Batman and Bruce Wayne have graced the big screen for over 75 years (that’s counting the serials). There are countless times fans have clapped, applauded and cheered for inspirational and powerful moments witnessed on the screen. There have also been times for shock, awe, and tears.
As we celebrate 80 years of our hero, I thought it’d be a perfect time to look back at some of the best moments we have seen Bruce Wayne and Batman on film.
Full disclosure: this was a tough list. Many will agree with certain selections, many will question certain omissions. First, why don’t I just do a Top 10 Batman list, and a Top 10 Bruce Wayne list? I’ll admit, I considered it. However, therein lies a problem where certain scenes made it hard to distinguish which category it fell under (number 2 being the ultimate riddle). My list, as subjective as it is, simply shows that these 10 live-action scenes deliver important, memorable and perfect moments caught on film, displaying reasons I have loved this character my whole life.
Scroll along now, and let me know if it worked for you too.
10) “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” – Batman: The Movie
It’s quotable, memorable, and 100% indicative of this version of Batman. Silly, humorous and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The moment is still quoted by fans today, and won’t be forgotten any time soon. It’s true to the character of (this) Batman, and firmly placed itself on this list.
9) Rising to the Signal – Batman Returns
This scene is pure fan service. I adore the way this is shot, with Bruce Wayne standing underneath the bat signal. My initial take on this many years ago was that he just waited until Gotham City called upon him. To many, this doesn’t work and I get that. But for me, I think it demonstrates this take on our hero when he’s out of the suit: reflecting, brooding and answering the call.
8) Bruce running to the rubble – Batman v Superman
Many don’t like Batman v Superman. Many also don’t like how Batman/Bruce Wayne was portrayed in the film. But many can stand behind the fact that Bruce’s actions in Metropolis were admirable and brave. In a time of chaos and destruction, he ran toward the threat. Without any guarantee of safety, he sprints into a blinding cloud of debris all in the hope of saving anyone he can. And thankfully he did.
7) “I’m Batman” – Batman ’89
What better way to prove this is a new Batman than to do a complete 180 from what everybody knows.
In 1989, Adam West’s campy, comedic performance as the Caped Crusader was still fresh in everyone’s mind. To many, he simply WAS Batman, and this Michael Keaton fella was an impostor. Tim Burton’s gothic atmosphere and Keaton’s haunting take were the perfect mix to flip audience expectations. The Dark Knight’s descent upon the two criminals is jaw-dropping, and the effortless way he disposes of one is dazzling. Then, everyone’s jaw dropped.
“I’m not going to kill you. I want you to tell all your friend’s about me.”
“What are you?”
6) Interrogation scene – The Dark Knight
This may be my favorite scene out of The Dark Knight Trilogy.
The dialogue exchanged between The Joker and Batman is too good to put into words. But this entire scene also plays an important role in defining our hero: it makes him learn fear and strength doesn’t always work on criminals. As he punches Joker, growling “Where are they?”, The Joker just laughs, saying “You have nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your strength.” Batman realizes he’s powerless here, and we don’t see him punch The Joker for the rest of the movie. It’s a key moment for this interpretation of the Dark Knight, because the elements he’s so heavily depended on to this point (fear, strength), are useless against this enemy. It’s a perfect live-action demonstration on how these two have remained so engaging all these years.
5) Martha Rescue – Batman v Superman
We’ve never seen Batman fight like this on film. Hell, maybe in anything. He’s fast, visceral, scary, and powerful. For many fans, this is the version of Batman we’ve been reading in comics for years. That moment the thugs are waiting for him to pop up demonstrates the fear the Dark Knight instills on all criminals in Gotham. Then it hits the fan in the ways he takes everyone out, one-by-one, one-by-three, etc. Blood or no blood, this may be the best Batman fight I’ve seen in the films.
4) The Docks – Batman Begins
Much like the importance of Keaton’s introduction back in ’89, Christian Bale had a daunting task in 2005 to sell audiences. He and director Christopher Nolan needed to assure audiences that their fears of 1997’s Batman & Robin were gone. All they needed to fear now, was this new take on the character. We don’t see our hero all that much here, and that’s the point. You fear most what you can’t see. And Nolan does a wonderful job showing the fear these criminals have as this shadow moves about, taking them out one-by-one. The entire scene works flawlessly, demonstrating Batman’s skills and power over the superstitious and cowardly that we’d never seen before on film. Then we get the payoff, “I’m Batman”. Sure, we’d heard it before. But we’d never feared it.
3) The Jump – The Dark Knight Rises
We endured a lot with Bruce during The Dark Knight Rises. He was handicapped, then “healed”, then broken. His faith was shattered, but he persevered. And we were with him all the way. Our hero, without a cape and cowl, builds himself up and takes a leap of faith. Aside from Hans Zimmer’s powerful score, we’re with Bruce all the way because we’ve invested so much in his recovery. And as we’ve seen countless times in 80 years of comics, Bruce makes the brave choice of jumping with no safety net…and climbs out of the pit.
2) The Ending – The Dark Knight Rises
“Batman has to die.”
“Batman can’t die.”
“If Batman lives, Nolan chickened out.”
“If Batman dies, I’ll never see a Nolan movie again.”
I’m sure Christopher Nolan knew what he was getting himself into while developing the final chapter of his Dark Knight Trilogy, and it seemed like a lose-lose situation. So if those are your only options, cheat! We not only get a Batman who dies, but a Bruce Wayne who lives. Perfect! And in true Batman/Bruce form, he’s thought of everything. This is the most satisfying conclusion of any Batman film I’ve seen, as each of Bruce’s most trusted allies receive powerful “gifts” that subtly fill them in that their friend is alive. And whether you could see it coming from a mile away or not, his nod to Alfred at the end should make everyone soar.
1) “But as a symbol…” – Batman Begins
No, it’s not flashy or action-packed, but this scene right here is the meaning of Batman. We hear from Bruce’s mouth what he plans to do, and who he plans to become. To me, this is the equivalent of Bruce in the chair ringing the bell.
“As a symbol, I can be incorruptible.”
Those words have stuck in my mind since the first time I heard them back in 2005. Here was, in my opinion, the best and clearest version, on film, for who Batman is and how he came to be.
There you have it. Completely right. No arguments needed. Nailed it.
Yeah, right. Feel free to let me know what you agree, and disagree with. Just remember, we all love Batman on film…and Batman-On-Film.com! – Ryan Lower