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Movies & TV

05th Mar 2022

Ranking all of the live-action Batman movies from worst to best

Rory Cashin

There are actually more of them than you might realise…

To celebrate the release of The Batman in cinemas this weekend, we’re doing a ranking!

Movies that we aren’t including: Joker (Batman doesn’t actually appear in it), Birds of Prey (ditto), the two Batman movies from the 1940s (because we’ve actually never seen them), or any of the animated features (even though some of them – The LEGO Movie, Mask of the Phantasm – are absolutely brilliant).

Ready to get very annoyed and/or nod aggressively in agreement? Here we go…


Wow, what a pile of Bat-Shit this turned out to be.

A rare example of a movie that was terrible to begin with, and somehow only manages to get worse as the years go on.

12. SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

Yes, Batman only appears briefly for one scene – just long enough to punch Harley Quinn in the face while underwater – but it still counts.

The spine of a potentially great movie is in here, clearly muddled when marketing executives took creative control and forced this to become DC’s answer to Guardians of the Galaxy.

Five years later, things improve greatly for 2021’s massively under-seen The Suicide Squad rebootquel, which Batman was entirely absent from.

11. BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)

When Batman Forever proved to be insanely popular with audiences, director Joel Schumacher was given free rein for this sequel, which became a hyper-camp, day-glo, ADHD-inducing nightmare.

Clooney isn’t miscast, he just seems to have temporarily forgotten how to act. Arnie and Uma are the only ones who seem to know what kind of movie they’re actually in, so together they help to drag it across that so-bad-it’s-good line.


A movie where, for every fantastically good scene (that entire opening attack on Metropolis from Bruce Wayne’s perspective), there is an equally bad scene (everything to do with that jar of piss).

Cavill and Affleck are both perfect fits for their roles, but Snyder can’t help to over-egg the pudding with the introduction of Wonder Woman AND Lex Luthor AND Doomsday.

By the end, you feel totally mentally exhausted, as the movie speed-runs through the plots of several movies, never taking a second to allow of them to land with any real impact.


While mostly known these days for that bit where Batman is running around trying to get rid of a comically large bomb, it probably isn’t fair to judge this movie under a modern lens.

Batman in 1966 is very different to The Batman we’re getting over five decades later, so this is a pretty good representation of who Batman was to the world back then.

We also won’t have a single bad word said about Adam West.


Val Kilmer is a great Bruce Wayne, Nicole Kidman is having a blast vamping it up as an old-school femme fatale, Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey are in a head-on collision course to see who can overact the most, and Chris O’Donnell… is also there.

The pieces were in place, but then they’re surrounded by a plot – a magic TV steals all your secrets – that makes less than zero sense, along with action sequences so harshly over-edited that you’re never quite sure where you are or what is happening.

Despite all of that, the finished product is still bizarrely entertaining.


It isn’t that the movie is too long, it is that the 166-minute runtime is too long for this storyline.

Hardy is great-but-indecipherable as man-mountain Bane, Anne Hathaway is … fine? … as Catwoman, but the realism that Nolan had successfully harnessed has gone AWOL here.

From miraculously healed spines to huge flaming Bat symbols, the “Wait, what?” of it all starts to pile up until you kind of have to give up on the narrative altogether.

Thankfully, we’ve still got that incredible cast fully committed to their roles, and Nolan continues that sense of grounded epic-ness that no other comic book movie has achieved before or after.


It will require either taking an entire day off work or a carefully scheduled evening plan spread out across an entire week, but you can’t take away from the fact that Snyder really knew what story he wanted to tell here.

The leagues in difference of quality from this and Whedon’s version is astounding, which each character – especially Cyborg and The Flash – given much more room to breathe and reveal their true depths.

While the villain’s plot is still essentially Bad Alien Wants Bad MacGuffin, and there is a sense that they’re tried to get to the same intergalactic threat level that Marvel spread out across 20 movies (instead of the three DC had by this point), Snyder’s version of this story is suitably gargantuan in its own right.

We’re not even sure if calling it too big for its own good is an insult or a compliment, to be honest.

5. BATMAN (1989)

For most modern audiences, this is where it all began.

We shudder at the thought of how today’s Internet might react to the announcements of Tim Burton and Michael Keaton (who had both just collaborated on dark comedy Beetlejuice), not to mention giving audiences an actual origin story of Jack Nicholson’s take on Joker, and rewriting comic book history to make it so Jack Napier was the one who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents.

However, all of these unique decision led to a brilliantly peculiar end product that would essentially change how Hollywood thought about blockbusters going forward.


Giving us an actual origin story for Batman for the first time – we’ve seen Bruce Wayne’s parents die, a lot, but never the actual transition to the caped crusader – and course-correcting after Schumacher’s OTT take, the duo of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale tackle some members of the Rogues’ Gallery we hadn’t seen on the big screen before.

Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson bring a threat to every aspect of the fledgling superhero, matched with a down’n’dirty aesthetic that Nolan drops entirely for the remainder of his trilogy.

In upping the realism and grittiness, Nolan’s trilogy also becomes entirely sexless, but I guess you can’t have everything…


Rarely has a movie felt so elevated by a singular performance.

Not to take any credit away from every other aspect of this movie, including the addition of Aaron Eckhart as the tragic Harvey Dent, Maggie Gyllenhaal as a more-layered Rachel Dawes, as well as the gorgeous cinematography and iconic score, but this movie basically belongs to Heath Ledger’s Joker.

A lightning-in-a-bottle moment of casting genius, a perfectly harmonious moment of actor and role, one that completely blew his co-stars off the screen.

The plot doesn’t make a lick of sense under any kind of scrutiny, but Nolan keeps thing so tense and kinetic that you barely notice.

2. THE BATMAN (2022)

You can check out or full review right here, but in short, this is the grown-up version of Batman that fans have been waiting for, and grown-up is very different to real or grounded.

Director and co-writer Matt Reeves was clearly taking copious notes from Se7en, The Silence of the Lambs, Jack Reacher, Blade Runner and a few more we won’t spoil here, but this grim and intense kick-off for Robert Pattinson’s take on Bruce Wayne and his nocturnal alter-ego successfully builds a different cinematic version of Gotham that we can’t wait to spend more time within.


Warner Bros. balked when their Christmas-set blockbuster (released in the height of summer!) didn’t do as well as expected, but hindsight is an incredible thing.

Bolstered by magnificent cast additions, with Christopher Walken, Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer seemingly genetically engineered for these roles, Burton ups the sexiness, the darkness and – crucially – the humour, albeit incredibly dark humour.

Opening with Pee Wee Herman and his wife dumping their infant child into a frozen river, it is arguably the best representation of the internal struggle of Bruce Wayne’s want for a normal life and Batman’s need to save the crumbling city around him, but also makes room for giant duck tanks and a missile-armed penguin army.

In any other Batman movie, that might seem ridiculous…

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