Batman 1989 Almost Got The Greatest Directing Duo In Movie History

By Jason Collins | Updated

batman 1989

Before Tim Burton was hired to direct 1989’s Batman and bring one of the most beloved versions of the Caped Crusader to the big screen—the Michael Keaton version of the character—Warner Bros.’s top choice was the Coen Brothers. Arguably, the most critically successful filmmaking duo of our time had the opportunity to film Batman, but they decided to work on their own cinematic masterpieces instead.

The Coen Brothers Rejected Making Batman 1989

The 1989 Batman was, and remains, one of the best Batman movies ever made, and while Tim Burton and Michael Keaton performed their respective role admirably, we have to wonder what a Coen Brother’s 1989 Batman would look like. Following the success of their second movie, Raising Arizona, Warner Bros. offered the Coen Brothers a chance to make a Batman movie.

However, the iconic duo, known for their knack for doing everything their own way, had rejected the offer, opting to make Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink instead, both of which helped the brothers achieve critical acclaim.

The Directors Wanted To Work With Original Projects

One of the reasons why the Coen Brothers rejected making 1989’s Batman, was—at least according to Ronald Bergan, the author of The Coen Brothers—was because the project didn’t originate with them. In other words, they rejected working on a big project for money, opting to make movies out of passion instead.

Directing Batman would most likely set the brothers for life, both financially and in terms of recognition (which they achieved anyway); they decided to make two spectacular movies coming from their own kitchen.

Opted To Make A Gangster Film Instead

Miller’s Crossing is an old-school mobster/gangster movie with plenty of film noir visuals that have become recognized. On the other hand, Barton Fink was a satirical take on Hollywood, bringing the brothers’ cynical humor to the limelight. These two films bear all the distinctions of the Coen Brothers’ creativity, propelling them to their collective and individual success.

Admittedly, neither of the Coen Brothers’ movies was nearly as successful as the 1989 Batman, but they have still attained critical acclaim as must-see releases.

Batman 1989 Was A Blockbuster

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The 1989 Batman the Coen Brothers passed on to Tim Burton was a massive commercial and critical success, earning $411 million on a $48 million budget, but it wasn’t greenlit until after the success of Burton’s Beetlejuice. The movie earned universal acclaim, which we could credit to Tim Burton’s direction, Keaton’s performance as Batman, and Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the Joker. While some have criticized it for being too dark—as Batman movies should be—but have granted the movie positive reviews nonetheless.

Everyone Went On To Be Wildly Successful

As previously stated, the two Coen Brother movies weren’t as nearly as successful as 1989 Batman. But they still achieved universal acclaim in the years following their release, propelling the Coen Brothers’ careers and making them synonymous with the great filmmakers of modern times.

That’s a success in its own right because the duo grew up spending time with their Vivitar Super 8 camera in a desire to pursue filmmaking. The Coen Brothers and Tim Burton are still in business and working on their respective projects.