Comic artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger created Batman for DC Comics back in 1939. It seems wild to think that the Caped Crusader has been fighting fictional crime for over eight decades and counting!
Through the years, comic fans and superhero lovers around the world have watched the masked, gadget-wielding superhero defeat ominous villains like Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy on the big and small screens.
From the original 1966 television series starring Adam West as Batman/Bruce Wayne to the ‘90s animated series and a slew of successful Modern-Day feature films like Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” movie and Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy, fans and critics alike have rooted for Batman to save Gotham City and its citizens from crime. In fact, the blockbuster “Batman” movie franchise has grossed over $6 billion at the worldwide box office.
Music adds depth and dimension to every cinematic story by creating a mood, foreshadowing danger, and conjuring a gambit of emotions like fear, sadness, and joy. Many indelible music examples are scattered throughout the Batman franchise.
As Batman Day approaches on May 1, we thought we’d honor the Dark Knight’s enduring legacy by compiling a list of the top 17 best songs from all the “Batman” movies and TV shows across time.
17. “Men Are Still Good” – “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” – Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL
Oscar-winning film composer Hans Zimmer reteamed with Dutch composer and DJ Junkie XL for the score for the 2016 film “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” They previously worked on “Man of Steel.” Like the film, this score (aka “Batman Suite”) is dark and edgy and plays at various points in the movie, giving it a foreboding sort of musical continuity.
16. “Lazy Eye” – “Batman & Robin” - Goo Goo Dolls
The Goo Goo Dolls recorded this song for the soundtrack of the 1997 “Batman & Robin” film which found George Clooney donning the bat suit. The track appears in the scene where cohorts in crime Bane (Robert Swenson) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) break inside a gang hangout. The song was a chart hit for the band, hitting No. 9 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart.
15. “The Dark Knight Triumphant/End Titles” – “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” – Christopher Drake
Christopher Drake composed the score for both parts of the two-part animated film “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” which was released straight to video in 2012 and 2013. The theme is the last track on the soundtrack, “The Dark Knight Triumphant/End Titles” and runs at 5:09. There’s something eerily comforting in the melody – an assurance that the Dark Knight is always hovering in the shadows, ready to swoop in at any time to protect and serve.
14. “Snow Miser” – “Batman & Robin” – Performed by Dick Shawn/Written by Maury Laws
Arnold Schwarzenegger was the perfect Mr. Freeze in “Batman & Robin.” Batman’s tall and formidable foe is in rare form in polar bear slippers when he conducts his henchman’s performance of the Rankin Bass classic song “Snow Miser” from the feel-good Christmas film “The Year Without a Santa Claus.” The scene delivers a comical reprieve from the intense good versus evil plot.
13. Intro Theme – “The New Adventures of Batman” – Ray Ellis and Norm Prescott
The 1977 animated series from a joint venture of Filmation, DC Comics, and Warner Bros. Television stars Adam West and Burt Ward voicing their iconic Batman and Robin roles. Batman speaks over the jazzy opening theme, which marks a bright, snappy, stylistic difference to the original 1966 “Batman” theme song. It’s worth noting that Melendy Britt voiced four female characters in this iteration of the show. She plays Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and Catwoman/Selina Kyle.
12. “Face to Face” – Siouxsie and the Banshees/Danny Elfman – “Batman Returns”
Grammy-winning composer Danny Elfman co-wrote “Face to Face” with British rockers Siouxsie and the Banshees for Tim Burton’s 1992 film “Batman Returns.” This franchise installment stars Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman and the song plays when Wayne dances with Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeifer) and neither realizes they are dancing with their enemy/alter ego Batman and Catwoman. During the song, Siouxsie purrs like a cat – which is a reference to the wily feline villainess.
11. Theme Song – “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” – Andy Sturmer
This theme song to the animated series “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” immediately grabs listeners’ attention with the way that it “pops” right off the bat (no pun intended!). To help serve the show’s title, the music is bold and brassy and makes a powerful sonic statement. The series notably features characters in the DC Comics universe coming together to fight crime. It ran on Cartoon Network from 2008-2011 here in the U.S.
10. Theme Song – “Batman: The Animated Series” – Danny Elfman
“Batman: The Animated Series” ran from 1992 to 1995 on Fox Kids in a venture between DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. Elfman once again proved his prowess at tuning into the heart of the Caped Crusader and his quest for just with a bold main title theme song that belonged to the animated series but mirrored his critically acclaimed 1989 “Batman” film score.
9. “Batdance” – “Batman” – Prince
Prince impressively wrote an entire album for Tim Burton’s initial 1989 “Batman” film. His was one of two soundtracks for the movie, with Danny Elfman’s score being the other. The album marked the “Purple Rain” singer-songwriter’s 11th studio album. The soundtrack held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart for six consecutive weeks. “Batdance” topped multiple charts, including the Hot 100. The epic music video features dancers as film characters and Prince as “Gemini” with one side of his face painted as Batman and the other as Joker.
8. “The End is the Beginning is the End” – “Batman & Robin” – The Smashing Pumpkins
The Smashing Pumpkins won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance for “The End is the Beginning is the End” from “Batman & Robin.” In an interview, frontman Billy Corgan found the songwriting process “freeing” in trying to represent Batman in the lyrics. Everything about the indelible song – from the pulsating rhythm to the ruminating lyrics arguably speak to Batman’s dark inner demons. It rocks.
7. “Kiss From a Rose” – “Batman Forever” – Seal
This song appears at the end of the “Batman Forever” credits. Despite not being in the film, the song makes a perfect “Batman” franchise addition, as, the lyrics could arguably reference the Bat Signal as Seal sings “There used to be a graying tower alone on the sea/You became the light on the dark side of me/Love remained a drug that's the high and not the pill/But did you know/That when it snows, My eyes become large and the light that you shine can be seen.”
Seal won three Grammys for the chart-topping track including Song of the Year and Record of the Year. “Batman Forever” Director Joel Schumacher also released a Batman-themed music video in which Seal sings the song beside the Bat Signal.
6. “Why So Serious? – The Joker Theme” – “The Dark Knight” – Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer really set the bar high for this nine-minute-plus suite of music that’s meant to personify Heath Ledger’s mesmerizing portrayal of the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” The piece is harsh and cacophonous at times while also being eerie and stealthy. The track opens the Billboard 200 charting album.
5. “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” – “Batman Forever” – U2
Legendary Irish rockers U2 scored two Grammy nominations, including Best Rock Song and a Best Original Song Golden Globe nomination for this song that was featured in the soundtrack for the 1995 film “Batman Forever.” The group included the song on their compilation album The Best of 1990 – 2000. The original music video features a mix of animated scenes and the band performing in Gotham City. Many fans claim that the U2 video is better than the movie.
4. “Trust” – “Batman” – Prince
This track is featured in the Gotham City 200th anniversary parade scene in which the Joker (Jack Nicholson) is pitching money at the crowd while riding a gigantic float. The song is funky and fun and provides a festive setup to the ensuing dark plot twist. Prince and the Joker are both in their element here.
3. “Partyman” – “Batman” - Prince
Prince’s song from the 1989 “Batman” soundtrack is prominently featured in an unforgettable scene when Joker (Jack Nicholson) and his henchman raucously ruin works of art in the Gotham City Art Museum before he meets Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger). Prince once again assumes his Gemini persona in the music video, in which half of him is dressed as the purple-suited villain. The dance-ready song peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
2. Theme Song – “Batman” – Danny Elfman
Danny Elfman could arguably be dubbed the king of dark, mystical film scores. He easily transports viewers and listeners to the core of fictional fantasy worlds in a way like no other. “Batman” director Tim Burton has commissioned Elfman to score multiple films. This 1989 “Batman” film was a box office smash hit (grossing over $400 million worldwide) and it paved the way for Burton to do the 1992 sequel “Batman Returns.” Elfman’s theme song sets the film’s dark, brooding tone brilliantly. Above all, this score defines the franchise for now and ages to come.
1. Theme Song – “Batman” 1966 TV Series – Neal Hefti
Neal Hefti’s theme for the classic 1966 “Batman” animated TV series is probably the most recognizable theme for the franchise. The guitar hook is amazing and the “nanananana -BATMAN!” verbal refrain is infectious. Multiple generations of fans use this theme as a go-to when identifying the masked crusader. It’s a fan favorite theme that still transcends time.
Warner Brothers hosted a fan sing-off at San Diego Comic Con in 2014 and posted it on YouTube. The participants’ enthusiasm for the track speaks for itself – Ka Pow!!