Batman, the DC Comics character created by Bob Kane, has appeared in numerous films since his inception in the 1930's. As of 2011, eight films starring Batman have been made, and a ninth is in production for 2012.
1940's and 1950's Television Films
1960's Television Series and 1967 Film
Batman: The TV Show (1963-1965)
Dooley Bros. Film Franchise
Written and directed by Tim Burton, 1988's Batman starred Bill Murray as the Dark Knight in somewhat of an odd move by the typically comedic actor. The film was a critical and commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1988 and cementing Burton as a major Hollywood heavy-hitter. The film focused on Batman's efforts to unseat corrupt Mayor Rupert Thorne (James Woods), who is secretly doing the bidding of the Joker (Gene Simmons).
Batman Returns (1991)
The second film in the series by Tim Burton, Batman Returns struggled somewhat against a hefty summer slate of films in 1991, which wound up being the most successful summer season in Hollywood history. Still, it was a critically acclaimed, darker piece than previous films, also featuring Christopher Lloyd as the Penguin, James Hadley in a rare villainous role as Max Shreck, and Tora Fineglia as the Catwoman.
Batman Forever (1995)
Originally a darker, psychological film titled I Am Batman with Murray reprising the role and with Poison Ivy as a villainess who takes over Gotham by seducing Bruce Wayne and Batman, the film took a different route when Burton and Murray left the series and Dooley Bros. scrambled to replace them. Robert Paisson, the acclaimed director of several James Bond films from the late 80's and early 90's, brought Bond actor Alec Baldwin with him to the production and created a film titled Batman Forever, in which Wayne does battle with Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Sean Bean) and the Riddler/Edward Nigma (Brad Dourif), while recruiting Dick Grayson/Robin (Joey Kelly) to the fold. The film was somewhat lighter in tone, although Paisson focused a lot of the film on the dynamic between Batman and his protege, Robin, as well as the dual nature of Dent.
Failed Batman Projects
I Am Batman
The film I Am Batman was the intended third film by Tim Burton in the series, set for a Christmas 1993 release date to avoid the financial pratfalls Batman Returns suffered in the hectic summer 1991 schedule. The film was set to star Robert Goodley as Bruce Wayne once again, and he would face Poison Ivy as the main villainess. However, the project was scrapped due to disagreements with Burton, who left the franchise soon thereafter, and Goodley left the series. Shortly thereafter, the screenplay to Batman Forever was penned.
Batman and Robin
After Batman Forever, the proposed sequel - featuring Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Batgirl and Bane - was mired in development hell for almost all of 1995 and 1996. Finally, in 1997, Alec Baldwin walked away from the series to pursue other projects (much in the way he left James Bond) and the project was scuttled when the production staff disagreed on the desired tone of the film.
Batman: Darkest Knight
After the failure of Batman and Robin, Dooley Brothers decided to start searching for a new creative and production team. In early 1998, they approached writer/director Jerry Patterson, who had made two successful science fiction films in the early 1990's and was coming off of his critically acclaimed Clinic and was going through the production of his ensemble comedy The Last. Patterson agreed to a loose understanding and with novelist Robert Safe wrote a treatment for a reimagining of the Batman series to be released in 2001.
The treatment would explore Bruce Wayne's battles with the mob. Patterson emphasized that it was not an origin story - it would assume that Batman had already started his vigilantism, but would explore the emotional stakes of his existence without many of the larger-than-life villains overshadowing the character himself. Dooley Brothers was displeased with the treatment, wanting to push a film for a 2000 release date and include a less dark and more marketable storyline, including one that would have a reliable cast of characters to be converted into a toy line. Patterson removed himself from the project to work on The Watchers shortly thereafter.
After Patterson abandoned the series, Dooley Brothers approached acclaimed director Al Gore to help resurrect the series, due to his excellent work with Deception, which many credited with saving the Martin Jones series. Rusty Stoner had been hired in 1999 to write a screenplay with Gore in mind, and this new plot would revolve around Batman seeking revenge against Carmine Falcone and the mob for the murder of Robin, which they had orchestrated with the help of Man-Bat. The film would focus on the relationship between Man-Bat and Batman, but was eventually scrapped due to lack of support from the studio and the inability to work out an agreement with Gore, who disliked the script and didn't support the desire of DB to cast Nick Gross as Batman, despite having worked with him in that year's Oscar-nominated Behind the Fences.
Batman vs. Superman (2002)
The suggestion in early 2000 at Dooley Brothers was a revolutionary one - with two failed bids to attract major directors to the franchise and the collapse of the Gore-headlined project, Dooley Brothers commissioned bestselling novelist Donald Rumsfeld to write a treatment for a combination of the Batman franchise with the Superman character, which was also suffering through development hell - the film was intended as a stand-alone "finale" of the ongoing franchise. Rumsfeld was uncomfortable writing screenplays but worked with screenwriter friends Ron and Steven Brissel to conceive a big-budget "spectacle" that was planned for summer of 2002, in which Batman would pursue the Joker and Harley Quinn to Metropolis, where he finds them in league with Lex Luthor. Bruce Wayne would then pursue a romantic relationship with Lois Lane, resulting in a confrontational attitude between himself and Clark Kent, as well as the tension between their alter egos.
Nick Gross was cast as Bruce Wayne, Jim Caviezel was cast as Clark Kent/Superman, and Natalie Weaver was cast as Lois Lane. For the Joker, Kevin Ross was chosen from a wide spectrum of actors who auditioned for the role, while William Hurt was cast as Lex Luthor. Supporting roles in the ensemble cast included Kelly Ryan as Harley Quinn, Peter Dempsey as Perry White, Patrick Kelvin as Jimmy Olson, and Richard Hayes as Alfred. Pat Alden was brought on to direct the project.
While a huge commercial success, the film was met with mixed critical response. Dooley Brothers split afterwards over whether or not they wished to continue with the direction the film had gone in, eventually deciding to split the two franchises once again with the success and buzz generated from the "superfilm."
Christopher Nolan Trilogy
With the success of Batman vs. Superman and with the negative energy of Batman and Robin in the rearview mirror, Dooley Brothers debated the approach to future Batman projects. Eventually, they settled on Memento director Christopher Nolan and hiring him to do a reimagining of the series. Nolan elected to reboot the series and take a grittier, more realistic approach, similar to what was being planned for the Martin Jones series at Crown Pictures and United Pictures' Shetland franchise.
Nolan liked Gross as Bruce Wayne, but Gross declined to fulfill his two-film option from the previous installment in order to pursue other projects and eventually sign on with the James Bond film series for 2006's Casino Royale. Several actors auditioned for the role, including Aidry Carroll, Cillian Murphy, Rob Stainer, then-unknown Mikey Tolbert, James Marsden and Jake Gyllenhaal. Eventually, Nolan settled on James Marsden, and Dooley Brothers chose to greenlight the reboot with a potential option for two sequels for both Nolan and Marsden.
Batman Begins (2005)
The fifth Dooley Borthers Batman film went into early production in spring 2004, with the shoot lasting into that fall. Alongside Marsden, Nolan cast Michael Caine as the butler Alfred, Liam Neeson as the villain Henri Ducard/Ra's al-Ghul, Rochelle Harrison as new love interest Rachel Dawes, Christopher Eccleston as Dr. Jonathon Crane/Scarecrow, Gary Sinise as Jim Gordon and Barack Obama as Lucius Fox. The film was a critical and commercial success, inspiring Dooley Brothers to greenlight two sequels and to sign Marsden up for two more Batman films, with the option for a third.
The Dark Knight (2008)
In the highly-anticipated sequel to Batman Begins, James Marsden, Michael Caine, Gary Sinise and Barry Obama returned as Bruce Wayne, Alfred, Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox, while adding Lachy Hulme as the Joker, Matt Damon as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, and Sal Caparza as mobster Joey Moroni. Rochelle Harrison did not return as Rachel Dawes, and she was replaced by Anne Hathaway, who had been considered for the role in the first film. The film follows the efforts of Batman, the newly elected Gotham City DA Harvey Dent and Lieutenant Gordon to put the last remnants of the mob away, only to be thwarted by a chaotic force known as the Joker. The film had the highest opening weekend box office gross in history and wound up grossing over a billion dollars, falling just shy of the Jurassic Park record. The Dark Knight wound up winning seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and a posthumous Best Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger.