by Brandon Matzke
May 1st is Batman Day: a worldwide celebration of one of the greatest characters to come from American pop culture. For decades, the caped crusader has inspired many, whether it would be from comics, tv shows, or in today’s case, movies. Since I did this with Superman a while back, I figured I’d do it to my favorite superhero ever (sorry Spidey). Now, on with the countdown!
WORST: Batman And Robin (1997)
When the entire cast and crew apologizes for ever agreeing to make this movie, it’s clearly a terrible film. And believe me, this is a terrible movie. True, there are technically worse, but this one offends me on a personal level. It threw away the things that made Batman so great, and replaced it with a giant toy commercial (no joke; it was literally made to sell toys!). And even then, most toy commercials are infinitely better than this one! The acting is awful, with everyone giving the worst performance of their careers here, the script is awful. It was a script too ridiculous for even the ADAM WEST show. The direction is awful, making the whole film feel obnoxiously loud and using the most annoying colors for the eye to witness on a daily basis. Long story short: I honestly consider to be the worst film ever made. So, for my sake, never watch this one. 0/10 (never should have been made).
2ND WORST: Batman Forever (1995)
This is only slightly better than it’s infamous sequel, but that’s not something to be proud of. It was proof that Warner Bros. was beginning to see Batman as a cash-cow, and focused more on forcing kids to like it than making it… y’know, good. The film feels like every frame is creeping with the oncoming threat of it’s sequel, and this is definitely not helped by the performances. Carrey gives the worst performance of his career here, along with poor Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face (who was played by Billy Dee Williams in the previous films). The only thing that saves this film is that there are mere glimpses of why Batman is great (particularly in one flashback scene), but those are cut off by the overall terribleness of the other 99.9% of the film. 1/10.
Batman V. Superman (2016)
I already talked about this one in my Superman article, so I’ll just simply recommend you check that article out. Still a 2/10.
Justice League (2017)
Again, already covered this one more than I’d like to. 5/10.
Batman: The Movie (1966)
I know what you’re thinking: didn’t you just hate the Schumacher Batman movies for being too campy? Well, I say that Adam West did campy Batman right. True, I do prefer Batman as a serious character, but Adam West was so much fun as the caped crusader that I just consider him his own character. It’s goofy and dumb (and definitely has its problems), but also a light-hearted and fun little flick that I give a 6/10.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking Dark Knight trilogy is rather underwhelming, but it’s not the catastrophe many make it out to be. I’d say the first two thirds are the best parts; genuinely feeling like a solid film (and has one heck of an opening to boost), with a great (albeit short) performance from Michael Kane. The film sadly falls apart by the final act, with dozens of plot holes and dumb decisions rising for my enjoyment. Plus, it ruins the character of Bane, who Tom Hardy had been doing excellently until this part. The film feels like a three-layered cake; the first two layers are great, but the bottom one is lacking. 7/10
Batman Returns (1991)
I always felt that the Tim Burton Batman movies always felt like they deserve more respect: in a world that demanded superhero films should only be for kids, these films were dark, gritty, and even frightening. And it paid off; while I consider Returns to be the weakest of the Burton films, that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any means. This film is probably the most eerie Batman film yet; most of that is thanks to the supporting cast. Michelle Pfeiffer is the definitive Catwoman, and while many consider Danny DeVito’s Penguin to be too over-the-top, I find it hard to feel comfortable when he’s on screen (the bloody nose scene, anyone?). However, the film’s biggest flaw is putting the titular character in the background. Despite having a very defined character in the previous film, he just becomes “the main character” in a film dedicated to the supporting cast. 8/10
The cinematic redemption Batman needed to show most of the public that he can be serious (and that it can work), Burton’s Batman is still a bold and brave new direction. In terms of matching the comics, this came pretty darn close; it has the dark atmosphere, but doesn’t leave out the cartoonish yet dangerous activity that can only occur in Gotham City. For one thing, I consider Keaton’s performance in this film to be one of the best in his career; he truly feels like Bruce Wayne in every way, bringing much-needed depth into his character. And Burton’s direction makes this feel like a classic issue of Detective Comics is playing right on the screen, complete with the perfect atmosphere to match. And Danny Elfman’s score, I won’t lie, has my favorite Batman theme yet. 9/10
2nd Best: Batman Begins (2005)
Almost a decade after the cinematic embarrassment that was Batman and Robin, Warner Bros. finally realised that people want one of the most beloved characters in fiction to be done with care. So, they hired a little known filmmaker named Christopher Nolan (who had blown audiences away with films like Memento and Insomnia), and gave him the freedom to make the Batman film he wanted. And what we got is legendary. Batman Begins is one of the best origin story films ever made, and so influential that it was cited as a major inspiration for the James Bond reboot Casino Royale. This story’s Gotham is a city; a city that feels like it could really exist, with actual human beings living in it. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a flawed man; he’s done things he’s ashamed to admit, and is trying to redeem himself and protect his city. As a result, it’s extremely satisfying to see the moments where Batman truly begun; a conversation, a decision, a realization, all seemingly little moments that build up this character perfectly. But what’s a superhero film without action? Batman Begins has one of the best fight scenes of it’s genre (that first night in the cape and cowl), but never forgets to have heart in-between the awesomeness. As a result, Batman Begins is a spectacle, and one of the best films of its decade. 11/10
Best: The Dark Knight (2008)
I mean, how could it not be? This film isn’t only a great superhero film, but it’s a great crime movie, a great drama, a surprisingly philosophical film, and it happens to contain one of the greatest performances in film ever (Heath Ledger’s iconic take on the Joker). The Dark Knight expands on what made Batman Begins great, and makes a story dealing with the concepts of morality, human nature, and completely bending the Batman mythos in the best way possible. But we just can’t move past the clown, can we? Ledger as the Joker is single best villains in cinema history, and is completely mesmerising every second he’s on screen. It’s hard to explain, so I included a link to my favorite scene of his in here. Overall, The Dark Knight is one of the finest films of it’s genre, of it’s decade, and of all time. 11/10.