9. Batman Returns (1992)
Sequel to: Batman (1989)
Decades after their release, Tim Burton’s Batman movies remain divisive. 1989’s Batman saw the introduction of Michael Keaton’s Caped Crusader alongside Jack Nicholson’s Joker, also delivering a distinctly gothic but still gently cartoonish iteration of Gotham City that was perfectly in keeping with Tim Burton’s inimitable style. After the first film ended with a pointless and frustrating death, the sequel, Batman Returns, needed to introduce new villains in order to keep the story alive.
In true Tim Burton style, Batman Returns featured Danny DeVito as a deformed and freakish take on the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as a leather-clad and villainously deranged Catwoman. Batman Returns isn’t for everyone – it’s not the most faithful adaptation, and it’s loaded with the characteristic Burton darkness that many don’t overly appreciate – but in many ways, it was an improvement upon the 1989 movie. Where Burton’s first Batman movie felt like a compromise between his true vision and the studio’s desire to hearken back to Adam West’s version of the character in the 1960s, Batman Returns fully embraced the more gothic elements of its story, and it felt more substantial as a result.
Michael Keaton’s performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman was offset by excellent supporting efforts from DeVito, Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken. Burton’s vision may not have been entirely comic-accurate, but it was utterly unique, and that’s something that made Batman Returns feel exciting and fresh in its cartoonish gothicism. Whether or not you personally appreciate Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, it was a far more ambitious and interestingly conceived movie than its decent but slightly dull predecessor, and that’s got to count for something.