Batmobiles have been the stuff of legends for as long as the “Batman” character has graced our pages and screens. Batmobiles have appeared alongside the masked vigilante for nearly as long as “Batman” has been fighting crime in Gotham. He made his debut in the pages of “Detective Comics No. 27,” published in May 1939 (via History Today).
Shortly after, in issue No. 48 (Feb. 1941), “Batman” is seen driving a nondescript red car (modeled after the 1936 Cord) with a bat emblem on the hood, according to Batman Fandom. In the spring issue of “Batman” (“Batman No. 5”) that same year, the car had morphed into what is now the iconic Batmobile.
Since finding artistic direction in the comics, the Batmobile has been reimagined dozens of times. CBR notes that some highlights of the creation in print were the Neil Adams version of the 1970s, the 1990s take from Dustin Nguyen (that took inspiration from the iconic ’89 movie starring Michael Keaton), and Frank Miller’s 1986 “Dark Knight Returns” tank-like iteration. There are also a whole host of 1950s varieties that scream of classic “Batman” and Batmobile aesthetic.
But many fans will know “Batman” and his legendary ride from the movies that have taken to the silver screen in recent years. In truth, filmmakers who have adapted the caped crusader have been pushing the limits on what “Batman” and his ride can do for as long as these films have been coming out.
5. Batman (1966)
The 1966 “Batman” is for many the original “Batman” of the silver screen and TV alike. The movie adaptation marked the first time the character was placed in theaters, and it followed shortly after the first season of the TV series beginning that same year (via Den of Geek).
The Batmobile featured in this vintage showing is lacking in many of the highly technical weapons and tools that later “Batman” characters would utilize in their crime fighting antics. However, there’s something wonderful about the Adam West “Batman” that translates powerfully onto the vehicle that he drove. The characters were larger than life in their attempt to faithfully recreate the source material that was still largely in its youth.
The resulting 120 episodes and feature film present a comic “Batman” in all his vibrant color and style in a live-action format. Adam West’s costume, the dialogue, and the action might look silly to a modern viewer, but the performances created in this late ’60s effort would set the tone for generations of “Batman” remasters.
In a Tweet from Jay Leno’s Garage, the comedian and car enthusiast honors West, saying “Remembering Adam West, who taught it what it means to be a superhero.” The actor’s work as “Batman” set the tone for every “Batman” to come, and superheroes more broadly. The car itself was a stunning red and black, modified Lincoln Futura, and incorporated a variety of pun-inspired gadgets like the Bat-Turn Lever and the Batzooka (via Let’s Eat Cake).
4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Ahead of the newest installment of “Batman,” Ben Affleck took on the role as a part of the DCEU. Affleck added a similar physicality to the role that others have provided, and his Batmobile adds to the visual dominance of the performance.
The vehicle includes more than a dozen weapons systems including smoke grenades, a ballistic missile defense installation, and a gnarly-looking gatling gun mounted to the hood, according to Insider. The film’s production designer, Patrick Tatopoulos, told the outlet: “We didn’t want it to be refined … the car is a tank. Nothing is pretty.” He suggests that this take on the Batmobile acts as a separating line between the personas of Bruce Wayne and “Batman.”
The vehicle resembles the Tumbler that rests prominently across the three “Dark Knight” films before it, but the DCEU Batmobile takes the edges and militarism to a new height. The car is dark and brooding in a way that others haven’t achieved. The vehicle doesn’t sport the classic wings that other Batmobiles have added to draw out the comparison to an actual bat, but the vehicle achieves the similarity through its front fins and scooped shape that rises from front to back.
3. The Batman (2022)
The latest iteration of Gotham City’s crime fighter brings a visceral and gritty energy to the screen. Plot-wise, “The Batman” offers a glimpse of Bruce Wayne’s continued journey into life as “Batman” — in his second year back in Gotham City. The newest addition to the chronicle plays out like an old school detective film, and Robert Pattinson’s “Batman” is notably missing many of the Wayne Enterprises hallmarks that helped “The Dark Knight”-era Wayne transform into his crime-fighting alter ego (via GQ).
So, too, is the Batmobile that the vigilante drives. GQ notes that the vehicle was built as a physical manifestation of the character’s own ascent. “The purpose of the car, for me, was to be like a creature in a horror film. It’s meant to intimidate,” said the film’s production designer James Chinlund. He also relayed to GQ that “everything the car does, it’s really doing. No other Batmobile has performed like that.”
“The Batman” had a sizable mountain to climb, coming off the heels of Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece trio, and the less-than-spectacular showing of Ben Affleck’s “Batman” within the DC Extended Universe. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Affleck’s experience filming “Justice League” as the character was one of his worst experiences in film, eventually leading him to walk away from directing the 2022 reprisal altogether.
But the film received significant praise (via Rotten Tomatoes), and much of this is down to the gritty makeup of the character and his steed. The vehicle is a true agglomeration of parts from classic muscle cars and captures the raw essence of who “Batman” truly is.
2. The Dark Knight trilogy (2005, ’08, ’12)
The modern viewer’s go-to “Batman” films, Christopher Nolan’s effort at bringing “Batman” to life is iconic for many — as is the era’s Batmobile (a modified Tumbler from Wayne Enterprises). CBR notes that the combination of Hans Zimmer’s scores and the intelligent use of villains brought these films to a unique height. Christian Bale brought a physical brutality to the character that made the action sequences across all three films come alive.
This gives viewers a seismic departure from the campy “Batman” portrayals of a bygone superhero era. In the same way that the 2022 film delivers a hard-boiled “Batman” and Batmobile, “The Dark Knight” trilogy offers a monied take on the aesthetic.
Christian Bale drives a Batmobile that’s all angles and aggression. In “Batman Begins,” Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox tells Wayne that the vehicle was designed as a bridging tool for the military. Bale’s “Batman” uses the Tumbler as a tank to weather the most visually fascinating pyrotechnics that Gotham’s bad guys can hurl his way.
Batman Fandom reports that the vehicle is powered by a 5.7L engine and augmented by a jet propulsion system mounted on the back of the chassis. This Batmobile measured 15 feet from front to back. However, as a piece of expert knowledge, it’s worth noting that Bruce Wayne never explicitly calls this vehicle the “Batmobile.”
1. Batman (1989)
The Tim Burton “Batman” films are widely considered to include the most iconic Batmobile across the franchise. Michael Keaton even brings back his line, “I’m Batman” from time to time (via the Associated Press).
Batman Fandom reports that the sleek, steampunk and art deco inspired ride is a whopping 21.7 feet long (roughly the same length as a typical day sailer boat). The vehicle offered a 0-60 acceleration in 3.7 seconds, powered by a jet engine and incredibly high octane fuel. Armaments for the bat-winged auto included two Browning M1919 .30 caliber machine guns, side-mounted grappling hooks, bomb launchers, shin-breakers, and an oil slick dispenser.
This Batmobile added Cocoon mode and Bat-missile mode that could be deployed to increase the armor or shed it to fit through narrow gaps in an emergency. This version could also produce holographic decoy copies of the Batmobile for an effective getaway.
The Burton-Keaton “Batman” story is one that Esquire calls “the best mainstream comic-book movie ever made.” It’s precisely because Keaton’s “Batman” is flawed and seething with anger over the injustice brought upon his parents. Esquire posits that this “Batman” embodies the common person, albeit with incredible wealth, tools, and strength at his disposal.
The Batmobile’s dark aesthetic shines as a symbol of this character and remains the best Batmobile ever brought to screen.