Every year, the movies change hands, and fans of the Dark Knight anxiously await which ones will be the next instalment. But even the most faithful viewers have to admit that the Batman films have lost a bit of their charm since the start of the 21st century. Let’s take a ranking of the most iconic Batman films of all time and find out which one reigns supreme.
10. Die Hard With A Vengeance
The first film in the Batman series, Die Hard With A Vengeance, didn’t arrive in cinemas until 1998, so most people have probably never heard of it. But for those who have, it’s safe to say that they’ll never forget it. Taking a cue from the Bruce Wayne persona used in the early ’90s, Fox’s first take on the Dark Knight was a bank heist flick that married the cool aesthetic of Bruce Campbell’s Johnny Mnemonic with the humour of Lethal Weapon. One of the greatest compliments that can be paid to this often-laughable but frequently enthralling movie is that it helped to revitalise the action movie genre in the early ’90s.
9. Batman & Robin
Arguably no series in Hollywood history has been as successful as Marvel’s Ironman. So when the Marvel Cinematic Universe decided to introduce a character who is arguably more popular than Ironman himself, it was only natural that they would want to give him his own series. Thankfully, Warner Bros. were more than willing to oblige, and Batman & Robin launched the DC Extended Universe into overdrive. This is the culmination of all the character’s previous cinematic efforts, which included the wildly popular Batman Begins and the unfairly maligned but critically acclaimed and commercially successful The Dark Knight. Many fans consider Batman & Robin to be among the best films in the series, if not the best. But it was not without its faults: the convoluted mythology and rapid-fire shooting caused some audiences to walk out of the cinema before the end credits even began to roll. Still, it’s hard to deny the enduring appeal of this gleefully over-the-top superhero romp.
8. The Dark Knight
Let’s do a little exercise here. Take out your phone, and search for The Dark Knight. You’ll see a whole lot of articles talking about the movie. Now, scroll down to the comments, and you’ll see a variety of opinions there. Some people love the film, but many consider it to be one of the worst of the Batman trilogy. This divided opinion is perfectly normal – even among diehard fans of the Dark Knight. When Heath Ledger tragically died just weeks before the premiere of The Dark Knight, it left the film’s entire production team scrambling to complete the project on time. The efforts of the filmmakers and screenwriters led to memorable scenes and an emotional climax, but ultimately, The Dark Knight was less than the sum of its parts. Still, many consider it to be one of the greatest superhero films of all time.
7. Batman Forever
After the critical and commercial disappointment that was Batman & Robin, the next movie in the series didn’t even pretend to live up to its predecessor’s immense success. While many fans were happy to give Batman a rest after his three-part adventure, Warner Bros. had other ideas. After the enormous success of Jurassic Park, the studio wanted to continue the franchise with another dinosaur-themed adventure. So they turned to Batman’s old adversary, Dr. Hiram Sloan, and his brilliant but troubled scientist son, Bruce. When their latest attempt at a superhero movie was panned by critics and confused by audiences, Warner Bros. decided to throw out all their planning documents and just go with what they knew. Thus was born Batman Forever, a complete reboot that ignored almost every element of the Batman franchise, right down to its title. The result was a messy, incohesive hybrid that combined the worst of everything.
6. Batman Begins
If there was one movie that defined the early 21st century, it was Batman Begins. Coming at the start of the decade, the Dark Knight’s first outing was the best example of both Hollywood nostalgia and modern, comic book-style storytelling. Batman Begins was based on the classic character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in the ’30s. It also paid homage to the various films and TV shows that had been inspired by the character, including the 1989 Batman. With Christopher Nolan at the helm, Batman Begins became the starting point for a brand new Gotham City, one that was more vibrant, realistic, and terrifying than we had seen before in a Hollywood film.
5. The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises is the conclusion to an unprecedented trilogy that asked the age-old question: can a hero survive in a world where his reputation is more valuable than his life? Led by Christian Bale, the movie picked up where The Dark Knight left off, and it was arguably the biggest and perhaps the most polarising movie of the trilogy. Many critics and fans felt that Bane’s (Tom Hardy’s) presence undermined what little goodwill remained toward Batman, even after the events of The Dark Knight. Others saw Bane as an effective, if brutal, foil to Batman – a martyr who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs. As with The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises was also met with widespread critical and commercial failure. But it achieved what its predecessors could not: it propelled the Batman franchise into an era of unprecedented commercial and critical success.
There aren’t many franchises as enduring as James Bond. While many people may feel that the series has been in creative decline over the past few years, the fact remains that every new James Bond movie is a commercial and critical success. Perhaps that’s because the character is so incredibly well-defined. After three decades, it’s fair to say that moviegoers know exactly what to expect from a Bond movie: sophistication, charm, and an arsenal of deadly devices and weapons. It’s also fair to say that the series didn’t reinvent itself with Spectre: it merely refined and expanded on the formula that made it famous. Even so, it’s hard to top Sean Connery’s original 1969 performance as James Bond, which led to a string of classic films that continue to this day.
3. The Avengers
Finally, we arrive at The Avengers, the culmination of a lifelong dream for Marvel Studios and the product of a lot of hard work from its director, Joss Whedon. Much like the James Bond franchise, The Avengers represents the characteristically excellent Marvel brand of cinematic genius. Featuring characters from multiple TV shows and films, The Avengers presents an unique mix of humour, action, and drama that still has the power to enchant moviegoers even today.
2. Spiderman 2
Speaking of enchanting moviegoers, Spiderman 2 is the ultimate example of a movie that earns its place on this list. Not only has it become one of the most iconic superhero films of all time, but it also managed to reinvent the way we look at Spidey and his supporting cast. Before Spiderman 2, most people probably wouldn’t have thought too much about the order in which the characters should appear in the scene. But here, we have a classic case of “comic book movie logic” that doesn’t hurtle the story along at breakneck speed, but rather allows the characters to develop further in a way that makes complete sense when viewed from a certain perspective. In this case, that’s Peter Parker’s (Parker Psace’s) – the camera follows him around as he tries to figure out who he can be in this world, and what role he can play in preventing evil forces from destroying what’s left of his beloved New York City.
There’s no question that Batman is the king of the superhero cinematic realm. He’s been around for almost 90 years now, and while the modern-day Batman may not be the same as the Batman of the `40s, `50s, and `60s, he’s still the gold standard for taking on crime and injustice. Without question, the biggest challenge for any superhero is surviving in a world where his (or her) reputation is more valuable than their life. For many of us, Batman represents the epitome of cinematic heroism, and a symbol of both courage and perseverance in the face of adversity. As long as there is a cinematic universe, there will be a Batman.