Despite being one of the most iconic characters in modern fiction, the live-action television history of Batman is surprisingly not a particularly extensive one, with entire decades having passed without any live-action incarnation of the Dark Knight on the small screen.
With that in mind, here is a complete ranking of all the official, live-action appearances of the popular DC Comics superhero on television, from his debut in the popular 1960s series starring Adam West and Burt Ward as the Dynamic Duo to his most recent appearance on the final season of Fox's Gotham.
While Bruce Wayne in the flesh may never have actually appeared across any of the ten seasons of Smallville, he made of cameo of sorts in a brief, skeletal Easter egg. In the first season episode "Hourglass," Lex Luthor is shown a nightmarish vision of his future, including him becoming President of the United States and being responsible for the death of millions.
Among the dead seen scattered around the aspiring villain, a familiar caped and cowled skeleton can be seen directly above Lex's shoulder. Perhaps more disturbing than Lex's bloody vision of the future is the implication that Luthor is actually responsible for the death of that universe's Batman.
4. BATMAN (1966)/LEGENDS OF THE SUPERHEROES
The one that started it all, Adam West catapulted the Caped Crusader into millions of homes in the 1960s as the first live-action version of Batman on television, alongside Burt Ward's Robin. An overnight success, the first two seasons of the series actually ran two new episodes on primetime each week and led to a spinoff feature film starring the series' cast before ultimately being canceled after its third season due to falling ratings and high production costs.
In 1979, Hanna-Barbera attempted to capitalize on the success of its Super Friends animated series with two hour-long specials bringing the Justice League into live-action, titled Legends of the Superheroes. Featuring a whole host of DC Comics heroes and villains, the specials also saw Adam West and Burt Ward reprise their roles as Batman and Robin, albeit visibly older in makeshift, altered versions of their previous costumes and with middling returns.
While the Dark Knight has yet to make his full, official debut on the popular Fox series, the entire final season has been building to the promise of Bruce Wayne finally embracing his heroic destiny and becoming the Batman, with the masked alter ego confirmed to fully appear in a flash-forward sequence by the series finale.
With the final episodes of Gotham currently in post-production, several behind the scenes photos have surfaced, rumored to be leaked images of the final costume. If true, the design shows something similar to The Dark Knight, with separated armored plating and a helmet detached from the shoulders allowing Bruce to turn his head, as opposed to previous live-action film versions of the outfit.
2. Birds of Prey
Despite only lasting a single season, Birds of Prey on The CW's precursor network, The WB, featured one of the best live-action incarnations of Batman to date. Seen entirely in flashback sequences, this version of Bruce Wayne was the father of Huntress with Catwoman, disappearing sometime after Catwoman's murder at the hands of Clayface and the Joker.
The suit itself was an amalgamation of the character's costumes used in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, and was previously used in a series of OnStar commercials from 2000 to 2002 by actor Bruce Thomas. The actor wearing the costume in Birds of Prey has never been officially revealed by Warner Bros.
Throughout the early episodes of the first season of DC Universe's Titans, Batman and Bruce Wayne's presence loomed heavily over protagonist Dick Grayson, but the character himself was only ever seen on the periphery and in silhouette. However, the Season 1 finale saw Dick enter a Trigon-induced dreamscape, bringing him face to face with a nightmarish version of his estranged mentor.
Despite being a bloodthirsty, twisted vision of Batman, the version of the character seen in the Titans season finale is the best live-action incarnation yet, at least visually. An unstoppable force to friend and foe alike, the DCU Batman reminds viewers why criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot in the face of such an unrelenting, intimidating figure.