Tracy J Hutchings, Guest Writer
In the pantheon of superheroes – across both comic houses – none gets so much love and ire than Batman and the nine thousand projects he’s been associated with. Too gimmicky, too grimy and sometimes, maybe, “just right”. It’s kind of hilarious the fan cycle of a Batman movie. First comes rage at the casting – from Michael “Mr. Mom” Keaton [pre-Twitter] and Ben “Daredevil” Affleck to Robert “Sparkles” Pattinson. Then, realization that these actors can be more and their movies have [some measure] of merit. Finally, the inevitable reshuffling of the deck as we rate our Bat-Flicks – which is where I come in.
In preparation for The Batman, I’ve been re-watching Bat-Projects; some made me laugh, some made me smile. Here’s my list ranking all 11 live action Bat-Flicks:
#11 Batman and Robin (1997) “Alright everybody, chill!”
Between the sale of women at a Gotham Charity Event and the reinvention of Batgirl as a Pennyworth, there is much to be desired. Hot ER doctor George Clooney brought that dashing playboy vibes to Bruce but I wasn’t too sold on his Bats.
For me the star of that show is over-the-top Mr. Freeze with his cold puns. “Hand over the jewels garden girl or I’ll turn you into mulch!” -it lives rent free in my mind. Matt Reeves speaks of doing a grounded version of Freeze/Fries…colour me intrigued.
#10 Batman: The Movie (1966) “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb”
Batman runs through the docks with a giant bomb. Periodt! But it still gets a higher place than Batman & Robin because it’s MEANT to have that camp feel for the era it was built in. Though, watching it on TTT (national station Trinidad and Tobago Television) in the 80s still felt like gold. The film featured and balanced multiple villains – The Joker, Catwoman, Penguin and the Riddler – which is something modern superhero movies flounder with.
#9 Justice League (2017)/Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
While I have…mixed feelings with the works of Zack Snyder, the Bruce/Batman dynamic here was a’ight. Bruce the recruiter, Batman the reluctant leader…Bruce getting shoved by Diana [Joss cut]; even the Knightmare epilogue in the Snyder Cut was cool because, well, “We live in a society”.
#08 Batman Forever (1995) “You see I’m both Bruce Wayne and Batman, not because I have to be, now, because I choose to be.”
Funny enough, this Val Kilmer-led Batman may be the closest we came to a detective Batman till now. It is this Batman who solves the riddles and uses his intellect while feeling accessible. He’s also the only one we’ve seen ACTUALLY visiting a psychiatrist.
Jim Carrey’s Riddler may be over-the-top but you see the pure sinister behind the smile. Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face added a nice balance. And the soundtrack featuring Seal and U2…gold! Now if only I could edit that bat-smile from my memory. Sheesh.
#07 The Dark Knight Rises (2012) “DESI! DESI BASARA! BASARA!”
I liked the idea of Bruce walking away from the cape and cowl at the end; something we know Bruce rarely every does. There was so much right and so much to be desired. Nolan’s desire for realness offered a cool insight [into Bane especially]; still, something here felt missing. Incidentally, this was the first film I saw in IMAX.
6#Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Here’s why this Bruce/Batman works: this is the aftermath of Bruce’s personal 9/11 [Man of Steel] and like the real one, there is anger, fear and a determination to take back control and Ben played it beautifully…right up till they wrote “Martha” and “I thought she was with you.” Uuuuugh! Still, I could watch it again.
#05 Batman Begins (2005) “… it’s what I DO that defines me.”
Not only did this movie succeed in making you love and understand the MAN behind the cowl but the introduction of “real life” Wayne tech being channeled into a costume was genius! An army prototype vehicle becomes the batmobile; memory cloth becomes a cape – gold! The introduction of Ra’s Al Ghul and Scarecrow paired beautifully. Chef’s kiss!
#04 Batman (1989) “I’m of a mind to make some Mookie!”
Before the treatises about the dark and brooding hero, there was BATMAN. Tim Burton gave us the prototype [good or bad, you decide] of how future Bat-Flicks should feel. Dark, brooding and with a sassy Alfred. It still holds up!
It also hit THEN all the marks that would’ve gotten Twitter aflutter NOW; a Black Harvey Dent? A comedic actor as Batman? Joker killing his parents? Oh the rage fest.
#03 The Batman (2022) “When that light hits the sky…it’s a warning.”
Vengeance! Two years into his crusading, Bruce has to confront Gotham’s [and his own] past. I gave this an 8.5 because I hardly had any faults with it. It’s rewatchable. And the score! “Sonata in darkness” is both sad and satisfying.
It could’ve been cut down some but The Batman really honed in on the Noir and Detective sides and I say yes! Zoe, Robert, Jeffrey, Colin and Andy really made it a true ensemble cast!
#02 The Dark Knight (2008) “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you…stranger.”
Over-growl aside, The Dark Knight perfectly showed how Joker and Batman were two heads of the same coin. Harvey’s descent was something to behold and Joker’s Chaos Speech remains top-tier writing for me. I also quite liked Maggie Gyllenhaal’s take on Rachel.
#01 Batman Returns (1992) “We’re the same. Right down the middle”
There is nothing wrong with this movie; fight me. It blends the goth, the duality and the humour of all the characters well. And yes, Penguin biting off the nose of a reporter might be much but everyone’s unhinged in Gotham.
Danny Elfman’s “Selina Transforms” still gets me and Michelle Pfeiffer remains THE live action Catwoman. But, like The Dark Knight, it’s the notion of Selina and Bruce basically being of one soul that still stands up. A tragic love story wrapped in a comic-book film. And unlike modern films, the humour in this film doesn’t distract. Catwoman: I’ve been hungry all day; Batman: Eat floor. High fibre! Absolute favourite.
And we haven’t even touched the animated Bat-Flicks like Mask of Phantasm, Year One, Doom and more. Each Bat-Project brings something to the table, so I don’t HATE any; it’s not Green Lantern. What’s your Bat-Ranking? Let us up!
Editor’s Note: A very special thanks to guest writer Tracy J Hutchings. He’s done collabs and reviews with us but this is his first Red Mango Reviews list, and I think he deserves a Bat-medal. And you can check out more great DC content below: