When it comes to superhero movies, it’s the climax that usually hits the biggest action highlight. Batman has had his share of worthwhile final battles, and here’s my own personal ranking from least favorite to absolute favorite of every single climax from Batman’s theatrical movies.
#11 The Climax to “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice”
Now, it’s hard to decide when the climax for this movie officially starts, as the whole hour long third act is just a string of fight sequences. We have the much-anticipated throw-down between Batman and Superman, which in my opinion was very mediocre. Then things do get good once they both calm down and work together. Lex Luthor now realizing he has to contend with two superheroes, moves onto his second phase, which is unleashes a giant cave troll monster on the city. Both Batman and Superman are soon aided by Wonder Woman, who all lead the beast to the abandoned Wear-house district to make a final stand. I’ll admit, seeing Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman on screen together for the very first time, and fighting in this big epic showdown is any comic book fans dream come true. Granted, this fight has nothing to do with anything that came before hand, and the monster is also kind of stupid looking, but I’m not going to pretend like I didn’t have a blast watching this battle go down. I loved seeing Wonder Woman use her lasso, and it was really cool to see Superman punch the creature into outer space. The only thing I didn’t like was Superman’s supposed death, which was annoying because even without the knowledge of the upcoming “Justice League” film, I knew he wasn’t really dead for good.
#10 The Climax to “Batman The Movie”
As we start this films third act, the villains succeed in kidnapping the leaders of the united nations (or at least Gotham’s version of the UN), and they take to the sea in a submarine. Batman and Robin draw them to the surface, and the climax takes the form of a silly little fight on the top of the submerging. It's actually very amusing, and a rare case in which we see Batman fighting out in the day time. Another famous trade mark that came into play here are the comic book style words like “BAM” and “POW” that would show up whenever Batman hits someone. This is also the only time we see Batman fighting with a sword, as he and the penguin get into a swashbuckling dual that closes the battle. One major downside is that Robin of all people is the one battling the Joker, whom Batman has no interaction with during the whole fight. Batman also learns that Cat-Woman was never really in love with him, and was just playing him the whole time. This leads to an awkward moment where Batman stairs off and quietly laments what could have been, only to snap out of it and say … whatever, it’s no big deal.
#9 The Climax to “Batman Returns”
In my review on the first “Batman” movie from 1989, I talked about how even though the climax was very simple, it still felt very epic and awesome. This movie somehow is the exact opposite, as there’s far more spectacle and explosions on display, but it just doesn’t feel all that grand or special. Once the Penguin fails to kidnap all the first sons of Gotham, he moves onto phase two, which is easily the goofiest threat to ever be unleashed on the city. Where some villains attack Gotham with toxic gas or a giant Freezing gun, this guy unleashes an army of cute little penguins in battle suits, and rockets strapped to their backs. Seeing this army of cute little penguin’s march on the city has got to be the most surreal finale a superhero film could possibly have. The final showdown between Batman and Penguin is nothing special either, as the Penguin just doesn’t make for an exciting foe for our hero to battle.
Although, I do at least like the banter, especially when Penguin says to Batman “Your just jellies because I’m a genuine freak, while you have to wear a mask”. Things do get really good once Cat-Woman emerges on the scene. I love when Batman tries winning her over, and he even goes so far as to rip off his mask in front of her. It’s great stuff, but also very tragic as Cat-Woman is too far gone to reform. We then get two of the franchise’s best villain deaths right back to back with each other. I may not care for Max Shreck, but his death is as epic as they get. Cat-woman basically takes her revenge by electrocuting him, but he doesn't just get fried, Max Shrek gets freaking nuked in this big electrical explosion, and is reduced to a grilled corps … it's awesome. The Penguins death follows next, and this is a very quiet, somber death that’s beautifully shot, and always left an impression.
#8 The Climax to “Batman & Robin”
This climax begins with Mr. Freeze using a giant cold gun to blanket the city in ice. Like many action set-pieces in this film, it’s trying to be a larger scale spectacle then the final battles of the previous films, but it just doesn’t succeed with the delivery. Right from the start, we see our hero’s drive off to save the day while riding these new vehicles meant for traversing icy-terrain, and they look hilarious. Seriously, it looks just like something from out of “Power Rangers”, and it begs the question as to how and where our heroes acquired these things. The ensuing battle plays out just as you’d expect, it’s a circus of flashy effects, there’s an onslaught of ludicrous techno babble solving problems, and there's people falling from blinding heights … yet are never in any danger. I will say that there’s some really good practical effects on display, and it was one of the last superhero movies to feature model buildings that get destroyed.
It all builds to the big showdown between Batman and Mr. Freeze, which is a very clumsily choreographed fight, and features a hilarious send off line from Batman, in which he over powers his enemy with this line … “The Heat is On!” The only reason this climax ranks higher than the one’s previously mentioned is because of the aftermath. Once the action is done, and the city saved, we come to my personal favorite scene of the whole movie, in which Batman has a heart to heart with the defeated Mr. Freeze, leading to the villain’s reformation. This kind of set-up has admittedly been done more effectively in films like “Spider-Man 2”, but this was still a genuinely good scene. It was fairly well acted, and I always feel a little touched when I see a hero and villain come to an understanding, and forgive each other. This one little scene alone honestly highlights what a good film this could have been, but ultimately failed to be.
#7 The Climax to “The Lego Batman Movie”
Despite only coming in at number seven on my list, this final battle truthfully is one of the most awesome things I’ve experienced at the cinema in years. It’s something special that made me feel like a six-year-old in a twenty-five-year-old man’s body, and I just embraced it. Here’s the set up for this mega finale, the Joker leaves Batman’s Lego universe, and recruits various iconic villains from other franchises to concur the city. Then Batman rallies his family, and even recruits his own army of all his iconic foes, who were all betrayed by the Joker earlier. Thus, a massive battle takes place between classic Batman villains, and other classic movie villains … which is about as epic as they get. Ever sense I was a child, I always wanted to see something like this, in fact that’s what I did with all my toys. I only wish they spent a little more time on individual characters here, and a little more banter between the two different groups of villains. As the battle comes to a close, we see the city split apart, and the only way to save it is for some decisive people to connect together, and thus bring the city back together. It's actually kind of a touching statement that's meaningful for our time, but isn't preachy in the delivery.
#6 The Climax to “Batman Forever”
This film comes to a close in a climax where the Riddler baits Batman to his island base, and it’s full of death traps. I have to admit, seeing Batman and Robin take-off in both the Bat-Wing and Bat-Boat to the island gets my hyped every time I watch this. Surprisingly, for a film that's been extremely over the top to this point, it resolves with a rather subdued final battle. Batman doesn’t even fight the villains physically, instead the Riddler forces him to choose between saving the lives of someone that Bruce Wayne loves, and someone Batman loves, raising the question of which ego will win out. While this concept will be done more effectively again in both “The Dark Knight” and the first “Spider-Man” movie, this was still a very original concept for the time, and a legitimate challenge for our hero to face. My only problem with this finale is the rushed confrontation between Robin and Two-Face. This could have been a really exciting showdown, but it’s awkwardly staged, poorly lit, and ends way too quickly. The death of Two-Face is at least satisfying, and a nice visual callback to the Jokers death from the first film.
#5 The Climax to “Batman Begins”
Talk about a real roller-coaster of a climax, as this finale features one of my favorite action set-pieces of the whole franchise. Batman battles Ra’s Al Ghul on a runaway train, which our hero needs to stop before it reaches a crucial destination, and it’s just a wild ride of a final battle. As the chase is on, Scarecrow has unleashed his fear toxin, and has also released all the criminals from prison. So, there’s lots of high stakes and excitement going on. The fighting then builds to one of Batman’s most epic closing lines, “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you”, and Ra’s Al Ghul gets an explosive death. This climax would have ranked higher on my list if Batman had any kind of confrontation with Scarecrow, but unfortunately, he’s taken out of the fight way to soon … and by an insanely young looking girl friend off all people.
#4 The Climax to “Batman”
This finale is less about action, and more about build a strong mood and atmosphere. After the Joker fails to kill Gotham's people with his toxic gas, he takes Vicky Vale to the top of Gotham’s cathedral, and an injured Batman follows close behind. Even though this finale is short on fighting, it still feels like a spectacle, with a heavy atmosphere, and growing tension as each scene gradually builds on top of the other. In many ways, this climax is like a classic medieval adventure finale. Batman is a metaphorical Knight climbing a tall tower to rescue a girl, Vicky Vale in her white dress resembles a princess, and the Joker is the evil that needs to be slayed. My only real issue with this ending is that the actual showdown between Batman and Joker isn’t that riveting. In fact, Batman never once feels like he's rising against a challenging adversary. It all builds to one of the most memorable villain deaths in the Batman series, with the Joker falling from a helicopter, and dropping to his death. Obviously it’s one of the most common cliches to have a villain die from dropping like that, but the Batman movies actually make a tradition of it.
#3 The Climax to “The Dark Knight”
Here’s a unique final battle that is both a non-stop thrill ride, and in my opinion highlights our hero at his absolute best. There are Two boats, one with convicts, and the other with civilians that are trapped in Gotham harbor. Thanks to the Joker, both ships are on the verge of blowing each other up. Now Batman has to get the detonator before Joker can force their hands, but to make matters worse, the Joker is also holding hostages dressed like his clown goons, which have become the target for a swat team. Thus, our hero has to use all his skills to prevent the troops from killing the wrong people, and stop the Joker all at once. Seeing Batman use his quick intellect, strategy, stealth and an awesome new sonar devise is simply the dark knight at his greatest, and it’s absolutely riveting to see him pull all this off without taking a single life.
It’s like a big puzzle for him to solve, which is why this is my favorite portrayal of Batman in any climax. It’s highlighting him as both a superhero and a detective all at once. Also, I absolutely loved that new sonar device, as it’s very original and fits right in with our heroes Bat-themed persona. The final showdown between Batman and the Joker is short on fighting, but extremely satisfying, and their verbal confrontation is equally exciting. The real finale is Batman’s final confrontation with Two-Face, and once again it’s not an over blown fight, but a nail-biting situation with Commissioner Gordon’s family being held hostage. Again, it’s the verbal confrontation between our hero and villain that has me riveted. The movie then closes on a high-note, as the hostages are freed, but Harvey Dent parishes, and to make sure the people of Gotham don’t lose hope, Batman throws himself upon the sword to protect what Harvey initially stood for. It might just be the greatest act of heroism he’s ever done, and it’s a riveting set-up for the final installment.
#2 The Climax to “Batman Mask of the Phantasm”
This climax takes place in a theme park dedicated to the future of Gotham city, but to avoid spoilers, I won’t go into the major details. Basically, it’s a deeply thrilling confrontation between our main characters, and the theme park setting leads to some riveting action set pieces. A stand out moment is when Batman and Joker fight their way into a room where their surrounded by giant city models.
This artfully, represents how both characters are viewed as larger than life titans wagging war with each other in the city of Gotham. It’s also worth noting that all the stakes are internal ones, as the Joker isn’t launching any large-scale schemes against the city. It’s all about what’s going on between our three principle characters, and it gives the fighting more weight. As the battle rages on, they cover a lot of ground, even fly through the air on jet packs, explosions are erupting everywhere, and it’s just a sheer animated spectacle to behold. Another one of my favorite moments is when the climax comes to it’s exciting conclusion, everything is blowing up, and the Joker gives the most epic final evil laugh ever. Now the fate of the Joker is left extremely vague, as it suggests he was killed, but he also continues to appear in the TV show after this … so, just what happened to him? Truthfully, putting that detail of Jokers demise to the side, I think this is one of the better finale’s in the whole Batman film series.
#1 The Climax to “The Dark Knight Rises”
Now, let’s finally talk about final battle that closed Nolan’s trilogy, and is personally my favorite climax of the entire Batman film franchise. Batman makes his triumphant return to the city, and leads Gotham in an all-out war against Bane and his troops. There are large scale battles wagging in the streets, the Bat wing is flying through the city, lots of explosions, lots of battle vehicles, car chases, and it’s just one big cinematic feast for the eyes. The main highlight is when Batman rematches Bane amidst all the fighting.
I love how the two are walking through the crowds looking for each other, then they finally stare down, exchange their lines, and the rematch of the century is on. There’s a great visual call back to their first fight in which Batman stands on top of a flank of stairs, and looks down at Bane. In their first dual, this marked the moment in which Batman lost his cool, and got caress. Now during this second fight we see him stand on those stairs, but he’s calm, collected and we just know he’s got this match in his hand. The only down side in all of this is that Banes death is very rushed, with lots of battle still remaining, and it just feels disappointing to have such a power house villain get taken out so quickly. What’s worse is that it’s all in favor of making Talia Al Ghul the final threat to the city, which is extremely annoying considering the long line up of superior villains that have come before her. Thankfully, the resolution to this climax is excellent, and closes things on a strong note. Batman flies a nuclear bomb out of the city, and presumably dies, saving everyone else in the process. Now, the people of Gotham are no longer looking to a false idle like Harvey Dent, they’re respecting the real hero who saved their city, and even dedicate a statue to his honor.