One triumph of The Lego Batman Movie is its ability to simultaneously satirize and celebrate the legacy of the Dark Knight, a rich history spanning eight decades of comic books, TV shows, and, especially, films. From Will Arnett’s Christian Bale-inspired gravelly growl to callbacks to the 1940s serial, The Lego Batman Movie is overstuffed with cinematic references and inside jokes. Here are a dozen of our favorites to look for as you head out to see the film this weekend. (Caution: There are a few minor spoilers below.)
The Joker’s Squashed Schemes
In the opening moments, the Clown Prince of Crime boasts to the pilot of a hijacked plane that his latest plot against Gotham is foolproof. The pilot immediately calls out the Joker, pointing out how his previous big-screen endeavors were thwarted by the Caped Crusaders, alluding to both 2008’s The Dark Knight and 1989’s Batman.
Pilot: Batman will stop you. He always stops you.
Joker: No, he doesn’t.
Pilot: What about that time with the two boats?
Joker: This is better than the two boats… Trust me, Batman will never see this coming.
Pilot: Like the time with the parade and the Prince music?
During an early scene in stately Wayne Manor, Alfred catches Batman staring longingly at photos of his lost family. “Were you looking at the old family pictures again?” the devoted butler asks of his brooding charge. “I’m concerned. … I’ve seen you go through similar phases in 2016, 2012, 2008, 2005, and 1997, 1995, 1992, and 1989 … and that weird one in 1966.” As he ticks off each year, we see Lego-fied versions of the corresponding films: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Dark Knight Rises, The Dark Knight, Batman Begins, Batman & Robin (complete with Clooney’s Bat-nipple costume), Batman Forever, Batman Returns, Batman, and the 1966 Batman movie based on the vintage TV series (which is shown in live action — a scene featuring the created-for-the-show character King Tut, who also figures in The Lego Batman Movie).
Later, in a similar montage, the new Gotham police commissioner, Barbara Gordon, gives a presentation about how Batman has been patrolling the streets a “very, very, very, very, very long time” without stopping the crime problem. Bricky vignettes of classic comic covers and movie and TV scenes flash by from his 78-year history, including many of the movies mentioned above, as well as his debut issue in Detective Comics, Batman: The Animated Series, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, and the Caped Crusader’s earliest screen incarnation, the 1943 Columbia serial.
The film’s dialogue is peppered with references to Batman’s previous screen outings, and one of the zaniest comes during the opening battle between the Dark Knight and the Joker’s army. Before launching his attack, Batman says, “Let’s get nuts” — just like Michael Keaton did in this scene in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.
The Jerry Maguire Connection
Batman unwinds after a tough day of crime fighting by watching rom-coms in his home theater. One of his favorites: Jerry Maguire, especially the famous “You complete me/You had me at hello” exchange. This is a nod to one of the most memorable scenes in The Dark Knight, when Batman interrogates the Joker, prompting the immortal rejoinder, “You complete me.”
Batman v Superman
Beginning with the opening credits, a running joke throughout Lego Batman is the Caped Crusader’s perceived rivalry with Superman. During his initial confrontation with Joker, Batman insists that “Superman is my greatest enemy,” which the Joker dismisses. Later, when Batman comes calling to the Fortress of Solitude, he tells Superman, “I’m not here to throw down or anything…” to which Supes retorts, “I would crush you.”
Speaking of Superman
Aside from liberal callbacks to the Batman filmography, Lego Batman also pays homage to 1978’s Superman: The Movie. The Fortress of Solitude, modeled after the Christopher Reeve film version, features a doorbell chime using John Williams’s seminal score. Batman triggers a hologram of Superman’s dad, Jor-El, which looks like a Lego Marlon Brando. And Lego Batman‘s main plot is a direct result of General Zod being exiled to the Phantom Zone, which figures in both Superman and Superman II.
A more recent movie skewered by Lego Batman is 2016’s Suicide Squad. During the Joker and his cronies’ initial attack on Gotham, Killer Croc swims under a nuclear reactor, affixes a bomb, and then exclaims, “Yay! I got to do something” — a dig at the character’s unimpressive showing in Squad. Later, when Gotham is faced with a bigger menace, Batman pooh-poohs the idea of recruiting some of his rogues to help in the fight: “Using villains to fight villains? What a dumb idea.” Finally, at the end, Barbara Gordon/Batgirl tries to convince Bats that he needs a team. To which he retorts: “Who? Seal Team 6? Fox Force Five? Suicide Squad?” [And big props to the screenwriters for slipping in that Fox Force Five mention; of course, Pulp Fiction/Fox Force Five alumna Uma Thurman also played Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin.]
Holy Hoarding, Batman
The Batcave is bursting with Bat-gear, and it will take repeated viewings to catalogue all the cinematic vehicles parked there. But we spotted several the first time around, including the Batsub from Batman Returns, several Batjets, and nearly every iteration of the Batmobile, from Christopher Nolan’s Tumbler of the 2000s to the various versions from the 1980s and ’90s movies to Adam West’s 1966 classic. There’s also a container of “useless” shark-repellent Bat-spray from the ’66 Batman.
Along with the Nolan-Bale Dark Knight trilogy and the Burton-Keaton Bat-flicks, Lego Batman really embraces the camptastic 1960s movie and TV show starring West and Burt Ward. The soundtrack is loaded with cues of Neil Hefti’s classic “Batman Theme,” from a sample during Batman’s villain-dispatching song (watch below), to the horn on the Batmobile, to the way Batman says no-no-no-no-no-no.
Aside from all the ’66-spawned sight gags noted above, there’s a meta moment before Lego Batman and Robin tangle with the baddies at the film’s climax when Batman says, “Together we’re going to punch these guys so hard words describing the impact will spontaneously materialize.” Pow. Bif. Boom.
Two-Face Is Back, Baby
One of the great wrongs Lego Batman rights is giving Billy Dee Williams the opportunity to finally play Two-Face. Williams was cast as Harvey Dent in the 1989 Batman movie with an eye to eventually playing the villain in a sequel. But by the time that era’s Caped Crusader got around to fighting Two-Face in 1995’s Batman Forever, Tommy Lee Jones had been recast in the role.
Lego Batman’s Bane is much beefier than the Dark Knight Rises version, but he still sports that fur-lined coat and speaks with a weird accent in homage to Tom Hardy’s character.
The DC-Marvel Rivalry Lives
OK, this one’s not specifically a callback to another Batman-based movie, or even a DC film, but we had to flag it nonetheless. As the original crime-fighting tech billionaire, Bruce Wayne doesn’t have time for pretenders. Thus, we get his secret password for entering the Batcave: Iron Man sucks! Burn.
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Watch Will Arnett Reveal Secrets of His Lego Batman Voice.