In March 1939, when the world was once again on the edge of war, Bill Finger and Bob Kane of DC Comics debuted an idea for a superhero.
The front cover of Detective Comics Issue #27 became an iconic moment in history, an indelible mark on pop culture, all because it featured the very first appearance of Batman.
In the decades since, Batman has become a cultural icon. His story is familiar worldwide now: the orphaned Bruce Wayne, who watched as his parents were killed before his very eyes, becomes the shadowy phantom who stalks criminals in the darkness of Gotham City.
Batman has seen numerous feature-length movies made with him as the leading character, and there have been seven notable actors who have portrayed The Dark Knight over the years.
Here are our picks for the best Batman scenes and moments in movie history. We’re only looking at live-action cinema—the animated Batman movies deserve their own look!
8. Bruce and Selina
Ever since the first screening of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, fans have long speculated on Alfred’s ending in the film, where he sees Bruce and Selina sitting in the Italian restaurant he’s frequented for years on vacation, with Wayne having survived the bomb detonation.
Was it real? Or was it a dream? In either case, the ending to the film provided us with a sense of closure: if he was indeed dead, then he’s dead; but if Bruce is still alive, then he has moved past being Batman and has finally put The Dark Knight to rest.
7. Batman Broken by Bane
When Bruce Wayne returned as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, it became clear that his physical state had deteriorated, yet he still managed to beat every goon in his path with relative ease thanks to Batman’s vastly superior training.
But when he faces Bane, it all switched. Batman is beaten to a pulp by Hardy’s creature and is barely able to lay a hand on Bane in the process. Watching it happen was brutal for audiences, who weren’t used to seeing Batman so handily undone by anyone.
6. Batman Reveals Bruce to Catwoman
Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman and his performance as Bruce Wayne are both widely heralded as the best Batman by fans. To this day, Keaton remains the only actor who understands Bruce Wayne and his psychological state, which gives life to Batman.
That psychological state was best exemplified at the end of Batman Returns when Catwoman is on the verge of killing Max Schreck.
Batman confronts her about killing Max, then tries to get through to Selina by removing his mask, allowing her to see what she already knows—that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and he wants to save her as the former.
5. Alfred’s Burma Story
Alfred is often called “Batman’s Batman.” He’s the one who gives Bruce the advice he needs—whether he wants to hear it or not—about the road he walks.
During The Dark Knight, after the Joker has killed multiple people to put pressure on Batman to reveal himself, Bruce is about to give in to the clown… but he asks Alfred what he believes he should do.
The resulting story that Alfred tells Bruce—about catching a bandit in a forest in Burma—gives Bruce a lesson in what Batman stands for. He tells Bruce that he “should endure, take it.”
Later, when Rachel has perished due to Bruce’s actions, he asks Alfred how he caught the bandit. “We burned the forest down.”
4. Batman’s Warehouse Fight
There have been many attempts to transfer Batman’s fighting style from comic pages to the big screen. When Zack Snyder came along, he didn’t get everything quite right—but he did get Batman’s aggressive fighting tactics spot-on.
When Batman heads out to save Martha Kent on Superman’s behalf, he finds her surrounded by multiple goons in a warehouse.
What comes next is a brutal dismantling of the entire crew with a fury that lives up to the legend of Batman, giving fans the first example of how they always wanted to see Batman operate.
3. Batman and The Joker
The ending of Zack Snyder’s Justice League picks up from Batman’s Knightmare sequence in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman and his makeshift squad have to undo the world that now exists under Darkseid and Superman’s control.
As the team moves toward their mission of stealing a Mother Box, they become embroiled in a conversation—leading to a surprise when one certain member speaks to Batman.
The Joker sits on a wrecked car and draws Batman into a discussion about parts of their past and what they must do, using his intellect to prod Batman verbally.
The conversation is a stunning moment as they spar with one another, ending with Batman revealing his intention to uphold a promise he gave to Harley Quinn: to kill The Joker.
2. Batman Interrogates Joker
In Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, after Batman and Gordon have apprehended The Joker in a thrilling chase through Gotham’s streets, they need to get information out of the clown.
Gordon leaves the clown in the interrogation room and in the hands of Batman, who sits down with Joker. Their back-and-forth is one of the best hero-and-villain sequences in history, with both using their strengths against the other.
The Joker tells Batman what he wants to hear after an intense conversation. Joker is left on the floor, though still laughing.
Fun fact: The whole sequence is inspired by Heat’s coffee scene where De Niro’s McCauley and Pacino’s Detective Hanna discuss their lives (which, in turn, was based upon an actual event).
1. Michael Keaton’s “I’m Batman”
The best moment Batman has had on the big screen is obvious, even after over thirty years. Batman opens with two criminals having robbed a family for their cash, now sitting on a rooftop and counting their loot. But the wind is close, the night is dark, and something is wrong.
They look above… and there he is: The Batman. They try to escape as the looming figure terrifies them, and they even shoot at him. But when they turn around, he’s there again. Batman kicks one through a door and dangles the other off the roof. The criminal asks, “What are you!?”
Batman pulls him close and says, “I’m Batman.”
It’s the perfect introduction to the movie and marks the character’s reinvention after Adam West’s beloved-yet-wacky version from the 60s. It’s a reinvention that Michael Keaton will reprise in The Flash.