The newest Batman movie isn’t a Batman movie at all, and kids certainly shouldn’t see it. If you’ve seen Joker, then you know kids certainly shouldn’t be anywhere near it. But what about other live-action Batman films?
For parents, here’s a quick ranking of Batman movies starting with the ones that are least appropriate to show to your little caped crusader, and leading up to the ones that are probably fine. From Adam West’s Batman to The Dark Knight Rises, here’s how appropriate every Batman movie is for your kid. (Note: There are a lot of animated Batman movies. We only included the big ones on this list.)
12. Joker (2019)
Bruce Wayne is in this movie. The ending suggests its an origin story for Batman. Don’t get it twisted, this is a Batman movie. But, that’s true only technically. Whereas most Batman movies meditate on a struggle between good and evil, and what might lie between, Joker is only about how a mentally unstable person becomes a monster. Kids probably shouldn’t see it until they’re older. And by older, we’re talking 37.
11. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Undoubtedly the darkest Batman movie ever made, the conclusion of Nolan’s genre-shifting trilogy is decidedly made for adults. Meaning that it is incredibly grim in every conceivable way. The violence is extreme and the movie explores themes like mortality that even Tolstoy would find depressing The only superhero movies that are less kid-friendly than DKR are the ones that are rated R (Watchmen, the Kickass franchise, Deadpool).
10. The Dark Knight (2008)
Arguably the greatest superhero movie of all time is a movie that has little to offer in terms of kid-friendliness. Thematically, the movie is packed with existential angst and is far more interested in moral gray areas than childish 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.
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. Not to mention the fact that Batman proudly brandishing a gun just feels wrong, even if Wayne’s “no kill” policy has always been more of a bend-don’t-break rule than anyone wants to admit. 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)
In a lot of ways, this Tim Burton sequel is extremely similar to the original Batman film, except Burton really turns up his love of all things creepy. The Penguin alone is disturbing enough to haunt a kid’s nightmares for years and on the opposite end of the spectrum, Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman could very well kick-start your kid’s sexual awakening, as she oozes sexuality from the minute she appears onscreen in her iconic Catwoman costume.
6. Batman (1989)
At the time, Batman felt like an extremely dark take on the superhero genre but post-Nolan, this movie doesn’t feel nearly as shocking as it once was. Sure, Nicholson’s Joker is a frightening character but he is nothing compared to 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 anything you’ll see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, other than Ant-Man.
5. Batman & Robin (1997)
For the most part, Batman & Robin is pretty similar to Batman Forever in terms of kid-friendliness. And while it is often regarded as the worst Batman movie ever made, nevertheless above average when it comes to Batman movies that won’t traumatize kids. The movie is just so ridiculously over-the-top in every conceivable way 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 all of us. Still, the fact that the movie is animated naturally makes it much more kid-friendly than the majority of live-action Batman films, as the action is less likely to end up in your kid’s nightmares.
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, the movie is 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.