In Part 2 of our Batman series, we explore the best movies the character has to offer. Ironically, I am currently watching one of the Batman movies that made our top five. Overall, the character itself has certain qualities that we want to see in every movie. If we don’t get that, it’s hard for us fans to truly say that we love the movie. Without further adieu – here is the top half of our list.
7. The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
This one is a bit hokey, but it is kind of hilarious at the same time. Will Arnett plays a rather tongue-in-cheek version of the character. This is a spinoff of the Lego Movie Film that came out in 2014. Obviously, it’s a spoof of all the Batman movies, making fun of the different iterations. Most specifically though, it targets the brooding ethos that was at the heart of the Dark Knight Trilogy. This movie also rewards all of the hardcore fans with minutiae by throwing nods at obscure villains and costumes from the Adam West Series and the 1990s animated show. Michael Cera also plays the cute little orphan boy who just might teach Batman how to get in touch with his feelings.
6. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
In between Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Batman films, Warner Bros. produced the innovative Batman: The Animated Series, which was surprisingly sophisticated and serious for a kids’ show. This iteration of the Batman legend came to the big screen for Mask of the Phantasm, an impressively complex 76-minute tale that mixes a love story, Bruce Wayne’s tragic past, the scene-stealing Joker, and a mystery into an intricate, flashback-laden narrative. While this movie reimagines Wayne’s past as a trauma that he shares with Andrea, the story itself is surprisingly sexy, touching and emotionally astute.
5. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
This movie certainly doesn’t live up to The Dark Knight. But just because this feels like a let down after The Dark Kight, doesn’t mean that it’s still not a great film. In fact, it’s full of some pretty big swings. There are, however, some references to the Occupy Wall Street movement that don’t quite land. But you can still see the chaos of Bane. The sequence in which Bane sets off bombs throughout Gotham is still one of Nolan’s great set pieces, particularly if you were fortunate enough to see it in Imax.
4. Batman (1989)
What is most satisfying about this film is that Tim Burton was able to present the superhero as both brooding, as well as the ludicrous, self-mocking figure that we also expect. The dance that takes place between Michael Keaton’s buttoned-up Batman and the insane Joker is certainly what gives Batman its spark. Our hero is noble but muted and tormented, while his nemesis is a gloriously unhinged man free of such hang-ups. Who’s to say which character is really the more troubled?
3. Batman Returns (1992)
The Tim Burton movies certainly provide us with characters that are truly damaged. Batman himself is lost and terrified. Catwoman, played by Michelle Pfeiffer is sexy and scary, but also in danger of spiraling out of control. This movie was way too strange to be the tentpole Warner Bros. wanted, and they quite reasonably, if ultimately foolishly, tried to steer the franchise back to steadier, more mainstream waters. That said, this film has Tim Burton written all over it and it certainly gives us another version of our favorite superhero.
2. Batman Begins (2005)
The emphasis on Batman’s dark mental makeup is what informs every moment of Batman Begins. This didn’t wipe out the previous films, but rather it created a template for other studios to follow. Here was a film that actually took Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma seriously, casting Christian Bale as a distant, uncertain playboy who was crippled inside — becoming Batman not because he loved the gadgets, but because he desperately needed a way to exorcise the pain of seeing his parents murdered.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Epic, magisterial, and still intensely relevant, Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece changed both what a superhero movie could be and what a blockbuster could be — in ways we’re still dealing with a decade later. Nolan turned his Batman movie into a moral crime thriller, in which Batman himself is sort of an irrelevant character who must accept the ramifications of the madness he unwittingly unleashed on Gotham merely by existing. This is the film where Health Ledger gives us a joker that is so terrifying that it feels like the actor dug up something so deep in himself that it was almost too much to handle. This is the movie that everyone is trying to recreate.