Historical Events  Movies
Batman symbol

When was the first Batman movie?

MMDE: 1960's

Current: 1940's

Many people are aware that there was a Superman movie in the 1950's. When you ask them about Batman however, they just remember Adam West playing him in the 1960's and think that was his first appearance on film. They are surprised to hear he was around even earlier than Superman.

Batman first appeared in comic form, since his creation by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. In fact his first two movies were in the 1940's and titled Batman (1943) and Batman and Robin (1949). The first actor to play him on film was Lewis Wilson, and his role was played by Robert Lowery in the second movie. There's some controversy around the first movie. Since it was made by the US during World War 2, there is a great deal of anti-Japanese sentiment present.

Serial

Calling the first appearance a movie blurs the lines slightly. This is because its format was a 15-part serial intended to be shown weekly, so there are many cliffhangers which make sense in this structure, but doesn't really when viewed together as one movie. This is considered as part of the charm from similar works of the day.

Some themes were established early on which are carried right through to the present day, for example the Batcave  and Alfred the butler, although both were slightly different to the way they became portrayed later on.

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Comics

In the comics, he was much tougher on the bad guys than was portrayed in the later movies. Also, the idea of a sidekick was inspired by Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and was just a plot devices to enable the audience to see how Batman thought, i.e. by discussing whatever perils they were dealing with at the time with Robin. His enemy the Joker also appear in the first  comic, but not the first movie. The Batmobile didn't appear until 1941, again in the comic only.

The reason Superman is generally thought of to originate many years before Batman isn't clear. Certainly, the Adam West era is very widely known and so must play a part in this, but to the dynamic duo it will always remain a mystery.