The Best Live-Action Batman Movie According To 31% Of Fans We Polled

(Welcome to Survey Says, a feature where we conduct a movie-related survey for a random group of people and explain why they're completely right, completely wrong, or somewhere in-between.)

Even extending beyond the realm of superheroes, there are few characters of any kind that can claim they have touched pop culture in the way that Batman has. Created by the legendary duo of Bob Kane and Bill Finger for DC Comics back in 1939, the so-called Caped Crusader has been a fixture of our world for more than 80 years — and he's showing no signs of slowing down.

The character's profile was given a gigantic boost at various points over the years thanks to other forms of media, ranging from the Adam West "Batman" TV show in the '60s and, perhaps the most influential example, Tim Burton's 1989 "Batman" movie that redefined what a superhero movie could be. But what is the best live-action movie in the franchise? In our very official recent survey of 579 film fans, we set out to answer that very question. The answer, in itself, does not necessarily come as a surprise but it does open up an interesting question that could be used to fuel some debate. Let's dive in.

And the Survey Says...

Coming in with just shy of 31% of the vote was Christopher Nolan's 2008 masterpiece "The Dark Knight," easily taking the top spot. Quite frankly, it wasn't even close. Coming in at a relatively distant second was 1989's "Batman" starring Michael Keaton as the DC hero, with a little more than 17% of the vote. Rounding out the top three, rather amazingly, was "Batman Forever," which saw Val Kilmer taking over for Keaton with Joel Schumacher in the director's chair.

Next up was that movie's direct sequel "Batman & Robin," considered by very many to be a low-point for the franchise, with just shy of 12% of the vote. Pretty impressively, it beat out "The Dark Knight Rises," which managed just over 11% of the total vote. The movie rounded out Nolan's trilogy but couldn't quite live up to its predecessor.

Getting to the bottom three, Nolan's "Batman Begins," which introduced us to Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne and was an extreme departure from the Schumacher movies, earned just shy of 7% of the vote. Coming in a dead tie for the final two spots were Burton's "Batman Returns" and Zack Snyder's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," with both films earning a little over 4% of the votes.

The Dark Knight Is the Obvious Answer

It is downright impossible to avoid the fact that "The Dark Knight" is one of the most roundly beloved and influential blockbusters of the last 20 years. The world that Nolan managed to craft within the confines of a superhero movie is only increasingly impressive the further we get away from it. From a Gotham City that truly feels lived in to an all-timer of a great performance from Heath Ledger as The Joker, it is a phenomenal example of filmmaking within the comic book movie genre.

In the years that followed, so many films tried to do the dark and gritty reboot in the wake of this movie's success, with "Skyfall" perhaps being one of the most prominent examples. That level of influence from a movie that made more than $1 billion at the box office is pretty impressive as it can often be tough for critical darlings to also become global mega hits. Nolan accomplished that and then some with this film, and it is not the least bit surprising that a survey would see it come out so commandingly on top. But, we do need to examine this on a slightly deeper level.

Let's Get Into Semantics

I make no bones about the fact that Batman is not a character that I particularly enjoy, despite the fact that I love superheroes more than most things. I do, however, love the world that the character inhabits, and that is part of what makes "The Dark Knight" so deeply effective. It is a masterfully crafted crime drama that just so happens to have Batman in it for a percentage of its runtime. Does it do the character justice in that time? Absolutely. So, in some ways, that's a reductive way to look at it but the core point stands.

Therein lies the interesting question of what the best "Batman" movie truly is. If we get caught up in semantics, it could be argued that "The Dark Knight" is hardly a "Batman" movie at all when compared to Burton's '89 film, for example. This is also partially why so many fans rally behind the animated "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm," as it exists in the same universe as "Batman: The Animated Series," perhaps the quintessential adaptation of the character in any medium outside of the comics.

The point is, there is some room for interesting discussion/debate here when it comes to the fundamentals of a "Batman" movie. Regardless, at the end of the day, it is tough to argue against the notion that "The Dark Knight" is almost certainly the best movie ever made that features Batman in it.