To mark Batman's 75th anniversary, we've revisited each of the nine theatrically-released movies to come up with our definitive ranking from worst to best.
We've taken into account not only the films themselves, but also how they fit into the wider context of the character's cinematic legacy. Read our verdict on each below, and we hope the choice for number one gets you talking...
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9. Batman & Robin (1997)
Joel Schumacher's second and final Batman entry serves up excruciating one-liners from Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr Freeze, a plot trajectory lazily rehashed from its predecessor and a gaudy neon aesthetic that's completely at odds with the Dark Knight's comic roots.
Batman & Robin represents Hollywood franchiseification at its very worst. Everything about it feels compromised by studio focus groups and corporate tie-ins, as if its makers were desperate for their property to appeal to every possible target audience. The film was so bad it killed the Batman film series for eight years. Miraculously, George Clooney made it out in one piece, but those nipples still haunt him (and us).
8. Batman Forever (1995)
You can sense the franchise's seeds of destruction being planted throughout, though, as the movie becomes increasingly overstuffed with characters and hardware seemingly designed to spin off into toy lines.
Chris O'Donnell is too old to really convince as the moody teen Dick Grayson, while Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, as Two-Face and The Riddler respectively, both cackle and guffaw their way through proceedings trying to outdo Jack Nicholson's Joker.
This is a film that's functional popcorn entertainment (particularly back in the summer of 1995 when it first came out), but it doesn't quite cut the mustard now. Frankly, Batman deserves better.
7. Batman: The Movie (1966)
The '60s saw a seismic change of American culture, and the Batman TV series and subsequent movie reflected this in its pop art-inspired visuals and free-wheeling comedic tone.
West and Burt Ward continued their small screen adventures in this 1966 movie, and despite all its flaws and how un-Batmany it feels today, it's still a fairly enjoyable romp. There are shades of Bond-style Cold War concerns in Lee Meriwether's duplicitous Russian Miss Kitka (she's Catwoman, natch) and the preposterous plot to dehydrate members of the UN, while two of the set-pieces - Batman battling off a shark clamped to his leg and his hilarious attempt to dispose of a bomb - are still some of the series' most memorable.
This film is certainly no masterpiece, but it helped to plant Batman's flag in the pop cultural landscape. It's an important moment in the character's history, because everything that came after was almost a direct reaction against it. Batman wouldn't have been examined so brilliantly by Frank Miller and Tim Burton in the '80s had it not been for this.
6. Batman Returns (1992)
After initially dismissing the idea of coming back for a sequel, Burton returned when he was granted creative control and the result is a film that sees him indulge all his darkly-gothic whims.
Michael Keaton, excellent again in the dual role of Bruce and Batman, is relegated to a supporting player in his own movie as Burton veers off into the worlds of the Penguin (Danny DeVito), Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Max Schreck (Christopher Walken).
This is well-and-truly 'A Tim Burton Picture', with Johnny Depp the only missing ingredient. It's dark, weird and probably the least accessible Batman film on initial viewing. All of its director's idiosyncrasies - for better or worse - are out in full force, and this doesn't necessarily make for a great Batman movie.
5. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Things come full-circle as the League of Shadows - the terrorist group who helped shape Bruce Wayne into Batman - return to haunt Gotham under the leadership of Tom Hardy's verbose villain Bane.
The thematic seeds planted in Begins, of Bruce creating a symbol of hope for Gotham, are fully-realised here in the final scene as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's cop John Blake enters the Batcave, presumably to take on the cape and cowl. It's Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway (as the limber Selina Kyle) who are the biggest surprises of this film, but on revisiting it's a piece that's riddled with many minor problems. Bane's vocal issues are well-documented, and supporting players Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine get short shrift in terms of screen time.
It's overlong, too, with one-too-many thundering action sequences, spectacle taking precedent over character. Still, as a full stop on the Bale/Nolan era it more than does the job.
4. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
An engaging and smartly-scripted adventure, this is also a film that carries weightier themes than you'd ever suspect. Bruce Wayne is ultimately a tragic figure here, rejecting the chance to have a normal life and letting Batman envelop him after his romance with Andrea Beaumont turns sour. Excellent voice performances from Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (both brilliant servants to the roles of Batman and Joker respectively), and Dana Delany elevate it further.
Released in cinemas on Christmas Day 1993, Mask of the Phantasm bombed at the box office but found a second life on home video. Now, it's rightly heralded as a cinematic highlight for the character.
3. Batman (1989)
Frank Miller has revolutionised the character on the comic book page thanks to The Dark Knight Returns and Year One, and fast-rising director Tim Burton did similar on the big screen.
Burton ignored square-jawed action hero types like Alec Baldwin and Kurt Russell in favour of his livewire Beetlejuice star Michael Keaton in the title role. Despite much fanboy fury, Keaton eventually proved them all wrong, bringing a complex duality to the role. His brooding superhero was countered by a crackerjack turn from Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and audiences lapped up this new take on an icon.
Just as Christopher Reeve's Superman had brought credibility to the superhero movie some 10 years earlier, Batman reinforced the notion that the genre was capable of appealing to more than just comic book fans. Batman was also a landmark movie in terms of Hollywood's approach to franchises - as well as sequels it offered a studio multi-platform outlets through soundtracks, video games and merchandising spinoffs. It set the template for years to come and that's something that's often overlooked.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
Gary Oldman's James Gordon comes into his own here, Aaron Eckhart's tortured Harvey Dent excels as the white knight to Wayne's dark, but most impressive of all is Heath Ledger as the Joker. The wiry, purple-suited villain is utterly terrifying - in Nolan's vision he exists because of Batman, they intertwine in a way that seems perfect when measured next to their decades old battle across comics, TV and film.
Ledger was awarded a posthumous Academy Award for The Dark Knight, but the movie came up short when it came to dishing out major awards. That snub - for a film that earned more than $1 billion and topped many a critic and fans' best of '08 list - is predominately why the Oscars can now have up to ten films in the race for Best Picture.
1. Batman Begins (2005)
Continuity do-overs were common in comics, but with Begins director Christopher Nolan oversaw the first ever major film franchise reboot. Now you can't escape them! This film was a trailblazer in terms of form, but it wouldn't have been if the content wasn't up to snuff.
Begins wiped the cinematic slate clean and decided to follow a young Bruce Wayne as he transformed from nomadic billionaire into Gotham's shadowy protector. Nolan and screenwriter David S Goyer crafted a hero's journey about a man who must face his own deep-seated fears. They drew inspiration from comic storylines The Man Who Falls and The Long Halloween, and films as wide-ranging as On Her Majesty's Secret Service, The Man Who Would Be King and Blade Runner for tone and visual texture. The result is a sweeping Batman origins movie that's strikes the perfect balance between soul and spectacle.
Crucial to its success was the casting of Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne. At the time he was a respected character actor, far from the major movie star of today. He came to the role as an unknown quantity to most viewers, but film fans who'd already seen him as American Psycho's Patrick Bateman perhaps knew the level of intensity to expect.
Bale had no celebrity baggage, either, and that allowed audiences to easily invest in him. His performance brought new dimensions to Wayne; three distinct personas vied for screen time - the playboy Wayne facade, his costumed alter-ego, and the 'real' Bruce seen only by Alfred (Michael Caine) and Rachel (Katie Holmes).
The caped crusader has so often been eclipsed by his rogue's gallery on the big screen, but here he's finally front and centre of his own movie. Batman Begins is actually about Batman, and it's a spectacular work that gets right to the heart of Bob Kane and Bill Finger's creation. If you've never seen a Batman film before, this is where to start.
Disagree with our choice of number one? Let us know your rankings by joining in the discussion in the comments section below!