6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was divisive to say the least (name a Zack Snyder release that isn’t…) with it either being the bleak vision of Batman that many had wished for over the years or the epitome of how to ruin the mystique of one of cinema’s greatest heroes, depending on your point of view of course.
It sits at number 6 on this list for precisely this reason.
Batman v Superman isn’t good at everything it does, nor is it necessarily bad. The 2016 film featured some memorable Batman moments and truly emphasised the less-explored “World’s Greatest Detective” aspect of the character, Ben Affleck being one of the best parts of a movie filled with high profile actors in culturally significant roles. It also shouldn’t be overlooked how monumental it was to see Batman and Superman finally share the screen, nor how great it was to get them to do so with Wonder Woman for the first time.
Sure, this was pushed by Snyder and his team of ideas people as a sequel to Superman movie Man of Steel, but given Batman’s position in the narrative and the overall journey of the character throughout the film’s bloated run-time, this is definitely a Batman movie, though one that is far from perfect and sits way behind the top 5 of this list in terms of its overall quality.
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5. Batman Returns (1992)
A Tim Burton directed sequel to his 1989 Batman release (which breathed new life into the franchise after some 23 years away from cinema screens), Batman Returns appeals to a slightly different part of the Batman fandom, the rich mix of villainous characters and a more traditionally blockbuster-like plot being the key defining features.
This sequel, which is far superior to all of the films already on this list, features some of Burton’s great early work and a fantastic cast including support for Keaton’s Batman from Christopher Walken, Danny DeVito and the incomparable Michelle Pfeiffer who turned in the best big-screen Catwoman ever, its low position on this list being proof of the franchise’s overall quality as opposed to a knock on Returns itself.
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4. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman-defining trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises wrapped up the threads of the previous two films to offer satisfying narrative conclusions to the majority of characters, the director laying on the “blockbuster” aspect of his heist-action-blockbuster series more-so than in his previous two movies.
Shot on film (and partially in iMax), The Dark Knight Rises is arguably the most gorgeous Batman movie to look at, with the pulsating drones and thunderous bangs of Hans Zimmer’s score creating an atmosphere unlike much of superhero cinema before or since.
This particular Nolan entry was less well received than the first two instalments of his trilogy with a number of people pointing towards the conveniences in the plot as the central reason, yet it remains a classic superhero film for this century (of any studio) and a classic Batman movie nonetheless.
Nolan gifted us the best trilogy in all of superhero cinema history (sorry MCU, X-Men and the Spider-Man trilogy), and The Dark Knight Rises was the sweet icing on the cake that gets a harder wrap from industry commentators than it deserves.