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The fictional character Batman, a comic book superhero featured in DC Comics publications, has appeared in various films since his inception. The character first starred in two serial films in the 1940s, Batman and Batman and Robin. The character also appeared in the 1966 film Batman, which was a feature film adaptation of the 1960s Batman TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, who also starred in the film.
Toward the end of the 1980s, the Warner Bros. studio began producing a series of feature films starring Batman, beginning with the 1989 film Batman, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton. Burton and Keaton returned for the 1992 sequel Batman Returns, and in 1995, Joel Schumacher directed Batman Forever with Val Kilmer as Batman. Schumacher also directed the 1997 sequel Batman & Robin, which starred George Clooney. Batman & Robin was poorly received by both the critics and the fans, and after a long hiatus in which multiple possible Batman scripts were developed, Warner Bros. rebooted the film franchise in 2005 with Batman Begins, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale. Nolan returned to direct two further installments in the franchise, The Dark Knight in 2008 and The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 with Bale reprising his role in both films. The two sequels both earned over $1 billion worldwide, making the Batman series the second (and one of only two, the other being the Pirates of the Caribbean series) to have two of its films earn more than $1 billion worldwide.
Batman has also appeared in multiple animated films, both as a starring character and as an ensemble character. While most animated films were released direct-to-video, the 1993 animated feature Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (based on the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series) was released theatrically.
Having earned a total of U.S. $1,897,822,551 the Batman series is the fourth highest-grossing film series in North America.
1940s film serials
Batman (1943 serial)
Batman was a 15-chapter serial film released in 1943 by Columbia Pictures. The serial starred Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin. J. Carrol Naish played the villain, an original character named Dr. Daka. Rounding out the cast were Shirley Patterson as Linda Page (Bruce Wayne's love interest), and William Austin as Alfred. The plot is based on Batman, a US government agent, attempting to defeat the Japanese agent Dr. Daka, at the height of World War II.
The film is notable for being the first filmed appearance of Batman and for providing two core elements of the Batman mythos. The film introduced "The Bat's Cave" and the Grandfather clock entrance. The name was altered to the Batcave for the comic. William Austin, who played Alfred, had a trim physique and sported a thin mustache, while the contemporary comic book version of Alfred was overweight and clean-shaven prior to the serial's release. The comics version of Alfred was altered to match that of Austin's, and has stayed that way.
Batman and Robin (1949 serial)
Batman and Robin was another 15-chapter serial film released in 1949 by Columbia Pictures. Robert Lowery played Batman, while Johnny Duncan played Robin. Supporting players included Jane Adams as Vicki Vale and veteran character actor Lyle Talbot as Commissioner Gordon. The plot dealt with the Dynamic Duo facing off against the Wizard, a hooded villain whose identity remains a mystery throughout the serial until the end.
Batman (also known as Batman: The Movie) is a 1966 film adaptation of the popular Batman television series, and was the first full-length theatrical adaptation of the DC Comics character. The 20th Century Fox release starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, as well as Cesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, and Frank Gorshin as the Riddler.
Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher series
In the late 1970s, Batman's popularity was waning. CBS was interested in producing a Batman in Outer Space film. Producers Michael Uslan and Benjamin Melniker purchased the film rights of Batman from DC Comics in April 1979. It was Uslan's wish "to make the definitive, dark, serious version of Batman, the way Bob Kane and Bill Finger had envisioned him in 1939. A creature of the night; stalking criminals in the shadows." Richard Maibaum was approached to write a script with Guy Hamilton to direct, but the two turned down the offer. Uslan was unsuccessful with pitching Batman to various movie studios because they wanted the film to be similar to the campy 1960s TV series. Columbia Pictures and United Artists were among those to turn down the film.
A disappointed Uslan then wrote a script titled Return of the Batman to give the film industry a better idea of his vision for the film. Uslan later compared its dark tone to that of The Dark Knight Returns, which his script pre-dated by six years. In November 1979, producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber joined the project. The four producers felt it was best to pattern the film's development after that of Superman (1978). Uslan, Melniker and Guber pitched Batman to Universal Pictures, but the studio turned it down. Though no movie studios were yet involved, in late 1981 the project was publicly announced with a budget of $15 million. Warner Bros. decided to accept Batman.
Tom Mankiewicz completed a script titled The Batman in June 1983, focusing on Batman and Dick Grayson's origins, with the Joker and Rupert Thorne as villains, and Silver St. Cloud as the romantic interest. Mankiewicz took inspiration from the limited series Batman: Strange Apparitions (ISBN 1-56389-500-5 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]), written by Steve Englehart. Comic book artist Marshall Rogers, who worked with Englehart on Strange Apparitions, was hired for concept art. The Batman was then announced in late 1983 for a mid-1985 release date on a budget of $20 million. Originally, Uslan had wanted an unknown actor for Batman, William Holden for James Gordon, and David Niven as Alfred Pennyworth. Holden died in 1981 and Niven in 1983, so this would never come to pass. A number of filmmakers were attached to Mankiewicz' script, including Ivan Reitman and Joe Dante. Nine rewrites were performed by nine separate writers. Most of them were based on Strange Apparitions. However it was Mankiewicz's script that was still being used to guide the project.
Tim Burton took over as director of the first film in 1986. Steve Englehart and Julie Hickson wrote film treatments before Sam Hamm wrote the first screenplay. Numerous A-list actors were considered for the role of Batman before Michael Keaton was cast. Keaton's casting caused a controversy since, by 1988, he had become typecast as a comedic actor and many observers doubted he could portray a serious role. Jack Nicholson accepted the role of the Joker under strict conditions that dictated a high salary, a portion of the box office profits and his shooting schedule. Nicholson's final salary is reported to be as high as $50 million. Principal photography took place at Pinewood Studios from October 1988 to January 1989. The budget escalated from $30 million to $48 million, while the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike forced Hamm to drop out. Rewrites were performed by Warren Skaaren, Charles McKeown and Jonathan Gems. Batman received positive reviews, broke numerous box office records, and won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction. The film grossed over $400 million, and left a legacy over the modern perception of the superhero film genre.
Batman Returns (1992)
Burton originally did not want to direct a sequel because of his mixed emotions over the previous film. Sam Hamm's first script had Penguin and Catwoman searching for hidden treasure. Daniel Waters delivered a script that satisfied Burton, which convinced him to direct the film. Wesley Strick did an uncredited rewrite, deleting characterizations of Harvey Dent and Robin and rewriting the climax. Various A-list actresses lobbied hard for the role of Catwoman before Michelle Pfeiffer was cast, while Danny DeVito signed on to portray the Penguin. Filming started at Warner Bros. in Burbank, California in June 1991. Batman Returns was released with financial success, but Warner Bros. was disappointed with the film's box office run because it earned less than its predecessor. However, Batman Returns was released to generally positive reviews, although a "parental backlash" criticized the film for containing violence and sexual innuendos that were thought to be unsuitable for children. McDonald's shut down its Happy Meal tie-in for Batman Returns.
Batman Forever (1995)
Although Batman Returns was a financial success, Warner Bros. felt the film should have made more money. The studio decided to change the direction of the Batman film series to be more mainstream. Joel Schumacher replaced Tim Burton as director, while Burton decided to stay on as producer. However, Michael Keaton did not like the new direction the film series was heading in, and was replaced by Val Kilmer as Batman. Chris O'Donnell was introduced as Robin, Jim Carrey starred as The Riddler, while Tommy Lee Jones starred as Two-Face. Filming started in September 1994, and Schumacher encountered problems communicating with Kilmer and Jones. Batman Forever was released on June 16, 1995 with financial success, earning over $350 million worldwide and three Academy Award nominations, but the film was met with mixed reviews from critics.
Batman & Robin (1997)
After the release of Batman Forever, Warner Bros. started development on Batman & Robin began, commissioning it on fast track for an adamant June 1997 release. Val Kilmer did not return, because of scheduling conflicts with The Saint, and was replaced by George Clooney. Arnold Schwarzenegger starred as Mr. Freeze, while Uma Thurman starred as Poison Ivy and Alicia Silverstone starred as Batgirl. Chris O'Donnell reprised his role as Robin. Principal photography began in September 1996 and finished in January 1997, two weeks ahead of the shooting schedule. Batman & Robin was released on June 20, 1997, and received primarily negative reviews. Observers criticized the film for its toyetic and campy approach, and for homosexual innuendos added by Schumacher. Still, the film was a financial success, but remains to be the least commercially successful live-action Batman film ever. Batman & Robin received numerous nominations at the Razzie Awards and ranks among the worst rated superhero films of all time.
Proposals for fifth film
During the filming of Batman & Robin, Warner Bros. was impressed with the dailies. This prompted them to immediately hire Joel Schumacher to return as director for a sequel, but writer Akiva Goldsman, who worked on Batman Forever and Batman & Robin with Schumacher, turned down the chance to write the script. In late 1996, Warner Bros. and Schumacher hired Mark Protosevich to write the script for a fifth Batman film. A projected mid-1999 release date was announced. Titled Batman Triumphant, Protosevich's script had the Scarecrow as the main villain, and he was set to be played by radio talk show host Howard Stern. The Joker would return as a hallucination in Batman's mind caused by the Scarecrow's fear toxin. Harley Quinn appeared as a supporting character, written as the Joker's daughter trying to get revenge on Batman for the Joker's death. With Quinn, Mad Hatter appeared also as a supporting character, written with a similar story of Edward Nygma in Batman Forever. George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell and Alicia Silverstone were set to reprise the roles of Batman, Robin, and Batgirl. However, when Batman & Robin received negative reviews and failed to outgross any of its predecessors, Warner Bros. was unsure of their plans for Batman Triumphant. The studio decided it was best to consider a live-action Batman Beyond film and an adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One. Warner Bros. would then greenlight whichever idea suited them the most. Schumacher felt he "owe[d] the Batman culture a real Batman movie. I would go back to the basics and make a dark portrayal of the Dark Knight." He approached Warner Bros. to do Batman: Year One in mid-1998.
Despite Warner Bros. and Schumacher's interest with Year One, Lee Shapiro, a comic book fan, and Stephen Wise pitched the studio with a script titled Batman: DarKnight in mid-1998. DarKnight had Bruce Wayne giving up his crime fighting career, and Dick Grayson attending Gotham University. Dr. Jonathan Crane uses his position as professor of psychology at Gotham University and as head psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum to conduct his experiments into fear (this element would later appear in Batman Begins). During a vengeful confrontation with a colleague, Dr. Kirk Langstrom, Crane unknowingly initiates Kirk's transformation into the creature known as Man-Bat. Citizens of Gotham believe Man-Bat's nightly activities to be Batman's "bloodthirsty" return. Bruce becomes Batman "to clear his name," and solve the mystery of Man-Bat. Kirk struggles with his "man-vs.-monster" syndrome, as he longs to both reunite with his wife and get revenge on Crane, while Crane exacts revenge on those responsible for his dismissal from both Arkham and the university while encountering truths about his past. Warner Bros. decided not to move forward with the project, and passed on Batman: DarKnight in favor of Year One and Batman Beyond.
Batman: Year One & Batman Beyond
In January 2000, Scott Rosenberg turned down the chance to write the script for Batman: Year One. In mid-2000, Paul Dini, Neal Stephenson and Boaz Yakin were hired to write a script for Batman Beyond, with Yakin to direct. The film was based on the Warner Bros. animated television series of the same name. However, Warner Bros. abandoned Batman Beyond almost instantly in favor of Batman: Year One.
Around the same time, Warner Bros. hired Darren Aronofsky to write and direct Year One, despite interest from Joel Schumacher. Aronofsky, who collaborated with Frank Miller on an unproduced script for Ronin, brought Miller to co-write Year One with him. They intended to reboot the Batman franchise, "it's somewhat based on the comic book," Aronofsky said. "Toss out everything you can imagine about Batman! Everything! We're starting completely anew." Regular Aronofsky collaborator, Matthew Libatique, was set as cinematographer, and Aronofsky had also approached Christian Bale for the role of Batman. Coincidentally, Bale would be cast in the role for Batman Begins. At the same time, Warner Bros. was moving forward on a Catwoman spin-off. However, by June 2002, the studio decided to move forward on Batman vs. Superman and abandon Year One.
Batman vs. Superman
Warner Bros. abandoned J. J. Abrams' script for Superman: Flyby, which had been greenlighted with McG to direct. When McG dropped out in favor of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Warner Bros. approached Wolfgang Petersen to direct Superman: Flyby, however, in August 2001, Andrew Kevin Walker pitched Warner Bros. an idea titled Batman vs Superman, attaching Petersen as director. Superman: Flyby was put on hold, and Akiva Goldsman was hired to rewrite Walker's Batman vs. Superman.
Goldsman's draft, dated June 21, 2002, had Bruce Wayne going through a mental breakdown after his five-year retirement from crime fighting. Dick Grayson, Alfred Pennyworth and Commissioner Gordon are all dead, but Bruce's depressed emotions become resolved with fiancée Elizabeth Miller. Meanwhile, Clark Kent is struggling because of a recent divorce with Lois Lane. Clark and Bruce are close friends, and Clark is Bruce's best man. After the Joker kills Elizabeth on the honeymoon, Bruce plots a revenge scheme, while Clark tries to hold him back. In return, Bruce blames Clark for her death, and the two go against one another. Part of the script took place in Smallville, where Clark goes into exile with Lana Lang. However, Lex Luthor is held to be responsible for the entire plot of Batman and Superman destroying each other. The two decide to team up and stop Luthor.
Christian Bale and Josh Hartnett had turned down the roles of Batman and Superman. Bale, who was also approached to play Batman in the unmade Batman: Year One, would eventually portray the same role in Batman Begins. Principal photography was to start in early 2003, with plans for a five-six-month shoot. The release date was set for mid-2004. Within a month of Warner Bros. greenlighting Batman vs. Superman, Petersen left in favor of Troy (2004). Warner Bros. decided to move forward on Superman: Flyby and on a Batman reboot. A fictional billboard for the film could be seen in the background of the 2007 Warner Bros. film I Am Legend. Petersen and Bryan Singer are interested in directing the project sometime in the future, with Bale as Batman.
Christopher Nolan series
Batman Begins (2005)
Director/writer Christopher Nolan and co-writer David S. Goyer began work on Batman Begins in early 2003 and aimed for a darker and more realistic tone, with humanity and realism being the basis of the film. The film, which was primarily shot in the United Kingdom and Chicago, relied on traditional stunts and scale models. Computer-generated imagery was used minimally. Christian Bale starred as Batman. Liam Neeson starred as Ra's al Ghul (albeit masquerading as Henri Ducard) and Cillian Murphy starred as The Scarecrow. Katie Holmes also starred in the movie as Bruce's love interest, Rachel Dawes. A new Batmobile (called the Tumbler) and a more mobile Batsuit were both created specifically for the film.
Batman Begins was both critically and commercially successful. The film opened on June 15, 2005, in the United States and Canada in 3,858 theaters. It grossed $48 million in its opening weekend, eventually grossing over $372 million worldwide. The film received an 85% overall approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Critics noted that fear was a common motif throughout the film, and remarked that it had a darker tone compared with previous Batman films. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and for three BAFTA awards. It was also listed at No. 81 on Empire's "500 Greatest Movies of All Time" and has maintained a standing on IMDb's "Top 250".
The Dark Knight (2008)
Christopher Nolan reprised his duties as director, and brought his brother, Jonathan, to co-write the script for the second installment. The Dark Knight featured Christian Bale reprising his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Heath Ledger as The Joker and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. Principal photography began in April 2007 in Chicago and concluded in November. Other locations included Pinewood Studios, Ministry of Sound in London and Hong Kong. On January 22, 2008, after he had completed filming The Dark Knight, Ledger died from a bad combination of prescription medication. Warner Bros. had created a viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight, developing promotional websites and trailers highlighting screen shots of Ledger as the Joker, but after Ledger's death, the studio refocused its promotional campaign.
The film received highly positive reviews, and set numerous records during its theatrical run. With over $1 billion in revenue worldwide, it is the thirteenth highest-grossing film of all time, unadjusted for inflation. The film received eight Academy Award nominations; it won the award for Best Sound Editing and Ledger was posthumously awarded Best Supporting Actor.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Nolan wanted the story for the third and final installment to keep him emotionally invested. "On a more superficial level, I have to ask the question," he reasoned, "how many good third movies in a franchise can people name?" He returned out of finding a necessary way to continue the story, but feared midway through filming he would find a sequel redundant. The Dark Knight Rises is intended to complete Nolan's Batman trilogy. By December 2008, Nolan completed a rough story outline, before he committed himself to Inception. In February 2010, work on the screenplay was commencing with David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan. When Goyer left to work on the Superman reboot, Jonathan was writing the script based on the story by his brother and Goyer. Tom Hardy was cast as Bane and Anne Hathaway plays Selina Kyle. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was cast as John Blake, and Marion Cotillard was cast as Miranda Tate. Filming began in May 2011 and concluded in November. Nolan chose not to film in 3-D but, by focusing on improving image quality and scale using the IMAX format, hoped to push technological boundaries while nevertheless making the style of the film consistent with the previous two. Nolan had several meetings with IMAX Vice-President David Keighley to work on the logistics of projecting films in digital IMAX venues. The Dark Knight Rises featured more scenes shot in IMAX than The Dark Knight. Cinematographer Wally Pfister expressed interest in shooting the film entirely in IMAX.
Upon release, The Dark Knight Rises received positive reviews and was successful at the box office, going on to outgross its predecessor and become the eighth-highest-grossing film of all time grossing over $1.08 billion. However, unlike its predecessors, the film was not nominated for any Academy Awards.
In March 2011, Warner Bros. president Jeff Robinov stated that the next Batman film will be a reinvention, produced by Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas. However, Thomas and Nolan decided to move on to other projects, finding another film too episodic. Speaking to SFX, Thomas stated "The great thing about a trilogy is that it feels like you’ve got a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s like an extended version of a regular film. I just can’t see him [Nolan] getting excited about making another film where basically you’re just wheeling in different villains." There have been reports that the next Batman reboot will be made after the Justice League movie and therefore the character will be introduced in the Justice League film instead of a solo film, and would most likely become part of the "DC Cinematic Universe". However, in March 2013, rumored reports had surfaced stating that Christopher Nolan was put in charge of all characters and films in the DCU, continuing to say that he and Zack Snyder (director of Man of Steel) would produce a Justice League movie, with the latter also in consideration to direct. With these reports, it was also stated that Christian Bale would reprise his role as Batman, himself stating that he would do another film if Nolan was attached.
It has been argued that the ending of The Dark Knight Rises, in which the character of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Blake, inherits the Batcave presents the possibility of a spin-off. However, Gordon-Levitt later revealed that The Dark Knight Rises is truly the conclusion of Nolan's Batman series. Anne Hathaway has said that she is interested in reprising her role as Selina Kyle, the actress admitted that she would embrace a solo Catwoman movie if Nolan were involved in the project.
DC animated universe
- 1993: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a theatrical feature based on Batman: The Animated Series.
- 1998: Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, a direct-to-video feature also based on Batman: The Animated Series.
- 2000: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, a direct-to-video feature based on Batman Beyond.
- 2003: Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, a direct-to-video feature based on The New Batman Adventures.
The DVD of the three-part TV episode "Starcrossed" from the Justice League animated series was labelled Starcrossed: The Movie. A similar case was applied with the three-part Superman: The Animated Series episode, "World's Finest", which was released to DVD as The Batman/Superman Movie.
- 2005: The Batman vs. Dracula, a direct-to-video feature.
DC Universe Animated Original Movies
- 2008: Justice League: The New Frontier, based on the comic book
- 2008: Batman: Gotham Knight, a collection of six short films based on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight
- 2009: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, based on the comic book
- 2010: Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, inspired by JLA: Earth 2
- 2010: Batman: Under the Red Hood, based on Batman: Under the Hood
- 2010: Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, based on the comic book
- 2011: Batman: Year One, based on the graphic novel
- 2012: Justice League: Doom, based on JLA: Tower of Babel
- 2012: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, adapting in two parts the graphic novel
Note that DC Universe Animated Original Movies are in fact each set in separate fictional universes, with the exception of the Superman/Batman films.
Cast and characters
Box office performance
|Film||Release date||Box office revenue||Box office ranking||Budget||Reference|
|Domestic||Foreign||Worldwide||All time domestic||All time worldwide|
|Batman||June 23, 1989||$251,188,924||$160,160,000||$411,348,924||#71
|Batman Returns||June 19, 1992||$162,831,698||$103,990,656||$266,822,354||#206
|Batman: Mask of the Phantasm||December 25, 1993||$5,617,391||N/A||$5,617,391||#4,653
|Batman Forever||June 16, 1995||$184,031,112||$152,498,032||$336,529,144||#148
|Batman & Robin||June 20, 1997||$107,325,195||$130,881,927||$238,207,122||#460||#394||$125,000,000|||
|Batman Begins||June 15, 2005||$206,852,432||$167,366,241||$374,218,673||#120||#182||$150,000,000|||
|The Dark Knight||July 18, 2008||$534,858,444||$469,700,000||$1,004,558,444||#4
|The Dark Knight Rises||July 20, 2012||$448,139,099||$632,902,188||$1,081,041,287||#7
- A light grey cell indicates information is not available.
- (A) indicates the adjusted totals based on current ticket prices (calculated by Box Office Mojo).
- Batman Begins and The Dark Knight gross includes 2012 re-releases.
|Award||Burton/Schumacher series||Nolan series|
|Batman||Batman Returns||Batman Forever||Batman & Robin||Batman Begins||The Dark Knight||The Dark Knight Rises|
|Actor in a Supporting Role||Won (Heath Ledger)|
|Batman||70% (57 reviews)||66 (17 reviews)|
|Batman Returns||79% (53 reviews)||N/A|
|Batman Forever||41% (58 reviews)||51 (23 reviews)|
|Batman & Robin||12% (66 reviews)||28 (21 reviews)|
|Batman Begins||85% (263 reviews)||70 (41 reviews)|
|The Dark Knight||94% (289 reviews)||82 (39 reviews)|
|The Dark Knight Rises||87% (296 reviews)||78 (45 reviews)|
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