As 2014 is the year of the Bat (75 years since his first appearance in Detective Comics # 27, 25 years since “Batman“) I decided to conclude it with a list of great moments of the Burton-Schumacher-tetralogy (and one surprise entry). I’ll exclude Nolan’s Dark Knight-trilogy, as my friend Wolfgang from flipthetruck.com already did it. I also won’t make a top-list, but it will be listed randomly. However, I will start in reverse, beginning with the final movie.
A.) Batman & Robin (1997)
Writing a list of great moments from “Batman & Robin” is pretty hard, as the movie is not really good. That said, it sucks in such a hilarious way, that is a funny watch every time.
1.) “I’m Mr. White Christmas”
Starting the list is the scene in Mr. Freezes hideout. Victor Fries (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a brilliant scientist who is desperately searching for a cure for his wife’s terminal illness. But as this scene shows, maybe he’s not that desperate. In freezing temperatures, he keeps his henchmen singing a children’s Christmas-/ Winter-song. As he can endure the low temperature, he’s seen wearing a thin bathe robe and polar bear-slippers.
This scene shows how completely wrong a tragic character can be depicted, while also being the funniest scene this movie has to offer. And those slippers!
2.) Batman & Robin vs Poison Ivy & Bane
So let me get this clear: The movie’s fight scenes are awful. They ar not well choreographed, but just plain silly. The dialogue is even worse. So how come this scene is on the list? Well, these two elements combined make a hilarious fusion. This scene is one great reminder of the 60s Batman-TV-show.
And while the fight is not good, Poison Ivy’s seduction of the two heroes with the urge to kiss/kill them, did have some suspenseful quality to it (at least for me as a kid).
3.) “What is Batman?”
In a surprisingly touching scene, Bruce Wayne (George Clooney) asks Alfred about his rather negative character trades. Alfred responses by recounting the most tragic moment in his ward’s life, and how it didn’t destroy him, but rather made him stronger, independent, and determined. Batman is just a counter-force to all the madness and evil in the world, determined to keep others from having the same fate as he did.
B.) Batman Forever
“Batman Forever” is the comic-debut of Joel Schumacher, and took the franchise in another direction. The move (on studio’s demands) became much more campy and comic-like.
4.) “Who’s your tailor?”
In preparation for the final battle with the criminal duo Two-Face and Riddler, Batman (Val Kilmer) has to choose the way he should attack, either by plane, or by boat. Enter Robin (Chris O’Donnel) offering himself as Batman’s partner and sidekick. On looking at Robin’s costume, Batman’s only question is about its origins. No persuasion is necessary, as Batman is immediately fond of the idea of a partner in his crime fighting. The scene shows the beginning of their friend- and partnership, and presents itself in an “epic” way, promising great things to follow.
5.) Two Face and Riddler Team-up
Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and Riddler (Jim Carrey) may be two of the more obscure portrayals of comic book villains. They are both loud, colourful and excentric. And although those two wouldn’t possibly get along well, it’s surprising how well they understand each other.
Riddler finds Two-Face’s hideout and needs his help to finish his doomsday device. Two-Face is torn as usual between accepting the offer and shooting Riddler. The eventual coin flip shall decide…
Note: This particular coin flip is also remade in “The Dark Knight“, when Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhardt) uses it to decide whether the Joker (Heath Ledger) should die or not. In both scenes, the end results are not shown directly, but could be understood in the following scenes. The only major difference is that Dent’s coin flip finishes his transformation into Two Face, while “Batman Forever’s” character has already been the psychopathic criminal.
6.) The Revenge-Franchise
In a very beautiful scene Bruce Wayne reflects on himself as Batman. Trying to discourage Dick Grayson from following in his footsteps, he tells his ward what it would mean to kill Two-Face: “Then it will happen this way: You make the kill, but the pain doesn’t die with Harvey, it grows. So you run out into the night to find another face, and another, until one terrible morning you wake up and realize that revenge has become your whole life. And you don’t know why.”
It is pretty heartbreaking to learn that everything Batmans has done since the end of the first movie was not glorious or for the good of mankind, but just a maniac’s seeking for revenge. It is probably the one scene in which Batman is most honest to Dick, to us the audience, and to himself.
Note: This moment is later also reflected on and referenced in “Batman Begins”, when Henry Ducard (Liam Neeson) tells Bruce Wayne: “I know the rage that drives you. The impossible anger, strangling the grief, until the memory of your loved ones is just poisen in your veins. And one day you catch yourself wishing the person you loved had never existed, so you’d be spared your pain.”
7.) Batman’s decision
At the end of the movie, Batman is confronted with an impossible decision: Whom to save, the woman Bruce Wayne supposedly loves, Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) or Batman’s new partner, Robin. He is told that he only has time to save one of them.
Still, he manages to rescue both of them. Confronting his adversary Riddler, he just claims: “I could only save them both, for you see, I’m both, Batman and Bruce Wayne. Not because I have to be, but because I’ve decided to be.”
Honorable mention: Secrets of the Batcave
In this deleted scene, the main motif of the movie would have been resolved: Batman’s own ambiguity towards his two personas. Due to the fact that he doesn’t know how to be Batman any more, he is advised to confront the very trauma that once has made him become the caped crusader. In a distant part of the bat cave, he finds the film’s macguffin, his father’s diary. Seeing it, makes him remember the time when he lost it and first encountered the bat.
It’s a similar scene as #7, and also not in the finished movie. That’s why it only serves as a honorable mention.
Honorable Mention: Batman solves the puzzle
“Batman Forever” also manages to portray Batman’s detective skills, when he has to find out the identity of his not so mysterious stalker. He is confronted with four riddles. While each of them is rather easy to solve, their common similarity is rather hard to find, but never unrealistic.
C.) Batman Returns
“Batman Returns” is Burton’s second Batman-movie, and much more in the director’s personal style. It’s also a lot darker than the other Batman-films.
8.) Death of an Animal
“Batman Returns” has one of the most anticlimatic and mismatched final showdowns. On the one hand we have Batman (Michael Keaton), the fighter, on the other hand, we got the Penguin (Danny DeVito), a small overweight man. He is no real match for the titular hero. The more surprising it is when he shows up at the end, when Batman is unmasked and wounded, determined and ready for one final stand and about to give a deady blow to his nemesis, only to discover that he accidentally took the wrong umbrella.
Still in his last moments, his family of emporer penguins sticks to him, and guides Oswald Cobblepott on his final journey into the icy water. It is a very tragic scene and touching gesture. However evil and bad you may be, your family still sticks with you.
9.) “I’m not a human being, I’m an animal”
After a disastrious humiliation by Batman during a public speech, Oswald Cobblepott returns to his home in the sewers. He denounces his birth name, and recalls himself Penguin. On the one hand, this scene shows the tragic ways of a person having enough of humiliation and discrimination, and finally snapping. On the other hand, it kinda proves that Penguin had always been evil, and a beast. The public opinion prior to his short popularity apparently was right.
Either way, it still remains a tragic scene.
10.) “Does this mean we have to start fighting?”
One of the most interesting things about “Batman Returns” was the mirroring of Batman and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer). Both survived tragic traumas, both had animal encounters to guide them, both were kinda society’s outsiders, and both kept double identities. Yet they stood on opposite sides of the law, fighting each other on various occasions. Still, because of their similarities, their public personas were attracted to each other, and fell in love.
However, during a masked ball scene, where both characters meet (both not wearing a disguise but their public masks of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle), they repeat quotes they have uttered to each other in a previous scene, eventually realizing that indeed they are Batman and Catwoman. Selina’s terrified, and asks in a shocked voice: “Does this mean we have to start fighting?”, appealing to their opposite agendas. It is clear that these two lovers would fight each other to the death if necessary, but are still willing to try to find another way to resolve their differences.
Only if they had the time to talk about the whole situation, they could have ended up happily.
11.) A lone crusader
This short scene does not contain any dialogue. There isn’t much happening on-screen either. The city’s bat signal triggers some headlights in Wayne manor. Bruce Wayne is lonely sitting in an unlit room, awaiting the signal he couldn’t possibly know would come in that very moment. The scene shows that Bruce Wayne does not have anything else in his life, and is just stumbling around/ sleeping, awaiting the time when Batman is needed.
Honorable mentions: “Ok now I’m a little worried”
“Batman Returns” raised the stakes in terms of action by having the batmobile being manipulated and hijacked by the Penguin in order to frame Batman. The plan is successful and Batman not only must recover control over his car, he also must find a way to fight the Penguin and also flee from the police. The only way to do so is by a very risky manoeuvre that only works once, given that it works anyway.
Batman has never tested it, and is surprised to see that in need it seemingly won’t work.
Choosing 4 moments from “Batman” is as difficult as it has been for “Batman & Robin“, but for different reasons: The movie is just so great and contains hundreds of great moments and scenes, every single one worthy of this list. But I also felt that I just couldn’t list the whole movie, for that would be cheating.
12.) “You can call me the Joker”
Having just come back from the presumed dead, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) confronts his former employer Carl Grissum, who had betrayed Jack to the police. Begging for his life, Grissum tries to make a deal with “Jack”. But Napier’s response is both thrilling and exciting, as indeed, Jack Napier is dead, but The Joker lives.
Although it is certainly not the first time the character played by Jack Nicholson appears in the film, it is the introduction to his persona “The Joker”, Batman’s arch nemesis. There is a subliminal shift of Napier’s character in this scene. It begins with the character’s seriousness, the audience had got to know in the first half hour of the movie. But as soon as he declares “Jack Napier” dead and adopts the Joker-persona, the villain appears much crazier and more relaxed than before. The circus-tune-based music cue reinforces that particular insanity, as The Joker deliberately shoots Grissum in various positions, just for fun.
13.) Myth vs Reality
After two thief’s have mugged a wealthy family in a scene that resembles the most traumatic event for Bruce Wayne, they are hiding on a dirty rooftop. One of them is fearful about his partner’s brutality and carelessness during the mugging, as it could invoke the wrath of a mythical creature, half man, half bat, which is said to have been killing minor criminals the last few weeks.
While the two argue about the existence of the Bat-man, a shadowy figure lands behind them, shrouded by thick fog. Next, he/it is seen right above the crooks, scaring them. Even though they shoot him in self-defense, the Bat-man doesn’t seem able to be killed, as he stands up again, his/ its wings threateningly. On of the crooks gets punched through the door, while the other is caught by the creature’s fangs while escaping. Totally scared, the criminal begs for mercy, not to be killed. The creature calmly responses: “I’m not gonna kill you. I want you to do me favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.” – “What are you?” – “I am Batman.”
This scene introduces the movie’s protagonist Batman, in a brilliant way. First there is only the talk about him. Rumors about past and recent actions, stuff the people heard from other people. The things said about are excessively exaggerated, but even when he does show up you’re still not sure what he is up to. When he appears, you can see that here is only a man in a costume, but still you don’t see him clearly, as he is mostly shrouded in shadows.
14.) “You ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
Ok, this is a bit of a cheat, as it isn’t exactly one moment, but three that are interconnected. The first time this sentence is uttered, is in the scene where the Joker visits Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger) in her apartment, and meets Bruce Wayne. Outnumbered, the vigilante doesn’t fight the villain and his henchmen to the audience’s and Vale’s surprise, but plays it kind of safer to get himself shot. But even though his plan works, he still is surprised when the Joker asks the question: “You ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” The quote itself does not serve any point other than sounding poetic for the villain, giving this incarnation of the Joker also some kind of chaotic character trades. It also seems to have any further meaning to the audience either, or does it?
The second time the quote is used, is also the reason why Bruce Wayne was that taken aback and shocked when he heard it in the prior scene: It is because his parents’ killer did also utter that sentence after he’d shot the Waynes. The Joker had just revealed himself as that killer from back then, linking Bruce Wayne’s fate with his own.
The final time the quote is used in the film is during the showdown. Batman has just battled the Joker’s toughest henchmen, and while Vicky Vale is distracting The Joker, Batman sneaks up on the two and quotes the villain, before punching him in the face. This time the question is used as payback. Batman is up for revenge against Napier, and reveals their connection. Their final encounter is not only to save the city, but it’s also personal. Batman quoting The Joker shows, that he is offensively confronting his childhood trauma.
15.) “He gave us a signal” – Joker’s last laugh and Batman’s letter
The Joker dies by falling off a cathedral. But still the surrounding crowd hasn’t heard the last of him, as he keeps laughing. Only when Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) examines the body a laughing bag is revealed to be the cause of the laughter. Even thought the clown prince of time is dead, that doesn’t mean that everything is back to normality. Nothing will ever be, because as the laughing back moment roves, there will always be madness and dark forces that would like to crush the city.
The movie’s ending plays on a similar level. During a press conference, Harvey Dent reads a letter from Batman to the city of Gotham, in which the hero promises to return, should the city ever need him again. To enable them to call him, Commissioner Gordon reveals the famous bat-signal. The movie ends with Batman standing on a rooftop, staring at the switched on-signal in the sky, feeling glorified.
Like the laughing bag-scene, this sequence also hints on a never-ending story, that has only just begun.
E:) Batman – The Movie (Batman hält die Welt in Atem)
16.) “They may be drinkers, Robin, but they are still people” – Batman and the bomb
One final moment goes to the probably most famous scene in “Batman – The Movie“. Batman (Adam West) wants to save some crooks at the docks from an exploding bomb, but everywhere he runs, there are people in the way. When he is later asked by Robin, why he wanted to save the scumbags, he appeals to his code of honor: “They may be drinkers, Robin, but they are still people.” Adam West’s Batman is a moral apostle, a genuine good person who always wants to do what’s right, even if it endangers himself. It is such an iconic scene and moment for the character, that it even got kinda referenced/ remade in the finale of “The Dark Knight Rises“.
This concludes my list of Batman-moments. I hope you enjoyed it. As there are a lot of scenes worthy of being listed, I guess you would have made some other choices than I have.