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When you are a Batfan like me, any day is a great day to watch all the Batman movies in order - many of which are widely considered by comic book fans and cinema lovers alike to be some of the greatest superhero movies of all time - such as 1989’s Batman, The Dark Knight, or even the 1943 serials with Lewis G. Wilson (if you can find them). Well, you will not have a problem finding all of the following live-action DC movies in which the Caped Crusader has starred in so far on streaming or through digital rental, starting with the “Bright Knight’s” big screen moment.
The Adam West Era
Batman: The Movie (1966)
Released mere months after the hit TV series first premiered, Batman: The Movie sees the secret alter ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne (the late Adam West) and his young ward, Robin (Burt Ward), take on the four most feared members of their rogues gallery who hold the world ransom with a device that dehydrates people. The film may be a far cry from the character’s definitively darker iterations, but West’s legendary performance makes it hard not to get wrapped up in this fun, campy classic that is, unfortunately, not available on HBO Max… at least, yet.
The Tim Burton Era
The film that brought the Dark Knight in his definitive form back to the mainstream (for the first time) was this box office smash from visionary director Tim Burton. Particularly for Michael Keaton’s inspired, psychologically grounded titular portrayal and Jack Nicholson’s timelessly manic take on the Joker, 1989’s Batman remains one of the most influential superhero movies of all time.
Batman Returns (1992)
Michael Keaton put on the cape and cowl for the second (but not the last) time for a face-off against The Penguin (a nightmarish Danny DeVito), Catwoman (a provocative Michelle Pfieffer), and Christopher Walken during one volatile holiday season. Returning to the director’s chair, Tim Burton runs wild with his signature, macabre style for Batman Returns, resulting in a strange and controversial, but still thoroughly entertaining, interpretation of Gotham City lore.
The Joel Schumacher Era
Batman Forever (1995)
Reactions to the strange and controversial Batman Returns led to Warner Bros. seeking another direction for the franchise and Tim Burton to exit. The late Joel Schumacher then entered with an action-packed spectacle that is still pretty dark on the inside (delving a bit deeper into Bruce Wayne’s “scarred psyche”), but much brighter on the outside (making Gotham less like New York and more like Vegas). Val Kilmer steps in to play the lead in Batman Forever, along with Nicole Kidman as psychologist Chase Meridian, Jim Carrey as the Riddler, Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, and Chris O’Donnell as Robin.
Batman & Robin (1997)
Chris O’Donnell returned to play the grown-up Boy Wonder, but with George Clooney filling in as the Dark Knight, for Joel Schumacher’s second and final DC Comics adaptation that is not as dark on the inside and much, much brighter (and more cartoonish) on the outside. Batman & Robin sees the titular Caped Crusaders struggling to stop Mr. Freeze (a scenery-chewing Arnold Schwarzenegger) from turning Gotham into a cube while falling prey to the allure of the deceptive Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman).
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Batman Begins (2005)
After nearly a decade of dormancy, co-writer and director Christopher Nolan revived Batman on the big screen by going back to basics and all the way back to the origin of Bruce Wayne’s war on crime. Christian Bale secures himself as one of the best actors to wear the cape and cowl in Batman Begins, which beautifully bridges the gap between comic book fantasy and grounded, action-packed thrills.
The Dark Knight (2008)
While Batman Begins was, undoubtedly, a major turning point for superhero movies, Christopher Nolan’s brilliantly crafted, blockbuster follow-up truly sparked a revolution in the genre in which it was finally treated like genuine cinema (no matter what anyone else may say). It may be a Batman movie (and, arguably, the best), but the late Heath Ledger’s astonishing, Oscar-winning performance as the Joker absolutely steals the show and pushes The Dark Knight into the higher echelon of the pop culture stratosphere.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
All good things must come to an end at some point and Christopher Nolan chose to end his Dark Knight Trilogy with an epic send-off that sees Christian Bale’s Batman pushed to his farthest limits, unable to protect his city from the anarchic “No Man’s Land” it has become. Once again, however, it is the villains who steal the show in The Dark Knight Rises with Tom Hardy as a more proper take on the imposing and intelligent Bane and Anne Hathaway surprising fans as a cunning Catwoman.
DC Extended Universe
Director Zack Snyder’s reboot of the Superman movies in 2013 with Man of Steel would end up being the first installment of a new shared universe of DC movies which came to be known as the DC Extended Universe (or DCEU for short). Of course, such a franchise could not be complete without Batman, who appears in three theatrically released films (and an extended cut of one of the titles) from the series so far, as played by Academy Award winner and Marvel movies actor (2003’s Daredevil), Ben Affleck.
The following are all the movies in the DCEU so far, by order of release date:
- Man Of Steel (2013)
- Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
- *Suicide Squad (2016) *
- *Wonder Woman (2017) *
- *Justice League (2017) *
- *Aquaman (2018) *
- *Birds Of Prey (2020) *
- *Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) *
- *Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) *
- The Suicide Squad (2021)
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
Only a year after Christian Bale said farewell to the role, Ben Affleck was announced as his successor for a gruffer, older, and beefier take on Batman introduced in Zack Snyder’s follow-up to Man of Steel. By actually revisiting that film’s climax through Bruce Wayne’s eyes in its opening scene, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice sets the Dark Knight on a path toward vengeful conflict with the god-like Kryptonian (Henry Cavill) as his heroism also is put under intense scrutiny by the rest of the world.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Ben Affleck’s second time playing Batman in the DC Extended Universe was a brief, but memorable appearance in Suicide Squad just a few months after the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In two of the best sequences (plus a post-credits cameo) from David Ayer’s supervillain crossover, the vigilante apprehends both the infallible hired gun Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton (Will Smith) and Joker’s romantic partner (and partner-in-crime) Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), putting them behind bars and making them eligible to do Amanda Waller’s (Viola Davis) dirty work on Task Force X.
Justice League (2017)
Seeking redemption for the mistake he made in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that led to Clark Kent’s demise, Bruce Wayne seeks out a crew of powerful people to help him defend the earth from an impending, otherworldly threat. While it is understandably common for one to assume that Superman is the de facto leader of the Justice League, it is Batman bringing the team together and calling the shots in the DCEU’s interpretation of this union of the most powerful, heroic beings in DC Comics.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Seeking redemption for the mistakes made with 2017’s Justice League that led to its disappointing critical and commercial reception, Warner Bros. finally decided to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut as a four-hour streaming exclusive on HBO Max that better represents director Zack Snyder’s original vision before leaving the project. While Ben Affleck does have his moments in Joss Whedon’s theatrical cut, it is Zack Snyder’s Justice League that presents some of Batman’s most badass moments in the entire DCEU.
I have always said that the beauty of a character like Batman is that there are so many different versions of him for any kind of fan to enjoy. Despite the vast number of mediums through which you can perceive him, you do not need to look much further than his presence in live-action cinema for evidence of that claim. Enjoy this binge of all the live-action Batman movies so far, same Bat-time, same Bat-place, same Bat-channel.
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 just about any article related to Batman.
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