YMMV / The Dark Knight


  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • The ending gets a lot of this from fans. Batman kills Harvey Dent/Two-Face in the act of saving Gordon's son after going to great lengths to not kill the Joker just to prove the Joker couldn't corrupt him etc., which on the surface makes him look a tad hypocritical, especially considering he left Ra's Al Guhl to die at the end of Batman Begins. Anyway, the great debate pivots on whether or not Batman went in expecting and intending to kill the crazed Dent if necessary or if he simply meant to overpower Dent and lost control in the scuffle, thus making Dent's death an accident.
    • Did Joker really not have a plan or was he lying to enhance his mystique? Depends on whether or not you consider a prank to be a plan.
    • One fan theory about the Joker's origin is that he is a Shell-Shocked Veteran from one of the United States' conflicts in the Middle East. Being an ex-soldier would explain his familiarity with guns and explosives, including more military grade weapons like the RPG he uses during the truck chase scene. Despite his claims that he isn't a "guy with a plan", there's no denying the Joker executes his operations with extreme efficiency and tactical ability, like his elaborate and borderline-perfect bank heist or his escape from jail. He also demonstrated knowledge of honor guard ceremonies during the attack on Commissioner Loeb's funeral. Finally, his strong belief in anarchy and chaos, and hatred of authority and "schemers", is further evidence that he suffered a Heroic B.S.O.D. at some point in the past over being a soldier in a geopolitical squabble. This possible origin also fits in nicely with the movie's post-9/11 world view, which interpreted the Joker as more of a terrorist than a criminal or mobster, and featured electronic surveillance and panic over the Joker's actions as key plot points. Full article here.
    • It's surprisingly easy to interpret the Joker as a Vigilante Man who hates criminals just as much as Batman, but doesn't have any qualms about murdering them. A pretty large chunk of his actions end up directly or indirectly aiding Batman in his crusade against crime: he pulls off daring robberies against Mob-controlled banks, he swindles the Mob out of millions of dollars, he assassinates the Gotham Police Department's corrupt and incompetent Commissioner (allowing the idealistic and ruthlessly efficient Jim Gordon to take the job), and he personally murders Lau, Gamble and the Chechen—three of the city’s most powerful gangsters. Even his most heinous act—turning Harvey Dent into the villainous Two-Face—just results in Dent going on a murderous rampage against corrupt police officers. For all his evil actions, he does far more damage to Gotham's criminal underworld than Batman ever did.
    • The Burmese bandit in Alfred's story. The clear interpretation that we're supposed to walk away with is that he, like the Joker, commits crime for sport, because he throws the jewels he stole away. However, another possible interpretation is that he was opposed to the Burmese government uniting the local tribes, or even the British government's intervention aiding them in the matter—the jewels were meant to function as a bribe for the tribal leaders. As such, he would have no actual interest in the gems themselves, but would be stealing them for political motivations.
  • Award Snub: This film appeared on more critics' top ten lists than any other film of 2008 except WALL•E, and more critics named it "best film of 2008" than anything else released that year. None of this was enough to overwhelm the Comic Book Movie ghetto; it was not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Neither was WALL•E, as it happens. But it's believed that the resulting outcry over those two snubs is at least partly responsible for the Academy deciding to nominate ten movies for Best Picture in 2010 instead of the traditional five. On that note, while Heath Ledger did a fantastic job as the Joker and very much deserved his Best Supporting Actor award, it's hard to deny Aaron Eckhart had a heart-wrenching performance as Harvey Dent....
  • Common Knowledge:
    • Many have claimed that Heath Ledger's Joker is the darkest version of the character. It is certainly true that he's the most joyless (as Mark Hamill states) but in terms of body-count, Jack Nicholson in Batman killed more people with his weaponized Smilex gas (Nolan!Joker's preference for knives and personally carving people does tend to limit his destructiveness compared to an aerosol fast-acting chemical weapon), while the DCAU!Joker led a rampage across Metropolis with a giant bomber and destroyed whole buildings, and later used a Kill Sat, had an even bigger Inferred Holocaust count, and his Mind Rape in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was arguably a far deeper psychological torture than what he did to Harvey Dent. In the entire trilogy, Ra's al Ghul and the League of Shadows probably killed more people in their attack on the Narrows in Batman Begins (at the end of which an entire city-district and slum area was said to have become permanently damaged if the final conversation between Gordon and Batman is to believed) and Bane in the final film likewise killed more people in the montage where he bombs Gotham's bridges and stadium than Joker did in this film alone (which is 32 people).
    • The Dark Knight is also seen as the first superhero film to really push violence in the genre, with many raising eyebrows about the PG-13 rating. Others point out that Batman Returns was the film that really attracted controversy (so much so that the Schumacher Batman films were initially presented and received as the Author's Saving Throw), and Return of the Joker was the film that was shelved and re-edited because of the violence of the content potentially being screened in the wake of the Columbine tragedy. Spider-Man also had Norman Osborn killing 22 people (the largest body count any supervillain in any Spider-Man film) and its finale had him perform a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown which reduced its hero to a bloody pulp. If anything, the violence in The Dark Knight was the point where it didn't receive controversy and became normalized so to speak.
  • Complete Monster: The Joker, a self-described "agent of chaos", is introduced by killing each of his goons and an innocent bus driver after a bank robbery. The Joker proceeds to exploit the Mob's desire to be rid of Batman, casually murdering henchmen, politicians and police to force Batman to unmask himself. He also makes the accountant attempting to unmask Batman a target; ties a crime boss to a pile of money which he then burns; kills a gangster by making a pencil disappear... eraser-end first; blows up a hospital; attempts a Prisoner's Dilemma scenario to get a boatload of civilians and prisoners to blow each other up; and, primarily by manipulating a Sadistic Choice leading to Rachel Dawes's death, and then by mind raping an injured Harvey Dent in the hospital, is the driving force behind his transformation into Two-Face. The Joker's main motivation is fun, but he also wants to show that anyone and everyone can and will become a monster if pushed far enough (or even if just given the chance). He's proven wrong, but doesn't care, just giving an annoyed shrug and attempting to blow the two boats sky high with his own detonator. All the while, the Joker states how he's just out to give Gotham a "better class of criminal". Alfred put it best when he said "Some men just want to watch the world burn."
  • Crosses the Line Twice: The Joker spends the whole movie dancing back and forth across this line while laughing maniacally, amused by the fact you think there's a line in the first place.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: The Joker, largely due to Ledger's rendition of him as an anti-authoritarian anarchist who wants to watch the world burn, and the fact that some of his speeches taken out of context (especially his speech to Harvey Dent in the hospital) actually makes sense in terms of its argument and rhetoric. Unlike the other versions of Joker (Jack Nicholson, Jared Leto, and Mark Hamill), he doesn't have the tendency of romantic fixation and Domestic Abuse of women and children that always kept fans from entirely rooting for Joker.
  • Ear Worm: The Joker's theme.
  • Ending Fatigue: At a little over two and a half hours, The Dark Knight out wears some viewers in the final third. This is partly due to the Harvey Dent/Two-Face subplot being wrapped up after the defeat of the Joker in a sequence that is dialogue-driven as opposed to the action in the Joker's.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: The black guy on the ferry. He's an unnamed character that is on the screen for less than 1/20 of the movie, yet his scene is one of the most remembered ones. It doesn't hurt that the character is played by Tommy Lister.
  • Epileptic Trees: The film's refusal to give Joker a definite origin has not stopped people to speculate. One theory that has become popular is the notion that Heath Ledger's Joker is in fact a Shell-Shocked Veteran from the Iraq War. This theory was openly floated in the Dark Knight manual while still maintaining Multiple-Choice Past. Other fan sites have also discussed this theory.
  • Even Better Sequel: Batman Begins is widely seen as a great reboot to the Batman film franchise. But the quality of The Dark Knight, with its writing and Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance as The Joker means The Dark Knight is widely seen as superior, and it also ended up being one of the highest-grossing films of all time as well as one of the most critically acclaimed superhero movies of all time.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop:
    • The film ends with Alfred, Bruce, and Gordon all concluding that sometimes a symbol matters more than the man behind the symbol, even if you have to take ethically troublesome steps to protect its power. Alfred's story of the Burmese bandit lampshades the ethically troublesome part.
    Bruce: The bandit, in the forest in Burma, did you catch him?
    Alfred: Yes.
    Bruce: How?
    Alfred: We burned the forest down.
  • Fandom Rivalry:
    • Due to the insane popularity of Heath Ledger's Joker, die-hard fans of Mark Hamill's Joker from the DCAU aren't as kind on Ledger. The same can be said for die-hard fans of Jack Nicholson's take on the Joker which still remains popular in the hearts of many old school fans and aren't kind to the rabid fans of Ledger.
    • With fans of The Godfather after The Dark Knight knocked it off the top of the IMDB top 250. Both fanbases went to the other films pages and 1-starred it either to keep the other from regaining the top spot or to regain it. Also attacking the films on their message board. Ironically, the 1-starring war between Batman and Godfather fanboys allowed The Shawshank Redemption to sneak into the top spot, where it has remained to date.
  • Foe Yay: The Joker perversely stalking Rachel is somewhat of this, and creepy.
    • Not to mention Batman and Joker, though a little less than usual. "You...complete me."
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • Hong Kong actor Edison Chen, the man you can hear asking Lucius to hand over his mobile phone in the beginning of the Hong Kong scenes. Chen had just been involved in a Real Life scandal, where the people repairing his laptop went the extra mile to upload his Porn Stash to the internet - including nude photos of several of his Production Posse. The ending of The Dark Knight involves a city-wide breach of privacy...
    • Also, Alfred's early throwaway line to Harvey Dent takes on a much different meaning after Rachel's death. "You've known her her whole life, haven't you?" "Not yet." Ouch.
    • Joker's "I think you and I are destined to do this forever..." after Batman beats him.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • The conversation between Harvey and Rachel in the fancy restaurant takes on a completely different meaning if you know your Roman history. Though no one in the scene says this outright, the figure in the Roman government that Harvey was referring to was known as a "dictator" (he was saying, in essence, "Maybe Gotham needs a dictator").
    • Also a bit of a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment, if you remember what happened to Caesar after he assumed dictatorial powers. Caesar went above the law and was killed, and Dent ...
    • There is also the fact that you can spot that Rachel is actually wrong. The Romans never appointed Caesar dictator, he appointed himself dictator, and backed it up very convincingly with the Army of Gaul.
    • The scene with the two boats being forced to decide to destroy each other is an example of the Prisoner's Dilemma. One of the boats is filled with actual prisoners (prison inmates, that is), which becomes a dilemma because the terrified citizens immediately assume that the prisoners—being violent criminals—will kill them if they don't kill them first.
    • The Lamborghini Bruce Wayne drives is a Murcielago, which means Bat. So even when he's not in the suit, Wayne is still driving a Bat-mobile.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The actions The Joker took during this movie become a lot darker after the events of the Aurora Colorado theater shooting during the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, where the shooter in question made it clear that he based his actions on The Joker, even rigging several buildings with boobytraps just as Joker was implied to have done in the movie.
    • The posters featuring The Joker with "Why so serious?" written in blood became extremely eerie after Heath Ledger's sudden death.
    • "Madness, as you know, is like gravity; all it takes is a little push" became this several years later when it really did happen to someone in a different continuity (though courtesy of a different villain).
    • The Joker's loftier or more abstract threats ("If I say that one ole little mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!" "When the chips are down, these 'civilized' people? They'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster, I'm just ahead of the curve.") all basically come to pass in The Dark Knight Rises. For that matter, Bane's ultimatum regarding the nuclear detonator is, essentially, a scaled up version of the boat scene (and, like with the boat scene, control ultimately lays with him).
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Alfred tells Bruce "Some men just want to watch the world burn.". The very next day audiences got to see Fire Lord Ozai trying to burn the entire Earth Kingdom to the ground. It was like they knew the movie would be premiering on the same weekend! It gets better! Fire Lord Ozai is voiced by Mark Hamill, who voiced the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series.
    • Among those suspected to be the Batman is Abraham Lincoln. Guess which one of Lincoln's relatives once wore the cowl?
    • Stephens being taunted into attacking the Joker. Considering the person playing him would later voice The Joker was able to outsmart Harbinger long before Shepard did and the cop even refers to hurting someone how ironic is that looking back at the Dark Knight now.
    • We now have Batman: Arkham Origins, released five years after the film came out, and the game's plots become strikingly similar to the plots of the film.
    • Way back in Two-Face's first appearance in the comics, it's briefly mentioned that there was a particular surgeon who could've fixed Harvey's face, but he died in a concentration camp during World War II. The name of this doctor? Dr. Ekhart, one letter removed from the name of the actor who plays Harvey.
    • The Joker kills the Chechen by having him fed to his own dogs, claiming that a dog is not loyal to anyone when it's hungry. This is exactly how Ramsay Bolton dies in Game of Thrones, specifically because he starved his dogs.
    • The line "you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain" is this now that Michael Keaton, who played the Caped Crusader in the Tim Burton films, plays the Marvel villain The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Even earlier than that, in 2011, Val Kilmer, Keaton's immediate successor in Batman Forever, voiced Walker Sloan in Spider-Man: Edge of Time.
    • Stephens is an expy of Harvey Bullock. Come the second season of Batman: The Telltale Series, his actor, Keith Szarabajka actually voices Bullock.
  • Ho Yay: Those three punks who helped the Joker sneak in to Gambol's HQ, the young African American one in particular, seemed a little too fond and admiring of the Joker.
  • Hype Backlash: There are videos scattered on Youtube about why Dark Knight sucks. Even some people in forums who had no bad feeling about the movie at all felt that the hype is too high and people praising it simply because it's "Batman" and gritty.
  • It Was His Sled: Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face. Seriously people, Dent has existed in various forms since 1942. There's a statute of limitations on this sort of thing. There was the question of whether he'd do it in this film or it would be saved for a future installment. And, in a subversion, the real twist comes when he's unexpectedly killed off about half an hour after getting his burns.
  • Like You Would Really Do It:
    • Jim Gordon's "death", especially considering we all know him as "Commissioner Gordon" and he hadn't actually become the commissioner yet.
    • And subverted with Rachel's death.
    • With Harvey Dent's death, after he's only been Two-Face for about half an hour. What, you thought he was going to live to be the villain in the sequel? Guess again.
  • Love to Hate: The Joker and Two-Face, but especially the Joker.
  • Memetic Badass: The Bank Manager, strangely enough.
  • Memetic Mutation: Has its own page.
  • Misaimed Marketing: While not as bad as the Batman Returns fiasco, it's still jarring to see toys for kids being sold as tie-ins for The Dark Knight, a movie whose PG-13 rating is extremely lenient.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • The Joker's always been a psychopath, but he definitely crossed it when he killed Rachel Dawes, which then led Harvey Dent to insanity.
    • The organized crime community as a whole arguably crossed this by hiring the Joker in the first place (and the Chechen crosses it by making the decision to hire him), as was implied by one of Bruce Wayne's lines following the deaths of Loeb and Surrillo, a line used in one of the earlier trailers...
      Bruce Wayne: Targeting me won't get them their money back. I knew the mob wouldn't go down without a fight, but this is different. They've crossed a line.
    • In fact, the only mobsters who don't cross the Horizon are Sal Maroni, who only lets the Chechen hire the Joker because of Lau's capture and only refuses to rat the Joker out to Batman because he's truly scared of the Joker ("Have you met this guy?"); Gambol, who knew from the start that the Joker was bad news not just for Gotham but for its organized crime community as well and actually stood up to the freak; and the Gotham National Bank manager, who bravely stands up to the Joker during the bank robbery and ices Chuckles (and tags Grumpy in the shoulder), to say nothing of what he thinks about the endless backstabbing he witnesses throughout.
    • Harvey Dent threatening to kill Gordon's family in front of him at the end of the film. Despite attempted reasoning from Batman, he refuses redemption full stop, leaving the former no choice other than shoving him out the behind window to his death.
  • Narm:
    • Commissioner Gordon verges on this toward the finale with the Joker, wailing "I HAVE TO SAVE DENT!!", which is just a little bit too OTT. There are also some examples of the extras clearly not being in the same league as Bale, Ledger, Oldman and the assorted cast, which doesn't help when the Joker's final plot has scenes dealing heavily with them.
    • "Things are worse than ever!"
    • When Dent screams the word "FAIR!" towards the end of the film, the CGI on his mouth opens a bit too wide.
    • "No more dead cops!"
    • "You brought this craziness on us!" Extra silly when the camera pans up to show Batman perched above her doorstep, listening in.
    • Speaking of Mrs. Gordon, her inarticulate, heart-wrenching cry when Harvey puts a gun to her child's head is pretty effective. Her making the exact same noise only a minute or so later... isn't.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: Heath Ledger's untimely death certainly didn't hurt the film's performance at the box office. It even got him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Ginty, the Scary Black Man played by Tommy Lister on the convicts' barge who tells the guards to give him the detonator to the civilian barge, saying he'll "do what you should have done ten minutes ago". He immediately throws the detonator out a window.
    • Jonathan Crane early in the film too, despite having been a much more significant character in Begins.
    • The Bank Manager (William Fichtner) who very calmly reacts to robbers in his bank... by whipping out that Sawed-Off Shotgun.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • The Joker makes a pencil "disappear". Sounds awfully familiar...
    • It's even older than the above, it comes from a scene in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, where the Joker bluffs Batman into entering Arkham by pretending to blind an orderly with a pencil.
    • The Hannibal Lecture the Joker gives to Batman in which he claims that sooner or later, the people he helps will hate him, sounds like the lecture the Green Goblin gives in Spider-Man.
    • Many have pointed out a similarity between Heath Ledger and Brandon Lee's makeup as The Joker and The Crow, respectively.
    • The Joker's Nietzche parody "what does not kill you makes you stranger" was previously used by Trevor Goodchild in the TV version of Æon Flux, although with "us" rather than "you".
  • Sequel Displacement: The success of this movie has completely overshadowed its predecessor that the whole series has gotten dubbed The Dark Knight Trilogy. Interestingly, though, the next film would take more cues from the first film than this one.
  • Signature Line: Probably the single most quoted line from the movie "Why, so, serious?", is considered by many people to be the Joker's catchphrase in the film. In actuality, the line is only used in one scene, as part of one of the Joker's (admittedly terrifying) "backstory"/threat monologues. Granted, this was a very memorable scene. And the marketing of the movie widely revolved around "Why so serious?"
  • Signature Scene: Everything to do with Joker:
    • The opening bank heist scene is considered among the best not only in superhero films but the genre as a whole, complete with the byzantine nature of betrayals and Joker's final reveal.
    • Joker's pencil trick, his prison escape complete with gloating shaking of his head out the window like a dog, the interrogation scene between him and Batman, Joker at the party, and Joker setting the money on fire.
    • The chase scene between Batman and Joker across the city, with Batman using the Batpod to flip over the giant truck and ending with Joker firing a gun in the middle of the street as he dares Batman to "hit me", with Batman dodging at the last moment.
    • Joker in the nurse outfit at the hospital with Harvey Dent, where he uses Gaslighting to turn his victim and mortal enemy into his accomplice, and then walking out while still in the outfit and blowing up the building.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Never bow down to fear, for bad things happen if done so. Also, people can become moral symbols, but forcing moral change will be faced with resistance.
  • Special Effect Failure: When the truck is flipped over during Batman's batpod chase with Joker, gas from the discharge of the launching mechanism can be clearly seen. It is possible that this was intentional (given the comparative ease with which it could have been edited out and the obviousness of the gas fumes) to show the audience that yes, they really did flip an eighteen wheeler.
    • Some have pointed out that after Harvey's Disney Villain Death, you can briefly see him breathing in the background.
    • When Grumpy is run over by the bus in the bank heist, it's very obvious the stunt actor is several feet away from the bus before being yanked backward. While obviously you don't want anyone getting hit by a bus for real, one would've hoped that they would've found a better camera angle or edit to keep the illusion.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character / They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Harvey Dent's mental and physical breakdown into becoming Two-Face, and how he lashes out against Gotham afterwards, would've made an interesting story on its own, but alas...
  • True Art Is Angsty: The Dark Knight is easily the darkest film adaptation of Batman made at its release. It's also the most critically-acclaimed.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The citizens of Gotham and Ramirez, the hypocritical cop who had the gall to blame Batman for what was going wrong when she was playing for the bad guys all along and tried to blame it on her mother's hospital bills.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: Many have taken Batman's phone-tapping of every Gothamite's mobile phone as a heavy-handed commentary about the Patriot Act, with some even arguing that it unintentionally justifies it.
  • The Woobie:
    • James Gordon Jr. (James Gordon's son) from The Dark Knight, is not really the Ax-Crazy Serial Killer maniac that we know in the Comic Booksnote . On the contrary, he is one of the biggest Woobies in the film. At his young age, he is living very traumatic events such as the attempted murder of his father, the kidnapping of his family and the attempted murder on his life by Two-Face.
    • Harvey Dent seems to be one, being a victim of so many events and tragic circumstances. However, processing of Two-Face, he becomes a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
    • Also Rachel Dawes, due to her new actress and ultimate fate.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:


How about a magic trick? I'm gonna make these examples disappear...TA-DAAAA!! It-it's...GONE.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/TheDarkKnight