George Clooney as Batman and Chris O'Donnell as Robin with...

George Clooney as Batman and Chris O'Donnell as Robin with Uma Thurman As Poison Ivy in the 1997 film "Batman and Robin." Credit: Getty Images/ Warner Bros

Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 on March 30, 1939. That series, from which today’s DC Comics derived its name, released a celebratory 1000th issue last month.

Moviegoers can help celebrate the milestone with local screenings of the four blockbusters that launched the modern “Batman” era in the late 1980s and '90s. Reviews of the movies varied widely and grew increasingly negative as the franchise reached its later years. In hindsight, though, they helped shed the campy vibe of the “Batman” television series of the 1960s and foreshadowed the darker, more complex “Dark Knight” trilogy that Christopher Nolan would make in the 21st century.

The series begins with Tim Burton’s Gothic, groundbreaking “Batman” from 1989, which introduced a counter-cast Michael Keaton in the title role and featured Jack Nicholson in a memorable turn as The Joker. Screenings are Saturday, May 4, at 1 and 4 p.m.

Burton’s follow-up, “Batman Returns” (1992), pushed the superhero into even darker emotional territory and featured two of the series’ best villains: Danny DeVito as a putrid Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as an exceptionally slinky Catwoman. Screenings are Monday, May 6, at 4 and 7 p.m.

Burton handed the reins to Joel Schumacher for “Batman Forever” (1995), while Keaton was replaced by Val Kilmer. Reviews were not kind, though Jim Carrey’s Riddler proved a standout. Screenings are Sunday, May 12, at 1 and 4 p.m.

The series closes with Schumacher’s gloriously goofy “Batman & Robin” (1997), the infamous turkey starring George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell in the title roles, respectively; Arnold Schwarzenegger received top movie-poster billing as Mr. Freeze. It’s one of the rare films whose director has publicly apologized for it; Clooney said it “killed the franchise.” Screenings are May 14 at 4 and 7 p.m.

Showtimes at local theaters may vary. For tickets and complete scheduling information go to

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