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Batman Returns is a 1992 motion picture based on the Batman character published by DC Comics. It is the second installment of the Motion Picture Anthology, and the last in the series to be directed by Tim Burton and to star Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman. The departure of Burton and Keaton paved the way for the Joel Schumacher films which started in 1995 with Batman Forever. It was also the first film to feature Dolby Digital technology when it debuted in the summer of 1992.



The film's title.

Cobblepot Heir

"I was their number one son, but they treated me like number two!"
―The Penguin[src]

The story begins 33 years ago at Christmas time in a mansion in Gotham City. The wealthy Cobblepots have just given birth to a child - but it is shown that there is something horribly wrong with the child. They soon decide to abandon the child by dropping it into the sewers after an incident where their newborn attacked their pet cat and dragged it into his cage. As the baby's basket rushes through the sewers, the credits roll, and eventually the child comes to rest at the feet of a group of Emperor Penguins from the zoo.

Lighting of the Tree Ceremony

Thirty-three years later, it is Christmas time again in Gotham, as the ambitious but ruthless business tycoon Max Shreck gives a speech at a treelighting ceremony. However, the speech is soon disrupted by a criminal group of clowns known as the "Red Triangle Gang". Although Batman is summoned and is able to restore order, Shreck is kidnapped amidst the chaos and is brought to their leader, a short, deformed man known as the "Penguin". The Penguin informs Shreck of the reason he has taken him: he wishes to gain acceptance Gotham's high society, and needs Shreck's influence to help him achieve this. Shreck is skeptical, but the Penguin blackmails him with incriminating evidence of his more dubious business practices.

Time to Reemerge

Shreck arranges for the Penguin to "rescue" the Mayor's infant child from his own gang members. The plan works, and Penguin becomes a hero to all except Bruce Wayne, who remains skeptical. The Penguin asks to be allowed to find his parents, and is given private access to the Gotham's Hall of Records, where he spends all his time jotting down an apparently unrelated list of names. After this he reveals his birth name of Oswald Cobblepot, and that parents were a wealthy aristocratic couple, who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier.[2] Putting on a melodramatic show for the press in a cemetery, he publicly forgives his parents. Penguin continues winning more hearts and minds, becoming a media sensation. Shreck decides to use Oswald's fame to his own advantage, persuading him to run for mayor to remove the final obstacle to building a new power plant. Cobblepot at first isn’t interested and would rather pursue his own plans for Gotham, but is immediately bought into the idea when Shreck mentions he will gain back status from Gotham's high society that his parents denied him.

The Bat, the Cat and the Penguin

During this time, Shreck attempted to murder his timid secretary, Selina Kyle, when she discovered his "power plant" was in fact a giant capacitor, created to suck power from the city and give the Shreck family a complete monopoly over Gotham's power. She survived her subsequent defenestration at Shreck's hands after she fell through a series of canvas awnings, softening a fall that surely would have been fatal otherwise. After suffering a mild concussion, she is circled and probed by a large number of cats in the alleyway, among them her pet Miss Kitty. Selina arrives home in a despondent state, she quickly becomes triggered by a telemarketer ad for perfume, manufactured by one of Shreck's subsidiaries. Becoming violently angry Selina completely destroys her apartment. During this, she makes a homemade black vinyl catsuit and becomes a costumed vigilante under the name "Catwoman". Penguin's gang causes chaos in the streets to create dissatisfaction with the current Mayor. While Batman begins to systematically neutralize the Red Triangle Circus looters, Catwoman uses the opportunity as cover to blow up Shreck's department store. She subsequently fights Batman, who knocks her off a rooftop after she stabs him in weak point, after he saved her life moments earlier. Once again displaying incredible luck, she lands in the back of a passing truck before she hits the pavement. Selina begins to convince herself that she has "nine lives" after experiencing these brushes with death.

A Plan is Forming

While Selina Kyle is pursued in a romantic relationship with Bruce Wayne, as Catwoman she allies herself with the Penguin to get back at Batman. Catwoman proposes framing Batman and turning him into a criminal, rather than simply murdering him by turning the Batmobile into a bomb. During their meeting, the pair playfully threaten each other's pets before Penguin finally gets inspired.

Relighting of the Tree Ceremony

Batman: “Mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it.
Catwoman: “But a kiss can be even deadlier if you mean it.
―Batman and Catwoman[src]

When the subsequent plan is put into action, Batman is framed for kidnapping and murder and finds himself trapped in the Batmobile under Penguin's control. He barely survives, but Cobblepot has become more popular than ever. Although their plan was a success, Catwoman and Penguin's alliance falls apart when she rebuffs a sexual advance from him, and Penguin opts to kill Catwoman himself.

Cobblepot Rally

However, his campaign to recall the current mayor is quickly destroyed when Bruce Wayne plays selected comments he stated while controlling the Batmobile. He was recorded insulting the people of Gotham, and this audio is played over the sound system at a rally. Penguin flees into the sewers, renounces his humanity, and reveals his secret plan: kidnap and kill the firstborn sons of Gotham's most prominent by drowning them into the toxic waste from Shreck's textile plant, as revenge against what was done to him.

Face to Face

"You didn't invite me, so I crashed!"

While the the scheme is being launched, Selina Kyle attends a Maxquerade Ball hosted by Shreck, where she is intending to kill him. Bruce Wayne spots her and the two subsequently discover the other's secret identity, but before they can leave to discuss this development, Penguin storms the hall and tries to take Max's son Chip Shreck. Max persuades Penguin to take him instead, and Bruce and Selina depart. Bruce, as Batman, attacks Penguin's Red Triangle Circus goons, and puts a stop to the kidnappings. However, Penguin has a backup plan: an army of rocket-armed penguins dispatched to bomb Gotham Plaza. But Batman manages to jam their control signals and turn the birds around so that they attack the base instead. Batman confronts the Penguin before he can escape, swarming him with a flock of bats which causes him to fall through a skylight into toxic waste.

Batman glides through the broken skylight and discovers Catwoman has come to kill Shreck, which he unsuccessfully attempts to talk her out of as he is trying to bring Shreck to face the police. During this, Shreck draws a gun he took in the confusion and attempts to kill them both. Batman is shot once while Catwoman is hit four times, miraculously only getting hit in the limbs. While Shreck looks at his revolver in disbelief, she decides on a murder-suicide by putting her stun gun under Shreck's chin while poetically giving him a "kiss of death" - simultaneously pulling a cable to a massive generator, causing an overload explosion. When the smoke clears, Batman searches the rubble for Selina, but all he finds is Shreck's blackened corpse. Penguin, barely alive, emerges from the toxic water and grabs for his gun umbrella to kill Batman, but picks up his "cute" one by mistake. He finally falls dead on the floor and is slid gently into the water by the penguins as a final tribute.


Catwoman looking upon the signal during the end of the movie.

Alfred: “Well, come what may... Merry Christmas, Mr. Wayne.
Bruce: “Merry Christmas, Alfred. Good will toward men... and women.
―Alfred and Bruce[src]

Driving through Gotham, Bruce sees Catwoman’s shadow. Investigating, he only finds Selina's pet cat, which he decides to take home in memory of her. As the bat-signal lights up in the sky, the figure of Catwoman appears looking at the signal from a rooftop.












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After the success of Batman, Warner Bros. was hoping for a sequel to start filming in May 1990 at Pinewood Studios. They spent $250,000 storing the sets from the first film. Tim Burton had mixed emotions from the previous film. "I will return if the sequel offers something new and exciting", he said in 1989. "Otherwise it's a most-dumbfounded idea". Burton decided to direct Edward Scissorhands for 20th Century Fox. Warner Bros. then granted Burton more creative control, demoting producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber to executive producers. Part of Burton's contract specifically stipulated that Peters could not set foot on set and interfere during filming like the previous film. Meanwhile, Sam Hamm from the previous film delivered the first two drafts of the script, which had Penguin and Catwoman going after hidden treasure in the bat cave. Vicki Vale and Dick Grayson were featured heavily in this story. During this time the studio was pushing for Robin's inclusion once again. WB began to pressure their subsidiary DC Comics to redesign the character, according to Neal Adams.[4] This resulted in the creation of a new costume for Tim Drake, whom had been named after Tim Burton.[5] In a radical departure, Robin was given green slacks instead of bare legs, the outside of the cape was turned black and "ninja shoes" replaced the green pixie boots.


The first draft of my script would have cost $300 million and take two years of our lives to shoot. Originally, Penguin's headquarters was in an old World's Fair and he would turn everything on and ferris wheels would start rolling after Batman. In the film, Batman is framed and he is trapped in his Batmobile while the Penguin controls the car like a video game. I originally had a lot of wild stuff, like riding up the sides of buildings. We definitely had to scale that back.

Dissatisfied with the Hamm script, Burton selected Daniel Waters to write a completely new story and characterizations. Burton was impressed with Waters' work on Heathers; whom originally brought aboard on a sequel to Beetlejuice.

Waters wrote a total of five drafts. Waters came up with a social satire that had an evil mogul backing a bid for the Mayor's office by the Penguin, who would frame Batman for murder. Waters explained, "I wanted to show that the true villains of our world don't necessarily wear costumes". The plot device of Cobblepot framing Batman for a crime is based on his first appearance in Detective Comics #58, One of the Most Perfect Frame-Ups. Penguin running for Mayor is a reference to Hizzonner the Penguin and Dizzoner the Penguin episodes of the live-action show. Waters wrote a total of five drafts. On the characterization of Catwoman, Waters explained "Sam Hamm went back to the way comic books in general treat women, like fetishy sexual fantasy. I wanted to start off just at the lowest point in society, a very beaten down secretary". Harvey Dent appeared in early drafts of the script, but was deleted. Waters quoted, "Sam Hamm definitely planned that. I flirted with it, having Harvey start to come back and have one scene of him where he flips a coin and it's the good side of the coin, deciding not to do anything, so you had to wait for the next movie". In early scripts Max Shreck was the "golden boy" of the Cobblepot family, whereas Penguin was the deformed outsider. It turned out that Shreck would be the Penguin's long-lost brother. Ultimately this take was too convoluted and the action set-pieces needed to be scaled back to remain within budget limitations. A new writer was need to re-work the script and "normalize" Waters' dialogue.

Burton hired Wesley Strick to rework the script and continued as the film's on-set writer during filming. Strick recalled,"When I was hired to write Batman Returns (Batman II at the time), the big problem of the script was Penguin's lack of a 'master plan'." Warner Bros. presented Strick with warming or freezing Gotham City (later to be used in Batman & Robin). Strick gained inspiration from a Moses parallel that had Penguin killing the firstborn sons of Gotham. A similar notion was used when the Penguin's parents threw him into a river as a baby. A version Robin appeared in the script at the studios behest, but was deleted due to too many characters. "One thing Tim and I have in common on is that we don't like the guy and don't know why he was invented. He certainly doesn't fit with this new version of Batman."[6] Waters went on to say Robin is "the most worthless character in the world, especially with [Batman as] the loner of loners". Robin started out as a juvenile gang leader, who becomes an ally to Batman. Robin was later changed to a teenage garage mechanic, referred to as "the kid." Waters explained, "He's wearing this old-fashioned garage mechanic uniform and it has an 'R' on it. He drives the Batmobile, which I notice they used in the third film!".


Michael Keaton returned after a significant increase in his salary at $10 million, after some negotiation. Danny DeVito's casting was preordained by the studio, as was Jack Nicholson in the first movie. Waters wrote the initial dialogue for the character with him in mind. Annette Bening was cast as Catwoman after Burton saw her performance in The Grifters, but dropped out due to pregnancy. Sean Young, who was originally cast as Vicki Vale in the first film, believed the role should have gone to her. Young visited the WB offices dressed in a homemade Catwoman costume, demanding an audition. Burton was unfamiliar with Michelle Pfeiffer's work, but was convinced to cast her after one meeting. Pfeiffer received a $3 million salary ($2 million more than Bening) and a percentage of the box office. Pfeiffer took kickboxing and whip lessons for the role. David Bowie was offered the role of Max Shreck, but turned it down to appear in the Twin Peaks movie. According to casting director Marion Dougherty, Burton was reportedly uncomfortable with casting Christopher Walken as Shreck, on the basis that the actor scared him. Cristi Conaway and Andrew Bryniarski were announced to appear in the film on Entertainment Tonight. A then unknown Marlon Wayans was cast as "the kid", and signed for a sequel. Dave Lea retuned as Keaton's fight double, while kickboxing champion Kathy Long served as Pfeiffer's fight double and trainer.




Initial teaser poster

The initial theatrical teaser poster was controversial, only showing the top "ears" of the Bat-insignia. After complaints from theater owners a poster more similar to the previous film was released soon after, with snow blowing over it. Tim Burton selected little known photographer Jack Pedota for the movies one-sheets after seeing a sample of his work gifted to him with a delivery of food.[7] Pedota employed a color infra-red film technique, to produce vibrant and unusual colors, a kind of self-described "avantography." The posters were wildly popular, to the point where they being stolen from the cases they were displayed in on the streets. Burton remarked "We just thought, why doesn't he shoot our poster? It's so nice when this happens. There are so many Catch-22's in Hollywood. You can't do this, you can't do that. It's really nice when something is simple and clear and cuts through. It makes it kind of worthwhile."[8] John Alvin returned to create the final poster art.

Music Video


Face To Face (Batman Returns Version)

The soundtrack also includes single music tie-in, "Face to Face", written by Siouxsie and the Banshees and Danny Elfman, used to promote the movie prior to its release. Two versions of the music video were made (the other added shots from the movie), and a club version, remixed by 808 State, was released. The video bares a strong resemblance to Pedota's Avantography. Burton was originally going to direct the video himself but got caught in reshoots for the movies alternate ending.


Box Office Performance

Although the opening weekend broke all previous records, as well as the overall domestic intake being profitable, Returns still earned significantly less than its predecessor. It did not fully meet Warner Brothers' financial expectations.

Critical Analysis

Although reviews were mixed, the film was a box office success and was the third highest grossing 1992 movie in North America. Many lauded the film's dark atmosphere and intense characters; the film has a freshness rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is considered "fresh". However, some others found the film to be overly dark and sadistic and criticized it as inappropriate for children; McDonald's marketing tie-ins, including special cups and Happy Meal toys, were protested by parents' groups because they thought that Danny DeVito's Penguin portrayal would give children nightmares. However, the filmmakers intended that the film was not suitable for children, which is a probable reason why Batman Returns, like most Batman films, was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America.

In addition to criticisms of the film's tone and demeanor, some found Burton's interpretation of the central characters problematic, arguing that the Penguin's physical deformity and homicidal tendencies, Catwoman's degenerative mental state, and Batman's brooding melancholy, as well as his tendency to kill criminals, simply added to the somber and unsettling nature of the film.

The initially negative reaction to Batman Returns, however, prompted Terry Semel and Bob Daly to re-think their approach to the franchise, and the series was handed to director Joel Schumacher, who adopted a much more lighthearted and family friendly approach to the characters.

Awards and Nominations

  • Batman Returns was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best makeup, and Best Visual Effects.

Deleted Scenes


Shreck by the window during daylight hours.

Most trimmings on Returns consist of alternate or extended takes with different dialogue. The entire sequence of events in the first half of the movie was re-arranged for the theatrical cut.

  • The Red Triangle Gang's attack on Lighting of the Tree Ceremony was trimmed. Among other things, Burton was forced to remove a sweeping master shot of a gang member setting citizens on fire to get a PG-13 rating.[9]
  • After Selina shocks the clown with his stungun, she exclaims "Electroshock therapy, what a bargain!"
  • Extended scene after Shreck pushes Selina from the window featuring Andrew Bryniarski as Chip
  • Organ Grinder destroys a ATM with a bomb, additional storefront destruction
  • Additional scene with Travis McKenna as the Fat Clown on the phone with Penguin, informing him on the riot progress.
  • When Bruce arrives at Shreck's office, the broken window he pushed Selina out of is discussed. Shreck suggests the circus gang threw a brick through the window after hours, but Bruce points out there is no broken glass on the floor.

Alternate Ending

Originally Catwoman's fate was left more ambiguous, leaning more toward that she had perished in the explosion. Some drafts flat out had her die with Shreck. A dialogue between the Mayor and Commissioner Gordon about misjudging Batman was shown before panning up to the Batsiginal and the city lights blinking on and off from Shreck's death at the generator. At the last second the studio wanted the final shot to confirm to the audience that Catwoman had survived.

Home Video

Batman Returns was released on VHS and Laserdisc in October 1992.

The film was first released to DVD five years later in 1997, shortly after the format debuted; it was a bare-bones, single disc release featuring the ability to watch the film either in widescreen or in fullscreen but not featuring any bonus materials.


Batman Returns (Special Edition) DVD cover

To coincide with the release of Batman Begins on DVD in 2005, Warner Brothers decided to give all four of the original Batman films new DVD treatments and bonus content for all four previous WB films were created. The special edition DVDs feature newly restored audio and video, a re-mastered Dolby Digital audio track, a new DTS audio track and a second disc filled with bonus materials. A new scan of the film was made for this release but Bob Putynkowski's original color timing was not used or refrenced for reasons unknown. Each title was available both individually and as part of a pack featuring the special editions of all four films in the franchise. A documentary segment Darkside of the Knight was the flagship appeal of the second disc. The Region 2 DVD is missing the director's audio commentary although it is listed on the box as a special feature, and is also censored. Although it restores the nunchaku sequence which was cut from the original Region 2 release, the scene in which Catwoman places aerosol cans in the microwave remains cut. The DVD also suffers from a very noticeable audio glitch. Although, in the Swedish and Bulgarian Region 2 DVD, the directors commentary is included, as is the scene with the aerosol cans. The audio glitch is also missing.

In 2019 a brand new 4k scan of the film was made, but once again Putynkowski, Stefan Czapsky and Tim Burton were not consulted on this restoration. As a result thee is a teal color put over all of the exterior street scenes for their new color timing. Warner Brothers has also chosen not to produce or update any new bonus material for any releases past 2005. There is currently no modern home video release that actually resembles the original color timing made for the theatrical print by Bob Putynkowski.

#ReleaseTheBurtonCut Movement

A hastag has begun to appear on social media now that fans have learned of the censored moments of violence that are tame by today's standards as well as several deleted scenes. An alternate workprint that follows the sequence of events in the script exists. Burton is still active in the industry and able to oversee a restoration. But currently, Warner Brothers Home Video have not made any offers to Burton to revisit his Batman movies.



  • Batman Returns received a lot of controversy for being too dark and received a PG-13 rating for "brooding, dark violence" by the MPAA. Like the first film the BBFC gave the film an original 12 rating but later re-rated it to a 15 rating.
  • Max Shreck is a new character created for this movie, though the character bears more than a passing resemblance to Sterling Silversmith from the comics. Shreck's is a statical take on Macy's at Rockefeller Center in New York during the Christmas season. This was previously done in Batman #456 written by Alan Grant in 1990, in which Gracey's shoppers are menaced by Scarecrow's Skull Head gang, one of which is dressed in a Santa Claus costume and attacking civilians with Nunchaku.
  • Robin was again dropped from inclusion in the sequel. The character was featured heavily in Sam Hamm's script. His role gradually became smaller in the Waters drafts, till finally being removed completely by the time Strick took over. However, despite Robin's exclusion from the movie, an action figure of Robin was still released by Kenner, fearing the Neal Adams costume redesign. This costume was also used in Batman: The Animated Series released in the fall of the same year.
  • Bruce Timm was invited to the set to sketch Danny DeVito and draw inspiration. According with the producers of the series, Shreck was planned to appear in the show at the studios behest, but at the last minute it was decided to reimagine the character as Roland Daggett.
  • Burgess Meredith, who played the Penguin in the Batman 1960s series was considered for the role of Tucker Cobblepot. However, due to poor health, Meredith was forced to reject the offer, and Paul Reubens was hired for the role. Meredith later died from melanoma and Alzheimer's disease in 1997. Reubens returned to play the Penguin's father years later in the TV series Gotham.
  • The footage seen on the smaller screens of the first Batman Adventure: The Ride in the theme park Warner Bros. Movie World was shot immediately after the filming of Batman Returns. As soon as principle photography finished a new film crew came in to film scenes from what they told extras was "going to be a ride in Australia".


"Things change."

"Touring the riot scene. Gravely assessing the devastation. Upstanding mayor stuff. "
―The Penguin[src]

"Life's a bitch, now so am I."

"Imagine a Gotham City of the future lit up like a blanket of stars... but blinking on and off, embarrassingly low on juice. Frankly I cringe, Mr. Mayor."
―Max Shreck[src]

"Mayors come and go. Blue bloods tire easy. You think you can go fifteen rounds with Muhammed Shreck? "
―Max Shreck[src]


  1. Batman Returns: The Official Movie Book, page 80
  2. Batman Returns (Novelization) chapter 12, page 67.
  3. Batman Returns: The Official Movie Book, page 80
  4. Neal Adams: Renaissance Man Part IV, by Rik Offenberger, via WayBack Machine -
  5. DC Comics Year By Year: A Visual Chronicle DK Books isbn:978-0-7566-6742-9, page 241
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tom Ardnt (1992-08-19). "The Bat is Back!", Fantazone. Retrieved on 2007-03-122007-03-12. 
  7. Say Cheese! -People magazine July 1992
  8. The Talk of Hollywood; An Ending That's Not Happily Ever After - New York Times
  9. Entertainment Weekly - Batlash: Unhappy 'Returns'


Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology (1989-1997)
Films:   Batman  • Batman Returns  • Batman Forever  • Batman & Robin