Showing Batman Movies to Your Kids

I don’t want all of my blog posts to be about writing. So, I’ll talk about some other topics, including, of course, Batman. Kids (especially boys) love Batman. Whenever a new Batman movie comes out, the marketing of the film is usually tied in with a slew of toys (both in stores and in fast-food restaurants with kids meals). Even if it’s PG-13, these toys will convince even five year olds that they are supposed to see the movie.

Age is Up to You

There are websites that actually tell you what age is appropriate for kids to see virtually any movie. R is supposed to equal 17, PG-13 is obviously for thirteen, but other than that, the standard movie rating guides don’t really specify ages. I always look at them before deciding, but have shown my kids movies that weren’t in agreement with either the official movie ratings or these websites.

Batman: The Movie

This was made in 1966 and features the duo of Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. The TV series was practically identical to this “movie”, which really plays like a long version of the original series. The classic “Bam!” comic book captions in the middle of fights, the campy jokes (Batman literally carrying an aerosol can of “Bat Shark Repellent” on his Utility Belt) and the buffoonishness of the villains makes this the safest “starter” Batman movie for kids. Probably safe to show as young as 5 or 6. I let both of my kids watch this when they were 5. No nightmares or concerns. By modern standards, this is incredibly tame.

Batman: (1989)

This featured Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice…) directed. The movie has a very dark feel compared to the campy 60’s version of Batman. While there are some jokes throughout, at its core, this movie is really a tale of revenge. If you’re not familiar with the origin of Batman, young Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed when he’s a young boy and he essentially dedicates his life at some point to avenging them. I didn’t let either of my kids watch this until they were 10. In the movie, you see the murder of Bruce’s parents, a fairly grizzly electrocution (to be fair—this is intentionally cartoonish, but still disturbing), another murder with a pen (not kidding) and plenty of other violence. The final battle between the Batman and the Joker ends in a pretty disturbing fashion as well.

Batman Returns (1992)

Michael Keaton returns as Batman facing Michelle Pfeiffer as the Catwoman and Danny DeVito as The Penguin. Tim Burton also directed this movie and the overall tone is very similar. I’ve seen other parent-based sites claim that this movie is much more adult than the 1989 movie, but I think they are quite equal in the “scary for kids” realm. Once again, a form of electrocution occurs and there are some dark moments featuring parents basically throwing away their disfigured child. I wouldn’t show it to kids before they were 10.

Batman Forever (1995)

Val Kilmer stars as Batman, facing off against the Riddler, portrayed by Jim Carrey and Two-Face, played by Tommy-Lee Jones. Chris O’Donnell is Robin. This movie is lighter in tone generally than Batman and Batman Returns. It does feature the death of parents, once again, along with a fair amount of violence throughout. But this feels like it’s more closely related to the show of the 60’s, with better special effects. I let my kids watch when they were 9. Jim Carrey’s comedic talents help keep this movie lighter than the previous two.

Batman and Robin (1997)

George Clooney takes over the Batcape here, assisted by Chris O’Donnell again as Robin and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. Uma Thurman is a villain (Poison Ivy), along Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. There is violence in this movie, but it seems more like a cartoon than a live-action movie. The colors are all overly bright and the violence seems much less realistic. I let my kids watch this fairly young-when they were 7. Be forewarned, this is probably the worst of all Batman movies for adults to watch. Practically everything Arnold says is an attempt at a one-liner.

Batman Begins (2005)

This signifies a giant shift again in the tone of Batman movies. Christopher Nolan (Inception, Interstellar, etc.) directs this and it stars Christian Bale as Batman. These movies are even darker than the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton versions. There is very little attempted humor throughout and plenty of violent imagery which could be hard for a child to watch. I didn’t let my oldest watch this until he was 12, which will be the same age for my youngest once he reaches that age. Again, we see the death of Bruce’s parents, plenty of violence, drug-induced insanity and hallucinations and Batman almost constantly defying the police (which is largely because they are ‘owned’ by crime lords). This movie really aims for realistic super-hero fiction, if that’s a thing. No super powers here and the gadgets are largely believable.

The Dark Knight (2008)

The 2nd installment from Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale. Rhis time out, we meet the Joker again as played by Heath Ledger (who won a posthumous Academy Award for this part) . We also see Two-Face, portrayed by Aaron Eckhart. This movie was rated PG-13, but I don’t think 13 is the right age. Probably 14 or 15. This movie is terrifying to many adults. I remember seeing this in the theater with a dad and two kids that were maybe 6 or 7. They were crying during many of the scenes. Bad parenting—no exaggeration. Bombs going off (from inside a criminal’s chest), brutal ‘police’ interrogations, Russian roulette, lots of murder, death with a pencil (again, not kidding), a brutal disfigurement are some of the violent highlights here. On top of the violence, the themes are very morally challenging. This is actually somewhat deep stuff (pretty ambitious for a superhero movie). Don’t take this wrong, this is one of my favorite movies ever (not just superhero movies), but it’s really not for kids.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The final installment from Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, this time they battle Bane, an ultra-strong nemesis. I think the tone of this is probably okay for 13 year olds, but since my kids can’t watch the Dark Knight until they are 14, this will wait until then too. Lots of violence; murders, mass terrorism throughout the film. It’s best to watch all of the Christopher Nolan films as a set, so I wouldn’t introduce kids to them until they were at least 14 or 15.