Prime Video movie of the day: Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson are electrifying in Tim Burton's Batman

Michael Keaton's Dark Knight looks to his left in 1989's Batman movie
1989's Batman is considered to be one of the vigilante's best cinematic outings. (Image credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment)
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1989's Batman is a wonderfully gothic take on the legendary DC superhero. With gothic horror maestro Tim Burton behind the camera, Prince and Danny Elfman dropping dimes with its outstanding soundtrack, and Micheal Keaton leading a starry cast of A-listers as the titular vigilante, this film's take on Batman is easily one of the character's best live-action outings that I can remember (see where it sits in our best Batman movies list while you're here).

Indeed, this is the Dark Knight before his suit came equipped with those nipples (thanks, Joel Schumacher...) and his big-screen adventures found a realism, to go alongside its more thrilling aspects, under the watchful eye of film auteur Christopher Nolan (see where his three Batman films sit in our best Christopher Nolan movies guide). While I'm a big fan of the Nolan era – and, perhaps in a surprising twist to some, more recent Batman-starring films – the 1989 adaptation is one of the most enjoyable takes on Bruce Wayne's nocturnal adventures, not least because of Jack Nicholson treating the scenery as an all-you-can-chew buffet with his iconic take on the Joker.

Bat Out of Hell

Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight in the 1989 Batman movie

At the time, 1989's Batman was the most devilish version of the Dark Knight we'd seen on the big screen. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

But don't just take my word for it. The Chicago Tribune's Gene Siskel suggested that, with its "dark, smart and moody drama", 1989's Batman something very unusual for the era. Indeed, it was a superhero movie that, with its horror-laced vibes, Burton's penchant for gothic architecture, and occasionally deadly action sequences, adults would enjoy more than kids. 

Siskel wasn't the only one to shower it with praise back in the day. Newsday did likewise, calling it "one of the most interesting comic-book movies ever made, a movie that vividly illustrates where most of the others have gone wrong". Meanwhile, legendary critic Pauline Kael wrote in The New Yorker that "the movie is underwritten, but it has so many unpredictable spins that what's missing doesn't seem to matter much. It's mean, anarchic, and blissful."

One of the stars here is Gotham itself, with The Boston Globe's reviewer writing: "The thing that's going to make you want to see Batman a second and third and fourth time is Gotham City as a brutal pile of dour, gothic, Art Deco menace". The New Jersey Bergen Record agreed, adding: "Batman is a feast for the eyes and ears, with Anton Furst's massive, elegantly ugly sets of Gotham City, Danny Elfman's lovely, classically-oriented score, and dazzling special effects. It is also one long gas, thanks to Jack Nicholson."

Revisiting the film a decade after its release, Empire magazine scribe Andrew Collins wrote that "Anton Furst's looming set design remains astonishing, as does Michael Keaton's slightly dotty Bruce Wayne". Oh, and Nicholson remains a highlight, with Collins writing: "About as unrestrained a performance as he's ever been allowed to get away with, Jack cuts a showboating swathe that pretty much dominates the movie." It's "the movie that gave birth to the summer blockbuster" – and, in my view, it's still entertainingly impressive almost 25 years later.

1989's Batman is available to stream on Prime Video and Max (US), plus Binge and Foxtel (Australia). It's only available to rent and/or buy in the UK.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.