If you’re a fan of Batman, then you know about the most popular and influential piece of crime fighting technology in his arsenal, The Batmobile. For comic fans around the world, the Batmobile is arguably the most badass superhero vehicle ever created. Unique in its look and abilities, but a huge inspiration to pop culture throughout the years. It’s is an ever-lasting staple amongst the stories about Batman and his never-ending war on crime to protect the streets of Gotham City. This is something that has always transitioned well to the Batman live action movies, each time with a new look and array of abilities that differ from what’s come before.
But what was the best Batmobile to ever appear on the silver screen? Movie-goers and comic fans always debate which interpretation of Batman had the best crime fighting vehicle. Was Keaton’s better than Bale’s? Did the tough look of Affleck’s outshine the classic style of Adam West’s crime fighting car? It’s time to be brave and bold by finally ranking the best live action adaptations of the Batmobile.
As with any ranking list, this is only an opinion and might not fall in line with your own views of the movie Batmobiles. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes about movies and comics, such is the nature of any media or art form. Please understand that and respect the opinions of others. Now let’s rank the Batmobiles…
#5 – 1997 Batmobile (Batman and Robin)
The movies from Joel Schumacher were terrible to many Batman enthusiasts, but they did yield a small number of positives from their cinematic shortcomings. The second Batmobile designed for the Schumacher Batman movie in 1997 was a step up from the previous film a few years earlier. In what seemed like a reactionary move to some of the backlash about Batman Forever, the design for the Batmobile in Batman and Robin was inspired more by the first Tim Burton film, albeit much more colorful.
While it doesn’t have as many cool functions as other vehicles on this list, it still looks more akin to what many feel the Batmobile could look like. It’s not featured prominently in Batman and Robin as much as other vehicles of the film, but we give it an “A for effort” for at least looking better than the one from Batman Forever (That’s right, we said it! You were thinking it too!). Not the best looking movie Batmobile, but at least it gets some things right.
#4 – 2016 Batmobile (Batman V Superman)
The DC Extended Universe of films began with Man of Steel and continued with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. It was inevitable that the new cinematic universe for DC Comics would have its own version of the Batmobile, one that would hopefully distinguish itself from the previous Batman films that came before. The Ben Affleck version draws a lot of inspiration from both the comics and movies, being influenced by the Christopher Nolan films and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. It stands on this list as being the most brutal interpretation of the Batmobile to date, reflecting the evolving image of Batman in the modern day.
The DCEU version of the Batmobile has a hybrid design of its inspirations, looking like a hulking tank and small nods to flaps/wings on the back. In Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, we see this Batmobile knock down cars and building structures with its powerful momentum. With later Batman movies, we see it in more action scenes that display its practicality, rather than seeing Batman drive from one location to another. Ben Affleck has a more brutal and “in your face” version of the Dark Knight in the DCEU, and his Batmobile reflects this in phenomenal fashion.
#3 – 2005 Tumbler (The Dark Knight Trilogy)
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy catapulted the Batman franchise into new territory after a long hiatus following the release of Batman and Robin. The core concept of the entire Nolan series of films was built on one question: What if Batman was actually real? This not only revitalized the character for modern movie audiences, but became a huge factor in WB’s approach to future DC Comic films. What makes the Tumbler, Nolan’s version of the Batmobile, so interesting is how practical it can be. If someone actually dressed like a bat to fight crime in real life, they’d probably need a car that actually could get the job done, not just look cool.
Inspired by Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, this version of the Batmobile is a hulking tank. In the films, we see the Tumbler driving on rooftops, smashing through barriers, firing missiles, and even transforming into a smaller vehicle when needed. Unlike in Batman Forever, where it drove up a building in comedic fashion, the Tumbler takes the same concept and creatively elaborates the idea of the Batmobile being an all-terrain vehicle. It just doesn’t use a grapple hook to drive on roof tops, it instead smashes through everything and uses its weight and momentum to go from place to place. This is the most “real” interpretation of the Batmobile to ever be shown on a movie screen.
#2 – 1966 Batmobile (Batman the Movie/Series)
Style was everything in the 1960s. If something looked colorful and cool, then it was cool. This is the charm of the Adam West 1966 Batmobile from the Batman television series. It’s not a Batmobile that is dark, gritty, or even practical by any means whatsoever; it is however an image that sticks in your mind as something uniquely associated with Batman. It was a colorful, lighthearted Batmobile for a lighthearted time in the character’s history.
While the television show borrowed elements from the 1950s comics of Batman, this Batmobile was radically different than its comic counterpart. Different colors and no bat-head in from to be specific. It had an array of functions that made it useful to Batman and Robin, no matter what villain they found themselves pursuing. The 1966 Batmobile also marked the first occasion audiences saw the afterburner that propelled the Batmobile in live action, something that was a part of the comics. This is also the one we see in the most situations throughout the show’s three seasons, showing a versatility in its usefulness to Batman and Robin. The show may have been very light hearted, but it definitely had a very unique and bright sense of style that was emulated in this Batmobile.
#1 – 1989 Batmobile (Batman 1989)
This one is possibly the best adaptation of the Batmobile in live action. Michael Keaton’s version from Tim Burton’s film in 1989 is the one that most people think of when they think of a dark, brooding, and stylish version of the Batmobile. Practicality and realism aren’t the concern here with this design, but instead enforcing a sense of seriousness, style, and implied power is what makes this work so well. There are no fancy decals or crazy looking design choices that are in your face with the 1989 version. What you have is something that is sleek looking and bold with its presence each time you see the Batmobile appear on screen.
In both Tim burton movies, we see it in action in subtle yet effective ways. It has thick armor to protect against attacks, powerful bombs to blow up buildings, Gatling guns on the sides, a jet turbine engine to speed ahead, and much more that gives it an intimidating presence each time you see it. Bob Kane’s original vision of the Batman character a gothic and film noir story that emphasized Batman’s cunning and boldness, all of which are perfectly expressed in this version of the Batmobile. It’s a polar opposite interpretation of the 1966 Batmobile, which only helped to reinforce the idea of Tim Burton’s film being a completely new take on the dark knight at the time.