The scene in question:

It's pretty clear Batman is aiming specifically at the Joker this time, rather than the balloons or the float or the other goons, and I'm not aware of this Joker having any armor or deflection technology that would explain the failure to hit him. Plus, the Joker almost effortlessly hits the Batwing a few seconds later with what I assume is far less advanced weaponry, so they're clearly not out of range of each other.

For those unfamiliar with this movie, this version of Batman does not appear to have any sort of no-killing rule. In fact, (27-year-old spoiler alert) he successfully and deliberately kills the Joker not long after this scene, so "he was trying not to kill him" wouldn't make sense in this case.

  • 1
    I never interpreted the 89 Joker death to be intentional murder on Batman's part. He fires the cord to keep him tied to the gargoyle to keep him from getting away, and Joker's wiggling ends up shaking the whole gargoyle loose. Negligent homicide, perhaps, but not murder.
    – phantom42
    May 30, 2016 at 21:58
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    I always interpret the scene as a vehicle strafing a ground target, despite there being technology involved, it doesn't mean you can hit a man-sized target as easily with fixed directional weapons. Fixed directional weapons are dependent upon the vehicle directing them to be pointed in the right direction at a target. Such weaponry is meant for shooting at targets larger than people such as cars and tanks. Strangely enough, it's part of the Joker's thing to do the unpredictable. In this case, instead of dodging he stood still. Scattered rounds land all around him missing him completely. May 30, 2016 at 22:19
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    @phantom42 - He kills other bad guys pretty casually though (like the Joker henchman he grabs with his feet and intentionally flips down the bell tower shaft at 2:50 - 3:00 here, or the ones who were at Axis Chemicals when he set off the bomb in this scene, or this scene from Batman Returns) so it seems unlikely he would have had any particular desire not to kill the Joker.
    – Hypnosifl
    May 30, 2016 at 22:22
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    Movies, sooner or later, demand a suspension of disbelief. This scene requires a triple dose or you'll burn out a few brain cells. That a computer guided targeting system can miss that badly while a ridiculously long barreled pistol can take out a jet fighter with one shot... But you have to admit, it's one hell of a scene
    – Machavity
    May 30, 2016 at 23:04
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    Having witnessed aerial gunnery qualifications in the Army, I can say this was pretty accurate (no pun intended). Strafing is an area of effect weapon, not precision. It doesn't work well against a single small target.
    – Paul
    Nov 19, 2016 at 23:01

3 Answers 3


In the film's novelisation, it's made a little clearer that a large amount of the munitions that Batman fired weren't aimed at the Joker at all, they were aimed at the floats and anything else that looked hinky. Only the bullets seem to have been targeted at him, and they were evidently evaded by his erratic dancing:

Bullets, lasers, and missiles screamed down on Broad Avenue, all taking out their assigned targets. Batman wanted to make sure the Joker didn’t have any more surprises hiding in any of his floats or other equipment. So the equipment had to be obliterated.

In the middle of all the destruction, he saw the Joker doing the waltz. Everything had missed him. So far.

All right! He was having fun now.

Things were exploding all over the place. There went a float, here a truck—oops! a building got it that time — bad shot.

The 1988 version script simply hand-waves his survival as nothing short of miraculous

Batman OPENS UP with everything, and we see the GATLING, MISSILES and LASER EXPLODE INTO ACTION.


A rocket, bullets, and the laser beam SMASH into the street, all around the Joker. He leaps, LAUGHING, into the air and, miraculously, avoids being hit.

As an aside, it's worth noting that in the original (1986 version) script, the Joker was in a tank during this sequence.


The black ultralight hurtles down Broad Avenue at full speed, on a suicide mission. MISSILES streak past on either side. MACHINE GUN FIRE peppers the dome of the cockpit. The REAR STABILIZER WING takes a direct hit... and BURSTS INTO FLAME!

The BATWING, trailing thick black smoke, bears down on the tank like a kamikaze plane. BOMB BAYS OPEN as BATMAN dumps the last of his high explosives DIRECTLY INTO THE PATH OF THE TANK. The BATWING takes a hard bounce off the top of the tank and CRASHES TO THE STREET.

  • Reading the comments, I'm seeing people argue over the fact Batman's aiming rig was pointing straight towards the Joker and still missed. That only raises one question: how far was he from the Joker? What calibre did he shoot? Given a calibre and a distance, we might guess that external ballistic could have been involved in deviating the bullet's trajectory.
    – Clockwork
    Feb 3 at 12:59

For the very same reason both Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega were not dead as doornails after a hidden assailant emptied his massive revolver at them.

Incredible dumb luck....(or God stopped the bullets/missiles.)

I think the intention of the scene was to portrait the Joker: It is most disturbing that he not only does not budge, but seems to invite to be hit. Disregarding his life indicating his craziness.

It is strongly hinted in TV tropes that this a trait of Joker from day one: Joker Immunity. Joker survives everything Batman and other villains/heroes have thrown at him.

I did not find the miss so surprising because it also happens in Real Life: People like Kevin Hines jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge without sustaining permanent injuries. People who have been stabbed dozens of times and still survived relatively unscathed. I remember one article where one soldier has been hit by a RPG; it tore his bullet-proof vest to shreds and hurtled him many meters through the air and still he survived without massive injuries...his unit saw it as a miracle.

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    This seems like pure guesswork
    – Valorum
    Nov 19, 2016 at 20:53
  • @Valorum It says exactly that what your "He leaps, LAUGHING, into the air and, miraculously, avoids being hit." answer from the script says. Perhaps there is no other answer, you cannot disprove luck. Nov 19, 2016 at 21:19
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    This answer bugs me. It's basically a slightly better worded version of "because if he died, the movie would be over". It's not wrong, it's just lazy and unilluminating.
    – Valorum
    Nov 19, 2016 at 21:23
  • @Valorum Wrong, it's not lazy. Nothing indicates that not hitting Joker is necessary for the movie to continue. The authors have many options: The Joker was hit but he was an impostor, a mirage. He seemed to be hit, but he had hidden armor. He prevented the hit by a gadget disturbing the batwing targeting. I do not know why they chose the "dumb luck" option, but it is a good solution because it fits the erratic, unpredictable character of the joker...."Chaos is on my side". And it is very frightening if you hit your opponent with your best shot and he simply shrugs it away. Nov 19, 2016 at 21:32
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    There's a lot of precedent in that trope link (you should include the most relevant parts). "Batman had seen him survive explosions, gunfire, electrocution falling from aircraft, and yes, even plunging to the bottom of the Gotham River." - "Oh who cares? I've been blown up, thrown down smokestacks, fed to sharks; I'm the Joker! I always survive!" He's literally a wild card. I don't see any reason to include stuff that happened in Pulp Fiction, though.
    – Mazura
    Nov 20, 2016 at 0:13

He missed because if he had hit the joker, the movie would have ended prematurely and very anti climatically. He missed because it made for a better movie. Trying to find an explanation better than this will drive you crazy.

  • 1
    I found an explanation better than this (see above) and it didn't drive me crazy. Airily waving your hand at the film and saying "there's probably no reason the writers did this" is both lazy and, in most cases inaccurate.
    – Valorum
    Jun 26, 2016 at 7:25
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    This answer is as valid as yours, @Valorum : "script simply hand-waves his survival". There are giant red circles (albeit, not hand drawn) that culminate upon the Joker's head, after Batman fires at the floats. I guess he shouldn't have gone in "visor-down".
    – Mazura
    Jun 27, 2016 at 2:40
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    What I'd really like to see is a quote from Nicholson, saying something like: 'They had the street lined with pyrotechnics and they said I should be dancing around. I said, no. .... They said: OK, nevermind. Action.'
    – Mazura
    Jun 27, 2016 at 2:46
  • @Mazura - The film wouldn't have ended if he'd shot the Joker, it would have just gone in an different and rather odd direction.
    – Valorum
    Jun 27, 2016 at 7:55

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