An animated film based upon Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's 1987 seminal "Batman: Year One" comic book miniseries. Following DC Comics' epic "Crisis on Infinite Earths" which effectively rebooted the DC Universe in its entirety, it was decided to retool and modernize Batman's origin story which resulted in this miniseries in Batman #404 to 407. It proved so popular that has resulted in multiple reprints in both comic and graphic novel formats and heavily influenced several movies including the 1993 animated movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and the live action 2005 Batman Begins.
Twelve years after seeing the brutal and senseless murder of his parents by a common mugger, Bruce Wayne has returned to Gotham while Detective James Gordon has accepted a transfer to the decaying crime-ridden city after he voluntarily testified against a corrupt police officer in Chicago in an attempt to make a new start in a new city.
After his years of training in various martial arts, forensics, sciences, and tracking; Wayne believes that he is finally ready to embark upon his life goal: to wage a private war on the criminal underbelly of Gotham.
Gordon finds himself wallowing in the cesspool of the Gotham City Police Department where vice and graft are the norm instead of the exception. With a pregnant wife, he struggles to swallow his disgust and dismay, particularly against his partner; Detective Flass who is the worst of the worst.
Wayne's first night in action however teaches him a brutal lesson and he is shot and narrowly evades capture. Bleeding heavily from his wounds, Wayne begs for guidance from his father. He has the skills and the resources, but there is something missing and he does not know what. In that moment, a bat comes crashing through the window and Wayne has a revelation that criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot and that he must make them afraid and takes inspiration from the ghastly appearance of the bat.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to intimidate Gordon, he is ambushed and assaulted by several cops including Flass who threatens his pregnant wife if he doesn't play ball. Afterwards, Gordon tracks down Flass and brutally beats him to a pulp as a warning to not even think of threatening his wife and child.
Even as Gordon begins defying the corrupt cops and becomes a minor celebrity for his heroics, he finds an ally against Gotham PD corruption in the form of Detective Sarah Essen; Wayne assumes the costume and identity of the Batman and begins making his presence felt in Gotham City, moving from street thug to several corrupt cops and then threatening several of the corrupt politicians, high level officials, and other important and influential individuals at a banquet including Crime Boss Carmine Falcone which prompts the corrupt Police Commissioner Gillian Loeb to assign Gordon with the unenviable task of apprehending the masked vigilante. The long stakeouts with him alone with the attractive Detective Essen however leads the pair to having a brief affair.
While being pursued by several police officers, Batman is forced to take refuge in an abandoned building. Rushing to take advantage of this, Loeb has a bomb detonated to destroy the building and Dark Knight with it and then sends in Lt. Brenden, well known as the heavy handed, trigger-happy SWAT Commander and his team to "apprehend" him if the Batman managed to survive. However, Batman swiftly overpowers the team and becomes enraged when the careless SWAT officers unleash machinegun bursts through windows, injuring innocent bystanders outside and proceeds to pummel them into unconsciousness. Using a high-tech bat signaler to summon the multitude of bats in the caverns beneath Wayne Manor, Batman uses clouds of his winged brethren to confuse the police and cause chaos to mask his escape and inadvertently inspires a bystander, a prostitute known as Selina Kyle to take on the identity of Catwoman.
Shortly afterwards, Batman finds a high ranking member of the criminal underworld, Jefferson Skeevers and intimidates him into testifying against Flass and sends him to Gordon who hastily rushes Skeevers into protective custody, bypassing Loeb. In an attempt to force Gordon into complicity, Loeb reveals that he has photographic evidence of his extramarital affair with Sarah Essen. Torn at first, Gordon eventually confesses his infidelity and ends his affair with Essen who decides to accept a transfer out of Gotham City.
Learning of a kidnap plot by Carmine Falcone against Gordon's wife and child, Wayne is forced to operate during the daytime and thus out of his Batman regalia, dresses in motorcycle helmet and leathers to intervene. Leaving for work, Gordon notices the strange motorcyclist and becomes suspicious; returns home to find Carmine Falcon's henchmen holding his wife and newborn son hostage. Knowing that if he lets them go, his wife and son will be killed; Gordon engages in a fierce gun battle against the would-be kidnappers and manages to kill his wife's kidnapper although his glasses are ruined. As Gordon chases down the last fleeing thug with his son, Wayne manages to barely save Gordon's child from a fatal fall. Realizing that the man who saved his child is in fact the maskless Batman, Gordon professes that he is "practically blind without his glasses" and lets him go.
Several months later, Gordon and his wife are busy attending marriage counseling while in exchange for plea bargain, Detective Arnold Flass is now testifying against ex-Commissioner Loeb even as Gordon hopes that his new friend will stop by who will be able to help against a psychopath calling himself the Joker who is threatening to poison Gotham Reservoir.
- Ben McKenzie as Batman
- Eliza Dushku as Catwoman
- Bryan Cranston as James Gordon
- Katee Sackhoff as Detective Sarah Essen
- Alex Rocco as Carmine Falcone
- Jon Polito as Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb
- Jeff Bennett as Alfred Pennyworth
- Grey DeLisle as Barbara Eileen-Gordon
- Keith Ferguson as Jefferson Skeevers
- Nick Jameson as Officer Stanley "Stan" Merkel
- Liliana Mumy as Holly Robinson
- Robin Atkin Downes as Harvey Dent
- Pat Musick as Louisa Falcone
- Stephen Root as Lt. Brendan
- Fred Tatasciore as Arnold John Flass