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Every Batman Movie Ranked By Rotten Tomatoes

Night falls over Gotham City. Somewhere in the city's iconic skyline perches Batman, its dark avenger. Sometimes, he awaits the Bat-Signal's call to action. Other times, he seeks out criminals of his own volition to enact the vigilante justice his crime-riddled city so desperately needs. All the while his alter-ego, wealthy playboy Bruce Wayne, hides in plain sight. 

Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939, Batman made his cinematic debut in 1966's Batman: The Movie. This campy adaptation features pirate-themed henchmen, a dehydrator capable of turning humans into dust, and a truly noble porpoise. It wasn't until 1989 that film fans encountered a version with grit in Tim Burton's Batman. His dark take on the man and his city electrified an entirely new generation of fans — and set the stage for many Batman films to follow. Not all of those attempts, however, have been a success. From the rubber suits to the penguin platoons, here is every Batman movie ranked by Rotten Tomatoes score.

Batman & Robin (1997)

Coming in last place with an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Batman & Robin is the critics' choice for worst-ever Batman movie. Directed by Joel Schumacher and featuring an all-star cast led George Clooney in his first and only turn as the caped crusader, Batman & Robin should have been a success. After all, Schumacher had produced hits before, including St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys. The 1960s series proved that people could love a goofy Batman. What went wrong?

The campy dialogue, for one thing. It could have been great — if all the actors were on the same lighthearted page. Take Chris O'Donnell, who exclaims, "Hole-y rusted metal, Batman!" as he points at steel wreckage riddled with holes. It's a clearly goofy nod to a fondly remembered bit of Batman history, but he says it without any of the wink-wink-nod-nod energy needed. Clooney's wooden response and the flat gaze that follows only makes it worse.

Some actors fare better: Uma Thurman is fabulous as Poison Ivy, and Schwarzenegger is utterly committed to his groan-worthy puns. But Batman & Robin still falls flat. "A sniggering, exhausting, overproduced extravaganza that has virtually all of the humanity pounded out of it in the name of an endless parade of stunt sequences," Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune declared at the time of the premiere. A icy take to be sure, but even Mr. Freeze would agree that it is accurate.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Behold the steaming pile of bat guano called Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It has kryptonite grenade launchers. It has an armored Batman. It has Wonder Woman's cinematic debut. It has a 28% score on Rotten Tomatoes. But what is the movie actually about? 

The main conflict involves a young Lex Luthor (played by Jesse Eisenberg, who thinks he's in Batman & Robin) who has decided to pit Earth's greatest heroes against each other. Their overlong battle culminates in Batman and Superman discovering their mothers are both named Martha, which ends their fight as unceremoniously as it began. Then they have to fight Zombie General Zod. Then Superman dies. Then it's made clear that he isn't really dead. The end!

It's not that fans weren't up for a dark take on Batman, nor even that they didn't want to see their heroes fight. Heavy-hitter matchups are, after all, a cherished tradition of superhero nerds everywhere. But Batman v Superman sands away all the tension and cultural commentary that makes gritty takes on Batman work, while sucking all the fun out of its headlining match. Batman is mostly boring in this film, and when he's not boring, he's kind of a jerk. It's not really Affleck's fault — he was only given so much material to work with — but the fact that the DCEU is rebooting Batman entirely is no surprise. At least we got a great meme out of it.

Batman Forever (1995)

Joel Schumacher's first Batman film fares only slightly better than his second, with Batman Forever coming in at 39% on the Rotten Tomatoes. This installment features Val Kilmer as Gotham's vigilante, who goes up against Jim Carrey's Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face. Is it better than Batman & Robin? Sort of. Is it good? Absolutely not.

Now, Jim Carrey's Riddler is nearly perfect. Like Thurman's Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin, he is decadently hammy and totally at home within Batman Forever's cartoonish environs. Virtually every other performance, however, is forced. Chris O'Donnell's overwrought earnestness is quickly cloying, and Nicole Kidman's one-note Dr. Chase Meridien spouts psychobabble that has long been debunked. 

As Roger Ebert said in Chicago Sun-Times, Batman Forever's "general irreverence" can be fun. And the soundtrack, featuring Brandy, Nick Cave, and Seal, still totally slaps, all these years later. But it's an overlong slog, insisting upon a "fun" aesthetic while not actually having any real fun. This Batman might indeed last Forever — but only as a joke.

Justice League (2017)

Just because you put a group of gorgeous actors together doesn't actually mean you'll end up with a good movie. You'd think DC might have learned this after Batman v Superman, but no, Justice League proved to be more of the same. Batman particularly suffers in this overstuffed snorefest of a film: He's boring, arrogant, and so painfully one-dimensional you wonder why he's been invited to join an elite team of superheroes at all. Oh yeah, that's right. He's got the money and isn't afraid to let everyone know about it as often as he can. It beats character development, eh? 

But Batman isn't the only problem. Justice League is at times so boring, one wonders if an editing team was even employed. Brief moments of promise emerge, as when Aquaman accidentally sits on Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth: His resulting monologue recalls the Joss Whedon of 2012's The Avengers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But this is neither of those properties — this is Justice League, which has a frankly generous 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, a number that does not seem likely to climb higher as the years go by. It's not the worst of the DCEU, at least ... but is that really even a compliment?

Batman (1989)

Tim Burton's Batman scores a well-earned 72% on the Tomatometer, making it the first "fresh" Batman movie. Tim Burton's outsider aesthetic completely revamped the character: Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne is brooding and traumatized, his eyes beneath the mask ever-soulful as he works to avenge the deaths of his parents. The age of Adam West was ended by this portrayal, and the era of the caped crusader begun.

Jack Nicholson's Joker is a big part of the film's success. In many ways, he's as broken as Batman — he just hides it behind a rictus grin, and a never-ending supply of zingers. And while it might be difficult to imagine Kim Basinger's prima donna Vicki Vale as a war zone photographer, she does bring compassion and empathy to the role, even as she's pigeonholed as the damsel in distress. 

But what really sets Burton's Batman apart from every other one is its killer music. Danny Elfman's orchestral score would become iconic, especially "The Batman Theme" which lives on in a variety of Bat-related media. Prince's soundtrack, a dizzying delight, was similarly successful: It went double platinum. Batman revitalized the character, gave the world "Batdance," and reminded us all to never rub another man's rhubarb. What more could a fan ask for?

Batman: The Movie (1966)

Holy first movie, Batman! Catapulting off the success of the boisterous Batman TV show, the Dynamic Duo arrived onto the big screen in the best way possible. Menaced by legendary villains including Burgess Meredith's Penguin, Cesar Romero's Joker, and Lee Meriwether's Catwoman, this movie ranks seventh on Rotten Tomatoes with a 78% fresh score. How did it achieve such praise?

For one thing, its age helps. While Burton's 1989 Batman has 74 aggregated critics reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, Batman: The Movie only has 32, all of which reviewed it years after its debut. But that doesn't mean the merit they find in it isn't real. As Time Out said, "the design still looks sleek today—I'd choose Adam West's Batmobile over Michael Keaton's any day." While some Batman fans might not agree with that sentiment, without Batman: The Movie, this would be a far shorter list. And though it's attitude towards superheroes is miles away from today's serious-minded cape-and-cowl stories, there is still an enormous amount of fun to be had in its primary-colored universe. Superheroes, after all, are flexible creations, meant to change with their times. If Batman can be the armored jerk of Batman v Superman, he can be a groovy 1960s swinger as well.

Batman Returns (1992)

Burton's Batman Returns doesn't just impress — it manages to surpass its era-defining 1989 predecessor. Deepening and darkening Burton's neo-noir vision, Batman Returns' villains are its greatest strength. The Penguin, played by a delightfully disgusting Danny DeVito, and Catwoman, delivered with manic panache by Michelle Pfeiffer, are all-star additions to Batman's rogues gallery. Michael Keaton's Batman is, if anything, the side dish they fight over in this feast of anti-heroism — and somehow, that's not a criticism. It's no wonder this installment clocks in at 79%.

Much of the film's success lies in its embrace of contradiction and extremes. Penguin's creepy coterie of followers are as terrifying as they are hilarious, encompassing animalistic people and, well, real animals. Catwoman's journey from frumpy, frazzled assistant to whip-cracking vixen is as entertainingly bizarre today as it was in 1992. Christopher Walken's villainous Max Schreck is the cherry on top of this demented ice cream sundae — the most low-key of the baddies, but still a perfect coupling of sleaze and style.

While Batman is marginalized in his own film, Keaton still summons the depth he brought to the original Burton film, securing his place as one of the best Batman actors of all time. As Newsweek wrote, "Something about the filmmaker's eccentric, surreal, childlike images seems to strike a deep chord in the mass psyche: He makes nightmares that taste like candy." We love every bite.

Batman Begins (2005)

In Batman Begins, certified fresh at 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, we meet Bruce Wayne as a child. Herein lies the special sauce of the Nolan trilogy: A focus on Batman himself, as he journeys from shattered childhood to hardened, legendary icon. We watch him grow, searching the world for answers, on a path that would eventually lead him back to Gotham as an entirely different man. He isn't the Dark Knight just yet — but he's getting there.

The film is equal parts style, emotion, and terror, especially once the Scarecrow enters the picture and releases all of Arkham's criminally insane patients onto Gotham City's streets. The underworld of Carmine Falcone has a place in this film as well, heralding what Entertainment Weekly called "the dawning of Gotham City's age of greed." Batman Begins is exactly what it had to be, to pull off the lofty aims Nolan had in mind: A decisive mission statement about Batman and the world he inhabits. Audiences embraced it, and a new age began for the caped crusader — one that would change the character forever.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm has a solid 84% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes – no surprise, given the fact that it's a continuation of the universally beloved Batman: The Animated SeriesMask of the Phantasm follows Batman as he tracks down a mysterious killer, bent on murdering mob bosses. Featuring the inimitable Mark Hamill as the Joker and Dana Delaney as love interest Andrea Beaumont, this iteration of Batman delivers a Bruce Wayne on the edge. While other takes on the character emphasize the "truth" of the Batman persona over the "mask" of Bruce Wayne, Mask of the Phantasm accepts both as present in the character. He is a man, and he is a symbol. How he manages the boundary between is the drive of the film.

Between the stellar animation, powerful score, and twisty plot, Mask of the Phantasm has earned its place as one of the best Batman films ever made. As The AV Club mused, "The mask of the phantasm is the mask that Bruce Wayne puts on every day, and if he falls into the abyss, he risks a life ... completely alone." That's the character in a nutshell — and the stuff cinematic dreams are made of.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises lands near the top of the Batman heap with an 87% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This concluding chapter of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is as dark as it is epic, following masked villain Bane as he attempts to "liberate" Gotham from corporate raiders like Bruce Wayne. Bane's plan is to blow it all up to smithereens to level the playing field once and for all — and he comes darn close to accomplishing just that.

As The Denver Post wrote, The Dark Knight Rises "is a feat of painstakingly crafted closure." That closure isn't just successful — it's remarkably quiet for a blockbuster starring Anne Hathaway and Christian Bale. But it is indeed those intimate moments of contemplation that make the film truly specialBane's traumatic childhood and prison escape as a child, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle's first meeting, Bruce's struggle to escape the underground prison — it's a lot less flashy than stadium collapses and motorcycle rockets, but it's what lingers when the film is over. Nolan's finale brought Bruce Wayne's story to a satisfying end — at least, until the DCEU rebooted him.

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

Recent years have seen Batman and his world grow darker as creators strive to make the character impressive, realistic, and above all, cool. But from its inclusion of Condiment King to its disco dress-up parties, The Lego Batman Movie embraces silliness with all its heart. Does it pull this off? Take a look at its 90% Rotten Tomatoes score. It's not just a good Batman movie — it's one of the best Batman movies ever made.

A cavalcade of characters burst from its gorgeously animated scenes, from Harley Quinn to Crazy Quilt, not to mention The Wizard of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West, the Jaws shark, Harry Potter's Voldemort, Doctor Who's Daleks, and even the agents from The Matrix. This could have been overstuffed, but instead, it makes the film a raucous celebration of pop culture far and wide. Because really, Batman is pop culture. He's brooding, he's tragic, he's scary, sure — but he's also on the pajamas of millions of children. The Lego Batman Movie embraces this fact with love, rather than embarrassment, and it makes all the difference. Now let's get cracking on a Condiment King movie.

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight is, according to Rotten Tomatoes, the best Batman movie of all time. How does it accomplish this? You already know: Heath Ledger's phenomenal performance as the Joker. As in Batman Returns, Batman himself is overshadowed by Ledger's arch-villain, who skateboards, bombs, slices, dices, and disappears pencils all over the screen in an appearance so legendary he was awarded a posthumous Oscar. As SF Gate wrote, "Christopher Nolan wanted to make an action movie that was different from other action movies—darker, more twisted, more despairing, more bleak— and he has mostly succeeded in this latest Batman installment. He can thank Ledger for a lot of that." 

Nolan can also thank Maggie Gyllenhaal, recast as Rachel Dawes, and Aaron Eckhart, who plays Harvey Dent — both provide sterling support, and manage to complete stirring emotional arcs of their own. And beneath it all, there is Bale's Batman, the stoic foundation to the trilogy, faced with evil the likes of which he's never seen. It is a grand sort of movie, with huge ambitions, elaborate action sequences, and portentous dialogue. The fact that it pulls this all off with such aplomb doesn't just make it great — it makes the bonafide best.