It's the 80th anniversary of Batman.
Five years ago, DC Comics began celebrating Batman Day, with an annual "Batversary" on 21 September to commemorate the Dark Knight. To help you properly celebrate this year, we're rounding up the Batman movies and shows and figuring out the best order/orders to watch them all.
But, to be honest, this got really complicated, really quickly. Unlike some film franchises, such as Marvel's, there isn't a singular chronology to follow, especially when it comes to the live-action Batman films, which have been rebooted several times. For instance, Warner Bros' original Batman Anthology essentially ended and began anew with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy in 2005.
There is also the wider DC Cinematic Universe to consider, where Batman sometimes plays a pivotal or background role but isn't actually seen. While Batman never appeared in 2017's Wonder Woman, he did instigate the film’s plot. Batman's Wayne Enterprises is also mentioned in 2013's Man of Steel. And let's not forget the DC Animated Universe, too, which is loaded with Batman content.
As a result, we can't give you a single, clearly-defined viewing order. So, we've come up with multiple orders, all starring the Caped Crusader. Skip to the bottom for our bulleted list versions of these orders if you want a spoiler-free experience.
|Batman: All the movies and shows|
|The Adam West movie||Batman Motion Picture Anthology|
|The Dark Knight Trilogy||Extended DC Universe|
|Batman live-action series||Spoiler-free lists|
Every Batman live-action movie in the right order
Note: There are spoilers below.
The Adam West movie
The is a standalone movie. It's a good starting point for the films if you really want to steep yourself in all-things Batman. It was intended to be released by 20th Century Fox before the 1966 series on ABC, but it hit theatres two months after the premiere of season one's final episode.
Batman: The Movie (1966)
The character of Batman first appeared in Detective Comics No. 27 in 1939. He was originally named the "Bat-Man," though is also referred to as the Caped Crusader or the Dark Knight. It wasn't until 1966 that Adam West took on the role in a live-action film, starring alongside Burt Ward as Robin. The film actually premiered after the first season of the Batman TV show, which we'll get to later.
Batman: The Movie is interesting because it features not one but four of Batman’s most famous nemeses: The Riddler, The Penguin, Catwoman, and Cesar Romero’s Joker. This gaggle of supervillains all team up to try to defeat Batman, with the hopes of taking over the world.
The Batman Motion Picture Anthology
Warner Bros kicked off the original cinematic universe of live-action Batman films, with the release of Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989. That film, and the three films that follow, really set the stage for the next 25 years, in which superheroes dominate the box office. Interestingly, three different actors play Batman in this "anthology", and the films themselves vary in both theme and quality.
There's also an impressive collection of actors featured, from Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson to Jim Carrey and Michelle Pfeiffer.
This is the first "modern" Batman film. It sees Michael Keaton take on the mantle of the Caped Crusader in order to clean up the streets of Gotham ahead of its bicentennial. When a gunfight breaks out at the Axis Chemical plant between the police and a group of gangsters led by Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier, Batman of course responds. In the ensuing fight, Napier is dropped into a vat of chemicals and left for dead.
However, he emerges, having been transformed into the madman known as the Joker. It’s up to Batman to stop him before he poisons the population of Gotham with a deadly Smylex gas that causes hysterical laughter in its victims before they ultimately perish.
Batman Returns (1992)
After defeating the Joker, Michael Keaton’s Batman must battle his next foe, The Penguin, played by Danny Devito, who partnered with a seedy millionaire, Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), to escape the sewers beneath Gotham. Batman began a romantic relationship with Shreck’s secretary, Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman, played by Michelle Pfeiffer), and in the end, it’s not just the Penguin’s plot to abduct and murder the firstborn sons of Gotham citizens that Batman must contend with, but also Catwoman’s thirst for vengeance against Shreck.
Batman Forever (1995)
Micheal Keaton and Tim Burton declined to return for another Batman film, unfortunately for us. This meant Batman Forever has a much lighter and quirky tone than the previous films. Val Kilmer plays Batman this time, as he goes up against both Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and the Riddler (Jim Carrey). This film also introduces Robin (played by Chris O’Donnell) to a modern-day audience.
While Batman attempts to leave his crime-fighting persona behind to live a normal life with Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), the Riddler discovers his true identity, thanks to a brainwave device he invented, which leads to Chase's capture and Bruce’s realization that he will always be Batman.
Batman and Robin (1997)
While often derided as the absolute worse offering in the Batman series, 90s kids might disagree. We think Batman and Robin is worth a rewatch.
George Clooney plays Batman here, but Chris O’Donnell returns as Robin. The good guys also add a Batgirl to their lineup, the iconic Alicia Silverstone. And the trio face-off against Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dr. Freeze and Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy. What a cast! We even get to see their masked henchman, Bane (Jeep Swenson). Perhaps the best part, though, is the 7,000 ice-related puns said by Dr. Freeze.
Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy
With the end of the first Batman Anthology, also came the end of bat nipples. There was a plan for a fifth film, centered around the villain Scarecrow, which marinated for nearly a decade until Christopher Nolan took over and brought the Batman franchise to unprecedented heights.
Batman Begins (2005)
So, it's hard to believe this, with the way most superhero franchises work today, but it took five films for us to see the full Batman origin story on the big screen. This film follows Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, all the way from the murder of his parents to his journey across the world, where he learns to fight and is recruited into the League of Shadows by Liam Neeson’s Henri Ducard.
Once he finally returns home, he must battle the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), who uses a mind-altering toxin to cause terrifying hallucinations.
The Dark Knight (2008)
This film serves as a crowning achievement for perhaps all superhero films. We see Batman face-off with his most dangerous nemesis, the Joker, who is played by the late Heath Ledger. Joker assumes control of Gotham’s organized crime world, hatches a devious plot, and disfigures the city’s district attorney, Harvey Dent, all while trying to force Batman to break his only rule: Refusing to kill any of his enemies.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Dark Knight Trilogy comes to its conclusion, with the arrival of Bane (Tom Hardy) in the city of Gotham.
Bruce Wayne has become a recluse since convincing Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) to blame him for Harvey Dent’s rampage, and as a result, Batman hasn’t been seen in eight years. The reality of his life fighting criminals every night has also set in for Bruce, as a visit to the doctor shows the litany of ways his body has begun to break down. This leaves him wholly unprepared to face Bane, a former member of the League of Shadows, who comes to Gotham to complete Ra’s Al Ghul’s plan of destroying the city.
Extended DC Cinematic Universe
When Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight released, another little-known company you probably never heard about, Marvel, began making its own comic films. So, it made sense for DC, with its huge backlog of characters, to create its a wider cinematic universe with Batman tie-ins.
Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Batman v Superman picks up 18 months after the events of 2013's Man of Steel. Ben Affleck portrays a version of Bruce Wayne that has been fighting bad guys for 20 years. He views Superman (Henry Cavill) as an existential threat to humanity. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is making his own plans for dealing with Superman, including obtaining a bunch of kryptonite and gaining access to General Zod’s body.
Batman learns of the stash of kryptonite at Lexcorp and steals it, allowing him to create a Kryptonite-powered suit to defeat Superman.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Suicide Squad follows a group of imprisoned criminals from the DC Universe, such as Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who are offered reduced sentences in return for completing a highly dangerous mission that they’re unlikely to survive. The film features Ben Affleck’s Batman in a few scenes while building up to the formation of the Justice League.
Justice League (2017)
Two years have passed since Superman’s death, and humanity is still reeling from his loss. Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman have begun the process of forming a team that can help protect humanity from threats they could never hope to face on their own.
However, they soon discover they are no match for the creature known as Steppenwolf, who plans to use devices known as Mother Boxes to terraform Earth into an uninhabitable planet like his homeworld. (Check out the Ultimate Edition, too, which has 31 minutes of extra footage.)
Every Batman live-action series
There is no "right order" here, as they're all disconnected and not chronological. So, we recommend watching them in order of release. You can watch these before or after the films. It won't make much of a difference, though perhaps watch 1966's Batman before Batman: The Movie.
The Batman (1943 - theatrical series)
This is the very first live-action Batman, and it stars Lewis Wilson. It's a 15-chapter series from Columbia Pictures that premiered in theatres and is now available to watch on YouTube.
Batman and Robin (1949 - theatrical series)
Another serial production from Columbia, both Batman (Robert Lowery) and Robin (Johnny Duncan) appear and go up against the Wizard. This series, which also ran in theatres, is sometimes known as The New Adventures of Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder.
It’s currently available on YouTube, as well.
Batman (1966 to 1969 - TV series)
This is Adam West's first appearance as the Caped Crusader - even before his live-action 1966 film. He maintains the role for three seasons on ABC, offering a more comedic take, especially compared to the modern versions of the Dark Knight.
Gotham (2014 to 2019 - TV series)
Gotham premiered in 2014 on Fox and follows a young Commissioner Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as he starts out his career in the aftermath of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. It also features a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), who is dealing with the death of his parents while being raised by Alfred (Sean Pertwee). The series introduces many villains, too, who go on to be problems for Batman in the future.
Spoiler-free Batman viewing orders
Below, you'll find spoiler-free versions of everything detailed above.
List 1: Every Batman live-action movie
The Adam West Movie
- Batman: The Movie (1966)
The Batman Motion Picture Anthology
- Batman (1989)
- Batman Returns (1992)
- Batman Forever (1995)
- Batman & Robin (1997)
Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy
- Batman Begins (2005)
- The Dark Knight (2008)
- The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Extended DC Cinematic Universe
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
- Suicide Squad (2016)
- Justice League (2017)
List 2: Every Batman live-action series
- The Batman (1943 - theatrical series)
- Batman and Robin (1949 - theatrical series)
- Batman (1966 to 1969 - TV series)
- Gotham (2014 to 2019 - TV series)
Bonus list: Animated Batman movies and series
OK, so there is a laundry list of animated Batman films and series that range in quality and importance.
The most influential of them is 1992's Batman: The Animated Series, which gave us Mark Hammil’s iconic Joker laugh and created the character Harley Quinn, while also spawning a litany of spin-offs. Meanwhile, there are many animated films, which are direct adaptations of the comics, although the most notable exception is the extremely financially successful Lego Batman.
If you want to see the entire list of animated Batman films, go here. But if you want a quick must-watch viewing order, see below:
- Batman: The Animated Series (1992 to 1995 - animated TV series)
- Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010 - animated film)
- Batman: Year One (2011 - animated film)
- The Dark Knight Returns (2012 - animated film)
- Batman: The Killing Joke (2016 - animated film)
- Lego Batman (2017 - animated film)