him more about himself. The Lego Batman Movie is incredibly funny but also surprisingly poignant. The writers of this film understand Batman better than most live-action Batman movies. It tackles Batman being more than just a brooding assassin and shows Batman warming up and learning to accept the Batgang as family. The performances, especially Micheal Cera’s, are outstanding. The Lego Batman Movie is at its best when it focuses on Batman characters, and Batman doesn’t kill anyone in this movie. The Lego Batman has no right being this good.

3. Batman ’89

Batman ’89 goes hard. From the art direction to the killer soundtrack, this movie has a unique swagger. When “The Joker” (Jack Nicholson) seizes control of Gotham’s criminal underworld, Batman (Michael Keaton) must face him while protecting both his identity and his love interest, reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger). Tim Burton introduces the first edgy Batman to the general public in a convincing way. Micheal Keaton’s Batman is kind of cool, but his Bruce Wayne is close to the best of all time. Keaton’s romance with Basinger is the best Batman romance ever in a movie, and they have plenty of chemistry. While Jack Nicholson’s Joker is not traditional, it works very well within the story’s context. Watching Batman ’89 in 2024 may make it feel very predictable, but back in 1989, when no one knew this darker version of the character, it was more compelling. Still, Batman kills in this movie, which is always wrong. 

2. The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is a near perfect film. Is it number one on practically the whole world’s list? Yes, but this review has the courage, or maybe the stupidity, to put it at the two slot. With the help of allies Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman (Christian Bale) has been working to end crime in Gotham City, but a mysterious clown calling himself the Joker (Heath Ledger) suddenly throws the city into chaos. The Dark Knight smashed box offices in 2008, and it did it for good reason. The Dark Knight is a perfectly crafted crime thriller with expert pacing and some of the best acting ever in a film. Although it’s been said a million times, Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is the greatest villain performance ever in a movie. Ledger’s Joker is psychopathic, intelligent, and surprisingly funny. Joker’s dog chasing cars monologue is so good it tricks the viewer into believing what he is saying. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a huge step up from Katie Holmes, and Eckhart’s Dent is an Oscar worthy portrayal. The issues for The Dark Knight are issues with Nolan’s Batman. Batman isn’t relegated to a side character, but his character is diminished in the story. The biggest moments of this film are dedicated to Ledger’s Joker. Batman doesn’t have a Batcave, doesn’t solve a crime, and he still kind of kills people. Batman doesn’t really have a character arc, instead, Joker’s arc of inspiration from Batman takes the center stage. “[T]here were many long stretches during which I didn’t even realize it was a superhero movie” (Glenn Kenny, MUBI). This is precisely the reason The Dark Knight isn’t going number one. There needs to be more Batman elements in a perfect Batman movie, and while The Dark Knight is one of the greatest films ever made, it falls ever so short in the perfect Batman film category.

1. The Batman

This is it. It took ten films, but The Batman finally gives audiences a definitive on-screen Batman. Batman (Robert Pattinson) ventures into Gotham City’s underworld with Lt. James Gordon (Jeffery Wright) when a sadistic killer, the Riddler (Paul Dano) leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. Batman must forge new relationships with Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) and the Penguin (Colin Farrell), to unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption. Everything a true Batman fan has ever asked for is in this film. The film is arguably the best shot superhero movie ever; the movie does a great job keeping things dark and blurry without the viewer losing a sense of clarity. The atmosphere in this movie, like Batman ’89, gives so much unique swagger and identity to this film. Batman is so menacing and cool, and The Batman captures how truly terrifying Batman is. Critics of this film will say it’s too long and self-indulgent. While normally less is more, this film isn’t trying to be a thriller like The Dark Knight. Instead, it stands as a murder mystery that takes a while to solve. The three hour run-time effectively flushes out familiar characters showing the viewer their motivations. Kravitz’s Kyle is the only Batman love interest that carries emotional weight. Paul Dano is still at the top of his game, and The Batman proves he can pull off an actually scary interpretation of the Riddler. Colin Farrell is still insane at acting; most people saw the Penguin in this movie and didn’t even know it was Colin Farrell. Pattinson’s Batman is the perfect on screen interpretation of the character, for he doesn’t kill and solves crimes. While Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne is a little to reclusive to be the perfect Bruce Wayne, his interpretation still fits the film. Most importantly, Batman has a character arc. Batman starts the movie scaring the man he is trying to save, and at the end of the movie a girl is holding onto him for dear life. This is a story where Batman learns more than just vengeance and becomes that beacon of hope that every Batman movie talks about. This movie’s dry humor is really funny, and it doesn’t feel embarrassed to be a comic-book movie. The Batman is the definitive onscreen interpretation of the character, and is made by people who get Batman, making it the greatest Batman movie ever made.

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Noah Tauber '26
Noah Tauber '26, Staff Writer
"You're looking at the reflection of perfection. You're looking at the man who gets all your attention. You're looking at the man with the biggest arm. At the man, with the greatest charm, the man who's gonna do a lot of harm." - Chael Sonnen
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