[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/darkcity.jpg]]

->''A world where [[AlwaysNight the night never ends]]. Where man has no past. And humanity has no future.''
--> -- '''{{Tagline}}'''

->''They built the city to see what makes us tick. Last night one of us went off.''
--> -- '''Alternate tagline'''
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'''''Dark City''''' is a 1998 science-fiction film directed by Alex Proyas and stars Rufus Sewell, Creator/WilliamHurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Creator/JenniferConnelly and Richard O'Brien.

A man [[YouWakeUpInARoom wakes up in a bathtub]] with [[EasyAmnesia no memories]]--he doesn't even recall that his name is John Murdoch until he checks his wallet. He finds a dead woman in the bedroom; so when the phone rings and the voice on the other end tells him to get out before "they" come for him, John does so. In spite of the damning evidence, John is convinced that he's not a killer, and he sets out to prove this, while evading the police... and the [[LooksLikeOrlok pale men in dark coats]] who have taken an interest in him.

Meanwhile, Emma Murdoch is contacted by one Dr. Schreber; he claims to be her husband's doctor and says that he desperately needs to speak with John. But it becomes increasingly unclear whether or not Dr. Schreber is really on [[ReluctantMadScientist John's side]].

Meanwhile, [[SympatheticInspectorAntagonist Inspector Frank Bumstead]] is investigating a serial killer targeting streetwalkers--the dead woman in John Murdoch's room was the latest victim. The evidence does seem to paint John as the serial killer, but there are some pieces that just don't fit. Bumstead is beginning to understand why the last detective on this case [[RoomFullOfCrazy went insane]].

It's going to be a very long night for everyone.

''Dark City'' was not a success upon release, but was adored by critics, notably Creator/RogerEbert, who cited it as the best film of 1998. The film has since gained a [[CultClassic cult following]].

'''Also worth noting''': The {{opening narration}} from the original cut [[{{spoiler}} spoils the movie to hell]]. (It was a last-minute addition [[ExecutiveMeddling at the behest of New Line Cinema]].) It's recommended that you either watch the Director's Cut (which omits the narration) or mute the opening if you're watching the theatrical version. (Unmute at the closeup of the pocketwatch.) If you ''want'' spoilers, check out [[Synopsis/DarkCity our synopsis page]].

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!This movie provides examples of:

* AlienBlood: [[spoiler:The Strangers]] melt into goo or turn red and dissolve into flakes when they die; the [[spoiler:dead human bodies they use as vessels]] have black blood.
* AluminumChristmasTrees: Many viewers might not realize that the automat was a real type of dining establishment popular around the middle of the 20th century. They were quite common in the Netherlands and a few are still in operation elsewhere.
* AlwaysNight: Every single scene until late in the film takes place during the dead of night. [[spoiler:It is eventually revealed that this isn't just our perspective: It actually is always night in the city, yet nobody had noticed! Except for John Murdoch. That is why he's so dangerous to the Strangers.]]
* AmnesiacLover: [[spoiler:John to Emma in the beginning, then Anna (formerly Emma) to John at the end.]]
* AmplifierArtifact: [[spoiler:The machine below the city allows tuners to create changes on a massive scale.]]
* BadassLongcoat: John, Inspector Bumstead and the Strangers.
* BadBoss: It's strongly implied that the Strangers beat Dr. Schreber within an inch of his life before forcing him to erase his own memories, leading to things like his bad heart, lazy eye, and limp. They also do things like dangle him off of very high balconies when he gets snarky with them.
* BaldOfEvil: All of The Strangers.
* BeamOWar: [[spoiler: ''Twice'' during John's final battle with Mr. Book, the second time involving a thrown knife as well.]]
* {{Bittersweet Ending}}/{{No Endor Holocaust}}: [[spoiler: Yeah, it's fantastic the Strangers have been thwarted, but even though John is now the God of the City, what's supposed to happen next? Has an oligarchy been replaced by autocracy? How long can he maintain the illusion? It's shown John can create matter out of nothing using the City's power, which could solve any issues regarding food or drinking supplies, but with the Strangers gone, the inhabitants are effectively free of the illusion. They will no longer be subjected to the Strangers' drugs. But then that'll only mean they'll begin to notice what they haven't before... that this city is always changing. Won't there be panic? If it wasn't for the upbeat tone at the end suggesting hope, this would have come off as incredibly bitter. We can only hope John will be a benevolent deity and ensure human progression rather than stagnation.]]
** [[spoiler: [[AlternativeCharacterInterpretation The public might not notice]], as they would be busy currently creating and forming their own memories for the first time. [[CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming Essentially, this is the first day of their lives]]. The Strangers changed the city as an experiment so it's also safe to say John wouldn't pick up their habit. John is pretty much a [[GodIsGood benevolent god]] at this point, bringing an entire world into [[IncrediblyLamePun light]].]]
** [[spoiler: Even Shell Beach, while finally real thanks to John, is just an offshoot of the bleak urban landscape right next door, with even the promise of new, happier memories overshadowed by the implication that the city's inhabitants will never truly escape.]]
* BlankBook: Stranger-made artifacts of John's "childhood".
* BlindedByTheLight: Mr. Hand when [[CueTheSun the sun comes up]].
* TheChanteuse: Emma.
* ChekhovsGun: Dr. Schreber's special memory vial, [[spoiler:which John pockets just prior to being captured]].
* TheChosenOne: John is TheEveryman, even compared to the other, quirkier city inhabitants. Most of what makes him important relates to [[spoiler: his powers]].
* CityInABottle: Everybody seems to remember life outside the city, but nobody remembers how to get to any of those places.
* {{City Noir}}: Given this film is a homage to classic {{Film Noir}} and {{German Expressionism}}, it's to be expected. But there's the added twist that [[spoiler: this city always changes. Literally. Buildings are never in the same place twice, bridges or roadways constantly shift, apartments can become hotels, housing developments can transform into five star restaurants, etc. This only heightens the uncertainty, surrealism and paranoia in the atmosphere. It's a prison with ever-changing cells. This takes the Film Noir metaphor of the city as a repressive labyrinth of the soul to the logical extreme.]]
* CityWithNoName: Mainly because [[spoiler:it's a pastiche built from the mixed-and-matched memories of people [[AlienAbduction abducted]] from numerous time periods throughout the Twentieth Century.]]
%%* ClickHello
* [[spoiler:ClosedCircle: The titular story itself.]]
* CreepyChild: Mr. Sleep. (Who was played by a pair of very young fraternal twins.)
* CrosscastRole: ''Mr'' Sleep is a child with the male honorific "Mr.", however he is played in closeups by a girl, and in the long shots by her fraternal twin brother. Of course, the ''character'' doesn't have to be male - the strangers may not have paid any attention to gender.
* TheCuckoolanderWasRight: Every single word that Detective Eddie Walenski says to anyone turns out to be perfectly true, despite the fact that his partner, Inspector Bumstead, is absolutely right when he describes Walenski as being around the bend.
* CueTheSun: How the film ends. [[spoiler:John, after having taken control of the massive space station, rotates it so that the sun is shining across its surface for the first time.]]
* CurseCutShort: Dr. Schreber, cut off mid-rant by Mr. Book.
-->'''Schreber:''' Maybe you've finally found what you're looking for, and it's going to bite you on your -- ''aahh!!''
* CyberpunkWithAChanceOfRain: [[ShapedLikeItself It's always dark in the city]]. Justified [[spoiler:by the eponymous city being controlled by aliens who can't stand strong light]].
* DarkWorld: The title should say it all.
* DawnOfAnEra: See EndOfTheWorldSpecial.
* DaysOfFuturePast: According to [[WordOfGod the director]], although his co-screenwriters have a different interpretation.
* DoppelgangerReplacementLoveInterest: [[spoiler: Anna]]
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:Walenski finally found a way out.]]
* DyingRace: The Strangers are studying humans because their HiveMind society is dying out and they need the secret to individuality.
* EldritchAbomination: The Strangers are [[spoiler:squid-like beings that use corpses as hosts]].
* {{Eldritch Location}}: The Strangers can adjust the architecture of the city at will.
* EndOfTheWorldSpecial: The last 10 minutes, in which [[spoiler:John frees the world from the shackles of The Strangers and recreates it to be a better place for all those who inhabit it.]]
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: John saving the goldfish at the beginning demonstrates his good nature. Bumstead even takes note of it during his investigation.
* EvilAlbino: The Strangers, on account of the fact that their bodies [[spoiler:are technically dead]].
%%* EvolutionaryLevels
* ExpositionBeam: [[spoiler:The last syringe Dr. Schreber uses on John.]]
* FakeMemories: [[spoiler:Regularly and on a city-wide scale]].
* FemmeFatale: Subverted quickly with Emma. She's got the look, but she's a NiceGirl who wants to help John regain his memory.
* FiveBadBand:
** TheBigBad - Mr. Book
** TheDragon - Mr. Hand
** The EvilGenius - Dr. Daniel P. Schreber
** TheBrute - Mr. Wall
** TheDarkChick and TagalongKid - Mr. Sleep
* FlashbackCut: John's shattered memories of Shell Beach. [[spoiler:Also how Dr. Schreber presents himself to John to teach him to master Tuning in mere seconds.]]
* FocusGroupEnding: [[spoiler:Test screening audiences were "troubled" by the notion that the entire city wasn't sucked out into space once the Shell City Wall was breached. Thus, a last minute SFX addition of Bumstead and a Stranger drifting through a force field was created.]]
* ForcedSleep: The Strangers have the ability to put people to sleep simply by waving a hand and saying "Sleep now." [[spoiler:They also combine forces to put the entire city to sleep so they can work undisturbed.]]
* {{Foreshadowing}}: On repeated viewings, a lot of lines and shots can be seen to call forward to the plot twist.
** '''Crime Scene Cop:''' [[spoiler: Ever notice how these things always seem to happen in the middle of the night?]]
** Bumstead notes that Emma seems unused to wearing her wedding ring.
* GeniusCripple: Dr. Schreber may suffer from a bad heart, a lazy eye and a limp but he's very good at what he does for The Strangers.
* GlowingEyesOfDoom: A subtle example whenever John uses his powers. Most noticeable right at the end, when his face is completely in shadow.
* GoMadFromTheRevelation: Inspector Walenski. Hey, you'd go crazy too if you found out [[spoiler:that your entire life is a lie manufactured by a dying alien race that messes with your head on an hourly basis]].
* AGodAmI: The Strangers have this kind mentality in regards of what they can do. [[spoiler:They ain't bluffing.]]
* GoneHorriblyRight: John Murdoch. The Strangers wanted to test humans and see what would happen. ''Murdoch'' happened. Dr. Schreber actually taunts them with this when they complain.
* GunsAreWorthless: [[spoiler:Inspector Bumstead learns this the hard and tragic way.]]
* HappyPlace: Shell Beach, which everyone knows yet no one knows how to reach. Unlike the perpetual darkness of the city, visions of Shell Beach are in bright, oversaturated sunshine. [[spoiler:Did it ever exist before John "created" it? Who can say?]]
* HeelFaceTurn: [[spoiler:Dr. Schreber, although he had long grown tired of the Strangers by the time of the events in the movie. It's only the appearance of John which allows him to act on it.]]
* HiveMind: The Strangers. [[spoiler:They're all a bunch of alien worms living in human shells and all share the same thoughts of what to do.]]
* {{Homage}}: This film is a love letter to {{German Expressionism}} and the classic {{Film Noir}} era. See {{Shout Out}} for more details.
* ImpaledWithExtremePrejudice: [[spoiler:Mr. Book is taken out by a telekinetically-thrown knife to the throat. Though the knife doesn't actually do him in, crashing into a water tower as he's flailing about does.]]
* InfoDump: A well-done one, when Dr. Schreber explains the nature of the City to Murdoch and Bumstead.
* {{Inspector Javert}}: Inspector Frank Bumstead. A rather mild example; as devoted as he is to the law and his pursuit of the protagonist, he's far more reasonable. [[spoiler:When he's shown proof the main character is innocent, he switches sides.]]
* ItWasAGift: Bumstead's accordion, which [[spoiler:he thinks]] he got from his late mother.
* KillItWithWater: [[spoiler: A key weakness of the Strangers.]]
* KubrickStare: The Strangers are pretty good at these, as is John.
%%* LivingLabyrinth
* [[spoiler: ALongTimeAgoInAGalaxyFarFarAway: Where is the city? Has it been sealed from the world? No. There is no world - it's floating in space.]]
* LooksLikeOrlok: The Strangers, intentionally so since the movie is a visual homage to GermanExpressionism and FilmNoir, with lots of SchizoTech.
* MeaningfulName: John Murdock is supposedly a ''john'' who ''murders'' prostitutes. A prostitute even notes that his first name is appropriate.
%%* MergedReality
* MindScrew: The premise is quite disturbing once you really start thinking through its implications.
* MindRape: The entire premise of the mysterious syringes, and inverted when Mr. Hand makes use of John's memories to track him down.
* MisterStrangeNoun: All the Strangers use the naming convention "Mr. [noun]".
* NakedOnArrival: John Murdoch wakes up in a bathtub.
* NervousWreck: Dr. Schreber. Given what The Strangers do to him on a daily basis, it's more than justified with him.
* TheNightThatNeverEnds: Not only is it part of the film's atmosphere, it becomes a plot point.
%%* OntologicalMystery
* ParentalAbandonment: [[spoiler: John is given this history in his fake memories.]]
* PersonOfMassDestruction: [[spoiler:John, once he gains his "tuning" powers and uses them to defeat The Strangers.]]
* PillarOfLight: A beam of light appears as the dark world dissolves.
* [[spoiler:PlatonicCave]]: In this case [[spoiler:the "cave" is an alien spaceship/laboratory made up to look like an American city ca. the 1930s]].
* PsychicPowers: "Tuning", represented as a wave effect from the user's forehead which either works as a directed burst of force or warps the City to their whim.
* PuppeteerParasite: [[spoiler:"You've seen what we are. We use your dead as vessels."]]
* TheQuisling: Dr. Schreber. He's grown tired of it by the time the film comes around, however, and acts like a ReliableTraitor to the Strangers.
* RealityWarper: The Strangers and John, in the context of being able to change aspects of the City as they please.
* RoomFullOfCrazy: Detective Walenski's bedroom (and, to a lesser extent, his ''office'' at the police station).
-->'''Bumstead:''' ''[upon being shown to Walenski's office]'' I'm being punished for my sins, aren't I?
* RousingSpeech: [[spoiler:Dr. Schreber instructing John on Tuning, the Strangers' Underworld machines, and how to combat them in his memories.]]
* SceneryPorn: The city, the lighting, the cinematography, it's gorgeous.
* ShoutOut:
** To ''Film/{{Nosferatu}}'', as each of the Strangers {{Looks Like Orlok}}.
** The Strangers are also partially based on the mob from ''Film/{{M}}''.
** Dr. Schreber is named after a real person, Daniel Paul Schreber, a German judge. Why would a psychiatrist be named after a Judge? Because the judge wrote ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Paul_Schreber Memoirs of My Nervous Illness]]'', an account of his symptoms during nine years of Dementia praecox.
%%* SmokingIsCool
* {{The Stoic}}: The Strangers are a race of stoics, right off the assembly line with [[CreepyMonotone creepy monotones.]] [[spoiler: Mr. Hand is arguably the only Stranger in the film who subverts this trope, and as a result comes off as creepier and scarier than his fellow abominations.]]
%%* SympatheticInspectorAntagonist: Bumstead.
* TimeStandsStill: Sort of. The Strangers shut down the city at midnight each night. When they do this, everyone stops what they're doing and falls asleep. It's shown that people driving cars and doing other things take steps to stop what they're doing first, so they don't accidentally injure themselves or others. John wakes up during one such event is immune after that, and it's implied Walenski is the same way (but has no powers), hence why he's crazy.
* ToKnowHimIMustBecomeHim: Mr. Hand's justification for being injected with John's memories. Other Strangers consider it a bad idea, primarily because attempting to imprint Strangers with human memories always results in the recipient Stranger's death. Mr. Book is willing to go along with it anyway, because Murdock isn't blindly wandering the City, but following the clues the Strangers set out for him as part of the Murdock-as-serial-killer experiment. The imprint will lead them down the path he's following far faster than trying to re-create the experiment. And besides, Mr. Hand is really interested in giving human sociopathy a try.
* TomatoSurprise: [[spoiler:The city is actually a giant spaceship.]] The theatrical version ruins this surprise with the opening narration.
* TookALevelInBadass: John. He starts off as confused, almost naive man trying to figure out his identity but by the end, [[spoiler:he becomes '''God''']].
%%* TransferableMemory: Core to the plot.
* UndeadChild: Mr. Sleep, technically. [[spoiler:Once again, the parasites inhabiting the corpses of those who once lived]].
* UpgradeArtifact: [[spoiler:The last syringe Dr. Schreber uses on John.]]
* VerbalTic:
** The Strangers' odd predilection for making clicking noises and ending sentences with the word "yes".
** Dr. Schreber's whispery voice and... penchant, for strange... pauses. He seems to be, constantly short of breath. (It is mentioned he has a bad heart. Congestive heart failure would lead to an extreme shortness of breath.)
* WindowLove: John and Emma are about to do this. [[spoiler:Then John breaks the glass instead.]]
%%* WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds
* WorldGoneMad: In the climax, [[spoiler:Mr. Book and John's psychic battle overloads the Tuning machine, causing the entire city to start uncontrollably warping]].
%%* YouHaveToBelieveMe
* YouWakeUpInARoom: John wakes up in a bathtub, unable to remember who he is.
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