I remember seeing a lot of comments - from reviews by professional critics and fans on social media - that criticized The Batman for being humorless, which I immediately balked at. Matt Reeves’ reimagining of the DC Comics superhero may be, like the title character, extremely dark and brooding, but there are a few good jokes in there if you look hard enough. In fact, I was able to compile funny scenes from every one of the theatrically released live-action Batman movies so far, starting with one that actually had a lot of good examples to choose from.
“Some Days You Just Can’t Get Rid Of A Bomb” - Batman: The Movie (1966)
When choosing what scene to showcase from Batman: The Movie - as much a gloriously zany parody of comic books from the era as the TV show it is spun-off from - I considered the part when the Caped Crusader (the late Adam West) uses shark repellent to fend off one gnawing on his leg as he dangles from the Bat-Copter.
However, I could not help but go with an even nuttier and highly quotable moment, when he frantically tries to find a safe place to stow a comically large bomb at a crowded boat dock. With obstacles like a pair of nuns, a marching band, or a family of ducks at every turn, a frustrated Batman earnestly huffs, “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb,” before finding a solution in the nick of time.
Joker Shoots Bob - Batman (1989)
Jack Nicholson might be the best of the Joker actors at achieving a truly funny balance of the villain’s lighter and darker sides, and this moment from Tim Burton’s Batman is peak proof. After Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight interrupts the Clown Prince of Crime’s Gotham parade by stealing balloons filled with Smylex gas, the frustrated Joker asks Bob (Tracey Walter) to hand him his pistol, which he then uses to shoot the goon and tells the others, “Going to need a minute or two alone, boys.” Whether his request for solitude was out of loss for his “Number One guy” or for the balloons, the deadpan delivery of that last line cements this as a brilliant example of dark comedy.
Catwoman Tricks Batman During Rooftop Duel - Batman Returns (1992)
Despite all of Michael Keaton’s best moments in the cape and cowl, he has made a few mistakes in his day, such as in Batman Returns. After knocking down Michelle Pfeiffer’s dangerous Catwoman, who then scolds him for hitting a woman, he stops to apologize before she leaps back up without missing a beat, nearly sends him falling off the side of the building if not for her whip to hang on to, and then tells him that, as a woman, she cannot be taken for granted.
Between the mere idea of Batman letting his guard down so quickly against a foe of any gender to Catwoman’s iconic line, “Life’s a bitch and now so am I,” I think both tie for the sequel’s most hilarious moment.
“Holy Rusted Metal, Batman!” - Batman Forever (1995)
Choosing the funniest scene from Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever seems like a no-brainer with Jim Carrey in the cast, but his Riddler does not actually appear in the moment that makes me laugh the hardest. That would be when Chris O’Donnell’s Robin pays tribute to his ’60s-era predecessor, Burt Ward, by exclaiming “Holy Rusted Metal, Batman!” - which turns out to be an observation that the ground surrounding Riddler and Two-Face’s island hideout is made of rusted metal and is “full of holes.”
However, I also have to give an honorable mention to one man’s overly enthusiastic reaction to Val Kilmer’s epic, ceiling-shattering entrance at Edward Nygma’s gala.
All Of Mr. Freeze’s Ice Puns - Batman & Robin (1997)
As for Joel Schumacher’s second crack at a DC movie, it is impossible for me to pick just one funny moment. Each and every one of the increasingly ridiculous puns spouted by Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin - from “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!” to “Let’s kick some ice!” - is pure comedy gold. In fact, I think if there is any reason to watch the otherwise critically reviled temporary franchise killer, this is it.
“Nice Coat” - Batman Begins (2005)
The movie that revived the franchise was, of course, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, which opted to go in the complete opposite direction of it predecessor by incorporating little to no humor at all.
Yet, there is one endearing moment of levity when Christian Bale’s vigilante introduces himself to Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) before knocking him out, then spots a homeless bystander (Rade Serbedzija) and compliments his coat. The reason behind Batman’s admiration of this stranger’s coat is that it once belonged to him before a younger Bruce Wayne traded him for his jacket after being thrown out of Falcone’s restaurant.
Reese Tries To Blackmail Bruce Wayne - The Dark Knight (2008)
Ironically, the one installment of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy that features The Joker is the one that is least commended for its humorous moments, especially with an Oscar-winning performance by Heath Ledger that is far more frightening than funny.
Though, I do remember hearing big laughs from the crowd when Wayne Enterprises employee Coleman Reese (Joshua Harto) reveals to Lucius Fox (Morgan Fox) that he figured out Bruce Wayne is Batman when he found blueprints for the Tumbler, and wants an annual $10 million hush payment. Of course, his plan is foiled when Fox helps him realize that blackmailing an individual of such immense wealth, power, and hand-to-hand combat skills might not be in his best interest.
“So, That’s What That Feels Like” - The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The recurring gag that fans of the Dark Knight Trilogy can’t get enough of is Batman’s disappearing act, which is why it was such a pleasant surprise to the see tables turned on him - not to mention, outsmarted by Catwoman in a movie again - in The Dark Knight Rises. Mid-conversation with Anne Hathaway’s cat-like Selina Kyle, Christian Bale’s Caped Crusader turns to find her gone without a trace and cannot help but express his bewilderment over now having something like this in common with Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman).
“I’m A Friend Of Your Son” - Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
The defining characteristic of Ben Affleck’s Batman - that, some might say, even puts him above Christian Bale - is his relentlessly brutal fighting style that he gloriously puts on display in order to rescue Clark Kent’s mother, Martha Kent (Diane Lane), in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
He introduces himself to her as her son’s friend, which she claims she was able to guess by the fact that, like Superman (Henry Cavill) he also wears a cape. Yet, what I find especially funny about the scene is how Batman referred to himself as her son’s friend just an hour or so after he tried to kill him.
Bruce Tells Barry His Superpower - Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
I remember Batman v Superman being another flick that took some heat for being too serious and I wouldn’t be surprised if that had something to with why Zack Snyder and co. would lighten up Ben Affleck’s iteration a bit later on. A key example from both 2017’s theatrical version of Justice League and the Snyder Cut is when Barry “The Flash” Allen (Ezra Miller) asks Bruce Wayne what makes him a superhero, to which he replies, “I’m rich.” Despite the many other aspects to Batman’s heroism and skill, Batfans are usually inclined to respond the same way when asked that question.
Batman Finds Riddler’s “Thumb Drive” - The Batman (2022)
Speaking of movies criticized for being too serious, with all due respect, I believe those who found nothing humorous about The Batman have nothing to blame but their own lack of appreciation for dark comedy. Then again, the sight of a thumb drive that is attached to the deceased Gotham City mayor’s actual missing thumb - which Paul Dano’s extremely troubled Riddler leaves for Robert Pattinson’s Dark Knight and Lt. Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to find - is pretty gruesome no matter how clever the joke may be.
So, contrary to popular belief, if you are in the mood to see a Batman who can make you crack a smile or one to have a good laugh with, there are more places to look than, say, The LEGO Batman Movie.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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