After covering Batman's early years and modern classics, I'd cover some of the "Elseworlds" books, out of continuity stories where creators can be imaginative without a Bat-fan riot over inconsistencies with facts from older stories.
- Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola
The gist: Set in the late 1800s, Bruce Wayne is returning from Europe where he's trained to be a crimefighter. He arrives in Gotham to begin his life as Batman. At the same time, after terrorizing London, Jack the Ripper has come to Gotham as well, and Bruce Wayne becomes the main suspect. And there aren't many better than Mignola at creating moody, dark art.
Any relation to the movies?: Not at all.
Villains who appear: Jack the Ripper, although there is a brief appearance by the Joker.
- Gotham Noir by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
The gist: Batman reimagined in a film noir style tale. Jim Gordon is a private detective, Selina Kyle is the femme fatale, a nightclub owner. It's not the greatest thing ever, but if you're a fan of film noir and Batman, it's a fun read (though it's out of print, I think, so it's annoying and/or expensive to find).
Any relation to the movies?: There is a Joker element that ended up in the Dark Knight, but I don't think it's unique or original to Gotham Noir.
Villains who appear: Catwoman, Joker, Harvey Dent.
- Batman: Year 100 by Paul Pope.
The gist: Long after Batman disappeared from Gotham, and 100 years after his first appearance, the city has become a police state. A new Batman appears in a makeshift costume, and Captain Gordon, grandson of the police commissioner who tracked the original Bat, is in charge of hunt for this new vigilante.
Any relation to the movies?: Not as far as I could tell.
Villains who appear: None that I recall (it's been a while, though).
- All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder by Frank Miller and Jim Lee
The gist: A slightly insane version of Dick Grayson's origin as Robin (with some Batgirl origins as well). "All Star" is DC's line of comics where they get top creators to work on top characters in out-of-continuity tales, so they got fan favorite artist Jim Lee to work with legendary writer Frank Miller. What followed was uneven and on more than a few occasions I became convinced that Frank Miller had lost his mind. But the whole time I was laughing, whether it was intentional or not. This book got some press for releasing an issue where black bars covering obscenities hurled at Batgirl failed to really obscure the lettering (I don't know why they would actually write the words out, but oh well), and most of the copies were shredded. Anyway, the first volume is worth a read if only for a great scene with Green Lantern Hal Jordan.
Any relation to the movies?: Nope.
Villains who appear: Joker, Catwoman, Superman (and the rest of the Justice League).