In the history of live-action adaptations of Batman, a total of nine actors have portrayed the Dark Knight (not including those who’ve only portrayed him as a child and those who’ve portrayed him in TV series and not in movies). Most of them have had at least two stints as the Caped Crusader, with some having more and some having just one stint. But how many times did Michael Keaton play Batman?
Michael Keaton appeared as the Batman in a total of two films – Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) – and is known as the first modern cinematic Batman. He is also set to reprise his role in the DCEU’s The Flash.
Now that we’ve given you a short introduction, let us discuss the topic of this article in more detail.
Michael Keaton Batman Movies
Michael Keaton played Batman a total of two times. He was cast as the Dark Knight in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie – too much backlash, we must admit – and reprised his role in the 1992 sequel, Batman Returns. He was set to appear in a third film, but ultimately declined after Burton had been replaced by Joel Schumacher as director.
In 2020, it was confirmed that Michael Keaton would return as Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Flash, a movie set within the DCEU, with reports claiming that he is going to have a much bigger role in the series from that movie onward.
When Did Michael Keaton Play Batman?
Now that we’ve established that Michael Keaton played Batman a total of two times, with an announced third appearance, let us talk about those appearances a bit more.
When Warner Bros. started the pre-production of the 1989 Batman movie, they had to find an actor for the titular role. The studio wanted a big name for the role of Batman, but also someone who would be perceived as a typical action movie star. Burton approached Pierce Brosnan, who declined a comic book role, while other potential candidates include Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Charlie Sheen, Tom Selleck, Bill Murray, Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, and Dennis Quaid.
At one point, producer Jon Peters suggested Michael Keaton, arguing he had the right “edgy, tormented quality” after having seen his dramatic performance in Clean and Sober; having directed Keaton in Beetlejuice, Burton agreed. Keaton’s casting caused a controversy among the fans, with a total of 50,000 protest letters sent to Warner Bros. offices. Kane, Hamm, and Uslan, all writers and producers on the film, also heavily questioned the casting.
But, as it turned out, Michael Keaton was a hit for the franchise and his interpretation is still considered to be among the best in the history of the franchise. In this movie, Batman had to fight a new threat in Gotham City – the Joker – who was also, while he was a common street criminal known as Jack Napier, killed Bruce’s parents in the terrible incident from Batman’s past.
Bruce Wayne also has a romance with journalist Vicki Vale, who he has to save from the Joker. In the end, the two of them face off atop Gotham Cathedral, where Joker meets his end after failing to escape and falling from the top of the Cathedral to the street.
Batman Returns (1992)
Batman was a success and Warner Bros. quickly ordered a sequel, with Michael Keaton returning and earning a – for that time – incredible $11,000,000 fee for the role in Batman Returns.
In this Christmas movie, Batman has to fight Oswald Cobblepot, an orphaned freak of nature who operates as a criminal known as The Penguin. He also has to deal with Catwoman, a new character in Gotham, who was created after Selina Kyle had been killed by businessman Max Schreck.
This turned out to be Keaton’s final appearance in the original series, since he declined to return after Tim Burton had been replaced by Joel Schumacher as the director.
How Were These Movies Received?
Interestingly enough, Keaton’s Batman films were really well-received by both the fans and the critics and are today considered to be classics of the superhero genre. The franchise was so popular that it even pushed Warner Bros. into producing Batman: The Animated Series, today considered to be one of the best television series in history.
How was Michael Keaton received as Batman?
As far as Michael Keaton is concerned, he was received with praise when both movies came out, despite the initial backlash and doubts over his casting. He was an excellent Batman and is even today, after so many years have passed, still regarded as one of the best Batmen on screen, the animated versions included. It was a pity to see him leave the role in 1995, but with Schumacher completely changing the style, we now think that it was for the best.
This is why we are glad to state we are overjoyed with the fact that he is going to return to the role in the DCEU and we look forward to seeing more of him sooner, rather than later.