Since first appearing on-screen way back in the ’40s, Batman has worn many variations of his costume. Many different actors have worn the cape and cowl of the DC Comics icon. But which version is the best one? We looked at almost 80 years of live-action Batman costumes, and ranked them from best to worst. We judged them on their accuracy in representing the iconic character, and their overall visual aesthetic.
1. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
While we might not be the biggest fans of the film it came from, there’s almost no denying that the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Batman suit looks absolutely perfect. The costume, designed by Michael Wilkinson, looks like it stepped right off the comic book page. Ben Affleck simply had the perfect jawline for this cowl. He wore the mask, the mask didn’t wear him.
The BvS suit took bits of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, with a dash of artist Jim Lee’s, and the result is the most comics-accurate Batman costume of them all—one that actually looks good on-screen (and almost comfortable) on the actor wearing it. Also, unlike many other Batman costumes on this list, the bat emblem stands out and isn’t obscured by armor plating or other things. This one nailed it.
2. Batman, Batman Returns (1989, 1992)
Although the costume took some liberties with the source material, the Michael Keaton 1989 Batman costume creates one of the most striking silhouettes of them all. Yes, in the comics at the time, Batman wore blue and gray, or sometimes black and gray. The all-black suit was a complete Hollywood concoction. But it worked. True, Tim Burton’s Bruce Wayne might not have been able to turn his head with that rubber mask, but it looked so cool, we didn’t care.
The pitch-black body suit with the bright yellow emblem and yellow utility belt made a stark contrast that was extremely eye-catching. There were slight modifications for the Batman Returns version a couple of years later, but it was essentially the same outfit. When we saw Michael Keaton wear this one in the trailer for The Flash, we got all the nostalgic feels. Because it’s that good of a Batman costume, even years later.
3. The Flash (Michael Keaton Suit) 2023
In The Flash, we are reunited with Michael Keaton’s Batman, some 30 years since we last saw him in Batman Returns. And although now retired, he continued as the Dark Knight for many years after the Tim Burton movies. We saw many of Bruce’s former costumes in his Bat-closet, many based on old ’90s action figures. But we’re going to focus on the suit worn by Keaton in the film, which is an updated version of his Burton-era costume. This version is still black rubber, but with more details on the shoulders and more flexibility. It’s not quite as great as the original film suit, but pretty darn close.
4. Batman Forever (First Suit) 1995
For almost 30 years, people have clutched their pearls over the nipples on the Batsuit, first seen in Batman Forever on Val Kilmer. And they use it to knock this costume down. But you know what? This is a pretty cool upgrade to the Keaton suit. The only downside we can see is that the oval is mustard yellow. It doesn’t really pop like on the Keaton suit. Also, the utility belt is black. It should be yellow to break up the absence of color in the torso. Otherwise, we might have ranked this one even higher. Oh, and every other muscle and contour of the human body is replicated in this rubber on this suit. Who cares if there are two tiny dots representing nipples? Go outside.
5. The Batman (2022)
We love the most recent cinematic Batman suit, worn by Robert Pattinson in The Batman. Yes, it has too much padding and extra details in order to be “realistic” looking for a more grounded Caped Crusader, which kind of bugs us on other Bat suits. But the cape and cowl are perfection, and bring to mind great DC Elseworlds comics like Gotham by Gaslight. We also like the gauntlets above the hands, which make it look almost like a steampunk Dark Knight. We’re not crazy about the Bat-emblem on this one, we hate when it’s hard to make out. However, the good outweighs the bad here. Nice job, Matt Reeves.
6. Batman Begins (2005)
The original Batman costume worn by Christian Bale in Batman Begins was essentially a more modern, more practical version of the 1989 Michael Keaton suit. He still had a cowl that didn’t allow him to turn his neck, but it sure looked cool. This one was made of more flexible materials than the rubber body suit from the Tim Burton movies, without being overwhelmed by all the extra padding of the follow-up films. It also has perhaps the best onscreen Batman cape, that actually flows in the wind. We would vote for this one as “most underrated live-action Batman suit.”
7. Batman TV Series (1966)
Yes, by today’s standards, the Adam West costume is a totally ridiculous relic of a bygone age. The tights, the cape, the cowl, all look like a cheap Halloween costume. But in 1966, the Batman TV series suit did its job, which was to bring the comic book look to life. And the comic book costume of the time pretty much looked like that. It was a blue cape and cowl over gray tights with blue trunks, just like a Carmine Infantino Detective Comics drawing of the time. Is it silly looking? Yes. But it’s oh so iconic, so we love it.
8. The Flash (Ben Affleck) 2023
Although it only appears briefly at the start of The Flash, Ben Affleck’s Batman suit is the first big live-action costume since Adam West that is blue and gray. It only took five decades, but it finally happened. Unfortunately, like most modern Batman suits, it’s got way too much tactical gear and harnesses. It becomes kind of a mess. All of those things are distracting, but it’s great to see Batman in his old-school colors in a modern action scene context.
9. The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises (2008, 2012)
We understand all the reasons why Christopher Nolan updated the Batman suit for The Dark Knight, and later The Dark Knight Rises. He wanted even more realistic fighting gear for Bruce Wayne to use, and a cowl that lets him turn his neck for once. But from an aesthetic standpoint, the armor looks way too much like the hockey pads his fanboy imitators used in the film, which Batman openly mocked. It works in the movie, but it loses all its sleekness for the sake of realism. It isn’t that pleasant to look at overall. We do like the white eyes when he turns on his surveillance mode in his cowl. That scores it some points.
10. Batman v Superman Power Suit (2016)
We could easily go our whole lives without seeing Batman fight Superman in any media ever again. However, to give credit where credit is due, the folks behind Batman v Superman recreated the best Batman battle suit, from Frank Miller’s seminal 1986 story The Dark Knight Returns, to a tea. It genuinely makes Batman look like someone who could legit beat the Man of Steel in a fight. And the glowing white eyes? Again, we love when any live-action Batman suit gives us that. We wouldn’t want to see it all the time (or even ever again), but Zack Snyder deserves credit for bringing this iconic suit to life in such a faithful way. Martha would be proud.
11. Batman Forever “Sonar Suit” (1995)
As much as we loved the first Batman Forever costume we saw Val Kilmer wear in the film, the second chrome “sonar suit” felt like it was made for the Kenner action figure only. The extra details don’t look like muscles, just weird shapes that don’t make sense as armor-plating. If they were on a black rubber suit they might blend in, but in shiny silver tones, they pop out and are distracting. Everything about this outfit screams Happy Meal toy. Also, why do the Bat-ears have all those ridges? That’s weirder than any nipples. Still, it’s better than our next entry, also from a Joel Schumacher Batman film.
12. Batman and Robin “Ice Suit” (1997)
The first Batman costume we see George Clooney’s Dark Knight wear in 1997’s Batman and Robin is basically the same one Val Kilmer wore at the start of the previous movie, with only minor alterations. No, the truly terrible Batman costume Clooney made famous was the ice suit that he wore in the film’s big climax when fighting Mister Freeze. There is way too much silver plating all over this costume, for no real reason except, once again, to sell action figure variants. It’s an awful design overall.
13. Justice League Tactical Suit (2017)
This costume, which appears in both versions of Justice League, commits the biggest crime of all: it doesn’t quite look like Batman anymore. Yes, the extra armor plating is much like the Nolan suits, and is equally not aesthetically pleasing. But it’s not that which makes us rank it so low. The goggles and the ears on the cowl make Affleck’s Batman look way more like Nite Owl from Watchmen. Say what you want about the other suits on this list, they all instantly read like our favorite Gotham vigilante. He should never look like another famous superhero. We should never look at Batman and ask “hey, is that Batman?”
14. Batman Serials (1943, 1949)
Ok, this one is the worst of all. The Columbia Pictures Batman movie serials of 1943 and 1949 were done on the cheap, even by ‘40s standards. But still, there was no excusing that cape and cowl. The cowl literally slides down the actor’s face, looking extremely silly, and his ears don’t even look like bat ears. They look like horns on a devil costume. The Batman costume of the comics of the time looked much cooler, and unlike the ‘60s suit, this didn’t evoke the comics’ look sufficiently. We get it, it was a different time. But it’s still an embarrassing effort.
Originally published on March 28, 2023.