The Dark Knight
Dark Knight
Theatrical release poster
Film information

Directed by

Christopher Nolan

Release Date(s)

July 18, 2008




$185 million

Gross Revenue


Preceded by

Batman Begins

Followed by

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight is a 2008 superhero film directed, produced, and co-written by Christopher Nolan. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is the second part of Nolan's Batman film series and a sequel to 2005's Batman Begins. Christian Bale reprises the lead role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, with a returning cast of Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as James Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. The film introduces the character of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Gotham's newly elected District Attorney and the consort of Bruce Wayne's childhood friend Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who joins Batman and the police in combating the new rising threat of a criminal mastermind calling himself "the Joker" (Heath Ledger).


In Gotham City, the Joker and his accomplices rob a mob-owned bank. After orchestrating their deaths, he escapes alone. Batman and Lieutenant Jim Gordon decide to include the new district attorney, Harvey Dent, who is dating Rachel Dawes, in their plan to eradicate the mob. Impressed with Dent's idealism, Bruce Wayne offers him a fundraiser. Mob bosses Sal Maroni, Gambol, and The Chechen are informed by Lau, a Chinese accountant, that he has hidden their funds and fled to Hong Kong to escape the new pressure. The Joker interrupts the meeting, warning that Batman is unhindered by jurisdiction. He offers to kill Batman for half their money, but the mob bosses refuse and Gambol puts a bounty on him. The Joker later kills Gambol and takes control of his men, while Batman captures Lau using a skyhook, delivering him back to Gotham to testify.

The Joker issues an ultimatum that people will die each day unless Batman reveals his identity, resulting in the deaths of Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb and the judge presiding over the mob trials. The Joker targets Dent at the fundraiser but Bruce hides him, while Rachel is looked after by Alfred Pennyworth. Gordon foils the Joker's assassination attempt on Mayor Garcia during Loeb's memorial service, apparently sacrificing himself in the process. As a result, Bruce plans to reveal his identity, but Dent instead names himself as Batman to protect the truth. Dent is taken into protective custody and pursued by the Joker across the city as Batman rushes to aid. Gordon, who faked his death, helps apprehend the Joker and is promoted to Commissioner. However, Dent and Rachel disappear. Batman interrogates the Joker and learns each are in separate buildings filled with explosives. Batman intends to find Rachel, instead finding Dent moments before the buildings explode. Rachel dies and half of Dent's face is scarred. The Joker then uses a smuggled bomb inside a prisoner to escape from the police department with Lau.

Coleman Reese, an accountant at Wayne Enterprises, deduces Batman's secret identity and plans to blackmail him. The Joker kills Lau and The Chechen, threatening to bomb a hospital unless Reese is killed. Gordon rescues Reese, while the Joker visits Dent in the hospital, convincing him to get revenge. Dent uses his burned lucky coin to decide the fates of those responsible for Rachel's death, killing Maroni and one corrupt cop who had helped kidnap Rachel. After blowing up the hospital and escaping with hostages, the Joker gives two explosive-rigged ferries, one of citizens and the other of Arkham Asylum inmates, the choice to blow the other up until midnight—otherwise, both will explode. Batman asks a reluctant Lucius Fox to use a city-wide tracking device to find the Joker; Fox agrees, but says he will resign immediately afterward. Batman rescues the hostages, who are disguised as Joker's gang, by fighting off the Joker's real men and Gordon's S.W.A.T. team. The ferry passengers, refusing to kill each other, are saved as Batman apprehends the Joker. Nevertheless, the Joker gloats that he has won, as the citizens of Gotham will lose hope once Dent's rampage becomes public knowledge. Batman leaves to find Dent as the Joker is taken into custody.

Dent lures Gordon to the building where Rachel died and holds his family hostage, as Batman confronts him. Dent judges the fates of Batman, himself, and Gordon's son with three coin flips. As a result, he shoots Batman in the abdomen, spares himself and flips to determine the boy's fate. Batman, who is wearing body armor, tackles Dent off the building, saving the boy but resulting in Dent's death. Batman convinces Gordon to hold him publicly responsible for the murders so that Dent will remain a symbol of hope for the city. A manhunt for Batman ensues, as he escapes on the Batpod. Alfred burns a letter written by Rachel to Bruce announcing her engagement to Dent, Fox watches the signal tracker self-destruct and Gordon destroys the Bat-Signal before delivering a eulogy at Dent's funeral.


The Dark Knight European Premier - Leicester square

Cast and crew of The Dark Knight at the European premiere in London. From left to right: Director Christopher Nolan, producers Emma Thomas and Charles Roven, actors Monique Gabriela Curnen, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Christian Bale.

A billionaire dedicated to protecting Gotham City from the criminal underworld by night. Bale said he was confident in his choice to return in the role because of the positive response to his portrayal in Batman Begins. He continued training in the Keysi Fighting Method and performed many of his own stunts, but did not gain as much muscle as in the previous film because the new Batsuit allowed him to move with greater agility. Bale described Batman's dilemma as whether "[his crusade is] something that has an end. Can he quit and have an ordinary life? The kind of manic intensity someone has to have to maintain the passion and the anger that they felt as a child, takes an effort after a while, to keep doing that. At some point, you have to exorcise your demons." He added, "Now you have not just a young man in pain attempting to find some kind of an answer, you have somebody who actually has power, who is burdened by that power, and is having to recognize the difference between attaining that power and holding on to it." Bale felt Batman's personality had been strongly established in the first film, so it was unlikely his character would be overshadowed by the villains, stating: "I have no problem with competing with someone else. And that's going to make a better movie."
Before Ledger was confirmed to play the Joker in July 2006, Paul Bettany, Lachy Hulme, Adrien Brody,Steve Carell, and Robin Williams publicly expressed interest in the role. However Nolan had wanted to work with Ledger on a number of projects in the past (though he had been unable to do so), and was agreeable to Ledger's chaotic interpretation of the character. When Ledger saw Batman Begins, he had realized a way to make the character work that was consistent with the film's tone: he described his Joker as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy." Throughout the film, the Joker states his desire to upset social order through crime, and comes to define himself by his conflict with Batman. To prepare for the role, Ledger lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulating the character's posture, voice, and personality, and kept a diary, in which he recorded the Joker's thoughts and feelings. While he initially found it difficult, Ledger eventually generated a voice unlike Jack Nicholson's character in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film. He was also given Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, which he "really tried to read and put it down." Ledger also cited A Clockwork Orange and Sid Vicious as "a very early starting point for Christian [Bale] and I. But we kind of flew far away from that pretty quickly and into another world altogether." "There's a bit of everything in him. There's nothing that consistent," Ledger said, and added, "There are a few more surprises to him." Ledger was allowed to shoot and mostly direct the videos the Joker sends out as warnings. Each take Ledger made was different from the last. Nolan was impressed enough with the first video shoot that he chose to not be present when Ledger shot the video with a kidnapped reporter (Anthony Michael Hall).On January 22, 2008, after he had completed filming The Dark Knight, Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose, leading to intense press attention and memorial tributes. "It was tremendously emotional, right when he passed, having to go back in and look at him every day [during editing]," Nolan recalled. "But the truth is, I feel very lucky to have something productive to do, to have a performance that he was very, very proud of, and that he had entrusted to me to finish." All of Ledger's scenes appear as he completed them in the filming; in editing the film, Nolan added no "digital effects" to alter Ledger's actual performance posthumously. Nolan has dedicated the film in part to Ledger's memory.
The district attorney who is hailed as Gotham's "White Knight". His battle with the criminal underworld leaves him disfigured, transforming him into a murderer bent on revenge. Wayne sees Dent as his heir, recognizing that Batman's war on crime will be a lifelong mission, which heightens the tragedy of Dent's downfall. Nolan and David S. Goyer had originally considered using Dent in Batman Begins, but they replaced him with the new character Rachel Dawes when they realized they "couldn't do him justice." Before Eckhart was cast in February 2007, Liev Schreiber, Josh Lucas, Ryan Phillippe had expressed interest in the role, while Mark Ruffalo auditioned. Hugh Jackman was also considered for the part. Nolan chose Eckhart, whom he had considered for the lead role in Memento, citing his "extraordinary" ability as an actor, his embodiment of "that kind of chiselled, American hero quality" projected by Robert Redford, and his subtextual "edge." Eckhart was "interested in good guys gone wrong," and had played corrupt men in films such as The Black Dahlia, Thank You for Smoking, and In the Company of Men. Whereas Two-Face is depicted as a crime boss in most characterizations, Nolan chose to portray him as a twisted vigilante to emphasize his role as Batman's counterpart. Eckhart explained, "[He] is still true to himself. He's a crime fighter, he's not killing good people. He's not a bad guy, not purely." For Dent, Eckhart "kept on thinking about the Kennedys," particularly Robert F. Kennedy, who was "idealistic, held a grudge and took on the Mob." He had his hair lightened and styled to make him appear more dashing. Nolan told Eckhart to not make Dent's Two-Face persona "jokey with slurping sounds or ticks."
Bruce's trusted butler and confidante. His supply of useful advice to Bruce and his likeness as a father figure has led to him being labeled "Batman's batman."
The Gotham assistant district attorney and Wayne's childhood friend. In Batman Begins, she tells Wayne that if he ever decided to stop being Batman, they would be together. She is one of the few people to know Batman's identity. Gyllenhaal took over the role from Katie Holmes, who played the part in Batman Begins. In August 2005, Holmes was reportedly planning to reprise the role, but she eventually turned it down to do Mad Money with Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah. 9, By March 2007, Gyllenhaal was in "final talks" for the part.Gyllenhaal has acknowledged her character is a damsel in distress to an extent, but says Nolan sought ways to empower her character, so "Rachel's really clear about what's important to her and unwilling to compromise her morals, which made a nice change" from the many conflicted characters whom she has previously portrayed.
A lieutenant in the Gotham City Police Department and one of the city's few honest police officers. He forms a tenuous, unofficial alliance with Batman and Dent. When the Joker assassinates Police Commissioner Loeb, Mayor Garcia gives Gordon the position. Oldman described his character as "incorruptible, virtuous, strong, heroic, but understated." Nolan explained that "The Long Halloween has a great, triangular relationship between Harvey Dent and Gordon and Batman, and that's something we very much drew from."} Oldman added that "Gordon has a great deal of admiration for him at the end, but [Batman] is more than ever now the dark knight, the outsider. I'm intrigued now to see: If there is a third one, what he's going to do?" On the possibility of another sequel, he said that "returning to [the role] is not dependent on whether the role was bigger than the one before."
The recently promoted chief executive officer of Wayne Enterprises who, now fully aware of his employer's double life, serves more directly as Bruce's armorer in addition to his corporate duties.
The accountant who handles the money for the mobs.
A gangster who has taken over Carmine Falcone's mob. Bob Hoskins and James Gandolfini auditioned for the role.
The Police Commissioner of Gotham until his murder at the hands of the Joker.

The film's Gotham officials and authorities include Nestor Carbonell as Mayor Anthony Garcia, Keith Szarabajka as Detective Gerard Stephens, Monique Gabriela Curnen as Anna Ramirez, and Ron Dean as Detective Michael Wuertz. While Stephens and Ramirez are honest intended and well meaning cops, the last is a corrupt officer who willingly betrays Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes to the Joker. Ramirez only betrayed Dent and Dawes because the mob were threatening her with her mother's death. The cast also included Anthony Michael Hall as Gotham Cable News reporter Mike Engel, Nydia Rodriguez Terracina as Judge Janet Surrillo, Joshua Harto as Coleman Reese, Melinda McGraw and Nathan Gamble as Gordon's wife and son, and Tom "Tiny" Lister, Jr. as a prison inmate on one of the bomb-rigged ferries. The film's criminals include Michael Jai White as gang leader Gambol and Ritchie Coster as The Chechen. William Fichtner played the Gotham National Bank manager. David Banner originally auditioned for the role of Gambol. Cillian Murphy returns in a cameo as Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow, who is captured early on in the film by Batman.

Musician Dwight Yoakam was approached for the roles of either the manager or a corrupt cop, but he chose to focus on his album Dwight Sings Buck. Another cameo was made by United States Senator Patrick Leahy, a Batman fan who was previously an extra in the 1997 film Batman & Robin and also was a guest voice actor on Batman: The Animated Series. Leahy appears as a guest who defies the Joker when he and his henchmen attack Bruce's fundraiser, saying "We are not intimidated by thugs." Matt Skiba, lead singer of Chicago punk band Alkaline Trio made a small appearance in the movie.


Main article: The Dark Knight (soundtrack)

Batman Begins composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard returned to score the sequel. Composition began before shooting, and during filming Nolan received an iPod with ten hours of recordings. Their nine-minute suite for the Joker, "Why So Serious?," is based around two notes. Zimmer compared its style to that of Kraftwerk, a band from his native Germany, as well as bands like The Damned. When Ledger died, Zimmer felt like scrapping and composing a new theme, but decided that he could not be sentimental and compromise the "evil [Ledger's performance] projects." Howard composed Dent's "elegant and beautiful" themes, which are brass-focused.


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