A History Of Batman Movies That Almost Got Made

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is generally considered to be the eighth Batman movie, after the 1989 original, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, although the number balloons up to 12, if you include films like 1966’s Batman: The Movie and the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Thing is, it could have been even higher. Here are five Batman movies that were discussed, but, for one reason or another, were never actually made.

Adam West’s Batman

Adam West, the star of the campy Batman TV series that ran from 1966 to 1968, is not a fan of Tim Burton’s dirty, gritty 1989 movie, which he dismissed at the time as “RoboCop in Gotham City.” He told Rolling Stone that he came up with his own Batman movie, and it sounds wonderfully bonkers.

“Bruce Wayne had basically retired to his ranch in New Mexico after having cleaned up Gotham City. Most of the main villains were in madhouses or penitentiaries. So I invented a new super-villain called Sun Yat Mars, who was so heinous he conspired to spring them on one horrible stormy night, making them his minions – Marsies. Moreover, he was kidnapping college kids from all over the world, taking them to his Zombie Satellite, which was very Alien looking, and there they marched like Dracula, filing in long lines into these terrible machines that sucked their brains out.

The picture would’ve opened with Bruce and his girlfriends out riding horses in the moonlight, and they come across a mutilated cow’s carcass surrounded by burned grass. You don’t know whether or not a spaceship is involved. It’s all very mysterious. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson has become a signing medical intern somewhere. He’s chasing nurses around with his guitar — the Bruce Springsteen of Mercy Hospital. We reunite and end up conquering all those guys.”

I need to see this movie. Batman can do the Batusi in it.

Batman Beyond

Batman Beyond is a fantastic show, and it could have been an equally great movie. Director Boaz Yakin, fresh off the success of 2000’s Remember the Titans, joked to his agent that “if I’m going to do [another] studio movie, like, I want it to be Batman.” The agent took him seriously, and got Yakin a meeting with Warner Bros. Playing with house money, he pitched an idea for a live-action film based on Batman Beyond, which had premiered on the Kids’ WB in 1999. “It was almost like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, but a little bit darker,” Yakin said, “a teenage, kind of futuristic, cyberpunk Batman thing.” He co-wrote a draft with Batman Beyond creators Paul Dini and Alan Burnett, but ultimately, “I didn’t really have the heart for it at the time… It might have really hurt my career. I went off and wrote the best script I ever wrote that never got made.” Yakin later wrote Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Batman Unchained

Nicolas Cage as the Scarecrow. Courtney Love as Harley Quinn. Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, and Jim Carrey returning as the Joker, the Penguin, Catwoman, Two-Face, and the Riddler. More Bat-Nipples. All this, and so much more, was set to happen in Batman Unchained, Joel Schumacher’s follow-up to Batman and Robin that never happened because, well, he made Batman and Robin. Mark Protosevich’s script dealt with Batman “learning to conquer fear and to confront the demons of his past,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, including “sadistic” Harley and “brilliant” Scarecrow teaming up to drive the Dark Knight insane and send him to Arkham Asylum. Schumacher told Protosevich that he had written “the most expensive movie ever made,” and when Batman and Robin bombed, the studio “pulled the plug on the whole project.”

Batman: Year One

This is the Lifehouse of “lost” Batman films. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, Year One, a dark retelling of Batman’s origin story in which Selina Kyle is a dominatrix and Jim Gordon has an affair with his partner, was to be directed and written by Black Swan‘s Darren Aronofsky. (Miller worked on an early draft of the script.) This was back in 2000, and Warner Bros. was hesitant to release such a violent Batman movie, which Aronofsky described as having an “independent, guerrilla flavor” to it. (He compared Year One to Death Wish, Taxi Driver, and The French Connection, with “Gordon [as] kind of like Serpico, and Batman [as] kind of like Travis Bickle.”)

Here’s more:

The story [Miller] and Aronofsky came up with sounds suitably wacky — after Bruce’s parents are killed he’s found in the gutter by a mechanic named “Big Al” who raises him. Apparently nobody ever bothers to look for the heir to the Wayne family fortune, and Bruce is never clued into the fact he has billions of dollars waiting for him… This version of Batman wouldn’t have any money for fancy gadgets, so he just blacks out the windows of a Lincoln Continental and drives around the inner city beating the crap out of guys. (Via)

Aronofsky also said, “It’s somewhat based on the comic book. [But] toss out everything you can imagine about Batman! Everything! We’re starting completely anew.” It’s hard to imagine why Year One never got made.

Ivan Reitman’s Batman

Ghostbusters Fan Event On The Sony Lot
Getty Image

Tim Burton’s Batman is an undeniable classic, and it made Warner Bros. a lot of money. Not only at the box office ($411 million on a $35 million budget), but in merchandising. What’s often forgotten is how much of a risk it was. Burton was still a largely unknown director at the time — his only two films were Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, the latter of which came out after he signed on — and serious superhero movies didn’t dominate pop culture the way they do today. So, it’s no wonder that in 1983, years before Batman was released, Warner Bros. nearly choose Ghostbusters visionary Ivan Reitman to direct The Batman. It was to be an origin story centered on Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, with Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy as the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder, respectively. The Batman eventually fizzled out, leading to Burton’s Batman six years later, but Murray thinks he “would have been a fine Batman.” That’s funny, I always think of him as more of a Superman kind of guy.