The Unexpected Humor in Christopher Nolan's Batman Movies

These one-liners are worth revisiting as 'The Lego Movie' hits theaters.
Warner Bros./Photofest

The Dark Knight's most quippy big screen incarnation ever is in theaters this weekend with The Lego Batman Movie, but it's easy to forget the Caped Crusader has been witty for quite some time underneath all of that brooding.

Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy is credited with making superheroes dark and grounded, but Nolan also injected small doses of charm into each film, allowing his Batman (Christian Bale) to get in a few one-liners (naturally, almost all of these one-liners made their way into the trailers).

Are these lines actually funny? Well — they are not Guardians of the Galaxy or Tony Stark funny, but there's something rather charming about them, almost like your distant, ultra serious dad cracking wise.

Here are some of those moments, as spoken by Bruce Wayne/Batman.

"Nice coat." (Batman Begins)

Before disappearing for years, Bruce Wayne gave a man his cash and coat ("this is a nice coat" the man says repeatedly). The same man happened to be on the docks when Batman makes his first appearance in costume. When the fledgling superhero sees the man still wearing his old coat, he remarks, "Nice coat." What's funny about this interaction is that The Dark Knight Rises establishes that one of Batman's favorite ways of revealing his secret identity is through callbacks involving coats. He tells Gordon that he's Bruce Wayne by hinting that anyone can be a hero, even just a man who draped a coat around a scared little boy's shoulders. 

"Does it come in black?" (Batman Begins)

This one definitely made its way into the trailer, with Lucius Fox showing off a Wayne Enterprise prototype that's perfect for Batman, except for its camouflage coloring. Testing out the tumbler is one of the few times in the franchise that Bruce actually seems to be enjoying himself. 

"Well, a guy that dresses up like a bat clearly has issues." (Batman Begins)

Bruce Wayne's greatest acting job is pretending to be a pompous, billionaire playboy — and during a dinner conversation about The Batman, he lets it be known that he's not necessarily a fan (though he probably hasn't thought about it too hard).

"Look, it's all a bit technical, but the important thing is my company's future is secure." (Batman Begins)

Hey! Another callback. After the billionaire burns down his mansion in a drunken stupor (or so thinks the world), Wayne Enterprises' resident suit Earle gets a taste of his own medicine when he learns said drunken billionaire has secretly purchased the company and ousted him. Earlier in the film, Earle used the condescending "it's all a bit technical" line to explain business to Bruce who was buying the company during its public offering. 

"I'm not wearing hockey pads." (The Dark Knight)

Batman has followers now, and most of them are out-of-shape dudes decked out in gear from the sporting goods store. To add insult to injury after Batman breaks their guns and ties them up next to the Scarecrow, he explains the real difference between him and them: it's all in the gear.

"Accomplice? I'm telling them the whole thing was your idea." (The Dark Knight)

Bruce decides to hang up the cape and cowl and reveal to the public he's Batman. When Alfred suggests he'll be locked up as an accomplice, Bruce cracks a rare joke.

"Not very subtle." (The Dark Knight)

Here's another one that made it into the trailer — with an assist from Alfred. When Bruce needs to protect a man whom The Joker says must die or a hospital will be blown up, Alfred asks if he'll be taking the Batpod. "In the middle of the day, Alfred?" Bruce responds. "Not very subtle." Alfred's response: "The Lamborghini then. Much more subtle." 

"Do you think I should go to the hospital?" (The Dark Knight)

Soon after, Bruce uses the Lambo to protect a would-be victim. Gordon tries to call him a hero, but Bruce pretends he was just trying to catch a yellow light. He also doesn't seem to know the city is terrified of The Joker's threat to blow up a hospital, even though just days earlier The Joker crashed Wayne's fundraiser for Harvey Dent. You'd think he'd keep up with what that clown guy was up to. 

"This isn't a car." (The Dark Knight Rises)

It's the movie where Batman makes some new friends and gets to show them his new gadgets. The Batwing line, like the tumbler line, naturally made its way into a trailer. 

"So that's what that feels like." (The Dark Knight Rises)

Is this the moment he realized Catwoman is his perfect match? Batman has been disappearing off of ledges during conversations for a while now, and he finally he gets a taste of his own medicine when Catwoman does the same to him. 

"Tell me where the trigger is. Then, you have my permission to die." (The Dark Knight Rises)

Even in the face of nuclear annihilation, Batman has time for a little callback to Bane, who once told him that when Gotham was in ashes, The Dark Knight would have the villain's permission to die. 

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