Batman Movies In Chronological & Release Order
Deciding to watch the Batman movies in order of chronology presents a challenge worthy of the Riddler himself. The problem is that various versions of his origin lead to stories that only apply to that particular incarnation of the Caped Crusader. As a result, there's no overarching order of Batman movies. Instead, they tend to be grouped together according to their directors or the Batman movie actors. However, we’ve put together a bat-list of all the bat-movies that does the bat-job. It’s a combination of the Batman movies in order of the years they were released and the chronologies in each series.
The Batman (1943)
Some think Adam West was the first to don the cowl on the silver screen. However, way back in 1943, Lewis Wilson was the man behind the mask. Serialised in the same way as the Flash Gordon shows, Batman is portrayed as a government agent rather than a crime-busting vigilante. A product of its time, The Batman sees the World's Greatest Detective taking on the evil Dr Daka, who happens to be a Japanese scientist holed up in Gotham City. While it might not be among the best Batman movies, we’ve included it for all those bat-nerds out there.
Batman and Robin (1949)
Six years later, Batman gets another serialised outing, this time played by Robert Lowry. With the war propaganda of the previous film now dropped, this version of Bats is more familiar. Aided by his sidekick, Robin (played by Johnny Duncan), Batman takes on the mysterious Wizard. This film also sees the first onscreen appearances of Vicki Vale and Commissioner Gordon.
Batman: The Movie (1966)
After the runaway success of the Batman TV show, it seemed only logical to leap to the silver screen. For many, Adam West is the best of the Batman movie actors, and there were whispers of a cameo in later films. However, that wasn't to be. In this movie, Bats takes on the combined might of the Joker, the Riddler, Catwoman, and the Penguin. Camp, cheesy, funny, and with its bat-tongue firmly in its bat-cheek, this is the film that set - or lowered - the bat-standards, depending on how you look at it. Who can forget the Shark Repellent Bat-Spray?
The 1990s (The Burtonverse)
OK, this one was technically an 80s film, but it sprawls into the 90s, so that's why it's grouped here. After 20-odd years, Batman's film career was revived, courtesy of Tim Burton. With Michael Keaton stepping into the cape, this incarnation was darker than ever, eschewing all the Zaps and Ka-Pows of the earlier films. Burton's film explores the origins of the Joker, played with scenery-chewing relish by Jack Nicholson.
Batman Returns (1992)
With Batman back in vogue, a sequel was almost inevitable. Never one to shy away from the shadows, Burton created an even darker universe for the Caped Crusader. This sees the emergence of two new villains in the forms of the Catwoman (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) and the Penguin (played by Danny DeVito). After having trouble with the Batman suit, Michael Keaton hung up the cowl, although he is rumoured to be returning in the role in the film, 'The Flash.'
The 1990s (The Schumacherverse)
Batman Forever (1995)
Burton's darker edge proved a problem for the film studios, so the reins were handed over to Joel Schumacher. With Keaton's departure, it was up to Val Kilmer to suit up. While this was his only outing as the costumed vigilante, Kilmer is widely regarded as one of the franchise's most underrated Batman movie actors. The bad guys here are the Riddler, played by Jim Carrey, and Two-Face, played by Tommy Lee Jones. This film sees Adam West's shadow looming large, with a return to campy dialogue and some over-the-top performances.
Batman and Robin (1997)
The camp is ramped up in Schumacher's last turn at the helm. With Kilmer stepping down, George Clooney was cast as the troubled Bruce Wayne. Chris O'Donnell returns as Robin, while Alicia Silverstone is introduced as Batgirl. With Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, Bats needs to defeat them to save Gotham City. Far from being one of the best Batman movies, Clooney later revealed that he thought he was going to be responsible for killing the franchise.
The 2000s (The Nolanverse)
Batman Begins (2005)
Eight years later and Batman rebooted under the gritty gaze of Christopher Nolan. This time, it was Christian Bale under the hood, cementing his place as one of the best Batman movie actors to take on the role. This film gives us another version of Bats' origin, seeing him under the tutelage of Ra's al Ghul, played by Liam Neeson, before having to face off against his mentor.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Widely regarded as the best Batman movie ever made, Bale’s gravel-voiced Batman is pitted against the Joker, played by Heath Ledger. While Bale makes a compelling Caped Crusader, his performance is overshadowed by Ledger’s Clown Prince of Crime. Joker’s origin is touched on but appears to be the ramblings of a very damaged man. With gadgets, action, and world-class acting, this one shouldn't be missed, whichever order of Batman movies you choose.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
This time, Batman finds himself facing one of his most fearsome foes, in the form of Bane. Played by Tom Hardy, he offers a memorable and chilling villain. We see Batman at his lowest and are introduced to an embryonic Catwoman, played by Anne Hathaway. Nolan finishes his trilogy with a conclusion that divided bat fans everywhere but, in film terms, ties up all the loose ends very nicely.
The 2000s (The Snyderverse)
Batman vs Superman (2016)
With Marvel ruling supreme in the cinemas, it was up to Zack Snyder to assume command of the DC franchise. Deciding to bring out the big guns, this film sees the first onscreen meeting of Superman and Batman, who, in the comics, have always had an uneasy relationship. Batman (played by Ben Affleck) sees Supes as less of a hero and more of a tinkering god. Conversely, Superman (played by Henry Cavill) sees The Bat as a marauding thug. With the whole plot engineered by Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, the biggest bat-fight in history is inevitable.
Justice League (2017)
Some argue that Justice League was DC's answer to Marvel's Avengers series. After the death of Robin, Batman hooks up with the Flash (played by Ezra Miller), Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot), Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa), Cyborg (played by Ray Fisher) and a recently resurrected Superman, to battle the nefarious Steppenwolf (played by Ciaran Hinds). Big, bold, bat-tastic fun.
The 2000s (The Reevesverse)
The Batman (2022)
Matt Reeves took over writing and directing duties for another look at Batman’s beginning. The cowl is handed over to Robert Pattinson, who gives us a younger version of the Dark Knight, filled with rage at his parents' murder. While he's trying to come to terms with his desire for justice, Gotham City is plagued by a serial killer, the Riddler, played by Paul Dano. In this iteration, the Penguin (played by Colin Farrell) is a mob boss, while Catwoman (played by Zoe Kravitz) is a counterpoint to Batman's stark view of what justice should be. This is the first in what should spawn a series of the latest Batman movies.
Animated Batman Movies
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Released just after Batman Returns, this was something of a flop on the big screen, with people assuming it was just for kids. However, once it came out on DVD, it established itself as one of the best animated Batman movies to hit the TV or cinema. Batman is voiced by Kevin Conroy, who finds himself framed for the murders of various crime figures in Gotham. We also get treated to Mark Hamill's turn as the Joker, who, of course, has got something to do with it. Dark, edgy, and brooding, it's as much for grownups as it is for younger viewers.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)
Holy comebacks! Adam West and Burt Ward squeeze into the suits one more time for one of the most fun and nostalgic Batman animated movies you'll find. With the Joker, the Riddler, Catwoman, and the Penguin up to their old tricks, only Batman and Robin can save the day. Following the camp tone set by Batman: The Movie, it's a great stroll down memory lane for bat-fans of a certain age. Look out for the Bat Anti-Antidote.
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Sure to soften even the hardest of hearts, the Lego Batman Movie is much more than an extended advert. With Will Arnett giving us his version of hooded justice, it’s a fun romp that deals with more serious issues, such as loss and grief. Peppered with enough references to satisfy hardcore bat-boffins, it's the most family-friendly of the Batman animated movies.
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