In this post I am highlighting all of the directors that have been involved with the making of live-action Batman movies. From Batman: The Movie through to Joker, this post will look at the people that provide direction to the Dark Knight.
Leslie H. Martinson
- Batman: The Movie (1966)
Leslie H. Martinson had the honour of being the first director to helm a live-action, feature-length Batman movie. That film was the 1966 adventure picture, Batman: The Movie – a spin-off of the popular ‘60s Batman show starring Adam West and Burt Ward.
But before he called the shots on this production, Martinson had already established himself as a successful television director, having directed various episodes of The Roy Rogers Show, Cheyenne, Maverick, and many, many more. He also oversaw two episodes of Batman: The Penguin Goes Straight (1966) and Not Yet, He Ain’t (1966).
Post Batman: The Movie, Martinson largely remained with TV productions, directing episodes of The Green Hornet, Ironside, Mission: Impossible, The Brady Bunch, The Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Dallas, Quincy M.E., CHiPs, Fantasy Island, and Airwolf. The list goes on, but believe me when I say Martinson’s filmography is extensive.
In 1967, Martinson directed the Wonder Woman short, Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince? – a test pilot for a proposed Wonder Woman show. The series – from the makers of Batman ’66 – failed to get off the ground, but it was yet another credit to the director’s extensive catalogue.
The director passed away in 2016 at the age of 101. He left behind him a directing career with over 100 credits to his name.
- Batman (1989)
- Batman Returns (1992)
Believe it or not, quirky American film director, Tim Burton got his first break into film when he worked for Disney. He joined Walt Disney’s animation division during the early ‘80s, which led to work on productions including The Fox and the Hound (1981), Tron (1982) and The Black Cauldron (1985).
But Burton’s career with Disney was put on hold when he was fired for allegedly wasting company resources on shorts. This was a minor setback as he soon got his first big screen directing gig with the 1985 comedy, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, which in turn led to Beetlejuice (1988) and then Batman (1989), where he introduced a whole generation to the Dark Knight.
Burton’s connection to the Batman movies continued with 1992’s Batman Returns – where he remained on board as director – and 1995’s Batman Forever, where he took a producer credit. During the 1990s he worked tirelessly on a Superman movie which never saw the light of day, but if it had worked out then Batman would have featured in some capacity.
Outside of the Batman movies, Burton has enjoyed a hugely successful career with films such as Edward Scissorhands (1990), Ed Wood (1994), and Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). He also patched things up with Disney and has worked on a number of productions for the company, including the $1 billion+ smash hit, Alice in Wonderland (2010).
If you would like further information about Tim Burton’s career in film, I recommend read through my post: Tim Burton movies – In order and ranked. The post takes a look at Burton’s portfolio of films, and lists his movies by the decade.
- Batman Forever (1995)
- Batman & Robin (1997)
Joel Schumacher directed two Batman movies – 1995’s Batman Forever and 1997’s Batman & Robin. But outside of the Batman movies, Schumacher has had a successful film career (a common trait with Batman movie directors) having directed cult classics such as St. Elmo’s Fire (1985), The Lost Boys (1987), Flatliners (1990), and Falling Down (1993).
Post Batman & Robin, Schumacher preferred to make smaller scale offerings including Flawless (1999), Tigerland (2000), and Phone Booth (2002). In 2004, he directed The Phantom of the Opera – a big screen take on the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of the same name.
Should you want to know more information about Joel Schumacher, my post ‘Joel Schumacher movies – In order’ will give you a rundown of all his films. I also highlight his most financially successful picture too.
- Catwoman (2004)
French director Pitof (Jean-Christophe Comar) is perhaps the least well-known name on this list. He is also the director with the least film credits, having only directed two feature films – the French thriller, Vidocq (2001) and Catwoman (2004) – and a TV movie, Fire and Ice: The Dragon Chronicles (2008).
But outside of his directing gigs, Pitof has had an extensive career working on high-profile productions including 1997’s Alien: Resurrection (where he served as a second unit director/visual effects supervisor), 1995’s The City of Lost Children (visual effects supervisor), and many more.
- Batman Begins (2005)
- The Dark Knight (2008)
- The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
From 2005 to 2012, Christopher Nolan oversaw the Batman movie franchise, ushering in a new era for the Dark Knight which started with Batman Begins and ran through The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. But before he took on Bat-directing duties, Nolan was already beginning to make a name for himself with the mind-bending Memento (2000) and the Al Pacino/Robin Williams movie, Insomnia (2002).
Working on the Batman films certainly helped raise Nolan’s profile, but he didn’t rest on his laurels – between each Batman movie he worked on a non-Batman film. The Prestige (2006) followed Batman Begins; Inception (2010) followed The Dark Knight; and Interstellar (2014) followed The Dark Knight Rises.
Post-Batman Nolan’s career has continued to soar with films including Dunkirk (2017) and Tenet (2020). He also has a story credit for the Superman movie, Man of Steel (2013).
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
- Justice League (2017)
Before breaking into film directing, Zack Snyder spent his early career as director of music videos. His credits include Morrissey’s Tomorrow, ZZ Top’s World of Swirl and Lizzy Borden’s Love is a Crime.
Snyder’s first move into directing feature films came in 2004 with the critically acclaimed remake of zombie horror classic, Dawn of the Dead. From here he moved over to comic book movies, first with 300 (2006) and then with Watchmen (2009) – a comic book that many had claimed was simply un-filmable.
Snyder’s next movies included Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010) and the not-so-well received, Sucker Punch (2011). But it was 2013’s Man of Steel that placed him on a new path, as the driving force behind Warner Bros. Pictures’ movie universe, the DC Extended Universe.
As the follow-up to Man of Steel Snyder crossed over into Dark Knight territory with the movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This movie marked the first time that Superman and Batman had met on the big screen, making it a landmark picture.
Snyder then moved further into the DCEU with 2017’s Justice League – a team-up picture which included Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman. From here it was back to the world of zombies, with Army of the Dead (2020).
- Suicide Squad (2016)
With Suicide Squad, director David Ayer didn’t just get to direct Batman he also got to oversee a whole host of iconic DC characters, including Harley Quinn, the Joker, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang, and Deadshot. But what did Ayer do before taking on the Squad?
Well, his directing credits have included Harsh Times – a 2005 drama with Christian Bale; Street Kings – a 2008 thriller with Keanu Reeves; and 2012’s End of Watch with Jake Gyllenhaal. Post Suicide Squad, Ayer directed the Will Smith movie Bright (2017) and the Shia LaBeouf film, The Tax Collector (2019).
But Ayer isn’t just a director, he also has a long list of writing credits, which include some of the movies mentioned above (Suicide Squad, End of Watch, The Tax Collector), as well as U-571 (2000), and Training Day (2001). Ayer also wrote the screenplay for The Fast and the Furious (2001), which has become a huge movie franchise, spawning sequels and spin-offs.
- Justice League (2017)
To date, Joss Whedon has had one brush with Batman via Justice League. Whedon was brought onto the movie to complete the picture, after main director, Zack Snyder had to step down for personal reasons.
Whedon was the logical choice for Justice League, having previously overseen two Avengers movies for Marvel Studios. He had also spent a number of years working on a Wonder Woman movie that unfortunately never saw the light of day, so he had a good feel for super heroes.
Of course, outside of Justice League Whedon is perhaps best known for creating the immensely popular series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show – which ran from 1997 until 2003 – was hugely successful and remains one of the most celebrated programmes from the 1990s.
But what else has Whedon been involved with? Truthfully? A heck of a lot.
Whedon has an extensive portfolio, with television credits including the creator/co-creator, writer and or/director of Firefly, Angel and Dollhouse, as well as director of episodes of The Office, Glee, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
On film, Whedon has directed Serenity (2005), Avengers Assemble (2012), and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Meanwhile his writing credits include Alien: Resurrection (1997), Cabin in the Woods (2011) and the screenplay for Toy Story (1995).
- Joker (2019)
Who is Todd Phillips?
Brooklyn born Phillips is the director of the 2019 movie, Joker, but you might also know him as the director of Road Trip (2000), Old School (2003), Starsky & Hutch (2004), The Hangover trilogy (2009 – 2013), as well as Due Date (2010).
In addition to directing, Phillips is a writer (he wrote most of the movies noted above), as well as a producer. In fact, he didn’t just direct Joker, he was also a producer and he wrote the screenplay.
You may also know Todd Phillips from War Dogs – the 2016 movie starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller; as well as 2006’s School for Scoundrels, with Billy Bob Thornton and John Heder.
And now you know.
Thanks for stopping by and reading this post on Batman movie directors. Feel free to take a look around I’ll Get Drive-Thru for further posts on the Batman movies. And be sure to click on the recommended read links below for more posts that I think you will find informative.