Best Batman Movies: Top 5 Caped Crusader Films Most Recommended By Experts

“I’m Batman.” That two-word line uttered by Michael Keaton from “Batman” in 1989 brought “The Dark Knight” back to life. There have been many Batman reboots since Keaton put the superhero back on the map. From Tim Burton turning Batman broody to Christopher Nolan bringing it back to life, there are many Batman films to pick and choose from. But which one is the greatest in history? StudyFinds did the research to put together a list of the best Batman movies of all time.

Who is your favorite Batman? Michael Keaton? Adam West? Christian Bale? Well, how about Ben Affleck? In a surprising recent study, Affleck edged out Keaton as the best version of Batman — 31 to 30 percent. Age seems to be a factor. Gen Z and Millennial respondents (ages 18-25 and 26-41) gravitate toward Affleck. Gen Xers (ages 42-55) favor Keaton. Baby boomers (ages 57-71) prefer West from the 1966 live-action TV series. No love for Bale, apparently.

In the movies, Bruce Wayne turns his vigilantism into Batman to fight crime and corruption. A recent study reveals that many adults have adopted the vigilante trait to incorporate into their personalities and daily decisions. The vigilantes described by study authors hardly merit their own comic book or Saturday morning cartoon. Such individuals, University of Illinois researchers explain, are often eager to embrace a role of “maintaining order,” aren’t all that worried about accidentally punishing innocents, and view themselves as kind, benevolent, and moral individuals.

Are you one of these modern vigilantes? Or are you just looking forward to a Batman movie marathon? StudyFinds has compiled the top five best Batman movies of all time. Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!

Batman slingshot
Batman logo (Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash)

The List: Best Batman Movies, According to Experts


1. “The Dark Knight” (2008)

Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is hands-down the best Batman movie ever. Heath Ledger stole the show with his portrayal of Batman’s nemesis Joker, winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar posthumously. The movie received eight Academy Aware nominations total. “Dark, complex, and unforgettable, The Dark Knight succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling crime saga,” writes Rotten Tomatoes.

"The Dark Knight" (2008)
“The Dark Knight” (2008)

“Following on the heels of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight quickly became one of the most hyped movies of the decade and one of the best Christopher Nolan movies. Helped by its amazing viral marketing campaign, the sequel quickly took on legendary status as the summer’s most anticipated movie. Remarkably, it delivered beyond expectations,” says IGN. “Nolan’s middle chapter introduced the ultimate foil to Batman – Heath Ledger’s Joker – and depicted how the arrival of a masked vigilante affected Gotham City and its citizens. The Dark Knight is essentially Gordon’s speech about ‘escalation’ at the end of Begins coming to fruition. Meanwhile, Bruce himself has to deal with what being Batman has forced him to sacrifice personally. It’s a well-rounded movie that takes multiple plot threads and seamlessly weaves them towards an intensely thrilling climax, resulting in what remains the ultimate big-screen Batman story.”

Den of Geek referred to “The Dark Knight” as a “masterpiece.” “While its exact position among the pantheon may fluctuate from time to time, The Dark Knight remains firmly among the best superhero movies ever made (many on our staff call it the best), both in terms of its sheer quality as a film and its earthshaking impact on the genre and cinema history itself. While Nolan had already established himself with his five previous films as a director interested in melding an arthouse narrative sensibility with a blockbuster approach to the craft, no one could have imagined that he would create a movie often referred to as The Godfather of the comic book genre.”

2. “Batman Begins” (2005)

“Batman Begins” was the first part of Christopher Nolan’s well-acclaimed trilogy, starring Christian Bale, Michael Kaine, and Liam Neeson. “Christopher Nolan took a much more measured approach to Batman when handed the keys to the character in 2005,” writes The Manual. “He wanted to help audiences understand that Batman has a lot more underneath the surface than previous movies may have had the courage to explore, and in turn, created a brand-new and sometimes literary version of the superhero. Liam Neeson and Michael Caine give awesome supporting performances next to Christian Bale.”

"Batman Begins" (2005)
“Batman Begins” (2005)

“After the DayGlo explosion of Batman & Robin, the Bat-saga needed to go back to the beginning – literally, in the case of Christopher Nolan’s hard-reboot,” says Empire. “The filmmaker, then best known for the mind-bending Memento, took a psychological scalpel to Bruce Wayne and his nocturnal alter-ego in a way that no other screen Bat had, all delivered in a Year One-inspired origin story. If his later Bat-flicks would go bigger, Batman Begins had all the serious sweep that would define Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, blending traditional blockbuster thrills (Bat-beatings, car chases, ninja brawls) with an arthouse sensibility – spending significant amounts of screentime away from the action in an exploration of fear, grief, and institutional corruption. From its grimy Gotham to its bulked-up Batmobile, Nolan’s vision of an ultra-realistic Bat-verse remains thrilling to behold – all anchored by a smartly-cast Christian Bale in the cape and cowl.”

Time Magazine calls “Batman Begins” an “astounding start to one of the best film trilogies of all time.” “Christian Bale is perfectly cast: He can play both the brooding bat and the slightly smarmy playboy (drawing from his American Psycho days). And thanks mostly to Michael Cane the movie is far funnier than you probably remember. It certainly has issues: The Scarecrow (despite Cillian Murphy’s heroic efforts to make him sufficiently creepy) is a bit of a throwaway villain, outshined by Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul. And the movie falls apart towards the end: The action is chaotic, as are Batman’s ethics: His whole deal throughout the movie is he refuses to kill, until of course he intentionally abandons Ra’s Al Ghul on a speeding train to die. But it was the first superhero movie to take its hero’s pain deadly seriously, and its influence on dark films to come is undeniable—for better or worse.”

3. “The Batman” (2022)

What made “The Batman” different from its predecessors is that it’s more of a crime saga than a psychological thriller. “[Matt] Reeves created a truly intriguing and powerful film with The Batman. Like 1989’s Batman, it capitalizes on that noir feel and brooding tone,” writes The Mary Sue. “Pattinson’s Batman is a fully realized and humanized character who is conflicted over how to carry on his family’s legacy and whether to maintain his superhero identity. The film also offers a nice dose of comic-book accuracy by delving into Batman’s detective role. The Batman has some minor flaws, such as not fleshing out several of its characters and dragging a bit with its slow pacing. However, it captures a clear vision and dazzles with its resonant noir atmosphere.”

"The Batman" (2022)
“The Batman” (2022)

“But we’ll say that Matt Reeves’s reimagining — more of a refinement, really — is a pretty terrific crime saga, focusing on a Batman who’s still learning the ropes, not fully confident in his role as Gotham’s champion,” notes Vulture. “That’s too bad considering that the Riddler (Paul Dano) is making the city a nightmare, methodically killing high-ranking officials and leaving clues for the Dark Knight to unravel. Robert Pattinson is a wonderfully gloomy Bruce Wayne, but the real star might be The Batman’s sumptuous visual style. Beautifully photographed by Greig Fraser, the film oozes noir atmosphere and shadowy intrigue, giving us a world haunted by crime and grief. At three hours, the movie has its missteps. But anyone who loves their Batman to be no-fuss and impossibly mythic, here’s the film for you.”

“The Batman,” which came out in 2022, was “superbly cast,” according to Esquire. “[P]laudits to Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffery Wright and crucially Robert Pattinson. It also successfully inhabits a police procedural world that feels both new and true to the franchise. The look and the score are also excellent.”

4. “Batman” (1989)

Michael Keaton brought the Caped Crusader back to life in 1989 in Tim Burton’s “Batman,” giving the superhero a darker and more brooding tone. The movie also starred the iconic Jack Nicholson as Joker. “Batman was the one that changed everything. By the time 1989 rolled around, the Superman franchise had sputtered to a halt after the abysmal Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and superhero flicks weren’t getting made. But Warner Bros. took a chance on a fresh director named Tim Burton, and his visual flair and love of villains turned Batman into a pop-culture/marketing phenomenon,” writes IGN. “The movie was darker than any superhero movie had been before, and the grittiness of the Dark Knight revival in the ’80s with comics like The Dark Knight Returns and Year One were a clear influence, leaving Bat-fans happy and memories of the campy Adam West Batman in the rear-view mirror. Jack Nicholson added star presence to the film as Joker and created the most memorable movie villain since Darth Vader debuted over a decade earlier.”

"Batman" (1989)
“Batman” (1989)

“An eerie, haunting spectacle, Batman succeeds as dark entertainment, even if Jack Nicholson’s Joker too often overshadows the title character,” notes Rotten Tomatoes.

Empire says the Batmobile is “probably the coolest it’s ever been” in the 1989 film. “Nowadays, Michael Keaton ranks highly among the list of best actors to have filled Batman’s cowl, but before he even uttered a word or flexed a rubber-clad fist in Tim Burton’s film, skepticism around his suitability was rife. In fact, everything about Burton’s Bat-outing had a lot to prove – a dynamic return to some of the darker, more operatic stylings of the character than the Adam West-starring series and movie, it offered grand, art deco production design and an enthusiastic star turn from Jack Nicholson, slathered in make-up to play a cackling, henchman-shooting Joker. Plot-wise, Batman is relatively straightforward, playing the hits including origin stories for both the hero (at a time when that wasn’t so overused) and villain, all driving towards a thrilling final confrontation that involves giant balloons, toxic gas, a church and Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale.”

5. “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” (1993)

Rounding out the top five is the only animated film to make the list — “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.” “Like the animated series before it, this film adaptation has endured as a cult classic. It draws story elements from the graphic novels ‘Batman: Year One’ and ‘Batman: Year Two’ and finds the Dark Knight being falsely accused of murder,” says Man of Many. “Rendered in a signature visual style, it arrived in theatres on short notice and then floundered at the domestic box office, only to thrive on the home rental market. Two direct-to-video sequels would follow.”

"Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (1993)
“Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” (1993)

“Superior animated tale and the only Batman ‘cartoon,’ to date, to be released in cinemas,” writes Esquire. “The origin story – a young Bruce Wayne visits his parents’ grave, and vows to take-up crimefighting – has been told to death but MoTP does it with enough verve, grit and style that it stands up well today. This Art Deco Gotham is filled with sharp angles, brooding shadows and crackling menace. Mark Hamill voices The Joker.”

The animated feature is set in the 1940s. “Stylish and admirably respectful of the source material, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm succeeds where many of the live-action Batman adaptations have failed,” notes Rotten Tomatoes.

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About the Author

Matt Higgins

Matt Higgins worked in national and local news for 15 years. He started out as an overnight production assistant at Fox News Radio in 2007 and ended in 2021 as the Digital Managing Editor at CBS Philadelphia. Following his news career, he spent one year in the automotive industry as a Digital Platforms Content Specialist contractor with Subaru of America and is currently a freelance writer and editor for StudyFinds. Matt believes in facts, science and Philadelphia sports teams crushing his soul.

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