With Matt Reeves’ The Batman headed to theaters this weekend, we welcome Robert Pattinson into the role of Bruce Wayne. I think Bobby Patts is going to do a good job and am excited to see it. But instead of looking forward to this new film, I decided to look back.
Let’s reflect on the dozen theatrical releases of Batman and see how they shape up. Will this new Pattinson Bats (Pats Bats?) be remembered like Keaton or Bale? Or will we be yearning for the days of bat-nipples?
12. Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
There is no nice way to say this: if you like this movie, I probably don’t like you. It’s definitely the worst film to come out in all the 2010’s. There is no second place contender.
11. Batman & Robin (1997)
Mr. Freeze puns? The weirdest version of Bane? BAT-NIPPLES? This film is definitely weird and tries to be campy, but loses its way almost instantly and never catches on. George Clooney, you deserved better, man.
10. The Killing Joke (2016)
Well, it’s the best Batman offering of 2016. But the liberties taken with the source material, especially with what is considered one of the great Batman works of all time, do not work and this film cannot live up to the shadow of the amazing Alan Moore work. I’m not even sure it tries that hard.
9. Batman Forever (1995)
Another one-and-done for a Batman. This time, it’s Val Kilmer who can’t really find his place as the caped crusader, despite how hard Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose” tries to bring us in. Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey are a weird double-team of villains, and Chris O’Donnell feels like he’s phoning in a favor to director Joel Schumacher. Still, the soundtrack rips.
8. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Tom Hardy would have made for a better Bane if I were able to understand a single goddamned word that he was saying. There’s a lot of good going on here, and I really loved Anne Hathaway. But this movie is about a half hour too long and has just one too many balls in the air for Christopher Nolan’s own good.
7. Batman (1966)
Even at the top of the bottom half, this is a movie I enjoy a great deal. The movie is a campy treat and in a world where so many people take the Batman so seriously, Adam West has no interest in doing that and we’re all better off for it. If Reeves’ film is as dark and mopey as people say it is, maybe use this film as a solid chaser.
6. Batman Begins (2005)
In which we welcome Christian Bale to the starring role and Christopher Nolan to the director’s chair. The chase scene with the Batmobile is absolutely delightful, and Cillian Murphy is a Scarecrow who gives you the feeling of fear. There’s a reason why the Nolan trilogy are so highly regarded: they started out on a very positive note.
5. Batman Returns (1992)
Christopher Walken hamming it up? Danny DeVito going even farther? Michelle Pfeiffer? YES PLEASE. This is the perfect mix of camp fun with a little gravitas thrown in. I would have loved to see four more Tim Burton-Michael Keaton team-ups.
4. Batman (1989)
Let’s all just take a minute and have ourselves a good Batdance, y’all.
3. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993)
Batman: The Animated Series is one of the best shows television has ever made, and this movie is just basically one long episode, so you can’t really go wrong. Wisely using the film to delve into Batman’s origin the way the series never did, the film gives us everything we wanted and more.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
How this film didn’t get a Best Picture nomination is fucking beyond me. Led by one of the great performances to ever exist on film, Heath Ledger gives us a Joker in a way that feels like they should not have tried again. YOU HEAR THAT, JARED LETO AND JOAQUIN PHOENIX? NEVER AGAIN! Also, the bank heist opening and Hans Zimmer score are just absolutely pitch perfect.
1. The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
What this movie does is a stroke of absolute genius: it takes all of the things that nerds love about Batman and show that if someone were really that way, they’d be a terrible asshole. Will Arnett is the perfect voice casting not just for the cocky loner Batman, but also the one who is yearning for the acceptance and love he feels like he deserves. Voice cast to perfection (Michael Cera should be Robin FOREVER) and with as many jokes as, genuinely, touching moments, no film has looked into the psyche of Bruce Wayne and taken it to its most logical conclusion. Of course it had to be done with LEGOs. They were building a masterpiece.