Movies to Watch After The Batman

Warning: Spoilers follow for The Batman (2022).

Director Matt Reeves’ world of The Batman and Gotham is the most grounded yet. It helps that Reeves uses cultural shorthand references to films, organized crime, and even many real-life figures from the Zodiac Killer to Kurt Cobain and the Kennedys to immerse audiences in something familiar. Indeed, elements of America’s history involving crime and fear-mongering, as well as the history of cinema itself, are put on full display. So if you’re looking to dive deeper into the stories that can contextualize The Batman, we have just the list of chasers to help you on your come down.

The ’70s Neo-Noirs

Reeves set out to tell a story about Batman as the World’s Greatest Detective: a man early in his cape-crusading career doggedly following leads and being prepared for any hot water he may find himself in. Citing 1970s neo-noirs such as Chinatown and The French Connection, the influences are clear.

Chinatown is essentially the blueprint for The Batman: a private detective investigating a case gets mixed up with a woman involved with the city’s most powerful families and uncovers salacious truths along the way. In a contemporary take on this story, Under the Silver Lake features Los Angeles as a character while Andrew Garfield’s Sam searches for his enigmatic neighbor in the eccentric, dark depths of the city by following “hobo codes” and conspiratorial ciphers in music when she goes missing. And of course, for a movie that focuses on the crucial relationship with a femme fatale, Klute clearly inspires the Selina/Batman dynamic. As a result of trying to find out what happened to a powerful man, Donald Sutherland’s Klute grows close to Jane Fonda’s Bree, a fierce and independent woman who is more involved (and in danger) than he realizes.

The French Connection is a clear influence on the tone and the general atmosphere of Batman. Gene Hackman’s Popeye and Roy Scheider’s Cloudy inspire the journey Batman and Gordon take as they try to track down this Riddler. These duos chase down lead after lead fruitlessly, chasing a foe who’s almost too smart for them. If anything, this is a good watch to get some insight into the similar lengths the GCPD and Gordon went through to shut down Salvatore Maroni’s operation prior to The Batman, only to have a new head grow in his place and fill that power vacuum.

But the New Hollywood noir is only the first element that The Batman seems to be pulling from the 1970s. The second, which also arises from that decade, is much eerier.

Serial Killers

The rise of serial killers and our culture’s fascination with examining the way they operate in media shapes the twisted clue sequences of this cat-and-mouse story between Batman and The Riddler.

We could suggest you watch a marathon of Criminal Minds, but a good fountain of the serial killer-noir medium in The Batman can be found with David Fincher, who has essentially mastered this murderous subgenre. In each relevant entry in Fincher’s work, from Se7en to Zodiac to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Mindhunter, and even Gone Girl, there is a bleak and haunting tension permeating every scene that is also felt in The Batman. The violence is visceral, lingering looks are grimy, and the music is piercing. All that to say, Matt Reeves basically made a Fincher Batman movie before Fincher could.

Then, of course, there are the films that use the Zodiac Killer case as inspiration for their plots, such as Dirty Harry and even Se7en. John Douglas and Mark Olshaker’s Mindhunter book (which inspired the show) also offers the first-hand experience of the pioneering profilers who looked at the psychology of meticulous, calculated killers as a way to solve crimes.

Of course, Zodiac and Mindhunter come from accounts of real-life serial killers, which Reeves has cited as an inspiration for The Riddler. The ciphers that Riddler leaves for Batman are clear references to the Zodiac Killer, who garnered infamy by taunting law enforcement and spreading fear by sending his messages to the San Francisco Chronicle. The Riddler does much the same, only in his case, it is via social media.

In fact, The Riddler operates much like Jigsaw from James Wan’s Saw, concocting elaborately sadistic punishments of corrupt men. Riddler, however, takes this approach to a public scale, weaponizing technology and social media to disseminate status quo-shattering information in seconds. From a hacked (literal) thumb drive containing Mitchell’s infidelities infiltrating Gordon’s email to live-streaming the cruel torture of Commissioner Savage, and even exposing the Waynes’ and Arkhams’ darkest secrets, The Riddler was a step ahead of Batman the entire way. And of course, he amasses a following on the dark web that conspires and devises a plan that grimly makes Gotham citizens fish in a barrel at Gotham Square Garden. The Riddler is a modern villain composed of culture’s greatest fears and harnessing the most widely used tools to reveal society’s biggest secrets.

Bruce Wayne, The Lonely Boy

While we don’t see too much of Bruce Wayne compared to his Bat counterpart, this Year Two version of him is broody and emo – someone who doesn’t know the value of cultivating a billionaire playboy identity just yet. Reeves has referenced Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver in describing Bruce’s drive to rectify injustice in Gotham – misguidedly looking for (and acting as) vengeance without a thought about the larger-scale repercussions.

Bruce himself is a rich, high-profile man who is incredibly lonely. Reeves famously uses Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” in the trailer and film, and has cited Gus Van Sant’s Last Days, a fictionalized imagining of the last days of a lonely, misunderstood, and hurting Kurt Cobain, as a basis for a man everyone knows but no one understands. As for a look at a different source of inspiration for Bruce’s id, you might want to pop on Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time, the film Reeves has said first made him consider Pattinson for the role of Bruce Wayne. It’s a pressure cooker of a film that follows a resourceful, driven man through an endless night in New York. Though Pattinson’s Connie is the type of low-level criminal that Bruce would swiftly put down, there’s a rapid intelligence in both Bruce and Connie that takes advantage of every available opportunity.

For more films that capture being lonely weirdos, Rian Johnson’s Brick and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive are two great examples. In Brick, Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Brendan Frye is full of hubris in his investigation of what happened to his ex-girlfriend, defiant of protocol and brusque with the people he gets involved with, unaware of his larger role in events. Ryan Gosling’s Driver is probably more similar to Pattinson’s Batman, the quiet observer with explosive inner rage. Bruce is a complicated hero early on in his journey who still has a ways to go in finding a balance between his id, ego, and superego to be the hero Gotham needs.

Gotham’s Powerful Families

Within the world of Gotham, which has never felt more interconnected and corrupt as it does here, there are clear references to mobsters, organized crime, and family secrets that act as the Achilles heel for political aspirations. Much of the story that deals with the politics and corruption happen off-screen or years prior, but the following films can help fill in the moves and events that led to the events of The Batman.

There is something to explore in the Waynes as public figures of Gotham, as well as their role in “building” the city. With the Waynes standing in as Gotham’s Kennedys, something like Jackie or Chappaquiddick can contextualize the type of tragedy-tinged political family they are. Jackie is an introspective look at a woman who has lost her world and has to publicly rebuild from that, much like Bruce was able to do in private, but the loss is still the same. Chappaquiddick walks the line between sympathizing with the self-imposed responsibility of legacy that Jason Clarke’s Ted Kennedy is saddled with, while also highlighting the delicate ways that money, power, and influence cover up secrets.

On the other end of that balance of power, we have the mob that puppets the city. It’s a system so corrupt that people in Gotham will sacrifice their lives to keep a secret that would implode all law and order. There is no shortage of films, TV shows, and more about organized crime, and Falcone and Penguin both can be traced to iconic real and fictional people. Carmine Falcone’s secret turn as the rat in The Batman is based on mob boss Whitey Bulger, whose story is dramatized in Black Mass and is also the basis of Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed.

As for Penguin, who sometimes feels like he’s in a different movie (in a good way), Colin Farrell is channeling Robert DeNiro in Goodfellas intensely. As Goodfellas also influenced the creation of The Sopranos, it’s pretty easy to see similarities between Penguin and Tony Soprano, big dude underbosses with a penchant for being comedically outspoken, toeing that line between being a caricature and being the grounding audience surrogate (to some degree). These watches would definitely also be helpful for the upcoming HBO Max Penguin spin-off.

Those are just some of the ways The Batman showcases the grim underbelly of American culture as told by the popular film genres that sensationalized them. The film takes relevant fears of corruption, mass violence, and overall skeeziness and throws them in a comic book movie to show how some heroes, even with all the preparation and best intentions in the world, can’t stop badness alone.

Author: Francesca Rivera. [Source Link (*), IGN All]