"You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
"Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."
— Alfred Pennyworth
The Dark Knight (2008) serves as the second entry in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Saga.A year after the events of Batman Begins, Batman and his allies (Police Lieutenant James Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent) achieve real success in taking down Gotham's organized crime by hitting the mob where it hurts: their money. The various mob leaders become so afraid of Batman that when a scarred psychopathin clown makeup shows up and offers to kill Batman, they hire him...but once backed by the mob, said psychopath decides that simply killing Batman won't satisfy him. The Joker aims to destroy Gotham City from the inside out, and part of his "plan" involves attempts to corrupt the city's two heroes (Batman and Harvey Dent) by making their lives hell until they snap...The Dark Knight received a overwhelmingly positive critical reception as a serious drama (unique for a comic book movie) thanks in large part to the tour de force performances of the cast (including the late Heath Ledger's acclaimed performance as The Joker). The film holds the record for the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time in the United States (behind The Avengers, Titanic, and Avatar) and the twelfth-highest worldwide. It also became the first comic book film to win an acting Academy Award when Heath Ledger posthumously won Best Supporting Actor.The title of this film — The Dark Knight — marks the first time a Batman film has not featured the character's name in the title.Followed by the third and final part in the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.
The Dark Knight provides examples of:
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The Ace: Harvey Dent. At first.Rifftrax said it best after he punches a witness who pulls a gun on him, unloads the gun, states the model and manufacturer before placing the weapon in front of the man who wanted him dead, essentially tells him to try harder next time, and then says he's not finished with the witness:
"All right, five-minute 'Tell Dent how awesome he is' recess."
The novel clears up a few details about the movie, such as Dent's Knight Templar tendencies. Bruce doesn't believe Dent could have a skeleton-free closet, and investigates. Turns out his dad was a police officer who abused his mother, and whenever the police were called, they'd look the other way. Eventually, Dent's father killed his mother while he was away at school. This explains Dent's dislike of dirty cops. Bruce eventually realizes he's been digging so hard because he's jealous. Etc.
All There in the Script: The henchmen with the clown masks during the bank heist, whose names you would only know through the script or through watching the scene with subtitles. The robbers are:
Dopey: Alarm man (one of the two robbers who enters by rappeling on a cable from the office building across the street). Is shot in the back by Happy with a suppressed pistol.
Happy: Shoots Dopey in the back, then runs downstairs and drills into the vault. As soon as the vault door unlocks, he is shot by Grumpy.
Grumpy: The driver of the stationwagon, entering through the lobby with Chuckles and Bozo. He is shot in the shoulder by the bank manager (as Bozo tricks the manager into using his last shotgun pellet). After shooting Happy, he loads their duffel bags with money, and Bozo helps him place them by the door, at which point Grumpy pulls his pistol on Bozo, believing that Bozo now kills him at this point. Bozo says he kills the bus driver, and seconds later, the getaway school bus bursts through the doors and runs over Grumpy.
Chuckles: He is the guy riding shotgun with Grumpy when they pick up Bozo on the street corner. When they enter, he announces their arrival by firing a volley into the ceiling, then overpowers a guard. He is killed when the bank manager shoots him in the back with his sawed-off shotgun.
Bozo: Handling crowd control, he sticks primed grenades into the hostages' hands so they will be focused on holding on for dear life. He wounds the bank manager after tricking him into using his last round using an automatic Glock 18 pistol. After the school bus arrives, Bozo shoots and kills the driver, and finishes loading the money. As he is about to drive away, the bank manager asks him what he believes in. Bozo doubles back over to the manager, sticks a gas grenade in his mouth and takes off his mask, revealing that he is the Joker.
Aluminum Christmas Trees: You'd be forgiven for assuming that the Skyhook device Batman uses in Hong Kong a) was never invented for CIA use and b) wouldn't work if it was. In fact, it was and it did.
Harvey: When the Republic was threatened, the Romans appointed one man to protect them until the danger had passed. It wasn't considered an honor, it was considered a public service. Rachel: Harvey, the last man they did that with was called Caesar, and he never gave up his power.
Armor-Piercing Question: When Joker's big plan fails at the end Batman taunts him by asking "What were you trying to prove? That deep down everyone's as ugly as you?"
Artistic License - History: When Harvey comments about how the ancient Romans would appoint a dictator (Dent avoids using the term) in times of crisis, Rachel claims that Caesar never gave up the title. This is not accurate, as Julius Caesar was "given" the title of "Dictator for Life" by the Senate after he had more or less conquered Rome in a civil war. Despite his assassination, Julius never had to "give up" his position.
The Dark Knight was largely missing Batman Begins' classic Gotham deco-influenced skyscrapers. It's also a lot less crowded and a bit brighter in The Dark Knight.
Batman Begins had a city block built inside of an aircraft hanger to represent the slums, including the destructive monorail sequence. The Dark Knight (and subsequently The Dark Knight Rises) was primarily location work within downtown Chicago (The Dark Knight), Pittsburgh and New York City (The Dark Knight Rises) and thus looks significantly different.
Also, as of the end of Batman Begins, the slums of Gotham have been destroyed/driven insane (and therefore been transformed into even more of a no-go-area), so they couldn't be in The Dark Knight.
As Long as It Sounds Foreign: All of the Asian characters in Hong Kong speak flawless Chinese... in the wrong dialect. The standard dialect used in Hong Kong is Cantonese, whereas the characters all speak Mandarin.
Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Discussed. Even with Jim Gordon in charge, the Major Crimes Unit is still made up of mostly corrupt cops. But when Harvey Dent calls the lieutenant on this, Gordon points out that if he refused to work with such cops, he'd be working alone. This eventually comes back to haunt both of them, as Wuertz and Ramirez turn out to both be on Maroni's payroll and eventually kidnap respectively Harvey and Rachel.
Badass Bystander: In one of the bank robbery's best gags, the mob bank manager sitting in the background is startled when the Joker, Grumpy and Chuckles come in and Chuckles fires a deafening volley into the ceiling. After Chuckles pistol-whips a guard and starts waving his gun menacingly, the bank manager slowly takes off his glasses, picks up a Sawed Off Shotgun, and fires a single round through the glass window, hitting Chuckles in the back. He pumps the weapon and goes after the Joker and Grumpy. The Joker (as Bozo) tricks the manager into using his last shell to hit Grumpy in the shoulder before taking him out. As an extra bonus, the Joker also steals the manager's shotgun.
Badass Longhair: The Joker has a wild mane of green hair, unlike the Joker from the comics and cartoons, where his hair is usually rather short and neatly styled.
Bad Boss: The Joker will make you kill your friends with a broken pool cue as an "initiation", stick a cell-phone triggered bomb in your stomach, or just burn you alive on a giant pile of money if he thinks it'll be fun.
For Bruce, it's any indication Rachel is in danger. When Joker reveals he has not only Harvey hostage, but Rachel too, Batman completely snaps. Bruce proceeds to smash the clown's head straight into a glass window, and then keeps punching him in the face while screaming "WHERE ARE THEY?"
The same goes for Harvey, who kidnaps one of the fake guards from Commissioner Loeb's funeral and scares him into telling the very little he knows about the Joker by using his two-headed coin as a subversion of the Gambler's Fallacy.
Dent: Heads, you get to keep your head. Tails, not so lucky.
Blackmail: Subverted when an accountant stumbles onto Bruce's secret:
Reese: I want... ten million dollars a year, for the rest of my life.
Lucius Fox: Let me get this straight. You think that your client - one of the wealthiest, most influential men in the world - is secretly a vigilante, who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands... and your plan is to blackmail this person? [Beat] Good luck.
Bomb Throwing Anarchist: One of the Joker's prefered methods of destruction, blowing up city officials, police cars and hospitals.
Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: A very brief, wordless example. When Gordon observes of the Joker that there was "nothing in his pockets but knives and lint", we see someone laying out an improbable number of knives on a table. The last is a potato peeler, which the handler briefly double-takes at.
Broken Pedestal: When Harvey Dent imprisons 549 criminals at once in a RICO case, the mayor warns him that he has to be very careful not to slip up, or everything will be undone. The Joker spends the rest of the movie trying to bring this about, while Batman tries to stop it. Eventually the pedestal is broken when Harvey loses Rachel, half his face, and eventually his mind. He goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge in which he kills five people, two of them cops. At the end, Batman decides to take the blame for Harvey's crimes, so that his prosecution and image can be upheld. It does so until the next movie, when Bane exposes the truth.
Bullying a Dragon: Coleman Reese figures out Batman's identity and decides to try and blackmail him, until Fox points out to him that trying to blackmail one of the world's wealthiest and most powerful men about the fact that he's secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands has multiple flaws.
Call Back: Bruce's slide down the glass to save Rachel almost exactly re-creates his slide down the mountain to save Ducard.
The Cameo: US Senator Patrick Leahy shows up (the avowed lifelong fan's thirdsuchappearance to date) and says to the Joker "we're not intimidated by thugs." Now that is a campaign platform. He also appears on the Wayne Enterprises board in the third movie.
Canon Immigrant: The Batbunker. Introduced here as the replacement for the Batcave, it's a big white military-style installation built under a Wayne skyscraper. It eventually made its way to the comics when Bruce Wayne was temporarily killed off and replaced by Dick Grayson: Dick decided he wanted his HQ to be in the heart of the city instead of a mansion on a hill, so he moves into a bunker inspired by the film. He keeps using this base even after Bruce returns.
This is especially appropriate since the original Batcave is also a canon immigrant. It was introduced in the black and white Batman serials of the 1930's (mostly as a way to save money by re-using an already available cave set the studio had sitting around.)
Card-Carrying Villain: Played with. Although The Joker never calls himself "evil" or "a villain", he styles himself an "Agent of Chaos", describes all his heinous acts with a grin & smile, and intentionally positions himself as a foil to the heroic Batman and Dent. Also, he actually has a card.
Cartesian Karma: In the end of the film, this is played intentionally by the Joker in order to manipulate Dent and get him to commit enough crimes that he 'falls', and has all the blame shifted towards him, thus destroying the cities hope in their law enforcement. The bat is able to avert this only by taking on the blame himself for Two Face's murders.
Choke Holds: Bruce Wayne does this to Harvey Dent in order to hide the DA from Joker.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: When Lau is captured by the police, he gives them the names of all his mob clients as a means of avoiding his own incarceration and stealing all the criminals money for himself. Later in the movie, when Lau is freed from his jail cell by the Joker, he quickly gives up the location of the money to avoid being killed... only for the Joker to burn him alive anyway.
There's also how Joker constantly and shamelessly murders his own allies, though it's hardly surprising given his mission statement.
Combat Sadomasochist: The Joker loves to inflict pain and suffering, but also seems to like being at the receiving end, particularly in the scene where he is beaten up by Batman.
Complexity Addiction: The Joker loves elaborate sadistic choices, playing cards (both as his business card and signature at some of his killings), and dropping clues about his next targets. After he fails to kill Harvey Dent, he puts nametags on two men he killed reading "Harvey" and "Dent" the next night to taunt him. He's also immediately impressed by Harvey's very villainous Heads-or-Tails gimmick.
Cool Bike: The Batpod. Apparently the center part where the rider sits is gyro-stabilized, as it's always upright. Batman catches up with the Joker by taking some major shortcuts during the Wacker Drive car chase (at one point rocketing through Randolph Street Station), and re-emerges into Joker's view by tumbling out of an alley... while still staying upright. Batman can even drive it up a wall, flip over backwards, and it'll spin around and keep Bats' ears pointing upward.
The Corrupter: The Joker spends most of the film trying to get both Batman and Harvey Dent to give into their base desires and murder everyone in their way. Dent eventually gives in.
Counting Bullets: In the bank robbery, the Joker tricks the bank manager into spending the last round in his shotgun on Grumpy's shoulder by pretending to have been counting the bullets. Grumpy then exclaims, "Where did you learn to count?!"
Crazy-Prepared: The Joker actually gives Batman a run for his money, at least when it comes to the "crazy" part: He has pockets full of knives, grenades attached to strings lining his coat, and detenators to strategically placed giant bombs all over town.
Joker knew that he'd go to save Rachel, and that's why he switched the addresses. It's obvious, really; he's already jumped out a window to save her once. Joker's also counting on Batman being the only one fast enough to save either of them.
Deadline News: Mike Engel and his crew tempt fate by going to Gotham General Hospital to cover the evacuations. They wind up hostages of the Joker. They all get rescued unharmed at the end but they still become the story they were reporting on.
Deadpan Snarker: Alfred Pennyworth dials up the snarkiness in comparison to the first film.
Alfred: You can swap not sleeping in a penthouse for not sleeping in a mansion.
but Lucius Fox is still the most obvious example.
Lucius: I must say, compared to your usual requests, jumping out of an airplane is pretty straightforward. Bruce: What about getting back in the plane? Lucius: ... I'd recommend a good travel agent. Bruce: Without it landing. Lucius: ... now that's more like it, Mr. Wayne.
Joker meanwhile fills in for Crane as the main villainous snarker:
(After Batman has slammed Joker's head into a table) Joker: Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy. He can't feel the next blow if... (Batman smashes his hand, and Joker doesn't react) Joker: See?
Bruce Wayne himself also qualifies.
Alfred: I suppose they'll haul me away too, as your accomplice.
Bruce: Accomplice? I'm going to tell them the whole thing was your idea.
And though he's only in the film for a few minutes, Crane gets in a few good ones too:
Scarecrow: I said my compound would take you places. I never said they'd be places you wanted to go.
A few minutes later:
Copycat: We were just trying to help...
Batman: I don't need any help!
Crane: Not my diagnosis.
Deal with the Devil: Harvey Dent accuses Gordon of this for not getting rid of all the possibly corrupt officers in the Gotham City Police Department.
Death by Secret Identity: Subverted. Coleman Reese learns Bruce's identity, but doesn't end up dead despite the Joker's best efforts. Reese does however decide to keep his mouth shut for good after Bruce saves his life.
Also subverted with Rachel, since knowing Bruce's identity has little to nothing to do with the circumstances of her demise.
Death Seeker: Two Face. You think I want to escape? There is no escape from this.
Defiant to the End: In the opening scene bank manager wounded by Bozo/The Joker keeps defying him and asking what does he believe in, rather than playing dead to save his life.
Averted with one of the fake Batmen, who is captured by The Joker. He says that the real Batman is "a symbol that we dont't have to be afraid of scum like you", but in fact, he is pretty afraid.
The rumor is that Ledger didn't know that there would be a delay in the explosions. So, never breaking character, he pulls a Crowning Moment of Funny by smacking the remote and flicking the detonator about half a dozen times. And rushes away when the explosions resume.
The delay was planned for, but the explosions were very real and they only had one chance to shoot the scene.
Disguised Hostage Gambit: The Joker pulls this in the finale with the people he kidnapped from the hospital, dressing them up as his henchmen while the real henchmen disguise themselves as doctors. This forces Batman to stop the SWAT team from making a fatal mistake.
Disney Villain Death: The Joker almost suffers this, but is saved by Batman. Bonus points for adding maniacal laughter to the fall. Done a few minutes later to Harvey Dent.
Dragon-in-Chief: The Joker offers to work as The Dragon for the mob to take out Batman, but he really wants to use their resources to bring chaos to the streets and become Batman's archenemy. In fact, he believes Gotham deserves a far better class of criminal than the mob... which is why later on he violently takes over.
Dramatic Irony: Dent believes that the police and Batman decided to save him instead of Rachel, when in reality, the Joker set it up such that they'd be saving the person they hadn't intended to save.
Bruce's comments at the fundraiser also count for those familiar with Two-Face from the comics.
Banker: Criminals in this town used to believe in things: honour, respect. Look at you. What do you believe in, huh? WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN!?!?!?!?
Joker: (removes his mask) I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... stranger.
The Joker mockingly uses this on Batman, after Batman uses Harvey as bait in his place.
Joker: Even for a guy like me, that's cold.
The big prisoner on the ferry tells the warden that he knows the warden is scared of taking a life, and says if the warden gives him the detonator, he'll "Do what you should'a did ten minutes ago". He then throws the detonator out the window.
Joker: All you care about is money. This town deserves a better class of criminal, and I'm gonna give it to them.
Evil Is Not a Toy: The mob was content with using the Joker to advance their own interest. That is until he decides he doesn't want to work with them anymore and starts doing worse to them than Batman ever did.
Evil Laugh: The Joker both plays this straight and deliberately mocks it. Which is why he's the Joker. He even gets someone to read one off cue cards in the Deadline News scene.
Exactly What I Aimed At: Joker thinks Batman missed during the standoff between the Batpod and Joker's semi-truck when Batman drives away. Then the tow cable Batman attached to the front of the truck flips the whole thing 180 degrees stright up and over.
Exact Words: A peril both of working with and of confronting the Joker.
Batman: Let her go!
Joker: Very poor choice of words.
Scarecrow does this as well: He only told the Chechen that the drug he sells (strongly implied to be the Fear toxin from the previous film) takes people places. He never said whether these places were places that the user actually wanted to go to. The Chechen was evidentially not amused by this statement.
Scarecrow: Buyer beware. I said my compound would take you places. I never said they'd be places you wanted to go.
The Scary Black Man on the prisoner boat is a One-Scene Wonder because of this. He tells the warden that he knows the warden doesn't have the guts to blow up the other boat in order to save his own life, even though he doesn't want to die. Then he tells the warden that if he gives him the remote he'll "do what you should have done ten minutes ago". The warden caves in and hands the prisoner the remote- and he throws it out the window into the water.
Excuse Me Coming Through: People run to get out of Batman's way when he drives the Batcycle through the Randolph Street Metra Electric station.
Expy: Detective Wuertz was originally going to be Detective Harvey Bullock, a long-time member of the Batman supporting cast from the comics, and Detective Ramirez was going to be Detective Renee Montoya, who was created for Batman The Animated Series and was then introduced into the comics. The producers decided to recreate them as original characters because of what happens in the third act, which did not match the character of the characters as previously established. This is clearest in Batman: Gotham Knight, an animated anthology film that bridged Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, which introduced Ramirez and featured her partnered with Montoya's comic-book partner Crispus Allen.
Eyes Are Unbreakable: Despite Harvey having everything around the eye burned off including the eyelid, to the point of exposing the bone at the edge of the eye socket, the eye itself appears entirely undamaged.
Eye Scream: The Joker walks in on the mob meeting:
The Joker:[fake laughter done in deadpan voice] Ah ha ha ha ha, hahaha, ha, ha, ha, oh, a-hee-hee, ha ha, oh, hee ha, ahaha. [returns to normal voice] And I thought my jokes were bad!
Gambol: Give me one reason why I shouldn't have my boy here pull your head off.
The Joker: How about a magic trick? [slams a pencil into the table, point first] I'm gonna make this pencil disappear...
[Gambol's crony stands up and goes to attack him. In one swift motion the Joker then slams the man's head onto the pencil, forcing the entire pencil through his eye socket; the crony collapses to the floor, dead, taking the pencil with him.]
The Joker: TA-DA! It's, ah, it's gone! Oh, and by the way, the suit? It wasn't cheap. You oughta know, you bought it!
Family Unfriendly Death: Specifically, the subversion of the Final Speech. The Dark Knight is rated PG-13, probably because Nolan puts the killing blows off-screen. There's also surprisingly little blood in the film. Nevertheless, the amount of sheer menace the movie manages to wring out of its rating makes it arguably more terrifying than many R-rated Gorn-fests.
False Reassurance: When Maroni tries to barter the identity of the other Mole in Gordon's unit for his life, Two-Face says it couldn't hurt Maroni's chances. This suggests Dent might actually show some mercy, until it turns out the mobster's survival is based on a 50-50 coin toss.
False Roulette: Harvey Dent interrogates one of the Joker's henchmen this way. The revolver is fully loaded, but he's using a two-headed coin, so there's no risk. Not that the henchman or Batman know this, causing Batman to call a What the Hell, Hero? when he arrives.
Batman: You'd leave a man's life to chance?
Harvey: Not exactly.
Fast Roping: The Gotham SWAT team employs this trope to raid the Joker's HQ. Batman comes by later and when he realizes that the hostages and captors have switched clothes, he uses the same rappel lines they used to to tie them up and knock them out.
Fiction 500: Bruce not only uses his massive wealth to fund all his activities as Batman, but he's wealthy enough to own the company that maintains the city's cell towers. He can push out an automatic software update for all cell phones in the city; one that just happens to turn them into surveillance devices.
Fingerprinting Air: Batman pulls a fingerprint from a computer reconstruction of a bullet that had been shot into a wall. Also an example of Artistic License - Physics, as there's no way a fingerprint can survive the explosive heat of the bullet being fired, being run against the rifling of the gun barrel, or the scratches from entering a brick wall. Further, a real bullet wouldn't have fragmented, but pancaked, distorting any pattern beyond usability.
Foreshadowing: Detective Ramirez admits early in the film that her mother is checking into the hospital.
Lt. James Gordon: All that was left in the vaults were marked bills! They knew we were coming! As soon as your office got involved...
Harvey Dent:My office?! You're sitting down there with scum like Wuertz and Ramirez.
This is part of the reason why Dent would personally blame Gordon for Rachel's death.
Harvey mention early in the movie that "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain", foreshadowing both his and Batman's eventual fates.
From that same scene, when the Russian ballet dancer suggests that Harvey might be Batman, she uses a menu so that half of Harvey's face is covered, foreshadowing Harvey losing half of his face.
At the very least, Maroni and the Chechen seem to be friends regardless of the situation. They shake hands at the gang meeting, and later they're shown having lunch together.
Genre Savvy: Detective Stephens, the cop in charge of watching the Joker. He refuses to play along with the Joker's Hannibal Lecture, telling him: "I know the difference between punks who need to be taught a little lesson in manners, and the freaks like you who would just enjoy it." When he ends up falling for it anyway (because the Joker's just that good) and is held hostage at knifepoint, he says to the other officers: "It's my own damn fault, just shoot!"
Genre Shift: The Dark Knight has much more in common with crime dramas and thrillers than with straight-up superhero films, and it abandons the elements of adventure and mysticism that Batman Begins used heavily.
Get Into Jail Free: The Joker does this in order to kidnap Lau and make him reveal the location of the mobs' money.
[Cuts to Rachel and Dent arriving at the opera only to find the box office shuttered; stuck to the ticket window is a newspaper article that is headlined "LOVE BOAT: BILLIONAIRE ABSCONDS WITH ENTIRE RUSSIAN BALLET"]
And Alfred only wants to know what the Russian is for "Apply your own bloody suntan lotion."
Glasgow Grin: The Joker. He also inflicts this on the fake Batman he tortures and kills and on Patrick Harvey and Richard Dent.
Bruce: I knew the mob wouldn't go down without a fight, but this is different. They crossed the line.
Alfred: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn't fully understand.
Good Cop/Bad Cop: The Joker accurately predicts that Gordon intends to use a form of this interrogation technique. However, he's caught off guard by discovering that the bad cop is Batman... even though he still doesn't talk until he wants to.
Gory Discretion Shot: When the Joker kills Gambol. From a shot of the the Joker holding a knife in Gambol's cheek, we get a split-second cut to a henchman's horrified expression, then a shot from the other side of the room as the Joker drops Gambol.
Guile Hero: Harvey Dent because of his political status and indirect, mostly non-violent means. Continues even after he goes on a killing spree, as he consistently manages to use misdirection and quick thinking to get to his targets.
Hellish Copter: A police chopper participating in an Escort Mission Gets clotheslined by two of the Joker's clowns, who fire cable launchers across the street.
Hero Insurance: Batman doesn't have it, but Gordon does: The car chase results in a very high bodycount among the police escorts (see Hellish Copter for instance), but they do arrest the Joker at the end of it, so Gordon gets promoted to commisioner. And he isn't even demoted back once it turns out the Joker planned to get arrested and breaks out.
Hollywood Law: Local district attorneys cannot charge RICO offenses. Not even the local US Attorneys can, it has to come directly from the Department of Justice. Dent's mass-trial would also count, but the movie points out that he doesn't expect it to succeed and it's only proceeding because of his local stature.
Honor Before Reason: As usual, Batman is unwilling to kill the Joker despite the fact that he's a horrible psychopathic monster who hurts and kills people for fun, albeit in an effort to prove that the system works and that not everyone is as terrible as Joker makes them out to be.
Hopeless Suitor: Batman/Bruce Wayne himself, of all people, is actually this as he spends the whole film pining after Rachel Dawes despite the fact that she's clearly moved on with Harvey Dent.
Hope Spot: An In-Universe one for Harvey; he's lying in a hospital bed recovering from a bomb blast, convinced that Rachel is dead. Then he finds the lucky coin he gave her the last time he saw her alive, left by the side of his bed. He turns it over... the other side's been charred by his own explosion.
Humans Are The Real Monsters: The Joker believes that, deep down, everyone is just as horrible and ugly as he is, and that if they're pushed far enough, anyone will become a murdering psychopath. He's just one of the few smart and brave enough not to hide it.
The Joker: See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve.
Hypocrite: The Joker is offended when people call him a "freak", but has no problem calling other people, including himself, "freaks".
I Am Spartacus: When the Joker threatens to keep killing people until Batman unmasks and turns himself in, Harvey Dent makes a public confession that he is Batman and surrenders to the police. However, it turns out to be a sting to get the Joker to come out of hiding, which leads to the car chase.
If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: After the Joker kills Gambol and takes conrol of his organisation, he makes Gambol's cronies duel each other to the death to see who'll be allowed to join his own gang of thugs, after breaking a pool cue.
Indy Ploy: The Joker claims to be doing this, no matter how unlikely that may seem.
Joker: Do I really look like a guy with a plan?
Ironic Echo: Not as frequent as it was in Batman Begins, but there are some considerably impactful ones here.
"You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
"I am sure a businessman of your stature would understand." Repeated within the same scene.
"I make my own luck", which Harvey says when he's about to try Sal Maroni, is echoed by Rachel saying, "you make your own luck" right before the car chase.
Harvey's fundraiser is absolutely loaded with them, subtle though they may seem. Both Bruce and the Joker enter the party announcing that they're only just in time; both immediately ask "Where is Harvey Dent?" upon arriving; both spill champagne out of a glass, and so on and so forth.
Irony: Commissioner Loeb tells Gordon, "You're unlikely to discover this for yourself" about what being a police commissioner is like. Even people who didn't know Gordon would be Commissioner after Loeb's death were reasonably assured he would eventually follow a similar career path to the comics.
I Will Show You X: During an argument between a witness on the stand and Harvey Dent:
Harvey Dent: I have a sworn statement from you that [points to Maroni] this man is the head of the Falcone crime family.
Rossi: Maroni? He's a fall guy. I'm the brains of the organization!
Harvey Dent (to judge): Your honour, permission to treat the witness as hostile?
Judge Freel: Permission granted.
Rossi: Hostile? I'll show you hostile!
Rossi pulls out a gun and tries to fire it. The gun jams.
Even more, this scene is a nod back to how Two-Face was created in the original comics.
When Batman beats up the Joker. Even discussed, as the Joker criticizes Batman's technique while Batman is beating him.
Batman also throws Maroni off a roof, breaking both his legs, in order to get information. It still doesn't work, as the mob boss doesn't really know anything about The Joker anyway, and if he did, he is far more scared of The Joker than Batman.
Batman: He must have friends!
Salvatore Maroni: [incredulous] Friends? Have you *met* this guy? ... No one's gonna tell you nothin'. They're wise to your act. You got rules. The Joker, he's got no rules. No one's gonna cross him to you.
Dent also makes use of False Roulette to get info out of one of the Joker's mooks. The man cracks quickly, but as it turns out has no information on the Joker's location either.
Jump Scare: This occurs when Harvey Dent and Mayor Garcia are conversing in his office. The mayor slowly walks towards the glass window when suddenly, the Joker-mauled corpse of one of the fake Batmen is flung onto the window right towards his face.
Later, the injured Dent is interrogating Gordon while in the hospital:
Dent: Remember that name you all had for me when I was at Internal Affairs? What was that. Gordon?
Dent: Say it. [beat]SAY IT!!!
Kansas City Shuffle: When The Joker threatens to kill the mayor, both Batman and the police assume that the only way the Joker could succeed is by using a shooter in the buildings overlooking the funeral; the police set up officers to watch the windows, while Batman takes "fingerprints" off a shattered bullet to track one of the Joker's mooks to his home address near the funeral. It turns out that the Joker and his gang were all disguised as a the ceremonial honor guard giving the 10 gun salute. While the police were watching the windows and Batman was looking through the mook's apartment, Joker was standing with a loaded rifle mere feet from the mayor. Gordon luckily is Genre Savvy enough to jump in front of the mayor with a bullet proof vest on.
Kick the Dog: Joker gets Dent's face burned and his girlfriend killed. He then shows up to Dent's hospital bed to say "Hey, it's your own damn fault for thinking there's such a thing as Order in the first place" to add insult to injury.
Alfred: A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anyone who had traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing the stones away.
Bruce: Then why steal them?
Alfred: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
Love Cannot Overcome: Rachel doesn't want the problems of being Bruce's love interest until he's done being Batman.
Love Makes You Evil: Sort of... Harvey Dent losing his girlfriend is the key ingredient in driving him to madness.
Mind Rape: Of all the Joker's acts of callous villainy and casual disregard for human dignity, none is worse than his turning of Harvey Dent into a vengeful monster by warping his mind during his vulnerable time of grief over Rachel's death.
In general, this seems to be a favorite of the Joker, who delights in pressing Berserk Buttons until he gets underneath people's skins. Case in point: the scene where he intentionally makes light of the officer's dead friends.
Misplaced Retribution: Harvey doesn't just give his 50-50 execution judgement to everyone involved in destroying his life, He goes after Gordon, and plans to kill Gordon's son to show the cop how it feels to lose the thing you love most.
The Mob Boss Is Scarier: People definitely see the Joker as being scarier than Batman, and Maroni spells out how no one is going to cross the Joker because they're too afraid of what cruel method he could devise to kill them, whereas all Batman can do is beat them up a bit.
Copycat: What gives you the right? What's the difference between you and me?
Batman: I'm not wearing hockey pads.
Never Trust a Trailer: Pre-release material presented the Bat-Pod as one of Batman's newly developed toys. It's actually the Tumbler's emergency ejection system.
Nietzsche Wannabe: Two-Face, with his talk of random chance being the only true morality in the world. The Joker would be a Nietzsche Wannabe, except that wouldn't nearly begin to encompass his craziness.
Joker: I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... stranger.
Not His Sled: Though Harvey "Two-Face" Dent does get his iconic facial scars, he never joins Batman's Rogues Gallery. Instead, he has a brief stint as a Vigilante Man (only coming into conflict with Batman when he tries to kill Commissioner Gordon's family) and dies about half an hour after his injury, leaving the vast majority of Gotham's people unaware that he ever went insane.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The last fight between Joker and Batman, with Joker using dogs, construction equipment and crowbars to beat the Dark Knight into the ground.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: The Joker. Though aware of his crimes, at first Batman and the authorities just see him as "one man", and focus on bringing down the mob. The mobsters, for their part, regard him as "a nobody" as well...
Pet the Dog: Chechen pets his dogs, early in the movie, while calling them his "little princes." This makes it all the more disturbing when, later in the movie, Joker decides to have the Chechen cut up and fed to those dogs, for calling him a freak.
Phony Newscast: There are newscasts during the film reporting on the Joker and the Batman; in the DVD extras you're treated to 4 fake in-depth newscasts about Gotham.
Pineapple Surprise: The Joker threatens to pull the pins on a jacket of grenades to escape the mobsters meeting with Lau.
Poisonous Captive: The Joker continues to play mind games with the police while in a cell.
Playing Against Type: The casting of Heath Ledger as The Joker raised quite a few eyebrows as he had never played a major villainous role like this before, let alone a psychotic murderer. He defied all expectations giving the most powerful and remembered performance in the film.
Poser Hating: Batman does not find imitation flattering. Especially if the imitators dressing like him are using lethal force.
The Power of Legacy: At the end of the film, after Harvey Dent's death, Batman tells Gordon to tell the police force that it was Batman, not Harvey, who was responsible for Harvey's murders, so that Harvey does not lose his white knight reputation.
Psycho for Hire: The Joker, with the emphasis on "psycho", since he doesn't really stay in the employ of the mob for long. He's definitely in it for the psycho part, though.
Joker: If you're good at something, never do it for free.
Psychopathic Manchild: Just as an accountant was about to give in to one of Joker's earlier threats (reveal the identity of Batman or people die) he goes on TV to announce that he changed his mind, that he decides that a world without Batman would be too boring, and that if said accountant was not killed in less than an hour, that he would blow up a hospital.
Psycho Strings: On the soundtrack the Joker's theme is made mostly of these.
Reckless Gun Usage: The Joker ignores all gun-handling rules, but being the Joker, he probably doesn't care at all if he accidentally shoots someone. Or himself, for that matter. He'd probably think it was hilarious. In fact, there is a scene where he stumbles and accidentally sprays a burst of S&W M76 fire in a random direction.
Harvey Dent is flipping a two-headed coin so he won't purposely shoot someone he was interrogating, but he was still pressing a loaded gun to that man's head. But, again, this is Harvey Two-Face we're talking about.
Recursive Adaptation: Elements of Ledger's Joker were incorporated into the comics, most notably the scars. There may have been an abortive attempt to make him closer still, with someone drawing a line at killing Harley.
Rousseau Was Right: Batman's belief and part of how he eventually triumphs over the Joker in the finale: neither of the boats in Joker's "social experiment" are willing to blow the other one up, buying Batman the time he needed to neutralize the Joker's own detonators.
Rule Of Cool/Rule of Scary: Despite having half of his face burned off, Harvey Dent doesn't seem to have much trouble speaking, and his facial motions are apparently unaffected.
Rule of Three: The Joker's third "scar story" is subverted by Batman.
Subverted... by Batman. Played straight... by the movie itself. And double subverted... due to both. We never hear Joker's third story but Batman giving him scars makes the movie itself a third story. As a result somehow manages to fit all three.
Joker: You know how I got these scars?
Batman: No, but I know how you got these.
(Batman launches his gauntlet scallops point-blank into Joker's face)
Sadistic Choice: Joker has several in The Dark Knight. So much so that Roger Ebert interprets this concept as one of Joker's main themes.
Ebert: The Joker is more than a villain. Heís a Mephistopheles whose actions are fiendishly designed to pose moral dilemmas for his enemies.
It seems notable that the messenger of chaos is the one with the most elaborate 'plans'.
Smash The SymbolIn the montage showing the consequences of Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent's murders, Gordon is shown smashing the bat-signal he put together at the end of Begins. Subverted, in that Gordon doesn't hate Batman at all, but is just in on the cover-up to protect Harvey's legacy.
A cell phone that works inside a guy. Inside a prison cell. It arms a bomb. Boom. This is justified because phones are often used by terrorists to arm bombs, because they are relatively cheap, and the other phone can simply be thrown away or destroyed once used. The cell was in a police station was in the centre of Gotham, so it is hard to see how it wouldn't have cell reception, and the human body is nowhere near dense enough to block signals. Finally, all Joker needs to do to stop the phone being damaged by being inside someone is pop it in a plastic bag. Simples.
Throw It In: That small shot of the Joker clapping sarcastically after Gordon is promoted to Commissioner.
Also, when the Joker has trouble with the explosives at the hospital not going off. According to Christopher Nolan, Ledger knew something had gone wrong, but he didn't want to ruin the take by going out of character unless Nolan called "cut," so he improvised the repeated button-presses until the effects guys got the charges to fire.
The rumor is that he didn't know the main explosions was going to be delayed so that he'd have a chance to get away on the bus before they started.
A lot of the Joker's mannerisms were developed when Heath Ledger was getting his makeup done, and would scrunch up his face to create different textures for the makeup. The creepy way in which the Joker sucks on his cheeks was one of these.
It's even better - the Joker is also shown licking his scars at least once, possibly meaning that the injury may be more recent than his Multiple-Choice Past is letting on.
Title Drop: The final words spoken are the movie's title, at the end of Commissioner Gordon's monologue.
Too Kinky to Torture: The Joker. Detective Stephens, who's in charge of watching him, even lampshades it: "I'm a twenty year man. And I know the difference between punks who need to be taught a little lesson in manners, and the freaks like you who would just enjoy it."
Trailers Always Spoil: Many people knew Gordon wasn't Killed Off for Real because of the Joker's trailer line of "Good eeeevening, Commissioner." Gordon hadn't yet been made commissioner at the time of his supposed 'death'.
Also, we see Gordon smash the Bat-Signal in the final trailer, something that hadn't happened at that time in the film.
Batman underestimates the Joker throughout most of the film, right from the start when he blithely dismisses him with "One man or the entire mob? He can wait." Naturally, this comes back to bite him in the ass.
Joker underestimates the resolve of the people of Gotham at the end, and he's not happy about it.
Under The Truck: Not a chase scene, since the Joker is coming at Batman head on in a truck, while Batman races towards him on the Batpod in the Loop. However Batman fires two towing cables that hit the truck and then proceeds to weave in and out between the wheels of the trailer to tie it up. Because the Batpod is built low to the ground and the truck is quite high off the ground, he doesn't need to slide, just drive normally.
Played for laughs with the Joker when he blows up the Gotham General Hospital. He starts walking away without looking back, only to notice the explosions have stopped. Joker turns around and starts fiddling with the detanator, but nothing happens. He fiddles with the detonator some more, until he's startled by a huge explosion. Joker then resumes walking away without looking back... only now he's walking much faster than before.
Director Nolan praised Ledger for him doing it so well.
Unhand Them, Villain!: The Joker does this to Rachel when Batman tells him to let her go. She happens to be hanging halfway out a window.
One would assume that a room full of cops and lawyers knows what RICO is.
When two corpses are discovered whose last names are Harvey and Dent, respectively, Ramirez has to remind us that one characters' name is Harvey Dent and that the dead guys' names are supposed to allude to him.
Villain Opening Scene: The movie begins with the Joker and his goons robbing a mob bank. And the Joker ripping off all of his clown accomplices by tricking them into shooting each other.
Villainous Breakdown: The Joker has a downplayed one at the end of The Dark Knight, in contrast to his usual over-the-top theatrics: when the people of Gotham refuse to play his game and reveal themselves to have a core of decency, and it looks like his ultra-nihilistic view of the world might be wrong after all, he goes very, very still...
Villain Team Up: The Joker and Two-Face... ssssssssorta.Harvey hates Joker with a passion, but the Joker is the one who pushes Dent into villainy, and the Joker uses Two-Face to sow extra chaos and divert the Gotham PD's attention long enough to set up his next major "social experiment".
Wham Episode: The end of the second act, which starts with Harvey and Rachel getting kidnapped and ends with Rachel's death.None of the protagonists emerge unscathed.
What Could Have Been: There's some fairly creepy concept art of the Joker before Heath Ledger was cast.
What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: There seems to be a subtle theme about dogs in The Dark Knight. Seriously. Go back and watch it again, looking out for references to, and appearances by, dogs. The meaning behind them is debatable, but it can't be coincidence.
Dogs are a symbol for the Joker. He's the "dog chasing cars" and the ultimate cynicnote the word derives from Ancient Greek κυνικός (kynikos), meaning "dog-like". At first, the Chechen mobster has dogs on a leash — to deal with Batman — but by the end the dogs are turned against their former master in the same way the Joker overthrew the mobsters' control. Also, there's probably some Cerberus thing you could take from the three dogs.
Look at the Joker leaning his head out of the police car's window after his escape. You've probably seen a dog stick its head out a rolled down car window in the exact same manner numerous times on the road.
The Joker is symbolic in another way: he's almost more an anarchic, chaotic force of destruction than a man, and exemplifies the theme of corruption. You see it throughout the movie, how he seeps like a poison into every corrupt and dark underside of Gotham, undermining order, twisting Harvey Dent's righteous anger into something evil, and undermining Batman's confidence in what he's doing.
Go to the next step: The Joker's very identity is symbolic. In a game of cards, the Joker is often a wild card: it becomes precisely what you need it to be to further your agenda, but of itself, it has no face value or significance; it just upsets the other players' agendas by coming seemingly out of nowhere. Thus... the Joker's multiple-choice history and his lack of real identity.
For a more straightforward example, when Rachel and Harvey are kidnapped the lights in the warehouse where Harvey is held are on, whereas Rachel's are switched off. Could also qualify as Foreshadowing, but only by a few seconds.
What the Hell, Hero?: Pulled by Batman when Harvey Dent attempts to interrogate one of the Joker's men using a revolver and his coin.
Batman: You'd leave a man's life to chance?!
Dent's reaction to Batman bursting in to rescue him could be considered this, since he wanted Rachel and not himself to be saved.
Dent: NO! NO! NOT ME! WHY ARE COMING FOR ME?!
Also pulled by the Joker, of all people.
Joker: I wanted to see what you'd do, and you didn't disappoint. You let five people die. Then, you let Dent take your place. Even to a guy like me, that's cold.
The 'hero' part might be debatable, but Harvey does this to Detective Ramirez, when he confronts her for delivering Rachel to the Joker.
Ramirez: I didn't know what they were...
Dent: You didn't know what they were gonna do? You're the second cop to say that to me. What, exactly, did you think they were going to do?
Also a inverted version is pulled by the Scary Black Man on the ferry during the finale, when he asks the Warden for the detenator to the other boat.
Ginty: Give it to me, and I'll do what you should have done ten minutes ago.
(takes the detonator and chucks it out the window.)
Gordon's wife's reaction to his faking his death. He offers up a small excuse about how it was for her protection, but she still smacks him.
Lucius makes it clear that he is not happy with Batman's plan to use sonarised mobile phones to eavesdrop on the entire city and track down the Joker.
Where's The Rest Of The Kaboom?: When the Joker attempts to blow up the hospital and it only partly detonates. He keeps pressing in the button until it does, which was anecdotally wise of Heath Ledger to stay in character until it did, because that was an unintended production problem that might have ruined an expensive shot in the movie if it didn't work.
Who Will Bell the Cat?: The Gothamites on one of the two barges packed with explosives finally agree that the other barge full of criminals should be sacrificed instead of them. Except that nobody seems to want to pull the trigger on the detonator...
Why Am I Ticking?: The Joker orchestrates a prison break with a cell-phone bomb, which is sewn inside the body of an inmate very crudely. He did promise the man he'd make the voices go away.
The Windy City: The film was shot on location in Chicago with many of the city's distinctive streets making an appearance, to such an extent that there are many viewers who watch the film to see how many landmarks they can spot.
Would Hit a Girl: Two-Face knocked Anna Ramirez into unconsciousness, after his coin spares her life.
Xanatos Gambit: When the Joker is plunging to his (possible) death, he is completely unafraid: He knows that either Batman catches him so he survives to wreak havoc another day - or he has managed to corrupt the city's last defender. Either way, he wins.
Xanatos Speed Chess: Batman has to play an insane game in the film's final minutes. Disguised Hostage Gambit with multiple SWAT teams bursting in all over the place. Batman has to quickly incapacitate SWAT teams so they don't kill the Hostages-disguised-as-Joker-thugs, and take out the real Joker thugs at the same time. There are also police Snipers targetting the disguised hostages. He ends up having to use his grapple hook in creative ways to knock over hostages to get them out of line of sight while at the same time getting to floors he needs to be on, blow the floor up beneath SWAT teams and thugs with his bomb launcher, and use the SWAT teams' own grapple ropes to tie them together and then suspend them over the side of the building. All this thought up and implemented on the fly within a time span of two minutes.
X Must Not Win: Where X in this case refers to The Joker. It's such a major driving force for the good guys, especially for Batman, that at the end of the movie, Batman takes the fall for Dent's murders partly out of refusal to give Joker the satisfaction of wrecking Gotham.
You Did the Right Thing: In the dilemma that two ferries leaving Gotham to avoid the Joker's supposed takeover, one filled with prisoners and the other with innocent civilians, have the detonator to blow up the opposite ferry under a time limit where the penalty of indecision would be them both blowing up;Ginty, the prisoner among many prisoners on the prisoner ferry, after demanding that the detonator to the civilian ferry be handed over to him, instead of detonating it primarily to save his own life, he instead throws it out an open window into the water at the expense that the prisoner ferry could not blow up the civilian ferry, and that it could be blown up instead. This shows that he probably believes the lives of the prisoners, including him, is not worth choosing over the lives of innocent civilians.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Pulled in the bank robbery at the beginning, as the Joker has tricked his clowns into killing each other one by one due to their greed. In the end, he walks away with the whole haul, without having to share the $68 million with his five henchmen... and only needing to kill one of the five himself (the bus driver, specifically).
Dopey apparently knows about this, because he doesn't make a sound as Happy puts a suppressed pistol to his back and shoots him.
Dopey: That's funny, it didn't dial out to 911. It was trying to reach a private number. Happy: Is there a problem? Dopey: No, I'm done here. [Happy promptly shoots him in the back, then takes Dopey's equipment bag]
Happy, on the other hand, was not as fortunate:
Happy: They wired this thing up with like, 5,000 volts. What kind of bank does that? Grumpy: A mob bank. I guess the Joker's as crazy as they say. Where's the alarm guy? Happy: Boss told me when the guy was done, I should take him out. One less share, huh? [spins the vault lock] Grumpy: Funny! He told me something similar! Happy: What? [turns to see Grumpy pull out a pistol] No-no-NO-[Grumpy pulls the trigger]