75 years in the making, the legendary Batman is one of the most popular — and awesome — DC Comic characters. While he may not technically fall into the traditional sense of the word “superhero,” as he does not have actual superpowers, the Caped Crusader ranks with the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman. Batman has found his way into the hearts of many, spanning generations, and has fans of all ages.
Even though not everyone is a Bat-fanatic and knows every bat-detail about Bruce Wayne and the masked vigilante of justice, DC Comics’ Batman is infamous and so is his car — the original Batmobile.
With his recent appearances in Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman, Batman’s reputation for being badass and having one of the best modes of transportation out there in the DC Universe is, once again, reiterated.
There is much debate around which actor plays the iconic role the best or which Batmobile is the most memorable, but we didn’t create this list to argue “Who is the ultimate Batman” or to rank the ultimate Batmobile, but rather to reflect on the history of Batman on the big screen and more importantly, the legacy of the Batmobile.
It’s time to bask in Bat-glory by heading down memory lane in Gotham City!
Before there was a Batmobile, there was a Bat-vertible?
Well not quite a “Bat-vertible”, but the first two Batman movies were lacking in the Batmobile department. They are included in this list for the sole purpose of showing you just how far the iconic car has come.
1943: Lewis Wilson and his Old Batmobile
The first big screen movie for this famous superhero from DC Comics, Batman, followed the popular 1940s trend of film serials. This 15 chapter serial has a total running time of 260 minutes. The format might be a bit outdated and hard to watch for some, but the serial was technically accomplished for its time and adheres to the comic books very closely.
Lewis G. Wilson, at 23 years old, was the youngest actor to play adult Batman. His career as Batman was short lived, much like his physique; which didn’t seem to fit the character. Regardless, he was still the first actor to hit the big screen as the iconic character and that counts for something.
The car in this movie, is well, a convertible rather than “The Batmobile”. The reason for this is due to a small budget, but the legacy has to start somewhere right?
1949: Robert Lowery and his Maroon Mercury
For the second (and last) of the film serials, Robert Lowery took on the role. Adding not only more finesse to the DC hero, as a veteran actor and a deeper voice; for which Wilson was criticized for in his rendition for being too high. With that kink worked out, Lowery put on the cape and added to DC history.
The Batman and Robin Batmobile was once again a convertible but this time in maroon! Don’t worry the Batmobile advances far more after these movie serials.
This is just where Batman Begins…
And then, the Batmobile Was Born
The 1966 Batmobile: Adam West and the First Batmobile on the Big Screen
Adam West as Dark Knight #3, is widely loved — or hated. His portrayal is sometimes said to be a bit on the “campy” side and, in many instances, over exaggerated. Regardless of this and whether you love or hate his performance, his Batmobile is the first to roll up in a full length film. And, boy oh boy, is it exciting!
With reputable car customizer George Barris behind the creation and building of this Batmobile, there were high expectations. The paint job alone is remarkable. On top of that, innovative features, like Emergency Tire Inflators, the Bat-tering Ram and of course the Batphone and Bat Beam are all there.
The Adam West Batmobile is equipped with a V8 Lincoln engine and has 330 hp. As Top Speed explains, the actual “output was not released”. You might think that this car would of taken quite some time to build, but in fact, it only took 15 days total to complete.
Check out this clip from the movie:
1989-1992: Michael Keaton’s Burton-esque Batmobile
Bearing in mind that Michael Keaton was known for his comedic performances prior to being casted as the fourth Batman, he really made a name for himself through this role. Michael Keaton has been ranked as one of the best actors to play the Dark Knight on a few occasions.
But just how does his 1989 Batmobile rank up against his performance? Let’s find out.
As the film was directed by Tim Burton, one can suspect that the Batmobile would have a unique design, just like Burton’s take on the DC comic. It was up to Anton Furst, production designer, to bring a unique and eccentric style to the Tim Burton Batmobile, while still capturing its essence.
Redesigned and fully armed, the Michael Keaton Batmobile is equipped with spherical bombs, disc launchers, and of course, machine guns. The production team even equipped the Batmobile with chassis-mounted shinbreakers.
That’s not all though, this Batmobile has an awesome feature, the Batmissile, which allows it to reconfigure itself to fit down the narrow alley ways of Gotham City.
Check out the crazy Batmissile feature:
1995: Val Kilmer & His Updated Batmobile
For the most part, with a new Bat-director for this DC comic comes a new Batman. Batman Forever is no exception to this. When Joel Schumacher took on the job as director, we saw the end of the Keaton-era and the new face — or rather the masked face — of Batman and it was none other than Val Kilmer. He had big shoes to fill and did he do it? This is arguable, as he received mixed reviews for his performance as the winged vigilante of justice.
Performance aside, let’s focus our attention on his mode of transportation.
The car’s top speed is 330 mph, with boosters, and is equipped with a Chevrolet engine, just like most of the other cars mentioned in this list.
As Forbes explains, the Val Kilmer Batmobile is the first departure from previous designs of the 80s. One Bat-tastic feature that Kilmer’s car has is an anchor that allows it to drive up sheer vertical walls. Plus it does have some pretty awesome blue lights that shine indirectly through the roof and up the tail end of the vehicle.
1997: George Clooney and his Retro Batmobile
George Clooney is quite the charismatic one of the bunch. The film itself is a bit lighter in tone to say the least. Mr. Freeze, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his ultra-white teeth help keep things light – and white — for that matter.
While Clooney’s bat performance is questionable, his Batmobile is absolutely Bat-bonkers.
The retro looking Bat-Roadster has a top speed of over 300 mph, which is slightly outstanding, considering some of the future Batmobiles don’t even hit that. To top that top speed, this Batmobile has an unreal afterburn of six flame columns that produces a V-shaped exhaust pattern six feet long. This Batmobile is intricately designed inside and out. So much so that if there are Bat logos on all four wheels that leave imprints in the dirt.
Now this roadster has some kick to it. Ka-Pow!
2005-2012: Christian Bales & his Batmobile Tumbler
Perhaps one of the biggest transformations for Batman was thanks to Christopher Nolan and his alternative, dark approach to the Caped Crusader. Christian Bale hit the big screen in 2005 in Batman Begins. In the second film of the series, Bale is paired with the fear-instilling Heath Ledger as the Joker, and in the third and final film Batman faces off against Bain, played by Tom Hardy.
The same can be said about the Dark Knight’s Batmobile. Created and built by production designer, Nathan Crowley, and Christopher Nolan himself, the focus for the Batmobile Tumbler was to make it as real as possible. They used model car kits to create the perfect Batmobile — which ended up being a Humvee-Lamborghini hybrid.
This DC car weighs in at 5000 lbs. and measures approximately 9 feet in length. Batmobile History explains how the vehicle is capable of hitting 0-to-60 in under six seconds and, thanks to its design, can make 30 feet jumps unassisted.
This version of the car was so realistic in design that a street legal Batmobile replica was manufactured with an estimated price tag of $1 million dollars.
2016: Ben Affleck & his New “Battier” Batmobile
While Bale was the Dark Knight for three movies, the heir of Bale is over and there is a new bat in town and his name is Batfleck. The announcement that Ben Affleck would be taking the cape and cowl raised a lot of eyebrows but, after Batman v Superman hit the big screen, the skepticism subsided and Affleck is now being accepted as the next generation of Batman. There are still skeptics out there, but putting that aside the Batmobile in the recent film Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman is amazing all on its own.
Check out this bat-ass Batmobile in action:
Affleck’s combat ready vehicle has twin.50 caliber retractable machine guns attached to a full armored front contraption. The new Batmobile is also fully armored and stealth equipped as per the official description at the Licensing Expo 2015, explains Collider.
The car can reach a top speed of 205 MPH and weighs a whopping 7000 lbs.
Here is an excerpt from the Licensing Show from Collider
“Single-handedly designed and fabricated in near complete seclusion by The Batman, this infamous pursuit and capture vehicle has earned its reputation as the apex predator on the mean streets of Gotham City. Over powered with an unmatched hybrid of prototype military and civilian performance technologies”
As Zack Snyder revealed in an interview with Conan O’Brien, the purpose of this backstory is to allow the Batmobile to be all the more “battier”.
The backstory on Batfleck’s Batmobile alone shows the creativity behind the design of this new Batmobile.
For those who want more DC Comic in their life, have you seen the awesomely, albeit evil, Joker Car in Suicide Squad? Check out our blog post The Joker’s Car in Suicide Squad: A Super-Evil Vehicle for the Iconic DC Super-Villain.
Will Arnett as LEGO Batman & his Awesome LEGO Batmobile
While this list concentrates on the live action motion pictures of Batman, the LEGO Movie still has its place in the history of the Batmobile. In this animated movie, the LEGO Batmobile shows off a cool invisibility feature. It’s not quite a Tim Burton-esque or thrilling Nolan-style Caped Crusader feature film, but this clip is just plain awesome:
So there you have it! The history of the Batmobile is quite phenomenal, don’t you think?