With over 40 films featuring the Dark Knight Detective, Batman has become the tent-pole for one of the most beloved and successful franchises of all time, raking in over $4.5 billion worldwide.
Within the next few years alone, we can already expect to see the masked vigilante featured in Justice League Parts One and Two, The Lego Batman Movie, and an Untitled Batman Reboot written and directed by none other than Batfleck himself.
But as the audience for the franchise has grown, so have the budgets. Script re-writes, unexpected re-shoots, A-list actors, and extensive effects have ballooned the budgets on a number of Batman films, and with a starting budget of $250 million, Justice League may very well end up being the most expensive Batman film to date. But until we know for sure, let’s take a look back and see what the priciest Batman movies would cost to make today.
Here is our list of the 15 Most Expensive Batman Movies Ever Made (Adjusted For Inflation).
15. Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
Budget: $3.9 Million
Starting out our list is this straight-to-DVD animated feature, which cost $3.5 million to make at the time of its release six years ago. The story was adapted from Darwyn Cook’s 2004 comic mini-series, DC: The New Frontier, which was a throwback to the 1950s DC Universe.
When we meet up with the Caped Crusader and Co., they’re tasked with thwarting The Centre, a monstrous villain dead-set on eradicating mankind and its evil ways in the years following the Korean War. The feature was made as a stand-alone film with no connection to the beloved animated series.
A large portion of its budget no doubt went to its impressive cast: Kyle MacLachlan, David Boreanaz, and Neil Patrick Harris voiced Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash, respectively, while Jeremy Sisto provided his talents portraying Bruce Wayne/ Batman. Justice League: The New Frontier earned $5.3 million in video sales ($5.9 million when adjusted for inflation) and was even nominated for Outstanding Animated Programming (One Hour or More) at the Primetime Emmy’s.
14. Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
Budget: $3.9 Million
This animated feature, also released in 2008 with a then $3.5 million budget, was the one of the first DC Universe animated movies not to take its plot from the comics. Instead, its story was meant to bridge the gap between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and it reflected the darker, more realist tone of those films.
The budget no doubt went to hiring an impressive list of writers. Josh Olson, who adapted A History of Violence, Brian Azzarello, who works on DC’s relaunch of Wonder Woman, and The Dark Knight‘s David S. Goyer all worked on the script. Why so many screenwriters? Because similar to The Animatrix, Batman: Gotham Knight is an anthology film, containing six Batman vignettes, all brought to life by various directors with distinct animated styles.
13. Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
Budget: $3.93 Million
Another Warner Brothers animated effort, this direct-to-video release finds Batman and Superman teaming up to take on Lex Luthor, who has been elected President of the United States. Kevin Conroy was hired to portray Batman (as neither Bruce Wayne nor Clark Kent make appearances in this particular feature), and it is Conroy who has voiced the Dark Knight more than any other actor, starting with the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, all the way up to this year’s Batman: The Killing Joke.
Unlike many animated movies, the director actually allowed the voice actors to record their lines together in the studio so they could play off of each other, further adding to the charisma between the characters.
The feature was well received, and it’s the second highest selling DVD for a DC Animated Original behind Superman: Doomsday. Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies has made $10 million ($11.2 million when adjusted for inflation) in at-home sales to date.
12. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Budget: $9.9 Million
Opening on Christmas Day in 1993, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was not originally conceived to be a theatrical release. However, late in production, Warner Brothers decided to let the Dark Knight spread his wings on the silver screen, leaving the animators to scramble and convert the movie into a wide screen aspect ratio. Despite the change of plans and an increased budget, the feature was completed in just eight months, making it the first DC animated effort to be released on the big screen.
Mark Hamill returned to reprise his already iconic take on The Joker alongside fellow Gotham veteran Kevin Conroy. Having been released a full 15 years before Gotham Knight, Phantasm was DC’s first entirely original (read: not based on the comics) animated superhero film, though it took place within the world established by The Animated Series.
Despite positive reviews, the feature was a box office bomb, falling millions of dollars short of making back its budget. However, Phantasm has developed a cult following over the years and is now often considered one of the best superhero movies (animated or not) of all time. The film has since made its money back and then some in at-home sales.
11. Batman: The Movie (1966)
Budget: 10 Million
Our first live-action Batman movie on the list features non-other than Adam West in his tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the Caped Crusader. Batman: The Movie was actually conceived to hit theaters before the camp-tastic TV series ever aired, but production faced significant delays, and instead the movie ended up cashing in on the show’s popularity.
Operating on a then $1.4 million budget, producers took advantage of the extra cash at their disposal and had a number of new bat-gadgets made up — including the Batboat and the Batcopter, which were then featured in the remaining two seasons of the show.
The film made back its money at the box office — but just barely — bringing in a $300,000 profit (or $2.2 million when adjusted for inflation). Plans for another movie, which would have been filmed between the second and third season, were scrapped when viewership for the series began to fall.
10. The Lego Movie (2014)
Budget: $61 Million
Joining an already impressive ensemble consisting of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell and Elizabeth Banks, Arrested Development‘s Will Arnett provided his husky voice to portray Lego Batman in this underdog blockbuster.
Green-lit back in 2011, this 3D computer-animated feature took three years to make, and while the production cost only totaled $60 million, it’s worth noting that an additional $100 million was used on advertising. But all the billboards and TV spots paid off when The Lego Movie impressively held the number one spot at the box office for three consecutive weeks, ultimately netting an estimated profit of $229 million.
The success has already prompted a number of sequels, and the Lego version of the Caped Crusader will get his own turn in the limelight when he teams up with Lego Robin (Michael Cera) to face off against Lego Joker (Zach Galifianakis) in The Lego Batman Movie, which comes out next year.
9. Batman (1989)
Budget: $68 Million
Inspired by The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, Tim Burton brought audiences their first modern incarnation of Batman to the big screen. But before its release, fans of the graphic novels vehemently protested against Michael Keaton being cast as Bruce Wayne (which isn’t exactly a rarity when it comes to superhero castings). But that didn’t stop Batman from becoming one of the highest grossing movies of all time upon its release.
Out of a then $35 million budget, Jack Nicholson received $6 million up front to play The Joker, but a back-end deal actually yielded Nicholson a rumored salary of $60 million! Multiple re-writes and two reels of stolen film (about 20 minutes of footage) also resulted in an increased budget. Not to mention that the multiple variations of the Batsuit alone cost a quarter of a million to make.
8. Batman Returns (1992)
Budget: $141 Million
For their second outing, Burton and Keaton received a hefty budget increase, and as it turns out, a quarter of a million dollars was actually eaten up in between the two films just for the studio to store the sets. When filming finally did commence, Batman Returns incorporated two of Hollywood’s largest sound stages, and half of the Warner Brothers lot was transformed into Gotham City.
Keaton earned $11 million for reprising his role, and Burton even petitioned for the raise. Interestingly enough, a large portion of the budget was used to keep animal rights groups at bay. Apparently the activists were not happy about real penguins waddling around with rockets strapped to their backs, so a large number of the funds went into keeping the set at a chilly 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The penguins were even given their own pool, daily fresh fish, and a refrigerated trailer to hang out in in-between takes.
7. Batman Forever (1995)
Budget: $158 Million
Michael Keaton allegedly turned down $15 million to continue his run as the World’s Greatest Detective, so Joel Schumacher and Val Kilmer assumed the roles of Burton and Keaton to make a lighter, more family-friendly version of the Caped Crusader after Batman Returns received mixed reviews for being too grotesque. As a result, Batman received a makeover, and over 100 workers were hired simply to collaborate on a new, flashier Batsuit.
Problems arose on set and complicated the shooting schedule, as Kilmer refused to take direction from Schumacher, and Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face simply could not get along with Jim Carrey as The Riddler. A good deal of money was also wasted when the studio cut a whopping 40 minutes of footage from the film. Scenes that were now considered too dark or violent, along with a chunk of Bruce Wayne’s backstory, were removed despite the director’s intentions.
6. Suicide Squad (2016)
Budget: $175 Million
After premiering his version of Batman just a few months before, Ben Affleck dawned the cape and cowl once again to make a cameo appearance in this year’s Suicide Squad.
Principal photography began in Toronto in April of 2015 and took just five months to complete. However, the shoot was notoriously reopened in an attempt to add some levity to the story about an expandable crew of super villains after Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice received negative feedback for its broodingly dark tone. This increased the already massive budget and created a stir of backlash months before its release.
The large cast was no doubt partially responsible for the massive budget, as Will Smith alone is one of the highest paid actors of all time, making between $20-$30 million per picture. Director David Ayer also spared no expense when it came to the film’s action. For a single action sequence alone, it’s estimated that the cast and crew fired up to 6,000 shells per day, set off 2,500 squibs, and suspended up to 40 stuntmen on wires at once.
Despite decidedly mixed reviews, Suicide Squad went on to make over $700 million in box office sales, a number that’s certainly subject to change a month and a half after the film’s release.
5. Batman Begins (2005)
Budget: $185 Million
After an eight year absence of Batman on the big screen, Christopher Nolan treated audiences to his hyper-realistic take on the Dark Knight by making the fifth most expensive Batman movie of all time.
On top of its then $150 million budget, an additional $100 million was spent on marketing (possibly to wash the bad taste of this list’s next entry out of people mouths). Using Blade Runner as his inspiration, Nolan decided to use Chicago to double as Gotham City, as opposed to using exterior sets and CGI within a studio lot. That being said, a ton of money went into constructing a life-size Batcave at England’s Shepperton Studios. Batman’s hideout was built to be 250 feet long and 120 feet wide; additionally, a waterfall was also constructed, using 12 pumps that could move up to 12,000 gallons of water.
The Dark Knight Returns provided inspiration for the military-type Tumbler, and a total of five Tumblers were built for the film, each consisting of 65 panels a piece and costing a quarter of a million to construct. There was also no second unit on set, which lengthened the shooting schedule to 129 days as Nolan oversaw ever single shot of the movie. But his strategy paid off, and Batman Begins made $374 million ($590 million today) in box office sales.
4. Batman and Robin (1997)
Budget: $188 Million
We could say that 1997’s Batman and Robin was a complete waste of money, but George Clooney has already done that for us. After proclaiming that they very well may have killed the series, Clooney is even known for personally refunding those who had paid to see the movie.
Working with a bigger budget than any Batman movie before it, Schumacher reunited with Chris O’Donnell and newcomers Clooney and Schwarzenegger to see how many cringe worthy ice-puns they could cram into one movie — and how many action figures they could sell as a result. Schwarzenegger alone was reportedly paid a whopping $25 million to play Mr. Freeze. But in all fairness, he had to spend six hours a day in make-up and wardrobe before he could even begin filming.
Batman and Robin became the first Batman film that failed to be the highest grossing movie during the summer of its release. The lukewarm performance resulted in Warner Brothers canceling the planned sequel, Batman: Unchained, and the Batman franchise remained… frozen… for the following eight years.
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
Budget: $207 Million
An often overlooked part of a film’s budget is just that — the film. In fact, on many low budget movies, the film stock often turns out to be the biggest expense. And after Batman Begins was so well-received, Nolan’s vision grew in scale, and he employed the use of IMAX cameras for The Dark Knight. IMAX film cost far more than standard 35mm film stock, and the cameras were used in four of the films major sequences, including the opening bank robbery.
As the scope of the story grew, so did the locations. The Dark Knight was filmed in Hong Kong, London and once again, Chicago. (It’s also worth noting that while there’s always a ton of money being doled out when making these superhero blockbusters, the production of the film also generated $45 million in revenue to the city of Chicago’s economy.) Christian Bale returned to the cape and cowl, receiving a salary of $10 million up front and another $20 million out of the box office sales. Though Bale was known for doing most of his own stunts, he was not allowed to operate the newly introduced Batpod, which cost an estimated $100,000 to construct. A total of six Batpods were used during the course of filming.
2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Budget: $250 Million
It’s hard to believe that any movie with a box office record of $872 million is considered an under-performance. But these days, when a studio forks over $250 million for production and $165 million on marketing, they expect at least a billion dollars in return.
Unfortunately, the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel’s first live-action meeting on film did not go as planned, and the movie had the worst Friday-to-Sunday drop for a modern day superhero movie. It also experienced a historic drop during its second week in theaters. Even Ben Affleck — whose performance was far better received than many anticipated — could not save the spotty narrative sporting the newly designed, $100,000 Batsuit.
As it turns out, a ton of money was poured into a half hour of deleted scenes that never even made the final cut. The extra footage can now be seen in an extended three hour, R-rated version of the film available on DVD and Blu-ray.
With the same budget already estimated for Justice League, the studio signed Affleck on as a producer in an attempt to steer the franchise into more profitable waters.
1. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Alas, the most expensive Batman movie ever made remains Nolan’s epic conclusion to The Dark Knight trilogy. Once again, the director used the more expensive IMAX 70mm film stock to capture various action sequences. In fact, one of the cameras was destroyed after Anne Hathaway’s stunt double crashed into it while riding the Batpod down a flight of stairs. In all, an hour of the final film was captured using the format, more than doubling the amount of IMAX footage from The Dark Knight.
The number of filming locations also grew along with the budget: Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, London and Glasgow can all be seen within the film, and 11,000 extras were employed during the Gotham Rouges football sequence, which was filmed at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.
While being the most expensive Batman movie ever made, The Dark Knight Rises also remains the most profitable movie in the franchise, bringing in well over a billion dollars in box office sales. It is currently the fifth highest grossing superhero movie of all time.
So do you think these Batman movies are worth their weight in gold? Let us know below!
The Batman Lego Movie opens February 10, 2017; Justice League Part One – November 17, 2017; Justice League Part Two – June 14, 2019; the untitled Batman reboot is currently without an official release date.