Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Michael Keaton's 10 Best Moments As Batman Ranked

If you've heard a collective scream all around the world during the Super Bowl in February 2023, it was because of Michael Keaton's return as Gotham's cape crusader, Batman, in the upcoming DC feature film, "The Flash." The scream belonged to the fanboys and fangirls who grew up watching and admiring the performance that Keaton delivered in Tim Burton's two legendary film adaptations of the Dark Knight in 1989's "Batman" and "Batman Returns" in 1992. Arguably, he's one of the most beloved actors who ever put on the Bat costume. Right now, there are a lot of middle-aged dads and moms out there (filled with abundant excitement) who can barely believe their eyes.

It's been over 30 years since we last watched Keaton save Gotham City from bewildered villains and sociopaths. But given the amount of nostalgia-ridden superhero flicks (see "Spider-Man: No Way Home") in recent years, it was perhaps somewhat inevitable to bring him back alongside Ben Affleck's and Christian Bale's versions. Clearly, Hollywood has no intention to stop riding this wave of reminiscence as long as it satisfies and brings both old and young viewers to theaters. Only time will tell how long this can last, but for now, we should enjoy and embrace the moment of seeing our aged heroes for one last time.

Thus this is a good opportunity to recall the most iconic, badass, and memorable moments Keaton gave us three decades ago. So, here are his best ones as Batman.

10. Riding the Batmobile to the Batcave

Today, Burton might not be the first pick to direct a Batman movie, but back in the '80s and '90s, the filmmaker had a lot going for him. You could say that his method of directing became repetitive over the years, but he always brought a slick style to the screen, and he knew that "Batman" was a huge chance for him to show the world the talent he's got. So even in such a straightforward scene as Batman riding his Batmobile back to his cave, Burton turned up his quirky flair and applied it to make the picture feel impressive and stylish.

But, of course, this wouldn't have been half as imposing without Keaton's stoic coolness. After Batman saves Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) from the Joker (Jack Nicholson), he calls his Batmobile to pick them up and cruise out of the city. He drives fast with skill, barely uttering a word, yet his presence overwhelms the screen with masculine intensity. To make it feel even more grandiose, Danny Elfman's blaring score underlines and magnifies the character's mystique and obscurity, elevating Batman to the utmost heroic level. The whole sequence is effortless, concise, and simple but also as effective as it needs to be.

9. Batman beats a crafty goon

Right before the Batmobile drive to the Batcave, Batman needs to beat up a bunch of the Joker's goons to get away safely. They all hit the floor pretty quickly, except for one. This baddie literally somersaults his way into the film, jumping over a barb-wired wall with two giant swords on his back while wearing a hat and shades (at night!) and looking like the coolest goon around. He's evidently a martial arts expert, and we see him demonstrate that as he moves to attack Batman. Despite showcasing some admittedly awesome moves, he's far from being a threat to Batman, though. The Dark Knight defends his swings without challenge and finishes him off with a kick that sends the guy flying and hitting the ground.

It's silly and excellent scenes like this that helped make Keaton's Batman as appealing, intimidating, and awesome as he could possibly be. And if you watch the interview he gave Desde Hollywood many years ago about how tight and inflexible the suit was, the more awe-inspiring it is how the actor pulled these moves off seemingly with ease.

8. Batman saves Selina Kyle for the first time

"Batman Returns" was a real celebration of villains — more in quality than quantity — that brought us classic comic book characters like Penguin and Catwoman to the big screen. In the movie's first half, we witness both of their origin stories and how they become an enemy to Bruce Wayne's Batman. But long before Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) goes through the transformation that turns her into the cunning and witty Catwoman, she has her first encounter with Batman in a rather lucky moment.

As the Penguin's (Danny DeVito) men interrupt Max Shreck's (Christopher Walken) Christmas celebration speech to the people of Gotham City, causing chaos and violence, Selina finds herself in the hands of a vicious criminal dressed as a clown. Batman arrives to save the day — and Selina's life. He shoots his grapple gun into the wall behind the clown (who funnily thinks he missed) and rips out a cinderblock to his back so she can get out of his grasp. It's such an elegantly dope move that even Selina struggles to find the words to thank him. Eventually, she blabbers something, but Batman leaves her there without a response. Again, Keaton conveys the essence of the character with a telling, fierce look in his eyes that say more than a dozen clever one-liners could.

7. Batman's first real talk with the Penguin

In "Batman Returns," it takes almost an hour into the film until the caped crusader and Penguin finally meet face to face for the first time. Although it's a brief encounter, the ominous vibe and intense chemistry between the two actors are inimitable and fascinating. Thanks to Daniel Waters' witty screenplay, the dialogue perfectly suits the atmosphere by being funny and dark at the same time.

Keaton and DeVito magnify the significance of each word, as the Penguin deadpans Batman and asks: "You don't really think you'll win, do you?" It's obvious through this low-key yet tense conflict that things are about to get violent until they're interrupted by Catwoman's acrobatic entrance.

So, it doesn't come as a surprise that DeVito named Keaton as his favorite Batman in an interview with Vanity Fair. In fact, he was attached to a lie detector to see whether his answers were genuine or not. He said, "He's my favorite [Michael Keaton]. He is the Batman for me." On a funnier note, he also said that his portrayal of Penguin was better than Colin Farrell's (even though he loves him) in Matt Reeves' 2022 adaptation, "The Batman." Well, we know one thing for sure: he didn't lie about it.

6. Batman's final fight with Joker

One of the most famous lines in comic book movie history is Nicholson's "Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?" as the Joker in Burton's 1989 "Batman." Every fan knows it (or really, anyone cinephile), and they likely won't ever forget it. So, when Gotham's crusader hands the line back to his nemesis with a mighty punch in the face in their final battle, it hits just as hard as the first time. In the bell tower (an aptly fitting setting for the finale), Batman swipes the floor with the clown, and every strike feels richly satisfying.

Both characters unravel as they reference each other's past — how one made the other and vice versa — and they don't hold back. The Joker fires on all cylinders with his foolish, purposely lame jokes, while Batman's thirst for vengeance seeps through the screen with every blow he lands. The entire sequence is an iconic piece of cinema where everything works in perfect symbiosis. Yet another crucial detail that made it all the more famous is that Batman essentially kills his nemesis (even if not directly), which is an uncharacteristic move compared to the source material. But all that adds to the canon of Burton's Batman universe, without a doubt.

5. Batman vs. Catwoman: Round one

If you're someone who religiously watched Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski's "Batman: The Animated Series" as a kid, Keaton and Pfeiffer's first little squabble as Batman and Catwoman on a rooftop in "Batman Returns" must have been a dream come true. It's witty and sexy, and it involves an overwhelming amount of latex and rubber on both parties. But more importantly, the sequence captures the energy and allure of the comics between the two characters brilliantly.

Pfeiffer's performance is deliciously over-the-top, and Keaton's grim and slightly confused Batman is an equally great match. There's kicking, hitting, scratching, and a weird apology after Catwoman is knocked to the ground. Admittedly, Pfeiffer later revealed in an interview (via Films en Sterren) that she tried to bring a heightened reality to the character and that it was her most comically-written role up to that point.

Her biggest supporter and advisor on set, however, was Keaton himself, who she dated in real life. According to ET, the two actors were seeing each other for a little while years before the sequel happened. The actress said that her co-star became a reassuring voice on set, and she explained, "I felt really comfortable with him. I felt really safe with him. I could go to him and say, 'Why am I feeling so awful? I don't know what's going on.' And he would explain it to me. 'I know. I went through it on the first one.'" Undoubtedly, that trusting rapport between the two is deeply felt throughout the entire film.

4. Batman saves Vicki Vale from Joker

In 1989's' "Batman," when the Joker crashes Vicki Vale's date and improvises his own with her, the Dark Knight can't come soon enough to save the reporter. When he finally does, he simply brings the house down with his epic entrance, which takes our breath away instantly. He smashes through the roof, descending like a dangerous creature of the night, heroically grabbing Vale to lift her up and slide her across the room to the door and out of Joker's nasty hands.

Once they're out of the building, the Batmobile is waiting for them to speed away as fast as possible. The Joker's goons are immediately trailing the two with their colorful cars, trying to stop them in any way they can. Of course, Batman's driving skills, savviness, and high-tech technology help the two to flee until they run into an enormous building truck that forces them to leave the car. That's when the caped crusader's fighting skills come into play. But before he beats up the bunch, he makes sure to keep Vale safe by using his grapple gun, once again, to transport her out of danger.

Back in 1989, this scene involved all the things fans could've possibly wanted from this film adaptation. Keaton's charisma is on full display as he saves the love interest, and as the viewers, we root for him all the way. No doubt, this is one of the key moments that made Keaton's portrayal so celebrated.

3. Batman reveals his real identity

In any superhero movie, the protagonist revealing his true identity behind the mask is always a big deal and usually a pivotal moment in the entire film. Perhaps it's even more significant in the case of a vigilante like Batman, who doesn't have any supernatural ability; he's just a very rich man who has a very dark alter ego. In fact, Keaton even addressed this aspect in a 1992 interview with Terry Wogan, saying, "The first time I was on the set, I felt very far away from everybody. I thought, 'This is kinda cool.' I just kind of let myself disappear because the character is actually a person who hides behind things, and even Bruce Wayne keeps himself at a distance." He then continued, "Because he's a very isolated and distant man sometimes."

Thus at the end of "Batman Returns," the reveal has a truly emotional weight and vulnerability to it when the character decides to expose his true self. As he says to Selina, "Don't you see? We're the same. Split ... down the center." Ripping off his mask, Wayne essentially opens himself up to Selina and slowly turns from a self-righteous figure into a wounded human being. It's a moment for the ages that cemented Keaton's legacy in pop culture forever.

2. I'm Batman

It's become a standard move in every movie that introduces and establishes a new version of a superhero that we get a scene where the actor who portrays the character announces who he is in a cool scene. In Burton's "Batman," this happens just a few minutes in when we see two thugs robbing a family. Soon after, we watch the criminals go over their belongings to see how much cash they got from the steal. Naturally, one of them brings up a story in which a bad guy got caught by the Bat, and it didn't end well for him. The other guy dismisses his worry and says, "The Bat? Give me a break, will you? There ain't no bat."

And that's when a dark figure sneaks upon the two men and scares them to death. They shoot at the figure and try to make a run for it, but don't get far before Batman takes them down. Eventually, he grabs one of the criminals and dangles him off the edge of the roof, telling him to tell all his friends about what happened. In return, the poor guy asks with fear, "What are you?" To that, he replies, "I'm Batman."

This scene is such a famous and beloved moment in pop culture history that it's hard to say anything unheard about it. It lays down the tone for the whole movie and what to expect from Keaton as the Dark Knight. Let's just say, at the time, he proved every doubter wrong who thought a comedic actor like him couldn't pull off such a demanding and serious character as Batman. And as we learned recently, this classic line hits just as hard 30 years later in the trailer of the upcoming "The Flash," too.

1. The call

There isn't a Batman fan out there whose heart doesn't start beating faster while watching the scene where Keaton's Bruce Wayne first appears in "Batman Returns." He's sitting in the dark in his mansion, deep in thought, when the Bat signal appears in the sky and illuminates the solemn expression on his face. His depiction of Batman might not be as philosophical as Christian Bale's, as cynical as Ben Affleck's, or as mysterious as Robert Pattinson's, but Keaton had something different to offer: a stoic, relatable vulnerability.

There's something fundamentally reassuring about his portrayal that no one else has to the same degree. He brings the character closer to the everyman and makes it resonate with us on a different level. This iconic sequence captures both the flawed human being Wayne is and Gotham's vigilante whose calling to maintain order and justice is stronger than any of his other feelings.

When he stands up from his chair and steps forward toward the light, his demeanor completely changes in a matter of seconds. Then he puts on a mask and a costume to detach and hide from his true self to put others at the front as his priority. When he acts as Batman, he's almost an entirely different person — a figure born from loss and trauma, driven by a pure sense of justice. Keaton understood this duality extremely well, and that's one of the reasons why he's still considered one of the best actors who ever played Gotham's capped crusader. And if we can judge by the trailer of "The Flash," he's still got what it takes.