What Genre Is The Batman?

Last Updated on December 9, 2022 by Lil Ginge

The Batman has been the most successful movie of 2022. Audiences love it and so do the critics. Part of the appeal of the film is that it incorporates genres that have not played a big role in previous Batman films. Before we look at what genres The Batman falls into, let’s define the concept “genre”.

The Batman stands before a large clue left by the riddler in that says "lies" inwriting
Photo courtesy of WarnerMedia

What Is A Film Genre?

A film genre is largely a stylistic category that groups similarities between movies. Some themes may be more common to certain genres than others. But, any theme can generally be incorporated into any genre. Genres make use of certain conventions common to that particular genre which can include:

  • visual images and iconography 
  • characterizations of featured roles 
  • the lighting and sound 
  • set designs 
  • the actors who are used themselves

A film’s genre will influence elements of the movie like mood and tone. It can even influence the target audience and budget of the film. For example, an explosive action-adventure film designed to target young males will likely have an enormous budget. But a quiet indie drama about the lives of senior citizens will have a far smaller one.

The Genres of Previous Batman Films

Every film falls into a certain genre or multiple genres. And that is true of all previous Batman films. However, the primary or secondary genres of a movie can sometimes be debatable. For example, you could classify some previous Batman films as:

  1. Batman – action movie
  2. Batman and Robin – satire
  3. The Dark Knight – crime thriller
  4. The Dark Knight Rises – epic
  5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – science-fiction

Many of these films contain multiple genres and subgenres. For example, you could easily argue that all five movies above are primarily superhero action films. Then the other genres I listed above are all secondary genres or subgenres. What’s interesting about The Batman is that it focuses on some genres that previous Batman films have kept in the background.

Is The Batman A Horror Movie?

The Batman is not primarily a horror movie. But it takes significant inspiration from some horror movies of the past. Especially horror movies that focus on serial killers. The most notable of these is Silence of the Lambs, which is in essence a horror drama and serial killer film.

There are a few great scare moments in The Batman. For example, when The Riddler shows up in a frame unexpectedly and then commits a terrifying murder. In this way, he is acting like serial killers from the past such asHannibal Lecter, Michael Meyers, and Jason Vorhees.

Another horror film that influences The Batman includes Christine. Christine is about a murderous car. And the Batmobile takes inspiration from it. Additionally, some of the clever contraptions The Riddler uses to murder his victims like Commissioner Pete Savage, include contraptions reminiscent of the Saw films.

Detective, Noir, and Neo-Noir Influences

The Batman is largely a detective-noir film. And it is the first Batman movie that focuses on The Batman as the world’s greatest detective. Batman is able to spot clues and evidence that the police and even Commissioner Gordon completely overlook. The Batman director Matt Reeves has said:

In the first meeting, he was saying, we want to lean into the ‘world’s greatest detective aspect,’ and be a detective noir movie. And, you know, normally when directors say that, they just do like a mood board, and it’s just about the imagery. But I read the script, and it is! It’s a detective movie. It happens all the time in the graphic novels, but it’s always kind of on the backburner in the movies.

The Batman director Matt Reeves in Movie Maker.

Film noir is a major influence on the movie. Both original noir films of the 1930s and 40s, as well as neo-noir films like Chinatown, hold sway. Reeves mentions the general political corruption in Chinatown and draws an analogy to the corruption of figures in The Batman, like District Attorney Gil Colson and Mayor Don Mitchell Jr.

Political and Journalistic Thrillers

The corruption angle, especially as it draws in key politicians, incorporates another classic film genre – the political thriller. Most notably, the names “Colson” and “Mitchell” are a throwback to the Watergate scandal. And that scandal was the subject of one of the greatest movies ever, All The President’s Men

Speaking of which, that film, largely a journalistic-thriller, also inspired another obvious influence on The Batman: the serial killer journalistic thriller Zodiac. Zodiac is the largest single influence on both the look and the characterization of The Riddler.

The Riddler’s terrifying mask, surplus-style jacket, and question mark insignia over his chest all bear resemblance to Zodiac. However, there is no journalism aspect to The Batman. The investigations are handled by the police force under Gordon and, of course, largely by The Batman himself.

What Is The Batman’s Primary Genre?

Superhero Suspense Thriller

It is hard to pick just one genre for The Batman. But it is first and foremost a superhero film, as most movies about comic book characters are. The fact that it’s a superhero film is not that interesting, as all Batman movies of the past fall into the superhero genre.

What is more interesting is that most of the film is not primarily an action-adventure movie focusing on huge set pieces and major explosions. Instead, the film draws heavily on the thriller as its primary genre vehicle.

Thrillers tend to focus on heightening emotions such as anxiety, suspense, and surprise. They can evoke fear and an overwhelming sense of dread that increases as the movie unfolds. “Thrillers” and “Suspense films” may be considered one genre as there is little difference between them. Sometimes they are simply referred to as “suspense thrillers.”

Superhero Action-Adventure

The final third of The Batman is closer to the traditionally dominant superhero sub-genre: action-adventure. This is especially true as The Batman tries to stop The Riddler’s social media followers from murdering Gotham citizens (including Mayor Bella Real). The Riddler also destroys Gotham’s seawall to essentially drown the entire city.

The Gotham flood plot draws major parallels to the two “destroy Gotham” plots of The Dark Knight Trilogy. In Batman Begins, Ras al Ghul attempts to use The Scarecrow’s fear toxin to induce Gotham’s citizens to destroy the city. In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane and Talia al Ghul use an activated nuclear bomb to hold the city hostage and threaten to destroy it.

Sequels to The Batman and Switching Genres

Directors like Christopher Nolan have leveraged distinct genres to differentiate sequels from an initial film. For example, The Dark Knight’s crime thrills and The Dark Knight Rises’ historical epic feel make them distinct from action superhero origin films. (Think the original Superman (1978) and Batman Begins (2005).

It remains to be seen whether Matt Reeves will switch up genre influences in future sequels to The Batman. While he may stay in the noir-influenced suspense thriller lane, Reeves could open up to using other genres like action, drama, or even science fiction as his dominant influences.

If you enjoyed this article on What Genre The Batman is, definitely check out my article on The Batman‘s production companies.

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