‘Joker’ and Every Batman Movie Ranked From Least to Most Kid-Friendly

From Adam West to the 'Dark Knight' here's a ranking of all the big Batman movies with one question in mind: Can a kid really watch it?

by Fatherly
Batman holding Joker by the lapels in Tim Burton's 'Batman'
Warner Bros

The details of the next Batman movie are well-kept secrets, so we’re not sure if you’ll want to take the kids to see Robert Pattinson’s debut in the role. But it can’t be much less kid-friendly than 2019’s Joker, a movie that can only traumatize young kids. Thankfully, it’s something of an outlier in the canon of Batman films, and plenty of Batman movies are just fine for kids to watch. This list of Batman movies, ranked, reflects that, as we used kid-friendliness (not cinematic quality) to judge each one.

That means the Nolan stans, Batfleck crew, Burton loyalists, and the nascent community of Reeves partisans can argue over which Batman movie is best elsewhere. This guide is for parents looking to introduce their kids to the world of Gotham without scarring them for life. It’s ordered from the least appropriate Batman movie for kids to the most appropriate. And while there are a lot of animated Batman movies out there, in the interest of simplicity we only included the big ones on the list.

12. Joker (2019)

The ending of this Oscar-winning film suggests that it’s something of an origin story for Batman, but it’s not like any other film on this list. Because more than it’s a Batman movie, Joker is a film about how a mentally unstable person becomes a monster. Kids shouldn’t watch it until they’re older. And by older, we mean at least 37.

11. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Undoubtedly the darkest Batman-centric movie ever made, the conclusion of Nolan’s genre-shifting trilogy is incredibly grim and decidedly made for adults. The violence is extreme, and the movie explores themes like mortality that even Tolstoy would find depressing. It has to be the least kid-friendly PG-13 superhero movie ever made, as only R-rated flicks like Watchmen, the Kickass franchise, and Deadpool are less suited for young audiences.

10. The Dark Knight (2008)

Arguably the greatest superhero movie of all time is a movie that has little to offer younger Batman fans. It’s packed with existential angst and is far more interested in moral gray areas than simple notions of right and wrong. All of this, of course, stems from Heath Ledger’s chilling performance as the Joker, where he takes supreme pleasure in causing as much pain as possible for everyone, especially his masked nemesis. Save it for after the kids go to bed.

9. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2017)

While not as devoid of any optimism as Nolan’s last two films, Batman v Superman is still incredibly grim. Batman proudly brandishing a gun just feels wrong even if Wayne’s “no kill” policy has always been more of a guideline than a rule. Overall, the movie is every bit as needlessly morbid as what we’ve all come to expect from Snyder and it’s probably best to keep that away from your kid until they reach their teens.

8. Batman Begins (2005)

Nolan changed superhero movies forever and it all started with this groundbreaking movie. But while making superhero movies grounded is a delight for adults, it also marks the moment that grown-ups stole superheroes from kids. Long gone were the days of Batman’s inner darkness being a minor character trait; it was suddenly the core of who he was. Combine that with the freaky as fuck Scarecrow and you have the beginning of the end of kid-friendly Batman flicks.

7. Batman Returns (1992)

This movie is extremely similar to his first Batman film, but director Tim Burton really cranks up the creepy. Danny Devito’s Penguin is disturbing enough to haunt a kid’s nightmares for years while Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman (and her costume) could very well kick-start your kid’s sexual awakening.

6. Batman (1989)

At the time, Batman felt like an extremely dark take on the superhero genre. But post-Nolan, this Batman movie doesn’t feel nearly as shocking as it once was. Sure, Nicholson’s Joker is a frightening character, but he’s much campier than Heath Ledger’s genuinely disturbing portrayal of Batman’s anarchic nemesis. It’s definitely too grim for young kids but it’s really not much worse than what they’ve in the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that aren’t Ant-Man.

5. Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman & Robin is fairly aligned with Batman Forever in terms of kid-friendliness. And while it is often regarded as the worst Batman movie ever made, it’s not one that will traumatize your kid. It’s just so over-the-top in that it never feels real. The only part that might be a little too risque for kids? Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), who has the power to arouse anyone with a kiss.

4. Batman Forever (1995)

Widely considered the start of the worst era of the Batman cinematic universe (at least until Snyder got his hands on the caped crusader), Batman Forever makes no attempt to feel realistic or grounded in any way, which makes any violence feel disassociated from reality. The main reason it lands above B&R is that Poison Ivy has not yet arrived to make Batman and Robin go crazy with horniness. Instead, Jim Carrey is rocking a skin-tight leotard that is more likely to give you nightmares than your kid.

3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Widely considered one of the hidden gems of the Batman cinematic canon, Mask of the Phantasm is a smart, highly entertaining movie that features a stellar voice cast, including Luke Skywalker himself. The movie definitely has some of the mature themes that are a consistent part of the Batman universe, including grief, revenge, and the darkness that exists in everyone. Still, the fact that the movie is animated naturally makes it much more kid-friendly than the majority of live-action Batman films.

2. The Lego Batman (2017)

The best Batman movie since The Dark Knight also happens to be one of the most kid-friendly superhero movies ever made. The violence is almost nonexistent, as it’s hard to get too worked up watching a bunch of Legos duke it out. Plus, the movie features a wonderful lesson about the importance of family. To top it all off, it’s genuinely hilarious and is sure to entertain parents every bit as much as kids.

1. Batman (1966)

There is nothing remotely objectionable about this movie. The violence is more cartoonish than most cartoons (Bam! Kapow!), the villains are complete goofballs, and Adam West’s Batman, often portrayed as a brooding, borderline anti-hero, is a goddam boy scout here, even taking the time to eulogize “the almost-human porpoise” when a dolphin sacrifices itself by hopping in front of a torpedo heading for the Batboat. There has never been a superhero movie this unabashedly wholesome and kids of all ages can enjoy this fun, absurd romp.