Hey, did you know I like Batman? Surprised? Of course you are. You may also be surprised to know that I have decided to share my personal ranking of Batman movies. To make this extra special, my ranking is going to include both live action and animation. Cool, right? Maybe you’ll get to hear about a movie you didn’t know existed.
So without further ado, let’s get the show on the road. Here we go with my ranking of the top 5 Batman movies of all time!
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren
Starring: Michael Keaton as Batman, Jack Nicholson as Joker, Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, and a bunch of other famous people.
I was too young to see this movie in theaters, but I remember my parents buying me a VHS copy. The first time we watched it, the scene came on where Joker uses his hand buzzer to burn a guy to a crisp, and my dad reached over and covered my eyes. I would have been about 7 or 8 years old at the time. Every time I would watch the movie after that, I would know the scene was coming and I would cover my own eyes or turn away, even if my parents weren’t around. It wasn’t for a few years that I got up the courage to watch the “forbidden scene”, and when I finally did I thought… wow, that was silly. Maybe I should have kept my eyes closed.
Tim Burton’s Batman is full of silly things. I mean, do you remember the scene where Batman is flying towards the Joker in the Batwing, and he takes a bunch of shots at the Joker but manages to miss him completely? First, Batman isn’t going to shoot a gun at someone, and second, if he did, he wouldn’t miss.
Regardless of the silly bits, this movie has two things I really dig. The first is Danny Elfman’s score, which is the music I hear in my head whenever I think of Batman. It’s got a bit of the dark, brooding feeling that accompanies most (good) incarnations of Batman, but it’s also got a bit of that… jumpy Elfman goodness (reminiscent of the Simpsons, I guess) that seems to fit with this version of the Dark Knight.
The other thing that this movie has is Michael Keaton, who, in my opinion, delivered the best live-action performance of Bruce Wayne/Batman that’s ever been depicted (sorry Kilmer). If they ever decide to make a live-action version of Frank Miller’s classic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, I would totally be okay if they cast Keaton as an older Batman.
Speaking of Dark Knight Returns…
4. The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2
Director: Jay Oliva
Writer: Bob Goodman (based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson)
Starring: Peter Weller as Batman, Ariel Winter as Robin, Michael Emerson as Joker, David Selby as Commissioner Gordon, and Mark Valley as Superman
As I alluded to earlier, Frank Miller wrote the Dark Knight Returns, which is widely considered to be the best Batman comic ever written. In the book (and movies), an older Bruce Wayne decides to come out of retirement and don the cape and cowl once more. They released an animated film version of the book in two parts, with the second part being included in my top 5 Batman movies. I think you need to watch the first part to fully appreciate the second, but it’s totally worth it.
In the first part (which is still pretty good), Batman takes on a recently released from prison Harvey Dent, as well as a group of thugs called the Mutants that have taken over Gotham City. In the second movie, Batman has what may be the most vicious and violent fight I have ever seen in a cartoon against the Joker, and after that, Batman has to go up against Superman, who at this point is a government lackey (hehe… lackey… get it?).
There are lots of cool things in this movie. There’s a female Robin, there’s the ongoing threat of nuclear war with the Soviets, and best of all, Batman is voiced by Robocop himself! And have you ever wanted to see Batman ride a horse? Well guess what? This is your chance.
The book this movie is based on is one of the first Batman comics I ever read, so it has a special place in my heart, but ask anyone who knows anything about Batman, and they’ll tell you that you should watch this movie.
3. Batman Begins
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale as Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Liam Neeson as “Ducard”, and a bunch of other people.
I remember the first time I saw this movie. I was in university, and I had returned home to celebrate a high school friend’s birthday. We were eating dinner at a sushi place when the topic of what to do afterwards came up (this followed a discussion of whether we enjoyed sleeping in the same bed as another person. My answer was no at the time. My opinion has since changed. Hooray for marriage!). Someone (probably me) suggested going to see the new Batman movie. All of the guys agreed, but the birthday girl had to be convinced. I can’t remember how we did it, but I’m pretty sure it involved begging, whining and a wee bit of crying. I also remember I was wearing my favourite pants that night, and I ended up sitting in a wad of gum in the theater.
And I tell you all of that because… err… well, for no reason. But it does give you a sense of how good my memory is when it comes to things that are even tangentially related to Batman.
I was really excited for Batman Begins after suffering for years without a Batman movie (ever since the stupid batnips), and the movie did not disappoint me. I remember thinking how great a Batman Christian Bale was, but I think a lot of that was the fact that he didn’t actually become Batman until about half way through, and when he was Batman, he spoke in short sentences which made his goofy voice choice less noticeable (later on in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Bale’s voice became more evident. And more annoying).
I have to imagine that almost everyone on the planet has seen this movie, so I won’t get into it too much, but I will say that it tells the Batman origin story in a new and interesting way, and also introduces some great members of the Dark Knight’s rogue gallery to the big screen, including the Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul. My only major beef is the ending, where Batman lets “Ducard” die in the monorail. They try to justify it in the dialogue (I’m not going to kill you, but I don’t have to save you… or something like that), but that doesn’t jive with my version of Batman. My Batman would never let someone die through inaction. But the story (and how it’s told) is so good up to that point, I’ll let the bad stuff at the end slide.
If you haven’t seen Batman Begins… we probably aren’t friends.
2. The Dark Knight
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
Starring: Christian Bale as Batman, Heath Ledger as Joker, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent and a bunch of other people.
I know I said that almost everyone on the planet has seen Batman Begins, but when talking about its sequel The Dark Knight, I think it’s safe to say that every single person who has ever existed on planet Earth has seen it. It’s that popular, and deservedly so. Of course, the star is Heath Ledger and his iconic portrayal of the Joker. He presented the character in such a way that was both familiar and brand new.
Given that I have already established that everyone on the planet has seen this movie, I won’t get into the plot (something about using cellphones to triangulate the position of someone), but it serves as a way for Ledger to really go crazy (hehe, get it? Because Joker’s crazy?) with his performance. The real problem with this film is the introduction (and sudden departure) of Two-Face. He’s such a great character, and to have him only appear for a few minutes before killing him just seems like a wasted opportunity (even if the scene is pretty solid). I let it go initially because I figured they would bring him back for the third instalment of the franchise, but that didn’t end up happening.
Anyway, as I said, Ledger is so good as Joker, he covers up all the other flaws in what is a good, but imperfect movie.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Chris you dummy, you listed The Dark Knight as number 2 in your list. Everyone knows this movie is the best Batman movie that’s ever existed. Did you forget to take your pill or something? Well, yes, thank you for reminding me. But I am going to go on record and say that The Dark Knight is not the best Batman movie of all time. I believe there is another movie that is more worthy of the crown.
1. Under the Red Hood
Director: Brandon Vietti
Writer: Judd Winick
Starring: Bruce Greenwood as Batman, Jensen Ackles as Red Hood, John DiMaggio as Joker, and Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing
Again, I already know what you’re thinking. Chris, this is a cartoon. How can a cartoon be better than a live action movie that saw one of the actors win an academy award for their performance? Well to start, I think Under the Red Hood has a perfect story. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, a mysterious vigilante by the name of Red Hood comes to Gotham and starts taking over the underworld by killing anyone who gets in his way. When Batman confronts him, the Caped Crusader is surprised to learn that Red Hood knows that Bruce Wayne is secretly Batman, and that this vigilante has a grudge to settle with the Dark Knight himself. I don’t want to give anything else away, but believe me when I tell you that the climax of this movie is hands down the best scene in a Batman movie. Without question.
The art and voice acting in this movie is amazing, but the real highlight is Jensen Ackles’ performance as the Red Hood. There is a line he delivers when he is questioning Batman on why he has never done the world a favour by killing Joker that is so perfect, he probably should have won some kind of award. On top of all that, the very last scene is so… touching and sad, I would cry if I had anything resembling a soul. The movie’s even got Doogie Howser doing a little voice acting!
If you like the character of Batman at all, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie. You will not regret it.
There it is, folks, my favourite Batman movies. Do you disagree? Let me tell you now that you’re wrong, but feel free to let me know where you disagree.