I've asked myself this question many times. Yet I've never come to a conclusion, it's quite hard to decide. There are so many versions, so I'm going to review the some versions of Batman and insert my opinion on the subject. I will only cover 3 versions, no more. I will just put the rest under the title of other. Let's begin:
Well. This version is different, different can be interpreted as good and bad. This version is definitely more violent and ''psycho'', for those of you that have read The Dark Knight Returns, you'll know what I mean.
This version of Batman truly did redeem Batman. Batman was a joke and the sales of Batman hit an all time low in 1985, Batman wasn't much. DC desperately needed help, so they turned to a man known as Frank Miller. Nowdays, Miller has lost it a little, from a comic-book standpoint. But back in the day, he truly was the king. His version of Batman was more radical and violent, the world around him had turned to dust without The Batman. Times had gotten much worse, the mafia were seemingly no more yet a gang known as 'The Mutants' had taken over Gotham. The leader of this gang, known as 'The Mutant Leader' was a violent, violent man. He ripped out the Mayor's throat, so this comic-book wasn't for kids. This comic could be classed as certificate rating 18 if it was accurately translated into a live-action movie back in the 1980s, now it'd be a 12 or a 15.
Let me start by saying, this version of Batman was big. Not just muscular-big, but completely steroid ripped. His physique resembled that of Arnold Schwarznegger. This book has had a big impact on Batman, it brought back the darkness and grittiness to Batman. As we see, Batman is now seen as some massive muscular hunk (see TAS), it doesn't take a genius to know that DKR inspired that. But talking about the version, this version was more violent. He went so close to crossing the line but actually didn't, he did cross the line in DSA but that can be crossed off as CIS. Anyways, this version is more violent, going so far to cripple a man, he didn't use his gadgets, he used his muscle. He was a tank, his bat-mobile even became a tank. This Batman had a 10 year absence, so something along the way must have straightened him out. Because this version was tough, he destroyed the Mutant Leader at the end, and, well....what he did wasn't very pretty. It's almost as if, this version of Batman actually enjoyed hurting criminals. So this version isn't completely sane, heck, maybe no version is completely sane. But this version was a psycho, the prequel (All Star Batman & Robin), actually showed that Batman was mean. But that story was a mess, this version had become insane, Gotham's crime had obviously shaped this Batman into a machine. He would stop at nothing to destroy crime, he was 55 years old when he returned. This version wasn't very smart, he relied more on his strength. By the end of DKR, he decided to go underground with Carrie Kelly and carry on his war on crime. He was violent, he had been reduced to that level of violence, this version of Batman reflected the state of Gotham. But for some reason, he just wasn't really Batman. He was The Hulk with a Batman costume, really, he just isn't what Batman should be.
This is a fan favorite. I grew up with this show, it really had an impact on me and most Batman fans. Even though I was only 6 when the series had ended, it truly was amazing.
One of the main reasons I loved this show, was that the creators weren't afraid to ignore the kiddy crap. This was a dark, serious show with some added humor. DC really hit the nail on the head with his show. One of the things that me and many others loved, was Kevin Conroy's strong Batman voice. His voice was strong and bold, it was Batman. This isn't just TAS I am talking about here, it's TAS/TNAS/JL/JLU (The Animated Series, The New Animated Series, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited). They are all the same version, the same version was shown in Batman Beyond but I'll move onto that later. This version of Batman originally, wasn't that strong. In TAS, he struggled with The Joker and normal street level thugs, but he was a genius. In TAS, he was more-so a Detective than a fighter, a smart, witty version of the character. He had a line, and he wouldn't cross it. In Mask of Phantasm, he was conflicted over love and Batman.
People say that Batman would never give up Batman for love but that's wrong. Batman is only human, he isn't a god, so he has choices. Love or Batman was a big choice for him, he wants to settle down and maybe even have kids, but he can't. He feels compelled to be Batman, he can quit, but the death of his parents really restrains him. In Mask of Phantasm, we see a lost man, a man that doesn't know what he wants. The choice between Batman and love is tearing him apart, shaping the man he will become. But in the end, he chooses Batman. He chooses the life that will help Gotham, but only destroy himself. Mask of Phantasm really did address the topic very well. The New Batman Adventures is essentially the same version, just a bit tougher. It's only in Justice League, where we see a drastic change. In Justice League, which is essentially on the same quality as TAS, we see a different Batman. He is more bitter and tougher, the events of TAS and TNAS have shaped him into a somewhat bitter man. He isn't completely bitter, but aside from the new suit, he truly has become Batman. This version of Batman is a far better fighter, heck, he was capable of dodging Darkseid's omega-beams and so, he was more experienced and all round, a better Batman. But was he a better person?
Years later, in Batman Beyond. Bruce Wayne is an old, bitter man. Even his old partners (Time Drake, Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson) have been driven away from him. They even have some feelings towards him, after Bruce made his choice, he had gone over-board. He became obsessed with his war on crime, so obsessed that those around him couldn't stand what he had become. Heck, even Terry McGuiness, a perfectly normal teenager (revealed to be a clone, stupid story-line) was turned bitter due to being around Bruce for so long. This version made a choice, but didn't get a happy ending. Still, was this version the best? He was certainly my favorite. But was he the best?
This version has become a favorite. Instantly attracting fan-boys since 2008's The Dark Knight, this version has had a start and finish. I don't think any version of Batman has had a conclusion. Maybe they have, but have they had an epic conclusion?
But in Batman Begins, we saw a lost man. Similar to TAS, however, this version truly wanted to make a difference. He didn't want to stay Batman for as long as he could, but he wanted to use Batman as a symbol to inspire others in Gotham to stand up against corruption. We see this man in Batman Begins, a man with nothing but determination. He had all the money in the world, he could have had anything. Yet he wanted more, I guess this could easily be said for any version of Batman. But this Batman just doesn't want to stay as Batman, his Batman has a purpose. To create a legend, in Batman Begins he was taught martial arts. He wasn't really the detective, but he was a fighter. Taught by the League of Shadows in the arts of deception and martial arts, this Batman was solid. He was taught by Ra's Al Ghul, in my opinion, this origin story was superior to that of Batman: Year One. Learning martial arts from Ra's Al Ghul, was a better decision than meeting him after he became Batman, something which happened in the mainstream continuity. This decision built the Dark Knight Trilogy overall. In Batman Begins, he deals with fear. His fear of bats is a theme heavily used in the film, but in the end, he uses his fear to scare those who prey on the fearful. By the end of Batman Begins, he has already established himself as a force to be reckoned with.
In the next installment, The Dark Knight. We see Batman deal with chaos, can Batman be pushed to his limits?
He certainly can. The Joker was a new type of criminal, Ledger's Joker was like no other. He was completely insane, he didn't want money, or power, he wanted chaos. What he did was pretty simple, Bale's Batman had only been Batman for 6 months, though this was his prime. What Joker did was pretty simple, all he did was kept on killing a person until Batman revealed his identity. Some of those victims were the fake Batman's as seen at the start of the film, so Batman's message to inspire others had obviously been interpreted differently. Batman was starting to feel guilty for The Joker's victims. It came to the point where he was going to reveal his identity, but a better man stood in his way - Harvey Dent. But even then, Dent was broken by The Joker. Batman took the rap for his crimes, and the legend was destroyed. Batman was intended to be good, but his legend was destroyed by a man with no logic. 8 years later however, the legend resurfaced.
In The Dark Knight Rises, not much can be said. This version is similar, but he crossed the line. He kills Talia and her driver at the end, Batman had finally learnt to cross the line when necessary. In the end, he faked his death and the people of Gotham respected the legend. At the end, the people of Gotham had learnt to stand up for themselves, Batman chose to end his life as Batman, as Batman had fulfilled his purpose, the legend was passed down to John Blake. Even a statue of Batman was built, Batman finally got his happy ending with Selena Kyle, and Gotham knew the truth of Harvey Dent, and they could accept it.
Really, I missed alot of other versions. But these 3 are the ones that interested me the most. But for me, even though TAS was my favorite, I think Bale's Batman was the best. He had a solid trilogy, and a conclusion to the Batman story. It's very rare that Batman get's a conclusion, and Batman being used to inspire people, IMO is a much better purpose. So that's just me.