You might have noticed over the last, oh, several decades, but Batman is a pretty popular character. You also probably know the major beats by now: a murder in an alleyway, a cascading set of pearls, a billionaire playboy who moonlights as an ass-kicker with a laundry list of emotional issues that can’t be locked away in Arkham. But that hasn’t kept audiences from clamoring for more Batman, a character who has swapped actors and filmmakers almost as much as James Bond. With the success of The Batman and the excitement over its upcoming sequel, it might be time for a full Bat-fresher. If you’re wondering exactly how to dive in, we’ve got you. Below, you’ll find a list of how to watch every live-action Batman movie in chronological order, followed by how to watch them in order of release. (Yes, they’re relatively the same, but the exact continuity between them is worth explaining.)
A quick note: The below does not include the 1966 Adam West/Burt Ward team-up Batman: The Movie or the 1993 animated feature Batman: Mask of the Phantasm because both fit into their respective TV chronology, but they are both great and worth watching!
Batman Movies in Chronological Order of Events
The 90s Movies
Of course, when we say “the 90s,” that includes 1989, when Tim Burton introduced a brand new bat in the form of Michael Keaton‘s truly unhinged Bruce Wayne. Batman takes place vaguely early on in the Caped Crusader’s crime-fighting career, on the eve of Gotham City’s 200-year anniversary. We also witness an origin story for Batman’s greatest foe, The Joker, played here with iconic energy by Jack Nicholson.
Arguably the weirdest—and objectively the horniest—Batman film ever made, Burton’s Batman Returns technically begins 33 years in the past, as a flashback shows us the grotesque origins of Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. The Penguin (Danny DeVito). The bulk of the story takes place not long after Batman, as Keaton’s Dark Knight contends with both Penguin and the best live-action DC movie villain, ever, Michelle Pfeiffer‘s Catwoman.
Batman Forever swaps director Tim Burton for Joel Schumacher, replaces Keaton with Val Kilmer under the cape and cowl, and introduces a brand new cocaine-rave-by-way-of-art-deco aesthetic to Gotham City. Despite the tonal whiplash, Batman Forever does technically take place shortly after Batman Returns, introducing The Riddler (Jim Carrey) and Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) to Batman’s live-action rogues gallery. The film also marks the first appearance of Chris O’Donnell as sidekick Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin.
Batman & Robin
For Batman & Robin, Schumacher stayed aboard, but George Clooney stepped in as Bruce Wayne. Picking up a few months after Batman Forever, this sequel sees the titular crime-fighting duo, now a well-oiled partnership, taking on the villainous pair-up of Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). The final chapter of this particular Batman era, Batman & Robin also marks the only live-action appearance of Batgirl, played here by Alicia Silverstone.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Director Christopher Nolan kicked off his critically-acclaimed trilogy with a young Bruce Wayne’s formative tumble into a bat-filled well. Fourteen years later, we meet Christian Bale‘s Bruce as he decides to leave Gotham, traveling the world and training under Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) in the League of Shadows. After seven years, Bruce returns to Gotham and begins his crusade against crime, as Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) amps up his fear-based experiments under the moniker Scarecrow.
The Dark Knight
Nolan’s second Batman movie kicks off about six months after Batman Begins, as the Joker (Heath Ledger), teased in the final scene of the previous movie, is now a well-known criminal terrorizing Gotham.
The Dark Knight Rises
The concluding chapter of Nolan’s trilogy takes place eight years after The Dark Knight, with Bruce Wayne coming out of a long bat-retirement thanks to the arrival of a terrorist known as Bane (Tom Hardy).
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Zack Snyder brought his Batman (Ben Affleck) to the big screen in the immediate aftermath of Man of Steel, in which the final fight between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) levels a large portion of Metropolis. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we’re introduced to a Bruce Wayne deep into his crime-fighting career, a traumatized Caped Crusader who is getting a little lax on his no-kill policies.
While the bulk of Suicide Squad takes place exactly one year after Batman v Superman, the parts featuring Batman are told in flashback as he rounds up villains like Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).
Batman, along with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), attempts to put a superhero team together in Justice League two years after the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
See above, and for more details, head here.
The Matt Reeves Version
What started as another entry into the DCEU with Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne eventually became Matt Reeves‘ own take on the caped crusader. Switching out Affleck for a younger, more emo, Nirvana-loving Batman played by Robert Pattinson, The Batman explores a Year Two Batman, leaning far more into the detective side of the vigilante. Rounding out the cast is Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle, giving Michelle Pfeiffer a run for her money, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon, Colin Farrell as the Penguin, and Andy Serkis as Alfred. With another movie firmly in development, the possibilities of where Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne will go are endless.
Batman Movies in Order of Release Date
And here is every live-action Batman movie in order of when they were released:
Batman – June 23, 1989
Batman Returns – June 19, 1992
Batman Forever – June 16, 1995
Batman & Robin – June 20, 1997
Batman Begins – June 25, 2005
The Dark Knight – July 18, 2008
The Dark Knight Rises – July 20, 2012
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – March 25, 2016
Suicide Squad – August 5, 2016
Justice League – November 17, 2017
Zack Snyder’s Justice League – March 18, 2021
The Batman – March 4, 2021
Therese Lacson also contributed to this article.