When Batman was first released in 1989, people were amazed by the dark tones it brought to the story of Bruce Wayne. At this time, the only reference most people had to The Dark Knight were the cheesy 1960s Adam West show, and the incredibly silly silver age comics. Very few expected then new director Tim Burton to create something so appealing to both young and adults.
This version features the best actor to portray Batman (Michael Keaton), and arguably the best actor to portray the Joker (Jack Nicholson). It's thanks to this movie that most see Batman as he is today, a tortured soul who is one step away from becoming one of the insane criminals he puts away.
Christopher Nolan sought to re-create Batman, in the same way Tim Burton did, by making him a more realistic superhero. The streets of Gotham seem a lot less like something out of a comic book, and more like something you would see in real life. Gritty, dark, and let's not forget Heath Ledger's amazing performance as The Joker, and it's no surprise this film was so successful.
The Christopher Nolan Batman preceding The Dark Knight which no one seems to remember that much, yet is just as good as it's sequel. Batman begins really gets down into the psychological reasons someone would become a superhero, and if there's any superhero long overdue for a psychoanalytical study, It's Batman.
The sequel to Burton's Batman may not excel beyond its predecessor like the Dark Knight, but its still a great movie in its own right, that some fans prefer over the original. However, at the time of its release, Batman Returns was not well received among the masses. It was even darker than the original, and some people even found it quite unsettling at the time. These complaints eventually led to Burton being kicked out of the Director chair and replaced by Joel Schumaker, who is possibly the most Hit and Miss Director of all time. These days it is more respected and loved, most likely due to what came next for the film franchise.
The Animated series is (at least in my opinion), the best adaption of Batman outside of the comics. It captures the dark spirit of the early Burton films, as well as bringing in its own contributions to the image of Batman. It also contains the most iconic image of The Joker. (Note: Mark Hammil's voice is my favourite portrayal of the Joker) This feature length film is on par with one of the more solid episodes in the series, and definitely worth a watch.
...and Batman Forever is even worse. Whereas you can at least laugh at how awful Batman and Robin is (especially with all the cheesy puns spouted by Ahnold), Batman Forever is more of a chore to sit through. You won't get any enjoyment from this movie, in fact, you will lose the enjoyment you feel watching all the other great items on this list.
You have been warned.
A compilation of the film appearances of The Dark Knight, The Caped Crusader, The World's Greatest Detective, (Insert other Batman nickname here) from his best, to his worst.