This article contains major The Lego Batman Movie spoilers.
Holy plastic building blocks, Batman! Almost everything really was awesome about The Lego Batman Movie. After years of dark nights and grim glares at other superheroes, the newest adventure of the Caped Crusader, as voiced by Will Arnett’s perfectly overdone gravel, was a breath of fresh air. Not afraid to let Batman’s sidekicks have fun—even if our cantankerous main guy still prefers to wear only black and sing about “darkness”—The Lego Batman Movie is poised to entertain Bat-fans of all Bat-ages.
Still one of its best gags is its shameless (and relentless) use of references, cutaways, and in-jokes to overstuff its narrative with more meta-humor than the most unwieldy episode of Community. As a consequence, it’s easy to get lost about just what is being winked at, and when you’re supposed to nod along. So below we have begun compiling in this living document all the references we caught on just one viewing of The Lego Batman Movie. If we missed anything, let us know by lighting the signal… or just leaving a comment or telling me on Twitter. Afterward, it’ll go in the below sections too.
Given the expansiveness of nerd history present in The Lego Batman Movie, we decided to build blocks of our own to organize the content. Rather than going in chronological order, we’ll try to denote references by where they fall in Dark Knight lore. And since it was clearly most passionate about backslapping fellow Batman movies too, we’ll start by breaking up its reverence for heritage.
The DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY
What place is better to really begin than digging into the knowing Dark Knight Trilogy smirks? Sure, Batman v Superman might be the most recent one, and Ben Affleck is technically WB’s current face for costumed adventuring, but it is with Christopher Nolan’s triumvirate of ponderous self-seriousness where Lego Batman’s heart truly lies.
This is made obvious before even the opening titles commence. By refusing to start with anything but darkness, Arnett’s Batman hisses, “Every serious movie begins with blackness.” At least all three of Nolan’s Batman movies do. In fact, The Dark Knight specifically washes WB’s logo in the same blue filter too. And does that sounds like Hans Zimmer’s Joker theme of rising string tension?
Another nod to The Dark Knight is dropped early when an unimpressed jet pilot shrugs off Joker’s high-jacking. “Batman always stops you.” When Joker goes the full Spicer and denies the blatantly obvious, the guard adds, “What about that time with the two boats?” That’s another point for The Dark Knight.
While the Lego Bane has his comic counterpart’s famed luchador mask, as well as the over-juiced steroid wrestler aesthetic, his voice is unmistakably a loving parody of Tom Hardy’s own unique vocalizations in The Dark Knight Rises. And it’s hilarious. Every damn time. He also appears to be wearing a way too small fur coat, which also likely references the bold fashion choices made by Hardy’s villainous demagogue.
While mentioning The Dark Knight Rises, whether intentionally or not, The Lego Batman Movie seems to share some thematic DNA with that final Batman film with Christian Bale. Both feature a Batman confounded about what to do with his life when Gotham City is cleaned up, each shows him on a kind of death wish as a result, and both end with salvation by way of a Bat-family working together… mind you, since it’s Nolan the family is a bunch of old men, plus a fellow orphaned young man and Anne Hathaway’s slinky Catwoman. Still, both versions of Bats also seem ready to start a family at the end, giving up his loneliness.
These are Chicago’s famed, movable downtown bridges. They figure prominently in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and they briefly show up as part of Gotham City’s architecture in this movie.
One of the cleverest choices by Lego Batman writers is the revelation that loner Batman is just a big softy at heart who watches romantic comedies and dramas when no one is looking. By itself that’s kind of hilarious. However, the pièce de résistance is that the only clip they actually show is from Jerry Maguire, the movie where Tom Cruise earnestly tells Renée Zellweger that “you complete me.”
It’s the same line that Heath Ledger’s Joker makes a mockery of in The Dark Knight when he tells Batman that his law and order, goodie-goodie act also completes him. This is like a three-dimensional pretzel of sarcastic meta-movie knowledge.
BATMAN V SUPERMAN AND THE DCEU
Beyond the above image getting a nod during a montage, one of the most amusing early tips of the hat to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice comes during the end of Batman and Joker’s opening battle. The Joker demands for Batman to admit that the Clown Prince of Crime is his greatest foe. But Batman demurs, “I like to fight around.” As proof he names Bane and Superman as his most recent casual beat-ups. For the record, Batman’s most recent films saw him fighting Bane (The Dark Knight Rises) and Superman (Batman v Superman).
Lego Joker is exasperated. But you can’t be nemeses with another superhero?! Batman’s like, “Yeah, bro.”
Also during the opening sequence, Lego Killer Croc swims down beneath the waterways of Gotham to turn on the Joker’s intricate and overly complicated bomb. Afterwards he exclaims, “Yeah, I got to do something!” Thus it must’ve been seawater down there, because the shade this line threw at Suicide Squad was salty.
Near the end of The Lego Batman Movie, the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery begs for Batman to let them join the fight against Joker’s new evil army. “Using villains to fight villains? That’s a dumb idea.” You’re probably right, Batman. You’re probably right.
TIM BURTON’S BATMAN MOVIES
While Lego Batman was a bit shadier to the most recent stuff, it had plenty of nostalgia for the past, beginning with the Tim Burton Batman films, Batman and Batman Returns. For instance, right after the Joker denies that the “two boats” incident happened, the still skeptical pilot counters, “What about the time with Prince music and the parade?”
Whenever the Penguin is onscreen, he is usually near an automated rubber ducky, which is straight out of Batman Returns. We also see him ordering around his rocket-wearing Penguin soldiers too, and that is a distinctly Tim Burton-y touch.
In a wistful “what should have been” reference, we finally get to see Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face. While Williams is underused again (it seems like a contractual obligation at this point), it was still great to hear him cackle as Two-Face. Also, the design of Lego Two-Face suggests a melding of Williams with the villain designs Joel Schumacher embraced in Batman Forever.
What would Batman name his most adrenaline-heavy, ass-kicking playist? “Let’s Get Nuts.” I think Michael Keaton would agree that’s a good choice.
When Lego Batman and Robin first go joy-riding in his enormous Batmobile, they almost hit an old lady crossing the road and have to slam on their brakes. This also seems like a nod to the end of Penguin’s short time at the wheel in Batman Returns.
Here seems as good a place as anywhere to mention that I’m pretty sure all the Batmobiles got a shout-out during multiple shots of the Bat-fleet near the beginning of the movie. I definitely saw, among others, the Tumbler from The Dark Knight movies and the Batmobile from the Batman Forever vintage. But why list this here? Because I also spied the Batmobile from Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), which we all know is the best one. Obviously.
There was also a giant statue like this one from Batman Forever or Batman & Robin that the Caped Crusader sped past at one point. Technically this is from those other movies, but they really don’t need their own subcategory, do they?
Perhaps more than any, it is the Batman TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, which ran from 1966 to 1968 on ABC, that got the most loving stamps of approval from Lego Batman. After all, one comical satire has to recognize the game of another, right?
As such, this is the only property given the actual clip treatment. That moment occurs when Alfred is tut tutting Bruce for his “episodes” of anger, naming all the years that Batman has had films… as well as 1966, the year this TV series (and its 20th Century Fox spin-off film) were released. And it’s the only one we get a momentary flash of as West does some bizarre interpretive dance in the guise of a merry Caped Crusader.
Even Alfred is secretly impressed since he dresses as West’s Batman at the end of the film.
Another obvious nod is Bat-Shark repellent. As soon as Dick Grayson eyes it and Batman insists “it’s useless,” we all knew it would come back in the third act, right? It’s Chekov’s shark repellent.
Another constant—and always welcome—staple from the original Batman TV series is its groovy theme. In fact, the filmmakers leaned heavily on it, using the ditty early and often. A variation on the tune first appears when Batman is kicking all sorts of villain ass in the opening. During the mayhem, he orders his computer to go into “Overcompensate” Mode. This means playing a ridiculous tune Batman apparently wrote about himself, which uses riffs from the “Batman Theme Song,” including the way it emphatically shouts “BATMAN!” during the chorus.
Lego Batman himself sings versions of the jingle throughout the movie, including when he throws a temper tantrum about not wanting to go to the party that Alfred insists he attends (he eventually caves). He also does this again when he and Robin are locked up by Barbara Gordon at Arkham Asylum. Of course, the best use of it is when the horn to the Batmobile blasts a midi-sounding version, which he first shows off while showboating for the orphans.
What would a Batman satire or parody be without referencing the 1960s Batman show’s overuse of pop art graphics for the action? Yep, the third act is gloriously littered with POWs! and BAMs! Batman and Robin hit these goons so hard that the excitable text just bursts from their unconsciousness, broken bodies.
Also straight out of the classic TV series is the idea that Alfred would sometimes go on missions with Batman and Robin while wearing a simple domino mask and hat for his disguise. Don’t believe me? Check out the above image from Batman: The Movie!
King Tut is one of the many villains namedropped and hidden like so many easter eggs in The Lego Batman Movie. But he is especially worth mentioning since he was a villain created specifically for the Batman TV show. Played by actor Victor Bruno, King Tut was once a mild mannered Egyptology professor from Yale named William Omaha McElroy. But during a protest, the prof is hit in the head with a rock, and presto, he wakes up thinking he is the reincarnated King Tutankhamun. Thus a super villain is born. His aim is to turn Gotham City into ancient Thebes.
Another villain originally from Adam West’s glory days making a cameo in the film is Egghead. Also created for the TV series, the most notable thing about Egghead is that he was originally embodied by the indispensable Vincent Price. Otherwise, he is a classic “evil genius” type with an affinity for eggs, as represented in his bald head and pale yellow suit. He only eats grade triple A white eggs, and he loves a good egg pun. Then again, who doesn’t?
SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE?!
Yep, we’re as surprised as you are that this movie earned its own section in this article, but we always enjoy unexpected trips into Otisburgh… or at least the classic Richard Donner vision for the Fortress of Solitude.
Indeed, when Batman and Robin crash the Justice League’s supercool party unannounced, it is because the gang is throwing down in the Fortress of Solitude, which is constructed of nothing but majestic crystals, punctuating the snowy North Pole like a sea of diamonds in an icy rough. It also appears to be a great place to great rick-rick-ity-wrecked!
The doorbell for Lego Superman’s fortress is the opening bars from John Williams’ Krypton theme in his epic Superman: The Movie score, because of course it is.
General Zod is a constant presence in The Lego Batman Movie since Superman banishes him to the Phantom Zone early on in a news report before the Joker later sets him free. And Lego Zod looks an awful lot like Terrence Stamp’s General Zod. With that said, the Phantom Zone portal weapon and subsequent portal are quite different. Could that be a reference to Man of Steel? Given the otherwise cold shoulder the film gives the DCEU, I find it unlikely, but I can’t be sure.
Also while at the Fortress of Solitude, we get a Lego version of Jor-El that is obviously meant to evoke Marlon Brando’s godlike presence as Superman’s ghostly space dad. His flame has long since extinguished, but he’ll always be with his son thanks to these irreplaceable crystals, mementos that he has bequeathed to his only—oh, okay, Batman just crushed them all. Never mind.
ICONIC BATMAN IMAGE NODS
This also seems like the best place to put a handy, dandy image dump which captures some of the images that first Lego Alfred mentions and then Lego Barbara Gordon later intimates during her power point presentation of Batman’s 78-year-reign of bizarre terror. The images include poster and still recreations from Batman v Superman, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins, Batman Returns, and Batman (1989), plus art from the first run of Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), the 1939 comic book Detective Comics #27 (where Batman first appeared), Frank Miller’s graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns (1986), Batman Begins, Batman: The Movie (1966), and Columbia Pictures’ 1943 serial, Batman.
(There is also more than these pictures if you just want to scroll farther down to see).
EVERYTHING ELSE BATMAN (OR OTHERWISE)
And here is everything else that references comics, shows, and totally unrelated properties from The Lego Batman Movie. So it is also the best place to bring up Rosario Dawson’s wonderfully kickass version of Barbara Gordon. Now for comic book purists, Barbara Gordon has never replaced her father as Police Commissioner Gordon in the New 52 or almost any other Infinite Earth (she’s too busy being awesome as either Batgirl or Oracle for that kind of lengthy responsibility)… but she totally did that in Batman Beyond, the terrific futuristic spin-off/sequel to Batman: The Animated Series.
Now, could it be a coincidence that Lego Batman made Babs the new police commissioner? Maybe, then again we also saw this suit referenced on Batman’s clothes line of uniforms midway through the film…
We also caught in the background an unnamed Lego version of Blight, arch-nemesis of Terry McGinnis (the future’s Batman) and all around glowing green piece of nasty corporate work…
So it’s safe to say Lego Batman also had Batman Beyond on the brain.
Right down to the fact that this animated series from Bruce Timm and Paul Dini was the first to float the idea that Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon are a couple. Yuck, indeed, but it’s back again for The Lego Batman Movie.
Also on the subject of animated villains, The Lego Batman Movie had a lot of fun with the rogue Condiment King, a wacky joke of a villain also created by Timm and Dini for Batman: The Animated Series. In that show, he was a standup comedy judge who once gave Joker the vote of no confidence when the latter was a struggling comedian (and gangster? He was already pretty nutty before the chemical bath in the cartoon’s universe).
Thus when Joker comes back as a supervillain, he uses mind-altering drugs to turn all the judges into crazed supervillains who ruin their lives by committing petty crimes. Condiment King is one such baddie, happy to use ketchup and mustard and plenty of Adam West-inspired fast food puns. Saucy.
Another villain from an admittedly darker side of Batman mythos is the Mutant Leader, a violent demagoguing anarchist who leads a bunch of skinheads to nearly overthrow a dystopian Gotham City in Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns. Batman almost kills him in a mud bath wrestling match that concludes with the Mutant Leader permanently crippled. His Lego version seems far less dangerous or defeated since he’s palling around with the Joker and gang at the beginning when Batman is grooving on his overcompensating tune.
It would be too difficult to list all the many Batman villains cameoing in the film, so here’s a generic image of the rogues gallery! Chances are they’re all there. For my money, I spotted Joker, Catwoman, Two-Face, Bane, Harley Quinn, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, and Clayface. Also among the humorous C-listers getting a nod were Calendar Man, Catman, and the Clock King.
At one point in the movie, we see one of the non-Batplanes have the moniker “Ferris Aircraft,” which is a deliberate wink toward comic book fans who know about the jets that Hal Jordan, aka Green Lantern, flies during his non-heroic times. Also thanks to Francisco Antillón for pointing this one out!
And of course no Justice League or Super Friends punchline would be complete without a mocking bow aimed at the Wonder Twins. This duet of lameness was created for Hanna-Barbaera’s Super Friends cartoon in 1977. Weird, annoying (and incestuous?) aliens from the planet Exxor, they activated magic rings that allowed one to turn into an always complementary animal and body of water…. Yeah.
And while not in the DC Universe, we also saw Marvel’s golden boy billionaire who likes to moonlight as a superhero get royally dissed. There is no other way to describe the fact that the password to enter the Batcave is “Iron Man Sucks!”
But it wasn’t just Batman villains getting some love. Plenty of other famous pop culture rogues also escaped from the Phantom Zone to wreak havoc. And perhaps, not so surprisingly, many of them were villains in past or upcoming Warner Bros. films! Take for example Sauron, the 9,000-year-old floating eye from Middle-earth that got plenty of onscreen use and play as the Joker’s magical surveillance state in Gotham. He also was of course the villain in Peter Jackson/New Line Cinema’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and New Line is now a subsidiary of WB.
On that note, WB’s favorite fantasy franchise also resurfaced in a glorious way when Voldemort turned out to also be chilling in the Phantom Zone. While this is more movie studio synergy, there is no denying that they had to use Voldemort. Seriously, they already had Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth, it’d be criminal to otherwise ignore him.
Also, lest you don’t remember, WB has their first King Kong movie coming out next month with the very appealing looking Kong: Skull Island. And wouldn’t you just know it? A talking version of Kong is also one of the major baddies biding his time in the Phantom Zone too. Huh, small world.
Also while WB’s reported Doctor Who movie seems to have stalled for the time being, that franchise’s beloved villains still cropped up in The Lego Batman Movie. Feast your eyes on the Daleks. You know the weird antagonistic, movable trashcans that shout “EXTERMINATE?” Joker told you to ask your nerd friends about them. And here we are to explain that they’re supremely evil alien beings who have abandoned their organic bodies for eternal hive-minded life inside these nigh unkillable exoskeleton pieces of battle armor. You’re welcome.
I don’t think WB has a Dracula movie on the horizon. He’s just an awesome classic villain who also happens to be in the public domain. Here’s a nifty image of Bela Lugosi in the role!
Also while not a WB property, the classic Baum villainess, the Wicked Witch of the West, apparently also chills in the Phantom Zone when she isn’t melting her mind on H20.
But another classic from the Warner Bros. archives are the Gremlins, including the fearsome Stripe (the one with the Mohawk). These little baddies start out as cute and cuddly mogwai, but if you get them wet or feed them after midnight, they essentially birth these evil critters called Gremlins. And they will try to kill you. Lego Batman also acknowledges their urban legend history as being the creatures that downed World War II planes, as seen in their attack on Batman’s bat-plane.
WB made two Gremlins movies, and while the first is an unassailable cult classic, many (including us) prefer the even more batty and Lego Movie-ish sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
Also, as commenter CommonCents points out, apparently when Batman is coming up with possible team names, he mentions Fox Force 5. And if you don’t recall, that is part of Uma Thurman’s running joke for a cancelled pilot in Pulp Fiction! So definitely not a punchline for the kids.
The use of The Cutting Crew’s infamous “I’m Just Dying in Your Arms Tongiht” could be a reference to any number of romantic comedies, which Lego Batman has a special affinity for. Or, it could just be because the song itself is absurd. Still, Twitter user Bruce Murray makes a convincing argument that it’s a wink to the rom-com Never Been Kissed.
So that’s everything we jotted down after one viewing of The Lego Batman Movie. Did we miss anything? Disagree with anything we have listed? Let us know in the comment section below or give me a holler on Twitter!