The Batman movie franchise has been around for decades, entertaining audiences with its dark and gritty take on the iconic DC Comics superhero. From the campy Adam West version to the brooding Christian Bale iteration, the Caped Crusader has undergone many transformations on the big screen. With so many Batman movies to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start or how to watch them in the proper order. In this article, Reelgood will take a chronological look at all the Batman movies in order, from the earliest to the most recent, and provide a viewing guide to help you experience the full story arc of the Dark Knight.
The Original Batman Movies (1966-1997)
The first Batman movie was released in 1966, starring Adam West as the titular character and Burt Ward as Robin. This film was a product of its time, with a campy and tongue-in-cheek tone heavily influenced by the popular Batman TV show of the same era. Despite its light-hearted approach, the movie was a box office success and cemented the Caped Crusader’s place in popular culture.
After a 23-year hiatus, the Batman franchise was rebooted in 1989 with Tim Burton’s Batman. Starring Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight, this film took a darker and more serious approach to the character, with a gothic aesthetic and a focus on the psychological trauma that drives Bruce Wayne to become Batman. The film was a huge commercial and critical success, grossing over $400 million worldwide and launching a new franchise-era era.
Batman Returns (1992)
Burton returned to the director’s chair for the sequel, Batman Returns, which was released in 1992. Keaton reprises his role as Batman, while Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer joined the cast as the Penguin and Catwoman, respectively. The film continued the darker tone of the first installment and introduced new elements to the Batman mythos, but it was not as well-received as the original.
Batman Forever (1995)
After Batman Returns, Burton stepped down as director and was replaced by Joel Schumacher for the next two films in the franchise. The first of these, Batman Forever, was released in 1995 and starred Val Kilmer as the Dark Knight. The film departed from Burton’s vision, with a more colorful and lighter tone and focusing on Batman’s relationships with his allies and enemies. It was a box office success but received mixed reviews.
Batman & Robin (1997)
Schumacher’s second Batman & Robin film was released in 1997. Starring George Clooney as Batman and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, the film was widely criticized for its campy and over-the-top style, as well as for its poor performances and lack of depth. It was a commercial failure and marked the end of the original Batman movie franchise.
The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012)
Batman Begins (2005)
After the disappointment of Batman & Robin, the franchise was rebooted again in 2005 with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Starring Christian Bale as the Dark Knight, this film returned to the darker and more serious tone of the original Batman movies, focusing on the origin story of Bruce Wayne and the creation of the Batman persona. The film was a critical and commercial success and set the stage for the next two films in the trilogy.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight, the second film in Nolan’s trilogy, was released in 2008. Building on the foundation of Batman Begins, the film delved deeper into the characters’ psyche and explored the Batman universe’s moral complexities. Bale returned as Batman, with Heath Ledger delivering a now-iconic performance as the Joker. The film was a massive success, grossing over $1 billion worldwide and receiving widespread critical acclaim.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The final film in Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, was released in 2012. The film continued the story of the previous two films, with Bale again as Batman and Tom Hardy as the villainous Bane. The film dealt with themes of redemption, sacrifice, and the power of the human spirit and was a fitting conclusion to Nolan’s highly successful and critically acclaimed trilogy.
The DCEU Batman Movies (2016-2022)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
After the conclusion of Nolan’s trilogy, the Batman franchise was rebooted again as part of the larger DC Extended Universe. The first film in this new iteration, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was released in 2016. Starring Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman, the film pit the two iconic heroes against each other before ultimately teaming them up to fight a common enemy. The film received mixed reviews and underperformed at the box office.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Also released in 2016, Suicide Squad featured Batman in a supporting role, with Affleck reprising his role from Batman v Superman. The film follows a group of supervillains who are recruited by the government to carry out dangerous missions in exchange for reduced sentences. The film was a box office success but received mostly negative reviews.
Justice League (2017)
The 2017 film Justice League brought Batman and Superman together with other DC superheroes, including Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Flash. Affleck reprised his role as Batman and served as one of the team’s leaders. The film received mixed reviews and was a box-office disappointment.
The Batman (2022)
The most recent Batman film, The Batman, was released in 2022, directed by Matt Reeves, and starred Robert Pattinson as the titular character. The film was a noir-inspired detective story that followed Batman as he investigated a series of murders in Gotham City while delving into the origin story of both Bruce Wayne and Batman. The film was well-received by both critics and audiences.
From the campy Adam West version to the brooding Christian Bale iteration, the Batman franchise has undergone many transformations over the years. With so many Batman movies to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start or how to watch them in the proper order. We hope this chronological guide will help you navigate the many Batman movies and experience the full story arc of the Dark Knight. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a newcomer to the franchise, there’s a Batman movie out there for everyone to enjoy.