Depending on the character’s interpretation (of which there are more than plenty), Batman can be a quiet sort, as any true creature of the night should. Yet, it is clear from when he does speak that this titan of DC Comics is never one to mince words. Just take look at some of the most famous Batman quotes said in his superhero movies alone for proof.
While there are true blue comic book fans who may have their arguments against the many different ways cinema has depicted The Dark Knight, one thing that most of the movies have usually gotten right is the dialogue, particularly in the purpose for and manner in which he speaks. Whether Batman is making a darkly witty comment at the expense of a deserving criminal or striking fear into one’s soul, words of his that came from a screenplay have grown to be as iconic as those from the pages of DC. Admittedly, some are directly adapted from the comics, but who says even they should not count?
In fact, I have counted several of them in the following quotes spoken by Batman on the big screen... and the small screen, because those straight-to-video animated flicks deserve recognition too, that are most definitive of who he is. Perhaps one day this list will include some of Robert Pattinson’s dialogue from director Matt Reeves’ upcoming solo film, but, for now, these 11 are the quotes that audiences deserved, and will always need, to hear.
"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 (1989)
In his first scene from Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster, Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the Dark Knight tells us everything we need to know about him. Holding a mugger over the ledge of a building as he begs for his life, Batman assures the perp’s safety, establishing his one rule against homicide, but on the condition that he spread the word that Gotham’s criminal underbelly has met its match.
"Ladies, gentlemen, you've eaten well. You've eaten Gotham's wealth. Its spirit. But your feast is nearly over. From this moment on, none of you are safe." - Batman: Year One (2011)
The message behind this quote, which originated in Frank Miller’s graphic novel that inspired Batman: Year One, is about the same as the previous Batman quote. Yet, this younger Bruce Wayne’s (voiced by then-future Gotham star Ben McKenzie) threat to a dinner party of corrupt aristocrats fuses Shakespearean symbolism with the attitude of detective noir to craft a chilling rhetoric that would get Gotham’s worst to give up crime for good.
"Swear to ME!" - Batman Begins (2005)
As someone who has never been a fan of the infamous Christian Bale growl in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, I must admit that it never sounded better than during his questioning of Detective Arnold Flass (Mark Boone Junior) in Batman Begins. After a snare trap brings him face to face with Batman and dangling 70 feet above ground by his ankle, the dirty cop swears “to God” that he does not have the information about a missing drug shipment the vigilante questions him over. Batman forcefully reminds Flass that, at this moment, the big man upstairs is not the one he should be pledging to, matching the hero’s fearful interrogation tactics beautifully.
"Yes, it’s my rules. MY rules to keep us alive, and if you want to stay in this house, and on this team, you will abide by them!" - Batman & Robin (1997)
Say what you want about Batman & Robin, the late Joel Schumacher’s cartoonish follow-up after taking over the franchise in 1995, I do give it credit for a worthy attempt at depicting how Bruce Wayne (George Clooney) and Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell) tend to clash. In the comics, Robin would eventually go solo as Nightwing because he felt belittled by Batman’s domineering orders, which this retort in an argument over the duo’s issues with mutual trust following a death-defying chase actually captures that conflicting dynamic quite well.
"He has the power to wipe out the entire human race, and if we believe there’s even a one percent chance that he is our enemy we have to take it as an absolute certainty and we have to destroy him." - Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
As yet another example of Batman’s bullheaded nature, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) explains to Alfred (Jeremy Irons) why he believes his one rule is worth breaking over the controversial Kryptonian (Henry Cavill). In addition to how the tragic events at the beginning of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (basically the climax of Man of Steel from Wayne’s perspective) do, arguably, justify his distrust in Superman, his confident delivery of an otherwise overly cautious philosophy makes for a pretty convincing case, if not just a badass choice of words.
"You don't get it, son. This isn't a mud hole. It's an operating table. And I'm the surgeon." - Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012)
Speaking of a badass choice of words, rarely has Batman ever said anything so invigorating as this other Frank Miller classic (which will not be the last on this list) brought to life in the first half of the animated adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns. In a muddy rematch with the leader of Gotham’s Mutant gang, a middle-aged Bruce Wayne (Peter Weller) shows he’s still got it, gleefully comparing his combative dominance over the hulking brute to that of performing surgery on an immobilize subject.
"What were you trying to prove? That deep down, everyone's as ugly as you? You're alone!" - The Dark Knight (2008)
Sometimes words turn out to be all Batman needs to assert dominance over his adversary, especially when said villain has him pinned down at the end of a building like in this pivotal moment near the conclusion of The Dark Knight. When The Joker (late Academy Award winner Heath Ledger) discovers his “social experiment” to see whether a commercial ferry or one holding prisoners will be the first to blow the other up has failed, Batman (Christian Bale) doubles down on his disappointment, assuring him that despite the maniacal criminal’s cynical beliefs, even the best and worst of Gotham alike can still be inherently good.
"It'd be too damned easy. All I've ever wanted to do is kill him. A day doesn't go by that I don't think about subjecting him to every horrendous torture he's dealt out to others and then end him. But if I do that, if I allow myself to go down into that place, I'll never come back." - Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)
Of course, the dangerous complexities of human nature are also a truth Batman admits to struggling with on a daily basis in Batman: Under the Red Hood, adapted from Judd Winick’s 2006 graphic novel that sees a bitter reunion between Bruce Wayne (Bruce Greenwood) and the mysteriously resurrected Jason Todd (Jensen Ackles). With The Joker (John DiMaggio) in his clutches, Batman’s second Robin asks if he is too much of a coward to finally rid the world of the villain who was responsible for Todd’s death in the first place. Bruce then explains why killing him would be the more cowardly choice in one of the most beautifully written analyses of Batman’s one rule.
"I bet your parents taught you that you mean something, that you're here for a reason. My parents taught me a different lesson, dying in the gutter for no reason at all. They taught me the world only makes sense if you force it to." - Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
There is much reason to be in awe of Batfleck’s speech to an incapacitated Superman as he drags him by the ankle (a common method of his, it seems). Serving as brutal indictment of Supes' extraterrestrial origin while he was already suffering an identity crisis, it is an also oddly empowering commentary on Bruce Wayne’s ability to turn the painful memory of his parents’ murder into a strength. Plus, it gives me reason to applaud Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for using this subtle rewrite of a quote from the graphic novel that heavily inspired it instead of ripping off its most iconic quote.
"I didn't have to go easy on you. A different binding agent, a stronger mix... I want you to remember that. I wanted to remind you to stay out of my way. In all the years to come, in your most private moments, I want you to remember the one man who beat you!" - Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (2013)
Said iconic quote, spoken by an armored Batman to a roughed up Superman (Mark Valley), had already made its screen debut in the second part of the animated Batman: The Dark Knight Returns adaptation anyway. At the peak of the their thunderous physical conflict at Crime Alley, it appears Bruce Wayne will earn the ultimate victory and wants to make sure Superman realizes how much he enjoys having the upper hand, right before succumbing to a heart attack. However, after hearing heart beats from his grave, Clark Kent discovers that his friend is still alive and he really did become the sole victor against the Man of Steel.
"I’m Batman!" - Various Movies
If I was to rank this list, nothing else would have been suitable for the top spot than those two words, said most memorably by Michael Keaton in Batman and Christian Bale in Batman Begins, to name a few. Not only is it the most epic way a comic book hero can, or has ever, introduced themselves by its pristine simplicity and staunch pride, but it is also an appropriate answer to whenever someone questions how the Dark Knight manages to pull off his most inexplicable achievements.
What do you think? Has Batman never sounded better in the movies than when he said the above quotes, or was our exclusion of Adam West’s “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” from Batman: The Movie unforgivable? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for additional information and updates on the Caped Crusader on the big screen, as well as even more retrospectives of your favorite superhero movie quotes, here on CinemaBlend.