Did Batman Actually Kill Anyone in The Dark Knight Returns?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Batman killed people in The Dark Knight Returns, which inspired Zack Snyder to have Batman kill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Many times over the years, we have seen filmmakers struggle with maintaining the correct tone and aesthetic for their films. In the case of the original Toy Story, the film came very close to being canceled entirely due to its initial dark tone. The original version of E.T. the Extra-Terrestial was so dark that it was basically split into two films, the family-friendly E.T. and the darker Poltergeist. In the case of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, however, director Zack Snyder had a distinct blueprint from the beginning that he was following to maintain the tone and aesthetic he wanted in the film. That blueprint was Frank Miller’s classic 1986 comic book series, The Dark Knight Returns. Snyder has spoken about that influence a number of times, including just a few weeks ago, noting:

When I read that comic book series, you know, in ‘86 I was floored by it because I felt like it promised me something. It challenged…my fundamental notions about Batman. It sort of inspired me to reconnect with Batman the character and comic book in general.


I sort of wanted to homage the comic book in this movie as much as possible was to say thank you to Frank for sort of giving me back Batman in a way that I could understand as modern…Even though we don’t follow that story, necessarily, the imagery that I chose to try to emulate in the movie was a way of me saying ‘thank you Frank’ for making my aesthetic.

This influence also explains why Snyder has Batman so willing to kill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Snyder again referenced Dark Knight Returns in regards to his version of Batman being willing to kill:

I would say that in the Frank Miller comic book that I reference, he kills all the time. There’s a scene from the graphic novel where he busts through a wall, takes the guy’s machine gun… I took that little vignette from a scene in The Dark Knight Returns, and at the end of that, he shoots the guy right between the eyes with the machine gun. One shot. Of course, I went to the gas tank, and all of the guys I work with were like, ‘You’ve gotta shoot him in the head’ because they’re all comic book dorks, and I was like, ‘I’m not gonna be the guy that does that!’”

Reader Dan M. wrote in to ask, though, is that actually true? Does Batman even kill at all in Dark Knight Returns? Lets’ take a look…
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