One of the most celebrated comic book heroes on the big screen is none other than Batman. Again and again, Bruce Wayne and his unending desire to clean up Gotham City sparked mass box office appeal, and different renditions of his story have been told throughout the decades. Staring as early as the 1940s, Batman made it to television. Here at Sons of Gotham, we can’t get enough of the bat, so we’re going to give you a rundown of all of the films that graced the big screen. Just a quick note, if you haven’t seen these movies and want to, proceed with caution because there might be spoilers!
Batman: The Movie
For the first time, the world had the opportunity to experience Batman in color. Before this, a Batman series was produced in the 1940s, but Batman: The Movie is where the Bat met the big screen in a big way. This film was based largely on the 1940s series and included a host of villains that the series introduced to viewers. Adam West was the star of the movie, and Batman’s trusty sidekick, Robin, was played by Burt Ward. In this film, Batman must save the city of Gotham— and the world at large— from the Commodore Schmidlapp, a device that could turn humans to dust. What made this film particularly fun was the spelling out of action words during action scenes, which gave it a comic-book feel. Words like “Bam!” and Pow!” appeared on screen, which literally brought the comic books themselves to life. This movie did its best to stay true to the series and the comics, and it is a great piece of Gotham’s big screen history.
The 80s was a great decade for movies, and Batman was no exception. The movie is what live action comics should be: a balance of fun and serious, both realistic and fanciful. In this Tim Burton film, we watched as a mobster turns into the twisted character we all know from the comics as The Joker (played by Jack Nicholson). The film remained true to its comic book roots in many ways. The characters were dark and mysterious, twisted and complicated. Many regard this rendition of the Gotham City billionaire vigilante the best of all the Batman films. They might just be right. Comic book fans couldn’t wait for this film to come out, and it became a cultural phenomenon that would go on to change much of the industry. Who knew! In the 1980s, Batman was one of the most successful movies of its time, right up there with Star Wars.
Since the 1989 film did so well, fans had high hopes for the sequel, which debuted in the early 1990s. Michael Keaton joined the cast once again as Bruce Wayne, and Tim Burton returned as director. In this film, the audience is introduced to another villain: The Penguin. Viewers learn a little about how The Penguin came to be— a child with a deformity born to a pair of socialites. They’re so disturbed by his appearance that they keep him confined within the bars of a cage. Ultimately, they decide to rid themselves of the child, and they throw him in a sewer where he is found and raised by a group of penguins. Obviously, he grows up with some issues, and as a result, he becomes another villain set on taking down Gotham City. Throughout the film, The Penguin sabotages Batman in every way he can and attempts to kill the woman Batman falls for (who survives and turns into Catwoman, but you should watch the movie to find out more). Batman Returns was met with critical acclaim and was nominated for several awards, but the media and the fans felt otherwise.
In the third installment of the series, we see many changes. Tim Burton returns to direct, but the movie has nearly no connection to its predecessors, and Michael Keaton doesn’t return as Batman— two largely noticeable differences. (Here’s a look at why Tim Burton’s version of a third movie didn’t play out). Instead, Val Kilmer steps in as Bruce Wayne. This installment takes on a more family-friendly vibe, which is in stark contrast to the other two (not to mention the comics), but Warner Bros. thought this approach would sell more movie tickets. Things didn’t exactly go as planned though. Batman Forever was the worst performing movie of the series. In the movie, viewers are introduced to Two-Face, Riddler, and Nygma, villains all in their own right. Our favorite sidekick, Robin, is also introduced in Batman Forever. Though it might not have performed as well as the other movies in the series, the movie definitely had a complicated, exciting plot, and a fun feel, that’s for sure.
Batman & Robin
It’s possible that Warner Bros. might have wanted to stop while they were ahead, but alas, a fourth installment in the Batman series came to life in 1997. This is the first movie that features Robin throughout, and this time Gotham’s vigilante and trusty sidekick are up against Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. The duo must stop these two villains from literally freezing mankind and replacing the population with, well, mutant plants. The film had an excellent cast, including George Clooney as Batman, but critics kind of hated it. The media also gave it less than stellar coverage. In fact, still today, the film is regarded as one of the worst superhero movies out there. Ouch. Still, loyal comic and movie fans came out to play, and the film did well at the box office.
The early 2000s marks a Batman reboot of sorts, and director Christopher Nolan is serious about creating a hit. This film is quite possibly one of the best superhero origin stories around. Viewers learn about the untimely death of Bruce Wayne’s (played by Christian Bale) parents and how the trauma affected the billionaire. One noticeable difference in this movie when compared to all of its predecessors is the tug on the heartstrings. Nolan definitely wanted to make sure the audience was emotionally invested in Wayne, and he succeeded. The movie is also pretty true to the comics in tone, as DC is known for ominous, dark plots and characters. Viewers also get a little taste of what’s next (The Joker, anyone?) at the end of this film. Batman Begins did relatively well at the box office and was also nominated for an Academy Award.
The Dark Knight
If we *had* to pick a favorite Batman movie, this one might be it. This assertion is because The Dark Knight continues on with the dark and ominous feel that we’d expect from a DC comic, but it’s also because of the stellar performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker. As it’s been said many times since the movie’s release, watching Ledger play The Joker was almost like watching him actually become The Joker. The film continues on with the realistic feel of its predecessor, making the plot and the characters more believable while still staying in line with the fantasy that the comic books bring to life. Two-Face also makes an appearance, and once again, Nolan checks our emotional investment in the movie (by utterly ripping us apart) with the death of Bruce Wayne’s long-time secret love (that he’s not actually with because she’s dating Two-Face who is also Harvey Dent), Rachel Dawes. The film because the highest grossing Batman movie of all time, coming in at $1 billion, and it was nominated for a host of awards,
The Dark Knight Rises
Thanks to Harvey Dent’s The Dent Act, Gotham’s vigilante is exiled from the city, and this movie starts with the bat in hiding. Both Bruce Wayne and Batman suffer the consequences, as Wayne Enterprises starts losing tons of money and Batman is seen as an enemy of the city. Personal issues also keep Wayne in hiding, as he’s still (8 years later) mourning the loss of his love, Rachel Dawes. A hero can’t stay in the shadows forever though. Batman is teased out of hiding through a series of events, which includes Catwoman, Detective Blake, and of course, Bane, who threatens to fulfill Ra's al Ghul's mission to destroy Gotham (which ties this film back to the first of the trilogy). Bane does some pretty serious damage to Gotham’s shadow vigilante and Batman ends up imprisoned, but as the film’s title suggests, this is just the beginning for Wayne.
We can’t get enough Batman, and we understand if you can’t either. Even though there aren’t talks of any more movies about the bat, we’re grateful to have Justice League, Superman vs Batman, and Wonder Womanto bring him back to the big screen.
Maybe you’re in need of some new gear to show off your love for your favorite shadowy vigilante. Not to worry. We’ve got you covered. Check out our full lineup of Batman gear today!
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