One of today’s biggest blockbuster hits is undoubtedly The Dark Knight. The caped crusader has enthralled audiences around the world with his superb acting, brilliant script, and exciting story. His outstanding performances in both the first and second film of the Batman series not only made him a household name, but also won praise from critics and fans alike. Most importantly, it was the films’ unique and interesting takes on the superhero genre that helped make Batman one of the most popular comic book heroes of all time.
Batman has been featured in many mainstream media outlets over the past few days, and his popularity truly is unrivaled. Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram have been flooded with images and videos of fans celebrating the Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary, with many hailing him as the greatest superhero of all time. It seems like everyone is talking about Batman these days, and it’s certainly not hard to see why. The Dark Knight is quite simply the epitome of everything you could want from a comic book character. He’s immensely popular, he’s been around for 75 years, and he’s always been a thorn in the side of the evil machinations of crime and corruption. As well as being a timeless icon, Batman also has a unique and interesting legacy. His status as Europe’s favorite superhero is somewhat well-deserved; what’s more is he has a rich and fascinating history that hasn’t been fully explored on film yet.
While we await the next instalment in the Batman series, The Dark Knight Rises, it’s well worth taking a look back at the character’s rich and storied cinematic history. To mark the occasion, let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit some of the great movies that gave us a glimpse of the legendary superhero. Be sure to click through for more information about each film.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1952)
Directed by Oscar Micheaux and starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of the finest examples of the early Disney television series. The film adapts the legendary stories of Robin Hood, a hero who fights against authority and corruption. It was during this time that Disney aired their first live-action series, which would later spawn the iconic Batman series. While The Adventures of Robin Hood isn’t exactly a direct precursor to the Dark Knight, it is an inspiring display of imagination and talent that wouldn’t go unnoticed by the Caped Crusader. The story follows a young man named Robin Hood (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), who robs from the rich and gives to the poor. When King Richard refuses to pay taxes to the English Crown, Robin Hood and his Merry Men (later known as the Merry Band) stage a revolt, battling the guards and police along the way. At the end of the day, King Richard rules the land as a just and kind ruler, vowing to pay back the people of Nottingham all that he owes them.
The Batman (1943)
Directed by William Wyler and starring Henry Cavill, The Batman was the first film to feature the superhero character. Like many other early Hollywood films, the plot focuses on an eccentric billionaire who creates a superhero identity for himself. Unlike most other examples, the film’s main antagonist is Arthur Poe, a lawyer who continually cheats the wealthy and powerful, particularly his arch-nemesis, billionaire Bruce Wayne (played by Batman legend George Reeves). In the end, Batman defeats the corrupt lawyer and punishes him with a lengthy jail sentence.
No Highway in the Sky (1943)
The ninth installment in the Dirty Harry film series, No Highway in the Sky is a classic example of the “good cop/bad cop” routine. Initially a Nazi sympathizer and fugitive, Dirty Harry (played by Harry Callahan, whose last name was inspired by the film’s location in Bolivia) is partnered with a charming detective named Morales. It isn’t long before the two of them are foaming at the mouth due to poison gas that was released by the Nazis, causing them to lose their sense of direction. After making several wild accusations, including that Hitler didn’t really die and that the Nazis didn’t actually drop the A-bomb on Hiroshima, Morales finally confesses that he’s been set up by the real criminal mastermind of the whole operation, Captain Ernst Schneider. Although Dirty Harry and Morales escaped unharmed, the film ends with an image of Dirty Harry with a shattered back, implying that he was killed in the line of duty.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is one of the best spy movies of all time, offering a witty script, dazzling special effects, and memorable characters. The movie stars Henry Cavill as Scott Adler, a Hollywood screenwriter who is recruited by a secret organization to help rescue a kidnapped scientist. When Adler agrees to help, he soon learns that he will need to don a disguise and behave like a complete stranger in order to infiltrate the enemy society. Adler eventually becomes the famous Agent Napoleon Solo, fighting crime and corruption with his trusted friend, Felicity (played by Emily Blunt). The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the ultimate caper movie, chock-full of complex plots, hilarious one-liners, and beautiful locations spanning across several iconic global landmarks. The movie also marks the acting debut of Armie Hammer, who will later go on to play the infamous Joker in the 2015 Batman film.
The Avengers (2012)
Perhaps the most popular of all Batman films is The Avengers, a 2012 installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Directed by Joss Whedon and starring Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Chris Evans, The Avengers is the story of a group of extraordinary people who come together to fight for justice and save the world. After being granted superpowers by a genetically engineered serum, the team sets out to battle S.H.I.E.L.D., a superior race of beings known as Avengers that have invaded and occupied Earth. The film is often referred to as The Ultimate Superhero Movie, and it certainly is. While The Avengers is far from being perfect, it does feature some truly spectacular special effects, action scenes, and amazing performances from its amazing main cast.
The Dark Knight Trilogy will continue to be relevant year after year, inspiring artists and filmmakers with its exceptional storytelling and unique visuals. To this day, it remains one of the most influential film series of all time. In 2019, Batman will be celebrating his 75th anniversary, and it would be a great shame to not recognize his impact and contribution to cinema. It’s been a big year for the Caped Crusader, and with the release of Detective Comics no. 846, his story will continue onto an even wider audience.