Batman is a character who is very near and dear in the hearts of many fans. He’s become a staple of pop culture. He’s one of DC’s premier superheroes and has had many adventures adapted into movies, TV shows, novels, plays, video games and even radio. He’s been around for over 70 years and has had many iconic stories. Of course, not all of them can be home runs. There have been a few stinkers along the way.
The problem is that Batman’s long history leaves him open to a number of interpretations which can produce varying results. Christian Bale’s Batman is vastly different than Adam West’s Batman, and yet there are passionate fans for both versions. Batman can be Gothic, like Tim Burton’s version, and he can be noir like Batman: Year One. The possibilities are endless and yet there’s still so much scrutiny whenever any story comes out featuring the Dark Knight. You’ll hear the phrase ” That’s not Batman” or ” That’s not MY Batman.”
Everyone has their version but there should be some general consensus as to what is true to the character so, in honor of those passionate opinions, we present the 15 Worst Versions of Batman, Ranked.
15. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
It doesn’t get anymore divisive than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There are hardcore fans on both sides, and the argument continues today. Despite whatever side you’re on, it’s clear that at the very least it is a flawed movie. It’s dark but does it have a reason to be? Does Superman have to be like Batman? More importantly does Batman have to be as bitter and jaded as he is portrayed?
Fans were in an uproar when Ben Affleck was cast but came away mostly enjoying his performance. It was what Affleck was given to work with that should be the source of their ire. Batman is nastier and seems to relish his brutality. He kills with reckless abandon and his motivations are a mess.
Yes, having Batman murder in movies isn’t a new thing (Michael Keaton’s Batman killed), but you’d hope that the creators learned from those mistakes. For better or worse, Batman’s no kill code is a big part of who he is. Branding criminals and pumping them full of lead just doesn’t sound like Batman.
14. Beware The Batman
Fans were giddy with anticipation when they heard that a new Batman animated show would be hitting the airwaves, but their excitement quickly fizzled out once more and more details were released. The most obvious complaint was about the animation style of Beware The Batman. The clunky CGI just wasn’t what fans expected or wanted. It looked more like a Pixar film on a budget. Batman himself wasn’t particularly impressive either. How intimidating could a pixaresque Batman really be?
The show chose to deviate from the normal cast of rogues and focused on lesser known ones like Professor Pyg, Mister Toad, and Magpie. This isn’t a bad thing by any means but it was unusual that the big name baddies were noticeably absent throughout the series.
Piggybacking off the success of Smallville, creators sought to tell the story of Bruce Wayne before he becomes Batman. The show also has a heavy emphasis on the GCPD and characters like Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock. The obvious question for some was why does the show even exist? Gotham had a chance to adapt the critically acclaimed comic series, Gotham Central but instead choose to try to catch lighting in a bottle again. The Smallville style just feels off here and many characters are portrayed inaccurately.
The key criticism of the whole thing isn’t even Bruce Wayne himself (actor David Mazouz does a decent job), it’s the fact that many of Batman’s villains exist, or are about to exist before Bruce becomes Batman. One of the most interesting things about the Batman mythos is the question of whether his existence caused the creation of Gotham’s worst villains. This is one of the key things that make up Batman and his world. There should always be the question of whether Batman is as dangerous as his villains and IF he’s responsible for their creation. Gotham now chooses to ignore this and instead toils in mediocrity.
12. Justice League (2017)
Justice League has had an interesting reception, to say the least. Batman’s interpretation was much closer to its comic book source material than Batman v Superman but there were still many underlying issues.
The real points of criticism have to do with how easy going he was about his secret identity, and his eagerness to take chances. Comic book fans in particular are used to Batman being extremely careful and mistrustful of everyone, which is why one has to wonder why Batman recruited as Bruce Wayne and not his alter ego. Wouldn’t Batman want to vet these potentially dangerous members of the team?
In one scene he and Wonder Woman disagreed about bringing back Superman from the dead. Ordinarily Batman would be the one against such a risky thing, but not here.
11. Batman: Son of Batman
DC’s straight-to-DVD movies have mostly maintained a high level of quality, save for a few missteps. Son of Batman was certainly the worst of those. This horrible interpretation of Grant Morrison’s comic has Batman as little more than a glorified supporting character, which wouldn’t be bad if he didn’t lack brains, brawn, and ability.
Then somehow Damien/Robin can beat the tar out of Deathstroke. How can a kid who has half the skill of Batman take on and badly defeat one of the most skilled fighters in the DC universe? Even Batman has never technically defeated Deathstroke, and Nightwing has had his butt handed to him time and time again.
10. The Batman
The Batman had the unfortunate task of following up Batman: The Animated Series. Perhaps this is part of the reason the shown was so maligned, but regardless, there was plenty of ammunition for fans to rightly gripe about.
Batman’s design wasn’t unfaithful to the comics, but fans were quick to nitpick things like the look of his eyes on the cowl, or the overall blockiness of his body. Fans were particularly critical of Bruce Wayne’s nose. He looked more like a boxer rather than a rich playboy. Rino Romano’s voice acting wasn’t bad by any means; it was just okay. It lacked the gravitas and feel of Kevin Conroy.
To make matters worse, Batman’s villains looked far worse. Bane looked like Red Hulk with a bondage mask. Riddler looked very emo and Joker? He was the worst redesign of all. He resembled a Rastafarian jester who wore no shoes for some reason.
9. Batman Forever
Batman Forever was the beginning of the end of the first Batman franchise that Tim Burton and co. successfully started in 1989. Director Joel Shumacher took over and made a lot of changes to the tone and visual style, with an excess of neon lights and Bat-nipples. Yes, Batman’s costume inexplicably bore nipples.
Batman’s first line of dialogue isn’t good either. Alfred asks him if he’d like to take a sandwich with him and Batman replies, “I’ll get drive-through.” Quite terrible, but at least it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. In all fairness, Val Kilmer isn’t bad as Batman. He’s even a pretty decent Bruce Wayne. It’s just what the filmmakers gave him to work with that kills his version of Batman. What can you really expect when you have lines like “it’s the car right? Chicks dig the car.”
The movie did decide to alter his origin and introduce aspects that were interesting, but it ultimately failed in its execution. The movie was a box office success and unfortunately opened the door for an even more terrible movie.
8. Batman: Knightfall/Knightquest
Knightfall/KnightsQuest takes place after the the first Knightfall story where Bane shows up and breaks Batman’s back and subsequently takes over Gotham. Enter Jean-Paul Valley.
Jean-Paul was first introduced along with his alter ego Azrael, primarily as a villain. Batman is eventually able to defeat him and show Azrael the error of his ways. He takes him under his wing and along with Robin, begins to train and mentor him, but Jean-Paul is a troubled man. He’s got major issues with split personalities and cults. He also has a bit of an anger problem.
Unsurprisingly, it came as quite a shock to fans when he replaced Bruce as Batman. Fans also really hated his new look as Batman. Jean Paul became the embodiment of ’90s Batman: bulky, testosterone-filled, and clad in armor. Months and months went on and Jean-Paul became more brutal and more unhinged. Mercifully the bleeding stopped and Bruce Wayne retook his throne as the one true Batman.
7. Batman: The Widening Gyre
It’s no secret that Film director Kevin Smith is a huge comic nerd. He loves all things DC and Marvel and one would think that him writing for comics would be great, but… Not so much. His Green Arrow run was decent but his interpretation of Batman, especially in the mini series Widening Gyre was very off.
For starters, Kevin Smith seemed more concerned with referencing DC and Batman history rather than focusing on story. By the time you get to the meat of the story you just don’t care. His treatment of an iconic scene in Batman history is even more perplexing considering he’s such a fan of DC history. Smith has Batman recount the first time he went face to face with the corrupt politicians and various mob bosses made famous in Batman:Year One). Batman ends up confessing that in that moment, he wet himself… Yes, Batman peed his pants because he was so “nervous.” Fittingly, Smith never even got to finish his mini-series.
6. Birds of Prey (TV Show -2002)
Birds of Prey was yet another show that tried to capitalize on the massive success of Smallville but came up way short. It took quite a few liberties with the source material. The show establishes that Batman and Catwoman have a child named Helena Kyle. She bears the name Huntress but is quite unlike the comic version.
Catwoman ends up murdered and Batman has abandoned the city for reasons unknown. Anyone who is a fan will find that last bit strange. Batman is so obsessive about his mission to protect Gotham that he would never abandon it and leave his daughter, of all people to protect it in his stead. The Dark Knight himself only appears in vague flashbacks, so nothing about this is good a representation of Batman.
5. Nearly All Batman comics in the ’50s
Batman comics in the 1950s were quite strange. Perhaps it was the rise of science fiction at that time that made Batman more Flash Gordon than Dark Knight.
During this weird time Batman becomes the Lord of Bat-manor, a magician, an overgrown giant, a human fishman, and the meance known as Zebra Batman. Still one of the zaniest moments of all was when Batman decided to become Rainbow Batman. For some reason he thought he needed to wear a different colored Batman costume each night?
During this time, Batman would regularly face off against aliens, mutants, and giant robots. This trend continued well into the early ’60s, no doubt inspiring the campy TV series that starred Adam West in 1966. You need only look at some of the covers to get some insight as to how absurd some of these stories were.
4. 1940s serial Batman
Batman (1943) is the first live-action adaptation of the Caped Crusader. It’s clear that the creators had no clue what to do with the source material. Keep in mind that no one took comics seriously for a long time, especially in the 40’s. The production of the serials was noticeably low-budget, which was apparent if you look at Batman and Robin’s costumes. For starters, they kept them in a drawer. Practical yes, but rather cheap considering that Bruce is rich.
The costumes themselves were laughably bad. One of Batman’s horns was shorter than the other and his cape was horribly secured to his neck. It would often get tangled up during many fight scenes.
The story was bare bones, and the characterization as generic as it gets. It really could’ve been about any protagonist during the ’40s. The icing on the cake has to be just how blatantly racist it was, particularly against Japanese people.
3. Legend Of the Superheroes (TV Special -1979)
Many fans are familiar with the Batman ’66 TV show. Some loved the camp of it while others despised it, but it’s thumbprint on Batman can’t be denied. Legend of the Superheroes was two 60 minute TV specials that featured Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their roles as the Dynamic Duo. It is truly abysmal.
It was always understood that Adam West and Burt Ward were having fun with Batman and Robin on their show, but it seems that they had way too much fun in these TV specials. It really feels like they don’t try here. Adam West, especially, is hardly in character. It almost feels like he was just at a party with a whole bunch of other guys who thought it might be fun to dress up as comic heroes and villains.
It’s difficult to remember a time where Batman laughs as much as he does here. At one point, Adam west doesn’t even bother tucking his cowl in under his cape, giving him an extremely odd look through all of episode two. It’s just terrible. The plot seems improvised and scarcely makes sense.
2. Batman & Robin (Film -1997)
This is the unfortunate piece of cinema that Batman Forever‘s success gave birth to. Much has been said about just how awful Batman & Robin is. It’s so bad that it killed the franchise for years. Joel Schumacher went even further with his vision on this one, constantly reminding everyone “remember, it’s a cartoon.”
The cast is even more bloated than the movie’s predecessor and their acting even more over the top. George Clooney seems to be trying to channel his inner Adam West, but lacks the charm. It doesn’t help that there is basically no difference in personality from Bruce Wayne to Batman. It’s more likely that George Clooney was simply playing George Clooney. It’s hard to believe that this was the same Clooney that gave a truly intimating performance as Seth in From Dusk Til Dawn. Schumacher and co. seemed more interested in giving Batman a “Bat-credit card” than real substance. Yes, a Bat-credit card. That was actually in the movie.
Never mind the horrible interpretations of Batgirl, Mr. Freeze, Bane, Poison Ivy, Jim Gordon, and Robin. The only character who isn’t terrible is Alfred. In recent years, director Joel Schumacher and George Clooney have both apologized for making this film.
1. All Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder (Comic Series -2005)
Who would’ve imagined that Frank Miller would write arguably the worst Batman story of all time. This is the same man who brought us Batman: year One and the seminal Dark Knight Returns! Perhaps why this is why All Star Batman & Robin is so high on the list; because of the sheer betrayal. At least the trailer for Batman & Robin gave us some indication that the movie would be a giant disaster but the solicitations for the comic had Frank Miller and Jim Lee on art! Fans were pretty much already throwing their money at the retailers.
Everything seemed fine until you start to read the thing. Batman is portrayed as the biggest jerk in the world. He makes Ben Affleck’s version seem nice. Batman forces Robin to eat rats to avoid starvation, he constantly mocks and insults everyone, and he loves having sex with his costume on. Some have pointed out that it’s not meant to be taken seriously and that it’s a satire, but no. It’s a tasteless horribly written piece of work.
What’s your least favorite version of Batman? Let us know in the comments!
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