Yes, Batman Returns is a Christmas movie and it’s the best of them all

Photo: Batman Returns.. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. / DC Universe
Photo: Batman Returns.. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. / DC Universe /

Batman Returns is a twisted masterpiece that highlights how weird comic books can get. It’s also a fantastic Christmas movie.

Ever since its release back in 1992, Batman Returns has been the subject of many debates. Oh sure, it will always find itself brought up in the inevitable “Best Batman Movie” argument, it is at home with other Tim Burton films in many conversations about “the weirdest movies ever made” and it has also made itself comfortable in countless “great sequels” discussions.

But we’re not here to talk about any of that today. No, we’re here to throw our voices into the biggest debate surrounding the film. Is Batman Returns a Christmas movie?

The sequel to Burton’s game-changing Batman (1989), the film stars Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman and Danny DeVito as The Penguin in a bizarre tale set during the holidays. Is that enough to make it a Christmas movie? No. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t one.

Is Batman Returns a Christmas movie?

Batman Returns has found itself at the forefront of many discussions surrounding Christmas movies. Like Die Hard, the reason that such a dialogue over its status as a holiday film exists is down to the age-old question if being set at Christmas is enough to warrant such a title.

The answer to that question isn’t a simple one but it is a definitive one: Yes, Batman Returns is a Christmas movie and a damn great one at that. It’s not an answer that can be reached instantly but after some investigation, it’s clear that the sequel to Burton’s classic Batman hits more than enough of the right notes to earn it that title.

As for why that’s the case, well, let’s discuss.

Why Batman Returns is a great Christmas movie

When you think of Christmas movies, it’s the classics that often come to mind. You have It’s A Wonderful LifeMiracle on 34th Street and even the underrated Arnold Schwarzenegger-led Jingle All The Way.

In today’s day and age, however, Christmas movies have become something of a genre in and of themselves, with Hallmark, Lifetime and other networks producing a ton of feelgood holiday-themed TV movies about finding the true meaning of Christmas. On the other hand, you have horror-themed Christmas movies that, while not quite the same thing, has become something of a subgenre of its own.

Batman, Christmas, Batman Returns, Christmas movies, Is Batman Returns a Christmas movie?
Photo: Batman Returns.. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. / DC Universe /

Batman Returns oddly walks the line somewhere in between. It isn’t about finding the true meaning of Christmas and it certainly never descends into the modern-day horror territory, but there is an eerily beautiful aesthetic created by this bizarre tale centred on twisted comic book characters fighting their own demons and the demons bestowed upon them by a city that still looks haunting even when it’s dressed up in beautiful decorations.

It isn’t just another movie set during the holiday season. Yes, elements of Christmas such as the lighting of the tree ceremony, Max Shreck’s Christmas Ball and mistletoe all play into the plot but the movie’s real genius lies in how it uses all of those traditionally wonderful elements to produce something that is anything but.

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It rejects the feelgood nature of the Christmas setting that other superhero movies like Shazam! have embraced and instead juxtaposes it against a cityscape full of dark and lonely figures. As one Twitter user so eloquently put it, it’s a subversion of the genre because it’s about people with no family in a season that is built on family. It’s about the people that Christmas forgot.

It’s almost fitting that Tim Burton directed it because there’s a real Nightmare Before Christmas presentation about it that it relentlessly thrives on. It coincidentally came out the year before Burton directed that film, making Batman Returns the nightmare before The Nightmare Before Christmas. And that right there is eerily poetic.

So, no, Batman Returns isn’t just a Christmas movie. It’s a Christmas movie that single-handedly turns its genre on its head, challenging everything that makes it so beloved through its own twisted characters, making it one of the holiday season’s most innovative and complex offerings to ever grace our screens. And, without a doubt, one of the most compelling.

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Are you a fan of Batman Returns? Do you consider it a Christmas movie? Let us know in the comments below!