Best Michael Keaton Movies: Top 5 Films Most Recommended By Fans

Since 1975, Michael Keaton has been entertaining audiences with his diverse filmography. From being the caped crusader in “Batman” to a stay-at-home Dad in “Mr. Mom” and everything in between, Keaton has shown his range and abilities on the silver screen and, more recently, transferred that success to the small screen. With almost half a century in the business behind him, his catalog of films can be daunting, so we have made a list of the best Michael Keaton movies of all time to make viewing his work even easier!

As mentioned, the actor has worked in the industry for almost 50 years. He has managed to stay relevant through multiple decades, maneuvering new ways of filmmaking and even having a successful dabble in television streaming. Even just last year, a survey was taken on fans’ favorite Batman. Keaton’s portrayal of the angsty superhero was only beaten out by one percent by Affleck’s modern take on the character. Considering the number of actors who have shown their take on the iconic vigilante since Keaton’s portrayal, being number two on the list after all these years is remarkable. Moreover, nearly 16 percent of respondents named Michael Keaton the definitive Batman, which makes sense. After all, while he and Affleck are returning for “The Flash,” only one will be moving on to yet another upcoming cameo in “Batgirl,”… and it won’t be Affleck.

Being a successful actor at all is a great accomplishment. A recent study using data from the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) showed how difficult it is to make it in the industry. Data indicated that 70 percent of actors and actresses have careers that last only one year. Of course, the study confirmed that the most famous actors have the most jobs, which they liken to the “rich-get-richer” effect. By mapping the career arcs of many famous actors, the research team found that for most, their most successful year is usually near the start of their career. However, you do get the rare few, like Keaton, who has worked consistently for decades, and pinpointing his most successful year is almost impossible. But hey, that’s show business!

With the near impossibility of naming Michael Keaton’s most successful year or even decade of his career, one may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of his films. However, we at StudyFinds have researched high and low to bring you only the top five best Michael Keaton movies of all time! Don’t see your favorite on the list? We would love to hear from you and your go-to Keaton classic in the comments below!

Michael Keaton at the 74th Golden Globe Awards
Michael Keaton at the 74th Golden Globe Awards in 2017 (Photo by Featureflash Photo Agency on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Michael Keaton Movies, According to Experts


1. “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” (2014)

Though the story of “Birdman” may have hit a little too close to home for Keaton, it only made him turn in an even more brilliant performance. It is the story of a former superhero actor who tries to plan his comeback in a Broadway show. “However, his former Birdman persona explains to him that Birdman is a part of his identity and the actor and character are one and the same. This is a Keaton film that, along with his turn as Batman, shows how identity can create or destroy a person’s path, and only Keaton’s talents could have brought this character to life. It’s arguably Keaton’s best film and performance,” says MovieWeb

“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" (2014)
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” (2014)

“Keaton was nominated for his one and only Oscar for this moving tragi-comedy tour de force, made to look as if it were shot in one movie-length take, as an actor forever burdened by the superhero he played in a movie trilogy. His Riggan Thompson reflects upon life while preparing for a stage production and interacts with lovers, friends, and family past and present while being mocked by Birdman as he envisions himself having superpowers,” explains GoldDerby.

“This role reminded movie fans that Keaton can still deliver an A-list performance. Like his character, Riggan Thomson, the actor who played an iconic screen superhero (which continues to consume his psyche), Keaton was looking for some leading-man resurgence. He did, and this role and picture will probably be the one that ends up defining his career,” writes YardBarker.

2. “Beetlejuice” (1988)

The name “Beetlejuice” is almost synonymous with Michael Keaton nowadays. So much so that it’s hard to believe the actor only had 17 minutes on screen! Even so, “‘Beetlejuice’ is easily one of Michael Keaton’s most iconic and best film roles. The film follows Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam (Alec Baldwin), a typical happy, young, married couple who die unexpectedly in a car accident and are shocked to discover they’ve become ghosts haunting their own house. With a new family moving into their beloved home, Barbara and Adam decide to try to scare them away but realize they have no idea how to do so until they stumble upon a mystical demonic spirit guide by the name of Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton),” explains SlashFilm.

“Beetlejuice” (1988)
“Beetlejuice” (1988)

“Lewd, crude, and wonderfully rude. Hiding behind a thick wall of ghoulish makeup and finger-in-light-socket hair, Keaton’s fiendish frantic-ness as the titular otherworldly ghost exorcist cuts through the Caribbean kitsch of Harry Belafonte tunes and Halloween theatrics,” raves GoldDerby.

“There are few characters as memorable as the roguish, smart-mouthed ghost Betelgeuse whose shoes Keaton fills like he was born to play the character. One of Tim Burton’s finest films, ‘Beetlejuice’ is a terrific dark comedy with an absurdist sense of humor and the director’s trademark penchant for imaginative visuals,” adds Top10Films.

3. “Spotlight” (2015)

While most of the films on the list have Keaton turning in big character performances, “Spotlight” shows a different side to the actor in which he excels. Winning the Academy Award for “Best Picture,” “‘Spotlight’ is a quiet and harrowing drama about the real-life group of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe who uncovered the massive child sexual abuse and molestation scandal within the local Catholic Church. When a new chief editor arrives at the globe, ‘Spotlight’ editor Robby (Michael Keaton) is encouraged to use his investigative resources at the desk to look into claims of pedophilia within the church,” describes SlashFilm.

“Spotlight” (2015)

“Featuring a star-studded cast of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, and Brian d’Arcy James, ‘Spotlight’ is a daring endeavor and deals with a sensitive topic that is barely covered in any mainstream movie out of fear of backlash by religious factions. Out of six Academy Award nominations, the movie won two, including Best Picture,” adds Chillopedia.

“After brilliantly embodying a fictional editor in ‘The Paper’, Keaton brought to life a real hero of journalism with his performance as Walter Robinson in ‘Spotlight.’ ‘Spotlight’ is a difficult film to watch because of its disturbing subject material, but the entire cast is incredibly respectful of their real-life counterparts. Robinson isn’t the only brave figure within the story, but he’s a center point who the investigation team can rally behind,” writes Collider

4. “Batman” (1989)

“I’ll take best Batmans for 500, Alex!” Yea, that’s how we feel when watching Keaton’s portrayal of the hero/vigilante. “With his comedy background, few saw Keaton as the logical choice to play the caped crusader, but that criticism was put to bed upon the film’s release. His portrayal of Batman revived the character for a whole new audience and would set the benchmark for superhero movies for years to come,” writes Chit Hot.

“Batman” (1989)
“Batman” (1989)

“While some fans may cite Tim Burton’s second film, ‘Batman Returns,’ as the stronger of his two DC Comics adaptations, 1989’s ‘Batman’ is effectively the film that started the modern superhero craze. The film remains ahead of its time; Burton drew inspiration from 1930s German Expressionist films to create an idiosyncratic gothic mystery. Ironically, Batman is really the genesis story of Jack Nicholson’s Joker, and Keaton doesn’t opt for a big performance. He perfectly captures the loneliness of Bruce Wayne without ever needing an elaborate origin story,” notes Collider.

“You could feel the weight of what was at stake with the launch of this still ongoing franchise—there was tie-in merchandise everywhere that summer. But some DC comic-book fans were puzzled by the hiring of a funny guy like Keaton as the disturbed billionaire Bruce Wayne and his brooding superhero alter ego. But somewhere between Nicholson’s campy posing as the leering Joker, Burton’s gothic leanings, and Prince’s funked-up pop songs, the actor managed to reach into the depths of this rich man’s soul and give a real performance,” adds GoldDerby.

5. “The Paper” (1994)

One of Keaton’s first films he acted in was Ron Howard’s “Night Shift” in 1982, which helped kick-start his career. Keaton would reunite with Howard 12 years later to film “The Paper.” “In this dramedy set in the world of tabloid journalism, Keaton plays Henry Hackett, the city editor of the fictional—and financially dire—New York Sun newspaper. Although Henry loves his job, he is frequently hounded by his superiors and is pressured to take a higher-paying job with a baby on the way. Keaton ably conveys Henry’s world-weariness as he struggles to balance his hectic lifestyle while remaining obsessed with finding the perfect story to print,” says High On Films.

“The Paper” (1994)

“The film really captures what it means to be working on a story you believe in while being subjected to budget costs and deadline rushes. Keaton delivers a self-assured performance that is characterized by an angry impatience,” adds Far Out.

“The film is nuanced in its depiction of the pressures that a newspaper staff feels to respect its readers. Keaton stars as an editor who is given 24 hours to save the publication amidst a city-wide controversy regarding a recent murder. Keaton brings to life Hackett’s diligence; he’d never be able to live with himself if he let his readers, his staff, or his family down,” concludes Collider.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

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About the Author

Jilly Hite

New York raised and Florida-based Jilly Hite studied screenwriting and theatre at The Lee Strasberg Institute before becoming a full time content creator and podcaster. She loves old movies, musical theatre, and her pup Ted.

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  1. I’ve seen all of these movies and whatever he’s in Keaton never gives less than 100%.

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