Gordon was promoted to Commissioner at some point before the Joker's reign of terror. He was well aware of the criminal element in Gotham City, including corrupt officers like Max Eckhardt. When Batman began operating, he initially regarded the vigilante as just a rumor. Gordon also worked closely with Mayor Borg and District Attorney Harvey Dent, and seemed to be a friend of Bruce Wayne.
Meeting the Batman
Whilst at the fundraiser for Gotham's 200th anniversary celebration, Gordon was seen playing Craps. During it, he was badgered by reporter Alexander Knox on what seemed to be the ninth occasion for a comment on Batman's existence. During the game, Gordon was informed by an officer that Carl Grissom's right-hand man, Jack Napier, had been sent to the Axis Chemicals plant. Learning Eckhardt was leading the capture, Gordon discreetly left the fundraiser to deal with the situation.
Arriving as officers began fighting with Napier's men, Gordon quickly took control of the operation from Eckhardt and ordered his men to capture Napier alive. During the fight, he first caught glimpse of Batman when the vigilante subdued one of the hoods. After sending his guards to search for Napier, Gordon investigated the main mixing vats and unknowingly rescued from a potential assassination attempt. However, Napier's friend, Robert Hawkins, caught Gordon by surprise and threatened to shoot him if Batman gave up. Gordon witnessed the subsequent altercation between Batman and Napier. When the latter fell into the chemical vats below, Gordon ordered his men to arrest Batman and, after the vigilante's escape, decided to remain quiet until they knew what his motive were.
Joker's Reign of Terror
Gordon was among the police officers to respond to Vinnie Ricorso's murder, initially believing that Batman may have been responsible. He, along with Borg and Dent, struggled to deal with the Joker's tampering with beauty products and the chaos it brought to the city. After Batman was able to stop the criminal from releasing Smylex gas at the 200th Anniversary Parade, Gordon led the GCPD to arrest them at the Old Gotham Cathedral. However, they were unable to enter the tower, due to Joker blocking the entry by detaching one of the bells. Gordon had his officers activate their searchlights to improve visibility of the confrontation. He later investigated Joker's body after he fell from the tower, where he discovered a small laughing bag he'd activated during the fall.
After Joker's death, Gordon had his officers arrest the Clown Price of Crime's goons, finally putting an end to both his and Grissom's empire. He later appeared with Borg and Dent to inform Gotham's citizens of the developments, including a letter from Batman. During it, Gordon unveiled the Batsignal, which the city could use to summon him when needed.
The Red Triangle Gang's Attacks
In a following Christmas, Gordon attended the Lighting of the Tree Ceremony. When the Red Triangle Gang attacked the event, he ordered his officers to light the Batsignal, calling Batman to help the situation. After Batman defeated the group and helped bring order to the event, Gordon and Mayor Roscoe Jenkins met with and thanked him. However, they worried that Max Shreck had disappeared during the attacks, having been abducted by the Penguin.
When the Ice Princess was kidnapped by Penguin and the Red Triangle Gang, Gordon was called the scene and investigated personally. He appeared briefly on the News Report and confronted on Batman's possible involvement. Having found a Batarang on the scene, Gordon refused to comment and treated the device as "circumstantial evidence". Gordon also led the chase on Batman after he apparently pushed the Ice Princess to her death. During the chase, he ordered his officers not to shoot at the Dark Knight or his car.
Several accounts are offered for what happened to Gordon following Batman's battle with the Penguin.
- According to several accounts, Gordon became much more reliant on Batman to fight crimes and deal with more violent situations. These included encounters with Two-Face, Riddler, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. During an encounter with the latter, he was seduced by her into giving her access to Gotham City Police Headquarters and narrowly avoided receiving her poisonous kiss.
Behind the Scenes
In Batman and its three sequels, Gordon was portrayed by Pat Hingle. Visually the character draws inspiration from the original Golden Age Gordon, an older man wearing a bowler/Derby hat. The role of the police Commissioner being more desk work than street level is also realistically portrayed, ignoring Frank Miller's then new, younger take in Batman: Year One (1987). Curiously, this is one of the few incarnations that is never seen wearing eyeglasses, much like the Dozierverse version played by Neil Hamilton.
In Batman & Robin, the decision was made to excise Gordon's parental relationship with Batgirl. In the comics, he was the father of Barbara Gordon, the second and most famous character to take on the identity and the inspiration for the film's version. This was done because Schumacher was not keen on having Gordon become a more prominent supporting character and believed it would be better to relate Batgirl to a more prominent one. This led to her being reimagined as Alfred's niece, "Barbara Wilson".
Gordon's appearance in the upcoming Batman '89 seems to mirror his DC Animated Universe counterpart's design, most notably with the clothing style. This was done to avoid paying likeness fees to Hingle's estate.
- Pat Hingle, along with Alfred actor Michael Gough, appeared in all four of the original Batman Motion Picture Anthology. This is often used as evidence that the Burton and Schumacher films share the same continuity/universe.
- Gordon's first name (James) is never revealed in any of the films, but appears in marketing materials.
- In the Batman films, Gordon had much of his left little finger missing. In real life, this was due to an injury Hingle had sustain after falling down a 50+ foot elevator shaft.
- Gordon was originally going to be shot and killed by Two-Face in an early draft of Batman Forever, but the idea was turned down when Warner Bros. wanted a family-friendly Batman film.
- In the original plans for Batman '89 conceived by Joe Quinones and Kate Leth, Gordon, like his comic counterpart, would have been the father of Barbara Gordon. Whether this will also feature in the series is currently unknown.