With over fifty years of on-screen interpretations of Batman, there are many different versions of the Dark Knight. His tenure begins even before the screen, so it’s fair to say that Batman is one of the most highly recognizable figures in popular culture.
Yet, with each new rendition, we manage to learn something new about the character, and different creative teams can still show us something that we’ve never seen before.
This is not a measure of which iteration would win in a 15-way Batman brawl, nor is it about fighting or strength. Instead, the goal is to evaluate the different versions of Batman based on two criteria.
The first thing we will look at is how powerful Batman is represented within his own universe. If Batman struggles and fails consistently through his adventures or if it’s early in his career, he’ll score low here. The second criteria will be measured on how well Batman is portrayed.
Batman’s greatest power is his ability to inspire people; this refers to the audience as well as the citizens of Gotham. The movies and shows that had a significant cultural impact will receive credit for elevating Batman to a higher level.
Here are the 15 On-Screen Versions of Batman Ranked From Weakest To Most Powerful.
15. The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
After debuting with a supporting role in 2014’s The Lego Movie, Batman returns in his own spin-off to fight The Joker and rant about Gotham, lampooning the franchise in the process.
Will Arnett’s voice gives this Batman a more dynamic growl than we’ve heard before, but that’s not what earns this movie an honorable fifteenth spot in the rankings.
The Lego Batman Movie makes most of its laughs, and there are plenty, from previously established Batman pop culture references. This version of the caped crusader shines a light on many sides of the character, as it specifically focuses on the new family that Batman gains.
14. The New Adventures of Batman (1977-78)
After the conclusion of the 1966 live action show, Batman was the hero who every network wanted. The New Adventures of Batman wasn’t the first animated version of Batman to appear on-air, but it was the first version to reprise the vocal talents of Adam West and Burt Ward.
Though it only lasted for two years, this Batman debuted after the already established Super Friends cartoon, which belonged to a different network and also featured Batman.
This meant that two cartoons were exploring Batman at the same time, requiring both shows to make great content. The resulting competition lead to even greater popularity for the character.
13. Beware The Batman (2013-14)
This short lived series on Cartoon Network failed to make a big splash at the time, but its radical approach makes it stand out among Batman portrayals. The entire series consists of twenty-six episodes, which features a modern take on Batman with a new sleek look, a kick-butt Alfred, and Katana filling in the for the role of Robin.
The most jarring feature of this show was the CGI animation. While very well done, it was a major risk, especially following the classic version of Batman that was featured on The Brave and the Bold show. Those marketing troubles may have been responsible for Beware the Batman‘s floundering.
12. Batman & Robin (1997)
Director Joel Schumacher’s second rendition of Batman takes the twelfth spot in our power rankings. George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell play the titular Batman and Robin in this Hollywood blockbuster. The movie featured a Batgirl who made fans cringe and a team of villains that didn’t make sense.
This film makes our list not on the strength of its plot, nor on George Clooney’s portrayal, but it marks an important moment for the character. Audiences were now so familiar with Batman, that a cookie cutter Hollywood version wasn’t going to cut it anymore.
In order to do justice to the character, future projects would have to embrace his nuance, not run away from it. For the first time, Batman had such a powerful connection with viewers, that they felt betrayed by a project that didn’t respect the character.
11. Batman Forever (1995)
Before Clooney donned the cowl, Val Kilmer played Batman alongside Chris O’Donnell’s Robin in Batman Forever. The villain roles were played by Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, as Two-Face and the Riddler.
This was the first film that Joel Schumacher directed and it was a drastic change to the noir aesthetic Tim Burton. This new version of Batman was bright and shiny, to make sure that he matched the accompanying toy line.
Batman Forever holds the eleventh spot only because Kilmer’s Batman was a little bit more detached than Clooney’s. This movie was the first to force audiences to ask serious questions about what they wanted from their Batman and what he means to them. A powerful moment in the development of any character.
10. Batman Beyond (1999-01)
In 1999, after already collaborating on Batman: The Animated Series, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created a new version of Batman. Taking place in a future Gotham, the next generation of Batman had arrived.
Batman Beyond premiered as an hour long special, and in a primetime slot on evening television. Will Friedle of Boy Meets World fame provided the voice of protagonist Terry McGinnis. This teenager eventually befriends Bruce Wayne, and in the year 2039, becomes the next Batman.
Over the course of 52 episodes and an animated feature film, the series explored every aspect of this futuristic neo-Gotham. The series introduced new villains, while simultaneously continuing the legacy of old ones. Batman Beyond truly brought the Bat-legacy to the next level.
9. The Batman (2004-08)
One of the two longest running shows to make an appearance, The Batman brings the Dark Knight into the 21st century. All of the characters and elements of Gotham were updated into a sleeker animation style. The show also developed a very catchy new theme song and the series told a solid version of the Batman story, focusing on his early days as a crime fighter.
Rino Romano provided the voice for Batman and show ran for five seasons, totalling 62 episodes. It was very positively received and even won a total of five Emmys. Most importantly, it proved once again the power of the Batman character, reiterating his ability to adapt to new generations.
8. Batman Begins (2005) – The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of films peaked with Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker. Overall, Nolan successfully refocused the character in Hollywood’s eyes, proving it’s possible to do a dark, intelligent Batman movie.
The reason why these movies, and Christian Bale’s Batman, didn’t go higher in these rankings, is their lack of commitment to DC lore. While they did manage to put Batman back on the map theatrically, it featured too many characters, overcrowding this rendition and limiting deep exploration. The main perpetrator here is The Dark Knight Rises, which changed the origin stories of it’s villains and ended on a lackluster note.
7. Super Friends (1973-86)
This is another entry on the list that has earned its place due to a long tenure. Super Friends ran from 1973-1986 under more than five different official titles, altogether producing 102 episodes.
Batman and Robin were both members of the super team, along with Wonder Woman, Superman, Aquaman, and a variety of others who joined them along the way.
Due to the show’s long run, the story, while at times a little stuttering or immature, got the opportunity to delve deep in to backstories. This is true not only for the heroes, but for the countless featured villains as well.
Despite not being the only hero on this show, this Batman representation is powerful because of it’s significance in raising a generation on Batman. The duration of the show matters here too; for over ten years, a Batman powerful enough to lead the Justice League defeated evil every weekend.
6. Batman (1989) & Batman Returns (1992)
In 1989, Tim Burton’s Batman movie was set to be released, something that hadn’t happened since the 1966 movie starring Adam West. Burton’s film would usher in a whole new age of cinema and visual effects. The final product succeeded in demonstrating what everyone thought they knew by that point: that Batman was meant to thrive on the big screen.
Big performances from Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and from Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer in the sequel, gave great depth to the characters of Gotham. These movies didn’t get every character right, and some of the villain scenes don’t stand up very well.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that Burton showed the audience that Batman could be a tortured character as well as a superhero. By revealing the Caped Crusader’s humanity, Batman was made in to an even more relatable character.
5. Batman The Brave and the Bold (2008-11)
Batman: TBATB is a take on the Dark Knight that moves the character in a lot of interesting new directions. TBATB takes after the comic series of the same name, pairing Batman with a different hero from the DC Universe with each new story. Instead of a monster of the week premise, it’s a hero of the week.
This on-screen Batman is rated highly due to the high quality of the series. Deidrich Bader provides a great Batman voice, and the amount of care and time put into telling stories about these DC characters is really apparent. Some of these characters include Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Aquaman, and even Firestorm makes an appearance.
The show ran for so long that it practically paired Batman up with every other hero; a fascinating experiment. This series reinvents Batman again, showing whole new sides of him, for yet another new set of fans.
4. Batman v Superman (2016) – Justice League (2017)
The current actor Warner Bros. chose to be Batman, Ben Affleck, has shown us all how hard it is to make it in the new age of superhero movies.
In Batman v Superman, Zack Snyder’s first crack at the Batman, a mature Caped Crusader ends up in a fight to the death with Superman. While this was marketed as the battle of the century, it’s safe to say the film didn’t live up to it’s lofty expectations.
When it came to the actual showdown, however, Snyder delivered the goods. Discerning fans will always criticize Batman because they hold him so close to their hearts, but this version does represent a hero just ever so slightly past his prime. Like it or not, this was still a new take that hadn’t been seen by core audiences yet.
3. Batman (1966-68)
At first glance, a ranking of the most powerful Batmen may not be the most kind to Adam West’s iconic Batman series from 1966, but it’s a classic for a reason.
The ‘66 Batman exemplifies the impact of Batman, as the series’ 120 episodes across three seasons ignited Bat-mania and officially established the hero as a household name.
Adam West definitely wasn’t the most brawny Batman, but he was arguably the most cunning. This series showed us a very well balanced Bruce Wayne and a Caped Crusader in the peak of his career. He definitely seems to have Gotham wrapped around his finger.
West gets into crazy skirmishes with villains all the time and audiences completely embraced the campy, comic tone that worked so well for it. For the purest heroics, ’66 Batman comes in at number three.
2. Under The Red Hood (2010), The Dark Knight Returns (2011), & Batman: Year One (2011)
For number two on this list, the honor goes to a fairly large group of films, which were made by DC Animated Movie Universe. Since 2007, over two dozen full length feature films have been produced, featuring Batman either on his own or as a part of the Justice League.
This is a great way to see faithfully adapted the comics you might have missed out on, while also bringing original ideas to the screen.
Batman: Under the Red Hood, The Dark Knight Returns, and Batman: Year One all offer deep looks at Batman at different points in his life. While the voices behind the Batman change from movie to movie, the spirit of the Dark Knight stays the same through all of these films.
1. DC Animated TV Universe – Batman: The Animated Series (1992-95), Justice League (2001), more
Before animated movies and before Batman Beyond, cartoonist Bruce Timm and writers Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett created Batman: The Animated Series. This version of the vigilante is now referred to as the definitive ’90’s Batman. There were eighty five episodes of that first series, which featured the vocal talents of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill.
This interpretation is also one of the more enduring visions of Batman. As one of the rare cartoons that could be viewed by all ages, The Animated Series was famously animated over black backgrounds to give everything a darker, more mature tone.
Despite being broken up among several series, the same portrayal is continued in subsequent Superman cartoons and Justice League cartoons to give us over ten years of this one single Batman, exploring his stories and exerting his power over fans and audiences at all levels.
Can you think of a version of Batman that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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