The concept of an inverted roller coaster with inversions was developed by Jim Wintrode, the general manager of Six Flags Great America, in the 1990s. To develop the idea, Wintrode worked with Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard – from Swiss roller coaster manufacturer Bolliger & Mabillard – and engineer Robert Mampe. The ride soft opened to the public on May 2, 1992, with an official opening one week later. Although the full cost of the ride was never disclosed, it was the single biggest investment made by Six Flags Great America on one attraction.
Clones of the original ride, at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, became a staple at Six Flags theme parks around the world, and were opened in Six Flags Great Adventure (1993), Six Flags Magic Mountain (1994), and Six Flags St. Louis (1995). Installation of the ride followed at Six Flags Over Georgia (1997), and Six Flags Over Texas (1999).
In 2002 La Ronde amusement park, Montreal, opened a clone of the ride under the name Le Vampire (The Vampire), and Warner Bros. Movie World Madrid, under the name Batman: La Fuga (Batman: The Escape). As La Ronde is not a branded Six Flags park, the licensing agreement with Warner Bros. and DC Comics for the name Batman: The Ride was not allowed. The La Ronde ride was expected to become Batman: The Ride when the park was scheduled to be converted to a Six Flags-branded park in the mid-2000s, however, these changes were never initiated.
Other non-Six Flags parks that installed Batman: The Ride clones are Diavlo at Himeji Central Park in Japan (1994), The Great White at SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas (1997), and Lightning at Entertainment City in Kuwait (2004).
One of the last installations of the ride was at Six Flags New Orleans in 2003, having been relocated from the Japanese park Thrill Valley where it operated as Gambit from 1995 to 2002. In 2005 the effects of Hurricane Katrina caused Six Flags to abandon its New Orleans park, and after standing but not operating for two years, the ride there was relocated to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, where it was refurbished and repainted. The ride reopened as Goliath on April 18, 2008.
On February 21, 2013, Six Flags Great America announced that their Batman: The Ride roller coaster would run backwards for a limited time during the 2013 season. Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Over Texas did the same during the 2014 season. Six Flags Over Georgia and Six Flags Great Adventure followed suit running theirs backwards for a limited time in 2015.
The original installation of the ride at Six Flags Great America featured a maximum height of 100 feet (30 m) while the installations to follow reached 105 feet (32 m). Each installation of Batman: The Ride has a track length of approximately 2,700 feet (820 m). The rides reach a top speed of 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) and exert up to four times the force of gravity.
Batman: The Ride clones operate with two steel and fiberglass trains, each containing eight cars. Each car seats four riders in a single row for a total of 32 riders per train.
The ride's layout was specifically designed to fit in the Yankee Harbor themed area at Six Flags Great America, although the layout for each successive attraction is identical or a mirror image of the original.
Batman: The Ride begins with the track floor descending. The train moves out of the station and up a chain lift hill. At the top of the hill the train dips down through a Bolliger & Mabillard pre-drop, coasts down a 190-degree swoop to the left, and drops into the first 360-degree vertical loop. It then flips through a zero-G roll, followed by another vertical loop. The train then travels upward around a tight spiral to the left, then through a wider turn to the right, drops slightly, and quickly turns through the first corkscrew (referred to as a "flatspin" by the manufacturer). Following this is a tight right turn and another flatspin, then a tight left turnaround before the train enters the final brake run.
While some Batman: The Ride clones opened with dark blue track and supports, others featured gray and yellow. Over the years there have been modifications in Batman: The Ride color schemes, with more incorporating yellows, blues, and purples. The original ride at Six Flags Great America retained the original black color scheme until 2004, when the track was painted yellow, and supports dark purple. Six Flags Great Adventure's originally featured a black color scheme with yellow rails until 2004, when the track was repainted yellow. For the 2010 season, the clone at Six Flags Magic Mountain was repainted medium blue with black supports.
Six Flags designers' decorative theme attempts to capture the spirit of Batman's world for those queuing to board the ride. As the queue moves through Gotham City Park, the theme becomes more ominous. Modeled after Anton Furst's award-winning set design for the original Batman film, the atmosphere indicates a crime-ridden and dirty environment, with wrecked cars, discarded pieces of equipment, crumbling concrete, and a Gotham City Police car riddled with bullet holes. The queue then enters the ride structure. The ride passenger loading area is modeled on Batman's Batcave, and features a replica of the Batsuit from the 1989 film.
On May 26, 2002, 58-year-old park employee working in the roller coaster's restricted area at Six Flags Over Georgia was killed after being struck in the head by the dangling leg of a 14-year-old girl riding in the front. The girl was hospitalized with a leg injury.
On June 28, 2008, a 17-year-old South Carolina teenager was decapitated after being struck by the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia. The teen, who was on a trip to the park with his church's youth group, scaled two fences with a friend into a restricted area and walked into the ride's path. Although witnesses stated he was trying to retrieve his hat, a Cobb County police spokesman reported the teens were attempting to take a shortcut into the park.
Batman: The Ride has generally received positive reviews. The Dallas Morning News stated the ride "is proof that new thrills on the cutting edge of technology generate excitement". They also praise the theme of the "smooth-riding coaster" stating "the mysterious crime-fighter is a proven crowd-pleaser". American Coaster Enthusiasts have also praised the ride, awarding it Coaster Landmark status in 2005. They describe the ride as a "revolutionary design" which offers "unprecedented intensity, while maintaining remarkable smoothness, comfort, and pacing". Ultimate Rollercoaster describes Batman: The Ride as "the ride of your life". They state "the sensation created by an inverted coaster is very different from that of traditional roller coasters. It is a sensation that every coaster fan must experience".
In Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Awards for Best Steel Roller Coasters, Batman: The Ride ranked reasonably in the late 1990s before dropping off the poll, and returning once in 2005. The original installation at Six Flags Great America was ranked 23 and 25 in 1998 and 1999, respectively, before returning in 2005 at position 45. In 1998, the Six Flags Great Adventure and Six Flags St. Louis installations ranked 19 and 21, respectively.
In Mitch Hawker's worldwide Best Roller Coaster Poll, Batman: The Ride peaked at position 21 in 1999 (the first year of the poll). The ride's ranking dropped in subsequent polls and is summarised in the table below.