Which side do you come down on? Are you a purist, pushing for a version of the comic book hero yet unseen by audience eyes? Do you prefer the animated efforts, highly praised takes on the character and his caped crusade? Perhaps you enjoy the clean camp comedy of the ‘60s incarnation, or the gleeful Goth gloom of one Tim Burton. No matter who you celebrate—Schumacher or Nolan—the Batman franchise has been fascinating to watch. While many are unaware of the seminal serial version of the character from a time when movie used to pack in the added value, almost everyone remembers Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and now Christian Bale. These are the Batmen within our frame of reference, Bruce Wayne as a tightly wound tycoon using his money and influence to fight crime (and later on, more than a few inner demons).
But where, exactly, do you come down on the whole cinematic interpretations debate? Are you in the late ‘80s camp, or the actual Peace Decade literalization of same? Is the grounded, more realistic Bat your bag, or do you long for the days when Adam West would don the cowl and do the Batusi? With time, the attempts at bringing this otherwise ordinary man with a boatload of cash and a vendetta the size of Saturn has been both supremely satisfying and awkwardly unrewarding. With the last installment of Nolan’s Knight about to hit theaters, let’s assess the delights… and the damage, shall we. Let’s rank the main Batman movies (sorry, no serials or cartoon adaptations will be addressed) to see just how these divergent offerings stand up. A few choices may surprise you, while the usual suspects slink toward the bottom, beginning with the obvious: