Why Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman is A Bad Batman Movie

Note: I wrote this article back in 2015, and both my thoughts on the subject and the state of Batman films have evolved since it was published. I no longer believe Batman (1989) to be as bad as I once did, but, more importantly, I don’t get joy in yucking the yums of others as much anymore. I still think it’s one of my least favorite Batman films—but I have come to recognize the difference between having favorites and least favorites and taking a definitive stance on “best” or “worst”.

Anyway, the below is the article in its original form. I’ve chosen not to change any of it, but if you want to read more about my evolution on certain kinds of internet writing, I recommend you check out my article on James Bond and fragile online fans. In particular, the last point I make in here about people thinking Batman (1989) is good, and that making it bad, is the one I disagree with the most.

Of course, I still do agree with several parts of this article, especially that I really don’t like the way Commissioner Gordon is portrayed in the 1989 and 1992 Batman films.

Original article, where I explain why (at the time I thought) Batman 1989 is bad, is the worst, etc:

Why Tim Burton’s Batman is the Worst Batman Movie Ever

People are still complaining about the idea of Ben Affleck as Batman. But, based on the trailers alone, and a few released still images, it’s already obvious that, even at its worst, the new Batman and Superman movie can’t be worse than what has come before it. Batman has bottomed out plenty of times before, but nothing is worse than the 1989 feature film adaptation, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton. It does not matter what Ben Affleck does or does not do. Nothing is worse than what has already happened.

Infinite hope.
Infinite hope.

Let’s look at why.

8. Commissioner Gordon is a disaster.

The only reason that this is one of the minor flaws in this film is because Jim Gordon is made into such a completely irrelevant character. They took one of the most important aspects of the Batman myth and made him into a bumbling, slapstickish cartoon police chief. If Burton had treated his source material with more respect, Gordon wouldn’t be such an irrelevant character. Commissioner Gordon is one of the first two characters in Batman, ever. He and Bruce Wayne appear on the very first page of Detective Comics #27 together. He has a major role in every great Batman comic and graphic novel of all time. Instead, he is made into an incompetent joke who you probably don’t even recall being in Burton’s Batman.

7. Batman is completely wrong, including that there is no hint of the “Batman shall not kill” concept.

I understand that the “Batman doesn’t kill” rule hasn’t been around forever. In the first few comic books in which he appeared, he cavalierly snapped necks and shrugged when villains died. But by the time the 1989 Batman film was made, Batman had become staunch in his refusal to kill. His character spent the majority of his time in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns musing over the death of Jason Todd and wondering if it could ever justify killing the Joker in return… which he did not do.  Then, in Batman, it never seems to even cross his mind that he doesn’t kill people.

6. Tim Burton didn’t like comic books.

Quoting Burton: “I was never a giant comic book fan, but I’ve always loved the image of Batman and the Joker. The reason I’ve never been a comic book fan – and I think it started when I was a child – is because I could never tell which box I was supposed to read. I don’t know if it was dyslexia or whatever, but that’s why I loved The Killing Joke, because for the first time I could tell which one to read.”

Interestingly, it seems that Joker Leto  is inspired by this. Let's hope he and the Jacker don't have similarities.
Interestingly, it seems that Joker Leto is inspired by this. Let’s hope he and the Jacker don’t have similarities.

At this point, its important to tell you that The Killing Joke, despite being written by genius Alan Moore, is considered by most to be a bad Batman narrative, and considered by Alan Moore to be Alan Moore’s worst work.

5. The Joker is completely wrong.

The character of The Joker, like a lot of characters in Burton’s films, is not a real character. He changes from scene to scene, with no defining characteristics. The only really clear thing about him is that he is pining after the same woman as Bruce Wayne AND Batman. Worst of all, we are given a definitive origin of his character, including a name, an explanation for why his skin is white and his hair is green. And in giving him these characteristics, we never get a fully-formed Joker. He always remains nothing more than a mentally-ill gangster, out for revenge. Sure, The Joker is the same villain whose identity is ever-evolving. But here, he doesn’t even seem to remember that he IS The Joker. And this is tragic, as he’s being portrayed by Jack Nicholson. Imagine if Nicholson had the chance to play a version of The Joker who made sense, and who matched the villain we know from the source material.

Of course, if they had done a better, proper job with The Joker in 1989, we would never have gotten Heath Ledger’s brilliant version in 2008.

4. Bruce Wayne is completely wrong.

Throughout all other Batman media, Bruce Wayne is presented as a good, troubled man who dresses up as a bat at night. But during the day, and in the public eye, Bruce Wayne attempts to project the false identity of “billionaire playboy philanthropist.” The trouble is that, in this film, Bruce seems to not have that facade. He IS that bad boy. He’s disrespectful to his butler and father figure, Alfred. He doesn’t seem to have any ethics regarding being sober and sleeping with a drunk woman (which is so, so messed up. Makes you wish that Bruce Wayne of The Dark Knight could go back in time and beat up Bruce Keaton). He also watches a strange amount of television. And, during various scenes, he watches villains do some dastardly deeds while he just looks on and does nothing.

3. The tone is inconsistent.

It can’t decide if it’s cheesy and fun, or dark and mysterious. The protagonist is unclear. Bruce Wayne is more creepy and unethical than anything else. And this is what makes this, yes, a worse movie AND a worse Batman movie than the goofball buddy action films Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. At least those knew what they were.

2. There is a scene in which The Joker dances around to a Prince song while vandalizing a museum.


I would put up a link to a YouTube video of the scene, but Prince won’t allow it online.

Yikes. It’s just so bad.

1. People think it is good.

The worst thing about the 1989 Batman film is that people think it is good. Nothing makes a bad thing worse than when it isn’t recognized as being bad. And, I’ll admit, I was one of those people. But I also thought that the third installment of Back to the Future was the best. I was a child. For anyone who thinks that Tim Burton’s Batman is the best, or even anything other than the worst, I encourage them to return to it and watch it as an adult, trying their best to abandon any sense of nostalgia.

It’s not a good movie, nor a good telling of the story of Batman.

Further Reading

I’m certainly not the first person to espouse this opinion. If you’re interested in reading more about why Tim Burton’s Batman is that bad, check out some of the following:

Meanwhile, if you want to read more Batman stuff by me, go for it.


    1. You Keaton Batman lovers need to be rounded up and sent into space so the rest of the sane world can live in peace. Nobody cares about your infatuation with Keaton’s Batman. It’s a known fact that people who prefer Keaton’s Batman are not Batman fans but rather fans of Tim Burton’s nonsensical style. Michael Keaton was a horrible choice in 1989 and he’s a horrible choice today, even more so with the great portrayals we’ve had in recent years.

      1. Keaton’ s Batman should enter in in your house and kill you and all your family.

      2. Okay, a few things: first, this is pretty obviously facetious, but you’re still making a death threat on this blog. Please don’t do that. An apology might be appropriate.

        Second, your suggestion that Batman kill an entire family is a very clear demonstration of how you and I have fundamentally different views of Batman.

  1. You don’t have that many valid arguments. And number one is extremely unprofessional. What makes you think that people need to have the same views as you? To me batman 89 was better than the Dark Knight but that’s my opinion. Anyone can write up an article like you and voice their opinion. Get off your high horse and respect peoples different opinions.

    1. Bro screw you and your opinion. You’re not a Batman fan. You’re just a fan of Tim Burton nonsense.

    2. You thought Batman 89 was better than The Dark Knight? You are living breathing proof that there will always be stupid people in the world.

  2. Every item on this list is an irrelevant opinion. But the last one is my favorite. “The number one reason this is the worst Batman? Because people disagree with me, that’s why.” LOLOLOL. Was this written by an 8-year-old?

  3. Fuck off tasteless troll. it’s the SINGLE best Batman movie by a country mile.

    I could understand certain biased people preferring Batman Begins or The Dark Knight over it, but literally anything else? No, no and no again.

    Troll harder, dumbass X )

    1. Thanks for reading, although I’m disappointed you mistook me for a troll. Try watching the films again without the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. You’ll find that Burton’s interpretations are the weakest.

    2. Right, he’s a troll because he has an unpopular opinion and explained in decently. All you people who claim that everyone with an opinion you don’t like is a troll need to be taken out back and shot.

      “It’s the best movie, and you don’t agree so you’re a TROLL! Troll harder, noob!” Get out of the gene pool, moron.

  4. Worse than Schumacher’s adaptation? I don’t have any strong nostalgia for Burton’s versions (and they’re pretty silly on recent watches), but I don’t see how it can get worse than Arnold in an ice suit, spewing ice based puns, or, ugh, the gearing up montages with the close up on George Clooney’s ass and crotch.

    1. Okay, I’m not saying the Schumacher films are amazing or anything. I just think they’re better than the Burton films because they acknowledge and lean into their own campy elements, while the Burton ones are campy nonsense that are viewed as “dark” and “intelligent” because of nostalgia.

      I also really like the interpretation that Clooney is portraying Batman in a much safer Gotham than the Burton films, which is why everything has this light-hearted, lower-stakes vibe.

      1. Here we have the proof you have scaped from Arkham Asylum. George Clooney…. Please …..

  5. too bad Richard Gere wasn’t Batman/Bruce Wayne. that would’ve been better. then if they wanted to introduce Robin in the third movie, that character should’ve been played by a little kid who has martial art skills. 1989 BATMAN movie was the best movie except for the casting of Batman/Bruce Wayne being Michael Keaton. that was the only mistake

  6. it just sucks that the live-action films of Batman were nothing like the great animated counterparts. those like Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, all of the Batman animated TV shows and animated feature films and the cool Adam West 60’s Batman TV series all the way to GOTHAM in 2016. it seems that anything that’s DC comics that’s a movie tends to be lame with the exception of the Superman and not that god awful Faye Dunaway Supergirl movie, and what’s on TV are really well done. i like Green Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl TV shows, i guess those are the modern DC comics’ TV shows that parallels the Adam West Batman TV show. Wonder Woman TV show was so great. i had a crush as a kid on Linda Carter. love the theme music of Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman: The Animated Series. it seems that DC’s strong point is telling their stories on the televised medium. i’d like to watch Gregory Peck Batman movies, those are way cool.

  7. The opinion of the article is unpopular, but it’s true. Well, partly. Batman v. Superman IS worse than Tim Burton’s. But this article was written before Batman v. Superman was released.

    The only reason any of you call Tim Burton’s Batman good is because you don’t actually know what Batman is about, or you haven’t developed taste in Batman because you haven’t experienced and appreciated good Batman storytelling, and/or your opinion is based on pure, unregulated nostalgia.

    Just because Tim Burton was your first Batman experience doesn’t mean it’s a good experience. Most kids will like anything.

  8. I’ve spent my whole life loving the idea of Batman and just hating Tim Burton’s Batman movies! I completely agree about the “dark but campy” atmosphere as being insufferable. From the Joker’s stupid pistol to his stupid face (and Bob and the henchman), nothing worked for me. Thanks for the read!

    1. Thank you for reading! It’s obviously not an opinion shared by everyone, but I’m always glad to talk to other people who don’t enjoy the Burton Batman movies.

  9. It’s not as bad as Batman v. Superman, but you couldn’t have known what a train wreck that was going to be unless you REALLY closely followed Zack Snyder’s filmmaking career and the type of crap that is in all of his movies. Crap that is completely incompatible with a character like Batman and Superman. But I agree Burton’s Batman sucks and I’ve always thought so. It’s amazing that BTAS could be born out of something that atrocious and disrespectful to the Batman mythos.

  10. This list is poorly structured, all you do is complain that the movie didn’t do this correctly. The tone isn’t inconsistent, Joker is at times goofy, but he’s still dark and creepy enough to fit into Burton’s version of Gotham. Batman, though he can’t turn his head, is still the quiet, dark vigilante in the comics. Which is better than the campiness of Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, or the 60’s TV show. Also, Michael Keaton came up with the whole voice change. If it weren’t for this movie, you wouldn’t have Batman The Animated Series, the Danny Elfman theme, the awesome Batmobile, the Arkham video games, or the superhero blockbusters we have today. I’m a big Batman fan, I’ve read plenty of the comics, watched the TV shows and movies, and played plenty of the games. Keaton and Nicholson were great as their respected characters. You’re just one of those people who think it’s cool to rant and complain about something that’s actually good.

  11. Did you not see the Joel Schumacher movies?!?!?! You’re off your feed mate. Those two films were not only the worst Batman films, but two of the worst movies EVER!
    Was Burton’s two the best? No, Nolan’s first two were epic. But I’d put Tim’s two movies above Nolan’s third train wreck. I don’t know who the guy was in a long coat and paint fume mask was, but it sure wasn’t Bane. The Knightfall series deserves at least three movies, or better, the Nextflix treatment, 12 or more one hour shows.

  12. Nolan movies are so overrated.
    Tim Burton Batman movies have so much great atmosphere, acting and costumes (like Penguin, Joker, Catwoman etc.)
    I also like Batman & Robin. I don’t look on some mistakes but I really like this movie. Also have a great atmosphere, so hot Poison Ivy, costumes etc.
    Nolan movies are so shitty, there’s no atmosphere of dark and mysterious Gotham, Joker isn’t so good. He is so overrated. Music is shitty, not epic like in Burton movies. Nolan movies are so weak. Maybe he have Gordon and some characters from comics but thats all. Look at Two Face in Burton movies and Nolan.. Wtf… Should i be “scared” of Nolans Two Face? LOL
    I watched once Nolans trilogy and its ok, not bad, not good, its ok like every nowadays movies.
    I started again from Burton’s to Nolans movies few months ago and i enjoyed in Burton movies, really. Then i started Nolans and i watched Batman Begins..reaction is meh..nothing special..
    Next day i started to watch The Dark Knight…I was watch like 1h 30min and I just stopped watching it.. that was so boring…
    I can watch Burton movies again and again, over and over, I really enjoy watching it, especially on Christmas or simmilar holidays, enjoying every little crackle of the fire and watching good old Burton Batman movies. 🙂

    Everyone who says that Burton movies are shit: Hey, Jabroni, shut your little candy ass and get out of there!
    Haters, turn that son bitch sideways and stick it straight up your candy ass.

  13. Batman ’89 was disappointing, and set the stage for 30 years of disappointing superhero movies. Either comics don’t translate to the big screen, or Hollywood doesn’t trust the source material enough to do a faithful adaptation. The results have been in between and lukewarm. At this point, they’ve also strip-mined the comics for themes/situations/images to the extent that if they tried to make something true to the comics it would seem well-worn and derivative. The movies and books now exist in such a state of promotional synergy that they will eventually spin out, lose central gravity and spatter the walls. It’s alright though, both art forms are near dead anyway.

  14. Il tell u what it was. Batman was harleqin. Joker was pierrot and Vicki Vale as Columbine. Thats it

  15. the thing about batman not killing anyone entered after the code. people often forget there was a precode batman far before the polished silver age comic series. with his love of vincent price films, like the remake of the bat, that is exactly where burton went therefore it makes sense that gotham is returned to its precode state and that is one of the better things about it. the fact that the movie tells a story at a coherent pace separate from all the comic stuff doesnt hurt it because as a director i appreciate burtons ability to leave out scenes i might want to skip to get popcorn in order to keep the audience up to date without a lot of action scene pork. it might not be the best batman ever but i like it./ i liked it as a kid. i was a very smart kid that wouldnt have ever said back to the future 3 was best. i had an iq over 150 as a kid actually skipped the 7th grade. and it amazes me how much that kid got right about this movie that apparently the very limited writer of this article couldnt as an adult. yay kid me yay me now. ima go get drunk and sleep with my wife.

  16. I never watched the 1989 batman as a child but I grew up surrounded by the hype. As an adult I have tried to watch it several times and I always end up turning it off. It’s so bad. Granted, some of the set pieces and cinematography are nice to look at but thats all I can muster. I understand that it has this flamboyant, cartoonish vibe about it, but to think that T2 came out a year later, as blockbuster film making goes for that era, it’s at the bottom of the barrel for me. The batman of my childhood, the animated series from the early 90s, to me, will always be the best interpretation on film.

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