Comics on Film: The 10 Best Batmobiles

Comics on Film: The 10 Best Batmobiles

Oct 30, 2015

It's arguably the most iconic weapon in the Dark Knight's arsenal, and he's used it for most of the last 75 years to assist in his never-ending war on crime, as well as simply to get him from point-A to point-B in Gotham City. Along with Batman's emergence as a prominent figure in popular culture, the allure surrounding his powerful, unique, and unmistakable conveyance was with him as well: the Batmobile.

This year, Warner Brothers and Rocksteady Studios released a highly acclaimed video game experience called Batman: Arkham Knight, which allowed players to get behind the wheel of one of the most powerful versions of the Batmobile ever realized. Since the car is such a central element of the whole Batman experience, the game's developers have also been creating other legendary Batmobiles for players to drive. This week, the latest iteration of the car to join the ranks of the game was the popular and far-out version from the 1966 television series, which joined the likes of the 1989 design as well as The Dark Knight Trilogy's Tumbler.

It was also recently announced that both the car and Batsuit driven and worn, respectively, by Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be joining the cars available in the game next month. So, in observance and celebration of the most badass car ever created, we thought it'd be fun this week to take a look at the top 10 Batmobiles.

 

10) Batman (1943 serial) Designed by...Cadillac

If you've ever taken the time to watch the original 1943 theatrical serial Batman, a few things become pretty apparent right from the start: the original big screen Batman, actor Lewis Wilson, has the exact thickness in his Boston accent that people were joking about when Ben Affleck was first cast, Robin is actually a child, it's surprisingly racist (it was made in the middle of World War II when America was at war with Japan), and the Batmobile is just a car. For the first -ever live-action outing of the Caped Crusader, it would be influential in a few different ways.

The vision of the car, though, wasn't one of them.

But, you had to start somewhere, and there's quite a bit of charm to watching Alfred drive Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson around a corner so that the Dynamic Duo can transform into Batman and Robin in the cramped back seat of a Cadillac. You've got to see it to believe it.

 

9) Batman & Robin (1997) Designed by Harald Belker

People already know how many things Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin ended up getting wrong about the character. Unfortunately, the thing that had the potential to be the coolest part of the movie ended up being a symbol of how the lavish visuals for the bloated film just missed the mark with the character and his world. In regards to the Batmobile, there's one, primary element that largely stands as a very big design flaw that's just hard to get over.

It's a one-seater.

Why would Batman ever drive around in a car with only one seat? That kind of precludes the possibility that he could take anyone into actual custody to drop off at the police station, and it just looks...strange. Not to mention that Batman himself isn't even enclosed in the car. He's sitting in his one seat, in the center of the car, completely exposed. They should've given George Clooney some goggles, or something. Still, though, it is very visually interesting, and makes the list for the sheer fact that it was featured in one of the films. Even if it was, well, that one.

 

8) Batman Forever (1995) Designed by Tim Flattery

The design of the car used in Batman Forever represented the penchant for flamboyancy that Joel Schumacher brought to the Batman film franchise overall, but it was a bit more tempered compared with what would follow. This vision of the car had a glowing blue and visible engine -- the kind of combat impracticality that would make Christopher Nolan cringe -- but it was a clear successor to the previous car before it, and had a pretty awesome, blooming afterburner to accelerate it.

Also, it could drive up walls.

Some people cringe at that scene in the film, but I remember being kind of dazzled by it when I first saw this movie in the theater (hey, I was 7) and in the intervening 20 years since the movie was released, I've seen Batman's car do crazier things. So, while it's not the best, it is better than what would follow.

 

7) Batman and Robin (2009 comics) Designed by Frank Quitely

The only entry on this list to have originated and appeared only in the comics, the design of the car by artist Frank Quitely for his and writer Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin series helped to emphasize the tone that the book would go for. After the apparent death of Bruce Wayne, former Robin and Nightwing Dick Grayson steps up to fill the Mantle of the Bat, while Bruce's biological son Damian Wayne -- grandson of League of Assassins leader Ra's al Ghul -- fills the spot of the new Boy Wonder.

The car is the perfect embodiment of the series: it's David Lynch meets Adam West.

It had this glitzy, pop art style that jumped off the pages, right before Morrison would swerve into revealing one of the most disturbing Batman villains created over the past 30 years. The car helped lend to the swashbuckling spirit of fun that the series helped to create by reversing the normal Batman/Robin dynamic: instead of a grim, scowling Batman and a lighthearted Robin, you instead had a lighthearted Batman and a bad ass, trained-to-be-a-killer Boy Wonder. When they jump in the car, try not to laugh when Damian says it would make more sense for him to drive.

 

6) Batman Beyond (1999) Designed by Shayne Poindexter and Robert Fletcher

In many ways, Batman Beyond should not have worked as a show. The young buck coming in to take Bruce Wayne's place in a Gotham City of the future may have sounded tacky on paper to many Batman fans, but the vast majority of them were downright shocked by just how good the show was, and how it made Bruce Wayne even more of a legend when looking at him after he's gotten some distance from his career as Batman.

What makes the car so cool -- besides the fact that it can fly -- is that it has the tone of a stealth jet built for the streets of Gotham as well as its skies. It is a jet, too, since an episode established that it has a top speed of mach 3 (we found that out as Terry, the new Batman, was trying to escape a mind-controlled Superman. "Is that faster than a speeding bullet?").

The car got to go on some pretty interesting adventures along the way, and it stands as a symbol of how a series that could end up going either way managed to carve a solid niche for itself as a solid evolution of the Batman legend. Besides, who wouldn't want to hop into this thing and fly around with an awesome dog in the passenger's seat?

 

5) Batman: Arkham Knight (2015) Designed by Rocksteady Studios

The car that gamers got to drive in this year's video game automatically emphasizes one, simple word: power. In many ways, the Batmobile was the star of Arkham Knight, since it was the major and fundamental addition that changed the dynamic of an already stellar game series up to this point. While some fans criticized it for making you spend too much time in the car -- fighting tanks, racing through Riddler-made tracks, or beating the clock -- it's hard to deny just how forceful the car acts as a weapon in your already full arsenal.

Also, while it looked like it may have been a one-seater, there's an entire armored compartment in the back that holds at least two passengers. Or, as we would see, one Man-Bat.

In any case, Arkham Knight earned very solid review scores when it was released, and the multi-faceted design of the car deserves a lot of credit for it. Not only do you drive fast and forcefully through the streets of Gotham, but you can also morph it into a tank of your own to take on the various militia strongholds that the titular Arkham Knight has peppered throughout the city. Oh, and it can drive up walls. I'm sold.

 

4) Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) Designed by Shayne Poindexter

For many kids who grew up in the 1990's, the image of the Batmobile racing to the scene of a bank robbery is likely how many of them would begin their afternoons after school. Batman: The Animated Series already serves as a legendary element of Batman's history, and also serves as one of the most definitive portrayals of the Dark Knight ever committed to a medium other than comics. In an episodic format, every major character got their due over the course of it's 85 original episodes.

One of those characters was the Batmobile.

One such episode, "The Mechanic," tells the story of how Batman had the car made in the first place. It's a charming and fun look at one way that the such a powerful machine could be manufactured to impeccable specifications without managing to draw interest or suspicion from others, and also reinforces the kind of good that Batman aims to do himself, and that he recognizes in other people. With the series produced at the height of Batman's popularity in the 1990's, it would've been easy just to clone the movie design and use it in the series. Much like the rest of the show, though, the creators put their own stamp on this very important element of Batman's arsenal and character.

 

3) Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (2005-2008) Designed by Nathan Crowley and Christopher Nolan

When fans got their first glimpse at the car that would become the iteration of the Batmobile for 2005's Batman Begins, a lot of them didn't know what to make of it. It looked like a Ferrari had a baby with an Abrams Tank, and was certainly the most unusual live-action iteration of the iconic car ever created in real, tangible form. As a departure from the sleek and sharp visions of the car we'd seen in other productions before, why did the car look like...that?

Much like it did in explaining the practical application of the character's iconic costume, though, Christopher Nolan made the logic of the Tumbler work effectively within his vision of Gotham City.

The Tumbler has proven to be one of the most influential visions of the Batmobile ever devised, and its design philosophy has bled over into the comics, obviously into Arkham Knight, and most certainly into the upcoming design for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It helped recharacterize Batman's mission on the ground as a kind of urban warfare, as clearly seen in the heart pounding chase sequence in Batman Begins, as well as the opening strike of the Batman in a Gotham parking garage near the beginning of The Dark Knight. Now, that's one hell of a car.

 

2) Batman: The Television Series (1966) Designed by George Barris

I'm not sure how it would be possible for someone not to smile when looking at the sleek, vibrant design of the Batmobile as it appeared in the now-iconic 1966 TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin. The first real live-action Batmobile, the car has stood the test of time for nearly 50 years as one of the strongest, most potent versions of Batman's car ever created in any medium.

Amazingly, even five decades after it roamed the streets of the bright and sunny Gotham City, it still persists as one of the most well-loved Batmobiles of all-time.

Much like the show itself, the car certainly stands as a visual marvel and product of its time. The cockpit is filled with all sorts of switches and gadgets, making sure that the Dynamic Duo always managed to get the upper hand on anyone that they'd pursue to see justice done. The act of driving the car is also directly tied to the infectious tune and tempo of the show's theme song, which just goes to show that the car was almost just as important as anything else in the pop art spectacular shown on ABC in the late 1960's.

 

1) Batman and Batman Returns (1989-1992) Designed by Anton Furst

It's hard even now not to get goosebumps while watching a specific scene in 1989's Batman, directed by Tim Burton. The Dark Knight manages to save Vicki Vale from the hands of the Joker at the Flugelheim Museum. After they punch through the door, Batman hurriedly tells Vicki, "Get in the car." She asks, "Which one?"

Then, her eyes get huge as she sees it. The incomparable score of Danny Elfman swells, and we get our very first look at the most awesome Batmobile ever created.

Designed by Oscar winning production designer Anton Furst, the 1989 Batmobile is still a wide favorite of many a Bat-fan, and for very good reason. With a turbine engine at its center, a hard-edged, smooth and aerodynamic body, and a powerful afterburner, the Batmobile as featured in both of Tim Burton's films was one of the absolute best parts of both Batman and Batman Returns. Couple that with the first legitimately dark and modern rendition of the iconic main character and you have a vision of his car that will stand the test of time for decades to come.

 

So, that's our picks for the top 10 Batmobiles. What are yours? Do you like the car choices, but would change the order? Did you think of a Batmobile that should've been on this list? Be sure to leave your favorites in the comments below, and come back here next week for an all-new edition of Comics on Film!

 


Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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