8 Best Character Arcs In Batman Movies, Ranked

8 Best Character Arcs In Batman Movies, Ranked

With the Batman movies being so plentiful and each one containing a wide variety of characters, there are quite a few stories told in each of them. Some of the stories involve the characters going on their own personal arcs, from Batman himself to the many villains.

RELATED: The 5 Smartest Live-Action Batman Movie Villains (& 5 Who Are Not So Smart)

With the release and massive success of The Batman, now is the perfect time to look back at the long history of Batman films. Which characters had the best personal evolutions? This list won’t just count the live-action Batman movies either, seeing how animated Batman films also feature memorable arcs.

8 Revenge Is Not True Justice – Batman Forever (1995)

Dick Grayson AKA Robin standing over Two-Face in Batman Forever

Ignoring the fact that Batman ends up killing Two-Face anyway, Batman teaches Dick Grayson AKA the first Robin a lesson in Batman Forever. All of the killing Batman committed in the two previous films has made him regret his actions. Bruce sees that same anger within Dick Grayson, who wants to kill Two-Face and avenge his family.

However, Bruce doesn’t want Dick to make the same mistake and tries to teach him that vengeance does nothing but fill a person with more hate. As a result, Robin chooses to spare Two-Face in the end, wanting to see the criminal rot in jail. That is, until Batman kills Two-Face in the same climax.

7 Unbroken – The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Bruce Wayne rising out of the Pit in The Dark Knight Rises

For many people, The Dark Knight Rises was a mixed bag of a final chapter, but it does deliver on some things. Christopher Nolan excelled at showing that when Gotham is in turmoil, nothing will stop Batman from saving his city.

Bane has turned Gotham City into an island prison under his control with the people of Gotham under the threat of a nuclear bomb. So Bruce Wayne trains and rebuilds himself within the Pit to become the Batman that he once was. Combined with the music, Bruce rising out of the Pit as a reborn Batman is enough to make any fan cheer.

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6 The Origin Of The Bat – Batman Begins (2005)

Bruce Wayne training with Ra's Al Ghul on the ice in Batman Begins

Even though everyone on Earth knows the origin of Batman by now, Batman Begins still delivers a definitive version of the origin story. From showing the death of his parents, his reasons for not killing, his years studying abroad to become a deadly vigilante, to even the first donning of the Batman suit.

RELATED: 10 Ways Batman Begins Is The Bat’s Best Origin Story

Christopher Nolan meticulously created the first half to be a bit of a slow burn but in the best way possible, showing the natural evolution of how Bruce Wayne became the Dark Knight. So much so that both Ben Affleck and Robert Pattinson’s versions of Batman skipped the origin story completely.

5 The Unfortunate Son – Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)

Jason Todd unmasked in the rain in Batman Under The Red Hood

From beginning to end, the story of Batman: Under The Red Hood is all about Batman dealing with the consequences of the death in the family. Jason Todd haunts Bruce throughout, even to the point of becoming the titular villain of Red Hood who uses Batman’s teachings to become a crimelord.

It all culminates in a final act where Jason and Bruce have a confrontation filled with many of the best quotes from Under The Red Hood and a lot of emotional moments. The way Batman and Jason’s arc ends is tragic but it is a fitting end for a character as damaged as Jason Todd.

4 Men Are Still Good – Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)

Bruce Wayne at Clark Kent's funeral in Batman V Superman Dawn Of Justice

Originally, this arc was controversial due to Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice starting Batman off as a killer. However, Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman has become a beloved incarnation of the character, and part of that has to do with his characterization which is developed better through the superior director’s cut.

In this story, Batman has fallen from grace due to the loss of Robin, but also due to witnessing the destruction of Metropolis. However, Batman changes when his battle with Superman makes him realize that he had become no better than the man that gunned his parents down. Bruce Wayne goes through a change of heart, which leads him to come back to being the Batman that he used to be and make up for his mistakes.

3 The Angel Of Death – Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1995)

Andrea Beaumont holding up the Joker in Batman Mask Of The Phantasm

Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm is often considered the best DC animated film, and is beloved for the arc of the main villain: The Phantasm. It turns out to be none other than Andrea Beaumont, an old flame of Bruce Wayne’s who is after Gotham City’s mob bosses involved with the murder of her father.

RELATED: The 10 Best DC Animated Movies, According To Ranker

Suddenly the reveal makes all the flashback sequences add up, which leads to a dark but epic finale between Andrea, Batman, and the Joker. However, it’s not just Andrea’s story, but also Bruce’s, as fans not only see the animated Batman become the Caped Crusader for the first time, but also remember why he fights for Gotham: so nobody else can end up like him or Andrea.

2 Lived Long Enough To Become The Villain – The Dark Knight (2008)

Two-Face holding his coin at the bar in The Dark Knight

Even though everybody knew that Harvey Dent would end up transforming into Two-Face, his downfall was still executed so well in The Dark Knight. Harvey is introduced as the beacon of hope who is as effective at cleaning up Gotham as Batman is, but without the brutality. That all comes crashing down because of the Joker, who burns half of his face off and kills the woman that he loves.

It’s hard to blame him for descending into malevolence and becoming another rival for Batman, thus fulfilling what he stated earlier in the film: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Aaron Eckhart also helped the arc feel believable with his top-notch acting.

1 From Vigilante To Hero – The Batman (2022)

Batman comforting a civilian in The Batman 2022

One of the consistent complaints about Batman films is that the majority of them are not about Batman. Typically, the villains are being showcased while Batman is the force there to thwart them in end. Nearly all of Matt Reeves’ The Batman is from the titular hero’s perspective, and he goes on his own personal journey.

He starts as a cold creature of the night who only cares about beating criminals to a pulp, but thanks to the Riddler, he evolves from the vigilante known as Vengeance to the hero that Gotham needs. By the end, he’s willing to sacrifice his own life to save the people of Gotham, and those same people go from fearing him to respecting him.

NEXT: 10 Rules The Batman (2022) Breaks From Other Batman Movies

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About The Author

Melody MacReady
(448 Articles Published)

Melody MacReady is a writer and transwoman (she/her), passionate about all things pop culture-related. From movies to shows to games to comic books, there is not much that she does not enjoy or appreciate. Melody is also an aspiring film writer and director as well as a voice actor as a hobby. This spark for content creation came from her childhood, growing up with media of all kinds which inspired her to write short stories, write comics, and begin writing about them on the internet. Melody’s biggest inspiration came from first seeing Zack Snyder’s Watchmen in 2009; the film combined with her knowledge of how scenes were done via behind-the-scenes featurettes prior to the film’s release made her fall in love with filmmaking. Not only does she write for ScreenRant, The Gamer, Comic Book Resources, and GameRant but she runs her own personal blog, discussing many things pop culture-related.

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