Bruce Wayne
Burton-Schumacher's Batman and
DC Extended Universe
Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton).jpg
Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)
First appearanceBatman (1989)
Based on
Adapted by
Portrayed by
In-universe information
Full nameBruce Wayne
  • Philanthropist
  • Vigilante
Significant others
ChildrenDick Grayson (surrogate son)
HomeWayne Manor, Gotham City

Bruce Wayne, better known by his hero alias Batman, is a fictional character who appears as the main protagonist in Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns, which are part of the Batman film series (1989–1997), and later in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film The Flash. He is based on the DC Comics character of the same name and was originally portrayed by Michael Keaton.

This adaptation of the character maintains the origin of his parents being murdered in an alleyway behind a theater, however this adaptation does not feature the killer as Joe Chill, but rather Jack Napier, who would go on to become Batman's arch-nemesis, the Joker.[1] Keaton is set to reprise the role in the DCEU film The Flash (2023), which retroactively incorporates him into DCEU continuity.[2] He was also expected to reprise the role in Batgirl before the film's cancellation.

The character was recast with Val Kilmer and George Clooney in Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997) respectively.



Multiple actors were considered for the role of Batman during production. In Tom Mankiewicz's original script which Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was attached to, actor Bill Murray was considered for the role in a script that featured Eddie Murphy as Dick Grayson / Robin. Gremlins director Joe Dante was attached to the project as well at one point. The script was intended as a comedy, but was altered significantly after Tim Burton's involvement. Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Charlie Sheen, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan, Ray Liotta, Willem Dafoe, Alec Baldwin, Patrick Swayze, Kyle MacLachlan, Steven Seagal, Dennis Quaid and Jean-Claude Van Damme were all considered for the role.[3][4][5][6][7] Eventually, producer Jon Peters suggested Michael Keaton, claiming he had the right "edgy, tormented quality" for the role, and based his argument off Keaton's dramatic performance in the film Clean and Sober. At the time, Keaton was primarily known for comedic parts in Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice, the latter also being directed by Burton.[8][9][10] Keaton's casting as the character caused an uproar from fans of the character, who claimed Keaton was too comedic and too short for the role.[11] Over 50,000 recorded protest letters were sent to Warner Bros. offices, and the casting was questioned by screenwriter Sam Hamm, producer Michael Uslan and even Batman co-creator Bob Kane.[12][13][14][15]

For the 2 later films, Keaton decided not to reprise the role of Batman and Val Kilmer (Batman Forever) and George Clooney (Batman & Robin) were cast.


Further information: Batsuit § 1989–1997 film series

The Batsuit, worn by Keaton in Batman (1989).
The Batsuit, worn by Keaton in Batman (1989).

The Batsuit worn by Keaton was designed by costume designer Bob Ringwood. Ringwood turned down the opportunity to work on James Bond film Licence to Kill to work on Batman. Ringwood stated that designing the Batsuit was difficult, claiming "the image of Batman in the comics is this huge, big six-foot-four hunk with a dimpled chin. Michael Keaton is a guy with average build. The problem was to make somebody who was average-sized and ordinary-looking into this bigger-than-life creature."[16] Producer Jon Peters had requested for the Batsuit to feature a Nike product-placement, but was shot down by Burton and Ringwood, feeling that it would not be intimidating.[17] 28 latex designs of the suit were made, as well as 25 different capes and 6 different heads.[18] It was decided the use of spandex as in the comics and previous adaptations would not be intimidating enough, so the character was given black armor pieces.

The Batsuit was upgraded for Batman Returns, using more flexible foam latex, as well as a more traditional chest emblem. The updated Batsuit also featured a zipper to allow for urination in between takes and an updated plated armor torso that did not resemble sculpted muscles.[19] Keaton still had difficulty hearing but found the neck movement much less restrictive than with the first costume. Due to the second costume's much thinner cowl with increased flexibility, a greater range of head-turning was allowed but could still leave gaps folding away from the cheek. The infamous "Bat-Turn" movement became an iconic part of the character's body language despite not truly needing to depend upon it, contrary to speculation from contemporary pundits. The wardrobe department spent seven weeks sculpting Batman Forever costumes on his body cast, preceding under the assumption that he would be returning. The addition of nipples and an enlarged codpiece to the Batsuit and Robin's costume in Batman & Robin was the subject of criticism.[20]

Fictional character biography

Burton films

Parents' murder impact

Further information: Batman (1989 film)

As a child, Wayne watches the film The Mark of Zorro with his parents, Thomas and Martha. The Waynes walk down an alley, but Thomas and Martha are shot by a mugger. After this, he was raised by Alfred Pennyworth, the kind family butler. At his parents' funeral, he ran away and discovered a cave filled with bats on the family grounds, and decided to take the image and use it to put fear into the hearts of criminals. This leads Wayne to take down crime in Gotham as a vigilante who costumed like a bat.

Defeating the Joker

Further information: Batman (1989 film)

Years later as an adult, there have been numerous sightings of the "Bat vigilante" and a criminal, Johnny Gobbs, who died after accidentally falling off from a roof, creates a rumor that the vigilante killed Gobbs in a manner of a vampire that feeds on blood and cannot be killed. The vigilante's reputation as a menacing creature of the night that hunts wrongdoers strikes fear on the city's superstitious and cowardly citizens. Wayne hosts a fundraiser at Wayne Manor to help fund the Gotham City 200th Anniversary Parade, where he meets photographer Vicki Vale.

Wayne finds in reviewing the Manor's surveillance cameras that Gordon, who left the party unexpectedly, had been summoned to Axis Chemicals due to a break-in by Jack Napier. Wayne suits up as the vigilante, now known as Batman, and during the fight, Napier falls into chemical acid, seemingly killing him. Instead, it transforms Napier into a clown face known as the Joker. On the 20th anniversary of his parents' murder, Wayne leaves lunch with Vale, and witnesses a mob hit by the alive Napier, who has become the Joker. Wayne discovers that Napier has poisoned various consumer products with his laughing toxin and, after further investigation, Wayne is informed by his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, that he has a date with Vale at the Flugelheim Museum. Wayne states he has no plans to meet Vale that day, discovering that the meeting was set up by Napier to gain information on Batman.

After a battle with Napier's men, the two return to Batman's hideout, the Batcave, where he reveals his investigation into Napier to Vale, giving her his research notes to release. Wayne nearly reveals to Vale that he is Batman, but Wayne and Vale are interrupted by the Joker. Wayne realizes the Joker is Napier, and begins to act violently before shooting him. Wayne discovers that Napier shot his parents, and then raids Axis Chemicals. Wayne comes across the Joker's parade float during the 200th Anniversary Parade, where the Joker plans to release his toxin on the citizens, but Batman returns to the parade and kills many of the Joker's men, but was shot by Napier, crashing at the front steps of the Gotham Cathedral.

Recovering from the crash, Batman pursues the Joker and Vale into the cathedral, eventually coming across them at the top level. Batman reveals to Napier that he had killed his parents, and wants revenge by beating the Joker over the edge of the cathedral although Joker drags Batman and Vale with him, dangling above the streets of Gotham. Determined to fulfill his vendetta, Batman uses his grappling gun to tie one of the cathedral's gargoyles to the Joker's leg, but the gargoyle breaks free from its foundations, plummeting Napier to his death. In the aftermath, the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) awards Batman with his own personalized signal as a way of contacting him for cooperation, while Vale breaks up with Wayne.

The Penguin and Catwoman

Further information: Batman Returns

Years later, during Christmas celebrations, Batman is brought to the attention of the signal in the sky and discovers the Red Triangle Gang has interrupted the Gotham City Tree Lighting Ceremony and has taken Max Shreck hostage. The next day, a member of the gang kidnaps the Mayor's child, but is falsely saved by a mysterious man called the Penguin. Penguin claims that he hopes to find his parents, who abandoned him as an infant due to his deformities. Wayne initially feels sympathy for this cause. Wayne discovers the Penguin was once a performer in the Red Triangle Circus, where a series of disappearances of children has occurred. He then suspects that the Penguin already knows who his parents were and is the gang's leader, planning something else. Penguin grows in popularity with the citizens of Gotham, and they discover his name is Oswald Cobblepot, with his parents having died years prior. Wayne meets with Shreck to contest his plans to build a new power plant, with his secretary Selina Kyle meeting Wayne, unaware that Kyle is the masked vigilante Catwoman.

During a confrontation with the Penguin, Batman meets Catwoman. As he tries to pursue Penguin, Catwoman interferes, and he grows confused about her passive-aggressive attacks. The Penguin officially announces his plans to run for Mayor of Gotham City, and later, Wayne and Kyle discover that Cobblepot attempted to frame Batman by kidnapping the Ice Princess, who was to relight the tree, and leaving behind a batarang. While investigating the disappearance, members of the Red Triangle Gang modify the Batmobile to allow the Penguin remote control access. Batman finds the Ice Princess standing on the edge of a rooftop, but the Penguin arrives and startles the girl by opening one of his trick-umbrellas and causing a swarm of bats, which knocks her off the roof to plummet to her death. She lands on the button used to light the tree, causing a mass swarm of bats to attack the onlookers. Batman is shot by the GCPD upon his attempted escape, due to his reputation and the apparent evidence that places him as the culprit of the murder.

Batman returns to the Batmobile, but the car, having been hacked by the Penguin, takes a destructive joyride. Batman's reputation as a hero is tarnished by Cobblepot, and Wayne hacks into the Gotham Plaza's speakers and plays the incriminating quotes Penguin had said over the monitor during the joyride of one of his public speeches, causing backlash amongst the crowd. Later, Kyle suffers a mental breakdown and announces to Wayne her plans to kill Shreck, and the two deduce each other's secret identities. The two are left out to sort out their issues as the Penguin crashes the floor of the room, announces his plans to kill all of the first-born sons of Gotham and takes Shreck hostage. Batman arrives and interrogates Penguin's right-hand man, learning of the Penguin's hideout underneath the Arctic World exhibit at the abandoned Gotham Zoo.

Batman enters the Gotham sewers, with Pennyworth working to hack Cobblepot's pet penguins armed with missiles who were marching into Gotham Plaza to claim more lives. Batman confronts Penguin, using Cobblepot's penguin army to fire missiles at the Penguin's hideout, falling through the skylight into the pool of toxic waste. Batman then attempts to stop Kyle from killing Shreck, but his attempts to calm Kyle does not work, and the power generator explodes. Wayne searches for Kyle in the wreckage, but to no avail, and watches as the Penguin bleeds to his death.

Schumacher films

Two-Face and the Riddler

Further information: Batman Forever

A few years later, Wayne invests time in Wayne Enterprises and while visiting applied scientists, he becomes acquainted with Edward Nygma, an employee obsessed with him. Nygma has developed the Box, a machine capable of transmitting television signals directly into the human brain, but Wayne turns him down. Seeking revenge, Nygma kills his supervisor, stages it as a suicide, and resigns from the company. Shortly afterward, Batman comes into conflict with the supervillain Two-Face, formerly district attorney Harvey Dent, who escaped before of Arkham Asylum and is now bent on revenge. In the process, Batman becomes acquainted with psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian. However, Bruce finds himself haunted by his nightmares; he blames himself for the death of his parents since by not having asked them to go out to the movies they would be alive. During a charity circus performance, Wayne witnesses Two-Face attack and murder the Flying Graysons, leaving the youngest, Dick, distraught. Wayne takes on Grayson as his ward, seeing in Dick the reflection of his tragedy. Bruce tries to befriend with Dick but Grayson is disinterested and wants revenge against Dent instead, later discovering Wayne is Batman. Wayne refuses Grayson’s demand to help him find and kill Two-Face in revenge, and Nygma watches Dent's attack on television, taking the moniker of the Riddler.

While Dent and Nygma team up, Wayne soon starts a romantic relationship with Meridian, who tries help Bruce with his trauma and she discovers Bruce is Batman. Riddler and Two-Face attack Wayne Manor, take Meridian hostage, and destroy the Batcave, and Wayne is afflicted with partial amnesia by a shot from Two-Face grazing his forehead. Pennyworth takes Wayne to a section of the Batcave, where Wayne finds his father's diary, understands the death of his parents were never his fault and learns Nygma is the Riddler. Batman tracks the villainous duo to their hideout, with help from Dick, a new hero under the name of Robin.

Robin confronts and briefly fights Two-Face, however he is subdued and captured, while Batman confronts the Riddler, with a choice to save either Meridan or Robin, hoping sacrifice himself to save them both. Instead, Batman destroys the Mother Box, severely damaging Nygma's mind, and saves Meridan and Robin. Two-Face corners them at gunpoint, and while flipping his coin to decide their fates, Batman throws a handful of coins at him, causing him to fall to his death, avenging Grayson's family.

Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and Bane

Further information: Batman & Robin (film)

Mr. Freeze commits a string of diamond thefts, catching the attention of Batman and Robin. After Freeze freezes but spares Robin in order to escape, Wayne chastises Grayson, who starts to chafe under Wayne's leadership. Wayne deduces that Freeze is Dr. Victor Fries, whose wife, Nora, is suffering from MacGregor's syndrome and was placed in cryogenic sleep until Freeze finds a cure. In order to lure Freeze in, Wayne hosts a charity ball auctioning off the Wayne family diamonds with himself and Grayson attending as Batman and Robin, leading to an ensuing battle of Freeze's capture. Wayne and Grayson become acquainted with Dr. Pamela Isley, who has mutated into Poison Ivy, but Wayne turns her down, causing Poison Ivy to seduce Robin and ally with Freeze, breaking him out of Arkham Asylum.

After discovering Pennyworth is fatally ill with MacGregor's syndrome, the Bat-Signal is altered into a Robin signal, to lure Grayson out but Wayne pleads to Grayson that he trusts him that Ivy is working with Freeze, working together to trick Ivy into revealing her plan. Batgirl intervenes and defeats Ivy, and the three head to the observatory to stop Freeze. Robin and Batgirl defeat Bane while Batman faces and subdues Freeze, redirecting the telescope's satellites to reflect sunlight to thaw Gotham, but Freeze detonates several bombs that he had placed around the telescope, destroying it. Nevertheless, Robin and Batgirl are still able to thaw the city. Batman reveals to a defeated Freeze that Nora is still alive, having been rescued in time.

Batman appeals to Freeze's humanity and asks him for the cure to MacGregor's syndrome's early stages to save Pennyworth. Freeze provides him with the cure and returns to Arkham, while Pennyworth makes a full recovery and reunites with Wayne, Grayson, and Barbara Wilson.

DC Extended Universe

Keaton will reprise his role in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film The Flash (2023).[21][22][23]

Comic appearances

Film adaptations

A comic adaptation of Tim Burton's Batman titled Batman: The Official Comic Adaptation of the Warner Bros Motion Picture was released in June 1989. Longtime Batman editor at DC Dennis O'Neil adapted the screenplay, with art provided by Jerry Ordway.

A comic adaptation for Batman Returns titled Batman Returns: The Official Comic Adaptation of the Warner Bros Motion Picture was released in June 1992. The story was once again adapted by Dennis O' Neil, with pencils provided by Steve Erwin and inked embellishments by José Luis García-López. Many of the illustrations García-López did for the film's style guide were re-purposed for the comic adaptation.

Canonical comic continuation

A comic continuation that was to chronicle the events of Tim Burton's failed third Batman film titled Batman '89 was submitted to DC Comics written by Joe Quinones and Kath Leth in March 2016. The run was inspired by DC's recent comic run Batman '66, which was a continuation of the 1966 television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward.[24] The story was to be a direct sequel to first two Tim Burton's Batman films with visual allusions to Michael Keaton as Batman, Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face, Marlon Wayans as Robin, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, and Robin Williams as The Riddler. The story would also introduce iterations of Barbara Gordon, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn into the world.[25] However, the comic run was initially rejected by DC.[26][27][28]

In February 2021, it was confirmed that DC would in fact be proceeding to develop a canonical comic continuation of Tim Burton's Batman films, with screenwriter Sam Hamm returning to write the script while Joe Quinones provides the comic's art.[29]

In other media


Video games

Reception and legacy

Michael Keaton's portrayal as Batman was seen as hugely influential towards further adaptations of the character.[33] Keaton's portrayal inspired the portrayal by Kevin Conroy in Batman: The Animated Series. As the first version of the character to carry a grapple device with a motorized reel, as well a cape that can harden and transform into a hang-glider, these concepts would become highly influential for most contemporary appearances of the character.[34] Keaton's distant, monosyllabic persona in-costume has been paid tribute to throughout multiple adaptations of the character, including video game appearances and homages.

This adaptation of the character was also seen as the first to change their voice while in costume as Batman, something which future actors Kevin Conroy, Ben Affleck and Christian Bale would also add to their interpretations.[35] Michael Keaton's portrayal of the character appears on AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains at #46 on the heroes side, while Jack Nicholson's portrayal as the Joker ranked 45th on the villains side.[36][37]

Birdman comparisons

Main article: Birdman (film)

Due to his involvement in the film, Michael Keaton's role in the film Birdman directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu has been compared to Keaton's own experiences as Batman. Many people have come to the conclusion that the film is a reflection of Michael Keaton's life post-Batman, as the film itself focuses on a struggling, aging actor who is best known for having played a winged superhero earlier in his career.

When Iñárritu contacted Keaton about taking the role of Riggan, Keaton asked him if he was making fun of him for playing Batman.[38] Despite comparisons between Riggan and Keaton and many people believing that the role was taken by the actor to let out frustration at the role, Keaton has claimed that he loves talking about his time as Batman, and is extremely grateful for the role.[39][40][41]

Keaton was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Birdman, his first-ever nomination, and this was what helped him gain the villainous role of Adrian Toomes / Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Morbius (2022), which are respectively set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Sony's Spider-Man Universe (SSU).[42]

See also


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