The evolution of the Batmobile through the years
We dive into Gotham’s famous crime-fighting four-wheeler.
Ahhh, the Batmobile. I don’t think there’s going to be much debate out there about which superhero is best known for their car, and it’s Batman, bar none. The Punisher’s van? Please. It’s a van, for goodness sakes. You know what other movie heroes drove vans? John Goodman’s salty pest-exterminating Vietnam war-vet Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, and Will Ferrell and friends as they rounded up all the would-be fraternity pledges in Old School. I suppose that one was kinda cool, what with its short wheelbase, side pipes, and American Racing-look-a-like wheels. Oh, OK…B.A. Baracus’ van in The A-Team. I’ll give you that one.
Still, though: Spider-Man never really drove a car, neither did Superman (duh – why would he?) or Deadpool (actually, he did have a food truck at some point), or any of the X-Men, really, and on and on.
The thing about Batman is that the jury is still out on whether or not he actually should be considered a superhero, as he doesn’t really have any superpowers, just lots of cool gear. Which, as it turns out, is why his various rides have been so cool – they are instrumental to the mystique of the Caped Crusader.
Some may say the car is as important as the costume, almost a character stylistically embodying the tone of the film itself.
Indeed, whenever a new Batman movie comes out, the “what’s he gonna drive?” question comes up as quickly as – if not quicker than – the “who’s going to play Bruce Wayne?” question, further endorsement of the four-wheeled fanaticism surrounding Gotham’s dark knight. With The Batman already deep into production, the latest Batmobile has been revealed, and judging from a recently-released teaser clip of the car, it’s unlike any movie Batmobile we’ve seen before it. With it’s muscle car-like silhouette and stance, it looks more like something somebody in the next Fast and the Furious movie might drive, and it shows that this Batman may be a little gritter than previous – after all; just look at what he’s driven up till now.
Classic T.V. Series Batmobile
While it’s never going to seem the most advanced entry considering its origins as a Lincoln concept car circa 1955, the original – the “OG”, if you will – is the favorite of many, and likely will remain so for as long as there’s someone to tell the story of where it all started. Long, bubble-topped – and, for some reason, two-toned — the original on-screen Batmobile (it had taken other forms in the comic books before the TV series debuted in 1966) would go on to be not just one of the most recognizable Batmobiles of all time, but one of the most recognizable movie cars of all time.
The Burton Era
The Burton movies were the first time Batman hit the mainstream since the ultra-campy Adam West TV Series, and they were a whole lot darker – some might even say scary, especially when considering Jack Nicholson’s take on The Joker in Batman – so they needed a ride to match. Enter the Burton-mobile, all long, monochromatic, bewinged and jet-powered. It looked like a cross between a steampunk rat rod and a Lockheed SR-71 spy plane and used a good ol’ Chevy V8 engine for motive force. This may be the most recognizable and celebrated Batmobile of all time, with everything from Lego, to Hot Wheels, to the Grand Theft Auto video game series featuring cameos of it.
While the Burtonmobile’s cockpit was all dark and ghoulish, it seemed that the crew behind the car for the Val Kilmer-starring Forever film wanted a little more flash than that – or, a lot more. Not only did the dance rave-y blue lighting and crazy glowy wheels (with Batman spinners!) bring a lighter look to the Batmobile, it was also better in-keeping with the ultra-bright makeup and costumes worn by the Riddler and Two-Face villains played by Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively. It also kind of made it look like what you might see in a comic book because with all that colour, it would jump off the page that much more. Still had the bloody great big batwings out the back, though, and was still powered by a Chevy V8.
Batman and Robin
Ooooh boy. Remember when we said the Batmobile compliments the Batsuit in any given film? Well, when your Batsuit infamously features nipples, your Batmobile…well…let’s just say they ratcheted the “bling” component up to about 11 for this one. Even more glowy spinners than the Forever car, even spikier batwing tailfins, a quasi-transparent body shell and – just like the TV series car – no more roof all pointed to a Batmobile and Batman character that seemed to kick “stealth” down a few notches on his modus operandi.
Batman: The Animated Series
We take a break from the silver screen at hit the small screen here, but when it comes to this Batmobile, it’s not for a lack of trying that it never made it to the big screen. The Animated Series car was a triumph, all slab-sided, matte-finished and ultra-imposing, even for a cartoon. It did well to fit the surprisingly dark nature of what was a cartoon that kids would be watching after school. Oh, and bonus points for the way it appears to have inspired the looks of the awesome (and real-world) Cadillac Sixteen concept.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Let’s drill down even further; this is a video game car that never saw the small screen or the silver screen but it’s here because damn it looks good. Kind of a mix of the best parts of the Animated Series and Tim Burton cars, the Arkham Asylum car looks properly imposing, if a little small compared to your on-screen character.
Batman: The Dark Knight Trilogy
This is kind of where the Batmobile story takes a weird turn; no longer did it look lithe and low, instead appearing enormous and somewhat jeep-like. The weird part is how this particular Batmobile – nicknamed (or is that “officially named”?) The Tumbler wasn’t exclusive to Bruce Wayne himself. For starters, you can see that Wayne Enterprises owned a whole fleet of them to the point where we see Wayne actually having to request one in black from Lucius Fox. Later, in The Dark Knight Rises the “fleet” thing is driven home when we see a number of Tumblers patrolling the Gotham streets. Fun fact: The Tumbler was fully functional and did many of its own stunts during the filming of the movie, unlike…
Batman V Superman/Suicide Squad/Justice League
Good for this entry making its way into three movies – but that’s kind of easy to do when so much of what’s seen on-screen is CGI. This particular Batmobile may look kind of like a neat cross between the Tumbler and something a little more lithe and athletic (think quarterback to The Tumbler’s linebacker), but it was huge and quite expensive to build (its Mercedes-sourced 6.3L V8 probably didn’t help on the cost front) – and had to make it through three full-length movies. So, some CGI-derived cost-cutting had to happen. It does have the honour of the only Batmobile to be wrecked by Superman’s claws, though
Which brings us to the latest entry in this canon: the muscle car-like Batmobile from 2021’s The Batman. Recalling Dom Toretto’s hyper-modified Dodge Charger from The Fate of the Furious, this is a Batmobile unlike any we’ve seen before. From the limited clips we have, it appears to harbour a mid-engine V8 with two turbo snails sprouting off of it. Its overall proportions are very classic Dodge Charger, and we can’t wait to see what they do with such a non-traditional (yet also traditional) shape for the Batmobile. Not to mention that the original comic-book Batmobile looked to be little more than a garden-variety Ford coupe, making this particular Batmobile kind of a return to the roots of the car.
Bonus: The Batpod
While technically not a Batmobile unto itself – we only see the motorcycle-like Batpod as a kind of escape pod from a stricken Tumbler – it still makes for some of the coolest vehicle action sequences in any major Batman motion picture. The way Batman’s cape flies behind him as he chases down Heath Ledger’s Joker ads some great real movement to the chase, and later, Catwoman gets to drive one. Which is nice.