In a memorable line from 1989's Tim Burton-directed Batman, Jack Nicholson (as the Joker) ponders his nemesis' arsenal of gadgets, asking aloud, “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”
And as anyone familiar with Batman can attest, it's an apt question – after all, the guardian of Gotham has always had an affinity for fancy vehicles and powerful tools that give him an edge over the common (and not-so-common) criminal element.
With the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises looming, we've put together a list of some of the most memorable – for good or bad – items from Batman's arsenal, from the campy 1966 movie right up through the most recent film, Christopher Nolan's gritty 2008 blockbuster, The Dark Knight.
Go ahead and think of it as a visual history of Batman's most wonderful toys.
Batmobile (Batman: The Movie, 1966)
The original live-action Batmobile was created for the campy '60s television series, and later appeared in the feature film based on the series. A customized version of a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, the Batmobile featured a number of awesomely ridiculous features, including an “Emergency Bat-Turn Lever,” a “Bat-Ray” (which unlocked doors, stopped engines, etc), and a “Bat-tering Ram.”
Batcopter (Batman: The Movie, 1966)
Created specifically for the 1966 film, the Batcopter only made a brief appearance in the '60s franchise, but it was a memorable one. At one point in the film, Batman fights off an exploding shark (yes, you read that correctly) while hanging from a rope ladder attached to the Batcopter. Beat that, Christopher Nolan!
Batman's Utility Belt (Batman: The Movie, 1966)
The earliest iteration of Batman's famous utility belt was just as old-school campy as the series it appeared in, and featured a bright, gold Bat-buckle and a number of pouches that contained everything required to get out of even the most unpredictable circumstances, from knockout gas to sneezing powder.
Batboat (Batman: The Movie, 1966)
The first Batboat made its debut in the 1966 movie, then made regular appearances in the television series. Only a few models of the Batboat were created, and in keeping with the series' tone, the boat featured a red flashing Bat-beacon, glowing Bat-eyes, and Bat-zooka hatches, among other Bat-tastic options.
Batarangs (Batman: The Movie, 1966)
Far from the shuriken-like weapons seen in Nolan's franchise, the original batarangs wielded by Adam West's version of Batman were far simpler, plastic-looking tools. More often than not, they were used as a grappling devices, with Batman slinging the batarang skyward and climbing up the attached rope.
Craziest Item from Batman: The Movie: Bat Shark Repellent
Yes, not only did Batman battle a shark rigged with explosives in the 1966 film, but he convinced the finned fury to stop gnawing on his leg with a carefully aimed dose of Bat Shark Repellent, proving that he is the model of preparedness.
Batmobile (Batman, 1989)
The Batmobile of Tim Burton's reimagined Gotham was powered by a massive turbine engine, with an equally impressive afterburner mounted in the back of the vehicle. Its sleek profile and black-as-night design fit right in with Burton's version of Batman, and the vehicle sported a number of clever gadgets – including side-mounted grappling hooks that let it take sharp turns at high speeds.
Batarang (Batman, 1989)
The batarangs used by Michael Keaton's Batman were fairly simple tools, mostly used with a wire to ensnare bad guys. These batarangs also acted like the boomerangs that inspired their name, returning to whoever throws them. They weren't fancy, but they did the trick.
Batwing (Batman, 1989)
Far cooler than the '60s Batcopter, the Batwing of Burton's Batman was not only a snazzy, one-man jet, but it struck an impressive, bat-shaped silhouette when seen against the light of the moon. Alas, the Batwing meets an explosive end in the film, but what we saw of it was pretty darn cool.
Grapple Gun (Batman, 1989)
Almost as iconic as Batman's batarangs, the grapple gun is one of the most frequently used items in the character's live-action movie arsenal. Its first appearance in 1989's Batman was pretty straightforward, with the tool looking like a miniature speargun.
Utility Belt (Batman, 1989)
The version of Batman's utility belt from the 1989 film is notable in that it allows Batman to select different items from his belt by mechanically rotating the various pouches and attachments around his torso. It's a small but unique feature that Burton insisted on for the film.
Craziest Item from Batman: Metal Plate
Late in the film, Batman is battling his way through a gauntlet of the Joker's henchmen, and after being confronted by a high-kicking, fast-moving karate expert, he dispatches the goon using a metal plate that suddenly extends from his palm into the bad guy's nether regions. It's a weird gadget with a seemingly unknown purpose, but it clearly did the job.
Batskiboat (Batman Returns, 1992)
The 1992 sequel to Burton's Batman featured many of the same vehicles and gadgets from its predecessor, with a few exceptions. One of the new additions was a Batboat that skimmed across the surface of the water on skis, which appeared near the end of the film and is commonly referred to as the “Batskiboat.”
Craziest Item From Batman Returns: Remote-Control Batarang
One of the most laughable items from the 1992 film was a remote-control batarang that looked like a cross between a video-game controller and a boomerang. The strange, somewhat ineffective gadget is widely regarded as one of the low points of an otherwise enjoyable sequel.
Batmobile (Batman Forever, 1995)
Everything changed when director Joel Schumacher took over the Batman franchise – and that includes the Batmobile. The 1995 version of Batman's ride featured quite of decorative lighting and crazy bat-wings, as well as the ability to drive up walls and “jump” from one surface to another. In what some might consider a good deed, the Riddler eventually blew up the Batmobile. And there was much rejoicing.
Batboat (Batman Forever, 1995)
This vehicle appears briefly in the 1995 film, and is quickly destroyed by Two-Face and The Riddler. Like the film's version of the Batmobile, it's adorned with lights, big fins and various other features that scream for someone to blow it up. And that's exactly what happened to it.
Batwing (Batman Forever, 1995)
Director Joel Schumacher continued to bling-out Batman's vehicles with a redesigned Batwing for the 1995 film. This time around, Batman's one-man jet took on the appearance of a deformed bat with glowing, neon stripes all over its body.
Grapple Gun (Batman Forever, 1995)
Even the Dark Knight's grapple gun got a makeover from Joel Schumacher, and rather than looking like a miniature speargun, the grapple turned into a finned, new-wave accessory with the power to send a grappling hook through thick stone walls while retaining its smooth, polished finish.
Batarang(s) (Batman Forever, 1995)
Batman's most iconic tool went through a variety of changes in 1995 under new director Joel Schumacher, with several different versions of the batarang appearing in the film. Along with a few variations that shot out of Batman's gauntlet, he also used a fancy, bola-style batarang with attached cord to trip up villains.
Craziest Item in Batman Forever: Bootjets
At one point in the film, Val Kilmer's version of Batman uses a pair of jets mounted in his boots to ascend a wall and power his way through a tall tower. Yes, this actually happened, and let's be honest – it was just one of far too many unintentionally hilarious moments in the 1995 film.
Batmobile (Batman & Robin, 1997)
Just when you thought the Batman Forever version of the Batmobile was the epitome of neon-campy insanity, along comes Batman & Robin and its fin-friendly ride. Not only did the vehicle sport an obscenely large batwing, but it also presented an impressive safety hazard for the Dark Knight by removing the hood over the driver's seat.
Grapple Gun (Batman & Robin, 1997)
Now less a gun and more an extension of Batman's curvy, nippled Batsuit, the grapple gun in this critically panned 1997 film is a model of form over function. Sure, it looks great as an accessory, but it's hard to imagine this thing actually working in any world, let alone Joel Schumacher's wacky version of Gotham.
Batarang(s) (Batman & Robin, 1997)
Like its predecessor, this film featured a number of different versions of the batarang. Along with the classic “throw it at people with varied results” version, the Dark Knight also wielded a Bat-bomb version of the batarang that made a pretty impressive bat-bang. (Sorry about that last part.)
Craziest Item in Batman & Robin: Batskates
When it comes to Batman & Robin, it's hard to decide which of the film's tremendously ridiculous gadgets were the most silly of the bunch, but the Bat-skates seem like a good choice. In the movie, when Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sends the dynamic duo sliding away on a sheet of ice, the pair press a button and voila – skates pop out of their boots. Yes, skates. Heck, why not?
Batmobile (Batman Begins, 2005)
Things got gritty, realistic and militaristic when Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise in 2005, and Batman's ride got a major makeover to go with the new film. The “Tumbler” (as it's called) became the new Batmobile for Christian Bale's spin on the Batman, and offered an all-terrain, tank-like look and some serious firepower to go along with the film's darker, more serious tone.
Batarang (Batman Begins, 2005)
Opting to do away with the traditional boomerang-style gadgets Batman is known for, Bale's version of the character wields a set of razor-sharp, shuriken-like batarangs that are as sinister as they are simple.
Grapple Gun (Batman Begins, 2005)
Harkening back to the original 1989 film, the version of the grapple gun seen in Batman Begins looks like a modified pistol. One big change, however, is that Batman must attach the gun to his belt in order to use the grapple cable to pull himself around. It's a small change, but one that falls right in line with the more realistic physics of Christopher Nolan's Bat-verse.
Craziest Item in Batman Begins: Memory Cloth
There were very few elements of Batman Begins that seemed entirely out of place in a real-world setting, but the “memory cloth” that allows Batman to turn his cape into a glider is probably the most far-fetched gadget used in the 2005 film. According to the film, an electrical charge from Batman's gauntlets turns the cape rigid, but no one seems to have an idea exactly how that happens. We'll let it pass, though.
Batpod (The Dark Knight, 2008)
Christopher Nolan's sequel to Batman Begins added precious few elements to Batman's arsenal of gadgets. However, the film did introduce the Batpod to audiences. The motorcycle-like vehicle emerges from the wreckage of the Batmobile and is basically a stripped-down version of a Batcycle with some heavy weaponry. It also looks like a serious case of road rash waiting to happen.
Craziest Item in The Dark Knight: Batman's Voice
Okay, so it's not a gadget, but when it comes to The Dark Knight there's not very much wackiness to be found in the film. Christopher Nolan's dark, gritty sequel is the least campy of all the Batman movies, so we decided to dedicate this last list item to the only part of the film that made us laugh: Christian Bale's forced, gravelly intonation whenever he's wearing the cape and cowl.