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The Nerd Side Of Life

How We Rank 15 Batman Films, Including Animated

With the mega opening weekend of “The Batman,” all anyone can talk about is not just the film itself, but where it ranks among the rest of the film canon. Everything from villains to Batman himself and yes, even movies have all been ranked and ordered by just about everyone. So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em right? I’ve already ranked all of the live action Batmen, so it only felt right to also rank their films. For this one, I am going to sprinkle in a few animated features just to kind of round out the list and get us to an even 15 entries.

Yes, I am limiting the inclusion to 15 out of the some 44+ film entries that exist. We’d be here all day. And even for me, that’s a little too much Batman in a single sitting to rank.

If you want a more extensive ranking list, you can check out Dan Murrell’s ranking here. For the sake of this list (and my own personal sanity), I am including 3 animated entries and allowing “Justice League” and “The Snyder Cut” to exist as separate entires. Again, this is to get us to a nice, even 15 instead of 11 or 12 if they were to be subtracted. Honestly, there are so many different animated options to choose from it’s almost overwhelming, and it was essentially a ranking all on its own to pick the 3 that make the cut.

I think I made the right choices, but with so many to choose from you’ll understand if your favorite animated feature wasn’t included. A legitimate argument can be made for a majority of them, so it really comes down to personal preference and what I think stacks the best against the live action entries.

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So without further ado, here are all of the live action Batman films plus 3 animated features, ranked.

15. “Batman & Robin” (1997)

I think it’s fair to say that this is hands down one of the worst films in history, not just a failure for Batman. Sure, we get Arnold Schwarzenegger cramming in as many ice puns as you are legally allowed to deliver in a span of 90 minutes, but that just isn’t enough to quell this dumpster fire. Everything about this film feels like a parody of Batman instead of a continuation of an actual director’s vision. I mean, c’mon. Nipples on the Batsuit? And we really still thought it was a good idea to give Chris O’Donnell work, huh? This is a prime example of great actors in a terrible movie, and I’m sure they all regret it.

14. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)

Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” Warner Bros.

Speaking of regrets, “Batman v Superman” only escapes being dead last because the previous film was so bad. But truthfully, I wouldn’t fault anyone for switching these bottom two entries. Everything about this movie fails for me, and it is quite possibly one of the worst narrative disasters for a mega blockbuster I’ve ever had the misfortune of being forced to sit through. I genuinely hate this movie, and no it is not saved by The Ultimate Edition. The last thing anyone needs is MORE scenes of this train wreck. Yes, I’ve heard all of the arguments and hot takes that it’s actually a masterpiece, but I stand by my ranking. We actually don’t need to save Martha.

13. “Justice League” (2017)

“Justice League” Warner Bros.

At first glance, “Justice League” isn’t quite as bad as its ranking would suggest. However, with all of the now well documented on set notoriety and horrible antics that have come to light, a lot of extenuating circumstances taint the film enough to push it down to the bottom of the list. Now to be fair, the film isn’t really that good to begin with, and frankly doesn’t deserve to be in the same conversation as many of the others on the list. So even on its own merits, while I don’t HATE this film, it’s not really that great of film either.

12. “The Dark Knight Rises ” (2012)

“The Dark Knight Rises” Warner Bros.

Hot take number one: “The Dark Knight Rises” is a really bad film narratively speaking and falls apart completely as soon as Bane breaks Batman’s back. I have long stood by the notion that once Batman is broken in half, you can turn the movie off because nothing after that is worth watching. It is a convoluted mess, and while sure it looks good (because for all his arrogance and pretentiousness, Nolan sure knows how to compose a shot) that’s not enough to make it a good movie. It’s really not a good, complete film. While I will champion Tom Hardy‘s Bane with my dying breath, that isn’t enough for me to rank any higher than where it’s at.

11. “Batman Forever” (1995)

Jim Carrey as The Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face, “Batman Forever,” photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Objectively, “Batman Forever” is probably worse than most of the films above it. However, for all its faults and sometimes unwatchable overacting, it really goes for it, and creates it’s own aesthetic that’s hard to deny. Plus, it sports one of the best movie soundtracks of all time, and while that’s probably unfair to get a boost in the rankings for something that has nothing to do with the film itself, I still think that the film deserves to be just outside the top 10. It’s not a good movie by any means, but it is a fun movie, one that almost feels like it may be in on the joke. And yeah, 12 year old me had a field day with this one. So while there’s nothing more ridiculous than Chris O’Donnell drying his socks by using them as nunchucks, I am incapable of taking my nostalgia goggles off for this one.

10. “Batman The Movie” (1966)

Burt Ward, Adam West “Batman,” ABC archives

Speaking of nostalgia goggles, “Batman The Movie” sneaks into the top 10 by the skin of its teeth. I would argue that the first half of the film is everything you could want in the classic character, but the schtick does end up running its course around that time, proving that Adam West lead series is better served as an episodic release and not a full length film. It most certainly has its moments, and I have very fond childhood memories of all of the classic scenes “Batman The Movie” has to offer. I think ranking it number 10 is a good spot for a film like this. It’s not insulting while not skyrocketing to the top where I’m confident it doesn’t deserve to be.

9. “Justice League: The Snyder Cut” (2021)

“Justice League: The Snyder Cut” HBO Max

As much as I’ve rallied against Zack Snyder helming anything related to superheroes, and as much I begrudgingly woke up at the crack of dawn to watch this 4 hour affair, I don’t hate “Justice League: The Snyder Cut.” Is it too long? yes. Is it a little too ambitious for its own good? Absolutely. Is it more slo-mo than is ever necessary even for Snyder? You’re goddamn right. But it is also a much better film than the previous attempt, and while it’s not something I’ll ever sit down and watch again, I can give credit where credit is due and include it in the top 10.

8. “The LEGO Batman Movie” (2017)

“The Lego Batman Movie” Warner Bros.

If it weren’t for other films still to come on the list, I would rank “The LEGO Batman Movie” much higher. I genuinely adored this movie. It captures the balance of parody and homage perfectly, and the voice cast really knocks it out of the park. It’s just a really funny animated flick, one that doesn’t require a lot of brain power to enjoy and is loaded top to bottom with all kinds of wonderful easter eggs for Batman fans. I understand those that find the humor a little flat and incessant, but for me it works and I always enjoy rewatching this one whenever it comes on.

7. “Batman Begins” (2005)

Christian Bale “Batman Begins” Warner Bros.

As we get closer and closer to the top of the rankings, it becomes incredibly difficult to do them with any kind of conviction. Most of these could essentially be placed in any order, so don’t think that I’m fully beholden to this order. “Batman Begins” is good, and could probably be bumped up quite a bit by yourself and I wouldn’t really be the least bit bothered by it. While it did give us a revitalized theatrical Batman, and really delivers on a lot of what makes the hero great, “Begins” isn’t as memorable as I think we all want it to be. It is visually stunning, but I think there are just too many other Batman films that are better.

6. “The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and 2” (2013)

“The Dark Knight Returns part 2” Warner Bros.

Probably the least well known on the list and the only film to not have a theatrical release, this animated Frank Miller adaption is easily one of the best iterations of the character I’ve seen in a long time. Considering how good a lot of these animated features are, that’s a bold statement. But “The Dark Knight Returns” beautifully captures old man Batman in a way I don’t think we’ve ever really explored well enough. It does so many things right, including what some would consider the best elements of “Batman v Superman” better than Snyder ever could. Seriously, “Returns” is everything Warner Bros. wished “BvS” could be, and is truthfully one of the most engaging outings in the Batman mythos.

5. “The Dark Knight” (2008)

HBO Max

I know, I know. You stopped reading after seeing that “The Dark Knight” isn’t number one. And that ranking it any less than the greatest film ever made is an insult to all Batman sensibilities. For me, “The Dark Knight” is visually stunning, but it is solely powered by Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker and not much else. If you were to remove Ledger from the film, what you would be left with is a mess of a narrative with nothing but cool shots to keep you interested. I get that if you were to remove actors from anything it would change the film entirely, but I am ready to die on the hill that says that Ledger is the reason we hold TDK in such high esteem. You can hate me for this, that’s fine. And I won’t invalidate anyone that bumps this one higher in the rankings. Personally, I think all opinions, good or bad are justified.

4. “The Batman” (2022)

“The Batman” Warner Bros. Pictures

Despite my middle of the road feelings about “The Batman” in my review, there are 4 things that solidify this film’s placement as number 4. The first being that it is quite possibly one of the most gorgeous films in the Batman canon I’ve ever seen, with Fraser’s cinematography being second to none. Second, it highlights detective Batman, something a lot of other attempts have often failed at capturing. Third, it sports one of the most well rounded casts and performances so far, with everyone operating on such a high level that no one person makes or breaks the film. And lastly, we don’t see the goddamn Waynes die. That’s enough to bump it up a whole spot on the rankings, and I will not back down off that conviction.

3. “Batman Returns” (1992)

Danny DeVito as Penguin, “Batman Returns”

On any given day, I think these top 3 are interchangeable. I’m not committed to leaving “Batman Returns” as number 3, because it just so damn good and could easily be number one if I’m feeling frisky. Dark and visually purposeful, it’s hard to really find faults in such a terrific Batman film. The only thing that holds this one back is that Gotham feels small this time around. Everything feels so compact and boxed that it never really feels like a city that’s actually lived in. It is of course, but for all its grandiose ideas and larger than life characters, the world with which they are operating in feels tiny by comparison. That’s not say it isn’t great (because it absolutely is) just that it holds it back from being in the top two.

2. “Mask of the Phantasm” (1993)

I promise that I am of sound mind as you read that “Mask of the Phantasm” is number two and ranked ahead of the “The Dark Knight.” Remember, we’re in the top tier Batman outings and I’m not fully committed to any of these rankings. However, “Phantasm” is quite possibly one of the best and most underrated Batman outings to date. It is concise, purposeful, and tells a beautifully crafted story that doesn’t rely on villains like The Joker to be an engaging story. It reaches deep into the rogue gallery and tells an often untold story that lends to the complexity of the hero as a whole and his impact on those around him. It is truly incredible how much narrative depth this little animated film is able to mine from its story, and for that it deserves to be one of the best Batman films out there. I said what I said and I will not be pawed at.

1. “Batman” (1989)

This movie just has it all for me. One of the best Batmen to ever do it Michael Keaton, a Joker for the ages with Jack Nicholson, a revitalized, darker but purposeful art deco styling from Tim Burton, and a tightly wound, fast paced, forever quotable story. “Batman” really solidifies itself as being the reason we have the Batmans we have today. Nolan could never make his trilogy with this one. The animated features would not be able to explore so many unique stories without “Batman” ushering in a new era of Batman fandom. There are so many things that just don’t exist if “Batman” wasn’t as good as it is, and it really does set the precedent for everything that comes after it. It is the risk we all needed to really bring Batman to the forefront of film conversation, and for that it deserves to hold it’s championship spot.

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