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SYFY WIRE The Batman

10 times that Batman's movies scared the crap out of us

"You wanna get nuts? Come on! Let's get nuts."

By Brian Silliman & Phil Pirrello
Heath Ledger as the Joker

He is vengeance, he is the night, he is the comic book hero who features in movies that regularly scare the crap out of us. Batman is a character based in fear, so it is only appropriate that his movies cause us to lose it every now and then. 

The Batman will likely carry on this tradition when it flaps into theaters this weekend. Director and co-writer Matt Reeves’ new take on the caped crusader could be the scariest one yet, but before we glide through a new set of Gotham terrors, it’s time to look back at some of the freakiest moments from Batsy’s live-action movie past. These scenes or shots either rattled us or scared us into a night terror or three. In chronological order of release, here are all the times Batman's big-screen career freaked us out.

1. “You Wanna Get Nuts?!” from Batman (1989) 

We were unwell any time that Jack Nicholson’s Joker was in a room, but we were really on edge when he visited the apartment of Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger). On the plus side, there was "lots of space."

Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) happened to be there, but he was there as Bruce, not Batman. He had no suit, and he he had no toys. Bruce had to improvise his way out of this, and he did it using a little metal tray and by going berserk. 

We’re scared when Bruce starts smashing up the place with a fire poker, screaming the now famous “You wanna get nuts? Come on, let’s get nuts!” Why? Because he has a fire poker and he’s surrounded by the Joker and his goons. The Joker has a little gun out instantly. Thank god for that little metal tray. 

It’s the situation that puts us on edge, but it is Bruce’s meandering story leading to his sudden outburst that catches us off guard. He found himself in a room full of danger and he decided to violently lose his mind. Vicki grabbing a comforting bowl of popcorn in the middle of the scene doesn’t help. 

2. Joker's Living Work of Art in Batman (1989) 

8 Alicia Batman89

The Joker tells Vicki that he’s the world’s first fully functioning homicidal artist. He criticizes her portfolio (“crap, crap, crap”) before showing her a “sketch” of his own. The sketch is his former lover Alicia in a creepy doll mask. 

Alicia shows "the lady" why she wears the mask. It’s because the Joker has disfigured her face with acid. She’s left over from his old Jack Napier days working with Carl Grissom, so maybe he hurt her because of this? The more likely reason, the scarier reason, is that he just felt like disfiguring someone with acid. 

We knew that the face under that mask wasn’t gonna be anything wonderful, and we were right. It scared us, and it scared Vicki right out of her seat. It was no Picasso, and no we didn't like it. 

3. Max Shreck attacks Selina Kyle in Batman Returns (1992)

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Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) works late and finds out about some of the dirty dealings of her boss, Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). He catches her, scares her, and then makes her (and us) think it was a joke. Walken delivers his “Eh? Eh?” lines so well that we're not prepped for what happens next. 

He violently shoves Selina out the window, and he does it when Selina thinks the danger has passed. It’s sudden, crazed, even more so since it comes after a lull in the tension.To make things worse, the audience falls with Selina through store awnings and down to the snow-covered street. 

We knew that Shreck was bad news, but this violent act absolutely confirmed it. He wasn’t just a corporate villain, he was a murderer. His toying with Selina makes us think that this is not the first time he’s pushed someone out of a window. (Though if she tries to blackmail him, he vows to push her out of a higher one.)

4. Death of Penguin in Batman Returns (1992)

4 Penguindies

This is more of a disgusting moment than a scary one. Penguin (Danny DeVito) is on the verge of death, and while Batman deals with the fallout from the climactic Selina/Shreck confrontation, Penguin rises out of the water. An unforgettable streak of inky-black liquid oozes out of his mouth and nose and gives us day terrors. 

Batman doesn’t even realize he's there because he’s looking for Selina. Penguin manages to get to his umbrella collection, and he has the drop on Bats… except he pulls an umbrella that is entirely non-lethal. Had he chosen one that fired bullets, he could have shot Batman in the un-cowled head. DeVito's Penguin has been straddling the line between gross and cruel, menacing and irritating, throughout the entire film. But his grotesque death is equal parts, well, gross, and chilling (no pun intended). 

5. That “Swear to Me!” Scene in Batman Begins (2005)

5 Batman Sweartome Batman Begins 2005 Review

Christian Bale’s Dark Knight turned his own fear onto those who would hurt others, so Christopher Nolan’s first Bat-film often ends up being a horror movie for criminals. They don’t see what’s coming for them, and every flunky is the star of the show for at least a few shots. 

Batman interrogates a crooked cop in the rain. He has Flass (Mark Boone Junior) hanging upside down, and when Flass swears, Batman lets him have it. He doesn’t care who this cop’s god is, Batman is his god now. He screams, “SWEAR TO ME!” at Flass before letting him fall through the rain a few more times. 

We’d never seen Batman interrogate like this in a movie before, and we also thought we’d heard the limits of Bale’s raspy Bat-voice. That was not the case, because this scream comes out of bat-f*** nowhere. It terrified us as much as it terrified Flass. 

6. Scarecrow reveals his mask in Batman Begins (2005)

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So much of this movie focuses on the fear aspects that are central to Batman, and the use of Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) ratchets all of that up. He’s got a fear toxin that makes people hallucinate, and the movie often shows us what the victims themselves are seeing. It is, appropriately, horrifying. 

One of the first tastes we get is when Scarecrow deals with an overly confident Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) in Arkham. He puts a creepy burlap bag on his head, and then releases the toxin. Falcone wasn’t afraid of Cillian Murphy with a bag on his head, but he’s definitely scared of what he looks like with a little toxin in the room. 

The picture stutters, the sound mix goes erratic, and we just want this unsettling sequence to end. 

7. That Bat Demon in Batman Begins (2005)

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Scarecrow gets a taste of his own fear toxin toward the end of the movie, when Batman shoots some of the fear-spray directly into Crane’s face. If we thought Batman was scary before, that was nothing compared to what he looks like on some nightmare juice. In fact, he truly looks like a nightmare. A mouth fool of fangs and tar-like ooze, the all-black Bat Demon figure, with a flattened waxy head, growls at Crane for info. But, too traumatize to provide any, Crane literally checks out. We wish could unsee this. It’s one of the most frightening images in any Batman story, and we’re glad that it is brief. 

8. Joker’s Home Video in The Dark Knight (2008)

7 Joker Dark Knight Home Video

Joker's plan-free chaotic plot to plague the Batman and his city featured the baddie kidnapping some of the Bat-pretenders (the ones wearing hockey pads) that we see earlier in the movie. Joker ties one up and interrogates him, named Brian, with violent shaky cam made all the more sinister by Joker's taunts.

He laughs at the terrified Brian, who averts his eyes. And that's when Joker's deep, hateful bellow of "LOOK. AT. ME!" rattles our souls in the fetal position. From this moment on, Joker has the upper hand and we are legit fearful that Batman may not be enough to stop him.

9. Bruce Wayne's tomb jump scare in Batman v Superman (2016)

Just because it is revealed to be all imagined inside Bruce Wayne's head doesn't make it any less scary. Zack Snyder's polarizing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice doubles-down on the dour Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and his tortured soul, as the latter manifests (along with his grief and fears) in the form of a black Man-Bat-looking creature that punches through the tomb that is home to Bruce's parents. It is an entirely unexpected, but surprisingly earned, beat in this uneven movie. One of the best jump scares outside of a horror flick. 

10. Riddler's Entrance In The Batman (2022)

The Batman PRESS

From the jump, Matt Reeves orients us into the world of Batman unlike any previous film did before, with an unnerving POV shot through the watchful  lens of our villain, Riddler (Paul Dano). From a high perch outside a fancy, old-money dwelling in the city, the soon-to-be-serial-killer spies on his future target, the current (and corrupt) Mayor of Gotham. 

This De Palma-esque shot gives way to a tension-fueled set up for Riddler's first on-screen appearance in the story, as he just appears seemingly out of thin air behind his unsuspecting victim. Hiding in the shadows of the Mayor's office like his future cowled nemesis would. The way Riddler quietly sneaks up on both the Mayor and the audience is truly gasp-worthy. For a movie that apes a lot (we mean, A LOT) from the movie Se7en, this one shot does Fincher's classic proud. 

The Batman is now in theaters.