As we’re in the season of bats, cats, clowns, scarecrows, masks and other things that go bump in the night, it seems only appropriate to have this week’s Fan Film Friday showcase the world of Gotham City and the Dark Knight.
Batman is one of the strongest and most continuous focuses of fan films. Not only is the character very popular, and there are literally decades of source material for inspiration, but the character’s lack of superpowers and sticking to the shadows is ideal for fan film producers who generally have a smaller budget. Though there will be some in this list that had a considerable budget, and professionals who have moved up into Hollywood.
It should also be noted that DC Comics tends to be a little more supportive of fan films than other intellectual property owners, with former company president Paul Levitz stating “we are not against things where people use our assets if they don’t do anything monetarily with them.”
Finally, as Batman stories tend to be dark and violent, it should noted that viewer discretion should be taken with most of the fan films on this list.
BATMAN: DEAD END (2003)
This fan film actually premiered at the San Diego Comic Con in 2003. Not only is this fan film placed on this list due to chronological order, but because it also paved the way for the modern era of Batman and other fan films that wasn’t really seen before. This was filmed on a budget of $30,000 and actually got positive recognition from Hollywood director Kevin Smith. The cinematography in the rain and shadows is especially impressive, and the acting by both Batman (Clark Bartram) and the Joker (the late Andrew Koenig) is well done and well directed by Sandy Collora.
THE KNIGHT WALTZ (2010)
Producer and director Chris Notarile has produced well over forty fan films through Blinky Productions. In this one, he focuses on the (pun intended) cat and mouse relationship between Batman and Catwoman that plays out on the rooftops of Gotham. Double entendres abound throughout this interplay between the two actors, who not only have good chemistry, but play their respective comic book roles really well.
BATMAN: THE LAST LAUGH (2011)
In this well made fan film, all the action is told almost entirely in reverse, inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Memento. It really shows what someone can do with a lot of imagination and a unique vision, with a smaller budget. The fight choreography and camera work is exceptional, especially in slow motion reverse. In fact, the stunt team are professionals, and it looks as if parts of this was filmed on a Hollywood or theme park back lot.
BATMAN: CITY OF SCARS (2011)
No Batman fan film list is complete without mentioning production team Bat in the Sun. They are an independent film studio based in Los Angeles. Known for their high quality fan films that some say rival Hollywood, this is considered one of their best produced. Following the murder of a child’s parents at the hands of the Joker, Batman tracks him down across the city, while internalizing his own struggles with his parent’s murders. Understandably, the phenomenal camera work, the remarkable fighting choreography and the strong performances by Batman (Kevin Porter) and the Joker (Paul Molnar) have made this fan film receive critical praise from Time Magazine, MTV and the LA Times.
Bat in the Sun would follow this up with a few more Batman fan films, as well as the beloved fan film series Super Power Beat Down that pits characters from different fandoms against each other.
BATMAN: DEATH WISH (2012)
While many Batman fan film’s costume design take direct inspiration from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, this one takes more inspiration from the controversial Joel Schumacher films. Despite this, the film has more of a dark tone, with Batman, Nightwing (Matthew Hiscox) and Robin (Christopher L. Robinson, ironically) investigating someone who is targeting the costumed villains across Gotham. This fan film showcases the Bat Family’s detective skills, as opposed to others that mostly focus on their fighting abilities.
THE BATMAN – A FAN FILM (2013)
This Batman fan film is a decent, and concise, effort to recreate the fight scenes from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. While honestly the acting could use a little more work, the fighting mostly makes up for that, as well as that awesome suit and Batwing effects.
BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM (2013)
Almost looking like a professional Hollywood blockbuster, this fan trailer is inspired by the graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison. Effectively recreating the creepy look of that graphic novel, it is enhanced by the powerful Danny Elfman score to Batman Returns.
LEGENDS: THE DARK KNIGHT (2013)
Poke the Bear Productions states that is medieval Elseworlds take on Batman was filmed over just one shoot day. They hoped that this would also launch a fan web series that continued this story, but unfortunately there are no follow-up videos on their YouTube page in the years since this was posted. Regardless, the cinematography is smooth and focused, the fight choreography is pretty good for such a short shoot and the character designs are a nice blend of comic book and medieval.
THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS – AN EPIC FAN FILM (2016)
This 45 minute Batman fan film is a fan adaptation of the first issue of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns comic series. As with the official comic, Bruce Wayne has retired as Batman, after Jason Todd was murdered by the Joker a decade prior. But, now a new wave of violent criminal activity threatens Gotham and brings Bruce out of retirement. Director and star Wyatt Weed stated that filming was for “24 days over a 17-month period” with a budget of $2500. That long of a shoot is not surprising at all, as fan films tend to be filmed on people’s free time between work, school and family.
To be completely honest, this list barely scratches the surface of Batman fan films out there to consume. With the character as popular as ever in the Hollywood movies, there is bound to be countless more fans out there who are inspired to tell their own Dark Knight stories on screen.