With The Batman still hot in theaters, we have poked through the Dark Knight’s wardrobe and ranked all Batman suits though his live-action series.
The Dark Knight’s had multiple suits throughout his live action endeavors. When you’re a running, flying, and punching figure of vengeance that leaves irreparable trauma of flying mammals in criminals’ hearts, you have to be dressed to kill – or well, thrash within an inch of their lives. And with Matt Reeves’ The Batman awakening a new surge of Batman fans and cosplayers, it’s only appropriate to try and see what outfits you should pick out for the next comic-con.
This ranked list will be limited strictly to live action Batmen. Also, I will try to include variations within movies as much as possible, but that might also mean some suits might not get a whole essay explaining their position, and there will be overlap or double entries depending on the situation.
11. BATMAN FOREVER / BATMAN AND ROBIN SUIT
Apparently, it was director Joe Schumacher’s decision to attach nipples to the suits. I am not sure what erotic fantasy he was fulfilling with this. I do realize that many people like seeing nipples under certain circumstances. However, that still doesn’t change an indisputable fact: nipples look good on skin, not on rubber bodysuits.
10. BATMAN (1966) SUIT
Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Actor: Adam West
There is probably a veritable avalanche of people who are fans of the 60s show and its accompanying films that would like to throw a batarang at my face for this ranking. Yes, I get it, I get that the show was campy and lighthearted and that it was part of its charm. I get that the suit was meant to reflect that tone as well. And I get that the suit is easy to walk around in conventions.
With all that said, however, I still cannot get behind this suit on an aesthetic level. From the cheap looking material, the fact that all the little ruffles are visible, the limp looking ears and spikes on the gloves, to the eyebrows on the cowl that look like they were drawn on with markers, all of it just looks plain unprofessional, like something you’d see in a high school musical rendition of The Dark Knight.
I would like to stress that my issue isn’t simply that the suit looks more lighthearted. A common argument is that this suit was a rendition of the Silver Age Batman, and yes, I suppose that nostalgic rush is admirable. But when adapting material from drawn images to live action, some changes have to be made. The biggest factor I’d say is muscle. In comics, Batman, as well as many other superheroes, had skintight suits, but that actually worked so that you could see their well-built and muscular bodies. On paper, you can draw every curve, every defined shadow, so that the end product doesn’t look so flat.
For instance, take a look at Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which is known to be sillier as Batman media goes. And the design there looks very similar to the Adam West suit. Yet, I am perfectly fine with how Batman looks because he is a drawn image. Thus, there are no unnecessary creases or floppy parts in the suit, and the body shape can be more defined.
This isn’t to say that Adam West didn’t hit the gym for his role, but bodysuits in real life don’t work the same as in a picture. Even if you had the manliest six pack that you could sharpen a batarang on, real life cloth cannot make every crease show through, that’s why college frat jocks never keep their shirt on for more than three seconds. Therefore, what parts of his body we do see end up looking awkwardly lumpy, which adds to the whole thing looking cheap.
9. BATMAN FOREVER SONAR SUIT
There is an overarching issue I hold with the 80s and 90s Batsuits that I will get into in a later entry. But while I commend Joel Schumacher for restraining himself with the nipples on this one, my biggest problem is its sheen. I’m fine with the more silvery black color, but the material just looks like it’s solid plastic, like Val Kilmer somehow got trapped inside a life size happy meal toy. Of course, Batman is always a goldmine for merchandise, but this one feels like the action figure was designed first, then they put it in the movie.
8. BATMAN BEGINS SUIT
Director: Christopher Nolan
Actor: Christian Bale
Read also: The Dark Knight Trilogy’s Legacy on the Comic Book World
Batman Begins is a very good movie. As far as superhero origin stories go, it stands as a nice template for heroic introspection of character. However, the suit itself is another story. I went back and watched it again recently, expecting a fun time, and while I had exactly that…dear god, the suit looks far, far worse than I remembered.
Now, I’ll give credit where credit’s due. It’s very engaging to see Bruce put together each part of the Batsuit meticulously, and make the process feel grounded. He makes the suit out of high-grade military technology. His ears are not just for bat cosplaying, but also house a microphone and earpiece. He adds the cape after realizing he’s not Catwoman and therefore doesn’t always land on his feet. Seeing the practical usage of each part of the suit is a joy on its own.
In addition, not every shot with it looks bad. In fact, in mid to long distance shots where Batman is standing on rooftops, his cape billowing around him in the wind, it looks absolutely stunning. Or how about that shot where he drifts down a stairwell with his wings open amid a swarm of bats, a shot that was very justifiably used for one of the posters? Those moments are not just cool, but they look like comic book panels sprung to life.
However, it’s when we get close up that things get ugly. I’m not sure whether it’s the amount of face that’s showing that makes the flesh look strangely pudgy, or the neck being too thick, or the whole thing looking a bit too rounded and rubbery, but it ends up looking incredibly silly in this gritty and grounded rendition of Batman. Perhaps even the studio was aware of this, because they threw away this suit in the sequel, which was probably for the best, but that still doesn’t make this movie’s suit any better.
7. BATMAN AND ROBIN ICE ARMOR
What is sad is that, by sheer concept, I actually like this armor. Firstly, no nipples once more, so that is an obligatory brownie point. Also, silver and dark blue pair well with each other, and fits the theme of an ice armor. Yes, it is also abundantly clear with this one they had the dollar store toys ready along with a full advertisement before they shot the movie, but the material looks a lot better, and it looks less bland than the sonar suit.
However, my issue lies with the amount of silver on Batman. Simply put, they went far too crazy with the silver highlights, to the point where the suit looks too busy on the eyes. What’s the point of the multiple silver patches on the arms or the thighs? It ends up just looking like something a Power Rangers villain would wear. Batman vs Power Rangers. Has that ever happened?
What’s even more a shame is that the Robin and Batgirl ice armors are designed noticeably better. Well, less with Robin as the silver actually made his nipples more noticeable, but with Batgirl, the silver is used sparingly, and more as highlights for the belt or the bat symbol. Unfortunately, this list is about Batman’s attire, and I doubt Batman is going to steal from Batgirl’s closet anytime soon.
6. BATMAN (1989) / BATMAN RETURNS SUIT
I am putting the two together mainly because my points about them are practically the same. Out of the 80s and 90s era of Batsuits, I can say this is the best of the bunch. Though it highlights too much of a pucker in the lips that makes him look like he’s gearing up for a very vengeful kiss, it has a nice black color, isn’t busy on the eyes but still has proper yellow highlights to keep it from looking bland.
I initially thought that, being a hero that uses darkness and stealth, having a bright yellow circle over his chest would be the equivalent of wearing polka dots. However, a friend pointed out that it’s to highlight the bat symbol, which is fair. I think his overall costume should get that message across well enough, but since Batman is already being pretty heavy-handed with his symbolism, might as well make it even more overkill.
However, that still doesn’t mean I think it looks good, and it once again comes down to the material. The suit just looks like a solid hunk of rubber, and not only does it look uncomfortable, but impractical as well. I doubt you can make use of your ninja training and martial arts skills when you’re essentially shrink-wrapped in rubber, and indeed in the movie, every move Batman makes looks stiff, like someone just stuffed a sleeping vampire bat into his suit and he doesn’t want to wake it.
A large part of this comes down to the head and neck area, which is actually my issue with this whole era of Batsuits. Around the mouth, the material for the cowl looks far too thick, as does his neck. Taking all that into consideration, perhaps Michael Keaton’s lips were puckered for good reason. Maybe he realized if he got an itchy spot on his back while wearing this, he was doomed, and was constantly on guard.
5. THE DARK KNIGHT / THE DARK KNIGHT RISES SUIT
Director: Christopher Nolan
Actor: Christian Bale
Read also: The Dark Knight Trilogy’s Legacy on the Comic Book World
This suit is a significant improvement from its Batman Begins counterpart. The mouth area looks a lot better and the neck is more slimmed down, giving it overall a sleeker look. I actually like the armored plates, as it ties into the practical nature of the suit. That said, I think the segmentation down on his legs are a bit excessive, adding unnecessary lines to the suit. And it still isn’t perfect, just significantly more tolerable.
However, I am still placing it this high for two reasons. One, the other suits I thought looked worse than this, and two, a lot of the awkward shots with this suit came down to factors outside of the suit. For instance, there’s the fact that Christian Bale couldn’t keep his mouth closed during the movies. Apparently because the suit was made of rubber, wearing it felt like being inside an oven, which explains the need for extra ventilation. In addition, the suit suffered from several weird daylight shots in The Dark Knight Rises, so it gets a few more points off.
4. JUSTICE LEAGUE TACTICAL SUIT
It’s the goggles. Everything else actually looks really good, but the goggles make the head look like a cross between a bat and a cat and an owl. Perhaps the designers were a big fan of the 2009 Watchmen, because this Batman with goggles looks practically the same as Nite Owl in that movie.
3. BATMAN V SUPERMAN POWER ARMOR
When you’re going hand to hand against an alien that can flatten a forest just by having a really bad cold, you would need something tougher than rubber or spandex. Enter the power armor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The actual quality of the film aside, I felt most of the costumes in the film were incredibly well realized. Not only is it a nice homage to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, but the mechanical, bulky suit just looks good on its own. Extra points for having the eyes glow, creating a menacing touch.
2. THE BATMAN SUIT
Director: Matt Reeves
Actor: Robert Pattinson
Read also: The Batman (Review): The Dark Knight Is Back and Better Than Ever
The last two suits on this list I struggled with for the longest time on which was better. In the end, Robert Pattinson’s Batsuit ended up at number 2, but that is still no small feat, because this suit is fantastic. Many parts of it look rougher, but that works for a Batman that’s still starting off in his career of making every criminal in the city bedridden for the rest of their lives.
In fact, I feel this is the perfect realization of the idea behind The Dark Knight suit. That one was meant to showcase a more grounded version of the suit, one that could more feasibly be put together in a professional fashion. However, while The Dark Knight suit still looked clumsy in many places, this one is pleasing to the eyes as well, with the armored bits looking far better integrated. The only downside to this is that we don’t see any actual gliding shots in the movie, but I feel the trailer shot with him walking away from a wall of flames makes up for it.
1. BATMAN V. SUPERMAN SUIT
While The Batman’s suit is incredible, and I could honestly swap the two if I felt like it one day, the Batman v Superman suit takes the top place for one reason. While both are equally great on an aesthetic level, the latter suit feels like the a perfectly balanced approach in making a comic book costume work in live action.
Going back to the Adam West costume, another one that tried to closely emulate the look of the comics, the suit didn’t look good because it missed what works and doesn’t work in a live action medium. However, look at this one. While it goes for a similarly skintight look, there are actual defined muscles on the suit itself. Also, the material has a bit of texture to it, which helps it look less flat. And the grey coloration works in highlighting the black bits like the bat symbol.
Ultimately, the suit feels like Batman tore through the pages of some Batman fan’s comic book pages and started busting heads. It’s adding just enough exaggeration to help sell the muscular, comic book nature, but keeps other details relatively grounded. The best kinds of comic book costume designs, I find, are the ones that harken well to the source material, but also knows to tweak whatever is necessary so that it looks like it can still somehow exist in real life. And this batsuit accomplishes that flawlessly.