When you think of the most iconic vehicles in pop culture history, I bet the one you have dreamed about getting behind the wheel of most often is the Batmobile. The finest ride in Gotham has seen quite a transformative evolution on film, from the 1940s theatrical serials to Matt Reeves’ The Batman.
The question is, among its cinematic designs, which Batmobile is best? As a lifelong Batfan with a few opinions on the matter, I have accepted the challenge of taking a deeper look under the hood of all the Batmobile designs from every live-action Batman movie so far and ranking them in ascending order to determine which one rules the road. Buckle up.
8. Batman (1943)
This Batmobile might not even be worth counting and for a couple of reasons. For one, the 1943 Batman serials starring Lewis Wilson as the Caped Crusader have been long forgotten by most and rarely referenced in comparison to more modern cinematic entries.
A possible key reason for the old short films’ obscurity (outside of being overt anti-Japanese propaganda) is the simple fact that this “Batmobile” is nothing more than a 1939 Cadillac Series 61 convertible without even a Bat symbol merely glued to the front grill. At least it was black, which counts for something.
7. Batman & Robin (1997)
Usually toy companies will try to recreate the appearance of a vehicle designed for a movie into a smaller model. However, it almost seems like that process was done in reverse with this flashy (literally, the motor is a big, spinning light at the front) art installation on wheels that was just one of many ridiculously cartoonish vehicles that made the infamous Batman & Robin one long toy commercial.
I will give points for its sleek, somewhat traditional body design and getting rid of a certain feature from the Batmobile in Joel Schumacher’s previous Batman movie that I will get to soon. I take away just as many points, though, for making this vehicle a one-seater with an unsealable open top that makes George Clooney’s Batman susceptible to gunfire, a crushed head if it flips over, or bugs in his teeth. If you want to make the Batmobile the ultimate toy, at least make it a real car first.
6. Batman Forever (1995)
I have always believed that any Batmobile should, in some capacity, look “batty” (and, yes I do have my arguments in favor of the Tumbler and Robert Pattinson’s muscle car). That being said, I do feel that some designs have taken the “batty” part a little too far, in favor of throwing practicality out the window – such as with Val Kilmer’s ride in Joel Schumacher’s first DC movie, Batman Forever.
The bright, blue light emitting from the translucent ribbing pattern of the body and wheels would be repeated (with red added, too) in Batman & Robin, but at least that Batmobile got rid of the comically large and unnecessary third wing sticking out from the center rear, which would not come in handy under low overpasses. This is yet another Batmobile that suffers from putting style over substance and a misunderstanding of its purpose for crime fighting and transportation, not winning prizes at the local car show.
5. Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016), Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
I may have said earlier that a Batmobile can be too “batty,” but I still firmly believe that element is of some importance, symbolically at least. Yet, for some reason, Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne chose to ignore any resemblance to the nocturnal creature of his alter ego’s namesake when designing (or even buying for all we know) his vehicle that was first introduced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
This is essentially the Blade Runner universe’s idea of a military grade combat vehicle which, despite its impressive built-in arsenal, has nothing memorable to offer in comparison to previous Batmobiles. Even when Frank Miller’s Batman drove a tank in The Dark Knight Returns, he had the thought to give it ears.
4. The Batman (2022)
I remember, when the Batmobile from The Batman was first revealed by Matt Reeves on Twitter, some said it looked like a suped-up hot rod more fitting for Dominic Toretto or Max Rocktansky than the Caped Crusader. However, I really admire its more realistic, homemade approach that veers away from the tank design for the first time in a while.
Plus, if you look close enough, that badass rocket blaster even has some “battiness” to it. Thankfully, any haters were immediately silenced by the epic car chase between Robert Pattinson’s Dark Knight and Colin Farrell’s Penguin that immediately proves what a mean, crime-fighting machine this new take on the vehicle is.
3. Batman: The Movie (1966)
However, even a battle-ready muscle car like we see in The Batman just barely holds a candle to the very first, true live-action Batmobile, in my opinion. After first appearing in the hit TV series starring Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as his young ward, Robin, this instantly recognizable pop culture landmark made its cinematic debut in 1966’s Batman: The Movie.
Modeled after a 1955 Lincoln Futura, the jet black paint job with red trim, sleek “wing-like” body, and the mandatory rocket blaster in the back makes it a real thing of beauty. Hell, I even dig the Jetsons-style dome windows, even if they should be closed. This is what I was talking about when I said your ideal toy car should look like a car first.
2. Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008)
Now, I am aware that I have been slightly critical of less-than-batty, military-grade vehicles passing off as Batmobiles in this list. I also know that there are a few Batfans who do not favor the less-than batty, military-grade vehicle that Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) buys from Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins for that reason.
However, in 2005, the Tumbler was an exciting moment in Batmobile history for being more unique and suited for mobile crime fighting than anything we had seen before with reinforced armor, the ability to jump bridges, and an amazing built-in arsenal. Also, anyone who doubts the Tumbler’s battiness should take a better look at the wings in the back and how closely the body design resembles a bat’s face.
1. Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992)
Based on the criteria I have presented for what a Batmobile must possess, there is only one that meets every detail. I also think most BatFans would agree that, when it comes to all the live-action Batman actors so far, Michael Keaton got the ultimate ride.
It has “battness” with its unmistakable wings emitting from the rear, it has a sleek body with built-in, voice-activated shields, the turbine engine in the front is intimidating, and the combination of clear practicality and breathtaking artistry is refreshing. I cannot think of another Batmobile in history that can hold a candle to the one in Tim Burton’s films, with the ‘90s animated series’ vehicle coming closest.
Who knows what this list could look like when other upcoming Batman movies come out? Maybe Robert Pattinson’s Batmobile will get a new redesign for Matt Reeves’ next installment that will take it straight to top. However, in the end – like the Dark Knight himself – there is not one definitive version of the Batmobile and whichever one should be deemed best is in the eye of the beholder.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.