With the world abuzz after the release of the first trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, I thought I’d take a look back at all the trailers for the live action Batman films up to this point and rank them in the order from (in my opinion) best to worst. Before I begin though, I thought I better explain how I will judge each trailer. First off and I feel most importantly, I will not be judging the trailer based on the film that it’s from. I’m going off the trailer only. Otherwise, I’d just be ranking the films in the order that I like them. I’ll also be looking at the use of music and the way the trailer is cut together. Most importantly, I’ll be looking at how much the trailer makes me want to see the movie. It will be a struggle to judge some of these trailers fairly just because their age in relation to my age and when I first saw them but I will do my best to not let that affect my decisions. Also, particularly with the later films, they have more than one trailer. I’m using only one from each film and it’s the one that I feel was the “main” trailer used for it’s release. I’m not including teaser trailers either. I know some of these rankings will probably rub some people the wrong way and for that I apologise, to a point. This is after all, a platform for me to simply voice my opinion. We all have different opinions and that’s what makes this fun. With that all out of the way, let’s begin.
8. BATMAN (1989)
Don’t shoot! This ranking is the reason I had the paragraph above explaining my ranking system. Putting this trailer at the bottom of the list by no means means that I think this is the worst of all the Batman movies. I’ve gotta be honest though, it’s not a great trailer. It looks like an early cut of a trailer that wasn’t finished. It doesn’t flow, the cuts are all quite jarring and there’s very little music used at all. I understand that this was 26 years ago now but even by the standards of other trailers of its time, it’s very, VERY rough. I was 5 when this movie was released and I remember all the hype very clearly. I did not see this trailer though until years later. I do however understand how well this trailer was received when it was released. I know that people were buying tickets to movies just to see this trailer and leaving once it played. I also know that bootleg copies of it were hot property at conventions back in the day. Ask yourself honestly though – is that because the trailer is good? Or is it because no one had EVER seen Batman portrayed this way before, in a world pre-internet where the only way you could see a trailer was to go to the theatres or record it off television? I rest my case. It’s not all bad though. I love the last 25 seconds of this trailer. From Joker’s “Winged freak” line until the very end is great! I especially love the part where Keaton’s Batman turns as you hear Nicholson’s Joker laugh over the top of the amazing Batman Theme by Danny Elfman. I also really like how the title card at the very end is just the logo of the film. If the whole trailer was as good as the last 25 seconds, it would probably top my list because that part really gets me excited about watching the film. Sadly it isn’t, so it doesn’t.
7. BATMAN (1966)
The first big screen outing for the Caped Crusader comes in 7th on my list. Released decades before I was born, this is the first Batman movie I ever saw. Like Batman 89, I didn’t see this trailer until many years after my first viewing of the film. It is a trailer very much of it’s time as well as very much in the style of the TV series it came from.
The reason why it is ranked above Batman 89 is because I think overall it just flows better and is less jarring. They are the two things I disliked most about the 89 trailer. Something that makes it feel that way is the use of music. There is music under the entire trailer and that really helps it. I do feel like watching this movie after viewing the trailer. It’s fun, bright and had me laughing along with it, all the things I know I’ll do and enjoy watching the entire film. I must mention, I just love the way Adam West controls the microphone when he and Burt Ward are talking to the audience. The way he just flicks it back and forward towards Ward every time he speaks, without making any eye contact or moving any other part of his body makes me laugh every time.
6. BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)
Now we can all agree on one thing – this movie is shit. Taking that out of the equation and just watching this trailer, it’s pretty enjoyable. In fact, this trailer is better and more watchable than the entire film! Take out the “I wanna Car. This is why Superman works alone.” part and it’s pretty much all the best parts of the movie. Hence why it’s only 2.26mins long. Seriously though, forgetting the final film, this trailer makes me want to watch a movie like this. Clooney looks great because the trailer shows a lot of his Bruce Wayne stuff which even in the film is OK. The setup for conflict between he and Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson due to jealousy over Poison Ivy and lack of trust in their partnership comes across as an interesting story thread due to the fact that they never show O’Donnell’s horrible and whiny side of said conflict. Add in the part where they show Alfred is dying and you have a trailer that shows a movie where the threat isn’t just coming from the villains, it’s more of a personal and internal conflict. In theory, that would make for a great Batman movie! Speaking of the villains, They hardly feature in this trailer which is also a strong point. “Batgirl” is still eye roll inducing but she too doesn’t feature much here which is also setting this movie up to be worth a watch.
One thing that stands out to me more than anything and really helps in making you want to see this movie based on the trailer is the music. I guarantee this will come up again when we get to Batman Forever because they do the same thing there as they did here and use Danny Elfman’s score. It sounds so damn good in this trailer I almost wonder if they’d continued to use it in the Schumacher films instead of the Elliot Goldenthal score (which is present in this trailer but it’s used very minimally compared to the Elfman score) if it would have improved them? I know it would take more than a good score to really improve this movie but God it sounds great in this trailer.
This is the most difficult of all the trailers to not think about the final film we saw when ranking it but it’s that end result that makes me stand by putting this trailer above the previous two. The fact that the film is so bad makes it quite an achievement to cut a trailer that makes it, at best, semi watchable.
5. BATMAN FOREVER (1995)
I was really touch and go whether to place this trailer above Batman & Robin or not. With the films it’s a no brainer (Batman & Robin is always at the bottom. Always.) but not so with the trailers. There’s a lot of the things I don’t like about the 89 trailer are repeated here, especially in the first 1-1.5mins. Quick, jarring cuts that don’t flow at all with little, if any, music. I almost wonder if they were intentionally trying to replicate the feel of the 89 trailer? Given how desperate Warner Bros was to re-energise the franchise after Batman Returns, I’m willing to bet that was the case. I think they could cut a minute out and there would be a much better trailer here. People think that trailers today show too much footage! There is almost entire scenes in this one! That really bugged me too.
The reason I did put it above the 89 and Batman & Robin trailers however is because the parts that I do like in this trailer, I really like. The suit up montage at the start followed by the money shot of the (at the time) new Batmobile as the Elfman score kicks in is great. The last portion of the trailer when all the actors names are shown before a shot of them from the film is also something I really enjoy, due to Elfman’s score once again. They use my favourite part of Elfman’s Batman score here. It’s the music from the climactic shot of Batman 89 with the church bells. That is my single favourite piece of music in all the Batman films and although it’s never used Batman Forever, it works so well in the trailer that it really makes me want to watch the film.
4. BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
This is proof that I’m not ranking these trailers based on the film they’re advertising because Batman Begins is my all time favourite Batman movie, yet it comes in 4th on my list. This is the first “modern” style of trailer to make the list. Gone are the long and scoreless scenes and movie trailer voice over guy. In it’s place is what movie trailers have become. Shot after shot from the film, although in quick succession, is much less jarring than previous trailers we’ve examined so far. This trailer does really well in getting the point across that this is unlike any Batman film we’ve ever seen up to this point. Wide and soaring shots show that the scope of this film is a huge departure from the films of the past that were shot exclusively on sound stages and back lots. It also lets the viewer know that this is an epic origin story, another thing we’d never seen prior to 2005 from Batman films, or superhero films in general given that, at the time, the first two Spider-Man films were what audiences viewed as good comic book films. Don’t get me wrong, they are good comic book films, especially Spider-Man 2 but neither Spidey films were quite to the scale of Batman Begins. This trailer also had to convey to audiences the then unheard of but now overused move of “rebooting” a franchise. Now a reboot is common place (Spider-Man again!) but in 2005 it was really uncharted territory. There was so much to get across in one 2:24min trailer and I think it does a terrific job.
Seeing as this heralded in a brand new Batman franchise, gone is the familiar Danny Elfman music from all the film trailers from the first four post 1966 movies. Instead we get our first taste of the amazing and (depending on who you speak to) now iconic score from the Dark Knight Trilogy composed by Hans Zimmer. All of the components of this trailer certainly succeed in making me want to watch Batman Begins.
3. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
If you need any more proof that I’m ranking the trailers only and not the finished film, go no further. The fact that Batman Returns is ranked so highly is all the proof you need. Out of all the live action films, Batman Returns is my least favourite after Batman & Robin. So much shits me about this film that I doubt I could write a blog big enough to explain just how much. But I digress. The trailer for this movie achieves the unthinkable and upon re-watching it, had me reaching for my copy of Batman Returns. Why? Because it makes the film look like an actual Batman movie! Batman features more in this trailer than he does in the film, not to mention it appears that the villains of the movie are two of the best loved baddies from the Batman comics, Penguin and Catwoman. Not once in this trailer do we see the real villain of that movie, Christopher Walken’s fright wig wearing Max Shreck. What happens in this trailer is what should of happened in the movie – completely cut the Shreck character and use the actual characters that the audience came to see. When you have a movie with the likes of Penguin and Catwoman to work with, you don’t need to add in your own character to be evil, you have BOTH Penguin AND Catwoman to do that! But again, I digress. Sorry guys, this movie just really gets to me. But back to the trailer…
Once again, Elfman’s score reigns supreme as it plays over all the exciting footage from the film. I also really love the use of the 90’s trailer voice over guy. It makes this trailer really fun and it does really get me excited about watching a Batman movie (that sadly doesn’t exist – again, sorry). I also dig the hell out of the logo at the end. The way they took the snow covered logo of the film and made it come to life is really well done and is a striking visual.
2. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)
I really can’t say anything else other than I love this trailer. It almost took out the #1 spot after re-watching all eight trailers again before writing this piece. This was just as surprising to me as the Batman Returns trailer ranking so high, because like Batman Returns, quite a lot about the finished film of The Dark Knight Rises really bugs me. I’ll admit, hand on heart, I was IN LOVE with this film when it was released. It was only after the hype died down and I stepped back from it that I realised how much I didn’t actually like about it. First and foremost, Batman is hardly in it – a problem I also have with Batman Returns. Also like Returns, it’s a good movie, it’s just not a great BATMAN movie. There are many more individual elements of the film that I like however, in comparison to Batman Returns where there is significantly less. Again, I’m not judging these trailers based on the film, but I feel that I need to talk about my feelings on the completed films to really justify why despite those feelings, the trailers are ranked so highly where the films would not be.
My biggest love of this trailer is without doubt the music. I love how it starts very sparse, with just a few notes on the piano but as the trailer builds, so does the music and when we get to the 1.50min mark, it just takes over. That Zimmer music gives me goosebumps at that point. The footage used in the trailer is reflective of the movie itself in the way that Batman is hardly in it and focuses more on all the character surrounding him. That’s kind of OK though because we’ve grown to care a lot about the supporting characters in the two previous Christopher Nolan Batman movies. So even though it’s not all Batman, I’m still wanting to watch the film based on what this trailer is showing me. When Batman does show up though, that’s when it gets exciting! You see him hurling punches at Bane. He’s fighting along side Catwoman. Things are exploding. All things that I as a Batman fan love to see! I must give special mention to the line from Catwoman, “You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything.”, followed by Batman’s, “Not everything. Not yet.”. Those two lines of dialogue make me want to watch that movie right now. I remember the first time I saw this trailer and upon hearing those lines, almost welling up with tears while at the same time, jumping up and down with anticipation. I was so desperate to find out what Batman was willing to do to save his beloved city. I know what it implied but that made me want to see the film even more. Taking that into account, his trailer succeeds in it’s mission and firmly earns its place at #2 on my list.
1. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Let me take you back to mid December 2007. I came home from work and turned on my computer. Now this was pre Facebook and pre broadband for me. I was still in the dark ages of dial up. I loaded up my favourite Batman news site to see that The Dark Knight trailer has dropped. I clicked the Youtube link and waited. 20mins or more I waited (f’ing dial up!). In the time I was waiting, I called my best mate. You think having dial up was bad, he didn’t even have the internet at his place! I told him the trailer had arrived and he said he’d be right over. He arrived several minutes later, just as the trailer finished loading. We sat down in my room and I hit play. We sat silently and watched. 2.07mins later, he turned to me, mouth opened. All he could say was, “Play that again.”. I did. After the second viewing, all I could say was, “Holy shit”. We were totally blown away by what we’d seen and from that moment on, July 18th 2008 could not get here fast enough. I’ve never seen a trailer that instantly made me long for a movie more.
Seven years after the films release, people know how great the movie was. Everyone knows how amazing Heath Ledger was. Even people who haven’t seen The Dark Knight, know what a big deal that movie is. Back in mid December 2007, we didn’t know these things yet. This trailer however, gave us our first real hint that this movie was going to be something special. And that’s why this trailer is without doubt #1 on my list. I’ve never seen anticipation for a Batman movie be so instantaneous as it was after this trailer was released. It was playing on TV shows, they were talking about it on the radio, it was all over the internet. People seem to have forgotten all these facts and that’s why I’ve always called bullshit on people who say that The Dark Knight only became the $1 billion dollar box office hit it was because people were going to see it due to the very sad passing of Heath Ledger in the January of 2008. Bull. Shit. Now I’m not stupid, sure some people who may not usually see a Batman movie went to see it because it was one of Heath’s last films. Hell, I even know one of them. But do you think they would have gone several times or spread the word of mouth that he was brilliant in an outstanding film if the film was crap? No! That film was a success due to three main factors.
1. Batman Begins, although not a massive box office hit, exploded in popularity when it hit home video. So many people saw and loved the film that they couldn’t wait to see the sequel and get the pay off to the reveal of the Joker card at the movie’s climax.
2. Regardless of the actor playing Joker, this was a film that featured the most popular villain in all comics going up against arguably the most popular comic hero of all time. There’s a reason that the two most popular Batman movies of all time feature The Joker. People love seeing those two go head to head.
3. This trailer. It was the release of this trailer that really started the hype for the films release. Sure the fans couldn’t wait, but in terms of the mainstream, it was this trailer that made them pay attention. EVERYONE wanted to see this movie after they saw this trailer. So when people equate Ledger’s passing to the films success, they are just flat out wrong. The hype was already there and this trailer is to thank for it.
I could go on for days giving you all the reasons why I think this trailer is perfect and why I love it so much. I won’t do that. Instead I’ll just point out a few of my favourite things.
The build up to the reveal of The Joker is awesome. Prior to this trailer, we hadn’t really seen what he would look like in this movie. There had been one, maybe two promo shots released up to this point but they didn’t really give a lot away. The revealing shot after the “Evening Commissioner” line is amazing.
Speaking of Joker’s lines, I really like the way the trailer cuts to black several times and we’re just left hearing The Joker deliver dialogue before we cut back to action shots from the film.
As in all the trailers from The Dark Knight Trilogy, Hans Zimmer’s score sounds terrific. Not quite as good as in the Rises trailer, but it still works really well.
As I’ve previously stated, no trailer has ever made me want to see a movie more than this one. What other reason do I really need to crown it the best of them all?
If you’ve made it this far dear readers, let me reward you with one final video, the trailer of the moment, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
-Boy Wonder Brendan