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Nightmare Fuel / Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

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"Stop...stop LAUGHING..."
There's a reason why this is one of the darkest and most famous Batman stories in comic history. The world has become a Wretched Hive and Batman's become much more vicious in turn...
  • The Mutant leader in the film adaptation is this trope incarnate, from his design that looks barely human as if he was a Humanoid Abomination, to his brute strength.
    • Gordon invokes this in his internal commentary about seeing the Mutant leader kill the mayor.
    I hear a nervous giggle and an animal growl. I hear handcuff links snap. I see something I'll take to my grave.
    • Batman's rematch against the Mutant Leader is Nightmare Fuel for how unflinchingly gritty, gross and brutal it is. The two wrestle in a filthy mud-bath surrounded by the Mutant gang members and it's a pure slugfest that shows just how damn scary this Batman can be even without his gadgets or the element of surprise. Batman makes the Leader bleed like a faucet with a simple slash to the forehead, giving us the wonderful mental image of blood mixing with the sludge. With surgical precision, Batman ends the fight by snapping the Leader's arm and leg before pummeling his face into the dirt, all with a sadistic smirk on his face. It's a miracle Batman didn't kill him.
    Batman: You don't get it, son. This isn't a mudhole. It's an operating table. And I'm the surgeon.
  • After Superman is nearly killed by the Soviet nuke, his body deteriorates and rots in midair with his mouth forming a scream of anguish.
    • The following scenes, as the EMP pulse wreaks havoc across America, causing widespread power outages and plane crashes, including one plane plummeting down right into Gotham and setting an entire city block ablaze. For a few brief horrifying moments, Gordon thinks his wife has died in the fires.
    • There's something chilling about Superman's composure during his fight against Batman. He seems completely calm when implicitly threatening to kill one of his oldest superhero allies. He doesn't want to kill Bats, but if he has to, he'll do it and be completely dispassionate about it. The Big Blue Boy Scout of old, this ain't.
  • How about the Joker killing a talk show host, his other guests, and the entire audience. He foreshadows it by claiming that he's going to kill everyone in the room, though the therapist states that he's simply trying to vent himself. The image of their corpses and how Miller did the already-creepy Joker Toxin effects will probably give somebody nightmares.
    • The guy who scratches his fingernails off trying to get out of the room... and fails.
      • Joker's television massacre was nasty enough in the comic but the movie goes great detail of the audience panicking and nastier joker-smiles. Plus Joker kills his doctor not with one of the dolls snapping his neck but by slitting his throat with a broken mug.
    • In the comics when the Joker kisses the lady guest and her face transforms into a hideous grin.
  • There's that scene, and then there's the sight of the Joker and his henchman handing out cotton candy to Cub Scouts at a fair. Later, as Batman and Robin are Bat-glidering into the fair, we see from their perspective the same Scouts, all dead from the poison in the candy and sprawled around like an image out of Jonestown. The Joker's lines under Ax-Crazy on the main page are taken from this scene, for added horror.
  • The flying robot kid things. "Eeugh yourself, bitch."
  • The fight between Abner and Robin ends with Abner choking Robin from a roller coaster car in motion. However, he isn't paying attention to his surroundings and is decapitated by a low overhang. The book makes it clear Robin is clearly traumatized by the experience. The movie is even worse in which Robin is more directly responsible, knocking Abner into the coaster's gears where his shirt gets caught and his head is crushed. The Gory Discretion Shot is nullified by the horrific sounds of grinding and splatter as he dies.
  • The fight between Batman and the Joker also shows how close to (or clear off) the edge Batman has gone at this point, as soon as he's close enough to the Joker for a one-on-one fight, he opens by throwing a batarang right into the Joker's eye. At this point, the Joker begins to realize that Batsy might not be playing his game anymore.
    • Even more disturbing is Joker's next line. He's not scared, he's not ready to give up, he's just excited for what comes next. After all these years, he's finally getting the punchline he's always wanted.
      The Joker: Be still, my heart.
    • The film goes more into depth around the Joker's rampage in the Tunnel of Love, following him as he shoots everyone he comes across, playfully exclaiming "Excuse me! Pardon me! Sorry about that! My bad" and the like. The casual glee he gets in just shooting as many people as possible is very, very disturbing.
    • Expanding upon that, when he first enters it, he encounters a couple aboard a boat, and shoots the man, laughing all the while, and instead of shooting the female occupant, he merely boots her out of the boat, still finding it absolutely hilarious, because to the Joker, there is no difference between cold-blooded murder and a comedic pratfall.
    • The entirety of the fight between Batman and Joker in the Tunnel of Love. The former, losing blood and having blurred vision due to blood loss, had an imagery of seeing Joker going full Psycho Knife Nut, lumbering towards him, pinning him to the ground. The close look on his bloodied and battered face doesn't help.
      Joker: Not quite how I imagined, but, we can still end on a high note.
      [Proceeds to stab Batman repeatedly, all while laughing his head off]
    • Batman ends the battle by grabbing the Joker by the head and then snapping his neck, paralyzing him. However, the Joker knows he's the real winner. He pushed Batman over the edge. Then he kills himself by twisting his neck all the way around. And the Clown Prince of Crime is laughing even as he's dying.
    • Joker's face as he dies and KEEPS this face even as a smouldering skeleton.
      Batman (inner monologue): Stop laughing.
  • Let's just say pretty much every scene with The Joker. Michael Emerson makes him utterly terrifying and he does it without ever raising his voice or even showing much emotion beyond amusement. This tone of voice doesn't even change as he's casually murdering or maiming people left and right with sadistic glee. It just shows how completely removed from any humanity The Joker truly is.
  • In the original script, Batman was to fake his death by using a hospital tube needle to gouge out a pill hidden in the flesh of his forearm. The scene was described as bloody, as painful and as having Bruce enjoying it.

Alternative Title(s): The Dark Knight Returns