The wait is over for The Dark Knight Rises, the final chapter in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy starring Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne. Unlike most superhero franchises that crank out sequel after sequel until a lackluster entry is produced and the studio decides to reboot the series to inject new life, The Dark Knight Rises has always been a planned finale and has a definite sense of closure that nearly every other superhero movie lacks. This time Batman meets his physical match in Bane (Tom Hardy), a hulking psychopath who was excommunicated from the League of Shadows, breathes through a respirator mask, and wants a new Gotham City to rise from the ashes of the old. Also onboard for TDKR is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, and she is a revelation as the cat burglar we know as Catwoman. If you dismissed Hathaway early on after pictures of her in her catsuit failed to excite, boy are you in for surprise and more as she rises alongside the Dark Knight on-screen.
We all know about the many actors—Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney—who have donned the cowl as Batman over the years, but Catwoman and Bane have also had their share of big-screen time. Catwoman first appeared on-screen in 1966's Batman: The Movie, which was based on the popular TV series starring West and also marks the first time the Dark Knight appeared in a movie—even though West's campy take on the superhero is anything but "dark." In Batman: The Movie, which is available on DVD and Blu-ray, Lee Meriwether plays Catwoman—a supervillain who disguises herself as a Russian journalist named Miss Kitka (short for short for Kitanya Irenia Tatanya Kerenska Alisoff) and teams up with the Riddler, Joker and Penguin to take over the world.
We had to wait until 1992 in Tim Burton's Batman Returns before we saw Catwoman again on the big screen, but Michelle Pfeiffer is purr-fect as the demure Selina Kyle who is pushed out of a tall building, revived post-fall by alley cats, and transformed into a catsuit-wearing, whip-wielding menace after suffering a psychotic break back in her apartment. Pfeiffer slinks around town causing mischief and even claws up would-be muggers that attack more delicate Gotham ladies, but her real catnip comes in the form of Batman himself. After one of their many battles, Catwoman pins Batman on his back, tells him that "a kiss can be even deadlier if you mean it," and then proceeds to lick his face.
We all hoped Pfeiffer would get her own spin-off movie, but too much time passed and, instead, we got Halle Berry in 2004's Catwoman. This Catwoman is not the same one from Batman Returns, which helpfully spares the filmmakers the challenge of explaining how she changed ethnicities. Instead, Berry plays Patience Phillips, a woman who works at a cosmetics company about to ship an anti-aging product with lethal side effects. Sharon Stone hams it up as the wicked wife of the makeup maven, but Berry is laughably bad as Catwoman and won a Razzie for her efforts. This cinematic stinker reeks more than week-old kitty litter, but it marks Catwoman's last appearance on the big screen until The Dark Knight Rises.
Like Catwoman, there are little reasons to recommend watching Joel Schumacher's 1997 Batman & Robin starring George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell, respectively, as the titular Dynamic Duo, but the film is notable for grinding the Batman series started in 1989 by Tim Burton to a halt. If Batman & Robin weren't so terrible—complete with garish neon colors, shameless scenery chewing and nipples on the batsuits—the series might have continued on and we never would have gotten Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy. So, from a historical perspective, appreciate it for giving us a new Batman series. Batman & Robin is also the first time Bane has appeared on-screen, although the hulking giant played by Robert "Jeep" Swenson in this movie has much less personality than Hardy's version. Here, Bane is Poison Ivy's silent bodyguard—a mindless brute transformed by a strength-enhancing drug called Venom. Most people probably forgot that Bane even appeared in the Batman franchise before because this incarnation is so different from the one in The Dark Knight Rises, but we suspect that the Bane in the latter will leave a lasting impression.