One of the best things about getting a new Batman movie is all of the cool new toys, collectibles, and other merchandise released in stores. These days, there are definitely some impressive pieces to be had– that Jim Lee-inspired The Batman statue from McFarlane is one of my favorite Batman collectibles I own– but there’s something to be said about the truly weird toys we would get in decades past.
You know exactly what I’m talking about, too. Sure, a film-accurate Batman action figure is nice to have, but hitting the toy aisle at Target or Walmart or– if only we still could– Toys ‘R’ Us and seeing names like “Indigo Daydream Batman” and “Ice Blast Alfred” and “Teenage Angst Robin” had a certain nostalgic charm. And by the time the much-maligned-and-yeah-it’s-not-good-but-it’s-still-a-total-blast-to-watch Batman & Robin hit theaters in 1997, the Batman toy craze was in full swing, thanks to earlier toy lines based on Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Forever, and even those weird Legends of Batman figures where Batman was a pirate and a knight.
For fun, I am going to rank the toys from the Batman & Robin line, from best to worst, based on images I’ve found on the internet. There is no real criteria for the order here, as some of these figures are actually pretty cool (puns!) and others are just insane. They are all just a quick eBay search away, though, and… yeah, I’m going to want at least a few of these.
13. Triple Action Vehicle Set: Cool play factor, as it’s a Batmoble, Batwing, and Batboat all in one, but these are all from Batman Forever and just reskinned in a Batman & Robin box.
12. Radio Control Batmobile: This and the next entry look exactly the same, except the names differ by one word.
11. Remote Control Batmobile: Due to this, there’s not real difference, so I’ll rank them in alphabetical order, but descending numerically. They both look fine, but would require batteries, and those remotes/radios would always get lost and also need batteries.
10. Sonic Batmobile: Doesn’t require batteries, which is a huge plus, yet can still move thanks to an included ripcord. It looks pretty close to the car in the film, which isn’t my favorite, but bonus points for that. It would have been better if it had a pull and release function rather than those silly pull cord things, though, so that’s why it doesn’t rank higher.
9. Iceglow Bathammer: Honestly looks kind of sleek as a toy, and I like the twin firing projectiles. The box doesn’t indicate if the “wings” fold up to deflect Mr. Freeze’s ice rays, though, which would have definitely pushed this up a few slots if so.
8. Batmobile: Even if I don’t love the design of the Batmobile, I can certainly appreciate the addition of a firing Bat-shaped Ice Shatter Missile and two sweet Vine Attack Blades. It’s the little things.
7. Batgirl’s Ice Strike Cycle: This one I think I actually had way back in the day, and the vehicle was pretty fun. Batgirl’s figure is a little weird, with her assymetrical hips making it hard to get her on the bike, but the armored look is kind of neat and I like the little disc launcher.
6. Aerial Combat Batman: Honestly looks pretty slick, and I like the fold-out wings. Dart launchers are always fun, and I think this and the Robin figure like it are hilarious because their little heads are just sticking out of the top.
5. Nightsphere: Nothing more than a repackaged vehicle from the Animated Series line, this is still random and goofy and has nothing to do with the movie, which is bold. Hilarious. Amazing. It succeeds where the Triple Action Vehicle Set fails by not being related to the films at all, the Batman figure that is orange for some reason is a nice inclusion, and also spheres are neat.
4. Aerial Combat Robin: Copy and paste entry 12.
3. Aerial Defender Robin: Has an advantage over 4 by having a slightly cooler name and a picture of the toy on the box. The red and blue vehicle also looks sleeker than Batman’s, and again, darts are cool.
2. Jet Blade: There’s just something appealing about this design, reminding me of a more upscale and refined Ninja Turtles vehicle. The combination skis and tank treads rule, and that spinning disc launcher on the back rocks so hard.
1. Robin’s Redbird Cycle: Kind of wish Robin had film-accurate coloring, though I can certainly appreciate the possibly unintentional nod to the Tom Grummett Nightwing outfit from the comics. I legitimately love the design of the Redbird, and also really like Robin’s suit in the film, so throw in that firing bird missile feature and you’ve got yourself a sweet toy.
8. Wayne Manor Batcave: Prefacing that all of these playsets are pretty swell, this set is ranked so low because it’s pretty bare. If the Manor had come stacked on top of the Batcave it might have risen on the list, but as it is it’s the least neat of the neat sets.
7. Ice Fortress: Smaller than the Manor/Cave set, that’s actually to its benefit, as this would be a little more portable. Nice looking ice effects and some fun missile launchers make it look like this would be good for some easy set up and play, though some more film-specific details would have been nice. Where’s the Snowy Cones Ice Cream factory sign?
6. Armor Set: Wearable cape, cowl, and armor, along with some Bat-knuckledusters. Classic.
5. Utility Belt: Where the armor will make you look like Batman, the belt makes you feel like Batman. A Batarang, Batknife thingy, and Batdart Launcher. All this needs is to come in adult sizes for lifelong play/fashion.
4. Cryo-Freeze Chamber: Nice theming from the film and a working claw accessory make this relatively simple playset the best looking of the lot.
3. Bat-Tazer: Small, compact, and with a near Birdarang firing dart. Perfect for those Nerf battles where you need something easy to conceal and fire after you’ve exhausted your larger guns.
2. Mr. Freeze Observatory Micro Playset: Proving that good things can come in small packages, this miniature set comes packed with great features and some awesome box art. Love the Batman and Freeze figures, the huge ice ray, and the fact that it all folds up into a pretty nice looking observatory display piece.
1. Arctic Gotham Micro Playset: Like the Observatory playset, times two. Tons of figures, lots of play area, and that sweet movie logo make this practically the entire film in miniature. Just needs more neon and day-glo, and that one Smashing Pumpkins song.
No, wait, the other one.
Action Figures 40-31
40. Wing Blast Batman: Every time I look at this figure I think it’s supposed to be Hawkman. I like Hawkman. This is just ugly.
39. Challengers of the Night, Batman & Robin: Though I kind of love the shiny emerald green of Robin’s suit, there’s just too much that’s hilariously terrible going on with this set. There are better Batman figures, Robin figures, and two-packs in the line, and that wild Batnet laser thing is just weird.
38. Ambush Attack Batman: Several of the figures in this tier are just arbitrarily placed where they are, because I couldn’t think of anything to say about them. This is one.
37. Battle Board Batman: This is another.
36. Rooftop Pursuit Batman: Guess what? Yet another.
35. Rotorblade Batman: I kind of dig the original body sculpt with the bandolier and chunky gauntlets. The colors remind me of Deathstroke, though, and that’s never a good time.
34. Laser Cape Batman: Cool big red Batsymbol on the chest, and I like the little rings that come with this wave of figures.
33. Thermal Shield Batman: I’m a bit of a sucker for accessories that fit over characters like an exosuit. Bonus points that” thermal shield” actually kind of makes sense with the movie.
32. Sky Assault Batman: This…
31. Ice Blade Batman: …and this I’m almost positive are the same ideas as two separate BTAS figures. Ice Blade gets the edge (puns!) because those are not Batman colors at all and I love it.
Action Figures 30-21
30. Brain vs. Brawn: Like with Challengers of the Night, there are better figures of each character in the line. Unlike Challengers of the Night, the Bane figure here could stand on its own well enough, and rank much higher on the list if packaged separately. Shiny silver Batman is just wacky.
29. Blast Wing Batman: It’s fine. I like the colors. The end.
28. Jungle Venom Poison Ivy: For all the campy glee Uma Thurman brought to the role, this is a very subdued, even boring Poison Ivy action figure. Factor in the uninspired accessories and it’s just an okay figure.
27. Heat Scan Batman: For whatever reason, this is the figure that comes to mind when I think of this line. The laser… ray… attachment things kind of make the figure stand out, though excluding them might have made it better overall.
26. Iceblast Mr. Freeze: Were this the only Freeze figure in the line, it would have ranked higher. Because it isn’t, it doesn’t.
25. Neon Armor Batman: If this glowed in the dark it would have topped this list. Even still, making him “neon” is appropriate to the film, and there’s something I love about that giant grapple launcher accessory.
24. Talon Strike Robin: Did this predict the Court of Owls?! (No.) Another of those figures that’s ranked kind of arbitrarily, though I love the giant Robin symbol accessory.
23. Snow Tracker Batman: Decent theming, and a really inspired color scheme. The kind of flimsy wings hold it back just a bit, though I wouldn’t be mad if someone gave this to me as a gift.
22. A Cold Night in Gotham, Batman & Mr. Freeze: Great Freeze, and I like the colors on Batman. The two-packs that are better than this are just noticeably better.
21. Ultimate Robin: I almost love this, really, and seriously considered buying one at a convention a few years ago (it was something like fifty bucks, so I passed.) The “hey another Robin uses a bo staff!” accessory and dynamic-but-limited pose keep it from cracking the top 20.
Action Figures 20-11
20. Attack Wing Robin: A nice, bold design and cool wing accessory is held back by the overdone color scheme. I appreciate they went for it, even if it doesn’t quite work.
19. Battle Gear Bruce Wayne: Gotta love a “quick change” concept. Clooney sure did make a good Bruce, I think we can all agree, and the fact that the batman cowl in this set already has the mouth molded in means you either slide this over the figure’s existing head, or pop it off and replace it with this. Both are horrifying.
18. Mr. Freeze Ultimate Armor: Good Arnie likeness, and I can imagine that with the armor attached, this might be the best looking Freeze figure in the line. Without the armor already on, though, this looks curiously bland.
17. Guardians of Gotham, Batman & Robin: Anything that reminds me of the ice suits from the end of the film should get an automatic failing grade, yet something about the shiny silver and black on these figures compels me.
16. Batgirl: The figure itself is okay, despite having the same “cocked hip” pose as the Ice Strike Cycle Batgirl. She looks great with the cowl too, it’s just those huge and unwieldy weapons that stick out.
15. Blade Blast Robin: An arbitrary rank that’s helped by the cool design of that huge blaster.
14. Mr. Freeze: The best, most screen-accurate figure for the character. There are just two more Freeze characters that have better accessories.
13. Ultimate Batman: A better pose than Robin, and a better accessory to boot.
12. Wing Blast Robin: This is veering dangerously close to an over-designed mess yet somehow keeps it together. Love the colors on the figure, and the massive accessories work where Batgirl’s didn’t simply by having more of a play factor.
11. Ice Terror Mr. Freeze: How do you make a Freeze who doesn’t look as screen-accurate better than one who does? Give him a cute little roadster, that’s how!
Action Figures 10-1
10. Glacier Battle Robin: It would have been better with more traditional colors. Still, the purple and silver are quite striking, and his vehicle rocks.
9. Batman Fuji Film Special: A simple, solitary figure in a plain plastic bag. The sculpt and color scheme are great, and there’s just something alluring about mailaway exclusives.
8. Night Hunter Robin vs. Evil Entrapment Poison Ivy: While the inverted color scheme on Robin is weird, I still think it looks cool with that shiny plastic. Ivy is the real winner here, though, with a much better accessory than the standalone figure, along with a more interesting paint application. Shame they never made a Gorilla Suit Disguise Poison Ivy figure, but I’m glad she could be represented by a relatively cool toy.
7. Triple Strike Robin: This I actually own, having picked it up at a convention a year or two ago. The name, sculpt, and accessories are lifted directly from a Robin figure in the Batman Forever line, yet the colors on this are much better. I really love the white, red, and gold together, even if I can take or leave the stretchy projectiles and launcher.
6. Hover Attack Batman: Generally speaking, I’m going to prefer a simpler design if I’m going to pick up a figure. This is the best representation of the Batman from this particular movie, even without a standard cape.
5. Razor Skate Robin: This reminds me of Street Biker Robin from Batman Forever, though slightly less extreme. That figure is ridiculous, and I love it so much. This figure is also ridiculous, and I like it quite a bit too.
4. Iceboard Robin: Nice and traditional. Great colors, fun accessories, it’s a good Robin.
3. Jet Wing Mr. Freeze: This combines the spot-on look of the Mr. Freeze figure with the great accessories of the Ice Terror Mr. Freeze, all while staying entirely accurate to the film. Does Freeze make sense with huge metal wings coming out of his back? No. Do I care? Also no.
2. Frostbite: Yes, an anonymous henchman is the second best figure in this line. Look at him, though: great design and sculpting (love that scarf), and those hockey stick accessories are a great touch. He may not be a top-billed star from the film, but he’s a top-billed star in our hearts.
1. Bane: If you can’t be screen accurate, go comics accurate, and by that criteria this is legitimately one of the best Bane figures ever made. Sleek, clean, and mean, you could place him in other Batman toy lines and he wouldn’t look the least bit out of place. If there’s a better compliment for a figure than that, I don’t know what it is.
This was a lot of fun to do, so more to come soon.
All images obtained from Figure-Archive.net, unless otherwise noted.