There’s no disputing the Batmobile’s place among the most iconic cars in pop culture history. The only debate is which version is the greatest. That’s not an easy question to answer, though. Even if you just focus on Batman’s live-action Batmobiles, there are more than a dozen to consider. Fortunately, that’s what we do best. So we graded all of the cars to determine which Batmobile shines brightest in Gotham.
To make our rankings fair, we judged every live-action version of that legendary car on five standards. They cover everything from how effective it was fighting crime to how much we’d personally like to have it sitting in our own driveway. Our categories are:
Abilities – What features does the Batmobile have to stop bad guys?
Safety – How much does the Batmobile protect Batman?
Intimidation – How much does the Batmobile’s mere appearance scare villains?
Style – How cool is the Batmobile to look at?
Practicality – How easily could you use the Batmobile as your very own automobile?
We scored each from zero to five. To keep this scientific, we resolved any resulting ties by going with the Batmobile we personally prefer. (That’s how science works, right?) We also relied on some great resources to ensure we didn’t miss anything about them during our own rewatches. Our research included the fantastic fan-site The History of the Batmobile, the YouTube channel Key Issues, and also Wired and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Now, to the Nerdist Cave!
13. The BATMAN AND ROBIN SERIAL (1949) Batmobile
12. The BATMAN SERIAL (1943) Batmobile
TOTAL SCORE: 5
We didn’t need a fancy scoring system to know our bottom two spots, which have the exact same scores in every category. Batman’s first live-action movies featured totally normal cars as their Batmobiles. The 1943 serial saw Batman driving a ’39 Cadillac Series 75 Convertible Sedan. The 1949 follow-up saw him in a maroon ’49 Mercury Convertible. The only “ability” either had was a convertible rooftop. Open meant Bruce Wayne was inside. Closed meant Batman has appeared in the Batmobile. What a way to keep your secret identity!
These might not be fantastic crime-fighting cars, but they are fascinating relics of the Caped Crusader’s early days. So check out our interview with Eric Minoff, Senior Specialist in the Motoring Department at Bonhams in New York, about what value they provided Batman then and what value they’d provide right now. (Their present-day worth is why we put the 1943 serial’s car ahead of the Batmobile from 1949’s Batman and Robin. We want to own the more expensive one. Also, that one was black, which is preferable to maroon when fighting crime.)
11. The TITANS Batmobile
TOTAL SCORE: 10
There’s not much to go on about the little-seen Batmobile from Titans. However, we do know it boasts a retro-Goth look and also hearkens back to the ’60s Batman TV series starring Adam West. Titans’ John Gallagher shared his concept art for the car, which provides a much fuller look than anything the series has provided. This Batmobile has a long front end and dual bubble canopies. It also features stylish rear fins that look like modified bat wings.
We have no idea how effective or secure it is while fighting crime. Since the show features an older Batman, we trust that the Dark Knight knows what keeps him safe and why after all these years. But without any information, we can’t even give a score for abilities or safety.
The black car does look intimidating, thanks to its Bat-like features. And it’s definitely a stylish way to zip around Gotham. With more insight, this Batmobile might rank much higher, but ultimately we can only judge it on what we know about it, not what we think. (One thing we do know, though, is that this car and its long front would be hard to take to the grocery store. Zero chance we’d be able to pull into our driveway either.)
10. The GOTHAM Batmobile
TOTAL SCORE: 11
Gotham’s Batmobile is the ultimate definition of a first-generation version. It’s actually even questionable whether it qualifies as a Batmobile. Instead, it’s simply the first car young Bruce Wayne used at the very outset of his vigilante career.
The little we do know about it is that the fast muscle car is actually a 2018 Mustang GT Premium Fastback. It features a V8, 460 horsepower engine. It also boasts premium-painted aluminum wheels, a digital LCD cluster, and an active valve performance exhaust. We don’t know how safe it is in fighting crime, just that it’s 100% bullet-proof. The real-world version has great safety features, at least. But that’s for normal driving. Not superhero driving.
It’s not especially intimidating, either. Who’s intimidated by a rich guy with an expensive car that looks like every other rich guy’s expensive car? The anti-reflective automobile at least looks cool with its matte black paint job that makes it hard to see at night. That’s a nice advantage when chasing villains or evading the law. If we got hired as Batman and had to choose between this and the Titans Batmobile, we’d go with the Titans version. But we created this scoring system for a reason, and within these parameters, this Batmobile ranks higher.
9. The BATMAN AND ROBIN Batmobile
TOTAL SCORE: 12
Does this car have some cool features? Yes. Is it intimidating? Yup. Is it also incredibly stupid? Oh yeah. This is an open-air, single-seat Batmobile. Not only can Batman not drive Robin to a crime scene, but he also can’t transport any victims to the hospital. Also, the Batmobile is basically a deathtrap for Batman. If the car flips over, he might get decapitated. And if someone aims any projectile at him, he’ll probably die too. Thankfully, at almost 30 feet, it’s the longest Batmobile ever built. So Bruce has some extra room to help survive a straight-on crash. (To its credit, the car did survive Mr. Freeze completely icing its underside.) And it can reach speeds of 140 mph and make large jumps.
Batman and Robin’s Batmobile isn’t a total disaster, though. It has lots of flashy extras, like light-up wheels and engine panels. It also features pulsating lights, a counter-rotating turbine intake, a two-way video conferencing screen, a radar unit, bladed front-end fins, and a Redbird cutoff switch. No villain wants to see this heading at them.
But the car’s hard-to-decipher mask nose and giant rear bat wing fins are downright silly. It looks like a parody of the Batmobile rather than something Bruce Wayne would actually use. And it’s essentially un-drivable for anyone who isn’t a fictional superhero. Without our scoring system, we’d rank this much, much lower. But the numbers don’t lie; when looking at all the live-action Batman Batmobiles, this is where it falls in the rankings.
8. The BATWOMAN Batmobile
TOTAL SCORE: 15
Another recent addition to the live-action Batmobile collection came via season two of Batwoman. It’s also another muscle car. The show uses a Corvette C7 with modifications to give it some Bat flavor. That includes wings and what executive producer Caroline Dries describes as “extra gack.”
The Batwoman Batmobile also has some cool abilities. It shoots flames out of all four tailpipes, which is extra scary when it reaches its top speeds of over 214 mph. It also features onboard computers, monitors, radar, and it has rocket launchers. What it can do is far more impressive than how it looks, though. The matte black paint job with red trim is an underwhelming homage to the highly influential ’60s Batmobile. (It also takes a hit on its safety score because someone can take it over remotely.)
It’s not an ugly car by regular standards, but it’s underwhelming by Batmobile standards. It’s not at all intimidating because it doesn’t look like a dangerous crime-fighting weapon. Of course, for all those reasons, we really want to drive this around our hometown.
7. The BATMAN FOREVER Batmobile
TOTAL SCORE: 15
Joel Schumacher’s first Batmobile is the very reason we needed a uniform scoring system. It’s definitely got a lot going for what. That includes plenty of special crime-fighting features, like a jet exhaust, rear-view monitor, and a system diagnostics display. It can also lock all four wheels in a perpendicular position. That makes it possible for Batman to execute quick sideways movements. And it can also launch grappling cables and drive up vertical surfaces.
It also incorporates its predecessor’s fantastic split cockpit canopy. However, this car’s signature attribute is that it looks like it’s alive. That’s thanks to its exposed underside. The Batmobile’s exterior is ribbed, showing its glowing blue engine panels, wheels, and undercarriage.
Unfortunately, Val Kilmer’s version also has giant, laughable wings, including one in the center backend of the car that looks like a mohawk. (Which is also why this is totally impractical as a regular car.) And while this Batmobile seems like one of the safer versions, the Riddler did destroy it when he dropped a bomb inside the cockpit. That’s more Batman’s fault than the Batmobile’s, though.
If we could eliminate that mohawk wing and make the others smaller, we’d like this way more. But it’s goofy appearance undercuts its excellent functionality for the Caped Crusader. The fact this car genuinely ended up scoring as the midpoint of our live-action Batmobile rankings means our system works. It’s not the best Batmobile, nor the worst, but a little bit of both.
6. THE BATMAN Batmobile
TOTAL SCORE: 15
The newest addition to the live-action Batmobile list hasn’t provided us with as much information as we’d like. From what we see of it in the trailers, The Batman‘s Batmobile has a few general features, like a kickass exposed mid-engine, glowing interior parts, and a wide body. Part muscle car/part stunt car, it seems remarkably safe despite having far more openings than almost any other Batmobile. Since we know it can survive crashes and jump through fire, this car is primarily vulnerable when at a standstill versus when it’s being driven. Hopefully, as Robert Pattinson’s Batman gets more experience, he’ll learn the value of armor on his car.
Also, it’s somehow both intimidating and stylish, which is not always the case with Batmobiles. You would not want to see this following you down near Gotham sanitation. But you’d think it was the coolest thing in the world if you saw it parked in front of City Hall. The downside for normal citizens is that its broad build would make it hard to turn it into your everyday car. But you better believe we’d want to go off-roading with this bad boy.
However, there may be more to this Batmobile than we know, and if so, it will almost certainly move up our rankings.
5. The BATMAN v SUPERMAN Batmobile
4. The JUSTICE LEAGUE Batmobile
Style: (BvS) 1 / (JL) 2
TOTAL SCORE: (BvS) 16 / (JL) 17
We’re ranking these Batmobiles together because they’re very similar. This armored version of the car had a whole mess of modern gadgets and weaponry. That included special Batmobile features such as retractable machine gun turrets, harpoons, spiked coils, stealth capabilities, smokescreen, onboard electronics, night vision mode, sonar, toxin scan, surveillance capabilities, and more. It also had a charged exterior in case any non-Kryptonians dared touch it. And thanks to its adjustable suspension, it could drive on both Gotham streets and off-road.
The updated Justice League version of the Batmobile scores slightly higher in style thanks to an improved body and some new features. That included replacing the front-end guns with missile launchers, as well as a large cannon getting put on the right canopy. And it also had a sonic siren to attract parademons.
But for the most part both versions boast the same plusses and minuses .The 7,000-pound behemoth measured 20-feet long and 12-feet wide. And despite being built like a tank (that was seemingly indestructible…right up until it got destroyed), it was closer to a traditional-Batmobile body than Christopher Nolan’s Tumbler. This car is what would happen if a NASCAR racer had a child with an army tank. The result is not an especially cool-looking car, but it’s certainly intimidating and safe.
We can debate the merits of a murder-happy Batman. But there’s no debating that if Bruce Wayne wanted to kill many people and ensure he made it home alive every night this Batmobile was a perfect choice.
NOTE: We’re not including the Frank Miller-inspired Bat-Tank seen at the ends of Zack Snyder’s Justice League on our list. We have no way to analyze it. And there’s no way that qualifies as a Batmobile anyway.
3. The DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY Batmobile
TOTAL SCORE: 19
Even without our scoring system, we’d rank the Dark Knight Trilogy’s Tumbler over the Snydermobile. Snyder’s version suffers from being caught between worlds without ever finding the right harmony of its two influences. The result was a clunky Batmobile. There’s no question what Christian Bale was driving, though. His Batmobile was an armor-plated tank. A brutal-yet-strangely beautiful tank. One that could make unassisted jumps of up to 30 feet. It also had adjustable control surfaces, a jet engine, and machine guns. And despite being nine feet wide, 15-feet long, and weighing 2.5 tons, it could still go zero to in under six seconds and reach 110 mph. Holy. Freaking. Cow.
It also had an attack mode that let its driver get into a lying position to better operate the car and stay safe. It was safe too. Even when the Joker hit it with a bazooka, the car held up enough to keep Bruce Wayne unharmed. As though wasn’t impressive enough, it then transformed into a motorcycle (Bat Pod) so Batman could keep going.
The Tumbler forever changed what a live-action Batmobile could look like, and it did it in style. The only downside is that there’s no way we could park this in front of our house. Not unless we lived under Bane’s rule.
2. The 1960s BATMAN SERIES Batmobile (A.k.a the 1966 Batmobile)
TOTAL SCORE: 21
George Barris converted Ford’s abandoned Futura concept car into the Batmobile driven by Adam West’s Batman. And the fictional auto seemingly had everything. That included an atomic turbine engine, nose-mounted chain slicer, lasers, rockets, telephone, radar, dash monitor, onboard computer, police beacon, rear-mounted 10-foot parachutes for quick 180-degree turns, smoke emitter, nail spreader, rear-facing camera, and battering ram. But that list doesn’t even do the car justice. More than any other Batmobile, the 1960s’ Batmobile (also referred to as the 1966 Batmobile) seemingly always had exactly what the Caped Crusader needed when he needed it most.
Those many contraptions also helped protect the Dynamic Duo from enemies. However, Batman and Robin’s partially exposed bubble tops cut into it the car’s safety score. A well-placed sniper, or a crash that resulted in a turnover, would likely prove fatal.Warner Bros.
While it might not be especially intimidating compared to other iterations, imagine seeing this in 1966? You’d think a time traveler owned it. A cool time traveler. The car’s gloss black paint job and red trim, combined with its long bat-wing fins, bubble canopies, bat mask nose, and opened wheel wells, make it an all-time Bat beauty. It’s also a version we’d like to own, because we could actually drive and park it without much issue. The excise tax might be more than we can handle, though. It once sold for $4.2 million.
NOTE: Every other time the 1966 Batmobile appeared in a live-action movie or show, it wasn’t as good. So we’re ignoring them. It’s what Thomas and Martha Wayne would want.
1. The BATMAN (1989) Batmobile/The BATMAN RETURNS Batmobile
TOTAL SCORE: 22
You know it. We know it. Everyone knows it. And we didn’t need a scoring system to know it. Batman 1989 introduced the best live-action Batmobile ever made. It’s beautiful yet terrifying. Stylish yet safe. Strong yet elegant. And it has everything you’d want in a Batmobile.
Custom-built from two spliced together Impala chassis, Tim Burton’s Batmobile came fully loaded. Its nose had a large jet turbine intake, and the rear had an afterburner. Its two short fins also captured the feel of bat wings without feeling cartoonish. And the 1989 Batmobile has a ton of gadgets, including a high-end navigation system, diagnostics, CD recorder, voice-command recognition system, full armor protection, machine guns, shinbreakers, and side disc launchers. It could also launch bombs, shoot oil, emit smoke, and fire grappling hooks, making quick, sharp turns possible. It even had a special “foot” underneath that could lift the car and spin it.
The car’s gorgeous and intimidating exterior, which introduced a fighter jet cockpit slide hatch, also had “Batmissile” mode. The 1989 Batmobile could jettison all extraneous parts so the main body could drive through narrow openings. Bruce Wayne could then attach new elements to restore the car to its full glory. The only things anyone can against it is that the paint easily scratched (that’s why Vickie Vale holds her high heels as she gets out of it) and that it would be difficult to drive yourself.
But ultimately, no live-action Batmobile ever combined function, style, strength, safety, and presence like the one Michael Keaton drove. And any scoring system that said otherwise would be a total joker.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike.