After the yesterday’s Livestream, I was channel surfing and stumbled across The Dark Knight and as expected, I ended up watching the whole thing and going to bed too late on a school night.
Whilst it was on I was chatting to two of my sons about what was the best stand alone live action Batman movie. And because I’m a glutton for punishment, I thought I’d share my views with you magnificent heathens.
Oh and just to point out, this is stand alone Batman movies so it doesn’t include Batman v Superman (which is awesome – come at me bro) or Justice League. I’ve also decided to not go way, way back so this list is from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman right up until 2020’s The Batman.
#8 – Batman And Robin
Holy Bat-nipples this film is terrible.
Joel Schumacher’s 1997 follow up to Batman Forever is as far removed from Burton’s Batman as you can get. This is nothing more than a modern take on Adam West’s 1960’s Batman but without any of the charm or humour.
Starring Mr Personality himself, George Clooney as Batman, Chris O’Donnell as Robin, Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy.
Most famous for rubber nipples, arse shots, bat-ice skates and the Bat-Credit Card, this film has gone down in folklore as to how not to make a superhero movie. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an Audience Score of 16%. That’s generous.
We should give thanks to this film though because without it Warner Bros wouldn’t have put the lid on this particular take on Batman and we would never have ended up with Nolan’s trilogy.
#7 – Batman Forever
This 1995 sequel to Batman Returns was a shocker. The dark, serious gothic feel of the Burton era was inexcusably replaced with bright neon and camp.
Once again directed by Joel Schumacher with Val Kilmer taking over the role of Batman after Michael Keaton walked away because he disagreed with Joel Schumacher’s take on the character.
According to Keaton, Schumacher told the actor:
“I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad.”
“Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read… I mean, it’s pretty simple.”
What’s even more impressive is that Keaton was offered $15 million and still refused. Looking back, $15 million was a small price to pay considering the film’s critical reception. The film has an Audience Score of just 32% Rotten Tomatoes.
Batman Forever also features Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Dent / Two Face. The insufferable Jim Carey as The Riddler and its only saving grace is the eye candy that was prime Nicole Kidman as Dr. Chase Meridian.
#6 – Batman Returns
Oh how I loved this film back in 1992. I think I went to the cinema about a dozen times to see it. However, having watched it recently, it has not aged well.
Tim Burton’s follow up to the ground breaking Batman, keeps with his signature dark and miserable goth style. This movie retained Keaton as Batman having won over the fans and critics from his first outing as the caped crusader.
Also appearing were Christopher Walken as Max Shrek, a kind of baddy Bruce Wayne. Danny DeVito as The Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman – Hubba hubba.
DeVito knocks it out of the park as Penguin. With the help of some incredible makeup, he really comes across as vile. At times it’s almost as if you can smell him through the screen. And what can I say about Pfeiffer in THAT costume that hasn’t already been said.
Even though I said the film hasn’t aged well, it’s still and thoroughly enjoyable watch, and with an Audience Score of 73% on RT, it’s clearly still a fan favourite.
#5 – The Dark Knight Rises
Yeah that’s right, the final chapter in Nolan’s trilogy only comes in at number 5 for me.
Featuring Christain Bale in his third and final outing as Batman. He’s accompanied by Tom Hardy as Bane, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Marion Cotillard as Taila al Ghu. We also get fan favourites Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy and Gary Oldman reprising their roles from the previous two Nolan entries.
Amazingly, this film is already 10 years old and compared to a lot of superhero movies over recent years, this is head and shoulders above most of them. However, it always just seems a little off for me. Maybe it’s because its predecessor was just so damn good, that anything following The Dark Knight was on a hiding to nothing?
Telling the story of Bane orchestrating a revolt against the rich, corrupt elites (something that probably wouldn’t go amiss today) that pretty much turns Gotham into a banana republic. Hardy is quite brilliant as Bane. He’s brutal, unforgiving and totally void of any remorse, wanting nothing more than seeking revenge for Ra’s al Ghul from Batman Begins.
Hathaway’s Catwoman is a bit of a non-event. Writing this, I’m struggling to see what was the point in even having her in the movie.
The biggest issue I have is the final battle on the streets of Gotham. Filmed during broad daylight does nothing for Batman’s appearance. In fact, without the night and shadows, it makes him look ridiculous to be honest. I think if they managed to set that scene at night, this film would feature higher on my list. But with a 90% Audience Score on RT, I’m likely to be in the minority on my positioning of this movie.
#4 – The Batman
The most recent of Batman films starring Robert Pattison and directed by the excellent Matt Reeves of Planet Of The Apes fame. This Batman movie is quite possibly the most divisive with the most criticism being with the film’s 3 hour runtime.
Set, wait for it, in a more grounded reality, The Batman is like revisiting the world of Se7en featuring Batman instead of Mills and Somerset. Dark, rainy, depressing and filthy, this movie makes Burton’s Batman 89 look like Disneyland… but without the Groomers.
The film is set in Batman’s second year fighting crime so we are spared the all too familiar back story but once again Batman is fighting the criminal underbelly. This is ruled by Carmine Falcone, Penguin and various corrupt politicians and police.
To add to the mix we have a minor love story developing between Batman and Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman as well as delving into the murky past of Bruce Wayne’s parents. This backstory is the driving force behind Paul Dano’s The Riddler’s one man war on Gotham.
I know this film has it’s haters and its one of the lower fan favourites with an Audience Score of 87%. But I loved it and having seen it a few more times since it’s theatrical release and I find it gets better with each sitting.
#3 Batman Begins
The first of Nolan’s Batman movies, after the bad taste still lingering from Batman And Robin, this movie was a revelation.
Christian Bale’s first outing as the caped crusader was excellent. Bale had a mixture of ups and downs leading up to this role. From the highs of American Psycho and The Machinist to the lows of Shaft and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
There were never any doubts about Bale’s acting ability and his casting proved to be inspired as he managed to perfectly portray playboy Bruce Wayne as the alter ego rather than Batman.
The studio and Nolan had the genius move to surround him with some big hitters in the likes of Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. Not a dissimilar tactic when the late Richard Donner cast unknown Christopher Reeve as Superman back in 78 when he surrounded Reeve with Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman and Jackie Cooper.
The film was, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, set in a more grounded reality and for the first time on film it told the back story of Bruce Wayne actually training to become Batman.
I’m shocked that this film is 17 years old and with an Audience Score of an astonishing 94% suggests to me that Batman Begins is ageless.
#2 – Batman
So the final two and no doubt you probably would have guessed that these two would be here.
Tim Burton’s Batman is a masterpiece and when it was released way back in 1989, it broke the mold for how to advertise and build hype for a movie. The advertisements for this thing were everywhere and the PR team built up such hype that people were foaming at the mouth by the time it came out.
Starring an actor best known for comedy roles, the casting of Michael Keaton Batman caused uproar. Warner Bros received thousands of letters of complaint by fans who believed Keaton was the wrong choice. That’s right you spoiled brats, complaining back in the day took effort. We never had the luxury of smartphones or the internet, we had to go out of our way to moan.
Just like they did with the aforementioned casting of Reeve as Superman, the studio countered their decision to hire Keaton with one of the biggest names in Hollywood, Jack Nicholson. Nicholson was cast as the Joker and gloriously hammed his way through the movie in what many thought at the time was an un-toppable portrayal of the Clown Prince Of Crime.
After the 60’s Batman series had pretty much diminished Batman to that of a colourful comedy character, Burton threw all that in the trash to give us a dark, moody and adult take on Batman set… in a more grounded reality.
I actually remember an article in one of the newspapers expressing outrage that they heard a rumour that Batman was to have sex in the new movie. Obviously talking about when Bruce Wayne gets Vicky Vale (played by the stunning Kim Basigner) drunk over dinner and he ‘helps’ her upstairs where she definitely consented. Hey, it’s prime Kim Basinger and if I was in his shoes, I wouldn’t have waited for the alcohol to take effect, I would have been cracking open the Rohypnol.
Anyway, unlike Batman Returns this movie still looks great and is tremendously fun to watch. Accompanied by Prince’s awesome soundtrack (rest in peace little guy), makes its Audience Score of 84% seem a little stingy.
#1 – The Dark Knight
Let’s be honest, none of you are surprised this is at number one.
Like the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman I mentioned above, Heath Ledger’s casting as the Joker caused an unprecedented level of Bat-Butthurt. Oh boy do those people look silly now.
I know I said people back in 89 thought no one would top Nicholson’s take on the Joker, well that’s how I feel about Ledger’s take now. In all honesty, I’m not sure it’ll ever be beaten.
Ledger played the Joker as an anarchist, rather than just a lunatic. He acted like a man who literally doesn’t even understand what giving a fuck means. Sadistic, methodical and often amusing at the same time. When the film was first screened back in 2008, critics said that you longed for the Joker to reappear on screen even though he brings the same sense of dread as Hannibal Lecter.
People have even speculated that because the Joker’s schemes were so meticulous in their planning and execution that he must be a former soldier or Special Ops who served in the Afghanistan or Iraq wars. This would explain his knowledge of knives and “all the familiar places” as well as ability to use various firearms and even a bazooka when he’s trying to capture Harvey Dent.
The nerds on the interwebs also speculate that the true origin of his scars are the result of having been through hell and disfigured in battle or torture (note his speech to Batman about never starting with the head) and his war on Gotham is the result of developing PTSD on the battle field.
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent / Two Face is also a tremendous performance but is sadly and understandably overshadowed by Hedger who ultimately went on to win a posthumous Oscar for his role.
The film accompanied with Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s impeccable film score makes The Dark Knight quite possibly a perfect movie.
The Dark Knight has an Audience Score of 94% – that’s 6% less than it should be!
So, what do you think? Am I bang on with my rankings or would you do it differently. Let me know in the comments section and go easy you Bat-Freaks.