Today! Because I’ve got a flying mouse to kill, and I want to clean my claws –
Directed by Tim Burton (x6)
Starring Michael Keaton (x9), Jack Nicholson (x7), Kim Basinger (x2), Robert Wuhl (x3), Michael Gough (x3), Pat Hingle (x3), Billy Dee Williams (x3), Lee Wallace, Tracey Walter (x3), Jack Palance, Jerry Hall, William Hootkins (x2), Garrick Hagon (x3)
One of the main reasons I started heavy-duty list making in the first place, Tim Burton’s Batman was everything to me in 1989. Remember, this was the halcyon summer of the third Indiana Jones and the second Ghostbusters and… Honey I Shrunk the Kids, so nine-year-old Joe had plenty to look forward to after the hectic slog of fourth grade. And while I enjoyed all of those (yes, even Ghostbusters II), none had the impact of the Caped Crusader facing off with the Joker on the big screen. I can’t overstate how important this movie was in the entire formation of my interests for years to come.
And I didn’t like this movie in a cool way – I wasn’t some detached fan who viewed it in secret and mentioned it sporadically if it happened to come up. Ten-year-old me was a giant dork about this movie, badgering all my grade school pals with Batman shit and watching it endlessly at the house. Before it was available on VHS, I read the novelization by (I still remember) Craig Shaw Gardner multiple times. I had the Prince soundtrack and the Danny Elfman score on tapes. I had no fewer than three posters from this movie in my bedroom. It was straight up disgusting, how into this movie I was. Oh, is your big takeaway 380+ movies into this list that I wasn’t a cool kid? Huge surprise, I know! I’m not putting up much of an argument for being a cool adult, either!
I wasn’t even what you’d call a comic book fan at the time. As I think I mentioned back in #38 Iron Man, for years the only comic books I had were a handful from the grocery store – Insalaco’s, maybe? Or the Acme in Green Ridge? – and the only Batman I had was the middle part of a three issue arc, which sucked.
But Batman was landmark revolutionary for me. All the other movies I’d watched ceaselessly up to this point in my life – your Star Wars/Raiders of the Lost Ark/Ghostbusters – were never new to me. They seemed to always exist, because either I didn’t see them in theaters or didn’t remember it. I know we saw Return of the Jedi a bunch of times in ’83, but I don’t have any memories of it besides us mentioning it in the following years. I’d seen and loved Spaceballs and Beetlejuice in the years leading up to decade’s end, but neither were earth-shaking and life-defining. This was my movie, from June 23rd, 1989 onward, my favorite movie by miles.
At least until 1992. I know somewhere these lists may still exist, but I haven’t stumbled across them in years. Being the half-assed writer that I am, I’ve saved so many notebooks and folders of loose pages from the past three decades that I’d be kinda surprised if anything is truly lost. But you’ll have to just take my word for it for the time being – Batman was the top movie on any version of this list I made, for years. And I wouldn’t necessarily say my tastes grew up, at least not immediately. I was also madly in love with Batman Returns (as mentioned back in #205), and it supplanted Bat 1.0 for a while. From there, however, things would rapidly and aggressively evolve, as the next few years truly introduced me to the wider range of movies, to the point that I still think of this era – ’92 through ’94 – as possibly my favorite in film history, right alongside ’97 to ’99.
Now, in retrospect, if I’m being totally honest, Batman might not be holding up as well as I would’ve expected, considering how much I loved it when I was a kid. Sure, Nicholson is still spectacular, and Keaton is unquestionably the best Batman ever, but the second act really struggles to knit the excellent beginning and end together. And some of those effects – eesh. Not aging over well. The main caveat I’ll put on this, though, is that I’m completely and utterly incapable of being totally honest when it comes to this movie. I’ve mentioned before that I have no solid perspective on some films from my childhood, but I can usually identify when things no longer work. But Batman to me is still this shimmering masterpiece, even if the visual evidence doesn’t quite match up with what exists in my head.
Shut up! The whole movie is perfect! Even Robert Wuhl! Even Kim Basinger! Even the Joker shooting down the Batwing with a handgun! Shut up! Can you believe this is Tim Burton’s sixth movie on this list? Tim Burton, who hasn’t made anything special in decades appears on this list six whole times! He landed two films in the top 26 – not too many directors are able to claim that. So with #26 Ed Wood, Batman Returns, #310 Mars Attacks!, #122 Beetlejuice, and #371 Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Burton joins Allen, Spielberg, and Brooks as the only Six-Timers so far! Amazing!
Meanwhile, Michael Keaton becomes only the fifth Nine-Timer on the acting side, leading Jack the Actor by two! Wouldn’t have guessed when we started, but I’m a big fan of a lot of mid-range Keatons (#393 The Dream Team, #185 Multiplicity, #282 Johnny Dangerously), never mind his solid recent efforts that weren’t eligible for this list – Spotlight, Birdman, The Founder, I guess.