Let’s talk about Batman, people.
Let’s talk about Batman in the movies.
While he may have started on the comics page, Batman has transformed into a cinematic behemoth. He’s had his highs (THE DARK KNIGHT) his lows (the Joel Schumacher age) and the in between but, all in all, Batman has done well on the silver screen.
This week sees the end of Christopher Nolan’s take on the Caped Crusader and it only seemed fitting to look back at the best Batman moments. These are my favorites but you and I both know there are plenty more I could have picked. When push comes to shove, these are the moments that stick with me most.
NOTE: I apologize for any low-quality videos below. But you own these all on Blu-ray anyway, don’t you?
#5: BATMAN RETURNS – Bruce and Selina dance
Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are keeping a few secrets from each other. The biggest secret: they are both masked vigilantes. While Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS has a whole lot of issues (bizarre tone, lack of Batman) this scene is pure magic for me. It’s dark, it’s sensual and, surprisingly, it’s sort of heartbreaking. Selina fighting back tears as she admits how lost she’s become gets me every time. There’s a deep sadness to these characters and this moment captures that perfectly.
Also, gotta love Siouxsie & The Banshees.
#4: BATMAN BEGINS – Batman debuts on the docks
People had many reasons to be excited for Christopher Nolan’s BATMAN BEGINS. One of the things fans really, really wanted was a scary, believable Batman, one who hides in the shadows and uses stealth more than one-liners. This scene features Batman laying waste to a bunch of Falcone’s goons while using the techniques he learned in training. Nolan doesn’t film this like a typical action scene. Instead, it really does feel more like a horror movie. Think about it, Batman would be terrifying if you were a criminal: he’s hiding in the dark, faster and smarter than you and seemingly impenetrable to your bullets and knives.
That moment when the goon yells “Where are you?” and Batman appears behind him is brilliant and pure Batman. This is exactly what fans were waiting for.
#3: BATMAN – Joker shoots down the Batwing
This scene is the conclusion of a long sequence that features the Joker’s maniacal, deadly parade through Gotham City. What better way to cap that off than to have the Joker shoot down the Batwing. And not only does he shoot it down, he shoots it down with a comically long gun. Oh, that Joker!
Everything here works, from Burton’s direction to Jack Nicholson’s crazed grin, Michael Keaton’s silent heroism and, last but not least, Danny Elfman’s classic score. When I was a little kid, I would replay this moment over and over again with my toys. I didn’t do it nearly as well as Burton and his team.
#2: THE DARK KNIGHT – Batman chases the Joker and Harvey Dent Through Gotham
I think we can all agree that the semi-truck flipping in the middle of a Gotham City street is one of the most memorable and impressive feats in recent cinema. The fact that it was done practically with zero special effects makes it even more remarkable. The bar was set high for all subsequent action movies.
But the entire sequence leading up to that jaw-dropping moment is a car chase for the ages. It revolves around Harvey Dent in the back of a SWAT truck after he lied and took the wrap for Batman. Being chased by the Joker, Dent’s truck gets a severe beating from various guns. Then Batman comes on the scene, convinced that Dent is worth saving, for himself and for Gotham. What follows is a wild ride through the dark underground streets of Gotham.
While the sequence is pure adrenaline and filmed brilliantly, there’s more to it than just visuals. For me, this was a moment when I really felt the weight of the world on Batman’s shoulders, the stakes never seemed higher. He needs to save Harvey Dent. If he loses Dent, he may lose any chance to hang up the cowl and be with the woman he loves. More than that, he can’t let the Joker win and his madman vision of anarchy triumph. Simply put, the fate of Gotham rests in the balance. Batman has taken on some major challenges before but it’s this moment that made it all feel real for me. And that’s what Christopher Nolan wanted when he took on the character, he wanted a world and a struggle that felt real. The gravity of Batman’s mission comes to life in this legendary moment.
Here’s the conclusion featuring Heath Ledger at his scariest:
# 1: THE DARK KNIGHT – Batman interrogates the Joker
I’m of the opinion that Heath Ledger would have won an Oscar for his work in THE DARK KNIGHT even if he hasn’t passed away before his time. I may be biased but I think it’s one of the best performances of the last twenty years, if not more. You can’t take your eyes off him.
And Christian Bale is no slouch either, as his own respective Oscar would prove. Put these two actors together, mix them up with deft direction and a nerve-racking script and you’ve got a scene that sums up the best of Batman mythology.
Batman and the Joker are meant for each other. One is all about rules and justice and the other is about anarchy and destruction with no rhyme or reason. Batman versus the Joker is essentially good versus evil. When the Joker’s plan puts both Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent in danger, Batman’s personal life is tied up with his heroic duty to protect Gotham City. But there’s no convincing the Joker, he’s hellbent on destroying everything in his path. And when Batman realizes that, he gets a little bit desperate…and violent.
There’s so much to love here. For me, it’s the perfect interpretation of decades of mythology. This is how the Joker and Batman should interact, this is the culmination of their relationship. Nolan shoots the scene perfectly and Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s score builds and builds and builds like it’s about to explode. Batman throws the Joker against the mirror, screaming for answers. This pain and violence only causes the Joker to laugh hysterically. It’s the most haunting moment from any Batman film.
This scene doesn’t involve gadgets, it doesn’t involve high-flying action. It’s just a man coming to terms with how powerless he is against pure chaos.
“You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your strength.” Chilling. This is the best of Batman on the big screen.