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75 thoughts I had while watching Batman Returns, The World's Greatest Holiday Movie

Contributed by
Dec 30, 2017

Every December, the debate over the best holiday movie is renewed. Is it A Christmas Story? Some stop-motion Rankin/Bass gem? Die Hard? They're all good, festive fun, to be sure. But after 25 years, it's time the world recognized the greatest holiday movie ever made is undoubtedly Batman Returns.

More gothic, brazen, and bonkers than its predecessor, this Tim Burton-helmed sequel gives audiences the gift of Danny DeVito's politically savvy Penguin, Christopher Walken's evil industrialist Max Shreck, and the sexiest romance ever to grace a superhero movie. Michael Keaton's Batman strong yet stirred by Michelle Pfeiffer's fearless and seductive Catwoman is hotter than a roaring fire, more satisfying than a mug of cocoa, and kept our cheeks as flushed and rosy as Santa's. And all this action, mayhem, and romance was wrapped in a big seasonal bow, as Batman Returns plays out as Gotham City celebrates Christmas.

As our gift to you, we welcome you to revisit this holiday classic. Let's Deja View:

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  1. Forget Christmas carols or sweet scenes of family harmony. Batman Returns begins with a Pee-Wee Herman cameo and two rich jerks pitching their cat-eating baby into a river to drown. 
  2. Monstrous infant -- so screamy and wild -- does not die, but rather slides down the dark sewers of Gotham City to a colony of penguins. It's a holiday miracle!
  3. I wonder if there are Batman Returns tree ornaments. Imma google as Danny Elfman's divine score sings over baby Penguin's journey ...
  4. There's a Batman Forever Batmobile ornament and a Batman Begins ornament, but "Batman Returns tree ornament" turns up nothing. 
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  5. 33 years later, Gotham City is a neon demon of light and shadow. Sigh. I wish real-life New York looked like this.
  6. In the sewers, the Penguin lurks and schemes. In a skyscraper penthouse, sneering industrial Max humiliates his bullied secretary Selina Kyle. In between, the citizens of Gotham blithely buy gifts and gawk at the tree, unaware of the carnage plotted above and below.
  7. Props to Andrew Bryniarski, who perfectly mimics Walken's idiosyncratic elocution while playing his onscreen son Chip Shreck. Here's hoping he got to keep that rad portrait as a memento. 
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  8. Attending the public tree-lighting ceremony, Max pitches presents into the crowd, then offers a half-hearted speech. Never trust a man who says, "I wish I could hand out world peace." And never trust a man in a bow tie.
  9. Penguin introduces his malevolent menagerie of chaos-craving clowns in a giant gift-wrapped box. Now, that's giving back!
  10. You can try to convince me this isn't the greatest moment in cinema. You won't succeed. But you can try.
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  11. Selina and Batman's meet-cute comes when he rescues her from a snarling clown carrying a Taser. Romance! 
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  12. Oh come, all ye thirsty! Swooning and geeking out! 
  13. "Well, that was brief, just like all the men in my life. Ugh. What men?" Selina's immediate self-flagellation for her lack of chill is so disconcertingly relatable I am now writing this from inside a pillow fort.
  14. Googling Update: There are Catwoman ornaments. But none of the Batman Returns variant. This is very disrespectful.
  15. I wish the Penguin scene where he shows off his umbrellas showed off EVERY SINGLE ONE. I respect a man who values a great accessory and is ever-ready for rain.
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  16. "You flush it, I flaunt it." I'm pretty sure I've seen the Penguin's vintage shop. It was gross. But SUCH bargains on acid-washed, sewage-covered denim!
  17. "How can anyone be so pathetic?" I know we're supposed to think Selina's home life is lame. But I spent 25 years envying her pretty pink apartment.
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  18. Selina's crappy boyfriend bails on a weekend away and dumps her over the phone. I'd like to think that somewhere there's a deleted scene where Catwoman surprises him, leaving him regretful, and with a socked jaw.
  19. All I want for Christmas? To punch out his teeth! 
  20. I just realized Selina's face is lit in such a way that her glasses cast a shadow that foreshadows her mask! It's a foreshadowing shadow! 
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  21. This movie gets better EVERY TIME I WATCH IT.
  22. Be honest. How many of you allowed yourself to be aggressively cuddled by cats in hopes of becoming Catwoman? I have. All I got was allergies.  
  23. Selina's destruction of her apartment and transformation to Catwoman is unwaveringly exhilarating. She uses CRAFTING to be reborn. I relate to this deeply (she said, cradling her cross stitch). 
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  24. Icon.
  25. "Must you be the only lonely man-beast in town?" Alfred, throwing shade darker than the knight.
  26. Can we take a moment to appreciate Michael Keaton's lower lip?
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  27. Mmmmm. Yes. 
  28. "I was their number one son, but they treated me like number two." If your poop joke is not better than the Penguin's don't bother.
  29. "I am Catwoman. Hear me roar." The look of panic on Max's face when resurrected Selina strolls into his office always makes me cackle with glee.
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  30. "I mistook me for somebody else." In Bruce and Selina's meet-cute, it's him who gets adorably tongue-tied!
  31. Selina's ramble is no longer self-conscious, but confident, knowing these men are entranced by her, and hang on every word. That she ends by noting of her child bully, "He's dead now"?
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  32. Also, that's a warning, Max. "Couldn't you just die!?" THAT too.
  33. It's so nice to see Bruce Wayne smile! Sometimes I want to pause this movie and imagine Bruce and Selina ending up together.
  34. Make my wish come truuuuuuuue! Baby, all I want for Christmas, is for them to ... work it out!
  35. "Who'd have thought Selina had a brain to damage. Bottom line: She tries to blackmail me, I'll drop her out a higher window." Oh, poor greedy stupid basic bish, Max. She doesn't want your money. She wants you screaming. 
  36. Oh, Penguin. How preposterous that this gross man with disgusting eating habits, tiny hands, awful hair, repugnant behavior, and no prior political experience could be considered a viable candidate! Oh, wait. Oh GOD. 
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  37. Batman's out battling evil clowns. Catwoman's out smashing the patriarchy.
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  38. Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear skin-tight leather catsuits.
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  39. Batman and Catwoman's meet-cute involves literal fireworks! (Well, an exploded department store, if you want to get technical.)
  40. "How could you!? I'm a WOMAN!" I love how Catwoman uses sexist misconceptions about the weaker sex to get the upper hand. Fight like your 9 lives depend on it!
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  41. Big mood. 
  42. "I could get into this mayor stuff. It's about reaching out to people! Touching people! GROPING PEOPLE!" Hey, so this is very relevant and depressing!
  43. Pfeiffer really did put a bird in her mouth for this scene.
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  44. "He knocked me off a building just when I was beginning to feel good about myself." Girl, we've all been there.
  45. "You got kind of a dark side, don't ya?" "No darker than yours, Bruce." Truer words. Also, I have never dedicated so much of my heart and soul to shipping a fictional couple.
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  46. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire! Batman's kissing on his foes!
  47. "You might think of me as a Norman Bates/Ted Bundy type and you might not let me kiss you." "It's the so-called normal guys who always let you down. Sickos never scare me. At least they're committed." It me:
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  48. Let's take a moment to appreciate that both Selina and Bruce took time out of their busy schedules of capturing/rescuing Ice Princesses to make time for romance. Work/life balance is a struggle!
  49. Okay. So, Batman has a REALLY bad day. He fails to save the Ice Princess, is framed for her murder and sabotaging the tree-lighting ceremony with a swarm of bats, then he's shot and knocked off a building. All bad news. Totally. But then this happened.
  50. Oh ho! The Mistletoe, hung where Bruce can see. Catwoman straddles you! Kiss her once for me!
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  51. Yowza.
  52. Selina was killed by her boss for being "too good" at her job. Catwoman is killed by the Penguin for rejecting his sexual advances. When she screams, she shatters the glass ceiling.
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  53. F*ck, I love this movie.
  54. Yes, the penguin is an evil egomaniac. But you got to admire his dedication to pageantry. Not only does he hijack Batman's ride. To control it he has a mini-Batmobile made, the kind you'd put out in front of the cool mall.
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  55. Jingle Bells! Batman smells! Penguin hacked his ride! The Batmobile screeched its wheels, but the Batman still survived! 
  56. This monstrous man, who feels he's entitled to women's bodies and owed wealth and power, sees his political prospects dashed when a disturbing audio tape revealing his atrocious true colors is played for the public. What a delightful fantasy world this is!
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  57. Gotham has a lot of problems, but at LEAST they had the good sense to drive this revolting rich man back to the sewers where he belongs.
  58. The mistletoe reprise. Goddamn.
  59. Everything about this scene slays me. Selina's dress. Bruce's desire to connect. Her cracking sanity, his flashing fear. Then that moment of realization, who they really are to each other. And her single tear that he wipes away before pulling her close.
  60. Seriously, that this movie isn't religiously brought up when we talk about epic movie romances is an absolute sin.
  61. You got to hand it to the guy, Penguin knows how to make an entrance.
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  62. Imagine for a moment the babysitters of Gotham City, who were paid in pizza and a few bucks to watch rich ragamuffins as their parents went out to wear masks and "dance badly." Then had to face psychotic circus performers barging in and snatching the kiddos. Imagine a deleted scene where Batman is trying to calm a fleet of hyperventilating 14-year-olds with popcorn and a bonus fiver for their troubles.
  63. Once the whole "kill the children" plan fails, Penguin spins in an instant to Plan C, which involves strapping missiles to the backs of hundreds of penguins. Which means he had hundreds of missiles and penguin straps at the ready. Which means Penguin had this contingency plan in his pocket all along. It's like he didn't even really care about being mayor. It's like he just wanted the attention, not the responsibility. Can you imagine a man as monstrous as that?
  64. Penguin is Trump is what I'm saying.
  65. Shout out to Penguin's announcer, who even when alerting him to the utter disintegration of his last plan, speaks as if she's telling him she's going to take a nap.
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  66. The Penguin's exits could use work.
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  67. You will get a sentimental feeling when you see Penguin die. But don't be worried! Other penguins will see he's buried. 
  68. Finally. Catwoman is faced with a decision: vengeance or Bruce. "Bruce, I would love to live with you in your castle, forever, just like in a fairy tale. I just couldn't live with myself. So don't pretend this is a happy ending."
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  69. He'll have a blue Christmas without her. He'll be so blue, thinking about her. Bruises of blue, and a sexy crooked grin, won't go carressed when she's not there with him.
  70. That Max fires Selina after seeing she's Catwoman is perfection. Of course, he still thinks he's in control. Time for it: a kiss to dismember.
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  71. Saw Catwoman kissing Santy Claus. Over top a Taser's sparking lights! 
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  72. Boy, bye.
  73. "Merry Christmas, Alfred. Goodwill toward men … and women." Told you. The BEST holiday movie. Full of excitement, snow, spectacle, and sexual tension, plus an inclusive holiday message. I mean, The Muppets Christmas Carol is great, but can it compete with all this?
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  74. You know in the original shooting script, we weren't to see Catwoman again. It was to be left unclear if she'd survived this electrifying hookup. This final, beautiful shot isn't even Pfeiffer, but a body double brought in last minute and at great expense. Right here. We were teased a sequel or a spinoff, that cruelly would never come.
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  75. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Live your fantasy! It's a crime Catwoman didn't get her own movie! (Yes, I know 'bout that awful one, but that isn't what I mean. We deserved to see the return of Michelle Pfeiffer as this queeeeeen!) Now you know why Batman Returns is supreme!