Re: Batman Begins is the greatest Batman Film to me.
All three are great films and they form a whole. Bruce's story is not complete in Begins, nor is it in TDK. Though it wasn't designed at the outset to be a three film arc, Nolan was very effective in turning it into one. Part of that is how much TDKR owes to Begins.
Begins is the most important of the films because it rescued the character in his filmic form. Batman & Robin left a sour taste in everyone's mouth. Batman Begins saw fewer tickets sold (though higher revenue) than Batman & Robin did on its opening weekend, though it did open on a Wednesday. But it had to be built up through word of mouth because I don't think people believed in Batman on film anymore.
This left the door open for The Dark Knight. And while it did see increased interest due to Ledger's death (and it is very unfortunate that both of these last two Batman films have opened under clouds), Ledger's performance and the story would have driven it to double Batman Begins' take because that film set the stage. I think Batman Begins drew a lot of added fans in rentals, HBO viewings, and purchases so that people were willing to spend at the theater. It was all about Begins laying the groundwork.
I love Batman Begins, but I do see it as part of the whole. TDKR makes Begins and TDK better and TDKR wouldn't exist without the other two.
I still LOVE the power of Batman's first appearance and the sheer terror you can see in the thugs he's going after and then in Falcone himself. I love the origin of the Batsignal. And I love the Ra's Al Ghul twist that I didn't see coming the first time because I bought into Ducard. Heck, even the appearance of Zsasz gave me a big smile (scary, huh?).
And watching it after TDKR is even better. Despite all the tragedy we do see in all three films, I'm left smiling because we see people rising above it - not just Bruce.
Nolan made an entertaining and thought provoking trilogy that gives us an incredible character arc for Bruce Wayne. In doing so, he managed to relegate that other WB picture (under the New Line tag), Lord Of The Rings, into second place on the movie trilogy list IMHO. This is a more compact and more interesting work that accomplishes so much more than any other famous film trilogy. The amazing thing to me is that these weren't all filmed together and weren't conceived at the same time. LOTR was unique because it was really one big film, so the consistency was expected. This didn't happen Star Wars as Return Of The Jedi really changed tone quite a bit. The prequels had a tone and visual consistency, but ugh.
I love all three, but Begins was the most important.