[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/darkcity.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:300:[[TimeStandsStill "Shut it down."]]]]

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

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''Dark City'' is a 1998 science-fiction film directed by Creator/AlexProyas, starring Rufus Sewell, Creator/WilliamHurt, Creator/KieferSutherland, 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. Daniel 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.


'''Also worth noting''': The {{opening monologue}} 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]].

'''Character tropes go on to the [[Characters/DarkCity Characters Sheet]].'''
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!!We need to list the tropes, Mr. TV Tropes, yes:

* AlasPoorVillain: [[spoiler: Mr. Hand is rather pathetic, almost pitiable, in his final moments with John as the LastOfHisKind, wherein he [[BlueAndOrangeMorality fails]] [[EvilCannotComprehendGood completely]] to understand the true nature of humanity.]]

* 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.
* 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.]]
* ArcSymbol: Circular mazes. Dr. Schreber has one in his office for testing rats, Walenski was driven mad into drawing them all around his apartment, and the city itself is maze-like and constantly changing. [[spoiler:Not to mention the spaceship itself houses the city in a circular shape.]]
* ArcWords:
** "Remember."
** "Do you know the way to Shell Beach?"
** "You ever think about the past?"
** "Shut it down."
* ArmorPiercingQuestion: "Do you know the way to Shell Beach?" [[spoiler: It's part of everyone's memory, but nobody remembers the trip due to the limits of the Strangers' constructions. The question tricks people into noticing the missing link.]]
** "When was the last time you did anything during the day?"
* BadassLongcoat: John, Inspector Bumstead and the Strangers.
* BeamOWar: [[spoiler: ''Twice'' during John's final battle with Mr. Book, the second time involving a thrown knife as well.]]
* BioPunk: While it leans more toward DieselPunk, the film incorporates a number of biopunk touches as well, and has had a big impact on many later biopunk works with a RetroFuturistic vibe. The development team for VideoGame/{{Bioshock}}, for instance, cited this film as a major influence on their designs not just in the plasmid technology but also for the city of Rapture as a whole.
* BlankBook: Stranger-made artifacts of John's "childhood".
* BlindedByTheLight: Mr. Hand when [[CueTheSun the sun comes up]].
* ChekhovsGun: Dr. Schreber's special memory vial, [[spoiler:which John pockets just prior to being captured]].
* 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
* ClosedCircle: [[spoiler:The titular story itself.]]
* CreepyChild: Mr. Sleep. (Who was played by a pair of very young fraternal twins.)
* CruelAndUnusualDeath:
** One of the Strangers gets ''scalped'' when the giant metal hand of a [[ItMakesSenseInContext woman on a billboard]] swings down and slices the back of his head off. Another Stranger falls through a wooden bridge and gets his neck tangled in ropes connected to gears, and when the gears start turning he's painfully strangled to death.
** Another one gets smashed like a bug when he gets trapped between [[spoiler: two moving buildings as the city is changing.]] ''[[SquashedFlat Squelch!]]''
** Getting [[spoiler: [[ThrownOutTheAirlock thrown out into space]] ]] cannot have been pleasant for either [[spoiler: Mr. Wall]] or [[spoiler: Bumstead.]]
** [[spoiler: [[BigBad Mr. Book]] gets stabbed in the throat with a knife and then ''[[ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill slammed into a watertower]]'' with great force. ]]
* 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.]]
* CurbStompBattle: [[spoiler: Once Dr. Schreber gives him a whole lifetime of training via ExpositionBeam, John trashes the Strangers in about five minutes of screen 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.
* DaysOfFuturePast: According to [[WordOfGod the director]], although his co-screenwriters have a different interpretation.
* DieselPunk: The one of the more important {{Trope Codifier}}s, cementing the aesthetics's connections to {{Noir}} and a vaguely [[SpookySeance Spiritualist]][=/=]{{Lovecraftian}} breed of AppliedPhlebotinum bordering on {{Magitech}}.
* DisposableSexWorker: [[EnforcedTrope Enforced]] by the Strangers, who give prostitute identities to certain women, then kill them, and then give John memories of killing themóall in order to see if he will kill another woman chosen to be a prostitute. John [[DefiedTrope refuses to follow through]], but once Mr. Hand gets Johnís manufactured memories he [[DoubleSubvertedTrope finds and kills her]].
* {{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.
* EverythingsBetterWithSparkles: Emma's first dress we see her performing in is a sparkly green number.
* EvilBrit: The Strangers all speak with English RP accents. Non-American actors Rufus Sewell (British) and Melissa George (Australian) use American accents as their more sympathetic characters.
* EvilCannotComprehendGood: Mr. Hand's final conversation with John, who tells him the Strangers were looking for humanity [[WhatIsThisThingYouCallLove "in the wrong place."]]
%%* EvolutionaryLevels
* ExpositionBeam: An Exposition ''Syringe''. [[spoiler:Doctor Schreber wants to give John a fighting chance against the [[RealityWarper reality warping]] Strangers, so he fills the last Syringe with both exposition and a lifetime of experience in using his matter manipulating powers. [[CurbstompBattle Carnage ensued.]] ]]
* FakeMemories: [[spoiler:Regularly and on a city-wide scale]].
* FiveBadBand: The most prominent Strangers:
** TheLeader/BigBad: Mr. Book
** TheDragon/DragonWithAnAgenda: Mr. Hand
** TheBigGuy/TheBrute: Mr. Wall
** The CreepyChild: Mr. Sleep
** TheSmartGuy: Dr. Schreber
* 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 Beach 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.
** Murdoch taking the fish from it's shattered bowl and placing it in a bathtub.
* GlowingEyesOfDoom: A subtle example whenever John uses his powers. Most noticeable right at the end, when his face is completely in shadow.
* 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.
* GracefulLadiesLikePurple: Emma wears a purple dress when performing "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes", and also has a purple coat she wears in the latter half of the movie.
* GreenAndMean: Invoked. Most of the clothes John has arranged for him are green [[spoiler: and the Strangers were planning to imprint him with the personality of a serial killer]].
* 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 reveals that he's actually on humanity's side after all]].
* {{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.
* IntriguedByHumanity: [[ExaggeratedTrope To an extreme degree!]] The Strangersí whole purpose in creating the city and performing their nightly experiments is to study humans in order to [[PinocchioSyndrome become like them]] and reverse the [[DyingRace death of their species]].
-->'''Mr. Hand''': [[WhatIsThisThingYouCallLove I wanted to know what it was like Ö how you feel.]]
-->'''Murdoch''': You know how I was ''supposed'' to feel. That person isnít meónever was. You wanted to know [[HumansAreSpecial what it was about us that made us human]]. Well, you're not going to find it ''<<points at his head>>'' in here. You were looking in the wrong place.
* ItWasAGift: Bumstead's accordion, which [[spoiler:he thinks]] he got from his late mother.
* LightFeminineAndDarkFeminine: The prostitute May is blonde, upbeat and friendly (Light). John's wife Emma is brunette, troubled and distant (Dark).
* LivingLabyrinth: The city transforms at 12 o'clock, new buildings sprouting up and others retracting.
* ALongTimeAgoInAGalaxyFarFarAway: [[spoiler: Where is the city? Has it been sealed from the world? No. There is no world - it's floating in space.]]
* MemoryJar: Dr. Schriber implants FakeMemories into people's heads with syringes, and he's later seen concocting the fluids that make up these memories.
* MindRape: The entire premise of the mysterious syringes, and inverted when Mr. Hand makes use of John's memories to track him down.
* MindScrew: The premise is quite disturbing once you really start thinking through its implications.
* NakedOnArrival: John Murdoch wakes up in a bathtub with no memories or a sense of identity.
* TheNightThatNeverEnds: Not only is it part of the film's atmosphere, it becomes a plot point.
%%* OntologicalMystery
* OpeningMonologue: The opening scene in the theatrical cut has Dr. Schreber give an introductory narration about the Strangers.
* PillarOfLight: A beam of light appears as the dark world dissolves.
* PlatonicCave: In this case the "cave" is [[spoiler:an alien spaceship/laboratory made up to look like an American city ca. the 1930s]].
* PowersAsPrograms: Dr. Schreber injects people with a substance that alters their skills and experiences in a heart beat.
* ProductionThrowback: The movie theater advertises ''Book of Dreams'', a previous film by Alex Proyas.
* PuppeteerParasite: [[spoiler:"You've seen what we are. We use your dead as vessels."]]
* QuestForIdentity: John tries to find out who he is.
* LaResistance: Schreber works as TheQuisling for the Strangers, but has been secretly waiting for the moment to undermine them.
* TheReveal: [[spoiler:The city is actually a giant spaceship.]] The theatrical version ruins this surprise with the opening monologue.
* RoofHopping: Murdoch confronts Hand and flees other Strangers after a roof-leaping chase. Unusually suspenseful in that the buildings ''are changing shape'' as he's running across them.
* 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.]]
* SceneryCensor: Subtle example: the bathtub water is cloudy enough to conceal John's nudity in the opening scene.
* 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}}''.
*** The film's creator also noted that the original idea came from the look of Riff Raff in ''Film/TheRockyHorrorPictureShow''. This makes Richard O'Brien's role especially [[ActorAllusion notable]].
** 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
* SquashedFlat: Happens to one of the Strangers chasing Murdoch when he gets trapped [[spoiler: between two moving buildings]] at the wrong time.
* TakingYouWithMe: [[spoiler: When Mr. Wall throws Bumstead out into space, the inspector manages to grab his coat and pull Mr. Wall with him through the forcefield.]]
* TerrainSculpting: The strangers do this all the time, using their "tuning" powers to reshape the labyrinthine architecture of the city to conduct their experiments on the human inhabitants. [[spoiler:After their defeat at the end, Murdoch uses his own tuning powers to create an ocean at the edges of the city.]]
* TheyPlottedAPerfectlyGoodWaste: The plot holes aren't. They're foreshadowing.
* ThrownOutTheAirlock: [[spoiler: Or rather, thrown out the ''forcefield'' into space. So long, Bumstead and Mr. Wall.]]
* 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 Murdoch isn't blindly wandering the City, but following the clues the Strangers set out for him as part of the Murdoch-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.
* TransferableMemory: The Strangers are trying to isolate the human soul by tracking the effects of swapping memories around various people.
* WhenThingsSpinScienceHappens: The Machine that amplifies the Strangers' powers rotates during the Tuning process.
* WindowLove: John and Emma are about to do this. [[spoiler:Then John breaks the glass instead.]]
* WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds: [[spoiler: John becomes one by the end, although he probably won't destroy the world.]]
* 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, [[IdentityAmnesia unable to remember who he is]].
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-->''You wanted to know what it was about us that made us human. Well, you're not going to find it..in here.''