Here we are, just days after the release of The Batman (2022). The world is in a Caped Crusader craze, and I include myself among that hoard.
By my count, and referencing various lists on Letterboxd and other platforms, there have been ## live-action movies where The Batman has played a crucial or leading role. Those movies vary heavily in quality, stemming from the the atrociously horrible to the award-worthy. Personally speaking, I am not adding any of the animated Batman stories to this list (including The Lego Batman (2017), but there will be one in the future. For now, let’s take a look at the cowl and see how the protector of Gotham has faired in terms of silver screen success.
12. Batman & Robin (1997)
I mean, Batman & Robin is awful. I want to go into a hypothetical battle with someone trying battle for redeemable parts of this story. The look is straight out of a Toys R’ Us and the dialogue is to cheesy to even be called comic book-esq. This is the worst movie I have ever seen George Clooney in, thought with that being said, one of my redeemable aspects of Batman & Robin is that Clooney was an OKAY Bruce Wayne. but let’s be real, he was a really bad Batman.
STANKO RATING: F+ (1.0/5 Stars)
11. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
Fucking Martha. When that plot development emerged in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, I may have down the loudest face palm in the history of face palms. The movie is not good on its own merits up to that point, and then they drop that line which takes it down even more. I remember the roll out of this movie being very troublesome for me as well because it revealed the massive battle with Doomsday. It was not that integral to the major plot, yet it would have been an amazing surprise if it was actually kept one. Also, for the record, Ben Affleck is not bad as Batman.
STANKO RATING: D (1.0/5 Stars)
10. Justice League (2017)
This is one of the few times where I do side with the mob that the production and distribution companies screwed up the original version of Justice League. The vibe of this movie was all confusing. The evil that the Justice League is fighting is ill-defined and not worth investing time in. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) was a complete waste. Gal Gadot was bad as Wonder Woman (first time I noticed her being not great) and evil the cool character of Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) was made dull. The rush to get this project out hurt it big time.
STANKO RATING: D (1.0/5 Stars)
9. Batman Forever (1995)
It is not good when a movie is most remembered for the terrible relationship between two of the main actors on set. Tommy Lee Jones did not like Jim Carrey, and he was not afraid to say it. But guess what folks, Batman Forever was nominated for three Oscars: Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Sound Effects. Val Kilmer is the most forgettable Batman. He is not the worst, but he is the most forgettable.
STANKO RATING: D+ (2.0/5 Stars)
8. Batman (1966)
I have a soft spot for this movie. My mom told me about “Somedays you just can’t get rid of a bomb” scene and it is something I now reference whenever bad things just keep on happening. There is also the Batman shark repellent scene also, and I believe this movie has a sand sorter…because of course it does. This is clownish Batman done right. This was what the original Batman was like. This was the first live-action Batman movie. Love it or not, it was ground breaking.
STANKO RATING: B (3.0/5 Stars)
7. Batman Returns (1992)
This is going to be too low on Batman list for most people. All I have to say is that movies are subjective, and Batman Returns didn’t land for me. I am not as enthralled with the crazy Michelle Pfeiffer portrayal of Catwoman. Danny Devito is playing his part of the Penguin with all the conviction of an innocent death row inmate pleading his case. Tim Burton created a universe with Batman in 1989, and here he takes it a step further. For my enjoyment purposes, it was just a step too far. With all that being said, Batman Returns is not a bad movie. It is well made and it has a lot of things working for it, but entertainment wise it left me yearning.
STANKO RATING: C+ (2.5/5 Stars)
6. Zach Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
This is going to be too high on this list according to most people, but this is my list. Barring the last few minutes and the epilogue, Zach Snyder’s Justice League (2021) honestly took me by surprise and it has stuck with me as one of the better director’s cuts I have ever seen. There is just such a huge difference in this movie compared to the theatrical release in 2017. While Cyborg is still the most dull character of the crew, they did flesh him out and made him at least essential. The changes they also made to Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and inclusion of Darkseid are massive additives to the Zach Snyder’s Justice League experience.
STANKO RATING: B (3.5/5 Stars)
5. Batman Begins (2005)
This movie started the rebirth of Batman. Who was going to take the mantle of Gotham’s hero after the disaster of Batman & Robin? The one and only Christopher Nolan. Christina Bale takes the role of Bruce Wayne and Batman. The story adds the depth to how Batman became Bruce Wayne…past the whole parents getting murdered in the alley thing. This was such a high-brow class of super hero movie compared to the previous two Batman movies by Joel Schumacher.
STANKO RATING: B+ (3.5/5 Stars)
4. Batman (1989)
The original. Everyone bow their heads to Tim Burton for creating something that everyone has a baseline for. Batman stared Michael Keaton as the legendary hero, but he takes second seat to Jack Nicholson as The Joker. It would appear like a secret success to Batman (and super-hero & James Bond) movies is having a great villain to terrorize Gotham.
I remember the first time I watched Batman. I was at my aunt’s house and my cousin was playing it on a VHS and I saw the ending first before I saw the rest of the movie later in life. Batman literally may have been the first comic book movie I ever laid my eyes on. It still holds up now, and too be honest, if I watched it now, I would probably appreciate it even more.
STANKO RATING: B (3.0/5 Stars)
3. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Of all the Christopher Nolan movies, this one has the most “oh shit!” moments. There is the plane at the start, the stadium exploding, Bane breaking Batman’s back, Bruce jumping out of the pit and the explosion at the end. Nolan really did go nuts in making The Dark Knight Rises the most spectacular of the bunch. Bane is a very cool villain…but really would have loved a different ending rather than him just getting gunned by Cat Women. Speaking of Selina Kyle…this version by Anne Hathaway is my favorite version of Selina. Again, a reason it as high as it is.
STANKO RATING: A- (4.0/5 Stars)
2. The Batman (2022)
Recency bias be damned, The Batman is that good. Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson made it all work and created a story and vibe that is whole heartedly different than any of its predecessors. This version of The Batman is the first Batman centric movie that is remembered strictly for the ethos it created since Batman in 1989. Tim Burton broke the mold and now Reeves is creating a new pathway as well. The Batman is also the most “Batman” centric story of the Caped Crusader. There is a not a lot of Bruce Wayne, and guess what. it is for the better for it.
STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
We all knew it would be here. The Dark Knight is the best superhero I have ever seen, with the close second being Logan (2017). It says something that on Letterboxd, this is the only Batman poster that features on the villain. It is no surprise that Heath Ledgers gets all the praise for this movie, but guess what, it is all warranted. All of these top Batman movies had an upper echelon bad guy that is unforgettable, or they have a moment with the villain that is jaw dropping.
The Dark Knight has the perfect blend of a compelling story, an overarching theme, strong acting, and outstanding memorable moments. It set the mold for what artistic super hero movies can be. The Dark Knight is on top of the Batman pedestal and it is going to be hard to knock it off any time soon.
STANKO RATING: A+ (4.5/5 Stars)
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