From Batman killing the Joker in the 1989 film to Superman reversing time in the 1978 movie, these moments have sparked debates among fans about their alignment with comic book canon and character portrayals.
Even universally beloved films like Batman Returns have featured controversial scenes, such as Selina Kyle being revived by cats, that were deemed too campy and disconnected from DC Comics.
Across the DC Universe, many DC movies have featured controversial moments that divided fans, and some received particularly strong reactions. It is widely known that DC’s shared universe grew to be quite controversial over the years, which becomes clear especially when rewatching the DCEU movies. Director Zack Snyder’s distinct vision for some of DC’s most iconic characters ended up creating loyal supporters and ardent critics, with many other DCEU movies not directed by Snyder, such as Wonder Woman 1984 and Suicide Squad, also featuring moments that divided DC fans.
While the DCEU’s controversial status is fresh on fans’ minds, the shared DC movie universe is far from the first time DC movie moments have divided fans. Both on the live-action and animation sides, DC movies have managed to make some quite controversial choices over the years. While divisive moments are generally associated with movies that underperformed or received great criticism, even universally beloved DC movies have contributed to this negative trend. Here are 10 DC movie moments that divided fans the most, both in the DCEU or not.
10 Joker Scares Gary But Lets Him Go
2019’s Joker has some intense scenes, but one of them really divided fans. Despite Gary being his friend, having never made fun of Arthur, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker taunted the character before ultimately allowing him to leave his apartment after Arthur had killed their co-worker in front of Gary. Having witnessed Arthur brutally stabbing Randall to death, Gary slowly makes his way toward the door after the Joker says he won’t harm him, only for Arthur to scare Gary when he walks by him before opening the door for Gary. After such a brutal murder, the Joker scaring Gary for laughs is cruel and goes against Arthur’s “hero” view of himself.
9 Bat-Credit Card Reveal
1997’s Batman & Robin was so controversial that it ended up taking Batman away from the big screen until director Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale teamed up to bring the Dark Knight back in 2005’s Batman Begins. Among its several heavily debated scenes is the reveal of the infamous Bat-Credit Card that George Clooney’s Bruce Wayne uses when he needs access to funds while in action as Batman. The scene proved quite divisive, with some thinking it fits in with director Joel Schumacher’s brand of humor, while others think it makes Batman too much of a joke.
8 Selina Kyle Is Revived By Cats
While Batman Returns is highly regarded as one of the best live-action Batman movies, the film does possess a very controversial moment. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle falls to what appears to be certain death after being pushed by Max Shreck. However, Selina is weirdly brought back to life after several stray cats converge on her body, walking all over her, licking her, and gnawing at her fingers. Without explanation, Selina’s eyes roll back, and she wakes up to become Catwoman. The moment is very campy and has no source in DC Comics.
7 Batman Kills The Joker
Michael Keaton’s Batman ends up killing Jack Nicholson’s Joker in 1989’s Batman. As the Joker is escaping by holding onto a helicopter’s ladder, Batman fires his grappling hook to attach Joker’s leg to a nearby gargoyle, which eventually falls and sends the Joker toward his death. In the comics, Batman has a pretty defined no-kill rule, which live-action movies have had a hard time depicting. Keaton’s Batman not only breaks the Dark Knight’s cardinal rule but also does so by murdering the hero’s biggest foe, which doesn’t sit well with many fans, just like the movie’s reveal that the Joker killed Bruce’s parents.
6 Batman Killing & Branding
Ben Affleck’s Batman was the latest movie version of the Dark Knight not to adhere to Batman’s no-kill rule from the comics. The DCEU’s Batman kills many people, with his debut movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, showing how brutal that version of the character is. Right at the start of the film, Batman is revealed to brand criminals, with the movie’s later warehouse scene and other moments showing that Affleck’s Bruce Wayne has a high kill count in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, making the movie quite controversial over its depiction of Batman.
5 Jonathan Kent Tells Clark Not To Save Him
2013’s Man of Steel started the DCEU with a few controversial moments. Kevin Costner’s depiction of Jonathan Kent fell short of other versions of the character. Costner’s Pa Kent was far from the warm and caring versions of Jonathan Kent shown in Smallville and the comics, with the character seemingly hinting that a young Clark should have let a bus with his classmates drown in order to protect his secret. That builds up to Jonathan telling Clark not to save him from a hurricane so that his son’s secret isn’t revealed to the world, a choice that Superman would be unlikely to stand by in most other adaptations.
4 Batman & Batgirl Get Intimate
The animated Batman: The Killing Joke is one of DC’s most controversial movies, as it didn’t simply adapt one of Batman’s most iconic stories ever but also added an unnecessary subplot that made no sense. In the animated film, Batman and Batgirl have sex, which never happened in the story the movie is based on and is weird to see given Barbara Gordon is often linked romantically to Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne’s first Robin, in most media. The moment was jarring and caused many fans to be disappointed, which is a shame, as the rest of the movie is a great adaptation of the iconic comic book story.
1978’s Superman is held to this day as the best Superman movie, with Christopher Reeve’s acting in the film still being recognized as the gold standard for the character. However, the film also presented one of the most divisive DC movie moments. Superman‘s controversial time travel scene, where the Man of Steel flies so fast that he makes Earth spin backward to reverse time, launched many debates among fans. While some think the scene is one of Superman’s biggest displays of power in live-action, others question how spinning the Earth backward could actually turn back time and if Superman should even be allowed to do that.
2 Superman Killing Zod
Henry Cavill’s Superman killing Michael Shannon’s General Zod kicked off the DCEU with what would be one of the biggest controversies in DC history. Superman is known for being the best among the heroes, with his love for humanity and sense of justice making killing anyone a no-go for the hero. However, Man of Steel made Cavill’s Superman cross that line in his DCEU debut. The moment in incredibly divisive, as there are fans that believe Superman had no other way to defeat Zod and others who think Snyder should have had Superman banish Zod to the Phantom Zone instead of killing him.
1 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s “Martha” Scene
Finally, the DCEU’s most controversial moment and the most divisive DC movie moment has to be Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s “Martha” scene. Batman decides not to kill Superman after spending most of the movie trying to do that just because Superman reveals to Bruce that his mother’s name is also Martha, just like Batman, which is anticlimactic. The moment makes more sense in the movie’s Ultimate Edition, as Snyder gets to flesh out what leads to Superman saying that; however, the theatrical version of the moment stands out as one of the moments that led to that iteration of the live-action DC Universe never taking off with fans.
Key Release Dates
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Joker: Folie a Deux
The Batman – Part II
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