Batman is a 1989 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton and produced by Jon Peters and Peter Guber, based on the DC Comics character of the same name. It is the first installment of Warner Bros.' initial Batman film series. The film stars Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, alongside Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Corley, Billy Dee Williams, John Schuck, and Jack Palance. The film takes place early in the title character's war on crime and depicts a battle with his nemesis the Joker.
In the year 1970, at the grave of his deceased parents, Thomas, and Martha Wayne, Bruce Wayne goes to visit their grave after a long stay in Europe. While there, Bruce has an encounter with a cloaked woman, who has something to show him. Bruce reluctantly agrees to go with the woman and drives her west while in a car. Bruce was following the directions, however, the woman refuses to tell Bruce where they are going. Bruce becomes confused at where they are and demands answers from the woman. Bruce even violently grabs her demanding an explanation, prompting the woman to judo throw Bruce onto the ground twice when Bruce is acting violently towards her. Once Bruce is on the ground, the woman tells Bruce to listen to her or she will promise him a broken back. Bruce then asks the woman who she is and the woman reveals her name is Lynn. Bruce gets annoyed with Lynn and wants to go back to Gotham only to find that his car has disappeared. With no other choice, Bruce decides to walk with Lynn. While walking, Bruce complains about the heat prompting him to strip himself to his underwear and then Lynn takes Bruce to an underground tunnel. Once Bruce gets down to the tunnel, he meets two men named Bloody Knife and Chaka, and a woman named Chastity, who all begin to judge him with a mixture of opinions.
In 1989, as Gotham City approaches its bicentennial, Mayor Hamilton Hill orders Deputy Mayor Harvey Dent and police lieutenant Eddie Bullock to make the city safer. Dent promises to do so by returning an indictment against a crime lord named Carl Grissom, who sponsors most of the crime in Gotham. Meanwhile, reporter Victor 'Vic' Sage and the shrewd photojournalist Vicki Vale begin to investigate rumors of a vigilante nicknamed by Sage as "Batman", who is terrorizing the city's criminals. Batman's alter-ego is Bruce Wayne, a billionaire industrialist who, as a child, witnessed his parents' murder at the hands of a psychotic mugger. At a fundraiser for the city's 200th anniversary in Wayne Manor, Bruce meets and falls for Vale, and the two begin a romantic relationship. However, the evening is cut short as Bruce is alerted by his uncle Jacob Kane, a general in the United States Army, to Lieutenant Bullock's sudden departure due to police business and leaves to investigate as Batman.
Meanwhile, Alicia Hunt, a narcissistic supermodel working for Vogue that had her apartment decorated with images of her own face, and Carl Grissom's kept woman, was having an affair with Jack Napier, Grissom's second-in-command. Grissom learns of the affair from corrupt police detective Max Eckhardt, who has a distaste for Jack Napier. Grissom was unaware that the only reason Napier entered into an affair with Alicia was because of Napier's plan to assassinate Grissom and takeover his empire. Grissom works with Eckhardt to set Napier up to be killed at Ace Chemicals by sending Napier there to retrieve incriminating documents before Dent and Bullock could. When Napier got to Ace Chemicals with his men, the gangsters are shocked to discover that Grissom already had the evidence destroyed. Napier, upon seeing the police led by Eckhardt show up, realizes that he has been set up by his boss. Grissom's scheme is foiled when Bullock arrives with several honest cops and orders Napier to be brought in alive. Bullock has deduced Napier has been set up and makes plans to offer Napier a deal to testify against Grissom, knowing that this would be valuable to his and Dent's case against hi. Napier kills Eckhardt in vengeance and then gets a ricocheted bullet through his cheeks when he tries to kill Batman. While suffering in pain, Napier looses his balance, falling off the catwalk. Batman catches Napier and tries to pull him to safety. Unfortunately, Napier's leather glove slips through Batman's and he plummets into the chemical vat below. When Napier doesn't emerge from the chemicals, Bullock begins to fear that the chemicals drowned Napier. Bullock orders Batman to be arrested only for the Batman to escape. Bullock then orders Charlie, his right-hand man, to clap a lid on the whole thing until they find out who Batman is. Napier is washed into Gotham Harbor by a drainage pipe. Still submerged, Jack stretches an arm upward through the water's surface, where his lucky deck floats.
Napier begins shocked to discover the chemicals caused his skin to be chalk white and his hair to be green. Napier goes to a surgeon named Dr. Davis, who lost his license years ago after performing a botched nose job on a socialite, for help. Napier would have gone to a hospital, but he didn't want Grissom to know he was alive just yet. Davis worked in a building with broken windows that was described by Jack as "being too low-rent even for rats", that was complete with one side table which held outdated surgical tools and a barber chair. The whole room was illuminated by a mere one dim light-bulb which hung over the chair. Jack did not like the disgusting environment, nor did he like a 'quack' like Davis, but Jack knew that Davis was the best that he could get. Davis had gotten bullets out of Jack in the past with both patient and doctor surviving. After he completed surgery on Jack's face, with a doubtful and insincere smile, Davis undid Jack's bandages and gasped. Angry, Jack demanded a mirror. A terrified Davis handed him a mirror. What Jack saw in his reflection was that his skin was bleached white, his hair had turned green, his mouth and lips were dyed red and his mouth was pulled into a permanent smile. That was sufficient enough to send Jack into eternal insanity. Davis, fearing for his life, hastily explained that Napier's nerves had been completely severed and that the instruments he had to work with were not sufficient for such an operation. Davis tried to reassure Napier that proper reconstructive surgery would heal him, but he backed up against his surgical table, covered his face, and was too afraid to look at him. Napier started to laugh maniacally, threw the lit light bulb into the wall breaking it, making the room dark, marched out of Davis' office, slammed the door behind him, and his screams of horrible laughter echoed throughout the building. To Jack, it was not the end, it was the beginning. Jack, now calling himself the Joker, headed over to Grissom's Apartment, revealed his survival, and made clear that he knew that it was Grissom who set him up to die in the first place, especially regarding Alicia as his motive, and also held Grissom up in order to prevent him from reaching for a stowed away gun. Despite Grissom offering the Joker a deal, Joker refuses to accept it and kills Grissom in revenge for setting him up. Afterwards, the Joker seizes Grissom's criminal empire like he had originally planned before his disfigurement.
Joker, later on, called a meeting and tried to present himself in a more "normal" life. To do, he applied various cosmetic products to give himself a more normal-looking skin tone and hair color that resembled his original appearance. During a mob summit with the rest of the Gotham City Crimelords, the potatoes as Grissom liked to call them, Jack claimed that his former boss was on vacation, just as the doctor ordered, for working too hard, and left him to be the acting President, and announced that starting with Gotham's 200th anniversary festival, their action would be to "run the city into the ground". However, most of the mob bosses, including Anthony Scarpelli and Warren Quilt, were suspicious of Jack's apparent orders from Grissom and his constant devilish grin. Quilt then wondered what would happen if he said "no". Jack then responded with a handshake and that would be it. Unfortunately for Quilt, Jack meant by that statement that it would be it for Quilt, as he fried and electrocuted Quilt with a Joy Buzzer, which horrified the rest of the Mob bosses and with Jack joking about his demise and then laughing at it. Jack then dismissed the mob as his Goons then rushed in and held them at gunpoint. Joker then ordered Bob to tail Sage and then decided (by talking to Quilt's charred corpse as if he were still alive) to "grease" all of the mob bosses at the summit.
Bruce decides to keep Vicki at a distance by telling her that he is leaving town for a few days for a meeting. Feeling brushed off, Vicki became upset with Bruce and his secrecy. Vicki decided to follow him and her tailing lead up to an alley, where Bruce stopped and placed two roses in a precise point in the road. Bruce then goes to City Hall where Scarpelli presents a false affidavit, claiming that Grissom signed over his businesses to him. Joker then arrived at City Hall and, after he claimed that the check was written with a dead hand, murdered Scarapelli (who claimed that Grissom had landed him with the check with his signature) with his quill pen after he claimed that he was his "Uncle Bingo" and then had the mime faction of his gang open fire. Bruce then realizes that Jack Napier is still alive and running Grissom's gang. Because of this, Bruce asks Jacob to get Napier's legal records.
The Joker terrorizes Gotham City by lacing hygiene products with "Smylex", a deadly chemical which causes victims to die laughing with the same maniacal grin as the Joker. As he searches for information on Batman (whom he blames for his disfigurement), the Joker decides to see Vicki about it knowing that she and Sage are working together to investigate the Batman.
Dent and Bullock meet on the rooftop where they are both disappointed in Hill for not canceling the Gotham City parade despite what the Joker is doing. Batman then comes out of hiding to give the two men information to give to the press about the Joker's Smylex, which were chemically altered cosmetic products that caused the wearers to laugh hysterically until death, where they were left with ghastly grins on their faces. As Batman explained this to him, Bullock tried to get a closer look at his face, but Batman managed to avoid letting him get too good a glimpse. Bullock is hesitant to trust Batman, but Dent decides to submit the information to the press. Jacob then informs Bruce that he has a date with Vicki at the Flugelheim Museum. Bruce then becomes confused by this since he did not have lunch with her that day. As it turns out both Joker and Alicia were skilled at vocal impersonations. The Joker hatched a plan to get Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale together at the Flugelheim Museum, at which point the Joker and his gang would arrive, kill Bruce, and kidnap Vicki. First, the Joker, imitating Bruce's voice, called Vicki and invited her to lunch at Flugelheim's café; then Alicia, pretending to be Vicki, called Jacob and told him she had accepted Bruce's invitation. While the Joker was getting ready, Alicia went to her lover and tried to get him to spend time with her since the Joker never gets to anymore. The Joker was starting to get annoyed with Alicia and contemplated killing her. All of a sudden, the phone rang and Joker was attempted to shoot it. Alicia then went to get the phone and Joker decided that Alicia may still be useful after all. Alicia then handed Joker the phone telling her lover that it was for him. Joker then got informed that Vicki was at the museum and told Alicia to get dressed, he was going to make some art.
The Joker and his henchmen defaced many of the paintings at the Flugelheim Museum. Joker went to Vicki to interrogate her about Batman only for Vicki to not know anything about the vigilante. Batman then broke into the museum through the skylight, grabbed Vicki, and escaped the museum by using the Guantlet grapnel gun. After he instructed Vicki to enter the Batmobile, which was parked outside the museum's entrance, the pair were pursued by Joker's Goons in their own cars; and the police pursued both factions soon after. Easily outmaneuvering its pursuers, the Batmobile was forced to stop when it ran up against a construction project for the Anniversary Festival. Evacuating the vehicle, Batman and Vicki ran down an alleyway where they were pursued again by the Joker's henchmen. Attempting to escape by grappling them both to an overhead catwalk, Batman was forced detach himself from the device after it couldn't handle the weight of two people. As Vicki was catapulted to the catwalk, Bruce fell back into the alley with the Joker's thugs. Shot point blank in the chest, Batman was momentarily incapacitated; which allowed the Goons to partially take off his mask, however, as flashes from Vicki's camera took photos overhead distracted them, Bruce replaced his mask, dispatched them, and momentarily confronted Bob in the process. Once the Goons were dispatched, Batman turned his attention to retrieving Vicki, who disappeared from the rooftops that overlooked the alley and was in the process of hiding her photo film. After he instructed the Batmobile to lead the police, who were surrounding the parked vehicle, on a chase through the streets as a diversion, Batman managed to catch Vicki as she was descending a fire escape three buildings away. Batman then drugged Vicki and ordered the Batmobile to retrieve them.
Bruce visits Vicki at her apartment, prepared to tell her about his alter-ego. The Joker interrupts their meeting, asking Bruce, "You ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?" before shooting him. Bruce uses a bent serving tray as body armor and plays dead. Bruce trains with Lynn nonstop after accepting the offer from Bloody Knife, Chakra, and Chastity to do so. Bruce learns that the people who trained him were philosophers, scientists, warriors, and even barbarians. Bruce is then considered to be a failure by the three individuals who judged him, but after reliving the painful moments where his parents died in front of him as a child, Bruce immediately begins to prove his worth against the opponents who have beaten him in his tests. The time spent of cellular rearrangement, torture, and painful nightmares were enough to make Bruce succeed. Bloody Knife, Chakra, and Chastity reveal to Bruce that they are spirits who have selected him to be a teacher and that everyone they have recruited was all of the victims of evil in the past. Bruce gets an offer to join them, only for Bruce to refuse since he wishes to return to Gotham, which they allow. Bruce is then taken back to the desert and goes to the car knowing that it will be there.
Upon reliving his memory, realizes that Napier was his parents' killer. Vicki is brought to the Batcave by Jacob, who has been coaxing their relationship because Vicki brings out Bruce's human side. After telling her that he cannot focus on their relationship with the Joker terrorizing Gotham, Bruce departs as Batman to destroy the Ace Chemicals plant. After destroying Ace Chemicals, Batman finds Alicia's dead body in the trunk of a car. Joker is on a helicopter speaking to Batman through a megaphone, telling him that he finally had enough of Alicia and pulled the trigger on her. Before Alicia died, however, she begged not for her life, but for the baby. But the Joker knew this was not true since Alicia would only beg for her own life and not for anyone else's. There was no baby, it was just Alicia's tactic to save her worthless hide. Because of that, the Joker shot her in the head.
The Joker then lures the citizens of Gotham to a parade with the promise of free money, but while throwing cash at the crowd as promised. Bullock and the police make plans to go to the parade to arrest the Joker only for all the police officers to be killed due to the Joker having poisoned their supply of nourishment with coffee, forcing Bullock to go alone. At the parade, Vic and Vicki realize that the Joker is attacking them with Smylex gas released from his giant parade balloons. Batman arrives and tows the balloons above the clouds with the Batwing. The Joker shoots the Batwing using a long-barreled gun, causing it to crash. Becoming horrified by this, Vicki searches the wreckage for Batman, only for the Joker to intervene and take her hostage by gunpoint. Bullock tries to stop the Joker once and for all but realizes that he might hit Vicki if he takes a shot. Joker then mocks Bullock about it and takes Vicki to the top of a cathedral.
Batman, who survived the crash, gets to the top of the cathedral to fend off against the Joker's remaining men despite his injuries. Dent and the FBI led by Special Agent Maxwell Cort try to get into the cathedral once Bullock informs them of Vicki being taken as a hostage, however, the Joker uses a blowtorch he has in his pocket to cause the bell to fall fifty stories down, blocking the entrance. Vicki eventually sees an opportunity to distract the Joker, and went for it by using her feminine wiles in order to "seduce" him so she could buy some time for Batman. Batman then fights the Joker only for the Joker to gain the upper hand. Joker then decides that before he kills the Batman, he might as well unmask him. Batman moans as the Joker removes his mask, realizing the true identity of the man who dumped him into the vat of chemicals. Joker pulls out a razor to slash Bruce's throat and Vicki tells Joker to not do it only for the Joker to not listen to her. The Joker stops when he sees a flashing digital display on Bruce's belt. The Joker shrieks in horror and drops the razor. Bruce then stands up wearing a great big Joker smile. Joker rushes to the stairs only to realize that they were destroyed when he caused the bell to fall. That makes the Joker start screaming insanely. Joker then notices his copter coming over and a rope ladder has dropped from its belly. Joker makes a futile grab at the rope ladder only to miss. Joker then gestures wildly for the copter to make another pass. Joker then manages to grab hold of the ladder and cackles in mad triumph only for several bats to appear out of nowhere and swoop directly towards him. The Joker then screams and loses his grip on the rope ladder, causing him to fall to his death. Batman then turns off the belt, causing the bats to move in assorted directions.
Later on, Bullock is called over to the Gotham Forensics Laboratory for the autopsy results on Alicia's body, whom Batman informed the police about. Bullock and the coroner were shocked to learn Alicia was pregnant and that her baby was still alive. The baby crawled out of her deceased's mother womb and almost fell off the autopsy table only for Bullock to catch her just in time. Bullock then holds the baby in his arms and looks at Alicia's body, shocked at all this and wondering what monster did this to her. At City Hall, the Mayor announces that the FBI has arrested the Joker's men and unveils the Bat-Signal. Dent reads a note from Batman, promising that he will defend Gotham whenever crime strikes again. Vicki is taken to Wayne Manor by Jacob, who tells her that Bruce will be a little late. She responds that she is not surprised, as Batman looks at the signal's projection from a rooftop, standing watch over the city.
- Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman
- Jack Nicholson as Jack Napier/The Joker
- Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale
- Robert Whul as Victor Sage
- Pat Corley as Lieutenant Eddie Bullock
- Billy Dee Williams as Deputy Mayor Harvey Dent
- John Schuck as General Jacob Kane
- Jack Palace as Carl Grissom
- Jerry Hall as Alicia Hunt
- Joe Morton as Charlie
- Tracey Walter as Bob the Goon
- Lee Wallace as Mayor Hamilton Hill
- William Hootkins as Det. Max Eckhardt
- John Dair as Anthony Scarpelli
- Christopher Fairbank as Nic
- George Roth as Eddie
- Hugo E. Blick as Young Jack Napier
- Charles Roskilly as Young Bruce Wayne
- Adam West as Thomas Wayne
- Sharon Holm as Martha Wayne
- Adrian Meyers as Jimmy
- Joey DePinto as Agent Maxwell Cort
- Garrick Hagon as Tourist Dad
- Liza Ross as Tourist Mom
- Moira Kelly as Lynn