- Alfred Pennyworth (First appearance)
- Commissioner Gordon (First appearance)
- Vicki Vale (Single appearance)
- Alexander Knox (Single appearance)
- The Joker (Jack Napier) (First appearance; dies) (Flashback and main story) (Origin)
- Bob the Goon (Only appearance; dies)
- Carl Grissom (Only appearance; dies)
- Carl Grissom's mobsters
- Joe Chill (Single appearance) (Flashback only)
- Lt. Eckhardt (Only appearance; dies)
- Antoine Rotelli (Only appearance; dies)
- Johnny Gobbs (Behind the scenes)
- Alicia Hunt (Only appearance; dies)
- Gotham City Police Department
- Harvey Dent (First appearance)
- Amanda Keeler (Behind the scenes) (Dies)
- Barbara Gordon (First appearance)
- Becky (a news broadcaster) (Dies)
- Candy Walker (Behind the scenes) (Dies)
- District Attorney Alday
- Harold (Jimmy's father)
- Jimmy (a child)
- Martha Wayne (First appearance) (Dies in flashback)
- Thomas Wayne (First appearance) (Dies in flashback)
- Mayor Borg
- Peter (a news broadcaster)
- Burtonverse (First appearance)
- Gotham City
- Corto Maltese (In a photograph only)
- Line Launcher (First appearance)
- Bat-Signal (Origin)
- Utility Belt
- Joker's Joy Buzzer
- Joker Teeth
- Martha Wayne's Pearl Necklace (Flashback only)
Gotham City is swarming with crime and only one man can stop it: The Batman.
During a heist at a chemical plant, gangster Jack Napier (Nicholson) falls into a vat of acid during a battle with Batman (Keaton). Napier's skin becomes bone white and his face twists into a wicked grin and he becomes the Joker. Photographer Vicki Vale (Basinger) begins dating Bruce, not knowing his dark secret.
The Joker creates Smylex gas and uses it to poison the citizens of Gotham, and he plans on using Vale to lure Batman out.
After a tourist couple with child have been robbed by a couple of low-life thieves in Gotham City, the thieves find themselves the victim of a mysterious bat figure that's been roaming around the city at night. Alexander Knox, a reporter for the Gotham Gazette, tries to get hard-core evidence of these "bat-man" sightings, but nobody seems to be talking, not even the police.
Nest of Vipers
Meanwhile, Harvey Dent has been sworn in as the new District Attorney of Gotham City, ready to shed the light of the law on crime boss Carl Grissom and his "nest of vipers". Jack Napier, a hitman for Grissom, watches this event being televised along with Alicia, Grissom's mistress, whom he has been having an affair with. Jack tells Lt. Eckhardt, a paid police informant for Grissom, about the police department sniffing around Axis Chemicals, ready to connect them with Grissom, and forcefully warns Eckhardt that he should be "thinking about the future".
Gotham's 200th Anniversary
The mayor of Gotham City is planning to have Gotham City's 200th anniversary be celebrated proudly and publicly. Dent tells the mayor the city is already in debt, and Commissioner Gordon says the people are too scared to come out to celebrate. The mayor reminds them of his promise to get Carl Grissom into court.
Knox gets help in the form of Vicki Vale, a photojournalist who had been covering the Corto Maltese war, to find out who this Batman is. They both attend Bruce Wayne's benefit party at his estate, but while they both strike out on trying to talk to Gordon, Dent, or the mayor about Batman, they do meet Bruce Wayne in person. Their meeting would be soon interrupted by Alfred summoning Bruce into the Batcave, where he watches a recorded discussion between Gordon and a police officer about Napier's raid on Axis Chemicals.
A Raid Gone Wrong
At Axis Chemicals, Jack Napier and his men find out that they have been set up by Grissom and end up contending with Lt. Eckhardt and his squad of policemen. Gordon interrupts Eckhardt's "bust" and tells the policemen to take Napier alive. Batman shows up and takes out Napier's men one by one. Napier kills Eckhardt just before he is about to escape, but Batman cuts off his escape, blocking a bullet Napier fires at him with his glove. The bullet ricochets and rips through Napier's face, causing him to fall. Batman tries to rescue Napier before he does, but it is too late. He falls into a vat of chemicals and is dumped into the river. Gordon orders his policemen to capture Batman, but he escapes.
Vicki's Date with Bruce
The following night, Vicki attends a private dinner date with Bruce, where she tries to get to know him better. She notices that the mansion Bruce lives in just doesn't seem to be like him. Bruce tells her that part of the mansion is him, and part of it isn't, like the dining area they first ate in. They both kiss and spend the night together.
Jack Napier has survived the fall into the vat of chemicals, but his features have been ruined. His hair has been dyed green, his skin has been bleached white and his lips are bright red. Desperate to have his face repaired from the bullet, Napier visits a hack plastic surgeon, who has lost his license but operates illegally. Napier dislikes the doctor, but he has no one else to turn to. Despite doing his best to fix Napier's face, the doctor has accidentally severed facial nerves, leaving Napier with a permanent grin. Napier demands a mirror and, upon seeing his clown-like appearance, he loses all sanity. Napier leaves the surgery laughing, but he has one place to go to first...
Carl Grissom comes out of the shower, assuming that his mistress Alicia came in the door, and instead finds a mysterious figure that sounds like Napier. He is angry and accuses Grissom of setting him up over a woman. Grissom tries to reason, saying, "Jack, maybe we can cut a deal." The figure says, "Jack is dead, my friend...you can call me Joker." He emerges into light and shows that he is Napier, but now with a disfigured bleached face crowned with green hair, resembling a joker face from a playing card. He laughs maniacally as he shoots Grissom dead and takes over his seat, reading the newspaper that headlines WINGED FREAK TERRORIZES GOTHAM GANGLAND. The Joker simply says to that, "Wait 'til they get a load of me".
Going After Bruce
Vicki Vale surprisingly finds nothing in the Gotham Gazette files about Bruce Wayne except for standard filler material. She decides to follow Bruce into town and find out who he really is. He stops at an alley where he lays a couple of roses on the ground, as if it were a grave marker. Vicki snaps the pictures of this.
They both end up outside the Gotham City courtroom where Vincent, Grissom's accountant, tells the press that he has been given legal permission to take over Grissom's business affairs. Soon after, Vincent is struck dead by the Joker, and his men open fire on the crowd to scare them. Bruce notices that Napier is still alive, though now as the Joker, but doesn't respond to Vicki as he walks away from the scene.
A New Girl
However, the Joker is disappointed when a news reporter asks Harvey Dent if he thinks Batman is behind the action outside the courtroom. He believes that Batman has stolen his press and that the town needs an enema.
Bob the Goon shows up with pictures he has taken earlier. The Joker sees one of Vicki Vale and he is totally enraptured by her beauty. He decides to go after her, even though Bob tells him that she's seeing Bruce Wayne.
An Action News report on television reports on the mysterious deaths of two models, Amanda Keeler and Candy Walker, when one of the two news anchors, Becky Narita, suddenly cracks up laughing hysterically before she collapses and dies on air with a great big smile on her face. Becky's shocked male co-anchor quickly signals for the transmission to be cut. Suddenly, the Joker pirates the airwaves with a commercial advertising "Joker brand" products with his secret ingredient, Smylex; he tells the viewers that they have already bought the products that contain it. This scares the people into not using any hygienic products, and it also has Bruce looking into the files of Jack Napier, discovering that his aptitudes include science and chemistry.
A Date at the Museum
Vicki Vale is invited to a date at the Flugelheim Museum, where she is seated at a table near the balcony. Alfred informs Bruce of a call Vicki made earlier about meeting him late at the museum, only for Bruce to realize that he isn't meeting Vicki.
After some time of waiting, Vicki is given a small present: a colorful gas mask with the urgent message to put it on right now. Soon gas floods into the museum and people keel over dead as they breathe it. Vicki immediately covers her face and watches in fear. After a while, the Joker and his men enter the museum in a rather festive mood, playing music while defacing valuable art treasures. The Joker, now wearing flesh-toned make-up, meets Vicki at the balcony and talks to her about his kind of art: homicide. He shows her what he has done to his former girlfriend Alicia's face, calling it a work of art. Vicki tries to humor the Joker, but he is totally beyond humoring. She dodges as the Joker tries to squirt her face with acid from his trick flower. She throws water on his face, and he reacts like the Wicked Witch from The Wizard Of Oz before he turns around and says "boo" as he laughs at Vicki.
Suddenly Batman crashes in through the skylight and grabs Vicki as he fires cables into the walls and swings down to the entrance to escape. All the Joker could say to that is, "Where does he get those wonderful toys?"
Batman and Vicki enter into the Batmobile, where they escape both the pursuing cars of the Joker's gang and that of policemen. They briefly stop at an alley when their way of escape was temporarily blocked, and Batman has Vicki hide out on top of a roof while he contends with the thugs. They briefly knock him down and try to remove Batman's mask, but were soon distracted by the flash of Vicki's camera bulbs. Batman uses this distraction to take down the thugs before Vicki climbs down to rejoin him.
Into the Batcave
Batman then takes Vicki down an unknown stretch of road that leads into the Batcave, where he tells her that the police are looking for one tainted product, but the Joker has tainted all of them at their source. However, each product only contains one element of the poison; it only works when used in combination, and then becomes untraceable. Batman hands Vicki a file that he wants her to take to the press. Vicki says he could have given it to them himself. Batman tells her there's something of hers that he wants. He takes Vicki under his cape and knocks her out, leaving her in her apartment without the film that contains any pictures she took of Batman, but with the file on hand.
Another Rooster in the Hen House
The Joker watches as news reports inform viewers to avoid certain combinations of products that were tainted with Smylex components. He angrily shoots at the television set, saying that he has given a name to his pain, and it is Batman. He tells Bob the Goon that he has a "flying mouse" to kill.
Bruce goes over to Vicki's apartment at Alfred's advice in the attempt to tell her that he is Batman. Vicki feels angry at first for how Bruce treated her, but soon feels some empathy for him and encourages Bruce to tell her what's so difficult for him to say. However, their meeting is interrupted by the Joker, who barges in with his men and tells Vicki how disappointed he is for her running off with Batman. The Joker then sees Bruce in the apartment and sees that he has competition. Bruce tells the Clown Prince of Crime of a man he knows who has bad wiring in his head and gets ready to swing a fireplace poker at him. The Joker calmly points a gun at Bruce and simply asks, "Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?" This question distracts Bruce long enough for the Joker to shoot him. Vicki screams as she watches, and Joker plays the mournful romantic as he departs. Then suddenly Vicki finds that Bruce is gone, and where his body was, there is a silver platter that he used to block the Joker's bullet with.
The Secret of the Alley
Knox shows Vicki what he found about the alley Bruce Wayne had visited: about thirty years ago, Bruce Wayne's parents had been murdered in that alley. Vicki sees the picture of young Bruce and notices that the expression on his face is the same as that he had when the Joker's men opened fire outside the courtroom.
The mayor of Gotham City comes on the air to regretfully report that the Gotham City's 200th anniversary celebration has been indefinitely postponed. The Joker pirates the airwaves again and tells the viewers that he will personally oversee the celebration with a bonus of dumping $20 million in free cash. He also promises entertainment: a one-on-one confrontation with the real menace of Gotham City, Batman.
Bruce Wayne watches this as he looks over the files of his parent's murder. He reviews everything that happened in the theater of his mind: he and his parents walking home from the Monarch theater house, going down an alley and meeting two thugs, one of which grabbed Mrs. Wayne's pearl necklace, the other shooting them both dead. The gunman now pointed the gun at Bruce and said, "Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?" The gunman steps into the light, and Bruce sees that it is a young Jack Napier. He and his accomplice run off into the night, never to be seen again.
Vicki Enters In
Bruce is so amazed by this revelation, he doesn't notice that Alfred has brought Vicki into the Batcave. She now knows who Bruce Wayne is, and isn't sure how she could handle the revelation. Bruce tells Vicki that this is what he is because there's no one else who can be. All Vicki wants to know is if they're going to try to love each other. Bruce says he would like to...but the Joker is out there right now, and he has to go to work.
And as Vicki watches, Bruce Wayne suits up into the man that he truly is: Batman.
Outside Axis Chemicals, the Dark Knight remotely controls the Batmobile to enter into the factory and deposit bombs that blow up the nest of deadly toxins for creating Smylex. However, the Joker escapes by helicopter and starts up the promised parade in the center of Gotham City, complete with floats, balloons, loud festive music, and oodles of cash being dumped for the citizens to grab. As Knox and Vicki arrive on the scene to take pictures, she notices that the balloons have canisters of Smylex attached to them, and that the Joker intends to kill the people at the parade by gassing them.
Flight of the Batplane
Meanwhile, Batman is already coming to the parade in his Batplane aircraft, which Joker notices when he signals his men to put on gas masks and release the Smylex from the balloons over the crowd. Vicki ducks into the car and closes up the windows while Knox grabs a mask to knock out some of the goons. Batman swoops down and grabs all the balloons, carrying them out toward the sea to release them where they won't do any harm.
Incensed by this loss, the Joker shoots Bob the Goon and sends his men to scare away the crowd while he personally deals with Batman. The Batplane now swoops down toward the abandoned floats and targets them with missiles and machine guns. Then the Joker pulls out a handgun with a ridiculously long barrel and shoots a hole right into the Batplane. Batman loses control and the aircraft crash-lands right in front of the abandoned cathedral.
A Bat in the Belfry
Vicki goes toward the wreckage of the Batplane to see if Batman is all right, but finds herself herded at gunpoint by the Joker to accompany him to the top of the cathedral tower. He signals for a helicopter ride to reach him in ten minutes. After they enter the cathedral, the Batman pulls himself out of the wreckage, wounded but still alive. He follows the Joker and Vicki up the wooden staircase which partly gets broken when the Joker reaches the top of the tower and squirts acid to let loose a bell to fall on top of Batman.
Upon reaching the top, the Dark Knight contends with the Joker's various goons while the Clown Prince of Crime dances with Vicki with a gun in his hand.
Dancing with the Devil
Soon Vicki sees Batman approaching from behind and seduces the Joker long enough to distract him. Batman greets him with his own line, "Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?" before slugging it out with him. The Joker tells Batman that he is the one who made him. Batman responds that the Joker made him first by killing his parents. The Joker thinks that response was childish and so taunts Batman not to hit him while wearing glasses. Batman hits him anyway and sends him falling over a ledge -- but only to fool Batman in order to grab both him and Vicki and send them over the ledge and Vicki screams.
The Joker laughs at the predicament of both Batman and Vicki, and further taunts them by breaking away the bricks from the ledge. Soon the helicopter comes with its ladder, and the Joker grabs it saying farewell to his victims, adding, "Sometimes I even kill myself". Batman fires a cable at the Joker's leg and has the other end wrap itself around a gargoyle statue. Soon the statue breaks off and pulls the Joker down, causing him to slowly lose his grip on the ladder rungs until he finally falls to his death.
As Batman and Vicki pull themselves back onto the ledge, it finally breaks away and sends them falling to their doom. Batman quickly fires a cable hook up toward the tower while grabbing Vicki with the other arm. The hook catches and their fall is suddenly broken as they swing around in midair, safe.
The Last Laugh
As the police gather around the impact point of the Joker's fall, they hear a never-ending laugh loop coming from him. They notice that the body is still, and he is not breathing, yet the sound still emanates from him. Commissioner Gordon reaches inside the Joker's jacket and finds a laughing sound box within.
Harvey Dent reads before the press a letter he received from Batman, saying that Gotham has earned its rest from the wave of crime, but if evil should ever rise again, they should call him. Knox asks how they can call Batman. Gordon answers, "He gave us a signal," and shines a spotlight with the Bat symbol on it. The crowd looks up in the sky to see the Bat signal, as does Vicki Vale, who now leaves Knox to get the story on Batman for himself.
Vicki now joins Alfred in Bruce's limousine, ready to take her to Wayne Manor. He tells her that Master Bruce will be a little late. All Vicki could say to that is that she isn't surprised.
And as they drive off, Batman stands on top of a building, watching the Bat signal shine in the night sky.
- Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman
- Jack Nicholson as Jack Napier/Joker
- Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale
- Robert Wuhl as Alexander Knox
- Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon
- Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent
- Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth
- Jack Palance as Carl Grissom
- Jerry Hall as Alicia Hunt
- Tracey Walter as Bob the Goon
- Lee Wallace as Mayor William Borg
- William Hootkins as Lt. Max Eckhardt
- This film was adapted in Batman: The Official Comic Adaptation.
- Shot between 1988-1989 in England.
- There were two soundtrack albums for this movie. There was Danny Elfman's orchestral score and there was a contemporary album done by Prince. Five songs from the Prince album were used in the movie, including "Partyman", "Trust", and "Scandalous" as well as parts of "The Future" (in the opening scene with the tourist couple) and "Electric Chair" (Bruce Wayne's benefit party). He also made a song titled Batdance, which featured soundbites from the movie in-sync with the song, and also referenced the old 1960's Batman televison series theme at times.
- This film was in development since 1980. In 1980 Tom Mankiewicz wrote a treatment for a Batman movie that featured not only Batman's origins but Robin's origins as well. Dick Grayson was to appear as Robin in full costume (much like Batman Forever) at the end of the film setting the stage for sequels. The film was originally based on the Batman comics of the 70's and was to be epic like the first two Superman films. Commissioner Gordon and Barbara Gordon were to appear as well as the Penguin, Rupert Thorne and Silver St. Cloud was to be Bruce's love interest. Dick Grayson's parents were to be killed by the Joker and Bruce Wayne's parents to be killed by Joe Chill from the original comics. Mankiewicz wanted an unknown to play Batman, William Holden to play Gordon and David Niven to play Alfred. The film was to be called The Batman and was to be released in 1985 but the script was shelved due to the fact that a director and cast couldn't be locked down. Ivan Reitman and Joe Dante were considered to direct.
- Characters from Batman (1989 Movie)
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- Movie Gallery: Batman (1989 Movie)