Forget Gotham: The Definitive Ranking of Batman Movies
Are you excited about Gotham season 2 premiering?
I know, buddy. I know.
The bright side is that there are a bunch of Batman movies you can pop on instead of watching Gotham. Like, a ton of them. And they are all varying degrees of fun and good. “But Joe,” you will ask, “how do we know how best to rank them from worst to best?”
I’m here, old friends. I’m here.
Batman And Robin
A controversial choice for shittiest Batman movie! You know, I don’t dislike this movie for the camp. I don’t even hate the nipple suits. Batman And Robin is a ridiculous movie that isn’t trying to be anything else but Adam West by way of RuPaul’s Drag Race. My issue is that Schumacher didn’t do it well. I don’t know if he buckled under pressure (very likely- can you imagine being in charge of a studio tentpole that size?) but the movie is sloppy. When Mystery Men is more competently assembled than the movie it’s parodying, that’s probably not good.
The Dark Knight Rises
To be fair, I only saw this once unlike everything else on the list, which I’ve seen…a lot. I should probably give it another go in good faith, but man. These are the three things that I remember from The Dark Knight Rises: Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle was fantastic, Christian Bale’s Bat voice belonged in a nipple suit, and I was really excited when it was over. It was just so long. That’s not a good thing to be thinking during Batman. It’s like when I had my first mainstage performance in theatre in college and my dad was like ‘you sure learned a lot of lines.’
The quality dip between Forever and And Robin is wild. It’s like watching Guardians of the Galaxy and then watching Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. This is a good movie once you accept that it’s a different director with a different vision, because he executes that vision very well. Jim Carrey channels Frank Gorshin perfectly without doing an impression of him, and dumb little touches like Sugar and Spice and Chris O’Donnell being a laundry ninja is dumb fun. I think my only complaint is that Val Kilmer, who is a brilliant comedic performer, wasn’t allowed to be a little campier.
This is such a beautiful weird movie. It’s strange to think that there was a time that people were like ‘wait you want to make Batman dark?’ They definitely didn’t let anyone ease into the idea with Tim Burton on board. Everyone is fantastic in this movie, from Jack Napier to Bob to Vicki Vale. The Prince soundtrack makes absolutely no sense, and somehow that makes it perfect.
My favorite of the Nolan films, because he’s begrudgingly making a Batman movie with crime in it, and not a crime movie that happens to have a Batman in it. The Ken Watanabe bait and switch is a waste of a phenomenal actor, but Liam Neeson is an acceptable trade off if that’s the direction you’re insisting on taking. I’ll never complain about ninjas in a movie, and the League is just so cool. Honestly I think that the creators of Arrow had just been like ‘let’s keep making Batman Begins as a TV show.’
The Dark Knight
CONTROVERSIAL CHOICE FOR NOT BEST BATMAN! Ok, let’s talk. Heath Ledger gives one of the greatest performances of all time in this movie. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that it’s better than Orson Welles’ most notable role, the planet eating Unicron in Transformers: The Movie. It’s so rare that you sit in a theatre and realize you’re seeing sometime important. I will never forget watching people laugh at the magic trick and then feel them get uncomfortable that they were laughing.
That said, the Heathless scenes in this movie kind of suck. Except for Michael Caine talking about hunting bandits. That guy rules. I just feel like Nolan begrudgingly made Batman Begins to feel like an actual comic book movie and then said SEE I MADE MONEY CAN I MAKE MY NOT A BATMAN MOVIE NOW because if they weren’t in costumes this could have been a fantastic Die Hard or some other crime action thriller. Really, the only reason I put this above Batman Begins is Mr. Ledger.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
I wasn’t going to include this because it’s animated but then I remembered that this is MY dumb internet list and who cares. This movie is so, so good. There’s a reason why the Bruce Timm’s Batman is the Batman of choice for a lot of people. The score in this movie is gorgeous and Mark Hamill’s performance as Joker is so good, it makes you wonder why that guy never gets any other work and has never played another iconic character. But above all else, a bunch of the movie takes place in an abandoned World’s Fair, and abandoned World’s Fairs are to locations what Nazi scientists are to pulp villains.
And it’s not even close. Tim Burton’s second trip to the Batcave is a perfect blend of weird sad Burton melancholy with batshit (haHA!) crazy adventure movie. Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance as Selina Kyle is on par with Ledger’s Joker and I will come to your home and fight you over this. With my fists. She is absolutely perfect in every scene she’s in. Danny DeVito is insane and Christopher Walken is also in this movie and are you hearing me? The Red Triangle Gang is the scariest fucking thing of all time. There is a duck car. Michael Keaton nails it in this movie. He has like six spotlights that shine into his living room to tell him the batsignal is lit and it’s awesome. There are as many reasons why this movie is the best Batman movie as there are penguins wearing rocket launchers in the third act. And they are one of the reasons.