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.

partymanI 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:

What Are You: Comics Alliance Reviews ‘Batman’ (1989), Part One

“4 Reasons Tim Burton’s Batman Sucks,” from the Nerd Clave

“Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’ Turns 25: Lessons Applied to Batman V. Superman,” from Rant Lifestyle]

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24 thoughts on “Why Tim Burton’s Batman is the Worst Batman Movie Ever

    1. Matt "A true Batman fan" Skywalker

      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. Pingback: Batman | What Would Bale Do?

  2. Anonymous

    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.

  3. Anonymous

    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?

  4. Me

    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.

  5. TG

    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.

  6. Alfredo Villarante Jr

    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

  7. Alfredo Villarante Jr

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. Anonymous

    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.

  10. CharleyN

    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.

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