Every Batman Movie Opening Scene Ranked

Kevin Conroy is the best Batman, and all other actors are just pale imitators. Now, that's not necessarily true — although many would probably agree with me — but you can't deny that it's an opening that got your attention, which is exactly the aim of the scenes described here.

Batman is a character who's close to a century old, and he's been portrayed in live action by a myriad of talents. He's been a comedic, larger-than-life slice of pop culture, a rubber-clad, gadget-happy hero, and a gravel-voiced Dark Knight detective. His origin has been told countless times, and been given a number of different spins, many of which will be revisited here. That said, for the purposes of this article, we'll only be considering live-action feature-length films where Batman is the focus – so no appearances by Conroy, Lewis G. Wilson, and Robert Lowery, even though they portrayed the Caped Crusader on the big screen, the latter two in serialized form. It's also worth noting that we're only rating the opening scenes, and not the films themselves.

So, after you get the bulbs in the Bat-Signal changed, let's delve into nearly six decades of winged-mammal-inspired vigilantism. For additional immersion, picture a spinning bat symbol as you scroll between entries. To the Batmobile!

10. Batman and Robin

The familiar yellow and blue Warner Brothers logo shifts to an icy blue and white, and Schumacher launches into his fluorescent take on the Dark Knight that ultimately led to an almost decade-long gap between Batman movies and a much-needed reboot.

Remember the glimpse of the imposing Bat-Crotch in "Batman Forever"? Thanks to that film's introduction of the Boy Wonder, there's twice as much of that this time around. Batman's electricity bill must be phenomenal, too, with every wall in the Batcave bathed in a phosphorescent glow — Alfred looks visibly pained as the two heroes hurtle off in their respective vehicles, although he's presumably relieved to be able to switch off some lights and save a few bucks.

An increasingly underused Pat Hingle appears as Commission Gordon, who warns the dynamic duo of a new threat at the Natural History Museum: that nippy ne'er-do-well Mister Freeze. We're then treated to our first glimpse of the sub-zero scallywag, who's busy freezing police officers with his oversized — and, of course, glowing — cannon. It's here that we'll get our first taste of Schwarzenegger's ice-related puns.

It's an over-indulgent and decadent start to an over-indulgent and decadent movie – subtlety goes completely out of the window here. And, speaking of windows, Clooney's Batman makes his appearance by once again smashing through a perfectly good window. Much like Batman's electricity supplier, Gotham's glaziers must be making a killing.

9. Batman Forever

With the Warner Brothers logo quickly morphing into the bat symbol, Elliot Goldenthal's raucous theme foreshadows the lack of subtlety in Joel Schumacher's movie; the tune couldn't be more different from Danny Elfman's subtle orchestral stylings. With some quick shots of Val Kilmer's Batman tooling up, we get our first glimpse of the new Batcave, surprisingly lacking in neon considering Schumacher's increasing penchant for that particular lighting method.

Batman denies the ever-loyal Alfred's offer of sandwiches — "I'll get drive-through," he quips — and the Bat-mobile zooms off to yet another crime scene. Former District Attorney Harvey Dent (portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones, who replaces Billy Dee Williams from the first Tim Burton movie) appears as Two-Face, hiding his disfigurement from the camera until a sudden and effective reveal. The villain is holding a staff member hostage, using him as bait for a trap. After Batman avoids being perforated by Two-Face's neon-gunned goons, there's a fight featuring a bevy of gadgets, with a variety of sound effects that feel like they'd be more at home in a Tex Avery cartoon than a movie about an orphan vigilante.

Introducing Nicole Kidman's Chase Meridian and culminating with an acid trap worthy of the cliffhangers from the '60s TV series, it's an assured opening that makes it very apparent that we're in different territory than the previous two movies. It has everything but the neon kitchen sink: the Batmobile, a memorable bad guy, gadgets, a worthy scrap, and a killer opening gag. It's probably also the best bit of the film.

8. Batman: The Movie (1966)

The "Batman" TV series ran from 1966 to 1968. "Batman: The Movie" was originally designed to debut first, in order to introduce viewers to the Caped Crusader's adventures. However, due to various behind-the-scenes factors, the movie ended up being released after the first season had aired.

Opening with a spotlight that focuses on some graffiti thanking crime fighters around the world for their inspiration, the opening credits kick in. These seem more inspired by film noir than comic books, with each hero and villain introduced via a differently colored filter and orchestral theme. The rogue's gallery consists of Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and the Riddler, elevated from his second-string comic book status into lofty company.

Very quickly, an "urgent but anonymous call for help" brings millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward Dick Grayson back to Wayne Manor, where they slide down the Bat-Pole and emerge as the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder. From there, they hop into the Batmobile and race off to the airport, hopping into the Bat-Copter and traveling out to sea. Robin ogles some rooftop sunbathers, and Batman has a fateful encounter with a shark.

A deliciously kitsch slice of '60s camp, it's a frenetic start to a fast-paced movie that doesn't waste any time, setting the scene for the delights to come. It does beg a question, though: At what point in his career did Batman decide to stop labeling everything he owned?

7. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Although Zack Snyder found some success in 2009 with "Watchmen," whose Nite Owl and Rorschach share some DNA with Batman, "Batman v Superman" features his first real stab at the Dark Knight. Flitting between a young, upset Bruce who's fleeing his parents' funeral and the Waynes' notorious fate in the ominously nicknamed Crime Alley, this is the first Batman film to open with would seem to be an obvious starting point: his origin. It's a beginning with shades of "Batman Begins," with a similar fall into the bat-filled cave network underneath Wayne Manor, although this Bruce is much less scared of the winged mammals.

Then, a helicopter carrying the present-day Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, who is surprisingly good at portraying both Wayne and Bats) lands in Metropolis during the Kryptonian invasion from Snyder's "Man of Steel," and our intrepid hero inexplicably abandons the chopper and races towards Wayne Enterprises' headquarters in a car. As the mayhem of the dueling demi-gods unfolds around him, he arrives at the office just in time to see it collapse, plumes of smoke billowing out from the rubble and blocking his visibility.

It's a brash opening, albeit one requiring some familiarity with the events of "Man of Steel." It's a somewhat sledgehammer-subtle raison d'etre for the reasoning behind the titular clash, but one will never accuse Zack Snyder of nuance or restraint. Overall, this is a big, explosive opening to a cacophonous blockbuster, so it accurately sets the tone for the film that follows.

6. Batman Returns

We're firmly in traditional Tim Burton territory for the opening of "Batman Returns," which takes a visit to a stately Gotham residence, panning through corridors on what should be the happiest day in the lives of Mister and Ms. Cobblepot. A loud newborn baby's screams are drowned out by the cries of his parents when they set their eyes on him. A distressed doctor scuttles away, having witnessed some horror the audience doesn't get to see.

Sometime later, the bouncing baby ... something is locked up in a crate. Tiny, deformed hands reach out and grab the family cat, and the Cobblepots stare on impassively as their beloved feline offers up its final meows. Under the cover of night, the two parents take the child's crib and drop it into the Gotham River. As the credits roll, we watch the crib's inexorable descent into the Gotham sewers. Luckily for our abandoned avian-esque child, the urban myths about alligators in the sewers turn out to be untrue, and the crib washes up at the feet — well, the flippers — of a waddle of misplaced penguins.

Putting an origin story in an opening sequence is a bold take, but the success of 1989's "Batman" must have been a huge confidence-booster for Burton, allowing him to get away with unconventional narrative choices. It's typical Burton material, bringing the bizarre and otherworldly into conflict with the mundane, and ties into his ongoing examination of loneliness and ostracism. "Batman Returns" is weaker than its predecessor, but it certainly has one hell of an opening.

5. The Batman (2022)

We open on the sound of odd, labored breathing, as though through a mask, and an out-of-focus shot showing a convivial family scene through a window. A mother brings her child, who's dressed like an old-timey swashbuckler, in to see his father. The father and son play-sword fight, and then the father says goodnight to them both, leaving him alone in the room. The camera focuses on a balcony above the room, where we see a shadowy figure hiding, before he suddenly emerges and brutally knocks the man out.

Like with the opening to Tim Burton's 1989 movie, there's an interesting subversion at work. Given the sword-fighting and young Bruce's obsession with Zorro, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you're watching the Wayne family, but you're not. This is Gotham's mayor, and he's the first of the many victims of the film's central antagonist.

It's almost a running joke that every Batman film claims to be darker and grittier than the ones that came before, but it's certainly true in this case. The opening feels like something from David Fincher's "Se7en," with more subtle atmospheric horror than we're used to seeing in this franchise. The opening of "The Batman" genuinely feels like it could take place in the same universe as Todd Phillips' "Joker"; this is certainly a more nihilistic view of Gotham City than we're used to. It's all topped off by a narration from Batman that echoes Rorschach's journal from "Watchmen," making for an intriguing opening to a very different take on the Dark Knight.

4. Batman Begins

A swirling maelstrom of bats form a vague facsimile of the Batman logo, and we're quickly taken to Bruce's past, where he plays on grounds of Wayne Manor with his friend Rachel. Hiding in a boarded-up well turns out to be bad news for the young Bruce's hide-and-seek prospects, but ultimately benefits his future career in vigilantism as he falls into a hidden cave, unleashing a flurry of startled bats.

Next, a present-day Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) languishes in a Bhutanese prison, proving himself more than capable of looking after himself in a jail-yard scrap. We're a far cry from the "biffs" and "kapows" of the '60s, gaudily-colored captions replaced by bruises, broken limbs, and blood-stained mud. When he's thrown into solitary confinement — to protect the other inmates, not Bruce himself — we're introduced to Liam Neeson's "Henri Ducard," who proves three years ahead of "Taken" to already have a very particular set of skills. In this case, that's getting millionaire playboys released from prison and convincing them to join an assassin's guild.

Much as with Daniel Craig's bold reinvention of Bond in "Casino Royale," the "Batman Begins" opening is a bold statement of intent, reassuring you that you're getting something quite different from what has come before. This is a Batman grounded in reality, where fights hurt and cause real damage. It also adds a new wrinkle to Bruce Wayne's character: a self-destructive streak that comes out as he desperately searches for a cause and a purpose.

3. The Dark Knight Rises

Director Christopher Nolan is (rightfully) a firm believer in the power of practical effects, choosing them over digital whenever possible. To this end, what could have been a lackluster scene with CGI is made delightfully weighty through its realism.

The film opens to a speech by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) commemorating Harvey Dent, but then the tone quickly shifts as we observe a prisoner transfer as hooded figures are ushered onto a plane. Being a film confident enough to show its antagonist from the outset, the CIA members on the plane quickly learn to their cost that one of the prisoners is terrorist Bane.

In an audacious stunt scene reminiscent of a similar heist in 1993's otherwise mediocre Cliffhanger – albeit dialed up considerably – Banes cohorts conduct a daring heist from another plane over the terrain of Uzbekistan, freeing both Bane and the CIA's passenger, the nuclear physicist Dr. Leonid Pavel. It's a truly jaw-dropping scene, and is a neat defining moment for newcomer Bane, letting the audience know of both the man's confidence and extensive resources. It may be the weakest film of the trilogy, but it's an amazingly bold opening.

2. Batman (1989)

Opening with the superlative Danny Elfman theme, the camera pans around an indistinct shape as the credits roll, pulling back to reveal a giant bat logo. This is Tim Burton's "Batman."

Performing a neat cinematic trick that has a parallel in the opening of 2022's "The Batman," the film opens on a lost couple and their son, who are navigating the dangerous streets of Gotham City while trying to hail a cab. As with "The Batman," the audience might think they're observing Thomas, Martha, and Bruce Wayne; however, when their haphazard wanderings take them into an ominously dark alley, they're mugged, but nobody gets shot. That's probably for the best; their son might decide to grow up and becoming a vigilante to avenge their murders, and Gotham is already a little crowded on that score.

While miscreants Nick and Eddie count their spoils on a nearby rooftop, we see hints of Batman in silhouette. A nervy Eddie recounts rumors of the Batman and how he nabbed poor old Johnny Gobbs, and Nick tries to placate him. But Nick's insistence that "There ain't no Bat" proves to be instantly wrong. Despite being shot, Michael Keaton's Batman easily defeats the pair, dangling Nick over the building's edge and putting the fear of God into him. "I'm not going to kill you," he growls. "I want you to do me a favor — I want you to tell all your friends about me." Moody and effective, with excellent use of Elfman's signature theme, this opening is a declaration of intent — this is Burton's Batman, not the light-hearted, self-referential take from the '60s.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

We open on a heist. A silhouetted figure holding a bag gets into a car, joining a group of criminals wearing similar clown masks. Other clowns abseil onto the roof of a bank, all discussing a mysterious individual known only as "the Joker," who has masterminded the robbery.

Typical conventions tell us that Batman will suddenly appear during the heist, smashing through a window before landing amongst the panicked criminals. However, proving that Batman can't be everywhere at once, that doesn't happen. Instead, the manager of the Gotham National Bank (William Fichtner, no stranger to heists after his appearance in 1995's "Heat") takes matters into his own hands with a shotgun.

However, his plans come to little, and he's downed by the gang. But the clowns' numbers also begin to dwindle, taken out by their comrades. Through his own design, the Joker is the only survivor, revealing his true face to the tied-up bank manager. We have gotten used to grease-painted takes on the Clown Prince of Crime, but the first sight of Ledger's Joker draws genuine gasps. Scarred both physically and mentally, Ledger turns in an amazing performance, and this opening scene is the perfect introduction for Batman's primary foil; this Joker is ruthless, calculating, smart, and definitely not to be trusted.