In 1989, Michael Keaton took on the role of the Caped Crusader for the live-action adventure film, Batman. The actor appeared alongside Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger and Michael Gough in what turned out to be a huge smash-hit movie.

Three years later, Keaton reprised the role of Batman for the appropriately titled, Batman Returns. This time the actor was joined by Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken, for another big screen adventure.

Both movies were directed by Tim Burton, both featured the music of Danny Elfman, and both offered up a dark interpretation of the Dark Knight. But which of the films is better? 

Is there an accurate way to define which is the better movie between Batman and Batman Returns, or does it just come down to personal preference?


Batman vs Batman Returns

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Entertainment

According to Box Office Mojo, of the two Michael Keaton Batman movies, Batman is the most profitable. The film made $411,348,924 during its original run (from a budget of $35 million), compared to Batman Returns’ total of $266,822,354 (from a budget of $80 million).

If we are to judge the films based solely on box office returns, then Batman is the clear winner. It made more money overall and it had a smaller budget.

But is a strong box office always the mark of a good movie? What about the critical reception?

In terms of the critical ratings for both movies, IMDb gives Batman 7.5/10 and Batman Returns 7/10. So, another win for Batman.

However, Rotten Tomatoes gives Batman 72% and Batman Returns 79%. So, a win for Batman Returns.

The films get similar scores across the two sites, which doesn’t help much, does it? Well actually it does.  

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Entertainment

The critical scores suggests that audiences who rate the movies like Batman and Batman Returns more or less the same. And this is where I must put my hands up and say, I think this is a fair assessment. 

My personal view is that if you like Batman, then you’ll also like Batman Returns. You may prefer one over the other, but they have a similar look and feel, so you are probably drawn to both of them in their own way.

Batman did make considerably more at the box office, but I don’t believe this reflects the quality of either movie. They both have positives and negatives, Batman Returns simply didn’t connect with audiences in 1992 in the way that Batman connected with audiences in 1989.

The best way to differentiate the two movies is that Batman is a little rough around the edges, while Batman Returns is more polished. Batman Returns also feels more like a Tim Burton movie, while Batman has Burton flourishes but is also it’s own thing.

Put simply, if too much Burton is too much for you, then Batman might be the better film. However, if you love to get lost in Burton then Batman Returns is the movie you will prefer.

Personally I like both movies, but I mostly lean towards Batman Returns. That said, some days I just want to watch Batman and Batman Returns doesn’t get a look in; so even I flip between the two.

Ultimately, I don’t believe either Michael Keaton Batman movie is better than the next. Keaton’s Batman movies are great, so don’t try to compare them, just watch them and enjoy!


For more Batman posts, take a look around I’ll Get Drive-Thru or click on one of the recommended reads below.

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