Batman Begins (2005)
Cards on the table: We think this and the following two movies are pretty close to being perfect.
Christopher Nolan offered the boldest-yet cinematic take on Batman: What if he were a real person? Nolan justifies every cartoonish element of the character, from his cape to his pointy ears, to explain precisely how a sad billionaire orphan could become a terrifying creature of the night.
Christian Bale is the best Bruce Wayne and the best Batman — he packed on unbelievable mass after going skeletal for The Machinist — and he manages to seem charming, brilliant, vulnerable and terrifying as no other actor has.
Cillian Murphy, who finally got a lead role in a Christopher Nolan movie with this year’s Oppenheimer, is a perfect foil for Batman. His Scarecrow, like Batman, is intimately familiar with fear and tries to twist it to dark advantage just like Bruce Wayne does — but for the good of himself, rather than to save Gotham.