For a Batfan, any day is a great day to watch all the Batman movies in order, or even just have debates over which of the best Batman movies — such as Tim Burton’s 1989 classic or The Dark Knight — or even the most underrated Batman movies,
as well, should earn a spot among the greatest superhero movies of all time. Well, before you cast your vote, try revisiting (or, perhaps, even discovering) all of the live-action, feature-length DC movies featuring the Caped Crusader so far on streaming or through digital rental — starting with the “Bright Knight’s” big screen moment.
The Adam West Era
Batman: The Movie (1966)
Released months after its TV series predecessor premiered, Batman: The Movie sees millionaire Bruce Wayne (Adam West, who would reprise the role in two animated movies) and his young ward, Robin (Burt Ward, who had some close calls when playing the Boy Wonder), take on the four most feared members of their rogues gallery. The film may be a far cry from the character’s definitively darker iterations, but West’s legendary performance and its laugh-out-loud moments make it hard not to get wrapped up in this fun, campy classic.
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The Tim Burton Era
The film that brought the Dark Knight in his definitive, darker form back to the mainstream (for the first time) was this box office smash also lauded as one of the best Tim Burton movies. For Michael Keaton’s grounded portrayal of the titular hero (despite facing premature backlash for his casting), Jack Nicholson’s timelessly manic take on the Joker, and Danny Elfman’s seminal score, 1989’s Batman remains one of the most influential superhero movies of all time.
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Batman Returns (1992)
Keaton put on the cape and cowl a second and last time (for a while, at least) to face The Penguin (a nightmarish Danny DeVito), Catwoman (a provocative Michelle Pfeiffer), and Christopher Walken during one volatile holiday season. Returning director Burton runs wild with his signature, wondrously macabre style for Batman Returns, resulting in a strange and controversial, but still thoroughly entertaining, interpretation of Gotham City lore.
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The Joel Schumacher Era
Batman Forever (1995)
Following Batman Returns‘ divisive reception, the late Joel Schumacher was tapped to direct this action-packed spectacle that is still pretty dark on the inside (delving deeper into Bruce Wayne’s “scarred psyche”), but much brighter on the outside (making Gotham look more like Vegas with miniatures and digital effects). Val Kilmer steps in to play the lead in Batman Forever, along with Nicole Kidman as psychologist Chase Meridian, Jim Carrey as one of the most iconic depictions of the Riddler, Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, and Chris O’Donnell as Robin.
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Batman & Robin (1997)
O’Donnell returned as the grown-up Boy Wonder, but with George Clooney as the Dark Knight, for Schumacher’s final DC movie that is much, much brighter on both the inside and the outside, but still does work for some people despite a cold reception from most fans. Batman & Robin sees the Caped Crusaders facing off against Mr. Freeze (a scenery-chewing Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the deceptive Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman, who wore a surprising amount of rubber for the role), with unexpected help from Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone).
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The Dark Knight Trilogy
Batman Begins (2005)
After nearly a decade of dormancy, co-writer and director Christopher Nolan revived Batman on the big screen by going back to basics and to the beginning of Bruce Wayne’s war on crime. Christian Bale secures himself as one of the best actors to wear the cape and cowl in Batman Begins, which also features one of the coolest Batmobile designs and beautifully bridges the gap between comic book fantasy and grounded, action-packed thrills.
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The Dark Knight (2008)
Batman Begins was a major turning point for superhero movies, but Nolan’s brilliantly crafted, astonishingly successful follow-up truly sparked a revolution in the genre that finally convinced experts to treat it like genuine cinema. It may be a Batman movie, but the late Heath Ledger (who once was considered to play the hero before Bale) steals the show with his Oscar-winning performance as the Joker and pushes The Dark Knight into the higher echelon of the pop culture stratosphere.
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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Nolan ended his Dark Knight Trilogy with a send-off that sees Bale (who turned down the chance for a fourth installment) as a Batman pushed to his farthest limits as his city becomes an anarchic “No Man’s Land.” Once again, however, it is the villains who hog the spotlight in The Dark Knight Rises with Tom Hardy as a properly imposing and intelligent Bane and Anne Hathaway surprising fans as a cunning Catwoman who almost rivals Michelle Pfeiffer.
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DC Extended Universe
Director Zack Snyder’s 2013 reboot of the Superman movies, Man of Steel, was the first installment of a new shared universe that came to be known as the DC Extended Universe. Of course, such a franchise could not be complete without Batman, who has appeared in three theatrically released films (and an extended, streaming-exclusive cut of one of the titles) from the series so far, as played by Academy Award winner and former Marvel movie actor (from 2003’s Daredevil), Ben Affleck — whose Bruce Wayne almost shared a romance with Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, apparently.
The following are all the movies in the DC Extended Universe so far, by order of release date:
- Man Of Steel (2013)
- Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
- Suicide Squad (2016)
- Wonder Woman (2017)
- Justice League (2017)
- Aquaman (2018)
- Shazam! (2019)
- Birds Of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
- Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
- The Suicide Squad (2021)
- Black Adam (2022)
- Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
A year after Bale said farewell, Affleck was announced as his successor for a gruffer, older, beefier (and, arguably, better) take on Batman. By revisiting Man of Steel’s climax through Bruce Wayne’s eyes at the beginning, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — available on HBO Max as a three-hour “ultimate” cut — sets the Dark Knight on a path toward vengeful conflict with the god-like Kryptonian (Henry Cavill) as his heroism is also put under intense scrutiny.
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Suicide Squad (2016)
Following speculation over his involvement, Affleck made a brief, but memorable, appearance in Suicide Squad just a few months after Batman v Superman. In two of the best sequences (in addition to a mid-credits cameo) from David Ayer’s supervillain crossover flick, the vigilante apprehends Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), putting them behind bars and making them eligible to do dirty work on Task Force X for Amanda Waller (Viola Davis).
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Justice League (2017)
Seeking redemption for the mistake that led to Clark Kent’s demise, Bruce Wayne seeks out a crew of powerful people to help him defend Earth from an impending, otherworldly threat. While some may assume Superman is the de facto leader of the Justice League, it is this more hopeful Batman calling the shots in the first cinematic interpretation of DC’s most powerful heroes uniting.
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Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Seeking redemption for the mistakes that led to Justice League‘s disappointing critical and commercial reception, Warner Bros. finally decided to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut as a four-hour streaming exclusive (along with a black and white version) on HBO Max that better represents director Zack Snyder’s original vision before he left the project. While Affleck does have his moments in Joss Whedon’s theatrical cut, it is Zack Snyder’s Justice League that presents some of his Batman’s most badass moments on screen.
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The Matt Reeves Era
The Batman (2022)
After Affleck walked away from directing and starring in a solo film, Matt Reeves assumed the reins and reinterpreted the Dark Knight (an electrifying Robert Pattinson) as the hard-boiled detective fans had been dying to see on the big screen. Also featuring a stellar cast including Zoë Kravtiz as Selina Kyle, Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon, Paul Dano as a sadistic Riddler, and an unrecognizable Colin Farrell as The Penguin, The Batman is a gritty, exciting, Academy Award nominated noir that reimagines Gotham City as a grimy cesspool of corruption just barely beyond saving.
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The beauty of a character like Batman is there are so many different versions for any kind of fan to enjoy, with some even preferring the DCAU’s version of Batman, voiced by the late Kevin Conroy. It looks like yet another big screen interpretation of the Dark Knight is about to be added to the mix as part of James Gunn and Peter Safran’s new DC Universe. Enjoy this binge of all the live-action Batman movies so far — which is subject to change with all the upcoming Batman movies on the horizon — at any Bat-time, any Bat-place, and (usually) on the same Bat-channel.