'The Batman': From the 90s to the 2020s, here's how movie Batsuits have evolved over the years

'The Batman': From the 90s to the 2020s, here's how movie Batsuits have evolved over the years
First look at Robert Pattinson's 'Batman' symbol (Greig Fraser/Warner Bros.)

How do you clothe a nightmare, a dark symbol of justice? What does a superhero who sees himself as neither super nor a hero wear? These are the questions every costume designer who's ever worked on a 'Batman' movie has had to answer. 

Sometimes the answers are easy to come by. Batman has an 80-year history in the comics, after all, and there have been plenty of past designs to choose from, even for the oldest films featuring the Dark Knight. Before 1989, Batman's appearances in live-action more or less followed the comics to a T. Were the suits realistic? No, but this was a time when people prefered that their fictional heroes remain fictional and fantastic. 

The '90s

Tim Burton's 'Batman' film was the first to ditch this approach. Here we see a lot more blacks and golds than grays, accentuating the fear factor that makes Batman such an effective scourge of the underworld. This was no campy superhero. This Batman was truly the stuff of nightmares. 

Even after Joel Schumacher took over as the Bat-director, this darkness never left. Granted, Schumacher may have added nipples and a lot more latex to the suit but the general concept was retained.


In Schumacher's movies, the suit's black-heavy palette was retained and with a sleeker, body-hugging design, the suit took on an edgier look. Both Burton and Schumacher's Bat movies featured the Dark Knight as something of a lethal protector and these stereotypically 90s suits have gone on to influence how the character is designed in more recent times.   

The Nolan Years

Christian Bale in Batman Begins (IMDb)

The Christopher Nolan movies built upon the same concept as the older films, with the belt providing the only splash of color on the suit in 'Batman Begins'. This version of the Batman was a more realistic take and that was reflected in the suit, which was built to look like something a real-life superhero might wear.  


This realism is what made the Nolan suit so very popular. In theory, it was a suit that could be built in real life, provided the person doing the building is as ingenious as Lucius Fox and as well-funded as Bruce Wayne. 

Perhaps the biggest contribution the Nolan movies had to the evolution of the Batsuit was that it introduced the idea that the suit should be functional. The suits used in older movies sorely restricted the actor's movements and while this was still a concern during the 'Dark Knight Trilogy', at least the problem was acknowledged and without that, we wouldn't have the Batsuit of today.

The Batfleck Suit

Ben Affleck's Batman may not have been much of a hit with the audience but he did have two very unique suits that are worth talking about. The primary suit used by Batman in 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' and 'Justice League' featured a gray bodysuit, the first live-action Batsuit to do so since 1989. 

There was a bit more of a comic book feel to the suit and while he might not have been very memorable, we've got to admit that Affleck's Dark Knight did have some cool threads. Of course, the best suit Affleck wore wasn't the bodysuit, it was the huge mechanical armor that he donned to take on Superman. 


Drawing inspiration from the 'Kingdom Come' and 'The Dark Knight Returns' comic books, this suit made Batman look like a true beast. Only a Kryptonian would have the guts to go up against a guy wearing this armor and it's a real shame the design wasn't supported by better writing and filmmaking.

The Bat(suit) of Tomorrow


As we've seen, there's been a steady evolution in the design of the Batsuit, going from scary to edgy to realistic to plain cool. In between, there were a few questionable choices (nipples, Schumacher? Really?) but each of those steps has led us here, to the Batsuit of the 2020s.

Through a teaser (which you can check out above, courtesy of FilmSelect Trailers) and leaked images, we've got a pretty good impression of the suit Robert Pattinson will be donning in Matt Reeves' 'The Batman' when it hits theaters in 2021, and so far, it looks like it might be one of the best suits we've seen the Caped Crusader wear in live-action. There's an unfinished quality to the look which surprisingly works in its favor as it suggests this is a suit that was built by Bruce Wayne with his own hands. 


Where the Nolan era suit was realistic for a billionaire to own, this outfit looks like actual armor you might wear into battle. The design primarily uses black like the 90s designs and like the 'Dawn of Justice' suits, there's clearly a lot of inspiration that has come from the comics. 

The one comic book look that the new suit immediately brings to mind is the design used in Scott Snyder's 'Batman: Zero Year' storyline, which featured a younger Batman just like the movie. There's that same homemade feel to the design but with a bit more sleekness to it. 

But with all that said, the crowning glory of the new design is the symbol. For the first time ever, the Bat symbol isn't just a logo, it's got a hard metallic look that suggests that it may have been crafted out of the parts of the gun that killed Thomas and Martha Wayne.

If that really is the story behind the symbol, then this would be the most brilliantly poetic design for any Batsuit ever and we can't wait to see it in action. 'The Batman' will be released in theaters on June 25, 2021. 


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