Batman is one of the most well-known heroes in the DCEU. Everyone knows that he lost his parents on that terrible night in Crime Alley when he was a child. He then vowed to rid Gotham of crime as the Caped Crusader years later. But apart from his sad beginning, his cool gadgets, and the coolest villains in comics (sorry, Batman villains are the best), people love Bruce Wayne because he never gives up, even when he’s losing.
Each movie has a different idea of what Batman should do and a different actor playing him. So let’s turn on the Bat-Signal and go over how to watch the Batman movies in the right order.
Even though Bruce Wayne is moody and dark, the 1966 movie with Adam West was anything but sad. This camp classic took the lighthearted tone of the ABC TV show and gave Batman and Robin (Burt Ward) an even bigger adventure.
They fight The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), who are all planning to literally turn the United Nations Security Council into dust. It’s crazy and a lot of fun. But the most important thing was that it showed the hero belonged on the big screen.
In 1989, Tim Burton made a gothic version of how the Dark Knight’s world should look. Michael Keaton played Bruce Wayne in this version. At the time, Keaton was only known for his comedic roles, so this was a bit of a risk. However, he is still thought of as one of the best Batmen to ever appear on screen.
Even the great Jack Nicholson gives us a scary new take on the Joker in the movie. “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” he likes to tease his victims. We haven’t, but that is a great line of conversation.
Batman Returns (1992)
In 1992, Michael Keaton and Tim Burton both came back to work on the movie Batman Returns. You know how sequels get better with each one? Well, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman and Danny DeVito as the Penguin are about as good as it gets.
Tim Burton’s gothic-fantasy style went even deeper into Gotham City when the Penguin’s sad backstory showed that he was left alone as a child and grew up in the sewers. Also, the way Catwoman and Batman interact gives all of these costumes a sexier edge. Meeeow!
Batman Forever (1995)
Even though Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever is a sequel to the Tim Burton movies, Michael Keaton is not in it. Instead, Val Kilmer wears the cape and cowl. It also gives us Chris O’Donnell’s take on Dick Grayson/Robin, which is very 1990s.
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Jim Carrey as the Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face are the new bad guys that the dynamic duo has to deal with. It takes Burton’s dark view of Gotham City and gives the superheroes a campy feel. Billy Dee Williams didn’t get to play Two-Face like he was supposed to, which still makes us sad.
Batman and Robin (1997)
Two years later, Joel Schumacher made another sequel. This time, George Clooney wore the Batsuit, which came with Bat-Nips and a Bat-Credit Card. Here, the campy feel of Batman Forever is turned up a notch. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a lot of cold jokes as Mr. Freeze, and Uma Thurman uses her charm as Poison Ivy to get what she wants.
Mr. Freeze wants to freeze Gotham while he looks for a cure for his wife’s strange illness. There’s heart in the script, but it’s buried under bad jokes and silliness, which is a shame. Yikes.
Batman Begins (2005)
When Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer wrote Batman Begins, they based it on the real-world city of Gotham. In 2005, Christian Bale was cast as Bruce Wayne. Nolan started with Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli and built the hero from the ground up.
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Aside from his sad origin story and training with the League of Shadows, Batman fights Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), who wants to use his fear toxin to destroy the city. In Gotham, it’s just another day.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight, yes. People agree that Christopher Nolan’s 2008 follow-up is one of the best comic book movies ever made, and for good reason. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is scary because of how he changed. He is a primal force that rips through Gotham and leaves a trail of destruction for no reason other than to “introduce a little chaos.”
What happens when an object that won’t move meets a force that can’t be stopped? Of course, they fight for the soul of the city. When hotshot District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) goes through his own trial by fire, the tension between Bale and Ledger gets even higher. It’s unmissable.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
But after making two great movies, Nolan had the hard task of finishing his trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. The director finally does what he’s been saying he’ll do since 2005: he throws Gotham into complete and utter chaos.
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The story is based on Jordan B. Gorfinkel’s “No Man’s Land,” in which Bane (Tom Hardy) cuts the city off from the rest of the country and rules it with an iron fist. It’s a big, epic send-off for Bale’s Batman, and it’s a lot of fun.
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2015)
Zack Snyder’s second movie in the DC Extended Universe was called Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It showed an older, more jaded Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) taking aim at Superman (Henry Cavill) for all the damage and deaths he caused in his fight with Zod (Michael Shannon) at the end of Man of Steel (2013).
But what starts out as a story about heroes being held responsible for what they do quickly turns into a fight between heroes with superpowers and a Kryptonian monster named Doomsday. Luckily, it also gave us Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Hans Zimmer’s amazing theme for her.
Justice League/Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2017/2021)
So Batman’s path in Justice League is not easy. In the theatrical cut, he puts together a group of heroes to fight Steppenwolf, a bad guy from Apokolips. It’s an easy-to-understand blockbuster that runs for 2 hours.
But in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the hero has more time—nearly four hours—to think about his place in the universe among gods and monsters. Even after Earth has been destroyed by Darkseid, Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader is shown in the movie. This one is up to your taste and how much time you have.
The next time we saw Bruce Wayne on the big screen was in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, where he was played by Robert Pattinson. In the director’s noir-style take on the myth, the hero is in his second year of fighting crime when he has to figure out what cruel game the Riddler (Paul Dano) is playing. If you want to know more about how The Batman ends, you can read about it here.
Then, Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck will play their own versions of Batman next to Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen in The Flash, which will show DC’s many universes to audiences in 2023.