With the upcoming release of Matt Reeves’s “THE BATMAN” (starring Robert Pattinson), I thought it would be fun to revisit the most iconic Batmobiles in Batman history – from the movies, comics, animated series, and video games! (Listen to Comic Zombie #12 for our personal favorites)
Detective Comics #27 (1939) – The Original Batmobile?
The one that started it all, sorta. In his earliest appearances, in the pages of Detective Comics, Batman tooled around in a variety of convertible sports cars without any of the typical bat-trappings, but the first official appearance of the term ‘Batmobile’ didn’t come till 1941. The primary design was a red hotrod based off of the Cord 812 with a ‘super-charged’ V8 engine.
The Black & White Serials (1943/1949)
In the super low budget, black and white serials from the 1940’s, Batman (and Robin) literally just drove around in Bruce Wayne’s personal vehicles, which wasn’t at all suspicious for some reason? One look at Batman’s cheap felt costume and you can tell why they didn’t bother even putting a bat symbol on these ones.
Actually, the less said about these two the better…
The “Bat-tering Ram”! (1940’s and 50’s)
Jerry Robinson (the co-creator of both Robin and The Joker) is credited with radically redesigning the Batmobile in 1941’s Batman #5 – giving the vehicle it’s iconic “Bat-theme” with a dark sleek look, a gothic tail fin, and a massive bat-shaped hood ornament, that acted as a battering ram! This design stayed in vogue throughout the Golden Age of Comics and became synonymous with the Caped Crusader – well that is until Adam West’s ride stole it’s thunder…
BATMAN ’66! (Bam, Pow, Zap!)
The super campy Adam West series from the 1960’s debuted a new and far more stylish Batmobile with this truly timeless, black and red, gadget-filled 50’s muscle car! Designed by George Barris, based on a Ford concept car – the ’55 Lincoln Futura.
Perhaps the one thing to hold up from this cheesy era of Batman – the ’66 Batmobile is a beauty. She has a fast sleek design, a bat-branded paint job, a siren (this version of Batman was deputized by the law, despite being a masked vigilante), and more gadgets than Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 (including but not limited to: Bat-radar, Bat-scope, Bat-car-phone, a super-powered bat-magnet, the bat-glove-compartment, and even a ‘batzooka’?!), complete with an atomic powered (?!) rear-rocket thruster! Yup, this one has it all!
(Honorable mention to all the other bat-vehicles from the 60’s series, including The Bat-boat, Bat-copter, and Bat-bike!)
Hannah Barbara, Toys, and more! (1960’s / 70’s / 80’s)
The Batmobiles that followed the 60’s series in both the comics and even the ‘Super Friends’ cartoons were clearly influenced by the West-mobile, but they tended to go for a blue and yellow color scheme rather than the red and black look of the ‘original’. Throughout the comics in the 70’s we got an even sleeker and stealthier version as the comics started to get back to their darker roots.
Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” (1986)
The most radical version by far debuted in the pages of Frank Miller’s 1986 masterwork, “The Dark Knight Returns”! The Dark Knight Returns didn’t just give us one of the grittiest versions of the Batman and Gotham City, it also gave us one of the most badass Batmobiles in comics history. This thing was a beast, calling it a black tank wouldn’t be an over-exaggeration, this thing was an armored vehicle built for war – specifically a war on crime!
The “Burton-mobile”! – BATMAN ’89 (and ‘Returns’)
The Burton Batmobile is personally what I think of, when I think of the Batmobile. It’s easily one of the most unique vehicles ever put to film. It’s one of the most iconic things about Tim Burton’s Batman movies and really made an impression when it first appeared in 1989’s “Batman”. Driven through the streets of Gotham by Michael Keaton, this no-nonsense, all-black Batmobile emphasized Batman’s need for speed *and* stealth. Not as flashy as some of the batmobiles to follow, this one could easily blend into the night and had an intimidating gothic physique.
That awesome scene – where Batman says to Vicky Vale, “Get in the car!” and she asks “Which one?” before the music swells and we see this gorgeous reveal of The Batmobile – still gives me chills.
Designed by Anton Furst (clearly inspired by H.G. Geiger), utilizing a Chevrolet Impala chasis with a Chevy V8 engine, and built around what looks like a jet engine!? This Batmobile could accelerate from Zero to Sixty in 3.7 seconds!
One of the coolest features this one had (at the time) was that it was voice activated, remote controlled, and had the ability to deploy shields when parked. It also gave us one of the most badass action beats in a Batman movie, where the Batmobile unleashes an arsenal of weapons on Axis Chemicals!
Although it was last seen in 1992’s Batman Returns, it looks like we’ll be seeing this baby at least one more time in the upcoming Flash movie later this year!
BATMAN: The Animated Series (1992)
Every episode of the 90’s ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ begins with the Batmobile roaring to life in the batcave and speeding to the scene of a crime! A more streamlined version of the Burton Batmobile, this one absolutely captured my imagination as a kid. It still had tons of cool gadgets, but it was a way more serious take on the vehicle than the Adam West series, and really felt cutting edge and seriously cool. It’s almost as iconic as Kevin Conroy’s deep Batman voice… almost.
(Check out my Top 20 Batman: The Animated Series episodes here!)
Batman Forever (1995)
Building off of the aesthetic of the Burton-mobile, Val Kilmer’s Batman got to ride around in a slightly flashier model in “Batman Forever”. Barbara Ling’s design took a few nods from the 40’s version (especially with that big bat-fin down the middle), but added in a neon-glow that would fit right in at a techno rave. While it might not make much sense for vigilante crime fighter who operates from the shadows, it does look pretty cool. It’s just too bad that Jim Carrey’s Riddler had to go and blow it up along with the rest of the bat-cave. (RIP)
That said, this movie also gives us one of the dumbest scenes in Batman history when the Batmobile uses a harpoon sized grappling hook to drive up the side of a building to escape Two-Face and his goons… *face palm*
Batman & Robin (1997)
“Batman and Robin” opens with Dick saying, “I want a car! Chick’s dig the car” to which George Clooney in a bat suit replies, “This is why Superman works alone.”
Sigh… where to even start?
This ‘movie’ was basically a live action toy commercial and it really shows in every single frame of this dumpster fire. One of the most obvious clues is in this opening scene where we get this long drawn out introduction of Batman’s new (and even more absurd) ‘Batmobile’. I was willing to let it slide on the last one, but this one double-downed on my main critique from the last one! That is NOT a stealth vehicle. Criminals could see that thing coming from the other side of Gotham!
I have so many questions, not the least of which is why is there only one seat? All the other vehicles had at least two seats, but as soon as Batman gets a sidekick he’s like nah fam, take the bike?! It all seems kinda impractical to be honest. I can’t remember if this one gets blown up or not, but I kinda hope it does, because I still want my money back. Seriously though, this thing looks like it belongs in Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade! He’s called the ‘Dark Knight’! What the actual hell?!
(Side note: I will say, I do actually like Robin’s motorcycle, ‘The Red Bird’)
Batman Beyond (1999)
1999’s “Batman Beyond” was a ‘futuristic’ sequel series to the original ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ and introduced us to Terry McGuinness, who was mentored by an older, retired, Bruce Wayne. Terry’s high-tech sci-fi ‘Batmobile’ was actually a hovercraft, so more of a hybrid between the Bat-wing and Batmobile, but still worth mentioning.
Late 90’s / Early 2000’s – comics and cartoons
Following the Burton and Schumacher movies, the late 90’s and early 2000’s gave us A TON of new and wildly different designs for the Batmobile throughout the comics and cartoons, many of whom took heavy inspiration from those earlier versions, including but not limited to the Batmobile from ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’ which blends the 60’s version with the original 40’s look. One design that became a visual trope for many Batmobiles to follow was the red-tinted windshield. This article would be a book if I went into detail about each one, but some of the highlights are shown in the images above. (See more at Batmobilehistory.com)
“The Tumbler” – BATMAN BEGINS (2005) / THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Taking a lot of visual inspiration from Frank Miller’s ‘bat-tank’, Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batmobile’ was perhaps the most realistic take on the Dark Knight’s car yet. First premiering in “Batman Begins” where Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox introduces Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) to a Wayne Tech military prototype designed for advanced infantry. After taking it for a quick spin, Bruce asks, “Does it come in black?”
‘The Tumbler’ was the first fully functional on-screen Batmobile that could actually do the stunts seen in the movies, and could even reach up to speeds of 160 mph! This 500 horsepower behemoth was first described by Nolan as a cross between a Lamborghini and a Hummer.
Although it was sadly destroyed by the Joker (Heath Ledger) in “The Dark Knight”, during one of the coolest chase scenes ever filmed, it led to the reveal of ‘the Bat-pod’ – one of the coolest motorcycles ever designed! (We even got a hovercraft version in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’)
Beware the Batman (2013)
‘Beware the Batman’ was a short-lived CG animated series. Not much to say here, except we got another cool, sleek, stealthy Batmobile design.
The Arkham Games (2009 – 2015)
A fan favorite for some, the video game “Arkham Asylum” gave us a pretty badass version of the Batmobile that took a little influence from the Burton design and the ‘New Adventures’ animated series, but with a little more of a classic hot-rod aesthetic. In “Arkham Knight” we finally got to drive this one around, and it didn’t disappoint.
Lego Batman (2017)
‘Lego Batman’ (voiced by Will Arnett) first appeared in 2014’s “The Lego Movie” – which was so good, they gave him his own movie, which was way better than anyone was expecting it to be. “Lego Batman” is a goofy, hilarious romp through random Batman references, and gives us multiple bat-vehicles, which are assembled and reassembled on the fly. And what’s even cooler? You can actually build them with real legos!
“Bat-fleck’s ride” – ‘Batman v Superman’ (2016) / ‘Justice League’ (2017 / 2021)
The Bat-fleck-mobile is basically what would happen if the Burton-mobile and the Tumbler had a baby? It takes the sleek, black, coolness of the ’89 version and then beefs it up with the armored military hardware of The Dark Knight trilogy. While “Batman v Superman” is kind of a mess of a movie, it’s hard to not like this design, even if it’s being piloted by a murderous Batman who doesn’t seem to care about collateral damage.
However, this one really gets a chance to shine during the climactic battle against an army of para-demons in Zack Snyder’s Justice League! (the 2021 version specifically – more on that in my 3-Part Snyder DC Trilogy Review) Really, between Ben Affleck’s performance, his Frank Miller inspired look, and this badass batmobile, it’s really a shame we haven’t gotten more of the DCEU Dark Knight.
THE BATMAN (2022)
At the time of this writing, the newest Bat-movie, “The Batman” hasn’t come out just yet, but from everything we’ve seen in the trailers, the latest Batmobile roars through a fiery explosion and looks like it’s ready to deliver some justice! This one appears to be modeled after a customized muscle car from the 70’s and apparently supports a V10 engine! (Not to mention the requisite rocket exhaust port)
What are your favorite Batmobiles so far? Let us know in the comments below!
You can hear us talk about the Batman movies on the Comic Zombie podcast, as well as the latest season of Podcasters Assemble, and check out my other articles – including Every Star Destroyer in Star Wars and the Top 10 ‘Sexiest’ Star Trek Ships!
“The Batman” flies into theaters on March 4th, 2022!
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