Directed By: Tim Burton

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, and Jack Palance

With the excitement over the upcoming epic motion picture event The Dark Knight Rises, it's definitely worthwhile to revisit some of the older Batman films.  Before talk of Bane, Catwoman, and the Dark Knight himself reaches a fever pitch in the coming months, we need to talk about the movies that laid the foundation for films like TDKR.  With this in mind, there's no better place to start than the 1989 film Batman.  With Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, and Kim Basinger headlining the movie, Batman is one of the earliest superhero flicks worthy of being called a modern classic.

As a young boy, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) has a front row seat to the murder of his parents Thomas and Martha at the hands of a mugger.  Forever scarred, Bruce vows to avenge his parents' deaths by waging war on crime as the caped crusader Batman.  With practically limitless resources and an unflinching will, Wayne fights crime in the streets of Gotham City as the masked vigilante.  By putting fear in the hearts of criminals, his name has quickly become legendary throughout the city.  Reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) and photo-journalist Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) have taken it upon themselves to uncover the mystery of the Batman.

Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) is second in command to crime boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance).  When Grissom learns that Napier has been having an affair with his mistress Alicia (Jerry Hall), he sends Napier on a mission to Axis Chemicals that will be his last.  Grissom concocts a plan to have corrupt cop Lt. Max Eckhardt (William Hootkins) kill Napier.  Things go awry when Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) and Batman get involved.  A huge gunfight between the cops and the crooks ensues.  Eckhardt is murdered.  Napier even falls into a vat of toxic chemicals after a scuffle with Batman.  Napier survives though and becomes the maniacal criminal known as the Joker.  He brings a sick smile to Gotham's underworld and poses a serious threat to Batman in a war for control of Gotham.

Batman is an all-time classic that laid the blueprints for adapting comic books to the big screen and set the original benchmark for the genre.  Unlike the campy Superman flicks by Richard Donner and Richard Lester, director Tim Burton creates a dark world full of colorful characters.  His unique and imaginative brand of filmmaking is apparent here and absolutely captivating.  For its time, Batman is a really edgy film that introduced the world to a very different vision of what a superhero can be on the big screen in a mature way.

As much as I would like to kid myself and say that Batman is the star of this flick, I can't lie.  Jack Nicholson's Joker is the star of this show.  When you have one of the world's greatest actors stepping up to bat to play the villain, Beetlejuice star Michael Keaton won't ever catch a break.  In fact, Keaton is not even the top-billed cast member.  With a whole lot of screen time for Nicholson and some classic one-liners that remain part of pop culture to this day, Nicholson's zany performance as a fun sicko absolutely dominates Batman.  Where else do you get to see Jack Nicholson in clown makeup jamming to Prince?  As the Joker, Jack Nicholson gets to be himself on screen, and this makes for one iconic villain who can kill with a smile.

Aside from Nicholson, the other cast members deliver strong performances in Batman as well.  With ultra-low expectations for him as a viable action star at the time, Michael Keaton delivers a classic performance.  He's charismatic as the playboy Bruce Wayne but also dark and mysterious as Batman.  He sets a high bar for the other three men who would suit up after him and is arguably the best Batman.  Kim Basinger also delivers a good performance as Vicki Vale.  Though playing the stereotypical female role to an extent, she stands out from the Lois Lanes and Mary Jane Watsons of the comic book world because she brings an undeniable elegance to the role.  Basinger's performance is still remembered today.  Just watch the pilot episode of NBC's Chuck for proof.

Batman is definitely the most influential comic book movie of all time because it is so awesome.  We get a load of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and we love it.  We get a taste of a really impressive Batmobile that is incredibly sleek.  Most importantly, we get a phenomenal movie that introduces us to Tim Burton's dark vision of Gotham City.  Because of all of this and so much more, Batman wholeheartedly deserves a sober rating.