With the incredible news that Michael Keaton is in talks to return as Batman in Ezra Miller’s The Flash movie, we thought we’d take a look at what made his original performance as the DC Comics hero so iconic. He’s the first cinematic Batman that most fans remember when thinking about the Dark Knight’s adventures on the big screen. But before donning the cape and cowl, Michael Keaton was best known for appearing in comedic movies like Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice, making his dark portrayal of a brooding Bruce Wayne even more impressive. The work Keaton, Tim Burton and screenwriter Sam Hamm put into his story set the bar for the Caped Crusader’s live-action stories for years to come. Let’s look at ten perfect moments from Keaton’s Batman.
10. The Birth Of The Joker
Batman and the Joker have always been two sides of the same coin and it’s Jack Nicholson’s take on the villain that really examined their relationship on the big screen. Arguably one of the most important points in the first film is the Axis Chemicals fight. With Napier cornered by both the police and Batman, he shoots the Caped Crusader, only for our hero to deflect the bullet back at the villain. But the moment that captures Batman perfectly is his instant reaction to try and catch Napier from falling into the chemical vat below them. Sure, he’s on a war against crime, but he wants them to face justice. He’s not The Punisher. Since Batman fails to save Napier, the Joker is born, unleashing a gleefully terrifying force on Gotham City. Bruce Wayne often has to face villains that he’s indirectly created, and in this version of the tale there’s none more dangerous than the Joker.
9. Wonderful Toys
We all know that Batman has a gadget for every occasion and saving Vicki Vale from the Joker is no exception. After the Joker tries (and fails) to seduce Vale at the Flugelheim Museum, Michael Keaton’s Batman makes a typically heroic entrance by crashing through the glass ceiling to rescue the intrepid reporter. Ηopefully, Wayne Industries offers to pay for the damages… After using a double-sided cable gun to soar away from the villain and his goons, Batman shows Vale the impressive set of wheels he’s got, giving the audience an incredible look at the Batmobile. The goons chasing the Dark Knight obviously can’t keep up with the iconic vehicle as its jet engine roars through the streets. Sometimes the Bat’s adventures come across like The Fast and The Furious: Gotham City Drift. Now there’s a crossover waiting to happen!
8. Rooftop Romance
Vicki Vale who? It’s all about Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns. The Bat and the Cat have always flirted their way through their costumed adventures, and Tim Burton captures their dynamic perfectly. After the villain is born she begins her own war against Max Shreck, ultimately crossing paths with Batman and falling for the Caped Crusader. The chemistry between Pfeiffer and Keaton is perfect, especially when Selina crawls on top of Bruce on the iconic rooftop scene. Although these two were never going to have a happy ending, their relationship is fascinating. “Mistletoe is deadly if you eat it.” Ιt sure is Bruce, but so is Catwoman if you cross her! His relationship with Selina Kyle is arguably one of the most memorable moments from Michael Keaton’s Batman.
7. Ballroom Bruce
It’s not all about the costumed adventures, sometimes Bruce Wayne needs to show his face to remind the world that he’s a billionaire playboy and not living a double life. There’s plenty to say about the ballroom scene from Batman Returns. Bruce and Selina drift towards each other as the only two costumed vigilantes without a disguise at a masked ball. The obvious message? This is their mask. But it’s the expression on Bruce’s face when he finally figures out who Selina Kyle really is that shows how much Michael Keaton perfected his portrayal. Also, it’s not the only time Michael Keaton’s figured out someone’s secret superhero identity in an incredibly tense face-off. Remember Spider-Man: Homecoming?
6. Crime Alley Flashback
Obviously aside from the Batsuit, the gloomy Batcave and his insane car, the driving force behind Batman is the death of his parents in Crime Alley. The 1989 film cleverly combined the Caped Crusader’s origin with the Joker, giving him even more motivation to stop the Clown Prince of Crime. The way Bruce figures out the connection is a perfect way of making that fateful night in the alley a core part of the plot rather than just showing us a stereotypical origin story. It also shows us a little more of the Dark Knight’s detective skills when he’s examining the file of his parents death next to the Joker footage. His prowess as the World’s Greatest Detective is something that the films often forget. Keaton’s brooding presence in front of the Bat-Computer is pulled straight from the comics and it works a treat. Let’s just hope Robert Pattinson’s The Batman doesn’t include another slow-motion shot of Martha’s pearls falling to the ground.
Danny DeVito’s Penguin was the perfect follow up as a main villain for Bruce Wayne in Batman Returns. He adds a brilliantly theatrical flair to the film. One of the best examples sees The Penguin take over the Batmobile with Bruce still inside. Seeing Bruce watch on in horror as Penguin causes mass panic is a great way of pushing the hero to his limits. It also just shows how powerful Keaton’s Batmobile is — just look at the way it ploughs through cars on a packed street. The exhilarating sequence adds an insanely cool new addition to the Batmobile in the alleyway moment. The car narrows itself down and ejects its iconic fins to squeeze through a tight spot. Fans saw a similar technique several years later in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, where the Bat-Pod jumps out of the Tumbler. With prep time, Batman can do anything.
4. Bat Signal
One of the most iconic parts of the Batman mythos is the Bat-Signal, and in the Tim Burton movies it’s shown off in the most dramatic way possible. While Bruce is once again busy brooding in Wayne Manor, the Bat-Signal illuminates the Gotham skyline. But thanks to some reflective mirrors, the call-to-action also lights up the room Bruce is sat in. It’s a great moment as he stands up out of the chair with the symbol behind him. Sure, it raises a few questions like, is that the only room the symbol shines in? Wouldn’t he have to permanently sit in that chair to find out the city is calling for help? How does the Bat-Signal work if it’s not a cloudy night? Maybe we’re looking too deep into this. But seeing Michael Keaton’s Bruce stand-up ready for action is still a cool moment in Batman Returns that captures the over-the-top essence of Batman.
3. Batman Fights Penguin
It wouldn’t be right if Batman doesn’t get to fight a villain at the end of the film, and the Tim Burton sequel is no different! Not only does it feature a great fight surrounded by Penguins, but we get to see the Bat-ski-boat in action as Bruce races to stop Danny DeVito’s villain from destroying Gotham. And in a moment that’s straight out of Mario Kart, Batman crashes into the Penguin’s giant Duck Car. It’s just the type of absurdity these films get away with thanks to their hyper-stylized vision of Gotham City. The two end up trading blows while Cobblepot taunts Batman with the idea that he’s jealous of Penguin being a “real freak.” The fight ends when Bruce sends a swarm of bats to make Cobblepot fall through the glass window into all the toxic waste. Did anyone else notice that it mirrors the way Penguin kills the Ice Princess earlier in the film? She falls to her death after the villain surrounds her with a swarm of bats. Poetic irony.
2. Joker Fight
There’s a reason the Joker is the most iconic Batman villain of all time. His unpredictability makes him a one of the most entertaining characters to read and watch. Jack Nicholson’s version set the bar of what a villain could do. Their final fight on the Gotham Cathedral nails both their characters perfectly — The Joker can’t beat Michael Keaton’s Batman in a hand-to-hand fight, so has to resort to tricks instead. While we’re not about to open up the can of worms on Batman’s no-kill rule, Bruce’s rage isn’t surprising at all, as The Joker did murder his parents. The determined look on Keaton’s face when he ties Joker’s foot to the gargoyle says everything you need to know about his resolve. Sure, he and Vicki Vale are hanging hundreds of feet in the air and could fall any moment, but he needs to stop Joker too.
1. I’m Batman
For our number one spot, we have to recognize the first time we saw a truly cinematic Batman arrive in Gotham City. After stalking two goons on a rooftop, the Batman first introduces himself by holding his cape out above the pair of the criminals, showing off Keaton’s incredible black Batsuit with the iconic yellow symbol. And after Bats kicks one of goons through a door, he holds the other one over the ledge, telling him to warn his friends about Gotham’s Dark Knight. And it’s then we hear those all important words from Michael Keaton that immortalized his performance in an instant… “I’M BATMAN.” Intimidating criminals is what the hero does best, and his introduction translated the character from the page to the screen in a truly iconic way.
We’ve had plenty of Batmen follow Keaton’s footsteps over the years, and while they’ve all added their own style to bringing Bruce Wayne to life, it’s hard not to compare them to that initial cinematic adventure. As you’ll already know, Robert Pattinson is the next star to step into the cape and cowl so let us know in the comments what you’re most excited to see from The Batman. Keep an eye on Heroic Hollywood for all the latest entertainment news and be sure to subscribe to the channel!