Since 1989, the “B” in blockbuster stands for Batman. There have been total misses in terms of the completed films, but there are wonderful moments that stick with you forever: moments you reenact at parties, use as code in conversation with friends, quote when you play Batman with little kids. Batman is in each and every one of us movie lovers. Let’s look back on some of Batman’s best moments.
10. “Why do we fall?”
Michael Caine’s Alfred is my favorite character in Nolan’s Batman series, outside of Heath’s Joker. Caine brought tenderness to Alfred never before seen. When Alfred reminds Bruce of his father’s words of wisdom late in the movie it sums up everything about the Nolan/Bale take on Bruce Wayne. In a movie about consistently falling and rising, trusted Alfred makes it all better in a single question that is both tough love and tender care.
9. “Suit up.”
Ok, yes, this is from the “bad” movies and showcases the “bad” costumes. However, I think these sequences actually succeeded in conveying the silly quality I believe Joel Schumacher was always going for. He wanted to make a live-action cartoon, but I think studios and egos prohibited him from living up to his own desire of making a fun summer flick. The rapid fire shots of the detail on the Bat-suits allowed the costumers’ work to shine, let the audience know what kind of gadgets they were packing, and injected some actual, farcical humor into films. You know what? I think these are the only inspired portions of the Schumacher films: butts, nipples and all…
8. “Sometimes you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”
The 1966 Batman film based on the TV show is still to this day one of the most enjoyable Batman films ever. I also believe it to be one of the most entertaining movies of the 1960s. The cartoonish bomb, Adam West’s running and delivery, all combined with the cheeky camp of the film gave us a sequence that is both unforgettable and fully quotable. The image of West hoisting the bomb with its sparking fuse just shows us that Batman can be anything, hilarious, irreverent, but always heroic because, hey, he still got rid of it!
7. “Wait ’til they get a load of me.”
Switching gears completely, the defining image of 1989 in film is Jack Nicholson‘s grinning face as the Joker. His first full introduction in Tim Burton‘s blockbuster gives us a clear idea of who Jack’s Joker is and how weirdly terrifying he can be. We know Jack, and we know the Joker. It’s the combination of the two that makes our jaws drop and firmly plants us in our seats for the rest of the movie. Jack’s demeanor, the bloody gloves on the newspaper, Anton Faust’s art direction behind him, the eerie dialogue, the laugh, in this scene, Jack is telling us, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
6. “Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint.”
The Joker does something to people: the audience, the actors portraying him, pop culture in general. There is something so primal about The Joker, he embodies everything we are afraid of in society because we will never understand him or be a step ahead of him. The sequences in The Dark Knight of The Joker locked up and interrogated are some of the most unpredictable sequences in all of Bat-lore. We’re halfway through the movie. The Joker is caught. But, we all know that is exactly what he wants and we also know the consequences will be devastating. Maybe not a moment, per se, but it is a sequence that raises so many questions and presents so many problems for our heroes–we are shown that the Bat-universe is dense and these characters can get under our skin in a way few long-running pop creations can.
5. “Turn on the signal!”
Batman Returns is by no means a great movie. It has fun sequences and looks great, but there is one moment that is simultaneously pure Burton, pure Keaton and pure Batman. When The Penguin’s goons attack Gotham at the open of the film, an overwhelmed Commissioner Gordon orders the GCPD to turn on the signal for Batman’s help. What we get is something that stays with you because we get to see what Bruce Wayne does when he’s not Batman. He meditates. He broods. He is always waiting to be Batman. I don’t have anything eloquent to say other than: it’s fucking cool.
4. “Does it come in black?”
Nolan’s Batman is not entirely humorless. It’s cheeky, actually it’s really British. The Bond/Q like scenes with Bruce Wayne and Lucious Fox, where Fox is showing all the tech Wayne Enterprises have been working on, explain how Batman can become Batman in such an entertaining way, with room for jokes and banter we feel we’re right there with Bruce. However, we know Bruce’s secret, we knew going into the theater we’d be seeing Batman. When Bruce takes the Tumbler out for a spin, we know that this unusual looking behemoth is the new Batmobile, and our new favorite car. Bruce asking if it comes in black was enough to get us all in on this new and fresh Batman adventure.
3. “They weren’t afraid of me!”
The only theatrically released animated Batman adventure is derived from what could arguably be the best interpretation of Batman outside of the source material, Batman: The Animated Series. In the feature film, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, we get to see the early days of Bruce Wayne figuring out what will become his alter-ego. Through trial and error, Bruce puts what he has already learned to the test. He dons a ski mask and leather jacket attempting to thwart some would-be robbers. He is somewhat successful and holds his own in a fight, but there is one thing missing: theatricality and deception, powerful attributes to defeat the cowardly and superstitious. When Bruce returns to Alfred he admits something to Alfred, as well as himself, something so simple yet crucial to the Dark Knight. Bruce proclaims, “They weren’t afraid of me!” They must be.
2. “How about a magic trick?”
We’ve described this scene as one of the best moments in the last 10 years of comic book film in our Earth’s Mightiest Decade countdowns back in May, but it needs to be said again. This scene not only won Heath Ledger the Oscar for his portrayal of The Joker, but also quickly tells us everything we need to know about The Joker. He is threatening, cynical, brilliant, much more physically powerful than you might think, and… actually, oddly funny. Watch the scene again, and watch every line delivered, every motion, every facial expression. This scene is not only one of the best Batman moments, but one of the best overall movie moments in recent cinema.
1. “I’m Batman.”
The line that solidified Batman as a movie icon. The opening of 1989’s Batman introduces a new Batman for the masses. Forget the 1960s Adam West interpretation. Forget the Superfriends cartoon. Here is a grim avenger of the night. Who is this shadowy masked man? He’s Batman. Whenever someone puts a Batman mask on, 99.9% of the time that person will whisper, “I’m Batman.” This moment has resonated since ’89 and will continue to do so. In fact, the line is so good, Christopher Nolan himself lifted it for Batman Begins.