Few superheroes can boast having quite as many big-screen iterations as Batman, whose film career spans multiple decades and several different Hollywood stars.
Up until now, each era of Batman has been very distinct from what came before, but things are soon to become more complicated as DC looks to introduce the multiverse.
It’s a daring move which could provide some incredible fan service, as one of cinema’s most iconic Batmen steps back into the role, but it might also confuse more casual fans.
As a result, we’ve put together this guide to Batman’s big screen adventures, to help you get the most from the caped crusader.
The Original Series
Technically, Batman’s film career begins in the 1940s with two 15-part serial films, while 1966’s Batman: The Movie is also fondly remembered by some who enjoyed the campy television series it span out from.
However, for all intents and purposes, the Batman film franchise as we know it today began with 1989’s Batman, with visionary director Tim Burton placing a distinctive gothic tone over the proceedings.
The film starred Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson as his arch-enemy the Joker, and while it isn’t hugely faithful to the comic books, it has nevertheless remained a fan favourite.
Rent or buy Batman (1989) from Amazon
Batman Returns (1992)
Tim Burton and Michael Keaton reunited for this sequel, which saw the introduction of Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, arguably the most famous depiction of the femme fatale in film history.
Danny DeVito also stars as Oswald Cobblepot, better known by his criminal alter ego The Penguin, who must be stopped from hatching a sinister plan that puts thousands of lives at stake.
Rent or buy Batman Returns from Amazon
Batman Forever (1995)
Joel Schumacher took over for Tim Burton in this third outing, with Michael Keaton also jumping ship to be replaced by Val Kilmer.
The result is a markedly different Batman film, with a zanier tone amplified by Jim Carrey’s outlandish performance as The Riddler.
Tommy Lee Jones also stars as Two-Face, while Chris O’Donnell joined the franchise as Dick Grayson (aka Robin), who would go on to share top billing in the next film.
Rent or buy Batman Forever from Amazon
Batman & Robin (1997)
And this is where the wheels came off the Batmobile.
Joel Schumacher returned to helm Batman & Robin, which leaned a tad too heavily on building a children’s cartoon version of Batman, complete with cheesy one-liners, absurd action and ridiculous villains.
George Clooney inherited the mantle for this edition in a rare career misstep for the world-famous actor, while Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman disappoint as comic book icons Mr Freeze and Poison Ivy.
No one would argue that it’s a good film, but Batman & Robin might carry a certain charm for fans of so-bad-it’s-good movies or those who remember it fondly from their childhood.
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The Nolan Trilogy
Batman Begins (2005)
The rebirth starts here! Christopher Nolan scrapped the ailing continuity of Tim Burton’s Batman universe for a completely new take, which prided itself on being grounded, dark and gritty.
Christian Bale was cast as Bruce Wayne for this origin flick, which recounts his training under the League of Shadows and his first clash will Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow.
Rent or buy Batman Begins from Amazon
The Dark Knight (2008)
Nolan took things to the next level with the middle chapter of his trilogy, reintroducing The Joker to a whole new generation with an electric performance from the late Heath Ledger.
Rent or buy The Dark Knight from Amazon
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Dark Knight trilogy concludes with this epic finale, which sees the caped crusader go up against a mysterious enemy known as Bane, a powerful figure who might just break the Bat for good.
Rent or buy The Dark Knight Rises from Amazon
DC Extended Universe
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
With Christopher Nolan keen to move onto other projects, the future of Batman was passed onto director Zack Snyder, as he was revealed to play a key role in his Man of Steel sequel.
When news broke that Ben Affleck had been cast in the role, there was initially an unreasonable amount of outrage, but ironically his performance would go on to be well-liked by most die-hard DC fans.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a divisive film in the Batalogue, as it conjures up a somewhat convoluted way to make the two iconic superheroes fight.
That said, many do enjoy its dark tone and epic action sequences, while the score from Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is another winner.
Rent or buy Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice from Amazon
Suicide Squad (2016)
While not strictly a Batman film, the Dark Knight does make a brief appearance in David Ayer’s 2016 antihero flick, and so does two of his most dangerous enemies: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and The Joker (Jared Leto).
Suicide Squad saw a generally negative reception from critics, but did huge business at the global box office.
Rent or buy Suicide Squad from Amazon
Justice League (2017)
Ben Affleck returned to the role of Batman for this mega-budget crossover flick, which was sadly hit by behind-the-scenes trouble when director Zack Snyder had to step down due to a personal tragedy.
Avengers helmer Joss Whedon took over the reins, which led to a film that felt disjointed and inconsistent for many, sparking an insatiable fan campaign for Snyder’s original vision to be realised.
Justice League sees Batman assemble a team comprised of Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg when an extraterrestrial threat emerges.
Stream Justice League on Netflix
Upcoming: The Flash (2022)
And here’s where things get complicated. Up to this point, each new iteration of Batman has been neatly separated from the last, with no substantial overlap or cause for confusion.
However, as announced at the recent DC FanDome event, the upcoming Flash movie starring Ezra Miller is set to change all that, with two Batmen announced for the cast.
Ben Affleck will return one last time in a small role, but seemingly he’ll be passing the baton backwards to Michael Keaton, who will be reprising his role from 1989’s Batman.
The exact circumstances of this return aren’t yet known, but it’s believed the film will draw inspiration from popular crossover event Flashpoint, which sees The Flash inadvertently create a wildly different present after travelling back in time.
The Flash is scheduled for release on 3rd June 2022.
Some Batman films aren’t directly linked to any one franchise and thus can be watched at any time.
The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
Off the back of his popular appearance in 2014’s The LEGO Movie, Arrested Development’s Will Arnett lent his trademark gravelly voice to this comedic spin on the Batman.
The film’s light-hearted story involves a classic clash between Batman and the Joker, who is hatching yet another dastardly scheme.
The all-star voice cast includes Michael Cera as Robin, Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon, and Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth.
Rent or buy The LEGO Batman Movie from Amazon
Director Todd Phillips is behind this recent take on Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker, which sees Joaquin Phoenix take on the role of the iconic villain.
An origin story set during Bruce Wayne’s childhood years, don’t expect any appearances from Batman himself, but do look out for the interesting way in which this film adapts the DC Comics mythos.
Joker is available to purchase from Amazon
Upcoming: The Batman (2021)
The next Batman is currently strapping on his cape and cowl for this moody new trilogy, which will unfold outside of the mainline DC Extended Universe.
Robert Pattinson is teaming up with Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves for this hotly anticipated flick, which was unveiled in an intense teaser trailer at DC FanDome.
The Batman is scheduled for release on 1st October 2021.
If you’re looking for something to watch tonight, check out our TV Guide.