What would Batman be without his finest gadget? The Batmobile is as iconic as the Caped Crusader himself and is inseparable from the character. Here’s a look back at the different Batmobiles throughout Batman’s on-screen history. This is by no means an exhaustive look, but I want to highlight some of his most noteworthy (and notorious) cars.
1966 Batmobile (with Adam West as Batman)
The 1966 Batmobile was created by Barris Custom City for the TV series Batman. Unbeknownst to a lot of fans, Batman was actually a parody of the comic book character. This Batmobile was originally built in 1965 from a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car. In January 2013, the car sold at an auction for $4,200,000.
1989 Batmobile (with Michael Keaton as Batman)
In 1989, Batman was released, much to the excitement of comic book fans who had grown weary of the camp that had come to define the character. Batman was finally returning to his roots as a dark, mysterious character, and the 1989 film marked the beginning of that resurgence.
Anton Furst, the film’s production designer, wanted to design a Batmobile that reflected this return to the character’s roots. The car was based on a 1970 Corvette and was the first Batmobile to actually use a jet turbine. (No, the 1966 Batmobile did not actually have a turbine engine, despite Robin’s famous line, “Turbines to speed.”)
1993 Batmobile (with Kevin Conroy as Batman)
In 1993, after the success of Batman and Batman Returns, a new cartoon series featuring the Dark Knight was commissioned. The series featured a dark, gothic tone, capitalizing on what made the two films so attractive to fans. The series was era-ambiguous, incorporating a lot of art elements from the 1940s while still using technology from the 1980s and 90s.
The Batmobile was designed to fit into that world. Employing that same style the new Batmobile, though not as iconic as its 1966 and 1989 predecessors, cemented its place in Batman history.
1995 Batmobile (with Val Kilmer as Batman)
The 1995 film Batman Forever took the character back towards its campy, parody-esque time period while still keeping one foot in his darker origins. The Batmobile, designed by Barbara Ling, was flashy but not very practical. The car had an exposed, backlit engine and a tail that split into a V shape when traveling at high speeds. The “batsymbols” on the tires were also backlight and were designed to remain upright even as the tires were spinning.
1997 Batmobile (with George Clooney as Batman)
The sequel to 1995’s Batman Forever—Batman & Robin—featured an all-new Batmobile that was just as flashy as its predecessor. The car was also designed by Barbara Ling and featured even more lights and colors. The car was thirty feet long and had treads that were shaped like the “batsymbol” so that the car would leave little imprints of Batman’s logo whenever it drove through mud, wet roads, and snow.
2005 Batmobile (with Christian Bale as Batman)
2005 marked a complete reboot of the Batman franchise with the film Batman Begins, a return to the character’s dark and sordid roots. The film was much more grounded in reality than its predecessors and the featured Batmobile was a reflection of that. Opting to move away from the sports-car style of previous Batmobiles, Christopher Nolan designed a Batmobile that operated and looked more like a tank.
2009 Batmobile (with Kevin Conroy as Batman)
Until 2009, Batman didn’t have a great relationship with video games. Rocksteady Studios changed that when they released Batman: Arkham Asylum, a game that many fans hail as the definitive vision of the character as put forth in the comic books.
The Batmobile wasn’t featured prominently in that game, but it exists, and it fits within our collective consciousness of what the Batmobile should look like, bridging the gap between the sports-car look of the early 1990s and the tank look of the Nolan films.
2015 Batmobile (with Kevin Conroy as Batman)
Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum was so well-received that it spawned a critically acclaimed sequel in Batman: Arkham City and a prequel in Batman: Arkham Origins. The final chapter in the trilogy, Batman: Arkham Knight, featured a completely redesigned Batmobile. The new Batmobile was heavily inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and even had a “battle mode” in which the Batmobile would convert into a tank-like vehicle that could maneuver more easily in combat environments.
2016 Batmobile (with Ben Affleck as Batman)
The upcoming film Batman V Superman will include yet another Batmobile. The car appears to take design cues from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy as well as Batman: Arkham Knight. It leans heavily in the “tank-style” direction and is reminiscent of the Batmobile from Frank Miller’s comic book The Dark Knight Returns.