Before Dawn Of Justice: Ranking The Batman Films

This is part two in a series where I rank the films of both Batman and Superman before the movie “Dawn of Justice” hits theaters this weekend. having already done Superman, it’s time to move on to the caped crusader.

Batman and Robin


There’s no doubt, “Batman & Robin” is the worst Batman movie and is easily one of the worst comic book films ever made.

Director Joel Schumacher seemed to make a mockery of what had been built up in the Batman movie series. It had already started with “Batman Forever,” but “Batman & Robin” doubled down.

Which is unfortunate since the movie’s story element of tension between the two main heroes is an interesting one and has been done better in other mediums. Additionally, rumor has it that the film initially intended on Patrick Stewart playing Mr. Freeze as well as having a much more serious script.

Changes were made, though, and instead audiences got to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger yell ice puns for two hours. The supporting cast was forgettable, too. George Clooney, obviously a great actor, seemed like he didn’t have much interest in the picture since he never truly becomes Batman, most of the film he’s just playing himself.

Chris O’Donnel wasn’t given much to do since all that was written for his character was a lot of complaining and Uma Thurman did nothing but ham up her performance as Poison Ivy. Then there was Alicia Silverstone’s Barbara Wilson, aka Batgirl, who was completely unnecessary in this film.

All of this is on top of the horrific action that went for slapstick and campy fighting instead of great choreography. It was really a shame because this came out two years before “The Matrix” and a year before “Blade,” both of which showed the action potential of the 90s.

Batman Forever


This 1995 picture included Val Kilmer who gave one of my favorite performances as Doc Holiday in “Tombstone.” It also had Academy Award winners Tommy Lee Jones and Nicole Kidman as well as Jim Carrey who has proven himself as a serviceable actor.

Unfortunately, like “Batman & Robin,” “Forever” was also directed by Schumacher. At the very least, “Forever” wasn’t as bad as B&R. In fact, introducing Robin was a pretty good move and for the most part the filmmakers were pretty true to his origin story. O’Donnell, who was just coming on to the scene at the time, wasn’t bad either. He actually delivered an OK performance.

The real problems came from the headlining stars. Kidman was an unmemorable love interest for Batman and Kilmer seemed dull as the dark knight from beginning to end. Even worse was Jones, who did nothing but goof around, what a disappointment. Imagine if Jones had played Two Face like he played his character in “The Fugitive.”

Then there was Carrey, who could have made an interesting Riddler. Instead, though, Schumacher decided to just have Carrey play the same character he did in the “Ace Ventura” movies.

It’s pretty sad that the one good part of this movie was that it was used to promote “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal.

Batman Returns


Director Tim Burton’s second Batman film was the weaker of his two, but it was much better than Schumacher’s. Michael Keaton returns from the first film, bringing with him his awesome portrayal as both Batman and Bruce Wayne.

In both movies he’s able to portray the different personalities his character has to show due to his secret identity. Adding to this element in “Returns” was that Burton advanced his character and did so by using Catwoman who was well portrayed by Michell Pfeiffer.

Despite the film’s strengths, though, it was dragged down by Burton’s need to go too far with his style. In the first movie, Burton was able to strike a good balance, injecting some of his style to make a dark, atmospheric Batman film, but was still reserved enough to not fully dive in. That changed in “Returns.”

Part of that change was Danny DeVito as Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin. While DeVito wasn’t bad, the Penguin character was turned from a gentleman-like crime boss to a vulgar creature.

The Dark Knight Rises


The finale of Director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was certainly a well shot and expertly crafted picture, but it’s the weakest of the three. “Rises” was the only film where Nolan’s realistic tone didn’t mesh as much with the comic book-based tale.

Another issue is the film’s second act. The whole movie seems to slow down in the middle offering just some exposition for the villain Bane and a training montage for Batman. Bane’s master plan was a bit generic, too, and the final conflict lacked the type of mental battle that was seen in the previous installment.

Additionally, I felt the romance between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, was rather unconvincing.

With that said, “Rises” was a well directed film stacked with acting talent that really delivered for the trilogy’s end.

Batman Begins


“Batman Begins” was exactly the type of shot in the arm the character as well as the comic book movie industry in general needed. Nolan brought an intelligent approach to the caped crusader, making the character believable in today’s world.

While the movie felt realistic, Nolan still brought style to the picture. However, instead of the more gothic feel of Burton, Nolan relied on a gritty crime drama atmosphere.
On top of that, “Batman Begins” was one of the first comic book pictures to bring in an Oscar caliber cast to its lineup.



The first is still one of the best. The 1989 movie “Batman,” helmed by Burton, was a fantastic reimagining of the character and brought the dark knight into a new age. Burton’s gothic style really worked in conjunction with the mythos of Batman, such as the Batcave, the Batmobile and the dreary, crime-ridden Gotham City itself.

The two lead actors were fantastic choices, too. As previously stated, Michael Keaton managed to bring a balance to the two egos of Batman and Bruce Wayne, which is necessary to correctly tell the story of the character.

Stealing the show, though, was Jack Nicholson who portrayed the Joker. Nicholson brought a ton of energy and certainly had fun with the character, but still managed to make him menacing, too. The result was one of the more memorable villains from super hero movies in general.

The Dark Knight


This isn’t just one of my favorite comic book movies, it’s one of my favorite films ever made. This movie was like lightning in a bottle, everything clicked to perfection. From the film’s exciting opening heist which was a perfect hook to the strong speech delivered at the end of the picture, it’s all fantastic.

The story allows for Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne to question whether or not he should continue being Batman and it also allows for the dark knight to do some legitimate detective work, laboring alongside Commissioner Gordon.

Nolan also made sure to explore the psychotic nature of the Joker and fully displayed just how crazy the character was. Looking back at the character, the line from Michael Caine’s Alfred “some men just want to watch the world burn” always comes to mind.

Often overshadowed in reviews, the movie also included a fantastic portrayal of the character Harvey Dent, in which Nolan went out of his way to include a subplot about a character turning on his morals in order to do what he perceives as justice.

All of these story elements were bolstered by the incredible acting, especially from Heath Ledger who won an Academy Award posthumously.

On top of that, the film includes amazing action sequences, such as one of the greatest chase scenes put to film.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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