A brief history of the Batman costume in Hollywood

Which Caped Crusader was the best dressed?

Batman has been throwing punches onscreen for over 70 years. Hard to believe. Since his first film appearance during World War II, the Dark Knight has gone through many different looks. The Batsuit reflects both the fashion and the zeitgeist of its era. 

Here is a quick rundown of the live-action Batman costumes. Which was your favorite? Naturally, we're a little biased towards Adam West.

1. 1943: 'Batman' serial


The actor inside: Lewis Wilson

One word description: Loose

Batman's screen debut, a series of 15 cinematic shorts, was notable for what it lacked: familiar villains, a Batmobile, a budget. Wilson, 23 at the time, perhaps had the most comfortable time in the costume, which was made of ill-fitting fabric. The large, heavyweight-champion-like belt seems odd, but the chest insignia is quite cool with its skeletal details on the bat symbol. The bat has never looked more anatomically correct.

2. 1949: 'Batman and Robin' Serial


The actor inside: Robert Lowery

One word description: Looser

Six years later, another low budget serial hit theaters — perhaps even lower budget. The Batmobile was still M.I.A., and Batman was now driving a Mercury instead of a convertible Cadillac. The costume, with a larger bat on the chest, looked even more ill-fitting on Lowery. Hard to buy into his fighting skills when the cowl's eyeholes are flopping over his cheeks.

3. 1966: 'Batman' (TV Series)


The actor inside: Adam West

One word description: Colorful

In 1964, faced with declining sales of its Detective Comics and Batman titles, DC Comics gave its vigilante a "New Look," jacking up the blue, abandoning black, and popping a splash of yellow on the chest. These bold, bright togs were reflected in the tone of the stories, and the camp-classic TV show followed suit. The fit was perfect, especially in the sculpted cowl. We always liked how the cape and cowl are clearly separate pieces, too. That makes much more practical sense. This would be the last time Batman sported the "Underoos" look with his briefs.

4. 1989: 'Batman'


The actor inside: Michael Keaton

One word description: Abs

Tim Burton's vision of Batman sat smack in the middle between the colorful camp of the 1960s and the aggressive, militaristic vibe of today's hero. That pop of yellow goes a long way in signifying that though this was a darker take, Batman was proud to call itself a comic book movie.

5. 1995: 'Batman Forever'


The actor inside: Val Kilmer

One word description: Rubber

Joel Schumacher went for detail and fetish with his molded muscle suits, busy with superfluous aerodynamic-ishness. His tummy has the look of a flayed man. Hard to be intimidated by a man who can't turn his head or use the bathroom. Still, this was better than the over-design that was to come, and Kilmer's jawline was perfection.

6. 1997: 'Batman & Robin'


The actor inside: George Clooney

One word description: Nipples

Clooney's woobly rubber suit looked like a collaboration between the adult and child toy industries. He had an even busier, two-tone alternate with metallic highlights. In both cases: What exactly happened to the bat on his chest?

7. 2005: 'Batman Begins'


The actor inside: Christian Bale

One word description: Dark

With the overstressed "realism" of its sprawling sequels, Batman Begins goes overlooked in terms of its fantasy vibe. Director Christopher Nolan would later seem to loathe the notion of comics, instead treating the character like Hamlet in a black ops squadron. But initially Bale looked like something from DC's pages. We wish his chest logo had some color, though. After all, the purpose of wearing all black goes out the window once you don a shiny gold belt.

8. 2008: 'The Dark Knight'


The actor inside: Christian Bale

One word description: Tactical

This Batman looked like he performed extreme sports. While it was justified as being more believable to the real world, there was something joyless about the articulated armor. The ears were also really short.

9. 2016: 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'


The actor inside: Ben Affleck

One word description: Chunky

Batman thankfully once again looked lifted straight from a comic page, albeit the dour vision of The Dark Knight Returns. Still, two-tone Batman just feels more like Batman. The exaggerated heft of the bat on the chest underlined the beefiness of the costume overall, as Affleck often seemed inflated with air. The cowl was beautifully sculpted, giving this look some ties to West's costume. Though it would still look sharper with some Underoos.

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


GordARebelato 48 months ago
I still like the 1989 suit the best.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?