Batman (1989)

batman poster 1989 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Jack Nicholson, Tim Burton's Gotham

Not as edgy as it was in 1989

Movie Info

Movie Name: Batman

Studio: Warner Bros.

Genre(s): Comic Book/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): June 23, 1989

MPAA Rating: PG-13

batman vicki vale kim basinger michael keaton

Where does he get those wonderful toys?

Gotham City has a problem with crime, but now crime has a problem with the Batman.  A mysterious figure is luring the rooftops and the criminals are starting to get scared.  When crime lord Grissom (Jack Palance) sets his lackey Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) up, an accident occurs in the battle with Batman (Michael Keaton)…leaving Jack far more dangerous as the Joker who has no restraints and a deadly sense of humor.  Gotham is in real trouble and reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) and photographer Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) are trying to unwrap the secret of the Dark Knight while Vicki finds herself entangled in another mystery of the enigmatic and wealthy Bruce Wayne.  The Joker has plans for Gotham City and Gotham’s only hope could be Batman!

Directed by Tim Burton, Batman is a DC Comics superhero movie.  The film was a blockbuster and released to positive reviews.  It won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.

batman joker jack nicholson

Love that Joker!

Star Wars was the movie growing up by 1989, most franchises were either winding down or finished.  Batman showed hope.  A big screen comic book movie was a rarity and the movies that had been released were questionable at best following Superman II.  The movie represents a spark that had the coming together of a hero everyone loved and an up-and-coming director.

The movie tells a classic Batman story.  It features the origin of the character (which hadn’t been told a million times at this point on screen) and an origin story for his most famous villain.  The two set-off in an epic good-vs-evil story where the hero isn’t in the bright light but the shadows while the villain loves a show.  It was a perfect story to wrap of the 1980s which was all about opulence and greed (which ironically Bruce Wayne is richer than anyone).

The casting was a big question mark when it was announced.  Everyone denounced Michael Keaton (aka Beetlejuice and Mr. Mom) as the Dark Knight, but now he’s often heralded by fans as the best Batman.  Casting Jack Nicholson as the Joker was perfect and Nicholson ate up the role like the other actors who followed him.  Kim Basinger’s shiny glow is a perfect contrast to the darkness of Batman costume and Gotham.  The movie also features good supporting actors including Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jerry Hall, and Tracey Walter.

batman ending batsignal

Ok, even if he sleeps in until noon, I bet Batman finds himself falling asleep behind the wheel of the Batmobile

The visuals also come together with the story.  Lots of the story and the look were based on The Dark Knight Returns and Batman:  The Killing Joke, but there is still an undercurrent of the “fun” 1960s Batman that combines with darkness into a strange blend.  Later sequels tried to boost the camp with bad results but Burton’s Batman gets the combination of gothic Gotham and humor right.

Batman is a classic.  It’s quotable, and love it or hate it, Prince (RIP) provided a unique and different soundtrack.  I ODed on it a bit in the 1990s (it was one of the VCR-DVD-Blu-Ray titles where I had to get it every time a new format came out), but watching it again with some space and a slew of comic book movies to compare it to is a fun ride.  The movie doesn’t seem as dark as it did in 1989, but it has something that many of the current comic book movies are missing…fun and unpredictability.  Burton continued directing for Batman Returns in 1992.

Related Links:

Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Forever (1995)

Batman & Robin (1997)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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