So, you've finally seen "The Batman." What do you do next? Of course, you can always go see "The Batman" again, but since Matt Reeves' take on the Caped Crusader is a movie lover's dream come true, you can also experience similar thrills at home. The filmmaker has spoken openly about his inspirations for the movie, but "The Batman" explores corners of the noir, horror, and mystery genres that go even beyond Reeves' publicly noted influences. It's a movie that reminds us of dozens of other movies, but it combines their elements so artfully that it doesn't feel anything like a rehash.
The following is a list of movies that would pair well with "The Batman." Like a tailored wine and cheese combination, some of these will feel totally natural, while others may be surprising. Are they all fun to watch? No, because "The Batman" is dark as hell and its most unique-within-the-franchise elements are also its bleakest. When compared to the vaguely family-friendly fare DC typically offers, this lineup is as sick and twisted as the folks over at Arkham Asylum. But are they also great movies that scratch the same compelling, ominous itch as "The Batman"? Yes, yes they are.
A sexy, gritty 1970s neo-noir appears to be the springboard from which Reeves launched his version of the Selina Kyle-Batman relationship. "Klute" is a masterpiece; it's a slinky yet warm-hearted neo-noir about a detective (Donald Sutherland) who aids a sex worker (Jane Fonda) in figuring out who's been harassing her. At the heart of the mystery? Another working girl who has gone missing, and several very important men.
Zoe Kravitz's Selina Kyle is unapologetic about her lifestyle and doesn't need defending, just like Fonda's Bree Daniels. But like Bree, her strength doesn't mean she's never sad or scared. Selina Kyle is a standout in "The Batman" because she's much more than a pretty face or a purring voice; she reads like a real woman with a life outside the movie's plot, not beholden to any girl power superhero tropes. Her search for Annika is one of the film's best and most emotional arcs, and its bone-chilling conclusion directly echoes the equally eerie climax of "Klute."
There's a reason "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown" stands out across decades of cinema as one of the best final lines of all time. It puts a cap on a two-hour journey into the dark heart of California, and shrugs off tragedy and violence with a level of casualness that's deeply troubling but, depending on your reading, deeply emblematic of the modern era. "Chinatown" stars Jack Nicholson as P.I. Jake Gittes, a man who gets embroiled in a mysterious and dirty war over Southern California's water.
As with other noir and neo-noir films on this list, "The Batman" is markedly different from "Chinatown" thanks to its ideological heel turn ending, but both films still riff on several of the same topics. Jake is powerless in the face of the shady, string-pulling figures he's chasing, just as Batman seems ineffectual against The Riddler's nefarious plans. "Chinatown" asks us to follow the money, and doesn't shy away from implicating the wealthy in crimes as basic as murder and as complex as manipulating infrastructure plans. As with the Renewal plan in "The Batman," "Chinatown" shows that corruption can grow like rot in the light of day, in the places and programs citizens don't always look closely at.
Though "The Batman" never goes full Travis Bickle, it certainly kicks off with an attitude that matches that of the angry young man at the heart of Scorsese's powerhouse film. "Taxi Driver" stars Robert de Niro as a PTSD-addled insomniac who drives the streets of New York City, slowly descending into paranoia as he does. Bickle sees the world as a scummy place in need of setting straight, and struggles against his violent urges for most of the movie. A young Jodi Foster plays Iris, a trafficked child who activates Bickles' hero complex. The Riddler is the obvious connection point between "The Batman" and "Taxi Driver," but Bruce Wayne himself starts out on the same trajectory.
Wayne opens his voiceover for the new movie with an exceedingly cynical take on Gotham, one that envisions the city as crime-addled, dirty, and impossible to save. It's self-serious and melodramatic, imbued with both a sense of put-upon righteousness and woe-is-me insignificance. By the film's end, he's changed his tune, but the Riddler -- whose green jacket isn't a far cry from Bickle's bomber -- has started espousing similarly dark ideology. At one point, he even calls Gotham a "cesspool of a city," rhetoric that matches Bickles' take on New York. In "Taxi Driver," Bickle monologues about the sorry state of the world, deciding, "Someday, a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." What washes the streets better than a flood?
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
As "The Batman" gets more eyes on it, we're going to hear a lot of talk about this movie being Matt Reeves' Gotham by way of David Fincher -- for good reason. Visually, one filmmaker's style isn't too much like the other, but Reeves clearly shares many of the director's fixations. Plenty of other lists will tell you to check out "Zodiac," whose killer inspired The Riddler, or "Se7en," which built its story around puzzle-box crime scenes. Those lists are right, but they're pretty much the free space on the Bingo card that is "The Batman" influences. Let's dig even deeper into Fincher's filmography, shall we?
"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" marketed itself as "the feel-bad movie" of 2011, and it was. Like "The Batman," the story follows a pair of unlikely allies (played by Daniel Craig and an ultra-goth Rooney Mara) on the trail of a disturbed murderer. The killer leaves clues at his gruesome crime scenes, only these ones are tied to Bible verses instead of ciphers. "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is based on Stieg Larsson's controversial hit novel series, and leans way further into the seedy territory "The Batman" only scratches the surface of. Be warned: this movie is dark, brutal, and relentless. It's also riveting.
Touch Of Evil
Orson Welles' down and dirty 1958 film "Touch of Evil" is widely considered the last of the classic noirs, and though it was a nail in the genre's coffin, its influence can be seen in pretty much every neo-noir that's come since then. "The Batman" is no exception. The two films share plenty of cynical motifs, including roving gangs, strangled women, public bombings, and double-crossing police.
Granted, "The Batman" ends up much more hopeful than Welles' black-hearted film, but Reeves' Batman is to the superhero genre what Welles' picture was to the noir genre: a new level of darkness that will likely force its contemporaries to reinvent themselves to keep up. Come to "Touch of Evil" for Welles' impressively loathsome performance as blatantly awful Police Captain Hank Quinlan, stay for his always-inventive direction, which heightens the film's most harrowing moments.
You Were Never Really Here
Robert Pattinson's Batman is a sensitive man with a major chip on his shoulder. At times, it's hard to even gauge the lead actor's performance, because his version of Wayne is utterly reticent and buries himself under heavy armor. But it's clear that this Batman is plagued by grief, motivated not really by vengeance but by the little boy with unprocessed trauma who still exists inside him. All of this makes him two of a kind with one of the most compelling action heroes in recent memory, "You Were Never Really Here" hitman Joe (Joaquin Phoenix).
A masterwork from Lynne Ramsay, "You Were Never Really Here" follows Joe as he rescues the abducted daughter of a senator, losing and regaining his will to keep going along the way. Unlike most of the bleak movies on this list, "You Were Never Really Here" subverts neo-noir tropes to imagine a world that's worth living in despite its corruption. The film is gorgeous, its spare script unconcerned with explaining itself to anyone who's not paying attention, and Phoenix puts in some of his finest work.
The Night Of The Hunter
Is Charles Laughton's acclaimed expressionist masterpiece that much like "The Batman" on the surface? No, not really. Would it still make a killer double feature with Reeves' flick? Yes. "The Night of the Hunter," a film about a serial killing preacher and the kids who attempt to evade him, is all shadows and big emotions. It's a gorgeous film where every shot looks like a piece of art, but it also rings with clarion notes of fear, hope, and misplaced faith. It also has one of the best villains in the game.
Robert Mitchum plays Reverend Harry Powell, a con artist preacher with "LOVE" tattooed on one hand and "HATE" on the other. Kids aren't safe in this world, but are instead subjected to complicated and traumatic situations that will have a ripple effect on the rest of their lives. "The Batman" doesn't look directly at Bruce Wayne's orphan past that much -- though the Riddler's monologue about rats and cold certainly brings the point home -- but it's clearly the driving force behind everything he does. "The Night of the Hunter" may not be as direct a link to "The Batman" as other titles on this list, but both are almost hypnotically compelled by human darkness.
A movie about a hero with a dead dad trying to dig out the deep roots of corruption in his city? Yeah, I'd say "LA Confidential" pairs well with "The Batman." The 1997 movie based on a James Ellroy novel stars Guy Pearce as perhaps the only vaguely upstanding cop in a sea of jerks and creeps. He's a legacy cop whose dad died in action, and when a seemingly simple case grows complicated, he starts pulling at the loose threads of the Los Angeles underworld alongside a vindictive fellow officer (Russell Crowe).
"LA Confidential" seems to have contributed some of its DNA to "The Batman," as both feature a blackmail scheme and a crime lord whose name is on everyone's lips. Like some of the best neo-noirs, the movie is also more interested in the effect all this nasty business has on these characters than anything else, a sentiment "The Batman" seems to share. In a fun twist, this movie also features not one but two "Batman" franchise alums: Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito.
This list features a lot of movies about cops, but that's because a lot of "The Batman" is about cops. Despite that, the movie can't seem to decide if it likes them; characters spend ages hammering home the fact that the whole PD unit is corrupt, only to wedge in a ridiculous moment celebrating the boys in blue later on. If you, like me, were annoyed by the movie's waffling on the topic of police corruption, try "Dirty Harry" on for size. The 1971 movie stars Clint Eastwood as the titular character, a police officer so bad that the trailer introduces "two murderers" -- one being the guy he's chasing, and one being Harry himself.
"Dirty Harry" also has a Riddler connection; the movie's central villain, a sniper called Scorpio, is based partly on the Zodiac Killer, whose ciphers obviously inspired the serial killer in "The Batman." The movie is best known for its shoot-out monologue, which Eastwood delivers with swaggering cool, but it's actually an examination of the very thin line between killer and cop. This is a line "The Batman" examines as well, as high-ranking members of Gotham's criminal justice system turn out to be in bed with mobsters, and police officers moonlight as muscle for the bad guys.
The Dark Knight
This one may feel like a no-brainer, but I can't imagine anyone coming away from "The Batman" without wanting to rewatch the darkest live-action Batman film that came before it. No matter how great the villain -- and Paul Dano's Riddler is pretty great -- I'll never be able to watch a Batman movie without immediately thinking about Heath Ledger. His perfectly psychotic, endlessly watchable Joker is the blueprint for the Gotham City sickos who have come since. Christopher Nolan's serious, epic take on the series is also cinema at its most purely entertaining. It erased all hints of camp from the Caped Crusader story, paving the way for even bleaker variations to come.
"The Dark Knight" is already approaching its 14th anniversary, which means there are no doubt fans of the new movie who have never seen the "old" one. If that's you, here's your sign to remedy the situation. "The Batman" shares the knack for public mayhem and fear-mongering anarchy that "The Dark Knight" brought to life. Though their Batmans share little resemblance, they also share a vision of Gotham as a place where corruption has tainted the highest echelons of society. Perhaps most noteworthy: both movies are genuinely frightening on first watch, tapping into cultural fears and worming their way into viewers' psyches despite their PG-13 rating.
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