While it’s always fun to look back and remember the good old days, one should never forget the trials and tribulations that came along with being a fan of the Dark Knight. With the new standalone movie arriving every other year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of content that is out there. Knowing which Batman movie to watch can be a source of stress, but hopefully, this list will serve as a handy guide for those interested in watching or re-visiting the films. Below, you’ll find a guide to the chronological order of the Batman movies in order of appearance.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Arguably the most influential and popular of all the Batman films, The Dark Knight reinvented the blockbuster format in so many ways. A good chunk of the praise for The Dark Knight has to do with the fact that the story was a complete departure from what came before it. While the Joker and the Penguin were both present in Burton’s 1966 animated film and the first live action Batman film, The Dark Knight introduced a number of new villains and put a twist on classic stories. Instead of fighting crime in costume, the Dark Knight would utilize his resources and contacts within the police force to catch the bad guys. The movie also benefited from the digital age, which made the realistic looking car chases and fight scenes possible. However, it’s hard to deny that the biggest change came from the fact that Harvey Dent was turned into Two-Face, which completely altered the dynamic of the Batman moviegoing experience. After being the protagonist for so long, Batman’s arch-enemy was now the protagonist again, which must have been quite a comedown.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Dark Knight Rises effectively and tragically sealed the fate of Harvey Dent. The actor who played Two-Face, who had already started to show symptoms of a brain tumor in 2011, died during the production of TDKR. Although he was mostly absent during post-production, his story arc is most assuredly told in the concluding part of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. While there are many callbacks and references to the events that transpired in the previous two movies, Dark Knight Rises brings everything full circle in a neat little bow.
The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
Arguably the most inventive and creative of the Batman films, The LEGO Batman Movie takes a backseat to no other film in terms of its special effects and scale. While still using some of the tropes and story elements that fans have come to know and love, the makers of this 2016 comedy-adventure crammed in as much humor and fun into its approximately 100 minutes as possible. The best part is that they didn’t even try to hide the Batman theme, which makes the film almost seamless. It doesn’t hurt that the script is loaded with jokes either, particularly about the culture of Batman and his fans (the most prominent being a scene that sees Batman argue with a character named Dick Grayson about whether or not Robin should be considered part of the family). The LEGO Batman Movie also marks the first appearance of a character named BeeBee, who’s essentially the female equivalent of Robin. She gets an entire subplot involving her friend Mina’s relationship with her rich uncle Alfred.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Going back and forth between two films isn’t something that’s uncommon in cinema. Think of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which started with Iron Man and continued with The Avengers. However, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, while taking the Marvel route of having separate movies that exist in the same shared continuity, stands out from the rest of these examples due to its sheer ambition and scale. Not only is it the first film in the DC Universe, it’s also the first to be based on a true story, with the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) pitted against Batman (Ben Affleck) in a conflict that rages across the world. One of the most interesting aspects of this cinematic clash of titans is that it effectively serves as a finale to the first half of Warner Bros.’ shared DC cinematic universe, the DC Extended Universe, which started with Man of Steel in 2013 and continued with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The result is that, while both films deal with awesome amounts of content, it won’t be as overwhelming due to their stylistic differences. Batman v Superman is a bigger, bolder affair than most people would expect from the studio behind Harry Potter and the Matrix movies. There’s also a surprising amount of heart in this cinematic docket, particularly in the scenes where Bruce Wayne and his allies deal with the loss of citizens in Metropolis due to the actions of Superman.
Suicide Squad (2018)
The year 2018 saw the release of two very different superhero films from the same studio: Incredibles 2 and Suicide Squad. While both are entertaining and have their merits, it’s hard to deny that the less said about Suicide Squad the better, particularly since the movie underperformed at the box office. However, a lot of credit for Suicide Squad has to go to its amazing makeup and costume designers, who gave each of the villains their own distinct look, while staying true to the comic book origins of the characters. With all these wonderful influences and a fantastic use of colors, it’s no wonder that the villainous characters in Suicide Squad were some of the most memorable in recent memory: Killa Queen, Enchantress, Katana, Boomerang, and, of course, Deadshot.
Black Widow (2018)
While it was great to see a dynamic duo of heroes (Ironman and Spiderman), it was even more exciting to see a solo hero work particularly well with other characters. That’s exactly what happened in Black Widow, in which Natasha Romanoff, the Winter Soldier, is effective in her own right, particularly when working with other spies. However, Black Widow is also effective because of the way it delves into the culture of superhero movies and their depictions of females. There’s a reason this film was hailed as The best Summer 2018 movie—and it’s not just because of its stunning visuals or action-packed battle scenes. Black Widow effectively used humor and subversive storytelling to comment on and deconstruct some of the tropes associated with superhero movies and female characters in general.
So there you have it: a comprehensive guide to the order of the Batman movies. Whether you’ve stuck with the Dark Knight all these years or are just now discovering him for the first time, this list will help get you caught up on all the essential plot points and characters. As for which one you should watch first? That depends on how much you want to take in and how much you want to leave for later. The Dark Knight is the quintessential Batman film and the most iconic representation of the character to date. It’s also one of the more recent films on this list, so it might be a good idea to check it out first before diving into the rest.