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Ranking Every Batman Movie's Opening Scene From Worst To Best

Since Batman is such a malleable character, the opening of a "Batman" film is critical to establishing the world and tone of the story. Of course, that's important with any form of storytelling, but when dealing with a larger-than-life character who has been interpreted in several different ways, getting the opening wrong can sink your entire movie.

Luckily, the vast majority of live-action films starring the Caped Crusader have done a solid job of letting you know what you're in for right up front. Some, however, are more inventive and interesting than others. That's what we're ranking here: how each opening brings us into this world and sets up the story. Where you land on some of these will likely be based on your personal feelings toward the individual films as a whole, but we are basing our rankings solely on the events of the openings and how the filmmakers chose to bring us into their worlds.

Batman & Robin

This opening suffers from mirroring "Batman Forever" a little too closely. After a standard '90s Batman opening credits sequence where names and logos come flying at the camera, we get a quick montage of Batman and Robin suiting up for their night on patrol.  After some unfunny banter, the dynamic duo heads out into Gotham to do battle with a new villain named Mr. Freeze.

On paper, it's easy to see why the folks involved in making this film would've considered it exciting. We've got Mr. Freeze and his cronies taking control of the Gotham Museum; Batman and Robin constantly adapting to their situation, hardly ever missing a beat; and a battle high above Gotham. Unfortunately, the specifics are the problem.

You can't help but question everything. Does Mr. Freeze just quip in ice puns? There are ice skates in Batman and Robin's boots? Why does the ice wobble? Is Robin going to be this annoying during the entire movie? To be fair, it perfectly sets up the zany shenanigans of the rest of the movie, but it's so much so fast all at once that you're checked out before the sequence is even half over.

Batman (1966)

Including the first "Batman" feature film with the rest is difficult because it is both a spoof of the character and fairly accurate to a specific point in his history. That's why the 1966 film works so well — kids can see it as a non-stop adventure full of colorful characters and daring escapes, while adults can appreciate the satire on display in almost every scene.

While the film, simply titled "Batman," is an excellent companion to the series it spawned from — with all the same action and humor that made it so special — the opening does go just a touch overboard. After a cute, if dull, opening credits where the main players are revealed in pulpy fashion, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson find out that a yacht carrying an important invention to Gotham is in danger.

The real fun kicks in when Batman and Robin cruise out in the Batmobile and arrive at the hangar where the Batcopter is being held. They fly over the ocean, and the yacht disappears! Batman, dangling from the ladder he intended to use to save the people on board, is lowered into the water. When he is pulled back up, a shark has its jaws wrapped around his leg.

It's a hilarious scene, but it pushes things over the edge just enough to kill the excitement. Perhaps if the scene were shorter and it didn't take so long to get that shark repellent, it would've been more exciting.

Batman Forever

After the overly dark "Batman Returns," the franchise went in a more family-friendly direction with "Batman Forever." While it didn't take the character as seriously as the previous installments, it wasn't the stale self-parody that "Batman & Robin" would become. If nothing else, it is stunning to look at, thanks to one of the more visually engrossing Gotham City landscapes ever put on film, and Val Kilmer's performance is suitably broody.

The film begins with an opening credits sequence that firmly establishes this as a bigger, flashier Batman than the iterations before it. After an intriguing glimpse at Batman's gadgets and weapons, he drives into town to stop his old pal Harvey Dent (now the villainous Two-Face) from committing a bank robbery. It's a dazzling sequence with fun comic book dialogue that actually holds up fairly well.

The problem is we don't really know why Harvey's doing this or what the stakes are. Everything looks phenomenal — it's just difficult to get invested when we're not sure why any of this is happening.

Batman Begins

Unlike most "Batman" films, which often begin with an exciting action sequence, "Batman Begins" is more ominous. Instead of a Bond-esque introduction to the character doing what he does best, we see young Bruce Wayne and his friend Rachel Dawes playing at Wayne Manor. Bruce falls into a cave, and we jump to the modern-day — now an adult, Bruce is in prison, learning what it means to be a criminal and how to survive.

He learns from a mysterious stranger of a place in the mountains where he can go and learn how to accomplish his goals more efficiently, and he begins his journey to becoming Batman. We are thrown directly into Bruce's world and his quest with very little setup, which actually makes sense — director Christopher Nolan is trying to craft a realistic world we can recognize, so there's no real reason to waste any time getting us acclimated. With that being said, it's still kind of jarring. It would have been nice to spend a little bit more time establishing Gotham and Bruce's mission upfront, but it mostly works and doesn't detract from the rest of the film.

The Dark Knight Rises

Topping the brilliance that was "The Dark Knight" was never going to be possible. It was a huge and intricate film with a scope we had never seen in a "Batman" movie before. The opening sequence alone (to be discussed later) is an excellent little short film that keeps you invested and guessing the entire time. With its sequel, "The Dark Knight Rises," the opening is more visually impressive, but it lacks the same energy and intrigue.

As cool as it is to see Bane maneuver around the shell of a plane as it hangs in the air, it's not exactly clear why any of this is happening, and the scene doesn't have the same atmosphere as other entries on this list. To be honest, this opening feels like it would be more appropriate in something like "Mission: Impossible" than a "Batman" movie. Still, it lets us know how powerful, intimidating, and strategic in his thinking Bane can be and appropriately suggests how formidable an opponent he will be for the Dark Knight.

Batman Returns

Despite the title "Batman Returns," the majority of the film's opening sequence is dedicated to the origin of The Penguin. It begins with him as a child being abandoned by his parents at Christmas in a gorgeous sequence evocative of classic silent films and fairytales. The baby then sails through the sewers of Gotham City as Danny Elfman's incredible score kicks into gear.

In terms of an opening title sequence, this isn't quite as exciting as the one seen in Tim Burton's "Batman," but the music is so good you're just happy to hear it at all. We jump ahead to Christmas in the modern-day, where Penguin has unleashed the Red Triangle Gang during Max Shreck's speech about his plans to build a power plant. Again, the visuals here are incredible, a juxtaposing of serene beauty and ugliness that foreshadows the film's focus on Gotham City's waste rising from the depths to claim its place among the elite.

Batman's arrival takes some time, but it's so worth it to see him in the snow, taking on more clowns than ever before. Sure, it would've been nice to see Batman earlier and for the story to focus a bit more on him, but the sequence is so much fun that you can't help but enjoy it.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Like "Batman Begins," "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" starts with a flashback to Bruce Wayne's childhood. Unlike "Begins," however, it's a bit more interesting, even though it depicts something we've seen several times before. It helps that the events are part of a dream Bruce is narrating for us and not supposed to be seen as a surprise, but the sequence is also wonderful to look at.

Another reason this ranks higher than "Begins" is the opportunity to relive the ending of "Man of Steel" from street level. Even though he isn't wearing the cape and cowl, Bruce Wayne is in full Batman mode as he rushes into danger while everyone else is running away. In a fog of debris, we see the haunting effects of two aliens beating the snot out of each other in a densely populated city and just how angry it makes Batman. It tells us everything we need to know about the Caped Crusader and exactly how he feels about this alien invader with the red cape.

The Batman

After so many big-screen outings for the caped crusader ⁠— not to mention animated movies and shows ⁠— making a Batman movie different has got to be tough. Making it different while also honoring the source material has got to be even harder. But demonstrating to people exactly how different your movie is from the ones that came before within the first 10 minutes has to be impossible.

Yet "The Batman" did all those things. From its quiet and retro title card to the use of "Ave Maria," "The Batman" makes its claim right upfront. There's no origin story, no spectacular action scene — just the POV of one man watching a family get ready for Halloween and the sound of his anxious breathing. We don't know who this man is (though we have a pretty good idea), who he is watching, or his reasons for doing so, but we're already on edge.

When things cut to the inside of the house we've been watching, we learn this is Gotham City's mayor, and he hasn't been doing a very good job. As he paces around while talking on the phone, a silent figure in a mask appears by his window. This is the Riddler, a disturbed and angry killer being revealed like the madman from a slasher film. The scene is stark and unsettling, just like the film that follows.

We've had realistic takes on Batman's world over the years, but it's never been this tactile and unnerving.

Batman (1989)

No live-action movie about Batman has ever eased us into the world as gracefully as Tim Burton's 1989 blockbuster "Batman." The opening credits sequence alone is enough to get anyone ready for the adventure about to unfold ⁠— Danny Elfman's dark, moody, and thrilling score sweeps you up, out of your chair, and carries you away to Gotham City on bat wings. 

We then get our first shot at the city, and it is a marvelous, chaotic nightmare. There are glimpses to its former glory, but it's taken over by filth and grime. As a family tries to navigate these dangerous streets, we think we're about to witness the origin of Batman, but a shadowy figure watching from above shows us just how wrong we are.

Aside from the incredible music, the reveal of Batman is gripping. He is a creature of the shadows that punishes criminals as much as he terrifies them. He moves with an inhuman demeanor, using the dim lighting to his advantage. Then, the moment that brings it all home is when Bats looks the criminal in his desperate face and declares with a whisper, "I'm Batman."

With the delivery of that line, you know everything you need to in order to enjoy the rest of the movie.

The Dark Knight

As mentioned earlier, the opening to "The Dark Knight" almost works on its own as a short film. We see the moments leading up to a heist, the heist itself, and the escape of the man who planned the whole thing. With each member of this gang wearing masks, it's hard to tell who is who, which is exactly the point. We get the reveal that the mastermind behind all this is the Joker, of course, but the buildup to this moment establishes that this is a guy who is capable of standing out and disappearing in equal measure (not unlike Batman himself).

Then we get to see a more confident and capable Batman than we got in "Begins" stop a bunch of goons in hockey pads from getting themselves killed while busting up a deal going down with the Scarecrow. It's a fun little callback to the previous film that also updates us on the state of Gotham City. Everything about this sequence is exciting, engrossing, and fun, and that's why it's the best opening to a "Batman" film there is.