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Film / Batman (1989)

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Batman: I'm not going to kill you. I want you to do me a favor: I want you to tell all your friends about me.
Batman: ...I'm Batman.

Tim Burton's blockbuster film about the eponymous superhero that took the world by storm in 1989 and started the Batman film series. It also arguably set the template for the discourse around modern big-budget superhero films.

Billionaire Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) has been fighting crime in Gotham City as Batman for some time when this film starts, but is an enigma to a city unsure of both what he is and whether he even actually exists or if he's just an urban legend. The plot here chronicles his battles with Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson), a mob enforcer who goes insane after falling in a vat of chemicals and terrorizes Gotham as The Joker.

An Academy Award deservedly went to Anton Furst's amazing set design, which was partly inspired by Brazil and Metropolis, and became just as influential as those films in dystopic set design.

Batman also revolutionized the home video industry — it was the first financially successful film to be released for the home market the same year as its theatrical release, and for only $19.99. It became a stocking stuffer in many homes that Christmas and went on to earn $150 million on home video alone. Now, even blockbuster hits are released in home video as soon as their theatrical runs are over (sometimes even before they end).

The film's soundtrack was a collaboration between Oingo Boingo frontman and prior Burton associate Danny Elfman and Prince, with Elfman writing the incidental music and Prince contributing lyrical songs. Each performer's material would wind up on its own soundtrack album, with Prince's release additionally being billed as a proper studio album from him.

See also Batman: The Animated Series, which took some cues from the Burton films and actually launched the same year as Returns (this film's sequel) and went on to produce a few movies of its own. The notorious Catwoman (2004) film in 2004 has no continuity connection with these,note  but it's worth noting that the whole idea of doing a film about her alone was inspired by Michelle Pfeiffer's performance in '92.

Sequels included Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin.

Not to be confused with Batman: The Movie based on the Television Series with Adam West.

The universe of this film was featured in Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019) as Earth-89, with a cameo by Robert Wuhl as Alexander Knox. Michael Keaton will return to play this version of Batman once again in the upcoming The Flash movie set in the DC Extended Universe, which will focus on The Multiverse.

DC started publishing a Batman '89 series in 2021, featuring the continuing adventures of the versions of the characters as seen post-Returns, while ignoring Forever & Batman & Robin.

This film provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Billy Dee Williams's version of Harvey Dent, as the role would be recast with Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever. This arc was resurrected in the Batman '89 comics.
  • Actor Allusion: Downplayed, but at one point, Jack Napier does exactly the same "spin one card around the rest of the deck" move that McMurphy does when we first meet him in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Lawrence, the boombox-toting Mook, is renamed Steve in the novelization.
  • Adaptation Origin Connection: It turns out that The Joker is, in fact, the man who killed Bruce Wayne's parents, with Joe Chill instead as an accomplice who bailed on the whole scene after seeing Jack pull his gun on Bruce.
  • Agent Mulder: Alexander Knox, at least to his disrespectful colleagues, who joke that he must believe in Bigfoot as well. Vicki Vale, meanwhile, also believes in Batman — or at least says she does — but still could qualify as an Agent Scully due to the "nerd / babe" dynamic Knox has with her.
  • Anachronism Stew: While the movie takes place more or less in the present day, reporters use very old fashioned cameras, and a lot of the film's elements seem to be from The '40s...yet Batman himself has very modern technology, far better than anything that existed when the movie was made!
  • Anti-Hero: Batman is not a stranger to this trope, but unlike most other incarnations, Burton's Batman has no problem with killing a mook. He also tries to kill the Joker and succeeds, though not in a way he expected to - a move made to stop the Joker from escaping ends up killing him.
  • Arc Words: "Ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?"
  • Armed Legs: Towards the climax, Batman faces one of the Joker's mooks who tries to drop kick him while blades extend from his boots. Batman instead just punches him in the nuts and moves on.
  • Art Attacker: The Joker describes himself as this: "I am the world's first fully-functioning homicidal artist; I make art until someone dies."
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: Smylex is implied to be lighter than air, as balloons full of it float like helium balloons. Yet, when the Joker releases it from the balloons it sinks to the ground, which would seem to mean it's heavier than air. However, if this is the case then the balloons shouldn't be able to float in the first place. Could be explained away as the balloons being filled with both helium and smylex.
  • Artistic Licence – Physics: There's no way a thin, metal tray like the one Bruce uses would stop a bullet, especially from such close range.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: When Batman tells Vicki, "Get in the car," she replies, "Which one?" Cue Batmobile. Lampshaded by the screenplay:
    Vicki suddenly feels quite stupid. Because — while there are many cars parked along the side alley — there is only one BATMOBILE.
  • Asshole Victim: Lieutenant Eckhardt, Carl Grissom, Antoine Rotelli, and Vinnie Ricorso, all of whom are murdered by the Joker. However, the victims are so corrupt and selfish that the Joker's murders of them seem justified. Joker himself also qualifies.
  • Attack of the Town Festival:
    • The Gotham 200th Anniversary Festival is in trouble because people are scared of high crime in the city, and the conflict between the Joker and the gangsters as well as the Joker's poisoning of the population both make it worse. Despite all this, the mayor insists that the Festival must occur so businesses will come back to the city.
    • Eventually, the mayor does give in when it becomes obvious that it's simply too dangerous to hold a festival...which is The Joker's cue to pick up the slack. Plus, he's giving out free money! Why, how could that hurt anyone?
  • A-Team Firing: When Batman in the Batwing fires More Dakka at the Joker. It strafes the ground up to him and riddles the parade float behind him even though his locking mechanism gets Joker, a stationary target, dead in its sights. The bullets manage to hit spots on the float that would be physically impossible to reach without going through the Joker's body first. The tie-in book to the film shows that the Joker was initially supposed to literally dance around the bullets and rockets.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Scandalous!" by Prince may be considered this.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Joker, as usual. Though the film states that Jack Napier was at least a little crazy to begin with ("wild mood swings [...] emotionally unstable" reads Napier's police file), seeing his disfigurement is what finally snaps him.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: The "surgeon" who works on Jack Napier after the catastrophic events at Axis. The fact that he has no problem working on a known criminal of Napier's level of notoriety shows that he's very practiced at this sort of thing. However, seeing the results of his work on Napier, his skill can definitely be called into question.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Napier, not even flinching as Eckhardt draws a gun on him: "Better be sure."
    • "He's out there right now, and I've got to go to work." (Cue the attack on Axis Chemicals.)
  • Badass Normal: Knox, of all people, manages to get rid of one Smylex balloon all by himself.
  • Bad Boss: The Joker, even more so than usual. Rest in peace, Bob...
  • Bait-and-Switch: The opening scene has a couple and their young son getting mugged...but no, this isn't Batman's origin story, as revealed when we see Batman himself looming high above watching the whole thing go down and waiting to make his move.
  • Bald of Evil: Lawrence, Joker's sunglasses-wearing, boombox-toting toadie.
  • "Bang!" Flag Gun: Naturally, the Joker has one.
  • Batman Gambit: Bruce’s ploy with the tray depends entirely on Joker shooting him in the chest (as opposed to the head) and not the other ways he’s killed people already (poison, stabbing, electrocution).
  • Big Electric Switch: After Batman drives into the Batcave with Vicki Vale, he turns on the lights by throwing a switch.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Anton Furst's Gotham practically exemplifies this.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: Batman's final confrontation against The Joker takes place on top of Gotham Cathedral.
  • Bloody Smile: Joker, naturally, sports a bloody smile in the bell tower after Batman smashes him in the mouth a few times. He also tries the old "bloody chattering teeth" gag.
  • Board to Death: The Joker does this to his crime bosses.
  • Bookends:
    • When Batman takes on his first on-screen mooks, the first words that come out of his mouth are "I'm not gonna kill you." When he finds out the Joker killed his parents, after saying Joker's own line to his face, he flat-out tells him, "I'm gonna kill you." He eventually does, albeit unintentionally.
    • The movie begins with Batman standing above the city looking down on the street at a family that is being mugged and ends with him standing above the city again, this time looking up at the Bat Signal, which the city will institute to call upon him for help moving forward.
  • Bond One-Liner: The Joker gets a few, such as, "Antoine got a little hot under the collar," and, "The pen is truly mightier than the sword."
  • Brand X: In the Joker's Smylex commercial, at the "blind taste test," a man who is tied to a chair and gagged (Disclaimer: "Not An Actor") is said to have been using Brand X. ("Oh No!")
  • Break the Cutie: Alicia is physically and psychologically tortured by Joker, then winds up killing herself.
  • Brick Joke: When Bruce goes to Vicki's apartment, he's astonished by the size of it, noting that it has "lots of space." When the Joker appears a few minutes later, he too is impressed, also saying, "lots of space."
  • Bring It:
    • Batman to Bob, the Joker's chief henchman, and the Joker to Batman while he's about to attack in the Batwing.
    • And Michael Keaton's famous "YOU WANNA GET NUTS?! COME ON! Let's get nuts!"
  • Broken Heel:
    • Subverted and then inverted quite neatly when the Joker takes Vicki hostage and then takes off her high heels to subvert this as they both ascend to the eventual Climbing Climax at the top of the very, very tall Gotham Cathedral. The inversion is that because her heels are slowing her down until the Joker gets rid of them, it allows the hero (rather than the villain, as usual for this trope) to gain ground. The other reason she's constantly taking off her heels is that Basinger is only 1.5 inches shorter than Keaton. With the heels on, Vicki is taller than Batman.
    • Lampshaded in the film's comic-adaptation, where the Joker tells Vicki, "You'll move faster without the heels," whilst forcibly removing her shoes.
  • Brooklyn Rage: The Joker's goons flash some of this on occasion.
  • The Brute:
    • Lawrence, Joker's only other named goon, who is also Bald of Evil and never seen without his Cool Shades. He frequently carries around a ghetto blaster to provide the background music.
    • The guys Batman fights in the bell tower at the end.
  • Buffy Speak: After Batsy foils his scheme to poison the city with the Batwing, the usually eloquent Joker splutters: "Why didn't somebody tell me he had one of those...things?!"
  • Bullethole Door: The Batmobile uses its machine guns to cut a hole in the door of the Axis Chemicals building so it can enter.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Played with.
    Batman: You killed my parents.
    Joker: What? [chuckles] What are you talking about?
    Batman: I made you. But you made me first.
    Joker: I was a kid when I killed your parents. When I said "You made me," you gotta say "you made me"! How childish can you get?
  • Camera Abuse: When Jack falls into the vat of chemicals, some of them splash onto the camera.
  • Camera Sniper: When Vicki spots Bruce visiting the spot where his parents died, the camera goes into this style.
  • Captain Obvious: Vicki Vale. "Bats," she points out, upon seeing the animals in the Batcave. "His parents were murdered in that alley. That's why he went there," while checking Bruce Wayne's newspaper files motivated by having seen him going to the alley. Then when she sees Joker's Smylex gas flowing out of a balloon, she comments, "Smylex gas." In the first and third example, the referred items are in plain sight not only to her but to the audience as well.
  • Captive Date: The Joker and Vicki Vale.
  • Captive Push: Joker and Vicki again. Joker takes her hostage and forces her to the top of Gotham Cathedral at gunpoint. He has no need to bind her hands or anything, due to the aforementioned being-at-gunpoint. He also only starts physically pushing her along when it becomes clear that Batman is following them.
  • Car Chase: After Batman rescues Vicki and they get into the Batmobile, they are chased by three of the Joker's goon cars, who are then followed by the police. The chase soon stops when the Batmobile makes a quick turn and the Joker goons crash into other vehicles at a downtown intersection. The police stop quickly before hitting anything.
  • Cassandra Truth: In the first quarter of the film, no one (except Vicki Vale) believes in Alexander Knox's story about a shadowy vigilante figure storming into the night taking down criminals, and is often depicted as a laughing stock by his peers.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Just barely averted in the museum scene, when the Joker and his men are playing Prince's "Partyman" on their boombox. As anyone who saw the music video for that song could tell you, there's a break in the lyrics in which a Kim Basinger lookalike lip-syncs the Vicki Vale line "Oh, I love purple!" The tape player is switched to Percy Faith's "A Summer Place" as the Joker sits down across from Vicki. If the player had been left on the Prince song just a few seconds longer, Vicki would have heard herself delivering a line from the movie that (in-universe) she has yet to speak!
  • Charity Ball: The Casino Night variant, to obtain money to bail out the Gotham City Festival.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Joker's helicopter, which first appears after Batman uses the Batmobile to blow up Axis Chemicals, and again later as the Joker's means of escape from the top of a building.
    • The metal tray Bruce finds on Vicki Vale's makeup table and hides under his clothes, which saves his life when the Joker shoots him.
  • Climbing Climax: The Joker is smart enough to call ahead for a helicopter to pick him (and Vicki) up, but his escape fails big time. (The funny thing is that he pretty clearly made it up the cathedral in about five minutes - if he hadn't adjusted the time for when the helicopter should show up, he'd have made a clean getaway.)
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • The Joker's boast about being a homicidal artist, "I make art until somebody dies." His conversation with a charcoaled Rotelli is definite proof of Cloud CuckooInsanity:
      Joker: Your pals, uh, they're not bad people. Maybe we, uh, oughtta give them a couple of days to think it over. (shakes head) No? (gasps in shock at the corpse) Grease 'em now? Well...okay. You are a vicious bastard Rotelli. (tightens Rotelli's tie) I'm glad you're dead! (laughs maniacally at own joke) "I'm glad you're dead!" Hee hee hee!
    • Then there's this exchange, when Vicki asks Joker what he wants. The scariest aspect is that, no, he isn't joking. He even makes reference to it when defacing the famous portrait of George Washington.
      Joker: My face on the one dollar bill.
      Vicki: You must be joking.
      Joker: (absolutely serious) Do I look like I'm joking?
    • Bruce Wayne himself indulges in this trope somewhat to strengthen his Upper-Class Twit persona:
      Knox: You know why they're so odd? Because they can afford to be.
    • Vicki accuses Batman of being one.
      Vicki: A lot of people think you're as dangerous as the Joker.
      Batman: He's psychotic.
      Vicki: Some people say the same thing about you.
      Batman: What people?
      Vicki: Well, I mean let's face it, you're not exactly...normal. Are you?
      Batman: (confronts her) It's not exactly a normal world, is it?
  • Cock Fight: Invoked. Upon seeing Bruce at Vicki's apartment, The Joker comments: "Well, miss Vale... another rooster in the henhouse!"
  • Companion Cube: The Batmobile.
  • Composite Character:
    • Vicki Vale resembles her comic counterpart in name and occupation only, as her characterization is much closer to another of Bruce Wayne's love interests from the comics named Silver St. Cloud, a blonde woman who learns about Bruce's secret identity as Batman. An early draft of the script actually named the character Silver St. Cloud, but the producers thought the name sounded too cheesy.
    • The film forgoes Joe Chill and makes a young Jack Napier into the murderer of Bruce Wayne's parents, though his associate in the flashback of him killing Bruce's parents is confirmed to be this continuity's Joe Chill. Napier ends up the film's version of the Joker within the first third of the running time.
  • Cool Car: The Batmobile.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: The Joker sadly informs Vicki that his girlfriend Alicia "threw herself out of a window," although given Alicia's fate prior to her death with her boyfriend killed, her lover rendered a disfigured lunatic, and said lover using her as a living canvas by mutilating her beautiful face, it's perfectly believable that she did exactly that.
  • Corpsing: In-Universe and Played for Horror - One unfortunate news reporter does it before becoming a corpse due to Joker's deadly Smylex.
  • Corrupt Cop: Naturally in Gotham, and they're all led by Eckhardt. However, they're not all corrupt, and an honest cop is able to inform Gordon about Eckhardt's plans to murder Napier.
  • The Corrupter:
    • The Joker showers $20 million in cash on the people at the parade as poison gas-filled balloons loom over their heads, thus trying to lure them into Death by Materialism. While not shown in the film, a deleted scene kept in the comic and novelization shows the cash was actually Schmuck Bait. It was not only counterfeit, it had the Joker's face on the bill. It ties in with the foreshadowing when the Joker says he wants his face on the one dollar bill and Jack Napier's aptitude in art (as well as chemistry). To drive the point home, the crowd is chanting "Money! Money! Money!" - in time with Prince's music.
    • The Joker also tries to tempt Vicki into becoming his girlfriend on three occasions: first appealing to her pride ("We're not like regular people. We're artists."), then using the Wounded Gazelle Gambit in reciting a tragic poem, and finally outright trying to seduce her with a "romantic" waltz. He outright fails on the first two tries, and then seems to have succeeded on the third try when Vicki starts returning his kisses, but it's just a Honey Trap.
  • Counterfeit Cash: Though it doesn't appear in the film itself, the comic book and novel adaptations of this film have the people of Gotham City find out that the "free cash" that the Joker gives away at the city's 200th birthday celebration parade is all counterfeit bills with the Joker's face on them. The prop cash with Joker's face can be seen on display at some places with film memorabilia around the U.S.
  • Crapsack World:
    • What Bruce thinks the world is, as it's that world that killed his parents and the reason he's Batman.
    Bruce: I tried to avoid all this but I can't. This is how it is. It's not a perfect world.
    Vicki: It doesn't have to be a perfect world.
    • Gotham is a cesspool of crime and violence. The police are completely incapable of containing the mob, much less the Joker, and the average citizen is so morally bankrupt that the Joker can publicly take credit for a wide scale act of terror (poisoning all of Gotham) and just needs to drop a lot of money on the crowd at a parade to get back into their good graces.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Joker, naturally. Notwithstanding having his bullet shatter some glass which flies back into his face, he's got a prop or gag prepared anytime he's put in harm's way.
    • Chased up a tower? His goons are already there with an ambush plan ready.
    • Batman punches him in the teeth? He has wind-up chatterteeth ready.
    • Thrown off the ledge of a very tall building? He finds a foothold and pulls his victims over it. For added measure, the Joker also manages to put on a prop hand seconds later without being noticed.
    • Falling to his death? He makes sure to activate a bag of laughs to make it seem like he's still alive (though they could have been activated by the impact).
    • Batman's no slouch in this department, either. How often do those giant clippers for stealing parade balloons come in handy? Of course, it goes without saying that Batman belongs under this trope, considering he has his own page for it.
  • Create Your Own Hero: Jack Napier's murder of Bruce Wayne's parents was the event that caused him to become Batman. Ironically, Batman himself would later cause the accident which results in Napier becoming The Joker.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Despite changing the Joker into being the mugger who killed the Waynes, a lot of people really enjoyed the exchange Batman and the Joker have at the end where they wonder who really created whom.
  • Creator Cameo: Bob Kane's signature can be seen on the opinion cartoon handed to Knox; Kane himself was originally supposed to play the cartoonist but had to drop out at the last minute. A more literal example is Burton playing one of the Joker's goons during the museum scene (or so rumor has it).
  • Creepy Cathedral: Gotham City Cathedral.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Batman vs. Joker in the climax. Joker is completely out of his league in a straight fight and is beaten to a bloody pulp; he lands one punch to Batman's gut and does nothing but hurt his own hand.
    • The goon who tries intimidating Batman with his fancy swordplay and savage screaming. First, Batman indulges him by blocking all of his attacks and pushes him back, but when the undeterred swordsman tries it again, Batman decides enough is enough and knocks him out with a single kick.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Jack Napier is apparently enough of a savant in "science" (biology) and chemistry to invent a near-untraceable poison capable of causing people to laugh uncontrollably before dying with an impossibly huge smile on their faces...and apparently works as a run-of-the-mill thug. Justified in that he clearly only wants to inflict violence and suffering upon others and doesn’t really care that much about money.
  • Damsel in Distress: Vicki Vale when Joker kidnaps her toward the end of the movie.
  • Dangerous Phlebotinum Interaction: The key element of Joker's Brand X stunt is that the police are trying to figure out which particular product he's tainted. This is a wild goose chase because he's tainted hundreds of chemicals that other companies use for their products, all with chemicals that are harmless by themselves and therefore untraceable but cause one to Die Laughing when used together, similar to how mixing bleach with ammonia produces chlorine gas.
    Batman: The poison only works if the components are mixed. Hairspray won't do it alone...but hairspray mixed with lipstick and perfume will be toxic and traceable.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the '60s version by far. It's long since been surpassed by The Dark Knight Trilogy, which itself has been surpassed by The Batman (2022), but at the time it was a massive change from what the general public's idea of what Batman was like (comic fans had been used to the darker "Dark Knight"-style Batman for years - even before The Dark Knight Returns - due to comics pushing back against his campy TV image).
  • Deadline News: Some news anchors are discussing the Joker's act of chemical terrorism on Gotham, when suddenly a female anchor starts laughing uncontrollably at a very inappropriate time and then falls over dead with the Smylex victims' characteristic grin on her face.
  • Deadly Gas: This is the Joker's favorite method of killing people. He does it twice: once in the museum where he set up a meeting with Vicki, and once in the big parade scene with parade-float balloons full of the Deadly Gas. Batman takes the balloons away in the Batwing and sends them well away from the city in order to stop him.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Jack Napier is a good example of this before his "Jokerization."
    • Bruce Wayne is no slouch himself.
    Knox: *referring to a samurai-style armor* Where did this come from?
    Vicki: I have no idea.
    Bruce: It's Japanese.
    Knox: And how do you know?
    Bruce: *Beat* ...'Cause I bought it in Japan.
    • Knox bests both. When Vinnie claims that he and Carl Grissom were good enough friends to sign over his organization to him, Knox asks if they did prison time together as kids.
  • Death by Adaptation:
  • Death by Disfigurement: The Joker burns his girlfriend Alicia's face with acid to make her a "work of art." She later commits suicide by throwing herself out a window...or so he says. Knowing the Joker, anything's possible.
  • Death by Irony: "Sometimes I just kill myself!" is indeed a very poor choice of words for the Joker to utter prior to getting an escape via helicopter ladder and plummeting back to Earth whilst being weighed down by a heavy, granite, gargoyle statue (courtesy of Batman firing a grappling hook tying the Joker's leg to the statue).
  • Death by Materialism: The Gothamites who attend Joker's festival.
    Knox: Take the pictures. "Gotham's Greed."
  • Death by Origin Story: Bruce's parents were killed when he was a child, motivating him to become Batman.
  • Decomposite Character: The Joker is the one who kills Bruce Wayne's parents in this continuity, with Joe Chill, the one normally responsible, said to be the man who accompanied him in the flashback of when he shot the Waynes.
  • Decoy Protagonist: If you're seeing this movie for the first time and are familiar with its comic-book origins, you might be forgiven for thinking that Jimmy (the boy with the map whose parents are mugged in the opening sequence) is the child Bruce Wayne when you first see him. Only when his father calls him by name (telling him to put away the map) is the truth revealed— and then it becomes clear that the scene is not a flashback when Batman is seen watching the scene play out from above.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Pretty close at times.
  • Demoted to Extra: Commissioner Gordon. Understandable since Batman isn't working with the police (yet).
  • Dies Wide Open: This happens to anyone who is affected by the Smylex chemical in the poisoned beauty products, and it also includes the Joker's grin, as a pair of models and a news reporter demonstrate. This also happens to the Joker when we see his body on the pavement at the end of the film.
  • Diesel Punk: Batman's technology in this adaptation has a distinct dieselpunk feel, and special mention goes to the Batmobile, which is essentially a jet engine on wheels.
  • Dirty Cop: Lt. Eckhardt, who is on Grissom's payroll. He doesn't last long before Napier nails him in the factory.
  • Disney Villain Death:
    • Happens to one of the Joker's goons during the battle in the top floor of Gotham Cathedral. Batman bangs his head against a giant bell and sends him hurtling to his death down the long stair shaft.
    • The Joker. We even see exactly how far down he has to fall, as well as a close-up of his corpse embedded in the pavement. A more mature/disturbing example than most, as we see him struggle in vain to hold on to the ladder for almost a minute before he falls.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • In the opening, the criminal who assaults the father and turns a gun on the mother and child gets a little fright, while the other bum who merely tagged along and chastised the former for turning the gun on the kid gets kicked through a door and has to be taken away on a stretcher.
    • The Joker of all people calls Grissom out for this, because the reason that the Axis Chemical espionage job is botched was that Carl deliberately set Jack up to be killed over Alicia.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: When Vicky notices that Batman has dispatched all Joker's mooks and is coming after him next, she distracts him long enough for him to get in close without being noticed by seeming to have a Stockholm Syndrome moment and start kissing up his arm, telling how much of a turn-on he is.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: The Joker does this twice.
    • He hijacks a local TV station's news program to present a faux commercial warning the city of Gotham that he's poisoned their beauty products.
    • He broadcasts a sort of fireplace-broadcast calling out to Batman and gets the city to forget that he went on a murder spree by promising to pay them a ton of money.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Justified, as Vicki is wearing high heels and the situations she gets into make ditching them prudent. She winds up shoeless at the film's climax, and also removes her shoes while on her date with Bruce. The Real Life reason for this was that Kim Basinger is only a little shorter than Michael Keaton. Combined with the fact that her character continually wears high heels throughout the film, Batman would end up looking comically short when standing next to her, hence it was necessary to have her lose the heels in certain scenes. An additional reason is that the high heels risked damaging the paintwork or fiberglass of the Batmobile; in instances when she's seen entering or exiting the vehicle, you can see she's not wearing shoes.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The very first thing Jack Napier does after becoming The Joker is kill Grissom as revenge for setting him up to be killed due to his sleeping with Grissom's girlfriend.
  • The Dragon:
    • Bob, the Joker's right-hand man, who seldom speaks but is actually quite good at his job. You could say that he's the perfect henchman, which makes the Joker's eventual shooting of him just plain wrong, even for supervillainy.
    • Pre-Joker Jack himself is this to Carl Grissom.
  • Dramatic Downstage Turn: Vicki Vale does one during the relationship conversation that follows her learning that Bruce Wayne is Batman.
  • Dull Surprise: Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale in every situation, even when confronted by The Joker after he killed an entire room of people in front of her or discovering Bruce's secret and going into the Batcave, which was brought up in many negative reviews of the movie.
  • Dutch Angle: A few instances. This is Batman, after all.
  • Dying Smirk: The Joker's Smylex poison is all about this, and as the trope entry reminds us, he goes out this way himself. (Considering his smile is a scar, however, he doesn't have any real choice in the matter.) It's his Pre-Mortem One-Liner to the festival attendees as well.
    The Joker: And now comes the part where I relieve you, the little people, of the burden of your failed and useless lives. But as my plastic surgeon always said, "If you gotta go, go with a smile!"
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Well, it's not completely happy, since Batman, as the next movie reveals, is once again alone and nobody gets the girl, but everything still ends on a pretty high note for a story otherwise so firmly on the cynical end of the spectrum.
  • Easily Swayed Population: After killing dozens of people with poisoned beauty products, all it takes for Joker to fix his image is to throw a lot of money out to Gothamites during a parade...and he still tries to kill them all again with Smylex gas in the balloons.
  • Electric Joybuzzer: "Antoine got a little hot under the collar!"
  • Elite Mook: The mook at the top of the bell tower smacks Batman around pretty well for a little while.
  • Enemy Mime: The Joker's goons masquerade as mimes at the courthouse.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: The Joker's goons shoot Batman while he's on the ground, then turn away. He rises up from the ground behind them, then proceeds to beat them up.
  • Epic Fail:
    • One of Joker's mooks at the top of the bell tower is standing on a raised platform above Batman, who doesn't see him behind him. The man leaps forward to grab Batman but falls short and crashes straight through the rotten floorboards, falling to his death with Batman himself only noticing when the guy screams as he falls.
    • The Joker himself tries to get a punch on Batman when he distracts him with his chatter teeth. He ends up punching Batman's abdomen, which is covered by his hard, bulletproof suit. Oops.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We know Jack's a bad guy, but the exchange between Jack and Alicia ("You look fine." "I didn't ask.") in the original trailer let everyone know that this Joker was not only Wicked Cultured, but a badass as well.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • Vicki may have had one after seeing the news clipping of the murder of Bruce's parents.
    Knox: (to Vicki) What do you suppose something like this does to a kid?
    • Bruce himself seems to have one when confronting Joker in Vicki's apartment, after Joker delivers his Catchphrase; it snaps Bruce out of his Let's Get Dangerous! moment. A flashback later on reveals what Bruce recognized: Jack spoke the same line to Bruce when he was a kid, a revelation which leads Bruce to discover that Jack was his parents' murderer.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Before Bats takes out the muggers at the beginning, one chastises his partner for pointing his gun at a kid.
    • The mob is legitimately horrified about Jack Napier/Joker's actions during the mob meeting.
    • Jack's partner doesn't anticipate him shooting Bruce's parents and looks a bit stunned at it. It could even be that he intentionally saved Bruce by distracting Jack when he was about to shoot the boy.
  • Evil Is Petty: To the Joker, anything can be countenanced by society — or, at least, should be countenanced — as long as it is funny, and if it is what one would presumably call a "misdeed," the question of whether it results in great suffering or mere irritation is simply irrelevant. Thus, the Joker goes about doing every "naughty" thing he can think of, just to see what will happen as a result. For example, he hijacks a television broadcast with an irreverent "commercial" taunting Gothamites for having unwittingly bought poisoned household items. He also sends the girl he lusts after a jack-in-the-box that pops up with a handful of dead flowers, which causes her to faint because she's expecting something far more deadly.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Anton Furst-designed Gotham City is a city full of these. Carl Grissom's penthouse suite definitely qualifies, though, to say nothing of the 1,000-foot-tall cathedral.
  • Exact Words:
    • When Rotelli asks what would happen if they say "no," the Joker says that if they can't do business, they'll "just shake hands and that'll be it." Rotelli proceeds to shake hands. Unfortunately, Joker doesn't explain exactly what "shake hands" and "that'll be it" means: "death by joybuzzer that leaves you a smoldering corpse."
    • The Joker during the climax says to Vicki Vale, while she and Batman are hanging onto a ledge for dear life, "Here: let me lend you a hand." He really means it, but unfortunately, he mean it literally (as in, supplying her with a fake hand that snaps off upon contact), and only Batman's intervention prevents her from falling to her death.
    • Invoked by Knox:
    Knox: Is there a six-foot bat in Gotham City? If so, is he on the police payroll? If so, what's he pulling down, after taxes?
    Harvey Dent: Mr. Knox, we have enough problems in the city without worrying about ghosts and goblins.
    Knox: That's not a denial!
  • Expy:
    • The overweight, gruff, corrupt Lt. Eckhardt appears to be based on either Detective Flass or Pre-Crisis Harvey Bullock.
    • Carl Grissom takes over the role of Carmine Falcone, the crime boss of Gotham before the "freaks" take over.
    • Gotham's mayor is a pretty obvious take on New York mayor Ed Koch.
  • Eye Take: Napier does this at the Axis Chemical plant when he discovers he is being set up by Grissom.
    Jack: (warning) We've been ratted out here, boys. Watch it.
  • Faceplanting into Food: When the Joker fills the air of a museum with a lethal nerve gas, two of the patrons eating in a restaurant die and faceplant into the food on their plates.
  • Failing a Taxi: The tourist family in the opening scene has things especially bad. They succeed in hailing a cab, but as the father is giving directions to the hotel they're planning on staying at, someone else butts in and boards the cab before he can finish, even though they were there first. Gotham, huh?
  • Faint in Shock:
    • When Jack Napier's mistress Alicia Hunt comes home and discovers not only that he's not dead but that he's become disfigured, she faints dead away.
      Joker: Honey? You'll never believe what happened to me today!
    • The Joker goes to Vicki Vale's apartment and scares her out of her wits, including apparently killing Bruce Wayne. After the Joker leaves, Vicki opens the gift box he left her. A hand holding a bunch of weeds and dead flowers pops out, and she collapses to the ground.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The movie begins with a couple of guys mugging a couple and their young son, and...the parents live? Then Batman shows up and beats up the muggers.note 
  • Fanfare: A dark one for the opening, and a triumphant one at the end.
  • Fat Bastard: Lt. Eckhardt. Napier hands him the bribe money in a sandwich!
  • Fat Slob: Lt. Max Eckhart, who may have been inspired by Harvey Bullock.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Joker (a given with this character in any incarnation). This version of the character takes the Faux Affably Evil trope so far that he seems to look like a funny Monster Clown. Being portrayed by Jack Nicholson certainly helps. The film actually reminds us with a flashback toward the end exactly why Jack Napier is a very bad man.
  • A Fête Worse than Death: The 200th Anniversary celebration, where the Joker hosts the party—and then releases the Smylex gas.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Some of the Joker's goons fire into the air during a chase for no particular reason.
  • Flash Mob Cover-Up: Joker appears among some mimes in order to perform a murder with a deadly quill pen, and he arranges a parade with balloons full of poisonous Smylex gas.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: It takes a great many characters quite a while to acknowledge that Batman might exist, and they're not willing to say so publicly. Alexander Knox (the only halfway-credible person who believes in Batman from the beginning) points out early on that, for the past month, there has been at least one sighting of Batman every week. However, Harvey Dent dismisses the stories of Batman sightings as tales of "ghosts and goblins," and Eckhardt insists that the slum dwellers who claim to have seen a bat-creature are "drinkin' Drano." Vicki Vale does seem to believe, but this might only be to convince Knox to join her in an official investigation of the sightings, which Vale hopes will advance her career and maybe even win her a Pulitzer Prize. Commissioner Gordon is the second major character to catch a glimpse of Batman...but he'd rather just sweep the truth under the rug, partly because it would embarrass Gotham City's police and partly because, since Batman is directly responsible for Jack Napier's near-death when the police need Napier alive as a mob informant, Gordon frankly would rather act like Batman does not exist.
  • Flat Scare: The Joker pulls this on Vicki Vale. Understandably, Vicki screams.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The muggers that attack a family at the start of the film get roughed up by Batman. Learning that the Joker killed Bruce's parents years before should tell you how their final confrontation is going to go.
    • "Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?" The Joker and Vicki Vale do so on top of the church. The Joker and Batman have their own "dance" later, though which one is the "devil" is up to debate.
    • Additionally, the first time we hear that question asked is at Vicki Vale's apartment when the Joker attempts to kill Bruce Wayne. Given the strange look on Bruce's face after the Joker asks him that question, one might assume that Bruce is confused or doesn't understand what the question means. It's actually an epiphany, because that question was also asked to Bruce as a child by the killer of his parents.
    • The card Jack pulls from his "lucky deck?" The Joker. Becomes an in-universe Call-Back, which spurs Jack's Rage Against the Reflection later when he realizes the symbolism.
    • The suit Jack is wearing in that scene is purple.
    • A subtler one comes from Vicki having to climb the "many" stairs of Wayne Mansion, having to remove her heels. Same thing happens in the church with The Joker.
    • When The Joker hisses and breathes in Grissom's voice, "You...are my number one...guy!" to Bob, Bob should have realized it was a threat.
    • Having seen the Batmobile operated remotely earlier, it makes sense when it turns out Batman isn't in the car during the assault on Axis Chemicals.
  • Form-Fitting Wardrobe: The Batsuit is made to look like it.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Melancholic Batman, sanguine Joker, phlegmatic Vale, and choleric Knox.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Of sorts. When Bruce turns away from The Joker at the fireplace, watch carefully— he's putting the metal tray in his jacket.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Averted with Jack Napier. Bruce Wayne reviews Napier's personal history and learns that he was a complete psycho even before he made it to junior high. At best, Bruce muses that he might have a Darwinian excuse ("He had a head full of bad wiring, I guess...").
      Bruce Wayne: (reading profile) "Jack Napier, assault with a deadly weapon, age fifteen. Results of psychological profile: Violent mood swings, highly intelligent, emotionally unstable. Aptitudes include science, chemistry, and art."
    • The film is one of the earliest examples of a work that tries to subvert the idea that the Joker is criminally insane and isn't responsible for his actions, an idea that only really emerged in the '70s. Like Batman: The Animated Series, it does so by making him a violent criminal even before he has his toxic bath, though in this one he is killed before we find out if he would have been thrown in an insane asylum rather than prison (the animated one gets the asylum, but the creators say it's only because he's managed to convince people that he's crazy, rather than actually being as crazy as he pretends).
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • Jack Napier is at first merely a cowardly criminal who only kills for money. After his toxic transformation in a cesspool of chemicals, he becomes an insane serial killer who is hellbent on mass murder for his own entertainment.
    • Also, his attempt to get his face fixed. It's already bleached white by the chemicals, which also turn his lips red and his hair green. The facial surgery doesn't fix any of those problems but instead gives him a new one by giving him a permanent, freakish grin.
  • Fruit Cart: Well, fruit truck...full of cabbage.
  • Full Moon Silhouette: Batman does it in the Batwing.
  • Generation Xerox: The first scene where a family is mugged by some ruffians is near-identical to what Bruce went through as a child. Of course, this time the bad guys won't be getting away.
  • Good is Not Nice: Batman, natch.
    • The earliest example is the muggers at the beginning. One isn't pleased that his buddy turns a gun on the kid. Guess which one gets put through a door.
    • He kills henchmen left and right, sends Vicki mixed signals about what's going to become of their relationship, and overall seems to be more obsessed with enforcing the law and getting vengeance on The Joker than actually doing good.
    • With Vicki, though, it's not so much him being a dick, it's that he himself is unsure exactly where their relationship might go or if it has a future at all, and he does, in the end, try to tell her the truth about him after deciding they just might have a chance.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: This is Vicki Vale's role.
  • Groin Attack: When Batman makes his way into the cathedral, the first of the Joker's goons tries a flying jump kick attack with spikes attached to his boots, but Batman subdues the goon by shooting something that vaguely resembles a spatula out of his gauntlet which strikes the goon right in his groin, causing him to let out an audible, "Uh!" just before he falls and grimaces. Later when the giant mook who resembles Ray Charles is giving Batman a humiliating beating, his last two moves appear to be punching Batman in the groin and then shoving his knee into his groin...right before Batman kills him. Shortly after that, when Batman is beating up the Joker, the Dark Knight apparently goes for a nut shot as he seemingly hits the Joker right in the groin (closely resembling a panel from Alan Moore's The Killing Joke wherein Batman punches Joker in the groin during the climactic fist fight).
  • Hammerspace: A few of the Joker's weapons and gag props are able to be hidden on his person in ways that would be impossible in real life. His pistol with a barrel the length of his leg can be smuggled in his trousers without affecting his stride (though as we see later in the cathedral, the barrel can be retracted to a smaller length; though that gets into ruining the interior smoothness of the barrel, necessary for a gun to work). After getting punched in the face, the Joker is able to prepare a wound-up pair of chattering teeth to spit out. After pulling Batman and Vicki over the ledge of the cathedral and offering the latter a hand, it's revealed that the Joker somehow managed to switch his real hand with a fake one without either of his victims noticing.
  • Handshake of Doom: During a meeting of crime bosses, the newly-minted Joker calls for an alliance between the various mobsters. When Antoine Rotelli asks what happens if they refuse, Joker assures him there'll be no war between them; they'll just shake hands and "that'll be it." Mollified, Antoine shakes the Joker's hand...only to find that he's wearing a lethal Electric Joybuzzer, and over the next few seconds, the unfortunate gangster is fried to a crisp.
  • Hand Cannon: Joker shoots down the Batwing using a revolver with a three foot long barrel (the comic adaptation has Batman identify what it fires as some kind of explosive shell).
  • Heroic BSoD: During Joker's "pen is mightier" scene, Bruce is so shocked to see Jack Napier still alive that he gets winged by a bullet and does not even notice it. (To make matters worse, during the massacre he is standing directly behind one of the assassins and does nothing to stop him.)
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker:
    Batman [to Joker]: Excuse me. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?
    [Batman smiles, then punches Joker in the face.]
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Batman does this to a Bit Part Bad Guy at the beginning of the film. Interestingly for a trope that's generally used as a death threat, just before Batman holds the guy over the edge of the building, he tells the mook, "I'm not going to kill you."
    Batman: I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.
    Nic: What are you?
    Batman: ...I'm Batman.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Jack is the one who creates the very vat of acid he falls into by screwing up all the plant's machinery, and he also creates Batman, the hero who kills him, by murdering Bruce Wayne's parents.
  • Homage: According to Danny Elfman, the opening theme was inspired by Bernard Herrmann's opening theme to Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959). It also sounds exactly like the opening few notes of The Batman (Serial)'s introduction theme, although whether or not this was intentional isn't confirmed.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Nearly the entire population of Gotham City seems to be this. It's common knowledge that Jack has murdered multiple people and is responsible for creating the deadly Smylex. Despite this, they trust him when he says, "But one thing I am a killer!" He ends up trying to kill everyone at the anniversary festival with nerve gas.
  • Horrifying Hero: This film is the first, and one of only two (the other being Batman Begins) to truly invoke this trope: A flawless combination of Bob Ringwood's theatrical costume design, Michael Keaton's performance and the visceral musical score of Danny Elfman, Batman becomes a mythical, demonic figure that strikes such raw terror into the heart of evil that the average petty thug can only incoherently scream to the police: "I'm telling ya, man: A Giant Bat!"
  • Human-Focused Adaptation: Despite the fact that the character of Batman is a human being himself, he is portrayed in the film as a mysterious figure of the night who spends most of his time in the shadows, which makes him come off as a very distant character from the audience. While this often comes to terms with the fact that he's heavily overshadowed by the Joker in terms of screentime, it also comes to the point that both Alexander Knox and most certainly Vicki Vale seem like the main P.O.V. characters in the film, as they are two regular human beings immersed in this world of Gotham, and most of what we learn about Bruce Wayne and his masked alter ego comes from their perspective.
  • The Hyena: Joker, true to form, laughs quite a lot.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Joker's got to get Vicki to the church on time.
  • I'm Melting!: When Vicki throws a glass of water into the Joker's face, he pretends that this is happening in a Shout-Out to The Wizard of Oz.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Batman apparently trains there as he fires several machinegun rounds and mini-missiles at a completely still and in-the-open Joker, with intent to kill as he'd done a few seconds before, and misses every shot even though his targeting mechanism is locked on to a stationary target. Then, Joker pulls a pistol with what looks like a five-foot-long barrel out of his pants and shoots down the Batwing barreling at him.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon:
    • In the fight at the cathedral, Batman apparently has a gadget that is designed for the sole purpose of crushing an opponent's nuts, which he does to one of the Joker's mooks.
    • The previously mentioned five foot revolver probably counts too, especially for the barrel's apparent collapsibility.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: The Joker, as usual. Batman's method of dispatching his mooks earns him a verbatim Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?, and Vicki's portfolio with her grisly photos from the Corto Maltese earns his praise.
  • Instant Armor: A push of a button (or a voice command) on the Batmobile covers it in armor.
  • Insult Misfire:
    Joker (to Vicki Vale): We're like Beauty and the Beast. 'Course, if anyone else calls you "Beast," I'll rip their lungs out!
  • Internal Reveal: The movie does not show or say that Bruce is Batman until Vicki discovers the Batcave over halfway into the film, but let's be real: you know that already.
  • Intimidation Demonstration: The Joker's sword-wielding mook gives a display in sword swinging before attacking Batman.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "Eckhardt! Think about the future!"
    • "Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?"
    • "You are my number one guy."
    • One of the first things Batman tells a mook is "I'm not going to kill you." During the climax, Batman tells Joker, "I'm going to kill you." This didn't go unnoticed by Prince, as he juxtaposed both lines in "Batdance."
  • It's Going Down: Axis Chemicals.
  • Joker Immunity:
    • Averted with the trope namer's death — just as he's about to escape.
    • Played straight big time earlier on, as Batman has all of the Batwing's weapons locked on to a perfectly stationary Joker...and misses completely.
  • Just Between You and Me:
    Bruce: (whispers to Joker) I know who you are.
  • Kent Brockman News: When the first Smylex deaths are reported on, the news uses photos of the victims' corpses in the upper-right corner, rather than a picture of them from when they were alive (especially notable given that the victims were models).
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Losing your balloons is a sad thing. We'll give you that, Joker, but shooting Bob afterwards is still a serious dick move. It\'s also an Ironic Echo. Joker gives Bob a warning/death sentence earlier in the film when he imitates his own treacherous boss, calling Bob his "number one guy." Now that's the Joker's kind of punchline.
    • It could be argued that Joker isn't without regret over it, as he somberly tells his remaining mooks that he needs some time alone, walking sadly away from the loud gunshots and yelling to get the crowd away.
    • Back in the beginning of the movie, Nic, one of the two Bit Part Bad Guys that get their asses kicked by Batman, turns his gun on little Jimmy to intimidate the others into silence, a move that disturbs his partner.
  • Kill on Sight: When Lieutenant Eckhardt leads the Gotham police officers into Axis Chemicals, he shows them a picture of Jack Napier, who Carl Grissom wants dead for canoodling with his mistress Alicia, and tells them, "Shoot to kill. Know what I mean?" When Commissioner Gordon arrives on the scene, he immediately takes over command of the cops from Eckhardt, telling everyone that he wants Napier taken alive and that any man who opens fire on Napier will answer to him. Not that it makes much difference since a number of the cops still continue to fire at him anyway.
  • Kiss Up the Arm: Gender-Inverted and parodied when Vicki Vale kisses up the Joker's arm.
  • Kitschy Local Commercial: Darkly parodied when the Joker makes one of these to announce "Joker Brand Cosmetics, with Smylex," complete with him posing with carboard cutout models, shopping in a fake grocery store, and doing a side-by-side comparison with a "Brand-X."
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: One of the Joker's mooks actually gives as good as he gets from Batman. Then Batman kills him.
  • Lack of Empathy: When Batman reveals to The Joker that he murdered his parents, thus meaning that The Joker made him first, The Joker mocks Batman for turning his own "you made me" back on him, culminating in "How childish can you get!?"
  • Large Ham: The Joker, and also Carl Grissom.
    The Joker: "We've got a flying mouse to kill, and I want to clean my claws!"
    The Joker: "And where is the Batman? He's at home...WASHIN' HIS TIGHTS!"
    Grissom: "Your life won't be worth SPIT!!!"
  • Laughing Gas: Subverted. Unlike the gases he uses in other incarnations, Joker's Smylex gas just kills people without making them laugh first. For the chemical to actually cause a victim to die laughing, it has to be applied onto the skin in a particular combination of beauty products.
  • Laughing Mad: It's The Joker, for Chrissakes!
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Bruce Wayne is Batman. This isn't revealed until over halfway into the film, but unless you've never been exposed to any Batman-related media at all, you know this one before it begins.
  • Leg Focus: Vicki Vale's introduction includes a gratuitous Male Gaze shot of her legs as she rests them atop her desk.
  • Left the Background Music On: In several scenes, what appears to be background music turns out to be emanating from a boombox that the Joker has a mook follow him around with.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!:
    • Two examples, one right after the other, during the scene in Vicki's apartment. The first is when Bruce, challenging the Joker, picks up a poker and bellows "YOU WANNA GET NUTS?! COME ON! Let's get nuts!" Then, after a long stretch of acting like a deluded fool following his transformation, the Joker retaliates by unexpectedly switching back to the persona of Jack Napier for an in-universe Call-Back in a refreshingly chilling moment that contrasts how he (as the Joker) has been acting for much of the film. Then blam.
    The Joker: Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?
    Bruce: [Beat] What?
    The Joker: I always ask that of all my prey. [beat] I just like the sound of it. [shoots him as Vicki screams]
    • When the Smylex gas is released in the streets of Gotham City, Alexander Knox immediately grabs a mask and baseball bat from the trunk of his car and goes after the Joker's goons, managing to scatter away one of the balloons.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Released by Data East in 1991; click here for details.
  • Little "No": Batman says it after Vicki Vale asks if all products are poisoned.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Happens to Vicki while being forced to climb the bell tower of Gotham Cathedral by her captor the Joker. She falls and loses one of her high heels. The Joker then throws away the offending shoe, seemingly to taunt the pursuing Batman and/or make Vicki move faster. Her other shoe is later seen discarded further up the stairs.
  • Lured into a Trap: Boss Grissom sends Jack Napier and his team to retrieve incriminating information from Axis Chemical so Lieutenant Eckhardt and his team of corrupt cops can kill them. Napier manages to figure out the score before the ambush, though.
  • Mad Artist: The Joker describes himself as "the world's first fully-functioning homicidal artist"; he disfigures his girlfriend Alicia Hunt and fails in his attempt to disfigure Vicki Vale.
  • Mad Scientist: The Joker has shades of this, as it is implied that he created the binary compound (CIA files on a nerve agent classified DDID) for the Smylex poison.
  • Malevolent Mugshot: Done a lot with the Joker's face.
  • Matching Bad Guy Vehicles: The Joker's goons chase the Batmobile in cars painted with purple bodies and green rooves.
  • Meaningful Appearance: Vicki wears a white dress, jacket, and shoes at the climax. By the end of the scene, she's lost the jacket and the shoes, and the dress is noticeably dirtied. Coincidence? The white dress also makes sense if you interpret the climactic cathedral scene from a religious perspective. In the dress, Vicki looks a lot like a bride, an association that is only strengthened when the Joker tells her, "I've got to get you to the church on time."
  • Mirror Reveal: After performing surgery on Jack Napier, the surgeon is horrified by Napier's face when he takes off his bandages. Napier demands a mirror. The surgeon reluctantly hands him one, but we don't get to see his reflection, only his reaction: sobbing that slowly transforms into maniacal laughter, hinting at his transformation into The Joker.
  • Missing Steps Plan: The Joker plans to "run the city into the ground" and murder everyone at the Anniversary parade. He never gives any hint of what benefit that will be to organized crime, which is why the other mob bosses think he's crazy. Justified, in that Jack is crazy and just wants to watch the world burn.
  • Monster Clown: The Joker. He's already a little off his rocker, but when his skin is bleached white he goes full-on crazy.
  • Movie Superheroes Wear Black: The Ur-Example, if not the Trope Maker. This movie was perhaps the first to turn superhero costumes black. Batman started off with a black and grey costume but quickly switched to blue and grey in the '40s and remained that way until this movie, which was an idea of Burton's. Eventually, Batman began wearing an all-black costume to match the films, and it's stuck in the live action films ever since.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Notably averted in this film with the trope namer, where they actually do give The Joker an undeniable backstory in the film.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: The reason Grissom tries to get Jack killed or jailed.
    The Joker: You set me up over a woman. A woman! (darkly) You must be insane.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • From Batman: The Dark Knight Returns:
      • In her background, Vicki Vale has covered a conflict in Corto Maltese, a disputed territory which appears in the graphic novel.
      • The imagery of Martha Wayne's pearl necklace being ripped off her neck and the pearls dropping onto the streets in Bruce's flashback.
    • The Joker card in Jack Napier's "lucky deck" is patterned after the card the villain leaves to mark his crimes in his first comic book appearance.
    • The Joker's real name, "Jack Napier," is a reference to the late Alan Napier, who played Alfred in the 1960s Batman series, hidden behind a more obvious pun on "jackanapes."
    • Jack Napier becomes the Joker by falling into chemicals, which is (possibly) his origin in The Killing Joke (which was released the year prior to this movie and along with The Dark Knight Returns was Tim Burton's inspiration to direct the film).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Batman accidentally drops Jack Napier into a vat of chemical acid which turns him into the Joker and makes him partially responsible for the subsequent murders.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • Jack killing Bruce's parents in his childhood, causing him to become the hero who kills him.
    • The post-chemical dip Joker killing Grissom and then purging his lieutenants. Yes, it grants Joker full control over all organized crime in Gotham...but once he dies, the underworld's grip on Gotham is broken for good. That means Joker, ironically more than Batman, is responsible for the collapse of organized crime in Gotham by the film's end.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Batman dishes a pretty brutal one to the Joker in the final climax, complete with Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh... from the latter. However, Joker manages to escape further wrath by using his own Playing Possum technique against him (which Batman had used only two minutes ago to evade a similarly nasty beatdown from one of his goons).
  • No, You:
    Vicki: You lied to me about leaving town!
    Bruce: Let me tell you why!
    Vicki: LET ME TELL YOU!!
  • Noodle Incident: During Bruce and Vicki's first date, Alfred entertains them with a tale about when he gave Bruce a horseback riding lesson and ended up injuring his ankle and getting covered in mud.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • The Axis chemical plant is falling to pieces. It's little wonder that Jack Napier falls into a vat of chemicals. Justified, as Jack turns on a bunch of the machines and makes them run at unsafe levels to create a diversion for the cops. The vat full of chemicals? You can see it being filled in the background of several shots as a result of these actions. Laser-Guided Karma indeed.
    • The cathedral from the film's climax is falling to pieces by the time Batman manages to get to the top, also largely as a result of the Joker's actions.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Averted. When Batman takes on half-a-dozen of the Joker's goons in the alley, a sequence was filmed where Bob is actually able to hold his own in a one-on-one knife-fight with the Bat. For whatever reason, this was cut to Bob just abandoning the others and running.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: While touring Bruce Wayne's mansion with Vicki during a charity party, Alexander Knox voices his opinion that Wayne is nothing but a vain, pompous fool. He does not know that at that very moment, Bruce is preparing to transform into Batman in order to go stop the mob from sanitizing its front company paper trail.
  • Offing the Annoyance: The Joker kills Bob apparently for standing there while he's upset at Batman.
  • Offscreen Karma: Commissioner Gordon informs everyone at the end that the rest of the Joker's gang (those not killed at the Axis Chemicals or the final battle) have been arrested by the police.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Those two muggers in the opening sequence when they realize that Batman is, to say the least, Not Quite Dead.
    • Jack Napier, when he finds himself in Batman's clutches at the factory.
      Jack Napier: Jesus!
    • Vinnie Ricorso on the steps of the courthouse. ("Hello, Vinnie. It's your Uncle Bingo. Time to pay the check!")
    • Bob, when Batman calls him out with a "come here" finger-wiggle beckoning.
    • Gordon gets two.
      • The first is when he realizes there's going to be a shootout at Axis.
      Robert: Anonymous tip: Napier's cleaning out Axis Chemicals.
      Gordon: Good lord, if we catch him we'll have Grissom. But why wasn't I told about this? Who's in charge?
      Robert: Eckhardt, Sir.
      Gordon: Oh, my God...
      • In the second one it becomes clear that the shit's really hit the fan, as Gordon's seeing Batman in the flesh for the first time, and on the scene of an already dangerous situation no less, and had until now believed him to be a rumor.
    • Jack Napier during the raid at Axis Chemicals. When he finds out that all the information his team has been sent to gather has been removed, he does an Eye Take when he realizes he's been set up.
      Jack Napier: We've been ratted out here, boys. Watch it.
    • Vicki Vale, upon realizing what is in the balloons at the parade, and thus what Joker's plan truly is.
      Vicki Vale: Oh my god...Smylex gas...he's going to kill everybody!
    • Joker himself. Although he does not really express his fear, this little dialogue sums it all up when he finds out who Batman is.
      Batman: You killed my parents.
      Joker: *confused laughter* Huh? What are you talking about?
      Batman: I made you, but you made me first.
      Joker: *scared* Come on Bat-brain, I was a kid when I killed your parents. When I say I made you, you gotta say you made me! How childish can you get? [puts on glasses] You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses on, would ya? Huh?
      [Batman does]
    • Carl Grissom, three times: 1) when he sees that Napier has survived and pretends to be glad about it, 2) when Napier figures out that he set him up "over a woman" and plans to get him back, and 3) when he sees Napier is now the Joker (which is the last thing he sees).
    • Batman himself, three times: 1) when he loses his grip on Jack's hand and drops him in to the acid, 2) when he misses The Joker with the guns/rockets from the Batwing, and 3) when he's fighting the third mook in the belltower.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Some of this can be heard a little more than midway through the film as the Batmobile is speeding away from the city and toward the Batcave, as part of Danny Elfman's "Descent Into Mystery" suite. It is very hard to make out what is being chanted, but one of the first words heard sounds a bit like sanctus - a common enough term heard in Catholic Church music, as it means "holy." (A Mythology Gag, perhaps?)
    • The words are actually Latin. In the published film score, the Latin reads:
      bis sunto! latent!
      bis sunto, pacto
      parati solo!
      hic sunto: latent!

      adsunto more
      portent magno!
    Which translates to:
    let them be twofold; they are hiding.
    let them be twofold: furnished by their pledge alone!
    let them be here; they are hiding

    they shall arrive in the
    great manner of an omen!
  • The One Thing I Don't Hate About You:
    The Joker: Now, you fellows have said some pretty mean things, some of which were true, under that fiend Boss Grissom. He was a thief and a terrorist. But on the other hand, he had a tremendous singing voice. He's dead now, and he's left me in charge.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • John Dair (Vinnie Ricorso) was a British actor playing an Italian-American character. He lapses into his natural accent during his very last scene (when he is talking to the newspaper reporters on the steps of City Hall): "Mistuh Grissom asked me, as a pussonal favuh, to take care of all his businesses until he retuhns."
    • Alicia (the Joker's moll) is played by Jerry Hall, whose natural accent is an unlikely mixture of Texas (where she was born) and British. She skews toward "educated Texan" as Alicia until her very last scene, when she shifts into Cockney for no particular reason. ("Jayack, you sahd you'd let me wotch you improve the paintings.") Could be justified in-story by the fact that Alicia (as the script makes clear) is heavily into drugs by that point, and British accents can sometimes sound stereotypically narcoleptic to American ears.
  • Origin Story: Infamously gave a solid one to The Joker, since all other sources treat his origin as a total mystery.
  • Parody Commercial: After the Deadline News incident listed above, the Joker hijacks the airwaves with this to reveal himself as responsible for the Smylex deaths and cheerily inform Gotham that more people are doomed because they're already unknowingly using the tainted products. He even spoofs the Brand X trope to prove his point.
    I know what you're saying: "Where can I get these fine new items?" Well, that's the gag. Chances are, you've bought 'em already!
  • Pass the Popcorn: When Joker and Bruce Wayne are verbally sparring in her apartment, Vicky Vale picks up a bowl of popcorn and starts eating from it for no reason.
  • "The Pen Is Truly Mightier Than the Sword," as quoted by Joker.
  • Pistol-Whipping: The father who's knocked out by a mugger's pistol while leading his family through the back alleys of Gotham City.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Alexander Knox, a newspaper reporter who collaborates with Vicki Vale. He serves as a Heroic Bystander at one point, though he gets sidelined Vicki.
  • Plummet Perspective: Used to horrifying effect, with the Joker's point of view shot of how far he has to fall to his bone-shattering death on the pavement of Gotham. His blood-chilling scream makes it all the more nightmarish. Almost makes you feel sorry for the bastard. It's also used when the Joker and Vicki are climbing up the bell-tower's interior: Joker throws one of Vicki's high heels over the side, and we get a shot showing it plummeting down the tower.
  • Pocket Protector:
    • The metal tray Bruce Wayne puts under his coat before confronting the Joker at Vicki Vale's apartment, which ends up saving him when the Joker shoots him.
    • Only hinted at in the theatrical release, but the reason Grissom calls Jack's deck of cards his "lucky deck" is that they once stopped a bullet from killing him. Sharp eyes will notice that the Joker card Jack looks at has a bullet hole in it.
  • Police Are Useless: Despite Joker being a known murderer and psychopath who publicly broadcasts the time and place of his whereabouts for the evening, the police force takes absolutely no measures to respond to this until after he has already killed dozens of Gothamites and proceeds with his escape plan. Sure, certain Gotham police are corrupt, but surely that can't mean the entire force is so incompetent? This is explained in the shooting script and the novelization, both of which make clear that Joker had laced the police department's coffee with a paralytic (but non-lethal) toxin that physically incapacitates most of Gotham's finest.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Having The Joker (rather than Joe Chill) kill Batman's parents arguably makes this the most personal grudge ever between the two. Also, Batman uses much more violent methods and doesn't hew to the comic version's Thou Shalt Not Kill stance, but come Batman Forever, he gives Dick Grayson a powerful yet understated speech about why using lethal force on villains is morally wrong, speaking from experience.
  • Product Placement: A VERY hard to spot instance of this can be found on Batman's boots which sport the Nike logo on them. They can be seen very faintly in certain shots during the movie.
  • Psycho for Hire: Before he becomes a Monster Clown, Jack Napier has already been a sadistic killer for decades who loves to make children into orphans just for kicks, and then do them in, too.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Minor ones during The Joker's "conversation" with Rotelli's smoking corpse.
  • Psychotic Smirk: The Joker, and surprisingly, Batman too. Two examples: when he says, "I'm Batman," to the initial mook, then when Jack Napier comments, "Nice outfit." Jack Napier in Bruce's flashback has a particularly vicious one.
  • Punny Name: Jack Napier is a pun on jackanapes, an old term for a rascally person, or in some cases a jester.
  • The Purge: The Joker murders all the other crime bosses in Gotham, acting on the "advice" of a victim's corpse:
    Joker: Maybe we, uh, oughtta give 'em a couple of days to think it over. What? Grease 'em now? Well...Okay!
  • Race Lift: Harvey Dent. Burton changed him from the brown-haired Caucasian he is in the comics to...Billy Dee Williams. This was intended to play into a black-and-white theme when he would become Two-Face in a sequel, but it fell through (much to Williams' dismay) when Tommy Lee Jones was cast in the role for Batman Forever. This wouldn't be explored until the Batman '89 comics which continued the Burton timeline after Batman Returns and ignored the Schumacher sequels.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: As part of the buildup to the reveal of the Joker's face, he asks for a (hand) mirror to see the results of the surgery he's just gotten from a Back-Alley Doctor. The audience doesn't see the reflection, but when he does, he evilly laughs for the first time as he smashes the mirror. (This was later parodied in The Simpsons episode that was the former trope namer for Lisa Needs Braces, when she gets the ridiculously old-fashioned ones.)
  • Railing Kill: Jack Napier fires at Batman, who is intervening in the botched Axis Chemicals job. Batman deflects the bullet with his armored gloves, Napier gets hit by the glass the deflected bullet shatters (which implants itself in his cheeks), tumbles over the railing in the typical way (taking a lot of steps to do so), and falls into a vat of acid (which permanently bleaches his skin and ostensibly results in the nerve damage to his mouth that causes his permanent "smile" due to the open cheek wounds from the glass). One quick trip to a back-alley plastic surgeon later, and Jack's dead...but The Joker lives.
  • Raised Hand of Survival: After Jack falls into the vat of chemicals, his hand (with whitened skin and in a half-dissolved glove) breaks the surface of the wastewater stream outside the Axis plant, showing he's still alive.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Played for Laughs with the Joker and his goons imitating the poses of the ballerina paintings and sculptures they pass by as they vandalize the museum.
  • Real Time: The climax. The Joker tells his crew to meet him with their helicopter on the top of the cathedral in ten minutes. They arrive during the fight in the bell tower, which is almost exactly ten minutes later.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The music cue that plays when Bruce Wayne sets the roses down at the street his parents were shot down on had previously been used in Tim Burton/Danny Elfman's previous collaboration Beetlejuice when the Maitlands realize they're dead.
  • Red Herring: At the beginning, we see a couple of crooks mugging a couple and their child. We're led to think this is the young Bruce Wayne and his parents Thomas and Martha, and we're about to see the murder of his parents, but then we see Batman high above looking down on the crime waiting to intervene.
  • Request for Privacy: Boss Grissom is having a council of war with Jack Napier and his advisers. When he makes a decision on what to do Grissom says "That's all, gentlemen" and shoos the advisers out. He then has a conversation with Jack where he asks him to take care of the problem (and sets him up to be taken out).
  • Ret-Canon: The Grapple Gun from the film has since been adopted into the comic book canon and other Batman media, including Batman: The Animated Series.
  • The Reveal Prompts Romance: There's an exchange like this between Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale towards the end when Vale is shown into the Batcave.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Did Batman try to save Jack, only to have his glove come off, or did he shake Jack's hand loose? Burton's deliberate framing of the shot makes it extremely ambiguous.
  • Ripping Off the String of Pearls: Jack Napier's partner tears the pearl necklace from Martha Wayne's throat right before Jack shoots her and Thomas. Interestingly, the pearls come off in one unbroken string when tugged, but individual pearls fall to the ground in dramatic fashion after Thomas and Martha have been shot.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: At the top of a gigantic cathedral, no less.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Briefly. When The Joker is snipping photos out of magazines, the final shot shows that the room, floor to ceiling, is covered in photo clip outs.
  • Running Gag: A minor one: the news reporters look increasingly unkempt as the plot with the poisoned hygiene products unravels.
  • Save the Villain: Batman tries to save Jack Napier from falling into the vat of chemicals, but fails. Failing to rescue Napier in time only transforms him into a worse villain! Seriously Batman, you had ONE job!
  • Saved by the Platform Below: On top of the cathedral when Batman and Vicki Vale peer over the edge to see if the Joker has truly fallen, only to be pulled over themselves by the Joker who has been hanging from the ledge.
  • Scary Black Man: The last of the goons Batman has to fight before getting to Joker himself. He actually manages to beat the living piss out of Bats at first, although to be fair, our hero has already been seriously injured prior to this.
  • Scenery Porn: Anton Furst won an Academy Award for his set design which, along with Blade Runner, re-invented the German Expressionist set. It went a step further when a visiting Bob Kane remarked that Furst had built Gotham City.
  • Schizo Tech: Photographers rely on flash-bulb cameras, while Batman has a small, personal jet plane and a rocket car. However, this might explain why the Batwing couldn't hit an unmoving target with no obstacles in between from about 500 meters away in ideal conditions with automatic fire and a locked-on targeting mechanism.
  • Screaming Warrior: Joker has 2-4 guys like this. One of them fights Batman in an alley with dual swords, and the other three fight in succession in the belfry scene at the end. The last guy, a Scary Black Man, provides the only real threat.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: The Joker, big time. Prince's "Batdance" video takes it to a new extreme.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After Jack kills Bruce's parents and is about to shoot Bruce, too, his partner decides they should split.
    "Man, let's go! Let's go, Jack!!"
    • After Batman takes out three mooks in the street fight, Bob rises up brandishing a large knife. Batman smirks and gives him a "come hither" gesture; Bob simply drops the knife and makes tracks.
  • Second-Hand Storytelling: The beginning has two Mooks telling stories about the rumor of the Batman. Since Batman dresses up as a bat to play on criminals' fears, this scene is very effective at showing that it's working.
  • Shipper on Deck: Alfred, in a bittersweet way, pushes Bruce and Vicki together. When asked why, he says, "If not now, when?"
  • Shock and Awe: Joker's lethal joy buzzer.
  • Shoot the Television: Done twice by the Joker. The first is when he takes a boxing glove gun to the TV for mention of Batman in connection to an assassination that Joker pulled off on one of Grissom's underbosses, demanding to know, "What kind of a world do we live in where a man dressed up as a bat gets all of my press?!" The second time, Joker shoots the television screen with a real gun after learning on the news that his poisoning scheme involving beauty products has been foiled by the Batman.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Those Little Shop of Horrors dentist tools sure get around a lot since last appearing in Dead Ringers.
    • The Corto Maltese War, mentioned here as being Vicki's last big photography project, is the name of the conflict Superman puts an end to in Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (which was, in turn, a shout-out to the Corto Maltese comic book).
    • The Joker's "I'm Melting!" from The Wizard of Oz after Vicki Vale throws water on him.
    • In addition to the general architecture of Gotham, the Climbing Climax bears a striking resemblance to the cathedral fight in Metropolis, especially the part about the villain falling off said cathedral to his death.
    • The Climbing Climax with the shots of the stairwell looking downward as well as elements of first scene strongly resemble Vertigo.
    • Going for three: The Climbing Climax is most directly based on the descending climax of The Phantom of the Opera.
    • The cartoon of the Joker's face on his Mooks' jackets and his helicopter looks like the classic comic book Joker; they are inspired In-Universe by the Joker in Jack's lucky card deck.
    • Joker and friends ruining the art at the museum is a shout-out to the pair of episodes from the live action '60s series where Joker tries to ruin some paintings by splashing paint on them and inadvertently becomes hailed as an artistic genius.
  • Silly Song: "Partyman."
  • Skewed Priorities: Napier's plastic surgeon. He knowingly has a psychotic hitman in his chair, on whose face he did a botch job, and he's concerned about his patient smashing what few tools he has to work with.
  • Slasher Smile: Par for the course for the Joker, but even as his pre-transformation self he manages an absolutely terrifying rictus smile after he kills Bruce Wayne's parents and is about to do the same to the boy.
  • Sleeping with the Boss's Wife: Jack Napier, the Number Two of the Gotham City Mob, is sleeping with his boss Carl Grissom's mistress. Grissom sets him up to be killed for this betrayal, but it doesn't take. After Jack becomes The Joker, he murders Grissom in retaliation.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Surprisingly the movie fits on the idealistic side, although not quite to the point of The Dark Knight, but for Batman's actions, he becomes publicly loved and gets the girl, and The Joker is dead, although he has to take the cynical route to get there. It is mostly cynical, but it too is a case of Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Alexander Knox is set up as one, but he's mostly an aversion (if not an outright inversion). He fancies himself a great investigative reporter, even though he famously has a "useless reputation" and his coworkers at the Gotham Globe offices relentlessly mock him for being one of the few people in Gotham City who actually believe in Batman. In addition, when he meets Vicki Vale and is instantly smitten with her, he jokingly asks if she has come to photograph him nude, and boasts that in that case she will need a long lens. Vicki actually ends up liking Allie despite his more annoying qualities, however, and in the end he is vindicated when the people of Gotham come to realize that he was right about Batman after all.
  • Something Only They Would Say:
    • This is how Bruce realizes the Joker is the thug who killed his parents. He repeats the phrase to Joker at the beginning of their final confrontation just before decking him.
      Jack Napier/Joker: You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?
    • Also:
      Batman: You killed my parents.
      Joker: What are you talking about?
      Batman: I made you, but you made me first.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • During The Reveal of The Joker during the That Man Is Dead scene, which he starts by shooting Grissom, a circus calliope breaks out.
    • “Waltz to the Death” is a lively, joyous song that plays as Batman fights for his life against the Joker’s mooks while Vicki is held against her will by the Joker.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • The cop who tells Gordon about Eckhardt trying to kill Napier at Axis Chemicals.
    • Batman of all people. By showing up at Axis Chemicals and dropping Jack Napier into that vat of chemicals, he ruins the police's best chance of building a solid case against Grissom's gang.
  • Spare a Messenger: Two muggers are counting their loot on a rooftop. Batman appears and kicks one of them through a door. He takes the other one to the edge of the roof, holds him over the long drop below, and talks to him.
    Batman: I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.
    Mugger: [terrified] What are you?
    Batman: ...I'm Batman. [throws the mugger to the rooftop]
  • Spontaneous Crowd Formation: The Joker announces he will be giving away free money at a parade. Despite knowing he's a murderer, the crowd shows up on schedule and he kills a good lot of them.
  • Squirting Flower Gag: The Joker uses the flower on his lapel to try to squirt acid on Vicki Vale and later uses it to try to drop a bell on Batman during the cathedral sequence.
  • Stairwell Chase: Batman chases the Joker up a bell tower in the finale.
  • Stalker with a Crush:
    • The Joker becomes this due to twisted infatuation when he sees a picture of Vicki Vale.
    • Vicki Vale as well towards Bruce Wayne when he avoids her after what was really just a one night stand. She follows him, takes photos of him without his knowledge, and looks up his police records just to figure him out.
  • Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure: Batman does this to the Joker using the Batwing.
  • The Starscream: Ostensibly Jack Napier, though it's hard to tell if it's a straight example or a subversion. While he is the one who kills Carl Grissom, he does not do so as part of a plot to take over. He kills Grissom out of revenge, and then decides to take over his empire as an afterthought. Then again, comments Napier makes in passing to both Alicia and Lieutenant Eckhardt suggest that he may have been plotting Grissom's murder sometime in the future, or at the very least has been waiting for the old man to die.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye:
    • When Batman faces off against Jack Napier in the Axis Chemicals factory, Jack Napier bends down to pick up his gun. When he straightens up and looks again, Batman has disappeared. A few seconds later, he reappears out of nowhere.
    • After Bruce Wayne has been shot by the Joker and apparently killed in Vicki Vale's apartment, he somehow manages to get out of the room without her seeing him.
  • Street Performer: The Joker disguises himself and his Mooks as street mimes to kill one of the dissenting mob bosses.
  • Stripped to the Bone: Mobster Antoine Rotelli gets incinerated into a charred black skeleton by the Joker's buzzer.
  • Stuka Scream: Just after the Batwing does an Immelmann maneuver, apparently just to make a Bat Symbol out of a Full Moon Silhouette, it screams into a dive back toward Gotham City using this sound effect.
  • Superhero Movie Villains Die: The Joker doesn't have the same death-defying abilities of his comic counterpart.
  • Synchro-Vox: Used to mask the lips of the recent victims of Joker's toxin in order to "advertise" his Brand X. Which, in turn, is the Joker toxin that he is going to release at the Bicentennial celebration of Gotham City's foundation.
  • Table Space: The dinner scene between Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale provides the image and quote line for this trope.
  • Talking to the Dead: The Joker does this to Antoine Rotelli's fried corpse shortly after dismissing the mob summit (he's the one who murders Rotelli with a joy buzzer), and he apparently is "told" by Rotelli's corpse to "grease" the mob bosses immediately, to which Joker complies and responds, "You are a vicious bastard, Rotelli. I'm glad you're dead," before laughing hysterically. Whether he's only pretending to "hear" Rotelli speaking back or genuinely believes the corpse is talking to him is unclear. In either case, it effectively shows he's no longer just a psychopath and is now completely unhinged.
  • Technically a Smile: Batman smiles a couple of times. It's easily the scariest expression he's got.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • A crooked police lieutenant to Jack Napier near the film's beginning: "The future? You mean when you run the show? You ain't got no future, Jack!" (This culminates in an Ironic Echo at the factory, when Napier kills the lieutenant with a single shot.) What's humorous about this is that the errongeous double negative means he's actually, unintentionally saying, "You've got a future, Jack!"
      Jack (both times): Think about the future!
    • The Joker saying things like, "Feel free to drop in," and, "Sometimes I just kill myself," while standing on the ledge of an improbably high bell tower.
    • Alicia is worried that Carl Grissom might find out about her affair with Jack.
      Jack: He's a tired old man. He can't run the city without me. And besides, he doesn't know.
      Alicia: You don't worry about a thing, do you, Jack?
    • During The Joker's parade:
      Joker: "And where is the Batman? He's at home...WASHIN' HIS TIGHTS!"
      (Cue Batman flying overhead in the Batwing)
  • That Man Is Dead: Used in the reveal of the Joker's face. "Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me...Joker. And as you can see, I'm a lot happier." The original line was a lot more blunt and angrier, with the Joker stepping out of the shadows and shouting, "DO I LOOK LIKE FUCKING JACK?!"
  • This Just In!: Said when the Joker's tainted products come to light (just before the female reporter signs off).
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill:
    • Averted, which may come as quite a shock to younger tropers more used to the modern Batman films where this trope is enforced. In fact, this movie is an attempt to return to the earliest version of Batman's character, where he did kill.
    • He doesn't start killing until after he finds out that the Joker killed his parents. His first scene plays the trope straight. Any mentions of him killing prior are played as an Urban Legend, with no confirmation of truth given.
      Mook: DON'T KILL ME, MAN!!!
      Batman: I'm not gonna kill you. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.
      Mook: What Are You!?
      Batman: ...I'm Batman.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Bruce's memory of his parents being murdered looks especially dramatized in an already stylistic film. The killer is silhouetted until Bruce's memories of his face become clear, and his voice has a deep echo that doesn't sound human. It goes a long way in explaining Bruce's disconnected personality.
  • Thrown from the Zeppelin: The Joker brings in the "mob bosses" (or at least mob lieutenants) of Gotham and introduces himself as the new big boss, then explains his grand plan. Rotelli opts out, and as they shake hands he gets the "joy buzzer" from the Joker, which rather gruesomely kills him, as a lesson to everyone else. The Joker then goes on to order the deaths of the other bosses.
  • Toilet Humour: Joker's, "This town needs an enema!" line.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Half of Gotham seems to be this way. It's already common knowledge that the Joker has murdered many people, but that doesn't stop them from diving at the cash he offers in public. He even says into a microphone, "Now comes the part where I relieve you, the little people, of the burden of your failed and useless lives," but they're too engrossed by the flying cash to listen. A minute later, many are dead, and some who aren't dead yet still grab for cash.
    • Poor Bob as well, after Joker has just been decisively pissed off and now wants to blow off some steam. He's had his little outburst, but there's a Tranquil Fury brewing under his crackpot exterior, something his loyal lackey fails to notice.
      Joker: Bob? Gun.
      Bob: (unquestioningly hands his boss his gun, not realizing Joker's in a killing mood; Joker casually pops a bullet in his chest)
    • The second of Joker's three goons at the top of the cathedral is a big guy who tries to jump down on Batman from a higher platform and promptly falls through the floor before Batman even has time to turn around, since his weight is just too much for the old, rotted wood to support when he lands.
    • The Ray Charles thug who thoroughly kicks Batman's ass is actually dumb enough to look down into the tower shaft after sending the Dark Knight presumably falling to his death with what may have been a Groin Attack, only to have Batman throw his legs around his neck, and somehow suddenly too weak to break free, the Ray Charles thug is suddenly helpless as Batman pulls him forward, bangs his head into the bell, and then sends him falling to his well-deserved death.
    • Vicki has a moment when she accepts The Joker's offer to "lend [her] a hand" while she's hanging from a gargoyle, although this is justified since up to this point, Joker has been extremely interested in her, so him acting like he cares about keeping her alive would be perfectly believable. Naturally the hand is a fake, which snaps off, forcing Batman to catch her.
  • Took a Level in Badass: While working for decayed, old-fogey, crime boss Carl Grissom, Jack Napier's colleagues are forced to dress in the kind of extremely frumpy "old-man" clothes that even your grandfather wouldn't be caught dead wearing and look like they're playing old-school gangsters for Halloween. Once Napier becomes the Joker and assumes control, they undergo a startling sartorial metamorphosis: everything form-fitting and in a sexy, dark shade, including dark purple, leather jackets; tight, black pants; stylish, black hats; and the Cool Shades. Oh, and some of them have apparently learned kung-fu.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: A barrel with a fire in it appears in two different scenes of people watching the Joker's TV broadcast outdoors. The first is a shot of members of a motorcycle gang, the other is of a construction site.
  • Trope Codifier: This was not the first Superhero movie, but it was the one that showed that superheroes could be treated with artful, dead seriousness and still make a ton of money. It also altered the archetype of the Summer Blockbuster, changing it from "huge, mass-marketing machines that are as much made to sell merchandise as they are to sell tickets" to "huge, mass-marketing machines that are as much made to sell merchandise as they are to sell tickets and are based on an existing property that the audience already has an attachment to."
  • Truth in Television: The Batsuit makes Batman immune to bullets themselves, but not to the concussive force involved with them, something that is also true with Bulletproof vests in real life which isn't usually shown in media, even in the most current Batman film, The Batman (2022).
  • Twinkle Smile: In the Joker's first broadcast warning about his Smylex products, there are cut-outs of the two models he's murdered. Each cut-out has a twinkle appear on its smile.
  • Uncertain Doom: It's unknown whether or not all the Gotham mob bosses in the board meeting are actually killed by the Joker. Of the nine members, only Rotelli and Ricorso are confirmed, on-screen kills.
  • Un-Confession: Bruce Wayne tries to tell Vicki Vale that he's Batman, but he's interrupted by the arrival of the Joker.
  • Unflinching Faith in the Brakes: Batman tells the Batmobile to stop, and it does...JUST in time.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • Bob is the kind of staunchly loyal henchman that most any villain would be grateful to have, which makes Joker's shooting of him a major Kick the Dog moment.
    • In fact, all of The Joker's men are supremely loyal. They instantly switch clothing styles to fit his new personality and help him slaughter all the other mob bosses. Even after he kills Bob, all of his men stay loyal to him and never object.
  • Uriah Gambit: Involves crime boss Carl Grissom manipulating his lieutenant Jack Napier into being killed as punishment for sleeping with Grissom's girlfriend, a plot that drastically backfires.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Vicki Vale unsuccessfully tries to hide her photo of Batman in her blouse. He gets it from her anyway.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: The Joker attempts this. He fails.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • When Jack Napier first looks into the plastic surgeon's mirror and sees his "clown face," for a brief moment we hear—very softly—the sound of his sobbing. A moment later he goes into hysterical denial, starts laughing...and doesn't ever stop.
      Joker: That wasn't easy to get over! And don't think I didn't try.
    • He also has another one near the end when Batman steals his gas balloons that have been unleashed on Gotham.
  • Villainous Crush: Joker to Vicki Vale.
  • Visual Innuendo: Subverted. Vicki notes Batman could have given the information on how to prevent Smylex poisoning directly to the newspapers, and Bats agrees, adding, "You have something I want." Cue a dramatic cape embrace and bats flying, with Vicki finding herself in her bed afterward. She then feels her chest and groans, "He took the film."
  • Visual Pun:
    • Admit it, when the Batwing is silhouetted by the moon and becomes the Batman logo, it's pretty cool (and cute.)
    • The Joker reassures Gotham that he's on the level because he's "taken off his mask." However, the viewer knows he's lying because he's wearing makeup to appear more normal and hide his true Joker face.
  • Voice Clip Song: "Batdance" makes a song using much of the film's dialogue.
    "And where — And where — *doom doom doom* — is the Batman?!"
  • Weaponized Car: The Batmobile.
  • Welcome to the Big City: Gotham City is revealed to be a Wretched Hive by showing a hapless tourist family getting accosted by beggars, prostitutes, and finally, a pair of armed robbers.
  • Wham Line:
    • In-universe, during the Joker's "Smylex" video:
      "I know what you're saying: 'Where can I get these fine new items?' Well, that's the gag. Chances are, you bought 'em already!"
    • During the apartment confrontation, the Joker repeats his, "Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?" Catchphrase, which clues Bruce in to the fact that he's the one who killed his parents.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • It's never revealed what happens to the Back-Alley Doctor who transforms Jack Napier into the Joker. However, the Joker attributes his, "If you gotta go, go with a smile!" declaration at the parade to the surgeon, implying that he may have been killed.
    • Seven thugs accompany Jack when he raids Axis Chemicals. One is shot by the dirty cops, Batman catches two more, and Bob escapes, but the fates of the other three are never shown.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: The Joker tells Gotham that during his festival, he will dump twenty million dollars in cash on the crowd at midnight. It turns out to be a festival of death, courtesy of his Smylex gas balloons.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: True of every incarnation of Batman, but Jack Nicholson's Joker is the trope namer. Sadly, we never get to see the second part of this. The Joker turns to his goons and says, "Well, don't just stand there — go ask him!!"
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?:
    • While the location of Burton's (and Schumacher's) Gotham City is never provided, it is obviously in the United States (note the American flag in Harvey Dent's office) and is almost certainly a fantasy version of New York, given all the No Communities Were Harmed references: Flugelheim Museum (Guggenheim Museum), Gotham Plaza (Rockefeller Plaza), Lady Gotham (Statue of Liberty), and (in the screenplay only) Broad Avenue (Broadway).
    • The producers said that Gotham was New York City with no building limitation statutes.
  • White Mask of Doom: Alicia wears one after the Joker transforms her into a living "artistic masterpiece" (he scars half of her face).
  • Wicked Cultured:
    • The Joker enjoys classical (or at least orchestral) music, and he plays it on three "romantic" occasions: Percy Faith's "A Summer Place" while meeting Vicki in a museum café; Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" while bringing some flowers (which, in a vile twist, are already wilted) to Vicki's apartment; and a sentimental waltz while he is, uh, ravishing Vicki on the roof of the city's Gothic cathedral. Interestingly, the latter piece—Danny Elfman's "Waltz to the Death"—is actually quite beautiful and grand, and would be completely innocent were it not exclusively associated with a disfigured mass murderer. He also quotes Edgar Allan Poe to Vicki in one scene, and, fittingly, it is a line from "The Raven," which is about a deceased sweetheart (his previous lover Alicia has either killed herself or been killed by Joker himself. He's furthermore a fan of Francis Bacon, it seems. He is also mentioned in his police file as having an aptitude for art, which puts an interesting perspective on his actions when he and his goons vandalize most of the works at the Gotham Museum of Art (or when he dismisses most of Vicki's photography...except the ones of war and death). Presumably, he fully appreciates and understands all of this stuff on an artistic level, but still feels like smashing it to bring it up to his own twisted sense of aesthetic standard. When he brings Alicia in, she says, "Jack, you said I could watch you improve the paintings."
    • Then there's Jack/The Joker's fashion sense. The first thing he does upon seeing Knox is critique his tie.
      Alicia: You look fine.
      Jack: (Death Glare) I didn't ask. (glances at her hand on his shoulder as if to say, "Hands off the merchandise!")
  • Worf Had the Flu: Because Batman is hurt after his plane is shot down, he's trudging along as he follows Joker and Vicki up a long flight of stairs. He's off his game for most of the climax, especially in his fight against a Giant Mook who gives him quite a beating after countering one of his intimidation moves.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Jack Napier attempts to murder Bruce Wayne shortly after murdering his parents. Although he ultimately doesn't go through with it due to his accomplice, the mere fact that he attempts to do so, and provides a nightmarish grin during, indicates that Jack Napier has absolutely no problem hurting or murdering children.
    • A news report mentions baby powder is one of the products found to contain Smylex, though it's unlikely that actual babies would receive a second cosmetic required for the lethal combo.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The Joker often behaves as if he's the protagonist of a wild romantic comedy where Vicki is the Defrosting Ice Queen. This fails to explain why he's also cast himself as the Romantic False Lead!
    Bob: She's [Vicki] dating some guy named Wayne.
    Joker: [smug] She's about to trade up.
  • You Have Failed Me: After Batman foils the Joker's balloon plan with his Batwing, the Joker kills Bob because Bob didn't tell him that Batman had it (as if he could have possibly known!), though it's possible he just shoots him out of anger.
  • You Killed My Father: The Joker, while still Jack Napier, murders young Bruce Wayne's parents in Bruce's childhood, and comes very close to murdering Bruce Wayne himself as well at the same time. The experience, just like in the comics (minus the Joker's involvement), turns Bruce Wayne into Batman, and during the final confrontation between himself and the Joker, he flat out tells Joker that Joker murdered his parents, meaning they've created each other.
  • You Wouldn't Hit A Guy With Glasses: The Joker actually puts on glasses and says this to Batman during their final confrontation. Batman promptly punches the glasses and his face.
  • You're Insane!:
    • Ironically, the Joker invokes this on Carl Grissom.
    • Vinnie says this quietly to The Joker while he's "disguised" as Jack. Jack smoothly replies, "Haven't you heard of the healing power of laughter?"
    • When Vicki says it to Joker in the museum, his response is, "I thought I was a Pisces."
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Batman is dead-serious about killing the Joker. He sends a remote-controlled Batmobile to bomb the chemical factory that makes Smylex to hopefully take out the Joker along with it. Sure, Batman kills a ton of mooks, but the Smylex is already on its way and the Joker taunts Batman, telling him that he's not at the factory.



Bruce Wayne took on the image of bats to strike fear in superstitious criminals everywhere.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / AnimalThemedSuperbeing

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