There are many characters that can claim to be cultural icons, but few have had the longevity, or the social impact of The Caped Crusader. He and his associated symbols and logos are instantly recognizable around the world, and his origin story is one of the most famous in comic book history. Through feature films, television shows, radio shows, video games, and even a stage musical, Batman has been endlessly reinvented since he first appeared in The Case Of The Chemical Syndicate, inside the pages of Detective Comics #27 in 1939, as the creation of Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
Countless writers, artists, filmmakers and performers have taken their turns in shaping our perception of the Dark Knight – a passionate vigilante, obsessed with delivering justice and fighting crime. He has been brutal, broken, camp, victorious, defeated, romantically entangled, bereaved and threatened with unmasking, but regardless, his constant characteristic has been determination – something that goes right to the heart of the success of this character.
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Batman is a superhero entirely devoid of superpowers. While his Justice League colleagues – Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg and Green Lantern – all have specific, extraordinary abilities, Batman is simply human – albeit a driven, resourceful, very wealthy one. This makes him, perhaps, the most relatable of DC’s superheroes.
Anybody can be Batman – unlike his teammates, who are aliens, or Amazonian warriors, or undersea monarchs, or people who had their powers bestowed upon them by something outside of their control. He is all of us, and his darker side appeals to our frustrated need to punish those whose transgressions are intended to do the greatest of harm.
When Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice finally reaches cinema screens on March 25th, 2016, 77 years after the introduction of the character in DC comic books, we will get our first look at the latest screen depiction of this legendary figure, courtesy of the newest actor to play him – Ben Affleck.
With such a vast history, and with TV and film depictions ranging from live action feature film to episodic animation – any attempt at ranking screen versions (that is, not video game versions) of Batman requires patience, and healthy dose of personal preference. With that said, let’s take a brief look at every Dark Knight from narrative screens both big and small – ranked, in order of brilliance.