Batman Day is here! In honor of the Caped Crusader, we look back on his cinematic history from the day he swooped onto the screen into present day.
The first film appearance of Batman was the 1943 black and white Batman serial divided into 15 chapters. The serial followed Lewis Wilson as the Batman, a secret government agent, and his trusty sidekick Robin (Douglas Croft). Batman's cloth suit was simple, with a pointed cowl and oversized belt adorned with a plain black bat logo.
The original Batman serial later spawned a 1949 sequel, Batman and Robin. Robert Lowery as Batman and Robin (Johnny Duncan) faced off against the electricity-controlling Wizard. Batman made little changes to his ensemble, save for a plainer belt and lighter spandex tights.
Whereas the serials of the 40s were first televised and then combined for theatrical release, Batman: The Movie was the first full-length movie dedicated to the hero of Gotham. Released in 1966 with Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their roles as Batman and Robin from the television series, the film became an instant classic. The blue and gray cloth suit also included gadgets such as Batman's famed Batarangs from the comic book.
The 80’s- 90’s
In the 80s and 90s, Tim Burton took the helm and transformed Gotham into a dark and gritty urban hellscape. The first film, Batman (1989) featured Michael Keaton as Batman, now a brooding character reflecting his general surroundings, facing off against his arch nemesis, the Joker (Jack Nicholson). Burton's take on the new Batsuit included a leathery cape, armored gauntlets and a yellow bat emblem on the chest.
In Batman Returns (1992), Keaton reprised his role as the Caped Crusader, and introduced the Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) to the Warner Brothers film franchise. Batman's suit underwent substantial updates from the prior version, with a sleeker Art Deco design with angular armored plating and a cape that could now glide.
Batman Forever (1995) paired Batman, now played by Val Kilmer, against villains the Riddler (Jim Carrey) and Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) with the help of faithful Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough) and Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle). Val Kilmer wore two different Batsuits in the film. The first, a sleek Panther suit complete with utility belt and nipples. The second Sonar suit was metallic, with the bat logo sprawled across the chest.
Batman & Robin (1997) brought on a new face for Batman when George Clooney replaced Val Kilmer due to scheduling differences. Chris O’Donnell played the titular loyal sidekick, Robin. New villains bent on giving Batman headaches, Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) were introduced. To date, Batman & Robin features the only onscreen appearance of Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone). Batman's suit evolved to include gadgets built directly into the suit, such as the Bat-Skates.
The New Millennium
A new generational Batman made his debut in 2005 with director Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, launching the Dark Knight Trilogy. The reboot featured Christian Bale as Batman alongside Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Cane), Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and James Gordon (Gary Oldman). Batman's look became darker and sleeker, save for a gold utility belt.
The Dark Knight (2008) granted audiences a flawless performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), later to become Two-Face, was the secondary villain who turned bad through crushing heartbreak and disfigurement. Batman's experience as a crime fighter is evident in the evolution of his suit, as the Batsuit became armored and defined.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) ended the trilogy and introduced Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and new villain Bane (Tom Hardy). Taking place eight years after The Dark Knight, the battle weary recluse Bruce Wayne serves Gotham again after Bane steals his stuff and seeks to blow Gotham away with it. Batman further refined his suit seen in The Dark Knight by adding detailed plating and a mechanical knee brace. For the first time, viewers witnessed Batman's cowl smashed and back broken.
Our current era of Batman films began in 2016 with DCEU's (DC Extended Universe's) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The first live action film to feature the two superhero icons together, Ben Affleck as Batman, and Superman (Henry Cavill) seek to expose and take down each other while Lex Luthor (Jesse Eiseneberg) tries once again to take out the Man of Steel by any means necessary, including kidnapping love interest Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and adoptive mother Martha Kent (Diane Lane). The first modern interpretation of the classic gray and black costume since the serials, Batman's suit was extremely influenced by Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Batman's second suit is an armored suit designed to face Superman. The intercom and sonar built into Batman's cowl, advanced utility belt complete with grappling gun, and a multi-use cape made the Batsuit both practical and versatile.
Justice League (2017) saw the return of Ben Affleck as Batman alongside an ensemble cast of heroes including the return of Superman (Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Like Dawn of Justice, Batman again sported two suits. The first was an upgrade of his standard suit with enhanced padding. The second, an updated and heavily armored Tactical suit came enhanced with night goggles and and heavy plating.
Do you have a favorite era? Where do you hope the Caped Crusader goes in the future? Let us know on Facebook!