Batman: World's Greatest Detective is the first solo film in the Batman film series featuring Milo Ventimiglia as Batman. Months after Jason Todd was killed by the Joker, Batman has to go up against the Riddler who has broken out of Arkham and plans on testing the world's greatest detective to his limit. It is part of the Doomverse.
Complete darkness is broken up with flashes of Bruce's parents being shot, Bruce training, the Joker laughing, the Joker standing over Robin's corpse, Batman carrying Jason's limp body in his arms. While these flashes are seen, someone repeatedly says Bruce. Bruce is sitting in front of the Batcomputer in the Batsuit minus the cowl, his head in his hands. Nightwing is standing beside him. "Bruce, it wasn't your fault. No-one could have know that the Joker wasn't bluffing." Bruce replies with "No, but I should have stopped him." Nightwing tells him that he can't save everyone. Bruce replies that Jason depended on him and that he let that monster kill him. He then asks where the Joker is now. Nightwing removes his mask and says "locked away, deep inside Arkham." He tells Bruce that he can't beat himself up over this. He then says that he has to go, he's needed in Bludhaven but if Bruce needs his help he'll be right there by his side. Bruce simply asks him why he’s even there, recalling him saying “I wasn’t going to be the boy wonder forever, I need to move on.” Nightwing then leaves, knowing Bruce is angry at himself more than he is at Nightwing. On his way out Alfred asks Dick how Bruce is doing, Dick replies that he isn’t doing great and that Alfred should call him if Bruce needs help.
Months pass, Bruce barely leaves Wayne Manor, keeping an eye out for the batsignal. While he sleeps he dreams of his parents’ death, of Dick leaving to become Nightwing, and the Joker bludgeoning Jason to death, Bruce screaming “JASON!” while the Joker laughs maniacally. The doorbell rings and Alfred answers, Julie Madison waits in the doorway, wanting to see Bruce. Alfred thinks about turning her away but she is very persistent and Alfred thinks she might be able to talk him into getting past this. She goes and speaks to him, he puts on a front blaming his rough appearance on some wild parties, but something she says to him gets through, she tells him about some mob interference at a party that she was at. He asks what club and she says the Iceberg Lounge. Bruce asks her if she wants to go there with him tonight, saying the mob won’t hit the same place twice in the same week, she agrees to go with him, calling it a classy establishment. Bruce and Julie go to the Iceberg Lounge and get invited to sit with Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin. At the table, Cobblepot frequently mentions how the Cobblepots and Waynes have a long history together, their ancestors having built this town along with the Elliots and Kanes. Bruce just smiles and nods, throwing in a comment about wondering what Oswald’s ancestors would think about his dealings with the mob. Cobblepot’s hand tightens on his umbrella and he looks angry. Remembering where he is he starts laughing and retorts with a similar comment about Bruce spending his money on fast cars and picking up the ladies. The group laugh as Raven and Lark bring drinks to the table.
Suddenly, the front door is blown off its hinges, a gang rushing in wearing a variety of masks, in the middle of the gang is Black Mask, yelling furiously for The Penguin. Bossworth and Jay move in to protect their boss, the Penguin. Bruce grabs Julie’s hand and leads her out the back, Alfred is waiting outside, Bruce tells Alfred to take Julie anywhere she wants then frisks himself and claims to have left his wallet inside, going to the Batmobile and changing into his Batman suit while Alfred takes Julie away despite her arguments, wanting to wait for Bruce. Inside the Iceberg Lounge, Penguin and Black Mask argue, Black Mask claiming that the Penguin had some of his men killed and intercepted a delivery, Black Mask wants either his merchandise back or enough money to cover his losses. The Penguin refuses saying that Black Mask has no proof that it was him. Black Mask points to Raven and claims that she led the attack. Raven plays the innocent but Black Mask holds a gun to her head which is promptly knocked from his hand by a batarang. The lights go out in the club. Black Mask yells that this has nothing to do with Batman, Batman starts taking out Black Mask’s men through the shadows, the lights coming back on revealing Black Mask to be the only man left standing, still holding onto Raven. He yells “So you work with the Penguin now, Batman?” To which Batman replies “I work with no-one. Not anymore.” Black Mask laughs as he reaches for his second gun saying how he’d heard that the Joker had killed Batman’s sidekick, Robin. As he laughs there is something that comes out of nowhere, hitting him in the face, the batclaw, suddenly wrenched back towards its source. As Black Mask stumbles forward Batman steps out of the shadows and punches Black Mask in the face, knocking him to the floor unconscious.
Next we see Batman outside talking to Commissioner Gordon who tells Batman that they don’t have anything on Cobblepot but they can put Sionis away. Batman hands Gordon a note, stating he found it on one of Black Mask’s men. On the back of the note is a big green question mark. Gordon mutters “The Riddler… You think he set Black Mask up?” but when he turns Batman is gone. Gordon tells Harvey Bullock to make sure Black Mask and his False Face Society made it to their respective holding cells, the Society going to Blackgate Penitentiary and Black Mask to Arkham Asylum. He then asks Renee Montoya to find out the whereabouts of Edward Nygma. Batman is doing the same, driving the Batmobile, he asks Alfred to tell him if there have been any reports of the Riddler breaking out of Arkham. Alfred informs Batman that nothing has been reported. Batman goes to Arkham Asylum where he is let in by Aaron Cash and led to Edward Nygma’s cell. Cash tells Batman to stay in the shadows because Dr. Arkham doesn’t like him coming there; he also says that he thought Batman would be there for the Joker rather than the Riddler. Batman tells him the Joker is where he belongs. Cash opens the Riddler’s cell, the walls are covered with question marks and riddles. Mr. Freeze, in the cell opposite The Riddler’s, tells Batman and Cash that “Eddie hasn’t been with us for quite some time.” Cash is shocked and confused claiming the security camera is still showing footage of Nygma in his cell. Batman turns his attention to Mr. Freeze, suitless and in an icy cell, demanding to know how and when Nygma escaped and for what purpose. Mr. Freeze answers the first two but can’t help on the final question. Victor requests to see Nora in return for his co-operation but Batman is gone. Cash responds with "One day, Vic. One day. When you've got all the psycho outta your system."
Cuts back to Batman in the Batmobile, contacting "Penny One." Shows Alfred in the Batcave who alerts Batman to an incoming breaking news bulletin. The screen is completely black "This is Vicki Vale bringing you some Breaking News... Is what Ms. Vale would be saying if she wasn't indisposed." The screen reveals Riddler. "Now, Batman, I know you're watching this, so you better listen and listen good because here's your first clue and Gotham's favorite news anchor's life depends on you to solve it. I’ll start you off with an easy one as I’m feeling generous." The Riddler then announces his first riddle “Gold flocked to this place, a lamb to the slaughter, paid with his life in place of his daughter. Where am I?” Alfred then contacts Batman again and Bruce tells him that Gold refers to Cyrus Gold who was killed when he tried to kill the mother of his child for trying to blackmail him from the Solomon Grundy horror story and therefore the answer is Slaughter Swamp and he was already on his way, instructing Penny One to dispatch the Batplane which, Alfred informs Bruce, is already on its way to Batman. Batman parks the Batmobile and grapples onto the Batwing and flies to the swamp. He initiates a thermal scan, trying to pinpoint where in the swamp Vicki and Riddler are. Finding nothing, Batman flicks through other scanners until a giant question mark becomes visible, Batman glides out and lands on the dot of the question mark finding a box with a question mark upon it.
Back in the Batcave, Batman is analysing a chunk of wood at the Batcomputer. He tells Alfred that the Swamp was just Riddler testing to see if he was willing to “play”. He knew the riddle was far too easy to solve as anyone who knew the tale of Solomon Grundy would be able to solve it in minutes. Open beside him is a note with a second riddler printed upon it. “My apologies Batman, the first was misleading, but now that you’re here, this wood I am needing. Where is its source? Surely you know. Ms. Vale is dead, if you are too slow.” Alfred comes into the Batcave and tells Bruce that Barbara had been asking after him. Bruce reminds Alfred that he told Barbara to lay low not wanting a psychopath to go after her like they did Jason. Alfred is about to respond when a match appears on the screen. The wood is the same wood that the Ventriloquist’s dummy Scarface is sculpted from. “She’s at Blackgate.” Bruce pulls on the cowl and jumps into the Batboat and leaves the cave and Alfred behind.
At Blackgate Penitentiary, the gallows have been reconstructed. Vicki Vale is bound and gagged with a wire around her neck - a wire that can't be cut as it will trigger an explosive if it is. Attached to the gallows there are three devices which each have a timer and a riddle to be solved, the bomb is set to trigger when Vicki gets hanged. Riddler's voice is suddenly broadcast through a speaker "Nice of you to join us Batman, I say us but I mean her. Do you like it? I had the Carpenter knock it up for me. Sorry I can't be there but rest assured I can see everything that's happening. This one is very simple Batman, if you can answer all four riddles within the time limit you save Ms. Vale's life. If not, well, it will get very messy. Good luck! You're going to need it." Batman rushes over to the first console and sees the timer counting down, giving him around half an hour. He reads the clue then suddenly turns and launches a batarang, knocking one of Riddler's men out instantly and he finds himself surrounded. He engages in combat with the henchmen while thinking over the first clue, trying to solve it while he fights to save precious time. Batman suddenly smashes one of the henchman's faces through the screen of the device and it powers down. Riddler's voice broadcasts again, "That's cheating Batman and for that I've cut the time in half. Fifteen minutes and counting, try to use your own head this time rather than one of my employees." Having dispatched Riddler's men, Batman turns his attention to the remaining devices. He works his way through a series of mathematics riddles with ease, disabling the second device moving onto the third. As he approaches the terminal he is shot point blank with a shotgun, the force of the bullet knocking him backwards. Echo and Query climb out of the third device, both carrying heavy firearms aimed straight at Batman. Echo unloads another shotgun round into Batman who recoils once more. Batman attempts to disarm them with his batrope but is shell-shocked from the shotguns and misses. Query picks up the end of the rope and the pair of henchmen begin wrapping it around Batman telling him they're going to make him watch Vicki die. Echo checks the timer on the device and the two of them leave to get outside of the blast radius, the trapdoor on the gallows beginning to open as Batman struggles against the batrope. Using the blades on his gauntlets, Batman cuts himself free and rushes over to the third device, answering the riddle and thinking he has stopped the trapdoor from opening thus stopping the hanging which would trigger the explosion. He approaches Vicki and she is dropped as the trapdoor opens anyway. Batman swiftly throws a batarang, cutting the noose and grabbing Vicki, being caught in the blast of the explosion.
The Batsignal is lit for days but there is no sign of Batman. Bullock asks if he should turn it off but Gordon tells him to leave it. The Riddler's henchmen start robbing multiple business, houses and banks, leaving riddles and big green graffiti question marks in their wake. One particular group raids Leslie Thompkins' Medical Center, as they rummage and terrorize the patients, Nightwing steps in and fights them and is shortly joined by Renee Montoya. The pair immobilize the group of Riddler's men and Montoya as Nightwing where Batman is and if he will return. Batman emerges from the shadows and says "Yes." He's been undercover infiltrating the Riddler's gang to learn more about the Riddler's endgame. The Riddler couldn't know that he had survived. Vicki was hidden away in a safehouse so that the Riddler would believe he had won. Montoya goes to inform Gordon that Batman has returned while Batman and Nightwing batrope to the rooftops. Batman asks Dick what he's doing there. Nightwing tells Batman that Alfred contacted him and asked him to act as back up. Before Bruce can reply both Bruce and Dick get an audio message transmitted into their earpieces. "Batman?..." A female voice says. The duo recognize the voice as Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl. Batman starts to lecture her, telling her how he told her to stop because he couldn't be responsible for her if she were to get killed like Jason did. Batgirl doesn't reply. Instead the Riddler does. "Hello Batman, or should I call you... no. Not yet. Solve one more riddle and you win. I'll turn myself in. Who is the man behind the Bat?"
Nightwing turns to Batman and asks if Riddler could possibly know his secret identity. Batman looks to the sky and sees the Batsignal before he replies that he thinks Riddler was being more literal and that Commissioner Gordon could be in danger but just in case he asks Nightwing to go to Wayne Manor and make sure it is secure. He also promises Nightwing that he won't let Riddler hurt Batgirl. Batman jumps onto his Barcycle and speeds across Gotham, dodging in and out between cars until he reaches the Gotham City Police Headquarters where he is quickly knocked from the Batcycle by an onslaught of Uzi fire coming from the Riddler's men led by Echo and Query. They are fleeing in the back of a black van with green question marks painted on the side. Harvey Bullock helps Batman up and tells him that they took the Commish and left another riddle.
Batman jumps back in the Batmobile, solving the riddle which leads him to Wayne Tower where Riddler used to be an employee back when Bruce returned to Gotham and before Edward Nygma had started going by The Riddler. There is a huge green question mark drawn on the side of the building using the lights, the dot being the doorway on the ground floor, there are arrows pointing to the entrance. Batman steps inside and the security system activates locking him inside behind a heavy metal door. Batman calmly walks forward and Riddler begins to explain over the intercom what is going to happen. "Welcome to Riddle Tower. I've planted seeds of doubt in your mind and if you want to know if I really know the answer to 'Who is Batman?' you're going to have to work your way up the Tower. I'm going to give you a riddle to inform you how many hostages there are and where they are, just in case you wanted to break the rules." After reciting the riddle, The Riddler goes silent. Batman analyses the schematics of Wayne Tower, working out the quickest route to rescue all the hostages and get to Riddler. The riddle informed Batman that there are two hostages on floor twenty-three, eighteen on one, twenty-one on twenty-five, three on fourteen and five on five. Batman begins to analyze the numbers and as he realizes the significance his eyes widen and he utters "Impossible." having worked out that the letters' numerical values when grouped by hostage number and floors spell out 2-18-21-3-5 23-1-25-14-5 or B-R-U-C-E W-A-Y-N-E.
The Riddler is sitting in his old office, monitoring multiple screens looking smug with himself. Batman heads to the first floor, through the ventilation shaft, where eighteen of Gotham's socialites are cuffed, Query instructs a group of henchmen to continue relieving the socialites of anything valuable and to keep shutting them up if they complain like the first few did. The room is lit by a green neon light so it's fairly dark when Batman drops silently into the room, stalking the henchman in the shadows and taking them out one by one without rousing any suspicion. As he dispatches the henchmen he sees Silver St. Cloud, Mayoral Candidate Lincoln March, Sapphire Stagg, J. Devlin Davenport, Judson Caspian and to his dismay Julie Madison among the hostages. Batman takes out the final henchman, leaving just Query who know notices Batman. "Let them go Deidre." He orders her, she grabs the nearest hostage - Julie Madison - and holds a gun to her head, she's panicking. "H-How do you know my n-name? It's Query now..." She starts backing away with Julie as her hostage. "I know everything about you Deidre Vance. Now let her go and I'll go easy on you." Query's face goes from panic to anger as she yells at Batman, telling him that he can't tell her what to do. Batman presses a button on his utility belt and all the lights go out. Query tries to shoot Julie but the gun just clicks. Batman, using the shadows, disarms Query and locks her into a pair of handcuffs before freeing Julie, telling her to release the rest of the hostages, then he leaves via the stairwell and progresses to floor five.
As Batman enters the fifth floor a security gate closes behind him and multiple screens light up around the room all with codes waiting to be deciphered and all linked up to a bomb. Five of the screens are on cage doors, the cages containing bodies. Batman is furious and yells "You told me they were hostages not casualties!" to which Riddler replies "Accidents happen." Batman takes out his cryptographic sequencer and sets it to a frequency that explodes all the monitors except for the one on the bomb, then he decodes the message on the screen of the bomb and punches a whole in the screen in frustration that people have died. Riddler tells Batman that because he broke the rules there would be consequences. Batman tries to leave but the security door remains locked. Riddler then tells floor twenty-five to step things up. The sound of gunfire can be heard, echoing down the air duct. Batman rips off the ventilation cover and grapples up the chute to floor twenty-five. Riddler gets frustrated having lost sight of Batman.
On floor twenty-five, Echo and another group of Riddler's henchmen are aiming their guns at a group of Wayne Enterprises employees including Lucius Fox. Three employees have been shot and Echo is asking the hostages riddles, a right answer meaning they don't die yet. Echo approaches Lucius and begins to ask his riddle when the room begins to fill with smoke. Echo gets nervous as her group of henchmen stop replying to her. Suddenly Batman's hand grabs her, lunging through the smoke. The henchmen are shown to be hanging out of the window, twenty-five stories up, unconscious and in the shape of a Bat, blocking out part of the question mark which was there previously. Lucius thanks Batman and tells him he can handle things from now on, accessing the security cameras on a nearby computer he shows Batman that the three hostages on floor fourteen are already dead. Batman enters the lift shaft and drops two floors to floor twenty-three where the lift has stopped.
Riddler prepares for Batman to confront him, clenching his fists around his cane, his bowler hat creating a shadow over his eyes as he smiles. By the window is an unconscious Commissioner Gordon while Batgirl is in the opposite corner. Riddler tells Batman to come out because he already knows he's there. He claims "I might actually treat you as an intellectual equal after this Batman. You have been quite... impressive." Suddenly the window smashes and Nightwing grabs Commissioner Gordon before ziplining back out. When Riddler turns back Batman is stood right next to him. Riddler steps back in shock but begins to utilize his cane as a weapon. Batman blocks every swing and snatches the cane out of Riddler's grip and snaps it in half over his knee. "You've outdone yourself this time Riddler. But your fun is over." Riddler cowers slightly but then a dark look crosses his face as he stands up straight and dusts off his waistcoat. He tells Batman that he is forgetting one thing, he knows Batman's real identity, if Riddler goes to Arkham what would stop him from telling everyone the truth. He then detonates his cane which explodes, sending Batman crashing through a desk. Riddler walks over to Batman, squats and tells him that he's won. He stands again and turns to see Batgirl standing in front of him "Except you forgot about me." She kicks him in the face, knocking him to the floor. Batman stands up and looks down upon the Riddler. "There's one problem with your theory Riddler. If I'm Bruce Wayne, how is it that he is currently re-opening Leslie Thompkins' Medical Clinic?" Batman presses a button on his utility belt and the monitors show live footage of Bruce Wayne shaking hands with Dr. Leslie Thompkins as he cuts the ribbon to the new clinic. The Riddler can't believe it and stammers "Impossible! I-I was so certain..."
The Riddler is taken back to Arkham Asylum and Batman and Batgirl return to the Batcave where Bruce Wayne is waiting. Batman and Batgirl remove their cowls and Batman congratulates Dick on how quickly he got to the opening after saving the Commissioner. Bruce's face flickers and becomes Dick Grayson's wearing the E.M.P. mask which created a projection of Bruce's face over his own. Dick comments on how he was just following the plan. Bruce apologizes to Dick and Barbara for the way he treated them, stating how he had no right to tell them to stop what they were doing, he just wanted to protect them after Jason had been killed. Barbara tells him it's fine, they understand.
The next day, Bruce is sleeping until mid afternoon, Alfred wakes him up and tells him that Julie Madison is inquiring as to whether he is still up for going to the Charity Fundraiser tonight as she needs to "blow off some steam" after the previous night's ordeal. At the fundraiser, Bruce and Julie are socializing, Bruce sees Commissioner Gordon and his daughter nearby. Harvey Bullock approaches Gordon and starts whispering something to him. Barbara catches Bruce's eye and nods her head towards her father. Bruce excuses himself, heading in the direction of the toilets, Barbara also heads that way and tells Bruce that Bullock was telling her father that the Joker had busted out of Arkham.
Post-credits: The Riddler is sitting in his cell, reading a newspaper. A pair of wind-up teeth walk past his cell laughing, Riddler takes cover and they explode. As the smoke settles, Joker steps forward and offers Riddler his cane. Poison Ivy is standing behind him and passes him his bowler hat. “Pamela, Joker. I didn’t have you pegged as team players.” Riddler puts on his hat and twirls his cane. “Oh Edward, we’re not usually.” Ivy responds before Joker adds, “That’s right Eddie but wait until you hear what the old chrome-dome has planned! It’s going to be a blast! Hahahahahahahahaha!”
- Milo Ventimiglia as Bruce Wayne/Batman
- Kelly Brook as Julie Madison
- Terence Stamp as Alfred Pennyworth
- Freddie Highmore as Richard "Dick" Grayson/Nightwing
- Emma Roberts as Barbara "Babs" Gordon/Batgirl
- Jack Coleman as Commissioner James "Jim" Gordon
- Ray Winstone as Lt. Harvey Bullock
- Alice Braga as Det. Renee Montoya
- Michael C. Hall as Edward Nygma/The Riddler
- David Suchet as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin
- Rufus Sewell as Roman Sionis/Black Mask
- Julia Styles as Lark
- Olesya Rulin as Raven
- Sienna Guillory as Jay
- Nina Dobrev as Nina Damfino/Echo
- Elisha Cuthbert as Deidre Vance/Query
- Jamie Foxx as Aaron Cash
- Maggie Grace as Victoria "Vicki" Vale
- Alan Rickman as Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze
- Michael Sheen as The Joker
- Alexandra Breckenridge as Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy
- John Slattery as J. Devlin Davenport
- Peter Capaldi as Judson Caspian
- Brittany Snow as Sapphire Stagg
- Sophia Bush as Silver St. Cloud
- Andrew Lincoln as Lincoln March
- Lance Reddick as Lucius Fox
- Jessica Lange as Dr. Leslie Thompkins
- Bruce Thomas as Thomas Wayne (dream/flashback)
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Martha Wayne (dream/flashback)
- Mackenzie Crook as Joseph "Joe Chill" Chilton (dream/flashback)
- Ian Nelson as Jason Todd (dream/flashback)
- Bruce Thomas, who portrays Thomas Wayne, portrayed Bruce Wayne/Batman in the 2002 Birds of Prey TV series.
- Michelle Pfeiffer, who portrays Martha Wayne, portrayed Selina Kyle/Catwoman in the 1992 film Batman Returns.
- Jeremiah Arkham is mentioned in the film.
- The Ventriloquist's dummy "Scarface" cameos in an image on the Batcomputer.
- The first riddle references the tale of Cyrus Gold aka Solomon Grundy.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman was originally cast as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin but had to be replaced following his tragic death.