The Top 10 Batman Films You Should Stream Right Now
Which Batman is your favorite? Beefy Batfleck? Broody Baleman? To celebrate Batman Day, we round up the best and battiest Batman movies you can stream right now. From Dawn of Justice (yes, it’s on the list) to Lego Batman, here are the flicks you should binge-watch this weekend.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition (2016)
The beginning of the end for Zack Snyder’s tenure as the architect of the DCEU, Batman v Superman’s extremely flawed premise of pitting the world’s finest superheroes against each other is loosely inspired by Frank Miller’s seminal four-issue miniseries without the nuance. That said, Snyder is an extremely gifted visual pioneer and the film has some truly glorious moments. The Ultimate Edition also includes 31 minutes of additional footage that didn’t make the theatrical cut and is the only way to truly appreciate the director’s intent. Ben Affleck also plays the beefiest, most brutal live-action Batman so fans of the Arkham series of video games should enjoy bruiser Batfleck.
Tim Burton’s take on the caped crusader featured Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Michael Keaton as Batman. At the time, critics were dubious about Keaton’s casting as the billionaire vigilante, but his iconic performance transformed the erstwhile comedian into a bonafide star and no one has since been able to utter the line, “I’m Batman,” with as much authority or gravitas. Cesar Romero’s campy Joker was a tough act to follow but Nicholson added layers to the clown prince of crime and set the bar for Jokers on the big screen. It also features a soundtrack by Prince and one of Danny Elfman’s earliest and most memorable film scores.
The Killing Joke (2016)
This animated feature makes the cut barely because it had an actual, limited theatrical release and it’s significantly better than other live-action Batman films, notably Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever (1995) and Batman and Robin (1997) and because Adam West’s Batman movie isn’t on the service. Based on Alan Moore’s critically acclaimed one-shot, this is an extremely adult adaptation that explores themes that even live-action films don’t touch.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
While technically not a Batman film, any self-respecting Batfan would be remiss to skip Snyder’s indulgent and glorious four-hour epic. A more nuanced and richer tale than the hackneyed Whedon-infused theatrical cut, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the redemptive arc of the misguided Batman from BvS. It also shows how a mere man can hold his own against virtual gods and the answer isn’t merely having a lot of money because, let’s be honest, otherwise we’d have BatBezos or BatMusk. Bruce Wayne shows his mettle in the face of certain armageddon, which is a grander spectacle than any other film on this list.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Mask of the Phantasm received an actual theatrical release, performing dismally at the box office but going on to become hugely successful on home video. It’s based on Batman: The Animated Series by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini and explores Bruce Wayne’s trauma and code of ethics more than any other Batman film by holding up the antihero Phantasm as a cracked mirror, evoking genuine pathos. Just like Timm and Dini’s Harley Quinn, whose popularity catapulted her to comic canon, Phantasm finally appeared on the printed page in 2020.
Batman Begins (2005)
The first of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy rebooted the Batman franchise and—1998’s Blade notwithstanding—set the trend for grittier and darker superhero stories. It is considered to be one of the most influential films of the 2000s, with its impact shaping most modern retellings and adaptations like James Bond’s gritty turn in Casino Royale and the trilogy continues to be an influence on films today. Christian Bale is one of the greatest actors of his generation and although his guttural growl is a take it or leave it proposition, his portrayal of a more realistic Batman is one of the weightier performances of a comic book character on screen. Required viewing if you plan to finish the rest of the films on this list.
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Don’t be fooled by the ridiculousness of Lego Batman. Lego Batman is best Batman. If not to viewers, then at least in his own mind. Spun off from the success of The Lego Movie, Lego Batman features the voice of Will Arnett as an unforgettable send-up of all the billionaire playboy’s tropes and the most self-aware and meta Batman of all. If Nolan’s Batman takes himself too seriously, Lego Batman takes himself even more seriously to the point of sidesplitting comedy. It’s written by Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote the parody novel Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. You can’t go wrong.
Batman Returns (1992)
This sequel to 1989’s Batman is Tim Burton at his most deliciously dark. While not quite having the grim and gritty realism of Nolan’s trilogy, Burton’s vision is bleak and twisted, playing heavily with the themes of black and white in a wintery Gotham. Michelle Pfeiffer brings to life a dangerous and sexy Catwoman while Danny de Vito’s deformed, black bile-spewing Penguin is terrifying and tragic. It’s a deeply dark tale that was groundbreaking for its time, featuring the stunning cinematography of Stefan Czapsky, who also helmed the camera for Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Nolan’s ambitious finale to his Dark Knight trilogy is a grander tale that gives Bruce Wayne—spoiler alert—the definitive happy ending he almost certainly will get in the comics or any other film. Tom Hardy’s Bane is menacing and his overarching motives and methodology are potently thought-provoking, while Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is enchanting and mysterious as the lower-class foil to Bale’s tired and aging billionaire. Alongside the other two films of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises is considered to be one of the Top 100 films of all time.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Inarguably the greatest superhero film of all time, The Dark Knight is the riveting second act in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. It is Heath Ledger’s penultimate film prior to his death and was released posthumously, garnering Ledger numerous accolades for his portrayal as the Joker, which goes down as one of the most iconic performances in history. The Dark Knight is one of Nolan’s best works and was preserved in the United States National Film Registry for its significance, becoming only the second superhero film behind Richard Donner’s Superman to have been selected. The Dark Knight is one of the finest films ever made and should be required viewing not just for Batman fans but for anyone who loves movies.
Stream on HBO Go