With The Batman arriving shortly, I’m running down every Batman theatrical release since 89. Prepping my mind and body for the ultimate experience that is about to happen. The world is truly not ready for what’s about to go down in The Batman.
Some say there’s never been a “bad” Batman movie. Well, those were the exact words out of the newest member of the Bat-family, Robert Pattinson. He’s on record saying that he’s seen every Batman movie in theatres and that he thinks every Batman movie had a time and place and they all serve their own purpose in one way or another. I tend to agree to some degree, so that’s why I decide to run the gauntlet of Batman movies and see for myself. Starting with the only cartoon movie to make the list Batman: Mask of The Phantasm.
Batman: Mask of The Phantasm. Release Date: December 25th, 1993. Director: Eric Radomski & Bruce Timm. Box-Office: 5.6 Million.
The best Batman movie that no one has seen? This cartoon iteration, a spawn of the iconic and beloved Batman The Animated Series, tells the tale of Batman’s origin and the first and only love of his life. While showcasing the present day adventures of the Dark Knight. For a cartoon this movie explores mature themes and even feels like a mature movie.
When Bruce Wayne and Batman both get a blast from the past, they scramble to put the pieces of the puzzle that is his life together to help save Gotham and the woman he once loved Andrea Beaumont. Chasing a new threat in town, The Phantasm, they are picking off crime lords one by one, and making it seem like Batman is behind these crimes. We know Batman doesn’t kill, especially in the cartoons, debate the killing thing all you want. When his Bat life and personal life finally come to blows, he must decide what he ultimately wants in his life.
From his origin days, Bruce wanted nothing more than to strike fear in the criminals in Gotham and try to save the city. Until he almost gave up that life for Andrea. It’s a theme that is rarely explored, Batman giving up the mantle for a woman or for anything really. I love this movie because how the exploration of both Batman’s psyche and Bruce Wayne’s. Sprinkle in a little Joker action and we have an amazing Batman story on our hands. One of the best ones ever told through film and something the biggest Batman fans hold close to their heart.
A story that could work so well in live action and perhaps something we could get one day. It’s a reminder of how powerful the animated series was, and how ahead of its time it was. A flawless work of animation and Batman lore that was the launching pad for so many Batman stories and how the character was handled going forward. It was a total game changer and something I will continue to watch and rewatch for the rest of my life.
Score = 93/100
Batman. Release Date: June 19th, 1989. Director: Tim Burton. Box-Office: 411.6 Million
The Dark Knight of Gotham City begins his war on crime with his first major enemy being Jack Napier, a criminal who becomes the clownishly homicidal Joker.
A movie that defined a generation. Something fans at the time were waiting for, a serious take on the caped crusader. Moving on from the Adam West Batman, which at the time was loved and respected and appreciated, but as time wore on, fans wanted a more serious tone from their Batman. So in comes Michael Keaton and boy does he still smash it as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Sure, when you watch the Burton Batman movies they can feel a little outdated, but what do you expect for movies this old? He can’t really move in the suit, the action isn’t that great, but one thing this movie has going for it, terrific performances. Keaton and Nicholson (Joker) are so amazing in this movie, you don’t need all the big set pieces or fight sequences, because your enthralled with these two legends going at it.
Gotham City should almost feel like a character itself. That’s one thing Burton had down, the aesthetics of Gotham City and just how dull, dreary and gloomy it can be. Gotham should also feel timeless, in the sense you could watch it at any time and never truly know what era the movie takes place in. Burtons Batman movies have by far the best Gotham aspects and it’s one thing I’m really looking forward to in The Batman. Gotham feels like it has a personality and a real identity as it should. The city almost makes the people living in it, so it only makes sense to have it represent the evil that dwells within it.
A booming soundtrack, an epic and emotional score, a wicked Bat-Mobile, pieces were here, and everything just clicked into place for this movie. Some how it just always feels like it’s missing something. Whether that’s one big action fight scene, there are a few sprinkled in, but nothing that knocks your socks off, or that just Batman as cool as he is, can’t truly come out of his shell, because he’s held back by filming. Burton was in his heyday but technically comic book movies just aren’t what they can be now, they did the best they could, but at the end of the day, it’s what holds this film back.
Score = 84/100
Batman Returns. Release Date: June 19th, 1992. Director: Tim Burton. Box-Office: 266 Million
While Batman deals with a deformed man calling himself the Penguin wreaking havoc across Gotham with the help of a cruel businessman, a female employee of the latter becomes the Catwoman with her own vendetta.
What a sequel. It really changed so many things. You know who hated this movie? Moms. Thanks a lot Moms. Well, them and McDonald’s, apparently they had a hard time selling Happy Meals with the toy line from this movie. Maybe that’s why this movie made like no money?
Which is hard to believe, because some days, I think this could be my favourite Batman movie ever made. At times it certainly feels like the most “Batman” influence movie we have ever gotten. Burton ups the aesthetics with the sequel. Everything is bigger and brighter, the sets are more grandeur. We get some of the most iconic comic book performances across the board. Keaton returns has the Dark Knight, but Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer really steal the show. This is a dark and intense movie, and their performances match the tone perfectly. Pfeiffer’s transformation scene into Catwoman is one of the single best moments from any Batman movie. She’s tortured and just wants to find someone in her life, and when she finally does, she’s too broken to accept that good things can happen to her. As for DeVito, his take on Penguin certainly doesn’t get talked about enough. He’s immersed in the character and no one is really hamming it up here, this is all taken pretty seriously and that’s why for me, it works so well.
Even the already boisterous score is taken to another level, with such emotion behind it, that it elevates the movie. From the very get-go you understand that Burton is taking Batman and his entire world very seriously. Much like the movie that came before it, the only thing that holds it back, is the time it was made. The action does feel bigger, but this is a character driven story, not something that relies and leans on huge fights and non-stop action.
They always had plans to continue with Keaton, Burton and possibly even Pfeiffer, but something changed and it is one of the biggest what if’s in my mind. They wanted to cross over with Superman and potentially bring in Johnny Depp as Scarecrow. Now that’s a movie I needed to see.
The biggest question. Is Batman Returns a Christmas movie?
Score = 90/100
Batman Forever. Release Date: June 16th, 1995. Director: Joel Schumacher. Box-Office: 336 Million
Batman must battle former district attorney Harvey Dent, who is now Two-Face and Edward Nygma, The Riddler with help from an amorous psychologist and a young circus acrobat who becomes his sidekick, Robin.
Keaton, out. Kilmer, in Burton, out. Schumacher, in. Talk about a tonal shift. We had the grand gothic aesthetics of Burton’s Gotham City. Enter a new neon Gotham, were jokes are a plenty and everything just seems a little more fun. There’s so much happening in this movie, introducing a new Batman as well as a massive shift in tone, it made this movie hard to swallow for fans.
This movie gets a ton of flack, but overtime fans and myself have grown to appreciate this for what it is. Val Kilmer actually looks pretty great in the cape and cowl. He also makes a fantastic Bruce Wayne. Exploring more of his psyche and the grief he carries with the death of his parents. Exploring the mental side to both of his identities with something not previously seen with Keaton. He certainly isn’t the problem with this movie, in fact Batman is the most serious aspect of the entire film. The problems lies elsewhere, starting with the villains that are so over the top and corny, it makes it very difficult to take them seriously. Especially coming off the grounded and serious performances of Catwoman and Penguin. Even when it tries to be serious, it just ends up falling flat on its face.
Enter Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, and just from the get-go his entire demeanour and performance don’t sit right with me. One of his strongest foes belittled and made into almost a cruel joke. On the other side of that coin we get the Riddler. Now, Jim Carrey does a weird job here. He’s hamming it up so much here, that again, it’s hard to take this performance seriously. At the end of the day though, he’s by far the superior villain of the film. Once he gets into his iconic green costume I feel like his performance does seem elevated. Just the mixture of these two classic villains doesn’t mesh well, making the pairing odd to say the least.
Now the biggest addition to the mix. Chris O’Donnell as Dick Grayson. It would have been hard to tackle Robin as a young boy, but making Robin apart of this story, feels rushed and forced. Although his “origin” is perhaps the best part of the whole movie. The one scene that feels the closest to the previous two movies. He’s not terrible, just needed one more solo Batman movie first. If this were now, I feel like the Robin stuff would have come at the end of the film and not in the beginning. There was already so much going on and the addition of Robin is over kill. Toss in the forever horny Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) and now it’s a real party.
There’s an alternative cut of this somewhere out there. A more serious and dark film. The “Schumacher Cut” is something fans want and something I want to see. Additional scenes and a more serious tone, is something that could turn this already acceptable Batman movie into something great?
Score = 66/100
Batman & Robin. Release Date: June 22nd, 1997. Director: Joel Schumacher. Box-Office: 238 Million.
Batman and Robin try to keep their relationship together even as they must stop Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy from freezing Gotham City.
There’s only so many puns a man can handle. Regarded as the worst and weakest Batman film to date, this movie is kind of a train wreck. But in a way that you really cant take your eyes off of it. We get another man wearing the cape and cowl, none other than George Clooney himself, and boy does it seem like he doesn’t give a shit. The man didn’t even do a Batman voice. Kilmer held up his end of the bargain and gave us a decent portrayal of both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Where Clooney gives us a bland and forgettable performance, it’s not great.
Piggybacking off the vibe and tone of Forever, they double down with the neon lights, more puns and some just god awful dialogue. Most of that awful dialogue comes from the legend himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. If only the last two Batman movies before Nolan stepped in would have taken their villains seriously, we could have had some decent movies on our hands. Freeze is a joke, making even his powers the means for jokes. When in all reality, he can be a tortured and compassionate villain who the audience could have sympathy with. He’s terrible but doesn’t take the cake. That honour befalls on Bane. Yelling words and breaking down doors, once again a fascinating and iconic Batman villain turned into a literal punch line. Bane the strategic mastermind, combat extraordinaire, merely a juiced out man, who says maybe 10 words? Uma Thurman comes in with an okay-ish take on Poison Ivy, who just seems to hot to handle. She’s just lame. Why these movies insisted on having some cooky plots and gullible schemes, it’s just laughable the whole way through.
You can have a good time with this movie, but cringe finds it’s way throughout the entire runtime. Like, they play hockey and have skates popping out of their Batman Boots. You will never ever see these things in another Batman movie for as long as you live. You almost appreciate how a studio wanted something like this, and compare it to what we are about to receive and it’s quite insane. Poor casting and terrible story is a recipe for disaster, but there is something about these Schumacher movies that feel good. The campiness runs deep, but maybe that’s the point? He tried something and for moments it can work, but overall the lack of talent in front of the camera is what holds these back.
I can’t wait for the Mr. Freeze redemption tour when he appears in the Reeves trilogy.
Score = 33/100
Batman Begins. Release Date: June 15th, 2005. Director: Christopher Nolan. Box-Office: 373 Million.
After training with his mentor, Batman begins his fight to free crime-ridden Gotham City from corruption.
Wow, when you see the box-office, it’s crazy. The world still had a Batman hangover and it’s so clear that Superhero movies just weren’t the draw they are right now. It didn’t even make 400 million, crazy. The Batman will gross that in probably 7 days, which tells you everything you need to know about the world and how they feel about the dark knight.
When you discuss directors that changed the landscape, that changed the genre, that changed cinema, Christopher Nolan is one of them. The world may not have seen this movie in bunches, but I can tell you that on some days, I truly believe this is the best Batman ever made (so far). A polar opposite feel, grounded, dark, gritty, all these things can sum up the Nolan universe. No more bright lights, over the top villains, and piss-poor scripts. How we perceived comic book movies changed forever when Batman Begins dropped. Hans Zimmer creates an epic score, that suits this universe so well. The perfect blend of music and imagery, create the ultimate experience.
Christian Bale suits up as our new Cape Crusader, making him for most people the definitive Batman. An all-star cast that showcased legit acting chalked full of real performances. Villains felt serious, and didn’t have some over the top schemes that felt out of this world and unrealistic. What Nolan brought to Batman was realism. So grounded that his interpretation felt more of a man in a bat-suit than Batman. That had its pros and its cons. It was almost to detached to the Batman mythos and he reinvented something completely. You need that balance of realism, grounded-ness but at the same time those special elements that make Batman who he is. Remember he does fight people who can control plants or shape-shift.
I really love the Batsuit in this movie. I think its been the best live action suit (so far). It’s Bale’s best performance as Batman here, the best voice, costume and it just felt so raw. The hype around the sequel got so intense, I wonder if this role almost got away from him a little bit. I wish we got this Batman in the two movies that followed, because for me, we didn’t.
Lastly, Nolan showed that you didn’t need a post credit stinger to get fans excited. This has arguably the greatest final scene in a comic book movie. Setting up The Joker, letting fans who this would continue and got us all so excited for what was to come.
Score = 94/100
The Dark Knight. Release Date: July 18th, 2008. Director: Christopher Nolan. Box-Office: 1.05 Billion.
When the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, Batman must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice.
Imagine that was the final shot of the movie? Chaos triumphs. Evil finally conquers good. It’s rare to see that in a film as big as The Dark Knight. This movie doesn’t come without all sorts of what ifs and questions, but one thing is certain, this is a groundbreaking achievement in film-making. It’s a movie that literally everyone went a saw, you would be hard pressed to run into someone, who hadn’t seen The Dark Knight.
Nolan was already a remarkable director, but it feels like TDK was the movie he finally found his identity and where all his tricks and strongest qualities fell into place and he made his greatest film to date. Directors are still chasing the success of TDK, because it was so revolutionary and ground-breaking, comic book movies have been coping this mould for quite some time.
Everyone is on their A-Game in this, including the man himself, Heath Ledger. It’s rare to see such a performance, honestly it’s regarded as one of the finest pieces of acting this century. What happened to him is a travesty, but this memorable performance is something that will live on forever and something no one will ever forget. Heck even Eric Roberts is giving one hell of a performance. It’s just not Heath that carries this film, it’s a collection of terrific performances from top to bottom. Eckhart grows on me every time I watch this. I think the biggest mistake the movie makes is killing him off. I get that it fulfills his arc for the movie but he was so powerful and such a worthy foe for this Batman that having him stick around could have been an interest idea for the finale.
We get the best Bale Batman moment when he falls onto the van with Scarecrow in it and follows it up with the iconic line “I’m not wearing hockey pads” line. We also get one of the greatest sequences honestly ever put to film? Flipping the 18 wheeler, introducing the Bat-Pod, the showdown between Joker and Batman. I love it to so much, it’s peak cinema. Joker hunting down Dent is 10 minutes of pure movie magic.
Fans have always wanted a little more you know? One last scene with Joker, a deleted scene, anything. You always wondered how the final movie would have gone down if it weren’t for Heath’s passing. There’s no way you don’t return to his character and I’m sure that was probably the idea. It could be the greatest and bigger “what-if” in the history of movies.
My biggest gripe with the movie. Nolan detached himself from the Gotham City he build in Begins. The Narrows are no more and that was one of the strongest aspects of his first film. I feel like that aura and the Joker would have meshed beautifully, it just felt like Gotham no longer had any sort of identity, and that should never be the case in a Batman movie. Lastly, I hate the redesign of the Bat-suit. It’s arguably the worst looking suit in all the Batman movies. Even Schumacher had great looking suits.
At the end of the day, I saw this movie 9 times in theatres.
Score = 96/100
The Dark Knight Rises. Release Date: July 20th, 2012. Director: Christopher Nolan. Box-Office: 1.08 Billion
Eight years after the Joker’s reign of anarchy, Batman, with the help of the enigmatic Catwoman, is forced from his exile to save Gotham City from the brutal guerrilla terrorist Bane.
The grande finale. The big sendoff to our beloved Batman. Was this always the conclusion Nolan had in mind? Maybe not, but it’s the one we got and for Bruce Wayne and Batman it certainly is a proper sendoff. He goes up against his toughest foe yet and with an already broken body, Batman is pushed to his absolute limits.
8 years have passed and Batman finally comes out of retirement. No thanks to Tom Hardy’s Bane, who is a force to be reckon with and a powerful force whenever he is on screen. For me having 8 years passed was weird, it should have been a shorter time, but after the trilogy ended, it was obvious that Nolan certainly had an idea for what he believed the Batman stood for. The whole idea of the Nolan Batman, anyone can be Batman, it stands for more of a symbol than anything else. It stands for hope, it means that Gotham can be protected and that crime won’t be safe in the streets. It doesn’t matter who’s behind the cowl, that’s not what makes Batman who he is, as long as he is out there, Gotham will be safe. That’s why this movie ends the way it does.
So in all of these 8 years, Bruce Wayne never decided to take care of his body? He’s a billionaire, it never makes sense why he thought he didn’t need to protect his body. If he knew deep down that Batman would once again be called upon, why not keep in good shape, even if Bruce Wayne became a recluse. It’s my biggest gripe with the whole movie, because it’s something that is so out of character for Bruce Wayne.
Bringing to life part of the Knightfall storyline, having Bane break the Batman’s back is a special moment for comic book movies. It’s a tense and hard-hitting scene that feels so raw and gritty because of how quiet it is. Batman is pushed to his limits mentally and physically and it ends with a fantastic showdown that showcases everything that makes him the beautiful and beloved character that he is.
Could we have gotten more of Nolan and his Batman with Joseph Gordon Levitt? Possibly, but I think Nolan was done with all of this, and with the passing of Heath, I still don’t think this was the real story he wanted to tell. It’s still such a strong trilogy that made fans want more Batman. When we see Batman again for the first time it’s 45 minutes into the movie and when that spine tingling score takes hold, it will literally send chills down your entire body.
This movie has some really special Batman moments, but at the end of the day, he was just a man behind a mask, a symbol. This wasn’t a true telling of Batman and that’s what’s going to differentiate between the Nolan movies and what’s to come with Pattinson. The world isn’t ready.
Score = 89/100