Over the years, Warner Bros. Pictures has produced a strong collection of Batman movies, from 1989’s Batman through to 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, and beyond. Most of the films have been a huge financial success and have ensured Batman remains an icon of cinema for years to come.
But what about all the Batman movies that didn’t happen?
Odd as it may seem, for every Batman film that has successfully landed on the big screen, there are numerous others that didn’t. A whole host of potential Bat-pictures have fallen by the wayside in recent years, with projects biting the dust for various reasons.
In today’s post, I’m taking a look at six of these unseen Batman movies, all of which were in discussion between the period of 1997 – 2004. Between the critical failure of Batman & Robin (1997) and the production of Batman Begins (2005), Warner Bros were very unsure what to do with the Batman movies and as a result, these Batman projects were reportedly (or rumoured to be) in the pipeline.
Below are the top six unproduced Batman movies.
Also known as Batman Triumphant (or simply, Batman 5), Batman Unchained came very, very close to happening according to Batman & Robin director, Joel Schumacher. Commenting on the Special Edition DVD/Blu-ray release of Batman & Robin, Schumacher said: “The studio wanted me to do a fifth Batman, which would have been my third, which would have featured the Scarecrow.”
So, why didn’t it happen?
Schumacher added: “I just couldn’t do it. I just… it wasn’t really in me anymore.”
If the movie had gone ahead then the Batman Anthology would have existed beyond the four movies: Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997). It would have also introduced the Scarecrow, long before he appeared in Batman Begins (2005).
Would the Scarecrow have been the only villain? It’s unclear, but given Schumacher’s interest in including multiple villains in his Bat-films, it’s likely he wouldn’t have been alone. Rumblings through magazines and the internet suggest Harley Quinn would have been involved in some form too.
Batman: Year One
As well as Batman Unchained, it’s possible Joel Schumacher could have helmed an entirely different Batman movie – Batman: Year One. It has been heavily rumoured that the director expressed a desire to take Batman back to basics, via Frank Miller’s fan-favourite Year One comic.
Would it have happened? Well, according to legend, Warner Bros. weren’t keen on Schumacher being the director of this one, so Pi (1998) director, Darren Aronofsky and writer Frank Miller stepped forward. The pair had a script that would have discarded the previous Batman movie series and would instead reset the clock to the early days of Batman’s career.
If the film had gone ahead, Aronofsky wanted Joaquin Phoenix to play the role of Batman, however, Warner Bros. wanted Freddie Prinze Jr. Either way, despite much speculation, the project never got off the ground.
A quick one here, as little is known about this project, but according to legend/rumour, Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise wrote a script for a movie titled, Batman DarKnight. The project would have seen Bruce Wayne temporarily hang up his cape and cowl, while Man-Bat and Scarecrow surfaced in Gotham.
A Man-Bat and Scarecrow combo?! Surely not? Well, if it had have happened it would have been a wild ride.
Batman Vs Superman
As any Batman movie fan (or regular cinemagoer) will tell you, in 2016 Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill teamed up for the big screen adventure, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, what they might not know is that this wasn’t the first time a Batman/Superman movie was considered.
Following the critical failure of Batman & Robin (1997), Warner Bros considered a Batman Vs Superman movie, with Wolfgang Peterson set to direct. The movie would have provided the first big screen pairing of the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel, long before Affleck and Cavill donned their tights.
Who would have played the roles?
Josh Hartnett was in the frame for Superman, while Batman would have been played by a pre-Batman Begins Christian Bale. It seems like Bale was always destined to play the Dark Knight.
The Dark Knight Returns
This one is best taken with a huge pinch of salt, but for quite a significant period of time, there were many, many rumours that Clint Eastwood was in the frame to play Batman. The idea was that Eastwood would take on the role of an older Bruce Wayne – a ‘Dirty Harry Dark Knight’ if you will.
There’s no solid evidence to suggest this would have ever happened, but many Bat-fans were up for it. However, in the years that have followed, Bat-fans are now far more interested in the idea of Michael Keaton reprising the role of Batman for a Dark Knight Returns/Batman Beyond-style movie.
Speaking of which…
And finally, during the early ‘00s, when all of these Batman movie projects (and more) were confined to Development Hell, Harley Quinn co-creator and Batman: The Animated Series alumni, Paul Dini, was rumoured to have been working on a script for a Batman Beyond movie. As with the Dark Knight Returns project mentioned above, the film would have included an elderly Bruce Wayne.
Those familiar with the Batman Beyond cartoon and comic will know that Wayne had long since handed the mantle of the Bat over to Terry McGinnis, so the film would have been about the passing of the torch. Batman Beyond would have seen a new Batman take to the streets of Gotham, in a bold new direction for the film franchise.
So, why didn’t we see any of these films?
Ultimately because Batman Begins went into production instead – and that’s a pretty decent trade off.
While Warner Bros. was weighing up the pros and cons of the projects listed above, the studio couldn’t seem to get a lock on what they wanted. That was until Christopher Nolan came along, and the rest is history.
After a barren period of no Bat-films, Nolan reinvigorated the Batman movie franchise, delivering Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), all in quick succession. Fans may have had to wait for their arrival but once the movies had landed they were huge critical and commercial hits.
Still, that doesn’t stop us all speculating about what could have been. What would have happened if Joel Schumacher’s Batman Unchained had continued the Batman Anthology? What might Darren Aronofsky’s Batman: Year One have looked like? What if Batman DarKnight was a thing?!
And of course, this isn’t the end of unproduced Batman movies. While Batman remains a cinematic star, he will forever be surrounded by pictures and projects that never see the light of day.
For example, The Batman (2021) was originally set to be directed by and star Ben Affleck, but that all changed in January 2017, when Affleck stepped down as director of the movie in what was announced as a ‘joint decision by the actor and Warner Bros.’. In a statement (via Variety), Affleck said: “There are certain characters who hold a special place in the hearts of millions. Performing this role demands focus, passion and the very best performance I can give. It has become clear that I cannot do both jobs to the level they require.
“Together with the studio, I have decided to find a partner in a director who will collaborate with me on this massive film. I am still in this, and we are making it, but we are currently looking for a director. I remain extremely committed to this project, and look forward to bringing this to life for fans around the world.”
That director turned out to be Matt Reeves, who was later confirmed as the new director of the project, with Affleck remaining on board to star. That is until May 2019 when Robert Pattinson officially took over from Affleck.
So, the project went from being an Affleck directed/starring movie to something else entirely. You see how much things change?
Movies cost a lot of money and take a long time to get off the ground. Often once they get started, they are in a different place than when they first began.
That’s show business!
Of the projects discussed above, as well as any other Batman movies that have been in development and/or rumoured over the years, which would you have liked to see as a fully formed feature film? Sound off in the comments section below.