Batman costumes through the years
Detective Comics #27 (1939)
Mostly we'll be looking at screen interpretations of Batman here, but any costume history must start with the very first appearance. The character's costume was originally designed a little bit more explicitly to look like a bat in one of the most famous comic issues of all time from writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane.
Batman TV show (1966-1968)
The costume worn by actor Adam West in the popular '60s TV series basically looks like a comic drawing replicated in real life. It may be hard to imagine now, but the focus back then was on colorful, campy fun rather than self-serious practicality.
Batman in the '70s
Neal Adams was the definitive Batman comic artist of the '70s, working alongside writers like the late Denny O'Neil. One of his signature visual touches was the magnificent cape that flowed beautifully and sometimes even defied physics, which is why it's been hard to replicate on screen.
The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
Frank Miller's seminal 1986 miniseries was the Big Bang in pivoting mainstream understanding of Batman away from Adam West's silliness towards the dark, brooding figure we know so well today. Miller's Dark Knight was battle-scarred and muscle-bound, and eschewed the yellow oval around his chest symbol (it's cycled in and out ever since).
Heavily inspired by the tone of The Dark Knight Returns, Tim Burton's film adaptations of Batman sought a dark, surreal mood. This carried down to the iconic costume, which eschewed grays and blues in favor of a stark black and yellow combination.
Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
This cartoon has become one of the most beloved interpretations of Batman for whole generations of fans, but since it was explicitly aimed at young children instead of adult moviegoers, it added some bright colors back into the costume.
The New Batman Adventures (1997-1999)
Though sometimes combined with the first run of Batman: The Animated Series (as we did in our ranking of the 25 best episodes) since it shared voice actors and executive producers, The New Batman Adventures did represent an aesthetic evolution. As the original series' audience got a little older, the first Robin became Nightwing and Batman streamlined his costume colors to just gray and black, a design he would mostly retain in sequel shows Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.
Batman & Robin (1997)
This candy-colored flop was the second Batman film directed by the late Joel Schumacher. Aside from replacing Batman Forever star Val Kilmer with George Clooney, Batman & Robin infamously added nipples to the costume. Though the intent was probably to replicate the skintight superhero costumes so often seen in the pages of comic books, the result remains laughable.
Batman Begins (2005)
Christopher Nolan's beloved revamp of the Batman film franchise set a new standard for 21st-century reboots with its gritty, realistic tone. The mission of this film (not unlike that of Burton's first Batman film decades earlier) was to wipe out the laughable cultural memory of a previous interpretation of the Dark Knight and replace it with a dark realism. It did this with aplomb, turning the Batmobile into a tank and giving Batman's costume a slick military sheen. No nipples to be seen here.
DC Rebirth (2016)
Writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo ended their acclaimed run on DC's flagship Batman comic (which lasted the entire first half of the 2010s decade) by redesigning the hero's costume. The most noticeable additions are a yellow outline around the bat chest symbol (a synthesis of the big yellow oval and the oval-less black bat designs) and the use of a new color (purple) on the inside of the cape.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Director Zack Snyder's take on Batman borrowed even more from The Dark Knight Returns than Tim Burton did, replicating that book's climactic battle between Batman and Superman (but, strangely, framing it as their first meeting instead of their last) and at one point even having Ben Affleck's Caped Crusader strike the same pose as Miller's iconic cover image to the first issue. They also replicated the suit of armor Batman wears in said fight almost exactly.
The Batman (2021)
Pattinson's costume in the upcoming film doesn't look too different from recent on-screen interpretations, though there does seem to be more of a balance between gray and black than Christian Bale and Ben Affleck wore.
Bruce Wayne (2021)
The most interesting look sported by Pattinson in The Batman trailer was arguably for his human alter ego, Bruce Wayne. Clad in dark eye makeup and sporting floppy hair, Pattinson's Wayne looks a bit more eccentric than the handsome playboy persona put on by Bale's character.