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Film / The Dark Knight

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"The only sensible way to live is without rules, and tonight, you're gonna break your one rule."
"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) is the second entry in Christopher Nolan's Batman film trilogy, The Dark Knight Trilogy.

A year after the events of Batman Begins, Batman (Christian Bale), Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) have achieved real success in taking down Gotham's organized crime by hitting the mob where it hurts: their money. The city's mob leaders become so afraid of Batman and what he represents that when a scarred psychopath in clown makeup shows up and offers to kill Batman, they hire him.

But once he's backed by the mob, The Joker (Heath Ledger) decides that simply killing Batman won't satisfy him. He 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 burst Out of the Ghetto, receiving an overwhelmingly positive critical reception as a serious drama, thanks in large part to the tour de force performances of its cast — notably Ledger as the Joker. While Ledger's performance and commitment to the role earned praise on their own, public opinion was also undoubtedly informed by his untimely death while the film was in post-production.

At its peak, the film was the second-highest-grossing film of all time in the United States (behind Titanic (1997)) and the fourth-highest worldwide (behind Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest). It also became the first comic book film to win an acting Academy Award when Ledger was posthumously given the honor of 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 titlenote .

In 2020, the film was inducted into National Film Registry.

Followed by the third and final part in the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. An Animated Anthology Batman: Gotham Knight takes place between the two movies.

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    A - D 
  • The Ace: Harvey Dent. At first. RiffTrax said it best after he punches a witness who tried shooting 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 by buying American guns, and then says he's not finished with the witness:
    "All right, five-minute 'Tell Dent how awesome he is' recess."
  • Actor Allusion:
    • After what Gambol went through with the Joker, Michael Jai White still hates clowns.
    • Nestor Carbonell who played Mayor Garcia also played Batmanuel in The Tick (2001).
  • Adaptational Ugliness:
    • Two-Face was more cartoony-looking in the comics. In the film, the scarred side of his face is given much more detail.
    • The Joker has a clean, cartoonish appearance in the comics and some of the other adaptations, but in the film, he gets a dirtier, creepier appearance that gets worse over the course of the film.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • Harvey Dent's storyline is, in no small way, based on the Jonathan Nolan Story 'Memento Mori', which was also the basis for Christopher Nolan's Memento. A few of the Joker's speeches are near direct quotes from that story.
    • The first half of the film is seemingly adapted from The Long Halloween, complete with the triumvirate of Gordon, Dent, and Batman allying to take down the Mob and the Mob hiring the Joker in their desperation to fight back. However, Holiday is nowhere to be found, the distrust between the trio is gone (aside from Dent taking issue with Gordon having corrupt officers on his payroll), and Carmine and Alberto Falcone aren't anywhere to be seen (Falcone's role filled in instead by an inverse trio of Sal Maroni, Gambol, and the Chechen).
    • The Joker's entire motivation seems to be a distillation of The Killing Joke themes, particularly how one bad day could drive anyone to madness — something he claims of himself, and tries to force on Batman, Harvey Dent, and Gotham in general.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The novel clears up a few details about the movie, such as making it possible to understand Dent's Knight Templar tendencies. Bruce is skeptical that Dent could have a skeleton-free closet, and decides to do some digging. What he finds is that Dent's father 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 Harvey's initial distrust with Gordon at the beginning due to Gordon having dirty cops in his special unit (like Wuertz and Ramirez, to be specific). Bruce eventually realizes he's been digging so hard because he's jealous. Etc.
    • The ARG also fills in a ton of details for what took place between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
  • All There in the Script: The identities of the Joker's clowns in 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 zip-lining on a cable launched from a vacant office across the street). Is shot in the back by Happy with a suppressed pistol.
    • Happy: The guy who shoots Dopey, 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 station wagon, entering through the lobby with Chuckles and Bozo. He is shot in the shoulder by the bank manager, after Bozo tricks him into believing that the manager's shotgun is empty when he really has one shell left. When Happy remarks that he was told to take out the alarm guy, Grumpy says that he was told something similar and shoots Happy. He then stuffs several gym bags full of cash, and Bozo helps him place them by the door. When they're done, Grumpy draws his pistol and aims it at Bozo, believing that the Joker has Bozo to kill him after they load the cash, unaware that Bozo is the Joker. The Joker shrugs and says that actually, he kills the bus driver. Grumpy is confused, until seconds later, when a school bus bursts through the doors and runs over him.
    • Chuckles: He is the guy riding shotgun with Grumpy when they pick up the Joker (as Bozo) on the street corner. When they enter, he announces their arrival by firing a sub-machine gun into the ceiling, then overpowers a guard. He is killed when the bank manager shoots him in the back with a sawed-off shotgun.
    • The Joker (posing as Bozo): Handling crowd control, the Joker 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 a Glock 17 modified to fire full auto. After the school bus arrives, the Joker 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. The Joker momentarily doubles back over to the manager, sticks a smoke grenade in his mouth, and unmasks himself to reveal his clown makeup, before driving off and triggering the grenade.
    • Averted with Bus Driver, as that is his only name in the script.
  • Always Save the Girl: Played straight when Batman dives out the window of a fifty story building to save Rachel. Then Inverted when The Joker gives Batman a Sadistic Choice where he only had time to save Rachel or Harvey. Batman thought he was saving the girl, but the Joker lied about which hostage was at which address.
  • Analogy Backfire: When talking about Batman's necessity:
    Harvey: When their enemies were at the gates, the Romans would suspend democracy and appoint one man to protect the city. And it wasn't considered an honor, it was considered a public service.
    Rachel: Harvey, the last man that they appointed to protect the Republic was named Caesar and he never gave up his power.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: The Joker clearly links chaos and anarchy together in his speech to Harvey Dent/Two-Face when he tells him, "Introduce a little anarchy, you upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos."
  • And Then What?: The Joker admits he wouldn't know what he'd do if he won. "I'm like a dog chasing cars; I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it." When he gets hold of the mob money that's the supposed objective, he sets it on fire. When someone is about to reveal the Batman's identity on live TV, the Joker demands that he be killed.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Batman is attacked by the Chechen's dogs twice, and both times has difficulty fending them off. They have been clearly conditioned to be much angrier and hungrier than normal.
  • Animal Motifs: Dogs, for the Joker. He compares himself to "a dog chasing cars", hangs his head out the window of a cop car like a dog, and is constantly licking at his lips and skin like a dog. Notably, what animal gives Batman serious trouble in the film?
    The Joker (to the Chechen): Why don't we cut you up into little pieces and feed you to your pooches? And then we'll see how loyal a hungry dog really is!
  • Anyone Can Die: The Dark Knight plays this for all it's worth with the deaths of Rachel and Harvey Dent, AKA Two-Face.
  • Apathetic Citizens: As Cracked points out, no one seems to care about the getaway bus crashing out of the bank after the Joker has just robbed it, even with all the bank-dust:
    "Bus drivers (and everyone else on the street: all those pedestrians and cars you see above), watch a school bus crash through a building, then pull out and flee the scene of what is clearly a robbery ... and then they all just shrug and move on with their lives. The bus driver behind or ahead of him probably would have called 911 after seeing a bus go through a building. Some of the pedestrians would have called too, or just ran up to the incoming police and told them their guy was getting away."
  • Appropriated Appellation: "Two-Face" began as a nickname given to him behind his back by officers of the Gotham P.D. After he has half his face scarred and makes his full transition into a villain, he refers to himself by it when Gordon visits him.
  • Arc Words: Joker keeps asking "Do you wanna know how I got these scars?". But by the end, Batman doesn't care about his supposed Freudian Excuse.
  • 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 – Biology:
    • Despite what Batman and Maroni believe, a fall from that height could definitely have killed him. Surviving with broken legs is incredibly lucky (in fact he could have been permanently crippled the way he landed), as death was a very real possibility.
    • At the climax, the Joker is thrown off a building to stop him from detonating the bombs in the ferries; Batman, being Batman, saves his laughing ass by using the grapple gun to snatch him. Judging by how fast he was falling, he should've ended up like Gwen Stacy after stopping so fast; at bare minimum, the leg that the grapple gun attaches to should've snapped in half.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Obviously, that Gotham is clearly Chicago is unspoken of. On the other hand, when Lucius Fox meets with Lau on the terrace of his Hong Kong office building, you can clearly see McCormick Place across the street from them.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: This one actually pertains to grenades; the Joker threatens the mob meeting with a bunch of grenades under his coat, their pins attached to a string hooked around his thumb. In order to use an actual grenade, you have to hold the safety lever (or "spoon") down while you pull the pin, then let it go.
    • The Joker puts grenades in the hands of all the bank customers and tellers and pulls the pins so that they'll have to keep "holding on for dear life" in order to keep from blowing themselves up. This scenario would be examined (and busted) on a 2015 episode of MythBusters; it's easy to hold the spoon in place for an extended period using only one hand, and you can even tie it down with something like a piece of pantyhose.
  • Artistic License – History: Harvey Dent compliments Batman's efforts to take down Gotham's organized crime, comparing it to the crisis dictators that the ancient Romans appointed when the enemies were at the gates. Rachel counters that when Caesar was given his chance as dictator he refused to give up his power. However, Julius Caesar never had to give up his dictator powers because the Senate explicitly gave him the title of "Dictator for Life", and this was after Caesar had effectively won the Roman Civil War. Regardless of whether crisis dictators are dangerous for democracy, Rachel can't cite Caesar as a valid example. The nuance between Batman and Harvey Dent mind you, is that it's actually Dent who is the crisis dictator appointed by Gotham's mayor, while Batman is a vigilante who was never granted legal authority by anyone.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • Harvey says that China will never extradite a national under any circumstances. There actually are circumstances where China will do so, but they're deliberately as specific and unlikely to occur as possible so that they don't have to do so as much as other countries do - for all intents and purposes, his statement might as well be accurate.
    • While we know from the beginning that Gordon will eventually take his rightful place as Police Commissioner, the movie has him skipping over the rank of Captain in the process. While he would likely be a city-wide hero after Taking the Bullet for the mayor and helping capture the Joker, explaining why the average police officer wouldn't care, higher-ups would take notice and likely bring him back down to Captain.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: The fire that turns Harvey Dent into Two-Face has a lot of unrealistic things about it, that are ignored for Rule of Scary:
    • For one thing: the fire completely burns and chars all of the skin on the left side of his face. His left eyelid is completely burned away as well as most of his cheek, exposing his jaw muscles and the inside of his mouth, and also leaving that eyeball very vulnerable. For injuries that deep, you would need more prolonged exposure to heat than what would be provided by a thin layer of fuel on the skin, especially given the fact that Batman was present to pat out the flames.
    • While a person could reasonably survive the burning, you could not possibly have that much muscle and your left eyeball exposed without the tissue becoming highly infected and necrotic, then dying off. You would basically need immediate surgery and skin transplants.
    • A brief Hand Wave from Gordon mentions that Harvey refused skin grafts for the injury, explaining why he's able to stay as Two-Face instead of having his face repaired, but given Harvey's compromised thinking at the moment, the medical staff would have immediately turned to a surrogate (if one existed) so that they can give consent to the skin grafts; if a surrogate didn't exist, they would've gone to a medical committee, who would almost certainly overrule his wishes and give him the grafts. One way or the other, Harvey's face is getting repaired.
    • Additionally, after the burn scene, Harvey speaks much more coherently than he should be able to, and makes facial expressions he shouldn't be able to, since his facial muscles are now so badly damaged. In particular, his ability to make "b" and "p" sounds seem to not be affected at all even though half of his lips are now missing.
    • Moreover, people with third degree burns or worse (and Dent appears to have at minimum fifth degree burns) are also highly susceptible to infection. Therefore, they are kept in hospital burn units, where the air they're surrounded with can be temperature regulated.
    • The fact his eye is even intact is probably unlikely as well, considering eyes are round sacs containing liquid and would have been just as vulnerable to the fire. Even then, his intact eye would need constant moisturizing due to his tear ducts and eyelids being burned away. Being unable to close his eye would also mean he is constantly seeing things and would have extreme difficulty sleeping without a blindfold on, let alone leaving him sensitive to light at all times- that's assuming he wasn't blinded. Muscle damage would also probably render the eye unable to move, though he has no problem doing so in the film.
    • Test audiences apparently found the original, more realistic burns to be horribly disgusting, reportedly becoming violently ill.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • The truck-flipping scene is a truly awesome practical effect, but the way Batman does it as seen in the film would be physically impossiblenote . Assuming Batman does exactly what we see regarding the cable, the truck would have just torn the cable out of the asphalt along with the lampposts, and barely been slowed. And if the cable's anchor held firm, the cable would more likely break. Failing that, the truck would simply, abruptly stop. In no case is it capable of generating the force required to make the trailer rise up and turn with the entire rig over its own front end. Further, the rig itself and the trailer are not a single, rigid piece as shown. The two pieces would form a "V" while doing the flip, due to the trailer lagging behind the tractor as it rotates over. Once bent beyond breaking point, the hitch would fail and the trailer would drop back on its wheels.
    • Batman having the means to bend a rifle barrel with his hands? (It was actually a mechanical device) Sure, he's Batman. The poor dope holding the gun somehow being strong enough to keep a grip on it while Batman bends the barrel? Even if having the terror of Gotham standing right next to him left him scared stiff, that's a lot harder to excuse.
  • Art Shift:
    • Of a sort. Christopher Nolan stated in an interview that as opposed to the gritty grimy look of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight would be slightly... cleaner, so to speak. Namely, they clean their images up nicely by blowing lots of stuff up.
    • The Dark Knight was largely missing Batman Begins' classic Gotham art-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 hangar to represent the Narrows, including the destructive monorail sequence. The Dark Knight was entirely filmed within downtown Chicago and the surrounding inner suburbs of the city. The Dark Knight Rises uses Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and New York City, hence the different aesthetics.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: Some scenes were filmed with IMAX cameras, and in the IMAX and Blu-Ray versions, these scenes are very apparent as they use a 16:9 aspect ratio instead of 2.35:1.
  • Assassination Attempt: Harvey Dent dodges assassination attempts throughout the film as a result of his war on the mobs of Gotham, getting by thanks to the intervention of the Batman, Commissioner Gordon and sheer luck. Less focal characters like Commissioner Loeb and Judge Surrillo are less fortunate then Dent, and are taken out as soon as the Joker appears on the scene. Wayne Enterprises employee Coleman Reese also has to survive a wave of these after he goes to the media with the knowledge of Batman's identity, only for the Joker wanting that to stay secret for his own plans, and puts out an ultimatum: kill Reese or a hospital will be blown up. The police and Bruce Wayne have to scramble to protect him as several citizens are more than willing to carry out Joker's orders.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Most of Joker's seen victims, which make his crimes more palatable. In short order: all the bank robbers who are tricked into murdering each other for money, Gambol and many of his gangsters (a noteworthy example included a pencil), Lau and Chechen. Ironically, Maroni would be known as the man who successfully escaped the Joker only to become a victim of Two-Face, joining Wuertz.
    • An Invoked Trope during the ferry scene.
      "Those men on that boat, they made their choices, they chose to murder and steal."
  • As You Know: Rachel and Harvey discussing what a RICO case is and explaining it to Lieutenant Gordon, mostly for the benefit of the audience. Though also justified since even professionals may not necessarily know all the technicalities of RICO.
  • Awful Truth: Twice in the final moments of the movie. Batman and Gordon decide not to let the public know about Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face so that the people of Gotham do not lose hope, while Alfred burns Rachel Dawes's letter that stated she chose Dent over Bruce prior to her death. Unfortunately, both decisions backfire with heavy consequences in The Dark Knight Rises.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Joker is the epitome of this. True to his twisted behavior, Joker is a horrific Sadist who's very open to the idea of senseless violence, and frequently kills or tries to kill people over petty excuses or just For the Evulz. When he's searched by the police, they find a whole lot of things that are already knives.
    Joker: "Guns are too quick. You can't savor all the... little emotions. In... you see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in a way, I know your friends better than you ever did. Would you like to know which of them were cowards?"
  • Badass Boast: The Joker gives a very short one, but it establishes that he's the one doing the bullying and not the other way around.
    Gambol: You think you can steal from us and just walk away?
    The Joker: Yeah.
  • Badass Bystander: In one of the bank robbery's gags, the mob bank manager sitting in the background is startled when the Joker, Grumpy and Chuckles come in and Chuckles shoots 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.
  • Bad Boss: The Joker will order you killed as soon as you do your part of a robbery, 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 top of a pile of money if he thinks it'll be fun.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Discussed. Even with the legitimate Gordon in charge, the Major Crimes Unit is still made up of mostly corrupt cops - like Wuertz and Ramirez - and there are only maybe a few clean cops - such as Stephens and Murphy. 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 Harvey and Rachel, respectively.
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: Gambol is playing pool with a couple of his cronies before the Joker comes in and puts a smile on his face.
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • Even after all that Batman and Commissioner Gordon did to stop the Joker's mayhem, The Joker proves that even the most noble of men (namely Harvey) can be twisted and their moral code turned to evil.
    • A secondary objective of the Joker was to make Batman break his "one rule" (Batman does not kill). In the end, Batman is forced to break that rule by killing Harvey Dent to save Gordon's family.
  • Ballroom Blitz: The Joker and his men crash Bruce's fundraiser for Harvey Dent.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: The Joker uses a Glock 18 machine pistol in many of the scenes where he does shoot someone. It's well, except for the fact that the sound effect is actually that of a minigun. However, what is averted is that you do hear the natural clinking noise of shell casings hitting the ground.
  • Bank Robbery: The Joker and some of his clowns rip off a mob bank of $68 million to start the movie.
  • Barehanded Bar Bending: In the parking structure battle, Batman bends the barrel of one of the Bat-Vigilantes' guns with one hand.
  • Batman Gambit: Pulled off more frequently and effectively by The Joker than Batman himself.
    • During the interrogation scene, he pushes Batman's buttons enough by revealing that he's got both Harvey and Rachel stashed away and Batman will have to choose which one to save. In his panic, Batman never even considers that The Joker is lying about who is where.
    • Earlier, The Joker's plan to kill Grumpy required him to be standing at precisely the right spot, at precisely the right time, and the bus to back into the bank just so.
    • Harvey Dent of all people pulls one using the Trope Namer himself: he pretends to be Batman and turns himself in, knowing that Joker's crew would come after him during the prisoner transfer and the real Batman would stop them.
  • Berserk Button: Joker always gets a lot more serious when someone calls him a "freak" or "crazy." This is somewhat ironic given the character's usual sentiment in other media.
    The Joker: Tell your men they work for me now.
    The Joker: "Fuh-reek?" Why don't we cut you up into little pieces and feed you to your pooches? And then we'll see how loyal a hungry dog really is!
    • Subverted during the interrogation scene.
      Joker: Don't talk like one of them, you're not; even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a me.
    • 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?"
    • Harvey Dent is similarly set off by the mere indication that Rachel's life is endangered, to the point where he kidnaps one of the Joker's henchmen and start using "persuasive" methods to interrogate him. Indeed, Rachel's death is what truly pushes him over the edge of insanity and villainy.
    • Gambol loses his cool when Joker mentions about his grandma.
    • Two-Face uses this during his Sadistic Choice to find out which of his hostages Gordon values most. Gordon loses his temper when Two-Face points his revolver at his son (as opposed to wife or daughter).
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Bozo is curiously mute throughout most of the bank robbery, speaking up for the first time to say that he's supposed to kill the bus driver. Then, before leaving with the cash, he unmasks himself as the Joker.
  • Big Bad: The Joker, a criminal who spends the film trying to plunge Gotham City into utter chaos.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Salvatore Maroni is the kingpin of Gotham's criminal element and still holds a great deal of influence over the city, but by the start of the movie his criminal empire is being chipped away at by both Batman and Harvey Dent. He's very quickly overshadowed by the Joker as the main antagonist of the film, as the resources of his organized crime network are commandeered by the Joker to enact his own destructive plans all while Maroni's reach over the city diminishes throughout.
  • Big Badass Rig: The Joker and his "(S)LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE" semi truck, until Batman uses the Batpod cables to flip it trailer over cab first.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": When Dent, now Two-Face, interrogates Wuertz and he tries to bullshit his way out of it, his response is this.
    Dent/Two-Face: Who picked up Rachel, Wuertz?
    Wuertz: M-must've been Maroni's men...
    Dent/Two-Face: [slams glass down on table] SHUT UP!
  • Bilingual Bonus
    • When Batman "extradites" Lau from his office in Hong Kong, only a brief three-line exchange between Lau and his bodyguardnote  is subtitled; the rest of the scene is in unsubtitled Mandarin.
    • Bruce Wayne drives a Lamborghini Murciélago... Murciélago being Spanish for "Bat".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bordering on Downer Ending. The good news? The Joker is finally defeated. Unfortunately, both Rachel and Harvey are dead, and Batman is left to take the blame for the murders Harvey committed after he crossed the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Black Comedy: Pretty much everything the Joker does means you could treat the movie as something like this. He's that good at it.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The first cop killed during the Chase Scene is black.
  • 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.
    Reese: [clears throat]... keep that....
  • Blatant Lies:
    • The scene where Gordon talks to Harvey Dent in Dent's office, and Gordon is trying his best to alleviate any association between himself and Batman:
      Harvey Dent: [flicks his finger through a wad of money from the Joker's bank hit] Lightly irradiated bills. Fancy stuff for a city cop. Have help?
      Lt. James Gordon: Well, we liaise with various agencies.
      Dent: Save it, Gordon. I wanna meet him.
      Gordon: Official policy is to arrest the vigilante known as "Batman" on sight.
      Dent: Mm-hm. And what about that floodlight on top of MCU?
      Gordon: If you've got problems with malfunctioning equipment, I suggest you take them up with maintenance, counselor.
    • Batman is bouncing the Joker off the walls of his cell. The cops cast a worried look at Gordon.
      Gordon: He's in control...
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite the brutality, there is very little blood (in order to preserve the PG-13 rating). Pencil trick and all.
  • Blunt "Yes": When the Joker is confronted by mobsters on his past theft from them.
    Gambol: You think you can steal from us and just walk away?
    Joker: Yeah.
  • Bomb Throwing Anarchist: One of the Joker's preferred methods of destruction, blowing up city officials, police stations, squad cars and hospitals. Or, in the case of the ferries, setting the bombs and letting others decide whether to detonate them (and then being ready to do it himself if they balk).
  • Bottomless Magazines: Downplayed, but the shotgun-toting bank manager in the opening bank heist fires six shots before he's out — when a shotgun that size has a magazine that only holds four. With one in the chamber, he should have been out when Bozo / The Joker says he is.
  • 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, including some items that could easily be repurposed as knives, including a potato peeler that the handler briefly double-takes at.
  • Breakout Villain: Heath Ledger's Joker has gone down in history as one of the most iconic villains of cinema. Whether it's at Comic-Con, an Internet forum, or a discussion after school between friends, Heath's Joker is fondly recalled above all else from this movie. Sadly, thanks to the passing of Heath, he was unable to appear in any larger roles after this movie (which Breakout Characters usually get).
  • Brick Joke: A topic between Bruce and Alfred gets referenced again. Combined with I Warned You.
    • Early on...
      Alfred Pennyworth: And what's gonna happen on the day you find out [that you have limits]?
      Bruce Wayne: We all know how much you like to say "I told you so".
      Alfred Pennyworth: On that day, Master Wayne, even I won't want to. Probably.
    • And sure enough, later in the film...
      Bruce Wayne: Well, today I found out what Batman can't do; he can't endure this. Today you get to say "I told you so".
      Alfred Pennyworth: Today, I...I don't want to. [they walk off together, then Alfred leans in close] But I did bloody tell you.
  • Broken Base: In-universe, Gotham's public opinion of Batman is heavily divided (at least until the ending where he accepts the blame for Harvey's crimes).
  • 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.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Coleman Reese figures out Batman's identity and decides to try and blackmail him, until Fox points out to him that a plan 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 is a plan that has multiple flaws.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: Inverted during the dinner scene; it's Bruce who asks who elected Batman and Harvey who defends his actions.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: The Joker's "social experiment."
  • Call-Back:
    • Bruce's slide down the glass to save Rachel almost exactly recreates his slide down the mountain to save Henri Ducard in Begins.
    • Bruce echoes Ducard's statement that criminals aren't complicated when discussing the Joker.
    • On a wider scale, during the climax, Batman causes Joker to fall off a building. Much like he did back in '89. Though this time, Batman saves him.
  • The Cameo:
    • US Senator Patrick Leahy shows up (the avowed lifelong fan's third such appearance to date) and defiantly says to the Joker, "we're not intimidated by thugs!" Now that is a campaign platform. He is also in The Dark Knight Rises where his cameo establishes him to be a Wayne Enterprises board member.
    • In-universe, Gordon's daughter (only credited as such) is briefly seen.
  • Canon Immigrant: The Batbunker. Introduced here as the replacement for the Batcave, it's a big white military-style installation built under a Wayne Enterprises property. 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.)
  • Captain Obvious: The cop in the passenger seat of the paddy wagon has this role. Obviously justified, since the audience would have noticed if Gordon started talking.
  • Car Cushion: When Batman saves Rachel from falling, they both land on a car in the street. In the beginning, Batman even uses a leap onto an escaping van as a means of stopping it.
  • 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.
  • Casting Gag:
    • William Fichtner was cast as the bank manager because of his previous role in the bank heist thriller Heat.
    • In the Japanese dub, Keiji Fujiwara was very likely cast as Joker due of his role as another Ax-Crazy psycho, Ali al-Saachez from Mobile Suit Gundam 00, which was being shown in Japan at the time the film debuted there
    • Michael Jai White plays Gambol, the mob boss who does not like The Joker at all. Knowing that he plays as Spawn makes his outburst "Enough from The Clown!" funnier.
  • Central Theme: According to Christopher Nolan, the main theme of this film (in contrast to "fear" in the previous one) is "escalation"—personified in the Joker, whose emergence comes as a result of Batman's pressure on the mob, with the stakes only rising it from there. Also Order Versus Chaos (per The Dark Knight Trilogy material associating the word "Chaos" with this film), with Batman and Gordon struggling to maintain order in Gotham against the Joker, naturally the self-styled "agent of chaos".
  • Chaos Is Evil: The Joker, an unrepentant sociopath, likes to style himself as an "Agent of Chaos". Chaos as in abandoning all social rules and pretenses of scruples and giving in into darker, boundless impulses.
  • Cheap Costume: Averted by the Joker.
    Gordon: Clothing is custom, no labels....
    • And defied with the custom suit he wears to the mob meeting.
      The Joker: Oh, and by the way, the suit, it wasn't cheap. You oughta know, you bought it!
    • Played straight with the amateur Batmen at the start of the film.
      Copycat: What gives you the right? What's the difference between you and me?
      Batman: I'm not wearing hockey pads.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The spring-loaded spikes fitted on Batman's gauntlets.
    • The wire thrower used in the opening bank robbery is later used to take down a police helicopter.
    • The school bus used in the bank robbery makes an appearance when Gotham General Hospital is evacuated.
    • In a more literal example, the sawed-off shotgun that the mob banker uses to fend off the Joker and his goons at the beginning is taken by the Joker and used by him throughout the movie.note 
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Wuertz and Ramirez.
  • The Chessmaster: The Joker. It's unclear if everything that happens in this film is exactly according to his plan or if he simply had one long string of contingencies to keep falling back on, but either way he spends most of the movie puppeteering things to go his way.
  • Chewing the Scenery: The Chechen's DOGS! ARE! HONG-RAY! Or as Rifftrax mocks it, "My Al Pacino impression is TERRIBLE!"
  • Choke Holds: Bruce Wayne grabs Harvey Dent by the neck when dragging him away just before the Joker and his men crash the fundraiser. Hilariously, this happens right after Harvey started trashtalking him.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
    • When Lau is captured by the police, he predictably 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. For example, in the bank robbery, he tricks his five clowns, by taking advantage of their sharing that disorder, and having them backstab each other into shooting each other for a larger cut, and only has to kill one himself - the bus driver.
  • Cincinnatus: Discussed when Harvey Dent compares Batman to the Roman tradition of appointing a dictator in times of crisis.
  • Close on Title: In continuation of a Nolan tradition used in the other two movies.
  • The Coats Are Off: Stephens casts off his sports jacket before giving the Joker the beating he was implicitly begging for.
  • 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.
    Joker: Look at you go!
  • Comically Missing the Point: Done intentionally by Lucius Fox:
    Bruce Wayne: Sonar. Just like a...
    Lucius Fox: Like a submarine, Mr. Wayne. Like a submarine.

    Lucius: Compared to your usual requests, jumping out of an airplane is pretty straight forward.
    Bruce: What about getting back into the plane?
    Lucius: I'd recommend a good travel agent.

    Bruce: I need a new suit.
    Lucius: Well, three buttons is a little 90s Mr. Wayne.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: The name "Two-Face" is only uttered once, when Harvey remembers that cops used to call him "Harvey Two-Face" when he worked for internal affairs (though just to make it clear what it means, it's revealed right before the audience sees his disfigured face for the first time).
    • Completely averted by the Joker, whose real name is never mentioned.
  • 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 his attempt on Harvey Dent at the fundraiser is aborted, he puts name tags on two men he killed reading "Patrick Harvey" and "Richard Dent" the next night to taunt him. He's also immediately impressed by Harvey's very villainous Heads-or-Tails gimmick.
  • Continuity Snarl: According to documents in the RICO case Harvey Dent pursues against 549 mobsters, the case was prosecuted on July 25, 2008. It's also mentioned in the movie that Rachel was planning to take Harvey to see a ballet the week after the dinner with one of the ballerinas. However, the novelization also mentions that the dinner took place on a Monday night and then that Bruce tried to get information about Harvey from an associate named Al Grooms the Saturday after, and then the Friday after that, he found Harvey and Rachel making out outside of her apartment. July 25, 2008, is also a Friday. However, this is probably excusable considering the possibility that the writer, Dennis O'Neill, simply got his dates all scrambled. Less excusable in the novelization is after The Joker shows up at the mob meeting uninvited. Specifically, it's the scene where Sal Maroni hires a private eye to find out more about the Joker. Three weeks later, the private eye is dead, having been poisoned. That would've extended the ballet's delay significantly before taking Bruce's unexpected love boat into account.
  • Convenient Misfire: Happens when a witness at Sal Maroni's trial pulls a gun and tries to shoot Dent while on the stand.
  • 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, racing down the Pedway,), and re-emerges into Joker's view by tumbling out of an alley onto LaSalle Street... while still staying upright. Batman can even drive it up a wall, flip over backwards, and it'll spin around and keep his ears pointing upward.
  • Correlation/Causation Gag: Two boys are mime-shooting imaginary guns at cars on the street. Suddenly, there's an explosion where they were aiming, making it seem as though they caused it.
  • 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.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Or "could have avoided this subplot". The entire police convoy chase is based on having to divert from surface streets down to the lower street levels because of an obstruction. But on the far side of the "down" ramp is another unobstructed lane which the convoy could have taken, avoiding much of the Joker's trap.
  • Counting Bullets: In the bank robbery, the Joker tricks the bank manager into spending the last pellet 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 detonators to strategically placed giant bombs all over town.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Discussed.
    Joker: Kill you? I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, you... you complete me.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: The Joker disguises himself as a nurse in one scene to get to Harvey in the hospital. Instead of wearing unisex scrubs or just dressing as a male nurse, he goes drag, complete with a wig. It manages to be funny and creepy at the same time, as is appropriate for the Joker.
  • Crooks Are Better Armed: Downplayed. The Joker's guys have rifles and are more indiscriminate about using them. The police and SWAT have rifles, but they rarely use them. Notably, the Joker surprises them at one point by pulling out a rocket launcher.
  • Damsel in Distress: Rachel, although she's not alone since Harvey also gets kidnapped along with her midway through.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Dark Knight is arguably the darkest film adaptation of Batman to date, let alone The Dark Knight Trilogy series. The Gotham City it depicts is much dryer and more gritty rather than fantastically gothic, Batman is hardened and tough but still has realistic limitations, and the Joker appears in possibly his darkest incarnation to date (and that's really saying something) as a domestic terrorist.
  • 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 snark in comparison to the first film.
      Alfred Pennyworth: [arriving at the interim Batcave while Bruce Wayne is stitching up a dog bite wound] It'll be nice when Wayne Manor is rebuilt. You can swap not sleeping in a penthouse for not sleeping in a mansion.
    • But Lucius Fox is still the most obvious example.
      Lucius Fox: I must say, compared to your usual requests, jumping out of an airplane is pretty straightforward.
      Bruce Wayne: And what about getting back in the plane?
      Lucius Fox: I'd recommend a good travel agent.
      Bruce Wayne: Without it landing. [beat]
      Lucius Fox: Now that's more like it, Mr. Wayne.
    • The Joker takes over from Crane as the main villainous snarker.
    • 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.
    • Despite appearing for only a few minutes, Crane gets in a few good ones too:
      Scarecrow: I told you my compound would take you places. I never said they'd be places you wanted to go.
      • A few minutes later:
      Copycat: We're trying to help you!
      Batman: I don't need 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 Dent looked into, like Wuertz and Ramirez.
    • The mob's decision to hire the Joker, which comes back to bite them later on.
    • Even near the beginning, when the mobsters are confronting Scarecrow about the bad drugs he has sold them. The Chechen complains that his "customers" are now quivering wrecks, but Scarecrow snarkily points out that he never said his drugs offered pleasant trips.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Rachel writes Bruce Wayne a letter about how she is going to marry Harvey Dent and that she'll always be with him as a friend. However, after her death, Alfred burns it before Bruce can read it. It's a relatively minor but still tragic instance of Poor Communication Kills: Bruce assumes she was going to leave Harvey for him.
  • 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. He isn't going to announce Batman's identity either to blackmail him, or because people are dying.
    • Also subverted with Rachel, since knowing Bruce's identity has little to nothing to do with the circumstances of her demise.
  • Death by Transceiver: Harvey and Rachel get to share this, with Harvey hearing Rachel's death. Of course, this is the whole reason they had transceivers in the first place.
  • Death Seeker: Two-Face.
    You think I want to escape? There is no escape from this!
  • Decomposite Character: Despite Sal Maroni being present, the Joker is the one who causes Harvey Dent to become Two-Face (though it's still Maroni's men that put Harvey in that situation in the first place).
  • Deducing the Secret Identity: An accountant for Wayne Enterprises discovers Bruce's identity as Batman simply by going through the company files on how Bruce's money is spent, and locating the blueprints for the "Tumbler" Batmobile in Wayne Enterprises' archives. On the other hand, this knowledge doesn't do him any good, because as Lucius Fox points out, he is attempting to blackmail a oligarch who is also a ruthless vigilante; there is no possible way this will end well for him, and he concedes.
  • Defiant to the End:
    • In the opening scene, the 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 don't have to be afraid of scum like you", but in fact, on tape, he is pretty afraid.
  • Delayed Explosion: When the Joker is leaving the hospital as it blows up, there is a pause he clearly was not expecting, forcing him to mash the detonator button until the blasting resumes.
  • Deliberately Non-Lethal Attack: When performing a High-Altitude Interrogation on Sal Maroni, the Batman deliberately chooses to drop him so that it won't kill Maroni but still make him really feel the wrath of Earth's gravity firsthand, by breaking his legs.
  • Description Cut: After the funeral scene, the police are trying to talk to Batman, but he won't appear.
    Stephens: He won't talk to us. God help whoever he does wanna talk to...
    *Smash Cut to Maroni*
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: The Joker comes out of nowhere. Even the stories he tells about his past completely contradict each other.
  • Dice Roll Death: Two-Face uses a coin toss solely to determine whether those responsible for his kidnapping and disfigurement live or die, and he does take some lives this way.
  • Didn't Think This Through: When Wayne Enterprises employee Coleman Reese tries to blackmail Lucius Fox with Batman's identity, Fox replies, "Let me get this straight. You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men on the planet, 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?...Good luck." Reese immediately backs down.
    • Reese falls victim to this again when he attempts to go public with Batman's identity via a talk show, in hopes it will end Joker's rampage on the city by giving the villain what he wants, Batman unmasked. Unfortunately for Reese, Joker decides he doesn't want Batman's identity revealed after all, since it would make Joker's reign in Gotham "boring". Instead, he puts a bounty on Reese's life to silence him, declaring a hospital will be blown up if Reese isn't killed within the hour, forcing Bruce Wayne and the police to thwart immediate assassination attempts on Reese's life.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: While the Joker is set up at the very beginning of the film, the characters in-universe spend the first part of the film pursuing Salvatore Maroni, new head of the Falcone Family and de facto head of Gotham's organized crime, who from their perspective is the Big Bad trying to end Batman's influence on the city. Then he hires the Joker, who takes over and plunges the city into utter chaos.
  • 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.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Batman. Also, while the Joker certainly isn't averse to using guns, he prefers knives because he thinks guns are too quick, and he would much prefer to savor all the little emotions because in their last moments, they show you who they really are.
  • Double Aesop: Subverted with Alfred's tale of a Burmese bandit.
    Bruce: The bandit in Burma. Did you catch him?
    Alfred: Yes.
    Bruce: How?
    Alfred: We burned the forest down.
  • Do Wrong, Right: During Maroni's trial, Harvey prevents a witness (one of Maroni's men) from killing him with a smuggled pistol. He is bemused when he notices that the pistol is Chinese, and snarks at Maroni that he should use an American gun if he wants to kill a public servant.
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Early on, when the Joker removes the clown mask to reveal himself to the bank manager. Done over a Scare Chord.
  • The Dreaded: The Joker is even more feared than Batman. Even when the mob bosses thought he was working for them, they were still too terrified of him to rat him out.
  • Drinking on Duty: Commissioner Loeb drinks Clyburn whiskey, and clearly someone working for the Joker has spiked his tumbler with acid.
  • Drone of Dread: The Joker has a particularly effective one for his Leitmotif, almost into Brown Note territory, achieved by sawing a D note on a cello.

    E - K 
  • Easily Swayed Population: Joker's plans hinge on Gotham City fearing his wrath and acting violently against each other, ironically to prevent him doing further damage. It works up until the end, when they finally stop playing his games... Only to completely buy the notion that Batman is responsible for Two-Face's killings (although he volunteered to take that responsibility to preserve Harvey Dent's image).
  • Empty Promise: Rachel gives one to Harvey.
    Rachel: It's okay, Harvey. It's all right. Listen... some- (BOOM)
    • Harvey himself is angry at himself for giving Rachel an empty promise, that he told her everything was gonna be okay when he knew deep down inside that it was a lie. He holds this against Comissioner Gordon when he has him and his family hostage, and plans to kill members of Gordon's family based on a coin toss as revenge for Rachel's death. Harvey makes the argument that Gordon should lie to his son, lie like he lied to Rachel that everything is gonna be okay. Thankfully Batman saves Gordon's son before the coin can land.
  • Escort Distraction: A weird variation where the escorted person is the distraction, rather than those who are escorting. Harvey Dent pretends to unmask himself as the Batman and is taken into custody, knowing that the Joker will try to kill him during the transport. This allows the real Batman to go after the Joker and protect Dent long enough for a disguised Lieutenant Gordon to capture the clown before the Batman can be unmasked for real.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • The heist at the beginning sets the stage for how the Joker works. We see just how well the Joker can "play Mousetrap," (especially the entire use of the school bus), his sadistic sense of humor, and the fact he will not only will dispose of henchmen, he'll plan on doing so and not even think twice about it.
    • Harvey's first scene tells us everything we need to know: he uses his trademark coin to take a case, backs Maroni into a corner, and when the witness then pulls a gun on him, he disarms the guy and punches him straight in the face. He then reads the manufacturing information on the gun to Maroni, essentially telling him to try harder next time, and when the judge orders the witness taken away he tells him "your honor, I'm not done". It not only shows us his character motifs, but that he's brazen and fearless as a public figure, which Joker ruthlessly exploits over the course of the movie.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: In Gambol's case, it is his grandmother.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Dent threatens to kill Maroni's wife as revenge.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Maroni tells Gordon where to find the Joker because he feels killing Rachel was "too much".
    • When the Joker and his mooks rob a bank, the banker who just watched the gang shooting each other so they'd get more money for themselves points out the apparent decline in the standards local evil holds itself to.
      Banker: Criminals in this town used to believe in things: honor, respect. Look at you. What do you believe in, huh? WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN!?
      The Joker: I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... (removes his mask) stranger.
    • The Joker mockingly uses this on Batman, after Batman uses Harvey as bait in his place.
      The 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. To make it even better? The rest of the prisoners approved.
  • Every Scar Has a Story: The Joker, as he tells multiple differing accounts about how he got his.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: The actual Chicago Police Department marching band appears to play "Balmoral" during Commissioner Loeb's funeral procession down LaSalle Street.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: And that is why the Joker's "social experiment" fails.
  • Eviler than Thou: The Joker constantly berates small-time crooks and mobsters for being petty and shallow enough to care only about profit while ignoring the loftier ideals of Evil:
    The 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 Mike Engel to read one off cue cards in the Deadline News scene.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: The Joker thinks Batman missed during the standoff between the Batpod and the Joker's semi-truck on LaSalle Street when Batman drives away. Then the tow cable Batman attached to the front of the truck flips the whole thing 180 degrees straight up and over.
  • Exact Words:
    • A peril of both working with and confronting the Joker.
      • When he dangles Rachel over the edge of Wayne's penthouse:
        Batman: Let her go!
        Joker: Very poor choice of words.
      • "You said you were a man of your word!" "Oh, I am. I'm only burning my half."
      • Later, he makes a threat against Gotham City, promising that those who try to leave via the tunnels or bridges "will be in for a surprise." The "surprise" turns out to be that he DIDN'T do anything with the bridges or the tunnels, and instead wanted to fool people into trying to get out of the city via the ferries, which he had rigged beforehand. Surprise — the other ways out were safe!
    • 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 they were places that the user actually wanted to go to. The Chechen was not amused by this, as his business relies on repeat customers.
    • Two-Face pulls this on Maroni, combining it with a bit of False Reassurance. He says that if Maroni reveals who picked up Rachel, "it can't hurt your chances" to survive. After getting the name, Two-Face flips his coin to decide Maroni's fate. He was right — Maroni had the same 50/50 chance all the way through. Instead of sparing Maroni, though, Two-Face flips again for the driver and shoots him, leading to a wreck that kills Maroni.
    • Ginty, on the prisoner ferry 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'a did ten minutes ago". The warden caves in and hands Ginty 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 Batpod through Randolph Street Station. It's a miracle that no one dies, especially when things start exploding.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: When Loeb asks how the Joker got a sample of his DNA, Gordon explains that someone got into his house to lift it. When he says that they could've gotten it off one of his drinking glasses, he quickly realizes that if they could do that, they could do a lot worse - just as Loeb drinks the acid-laced whiskey.
  • Exploited Trope: Harvey Dent manages to take control of dramatic events at a trial and turn them to his advantage, effectively exploiting Unconventional Courtroom Tactics. An accused gangster tries to shoot him in the middle of the trial - Dent promptly punches and disarms him, stunning the entire court. When the judge calls for a recess, Dent hams it up: "Your honor, I'm not finished!"
  • Expy: The two corrupt detectives in Gordon's unit - Mike Wuertz and Anna Ramirez - both exhibit this trope. To elaborate, Wuertz was originally going to be Harvey Bullock, a long-time member of the Batman supporting cast from the comics, and Ramirez was going to be 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 the time period between 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 his 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: When the Joker crashes the mobsters' meeting.
    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.
  • Eyebrow Waggle: Near the end of the interrogation sequence, the Joker does a brief one after he tells Batman "[...] you'll have to play my little game if you want to save one of them.", as if to highlight how he knows he's got Batman right where he wants him.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Harvey Dent —> Two-Face.
  • Faceless Goons:
    • The Joker's clowns during the bank robbery (Grumpy, Chuckles, Happy, Dopey, and the bus driver) are never seen on-camera without their clown masks on.
    • It's revealed that Gordon faked his death to protect himself from the Joker. He comes back disguised as the SWAT officer who drives the armored truck transporting Harvey Dent. Notice that for the duration of the chase, he has his balaclava raised and his goggles lowered to hide his identity, and he doesn't say a word because doing so would give him away.
  • Fake Assassination: Zig-Zagged. The assassination attempt itself is real, as the Joker tries to shoot the Mayor in a Conspicuously Public Assassination and escapes in the fray, only for James Gordon to sacrifice himself by Taking the Bullet. Gordon faked his death with Batman's help so that they could lure the Joker into a trap later on.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • Gordon's apparent demise.
    • Then at the end, Batman pulls this when Dent shoots him. He waits until Gordon's son is about to get shot, and then tackles him.
  • Fallen Hero: Harvey Dent goes from "Gotham's white knight" to Two-Face.
  • False Confession: Harvey Dent "outs himself" as Batman in response to public outcry that Batman turn himself in, in response to the Joker's murders, in order to spare Bruce Wayne from doing so, correctly deducing that Joker would attempt to kill him in custody, thus exposing him to the real Batman.
  • 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.
    • Later, Two-Face takes Gordon's family hostage, and orders him to tell them everything will be fine while he threatens to kill Gordon's son.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fast-Roping: The SWAT team raid on 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.
  • Film Noir: The Dark Knight abandons the mysticism of the first movie in favor of a more straightforward crime thriller set completely in an urban environment. Although Bruce is decidedly a hero in the whole rule, the city, the themes, the seriousness and the absolute terror that is The Joker gives us a noir atmosphere.
  • Finale Title Drop: The final words spoken are the movie's title, at the end of Commissioner Gordon's monologue about Batman.
    "He's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he's not a hero. He's a silent guardian...a watchful protector...a dark knight."
  • Final Speech: Subverted with Rachel, who is Killed Mid-Sentence.
  • 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 would have flattened on impact, distorting any pattern beyond usability, and any part of the print on the shell casing would have been lost when the casing was ejected (semiautomatic) or retained in the weapon (revolver).
  • Fire and Ice Love Triangle: Rachel has two suitors, Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne. Harvey (Fire) is a passionate attorney with a quick temper but ultimately has a good heart at first. Bruce (Ice) acts the part of a carefree billionaire playboy but Rachel is aware he's the ultra-stoic and brooding vigilante Batman. Unusually for this trope, Bruce is Rachel's childhood sweetheart, while she met Harvey later in life. She chooses Harvey because she feels Bruce will never be able to give up being Batman, though tragically she's killed shortly after making that choice. Ironically, Harvey ends up being badly scarred by fire when Rachel dies.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • As Gordon attempts to save Coleman Reese, the reporter asks, "Sir, Commissioner, do you really think an ordinary citizen would try to kill this man?" Less than 10 seconds later, exactly this happens.
    • When the crew of the passenger ferry shuttling people out of Gotham discover their vessel is packed with explosives, complete with a detonator, one asks "Why would they give us the detonator to our own bomb?". Joker immediately overtakes the PA system to explain it's not a detonator to their bomb, but rather a bomb on the adjacent ferry loaded with prisoners, a "social experiment" both ferries are about to involuntarily participate in.
  • Flaming Emblem: Used heavily in promotional material as evident by the page image.
  • Flexibility Equals Sex Ability: Part of Bruce Wayne's Millionaire Playboy cover story for disappearing for a few days to kidnap a money launderer from Hong Kong is to very publicly invite an entire Russian ballet troupe for a trip on his yacht. While he obviously skips out on the outing, his butler is more than happy to keep the women company.
  • Foe Romantic Subtext:
    • 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."
  • For the Evulz:
    • The Joker's motive, in a rare believable straight example.
    • Alfred refers to a bandit in Burma who robbed caravans full of jewels meant to bribe local warlords. The bandit had no intention of getting rich off the thefts; he just thought it was fun, and he threw the jewels away.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Harvey Dent has been a major part of the Batman mythos for over 60 years, so the question isn't whether or not he'll become Two-Face, it's if it'll happen in this movie or the next. It happens in this one.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Dopey comments that the bank's silent alarm was attempting to reach a private number instead of 911, because it's secretly a mob bank.
    • 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 and- (Gordon gives him a look) Oh yeah, Gordon, I almost had your rookie cold on a racketeering beat.
    • This is part of the reason why Dent would personally blame Gordon for Rachel's death.
    • Harvey mentions 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.
      • For literal Foreshadowing, note the number of times the light only falls on the right side of Harvey's face.
    • Harvey's predicament. He avoided getting blown to bits, sadly Rachel was not so lucky, since Joker tricked Batman into saving Harvey first and Gordon was too late to save her.
      Gordon: Where's Harvey Dent?
      Joker: What time is it?
      Gordon: What difference does it make?
      Joker: Well depending on the time, he could be in one spot... or several.
    • And a rather heartbreaking example:
      Harvey Dent: Alfred, right?
      Alfred: That's right, sir.
      Harvey Dent: Rachel talks about you all the time. You've known her, her whole life?
      Alfred: Well, not yet, sir.
    • While the public calls Harvey their "White Knight", Harvey's aware of a less flattering name being passed around behind his back. He makes Gordon say it as a signal of his rise to villainy.
    • When Harvey is taken to the prison van, pay attention to the detectives watching him. Detectives Stephens and Murphy are giving the man they believe to be the Batman a round of applause. Ramirez is indifferent, and Wuertz is scowling. The latter two betray Harvey and Rachel to the Joker.
    • Note the number of times that Harvey flips his coin before his transformation into Two-Face.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • The ballet Harvey and Rachel were planning to go see is shown to be Giselle.
    • Watch the Joker very closely during the interrogation room confrontation when Batman is hitting him. In the split second before the last punch, he's actually looking at Batman's fists with a gleeful expression, like he's enjoying it.
    • How did Two-Face get into Maroni's car? Pay very close attention to the bodyguard who is on the very left side of the screen. Watching the scene frame-by-frame, while none of the other characters present are watching, you'll see Dent's hand suddenly grab him from behind and drag him off-camera in a split second. If you look at the left side view mirror, you can watch him as he sits down in the seat.
  • Freudian Excuse: Mocked by the Joker, who gives conflicting accounts of how he got his scars depending on who he's talking to. In the end, the Joker has no reason for what he does, he simply is.
    • Ramirez went dirty because she needed money for her mother's hospital bills.
    • Dent loses his fiance and half his face before he goes on murder spree to punish those involved with her death.
  • From Bad to Worse: It starts with the DA and his assistant/fiancee kidnapped and strapped to time bombs and just goes downhill from there.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The Joker, who goes from no one, to a bank robber, to the most feared man in all of Gotham.
    Batman (his first scene): One man or the whole mob? He can wait.
  • Gambit Roulette: During the bank heist, there's no way Joker could have predicted that the one clown would be standing right where the bus was going to come through the wall. There are several other instances of things working out improbably well for him, but that's the most obvious.
  • Game Changer: The Joker killing the Batman impersonators was cited by Bruce as crossing the line, while Alfred points out that him becoming Batman to begin with is what made the mob so desperate.
  • Gang of Hats: The Joker and his goons run a Monster Clown theme, whereas Joker always has makeup and the others wear clown masks or painted tights. This tropes is deviously exploited by the Joker at the climax when he has his hostages wearing said masks, tied standing up, with guns taped into their hands, while the real criminals disguise themselves as the hostages. Thankfully, Batman sees through the trick and manages to make the police understand it before there's needless bloodshed.
  • Gatling Good: Bruce Wayne conducts a ballistics test using a Gatling gun with a different kind of bullet in each barrel. There is absolutely no reason to have this other than Rule of Cool and Screw the Rules, I Have Money! which entirely fits Wayne's persona.
  • Generic Ethnic Crime Gang: Besides The Mafia, Gotham apparently has a black mafia (led by Gambol) and a Chechen mafiya (led by, well, The Chechen). They seem to have reconciled their differences in order to stop Batman from ruining their business.
    • 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 when Gordon and some cops enter to round them up.
  • 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.
  • Gilligan Cut: Played for Laughs when Bruce is planning his trip to China to capture Lau.
    Bruce Wayne: Did you think of an alibi?
    Alfred Pennyworth: Oh yes.
    [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 translation 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.
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • Lampshaded by Alfred.
      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.
    • Played straight by Alfred later when Bruce, at the brink of the Despair Event Horizon after Rachel's death, asks Alfred how he caught the jewel thief in the Burmese forest, hoping for an analogous answer on how he could apprehend the Joker while staying within his ideals. Alfred bluntly tells Bruce they burned the forest down.
    • Which then leads Bruce to weaponizing Lucius's sonar tech into a tool to eavesdrop on all telecommunication in the city. Lucius is legitimately awed and terrified at his technology perverted in such a way, a line crossed enough that while he concedes it's the best way to apprehend the Joker in the moment, he tells Bruce it represents Lucius's resignation letter so long as it exists. Once the Joker is captured, Lucius types in a command (his own name) Bruce gave him, which immediately destroys the machine.
    • Maroni only allowed the Chechen to hire the Joker because Lau had been captured. In fact, Maroni hates the Joker as much as the good guys, but he's too scared of a reprisal against the Falcone family to rat out the clown until the DA is missing half his face and the assistant DA is dead.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • When Harvey Two-Face flips his coin for Gordon's son, Batman tackles him in an effort to subdue him—and succeeds in subduing him permanently with a miscalculation of force, resulting in a fall that seriously injures his leg and kills Harvey.
    • The mob hires the Joker to the tune of half their collective money to get rid of the Batman. While the Joker successfully puts Batman on his heels, it comes at the cost of not just terrorizing the whole city, but also destroying the established mob unit from within, out of Joker's disdain of money being the mob's only motivation for power.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: What Bruce's attempts to understand and find motivations behind The Joker are ultimately a result of. Alfred had to clue him to the fact that people like The Joker can't be explained— they simply are.
  • 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, because that's how the Joker works.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Batman is portrayed as such; most of the plot revolves around the Joker trying to get Batman to break his moral code and prove that, deep down, everybody is just like him and that Batman's idealism is misplaced.
  • Goomba Stomp: In this case, Batman does it to a van.
  • 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.
    • Actually averted with the Joker's disappearing pencil trick, as we get to see the whole thing, albeit a bloodless PG-13 version, though the whole thing happens so fast you probably couldn't have seen anything no matter what.
    • Lau's murder. At the beginning of the scene, the camera focuses on Lau Bound and Gagged while sitting atop a giant pile of money, then the camera pans down, the Joker sets the pile on fire, and the camera never pans back upwards. We also don't hear so much as a scream.
  • Got Volunteered: Lucius is displeased when Batman turns his sonar tech into a way of imaging Gotham City via a sonar feed to spy on the whole city to find the Joker. He's then startled when Batman gives him the keys.
    Batman: The database is null-key encrypted. It can only be accessed by one person.
    Lucius: This is too much power for one person.
    Batman: That's why I gave it to you. (Eye Take from Lucius) Only you can use it.
    Lucius: Spying on thirty million people is not in my job description.
  • Graying Morality:
    • Harvey Dent. Gordon's final speech even admits that Gotham needed an Ideal Hero like Dent was, but really deserves an Anti-Hero like Batman.
    • Batman himself falls into this, beyond the usual Anti-Hero vigilantism, after he's pushed to his mental limits by the destruction and tragedy left behind by Joker. In the third act, out of desperation, Bruce makes a questionable decision to weaponize Lucius Fox's sonar technology into an audiovisual eavesdropping tool covering telecommunication all over Gotham. Lucius Fox is not pleased and calls out Batman for treading into these waters.
      Batman: Beautiful, isn't it?
      Lucius: Beautiful. Unethical. Dangerous. You've turned every cell phone in Gotham into a microphone...You took my sonar concept and applied it to every phone in the city. With half the city feeding you sonar, you could image all of Gotham. This is wrong.
      Batman: I've got to find this man, Lucius.
      Lucius: At what cost?
  • Groin Attack: How Rachel avoids having a smile put on her face by the Joker. Disturbingly, the Joker chuckles in response.
  • 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.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Between the Joker and Batman throughout the entire movie.
  • Handy Remote Control: The Joker uses one to blow up a hospital.
  • Harmless Electrocution: Happy gets this while cracking the mob bank’s safe, courtesy of 5,000 volts of direct current.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Bruce Wayne after Rachel's death.
  • Hellish Copter: During the car chase, two of the Joker's clowns crash a police helicopter by launching grappling cables from opposite sides of LaSalle Street, which the chopper's rotors get ensnared in.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Attempted by Gordon in the final confrontation with Dent. At one point, the former tries to convince the latter to kill him instead of Gordon's son, but the latter is having none of it.
  • Heroic Wannabe: A gang of doughy vigilantes with bat-costumes and guns. One ends up a victim of The Joker.
  • Hero Insurance: Batman doesn't have it, but Gordon does: The car chase results in a very high body count 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 Commissioner. And he isn't even demoted back once it turns out the Joker planned to get arrested and breaks out.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Batman himself at the end of the movie.
  • He Who Fights Monsters:
    • Two-Face lampshades this: "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
    • Lucius directly invokes this when Bruce turns Lucius's sonar tech into an eavesdropping tool across the whole city. When Bruce protests this is the best way to capture the Joker, Lucius is unmoved and asks bluntly "At what cost?"
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker:
    Joker: (after Rachel kicks him) A little fight in you. I like that.
    Batman: (just off-screen) Then you're gonna love me. *PUNCH*
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Double Subverted. Maroni points out that the second-story isn't nearly high enough for him to be afraid of dying if dropped. Batman says he knows, then drops Maroni off the fire escape, fracturing Maroni's legs.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: Batman is bearing down on the Joker in the Batpod, and the Joker simply stands there, shooting any vehicle that gets in the way, and muttering (eventually shouting) "Come on. Hit me." in order to test Batman's resolve. Naturally he is unable to run down the defenseless Joker and swerves to the side at the last second and crashes. The Joker simply turns around, mildly amused, before advancing on the disabled Batman.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Chechen falls victim to this, as The Joker feeds him to his own dogs. Fortunately, this happens off-screen.
  • 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.
    • Lau flees to Hong Kong so that he's out of Harvey Dent's jurisdiction and the Chinese won't extradite him. Although it's a moot point since Batman's the one who captures him, Lau is sadly mistaken: Hong Kong has a completely separate legal system from the rest of China and it does have an extradition agreement with the United States. Mainland China will not extradite its own citizens (see Article 8(1) of Extradition Law of the People's Republic of China) but it will try its own citizens for overseas crimes, which can be a bad thing because China has the death penalty and some states don't.
  • 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:
    • The Joker has been captured, Harvey Dent has been saved, Gordon is Not Quite Dead and promoted to commissioner. Then Harvey Dent goes missing...
    • An In-Universe one for Harvey Dent. As he lies in the hospital, he finds the lucky coin he gave Rachel the last time he saw her, left by the side of his bed. But his hopes that she's still alive are dashed when he turns the coin over... the other side's been charred by the explosion that killed her.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The Joker believes that, deep down, everyone is just as horrible and ugly as he is, and that when they're pushed far enough, anyone will become a murdering psychopath. He just sees himself as 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.
  • Humans Are Good: The Joker is later proven wrong about people, however, when both ships reject the Joker's offer.
    Batman: What were you trying to prove? That deep down, everyone's as ugly as you? You're alone!
  • The Hyena: The Joker
  • Hypocrite: The Joker is offended when people call him a "freak", but has no problem using the word on other people, AND on himself. It seems to be more the sentiment that irritates him.
    • He also mocks others for being "schemers," when he himself schemes against anyone and everyone, including his own allies. His rant about plans being pointless is also hypocritical, as not only does he actually have a plan, he also has backup plans when his targets don't perform to his liking.
  • 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.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: After the Joker kills Gambol and takes control 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.
  • I'm Not a Hero, I'm...: whatever Gotham needs The Batman to be.
  • Impersonating an Officer: How the Joker and a couple of his men get into the funeral procession for Commissioner Loeb to assassinate Mayor Garcia. They kidnap the seven man honor guard that is supposed to do the 21 round salute, tie them up to a column in an apartment overlooking the procession, then steal their uniforms and weapons, then head down for the procession. When Garcia finishes his eulogy, the fake honor guard starts the 21 round salute. Just after the second volley, in a split second Gordon sees the Joker and his men suddenly spin right and aim their rifles at the mayor. He immediately tackles the mayor to the ground just as the Joker fires, the bullet instead hitting Gordon in the chest. The assembled group immediately breaks formation and everyone runs every which way, causing chaos that allows the Joker and all of his men except for Thomas Schiff to escape.
  • Implausible Deniability: The GCPD cannot publicly claim that Batman is an ally, but their attempts to deny it are hilariously see-through. They have an "investigation" open into his identity that they are putting no effort into whatsoever (the three "suspects" are Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley, and Bigfoot), they dismiss the Batsignal as faulty equipment, and although the official policy is to arrest Batman on sight, Harvey makes it clear that Gordon's meetings with Batman are an Open Secret.
    Harvey: I want to meet him.
    Gordon: Official policy is to arrest the vigilante known as Batman on sight.
    Harvey: And what about that floodlight on top of MCU?
    Gordon: If you have a problem with faulty equipment, I suggest you take it up with maintenance, Counselor.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Name: All the clowns in the opening bank robbery have one:
    • "Dopey" is actually a competent alarm cracker, and is more familiar with the Joker than his partner, to the point where it's plausible he expects to be killed upon finishing his part of the job.
    • "Happy" isn't especially jovial, and seems relatively low-key compared to the other robbers.
    • "Chuckles" takes the job very seriously, and does a lot of shouting.
    • "Grumpy" shows more of a sense of humor than the other robbers.
    • "Bozo" is far from dumb, and turns out to be the Joker in disguise.
  • 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 honor, 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.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Used multiple times. It's never really effective.
    • When Batman beats up the Joker. Even discussed, as the Joker criticizes Batman's technique while Batman is beating him.
      Joker: *Batman slams his head down into the desk from behind* Agh! Ohhhh...Never start with the head, the victim gets all...fuzzy. He can't feel the next—*Batman smashes his hand. Joker doesn't react*—...See?
    • Batman also drops Maroni off a fire escape, 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 Thomas Schiff. The man cracks quickly, but as it turns out has no information on the Joker's location either.
  • Jitter Cam: The Joker's home movie of him torturing and killing an impostor Batman in what appears to be a meatpacking plant (based on the presence of animal carcasses in the background).
  • Joker Immunity: Played straight here, despite being Darker and Edgier than the previous film series, which killed him off.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: The Joker explains how he broke Harvey Dent.
    Joker: I took Gotham's white knight and I brought him down to our level. It wasn't hard. You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push! [The Joker laughs hysterically as Batman races off and the cops come to take the Joker into custody]
  • Jump Scare:
    • A famous one 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 by a noose 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?
      Gordon: Harvey...
      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 the ceremonial honor guard giving the 21 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 knew to jump in front of the mayor with a bullet proof vest on.
  • Karmic Death: Three of the Joker's bank robbers agree to kill another one of the robbers so they can take a bigger cut, and get killed themselves for the same motive.
  • 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. And yet, it serves to give Harvey a new reason to live.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Rachel Dawes.
    Rachel: It's okay, Harvey. It's all right. Listen... some- ["explosion promptly is going to destroy me in the middle of saying 'somebody'," presumably.]

    L - R 
  • Large Ham:
    • Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne had to be a ham, but he does it as Batman as well.) and Heath Ledger's Joker.
    • The Chechen too. "My dogs! Are! Hungry!"
    • Harvey Dent definitely has his moments.
      (Harvey is privately interrogating Thomas Schiff by threatening to shoot him if he doesn't talk)
      Thomas Schiff: You wouldn't.
      Harvey: (suddenly yells in his face) I WOULDN'T!
      (Batman has just confessed that he's turning himself in so that no one else will be killed by the Joker to flush him out)
      Harvey: You can't. You can't give in. YOU CAN'T GIVE IN!
      • This also extends to his time as Two-Face.
      Batman: You don't want to hurt the boy, Harvey.
      Two-Face: It's not about what I want, IT'S ABOUT WHAT'S FAIR!
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The Chechen is done in by the very guy he had hired earlier in the film.
  • Laughably Evil: Again, the Joker. Although his plans revolve around chaos rather than laughter, he still gives plenty of evil laughs throughout the movie.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "I think you and I are destined to do this forever."
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: "You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful 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? Good luck."
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: Bruce Wayne is trying to figure out The Joker's motivations. Alfred tells him this story:
    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 them away.
    Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?
    Alfred Pennyworth: 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.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Released by Stern Pinball in 2008; click here for details.
  • Lost in a Crowd: The Joker pulls this off twice.
    • To escape the opening bank robbery, the Joker simply slips his school bus into a pre-arranged opening in a long line of identical school buses driving past on the Van Buren Street side of the bank as the police are arriving.
    • The Joker and his men escaping after the assassination attempt on the mayor at Commissioner Loeb's funeral procession: they are posing as the honor guard members and all of the police officers in dress blues are standing motionless as the "honor guard" does the 21 gun salute, until the third volley, when the Joker and his men aim their rifles at the mayor. Gordon tackles the mayor to the ground just as the Joker fires his rifle. This causes all of the pedestrians and the officers to break formation and scatter everywhere. In the chaos, the Joker and his guys melt into the crowd, and all of them get away except for Thomas Schiff, who gets spotted and is shot in the leg.
    • Later, when the Joker calls the TV station, Gordon orders every available bus to head to a hospital and get all their patients out. In the confusion, the Joker and his men take their school bus to Gotham General, where they kidnap a number of hospital staff, and a TV-news crew.
  • 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.
  • Loves the Sound of Screaming: "Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can't savor all the little... emotions."
  • Love Triangle: Harvey Dent as the Betty and Bruce Wayne as the Veronica to Rachel's Archie...she ends up choosing Harvey, thinking Bruce could never stop being Batman.
  • Low Clearance: Some of The Joker's goons use harpoon guns and cables to snag a police chopper during a high-speed chase.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Suggested by the Joker about a kidnapped Harvey Dent.
    Gordon: Where is he?
    Joker: What's the time?
    Gordon: What difference does that make?
    Joker: Well depending on the time, he may be in one spot or several.
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: The Joker pulls an extreme version of this on Harvey Dent.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Batman starts his interrogation of the Joker by slamming the latter's head forwards into the table before them, leading to this exchange:
    The Joker: Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy. He can't feel the next...
    (Batman smashes the Joker's right hand)
    (The Joker does not react)
    The Joker: ...See?
  • Mascot Villain: The Joker is featured just as much in the publicity for this film as Batman, if not more so.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Every mobster in the room loses their shit when the Joker reveals that he's wearing a suicide vest underneath his coat.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Two-Face's arm can be seen grabbing Maroni's lackey as Maroni gets in the car, before the reveal.
  • Memorial for the Antagonist: Harvey Dent is given a funeral and lauded as a hero despite being driven insane by the Joker and murdering several people. In this case, it's because Batman and Commissioner Gordon agree it's for the greater good if Dent remains a hero in the public's eyes.
  • Menacing Mask: At the beginning of the movie, The Joker and his gang don rubber clown masks to rob a bank. In a homage to The Killing, The Joker wears the same clown mask worn in the earlier film.
  • Metallicar Syndrome: Mentioned when Bruce needs to go rescue someone in daylight, and Alfred asks if he'll be taking the Batpod.
    Bruce: In the middle of the day, Alfred? Not very subtle.
    Alfred: The Lamborghini, then. (Bruce leaves) Much more subtle.
  • 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 peoples' berserk buttons until he gets underneath their skins. Case in point: the scene where he intentionally makes light of Stephen's dead friends. Therefore, knowing the Joker will enjoy a beating, Stephens prepares to make sure he himself enjoys it even more. Cut to Murphy hearing a commotion and finding the Joker holding Stephens at knifepoint.
  • 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 (and he's personally afraid of a reprisal against the Falcone family should he cross the Joker), whereas all Batman can do is beat them up a bit. Particularly noteworthy in that the mob bosses actually think that the Joker is working for them, and they're still too terrified to cross him.
    No one's gonna tell you anything. They're wise to your act. You got rules. The Joker, he's got no rules. No one's gonna cross him for you.
  • The Mole: Ramirez is working for the mob because their mother is in the hospital and the medical bills were too high. Wuertz, on the other hand, was just in it for the money.
  • Moment of Silence: Two.
    • After the bombs go off and the Joker escapes at the end of the second act.
    • When Harvey finds his coin and figures out what happened.
  • Money to Burn: After taking half of the mob's savings as payment for his services, Joker stacks all of it up, puts Lau on top, and then lights the whole thing on fire ("I'm only burning my half"). In this case, however, it's not about how much money the Joker has, it's about how little he cares about it.
    Joker: See, I'm a guy of simple tastes: I enjoy dynamite, and gunpowder... and gasoline! And you know the thing that they have in common? They're cheap! [...] It's not about money. It's about sending a message. Everything burns.
  • Monster Clown: The Joker, obviously. Unlike other incarnations he has white makeup messily applied instead of bleached skin, not that that stops him from being monstrous and cruel at all.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: Lau, the Chinese banker for the mob.
  • The Most Wanted: Invoked at the end when Batman takes the heat for the murders Harvey Dent committed, including his own. He ends the film as the most wanted fugitive of Gotham P.D., continuing into The Dark Knight Rises where the Police call off the pursuit of Bane when Batman shows up, drawing nearly every cop in the city into a chase with him.
  • Mouthing the Profanity: Immediately after Batman swerves to avoid hitting the Joker, The Joker can be seen mouthing the word "fuck".
  • Multiple-Choice Past: In a nod to the comics like Trope Namer The Killing Joke, Joker gives multiple conflicting tragic back stories about how he came to be.
    Joker: You wanna know how I got these scars?
  • Multi-Take Cut: Downplayed in the hospital explosion. As shown here, Nolan filmed the explosion from several angles, but decided to put only two in the finished movie.
  • My Card: The Joker. Naturally, it's a joker playing card.
  • Mysterious Past: For two characters:
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The mask The Joker wears at the beginning of the movie matches the mask he wore when performing in a Pagliacci opera as a ruse to capture the S.S. Gotham in the episode "The Joker's Wild" from the 1960s Adam West adaptation, which was his very first appearance.
    • The other somber clown masks worn by the Joker's thugs with otherwise normal street clothes, invoke the image his henchman from the Animated Series episode The Last Laugh.
    • Joker using a smoke grenade on the bank manager is a nod to his signature laughing gas venom.
    • A memorable line from the 1989 Batman movie: when asked what he wants, the Joker replies, "My face on the one-dollar bill." In Dark Knight's viral marketing campaign, Joker really did put his face on the one-dollar bill!
    • Joker audaciously killing someone at a conference of all the city's biggest mobsters could be another reference to the '89 film (the mobsters are even multicultural). It also serves as a highlight to how different this Joker is from that one, since the means of death is a lot harder to laugh at.
    • The Joker is thrown off a building, but survives this time.
    • As in the 1989 Batman film, Joker once again kills a mobster with a quick impale of a writing utensil, proving once again the pen(cil) is "truly mightier than the sword".
    • The Joker begging Batman to run him over with his Bat-Cycle is eerily similar to Jack Nicholson's Joker begging Michael Keaton's Batman to attack him from his Bat-Wing in Tim Burton's Batman (1989).
    • The Bat-Cycle brings to mind the Burtonverse Batmobile in Batman Returns being able to eject its side panels and become a narrower vehicle known as 'Batmissile'.
    • The Bat-Cycle also seems to reference the most infamous parody nursery rhymes...
      Jingle Bells, Batman Smells
      Robin laid an egg...
      And The Joker got away...
    • The Joker wearing a nurse costume is most likely a nod to a scrapped idea from Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, where the Joker was originally going to be dressed like Madonna. The only reason it wasn't used was because a cross-dressing villain was considered too silly.
    • In the film Bruce Wayne resides in a penthouse at Wayne Tower instead of Wayne Manor which is being reconstructed after the events of Batman Begins. Batman operated out of a secret underground bunker in Gotham City instead of the Batcave. In the comics Bruce Wayne left Wayne Manor and lived in a penthouse at the Wayne Foundation building and Batman from a secret sub-basement ("The Batbunker") from the late 60s to the early 80s.
    • The attempt to assassinate Dent in court might be a nod to Two-Face's original backstory, where he was scarred by a mob boss throwing acid on him during a trial.
    • Fox quips that the new Batsuit "should do fine against cats."
    • The Joker shares the yellow teeth and black around his eyes like his BTAS version.
      • Plus, his use of dogs maybe an allusion to his pet hyenas.
    • The scene where the Joker burns a huge pile of mob money is probably a reference to Batman and Harvey Dent doing the same thing in The Long Halloween.
    • The vigilantes who attack Scarecrow and the Chechen while dressed like Batman himself hearkens to The Dark Knight Returns, in which the Mutant Gang essentially switch sides after Batman defeats their leader and become "the Sons of the Batman".
    • The Joker says to Batman, “You complete me”, just like he did in The Batman vs. Dracula.
    • The eyes of Batman's mask glow white when he activates his sonar, invoking his iconic solid white eyes from his appearances in comic books and animated shows.
    • Harvey Dent had previously pretended to be Batman to fool the Joker in The Batman Adventures, although the circumstances were somewhat different.
    • Harvey's transformation into Two-Face plays out the same way it did in Batman: The Animated Series, with an explosion damaging half of his face. While this version of Two-Face refuses to get a skin-graft, it's implied that his animated counterpart did, but for some reason the graft turned bad. Both are also driven by revenge on a crime boss.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The only thing that keeps The Joker from winning is Batman's decision to take the heat for the murders Harvey, safeguarding Harvey's image and the stability of Gotham with it.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: The Mafia's network of crime in this film includes alliances with the Russian mob and African American crime gangs, as well as a cybersecurity firm based in Hong Kong. And then they hire the Joker on top of that.
  • Never Be a Hero: Lampshaded with the Batman copycats.
    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.
    • When Joker says “It’s all part of the plan.” in one trailer, it’s as if he’s referring to his own plan. The actual context of the line is quite different: “the plan” is a metaphor that the Joker uses to describe the public’s response to everyday tragedies, like soldiers or gangsters getting killed.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: If it weren't for all the Gotham City stuff, you'd think the movie was about out of control organized crime in Chicago.
  • 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.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Of the first group of the Joker's lackey's introduced, the only one who isn't killed as soon as he finishes his part of the job is the Joker himself.
    Lackey #3: I'm betting the Joker told you to kill me as soon as we loaded the cash.
    Lackey #4note : No, no no no, I kill the bus driver.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: While Joker, of course, Crosses the Line Twice with each scene that he's in, the same cannot be said for Harvey Dent, post-Two-Face. He hardly has any comedic aspects at that point - nearly every scene he's in is played entirely seriously. As his mental health tanks and his obsession over Rachel's death grows, it gets worse, culminating to the very end where he threatens to kill Gordon's family.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: Batman realizes that the surveillance power of the cell phone array is too tempting and dangerous, so he gives Lucius Fox a kill switch to destroy it after using it for the current emergency.
  • Nothing Personal: Joker tells Harvey this after Rachel's death. Surprisingly, it somewhat works, as Harvey decides he's more interested in getting revenge on the Joker's enablers than Joker himself.
  • 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 just one day after the incident that caused those scars, leaving the vast majority of Gotham's people unaware that he ever went insane. His vigilantism is still ruthless enough for him to qualify as a villain, particularly as he goes after the family of the only truly honest cop in Gotham.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: The Joker (and Scarecrow in his brief cameo) enjoy suggesting to Batman that he's just as insane as they are.
  • 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...
  • Not What I Signed Up For:
    • The SWAT officer riding shotgun in Harvey Dent's armored transport, after the Joker uses a bazooka to take out the pilot car in front of them.
    • Why Maroni helps the cops in tracking the Joker in the end, noting that the "madness" of terror the Joker has gripped all of Gotham in was too much, when all he and the mob wanted was simply Batman out of their way.
  • Not Worth Killing: Eventually, the Joker starts thinking this about Batman. Batman himself sees all criminals as this, considering that he has one rule to live by, but he especially believes this about the Joker, who is hellbent on causing him to break that one rule.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Invoked in-story by the Joker during the iconic interrogation room scene. Joker mocks the Mob for trying to get rid of Batman thinking Gotham City and their criminal operations will go back to the way they were a year ago. They haven't, née cannot accept that Batman has changed Gotham forever and that there's no going back.
  • N-Word Privileges: The Joker can call himself and Batman "freaks", but if anybody else tries it...
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: It's not elaborated on very much where the Joker gets all the resources to enact his plans, which include explosives and even an RPG at one point. However, he does start off the film robbing mob banks, and the deal he makes with them later on seems to give him all the Mooks and power he needs.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Gordon gets to Loeb's office having learned about the Joker's death threat on him:
      Loeb: Gordon, you're unlikely to discover this for yourself, so take my word. The police commissioner gets a lot of threats. I found the appropriate responsjudge
e to these situations a long time ago. [sets down a glass of Clyburn whiskey, and drinks]
[cutaway briefly to Surrillo and to Harvey Dent talking with Rachel]
Loeb: You get to explain to my wife why I'm late for dinner, tonight.
Gordon: Sir, the Joker card had traces of your DNA on it. [Stephens comes in with a piece of paper in his hand]
Loeb: How'd they get my DNA?
Gordon: [looking at the file Stephens has given him] Someone with access to your house or office must have lifted a tissue or a... glass, or [notices Loeb drinking] Wait, WAIT!
[Loeb collapses, poisoned with acid. His glass starts smoking]
  • "Is that"
  • Also Reese in the conversation quoted under Blackmail.
  • Batman and Gordon, when Joker revealed that he kidnapped both Harvey and Rachel. Gordon again, when Batman locked the interrogation room and beat their location out of him.
    Joker: You know, for a while there, I thought you really were Dent. The way you threw yourself after her.
  • Ominous Walk: Subverted when The Joker starts one of these after Batman loses at chicken, then starts to jauntily skip after a few seconds.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Joker.
  • One Phone Call: In accordance with procedure as stated above, the Joker is not given his phone call. He goes to some lengths to get it... which he uses to escape from jail by calling a cell phone implanted within one of his gang members, detonating a bomb connected to it and destroying a large portion of the prison.
    The Joker: I want my phone call. I want it. I want my phone call.
    Detective Stephens: That's nice.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Joker, if "nickname" is a good word for it.
  • Orbital Shot:
    • The shots involving the Joker and Rachel's confrontation at Harvey Dent's fundraiser keep rotating around the two to add to the scene's tension.
      Joker: Oh, you look nervous. Is it the scars? Want to know how I got them?
    • A single continuous orbital shot is used when Gordon and Harvey are arguing on the rooftop after a leak in the department allowed the mob to get their money transferred out ahead of time.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Batman has remained this to the Gotham Mob in the interim since Batman Begins, though they've had enough experience by now to adapt somewhat (albeit not well). Joker likewise obviously ends up becoming this to Batman and Gordon once his rampage begins in earnest.
    • In Batman's case, the Mob's struggle and failure to fully adapt is best exemplified by Lau's plan in the first Act. Having him move and hide their money and then flee back to China to avoid extradition would have worked a year earlier. But now in a post-Batman Gotham? With a vigilante who's driving a veritable tank and isn't answerable to law and legal systems? Even Joker explicitly points out Lau didn't think this through (and is ultimately proven correct).
  • The Paragon: Harvey Dent, an uncorrupted and idealistic prosecutor out to bring down organized crime in Gotham. This makes him the target of everybody.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: This exchange when the Joker crashes the mob meeting:
    Gambol: Give me one reason why I shouldn't have my boy here pull your head off.
    Joker: How about a magic trick? [sticks a pencil into the table, point-first] I'm gonna make this pencil disappear.
    [A crony stands up and runs over to the Joker, who then slams the man's head down on the pencil, forcing it into his eye socket. The man then falls dead]
    The Joker: TADAAA! It's.... ah, it's gone... Oh, and by the way, the suit? It wasn't cheap. [sits down] You oughta know, you bought it!
  • Percussive Maintenance: When Joker's last bomb doesn't go off, he starts smacking the detonator until it does.
  • 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.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: The Joker and Harvey Dent. Though where the Joker got his is anyone's guess...
  • Pineapple Surprise: The Joker threatens to pull the pins on a jacket of grenades to escape the mobsters meeting with Lau.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Enforced. The Joker stuffs a hand grenade into the mouth of the nameless banker and ties it to the back of the school bus which he then drives off with. Results in a Fake Kill Scare for the banker as the triggered grenade only produces a puff of smoke.
  • Plot Armor: Given how many times the Joker bullies, badgers and even randomly kills other criminals in the first half of the film, this trope is the only explanation why nobody just shoots him to stop him from doing that.
  • Plot Immunity: Jim Gordon and his fake death scheme.
  • Poisonous Captive: The Joker continues to play mind games with the police while in a cell.
  • Poison Is Corrosive: After Commissioner Loeb is poisoned, there's a brief shot of the glass he drank from spilling onto his desk and producing smoke.
  • Poser Hating: Batman does not find imitation flattering. Especially if the imitators dressing like him are using lethal force.
  • Powerful and Helpless: The Joker mocks Batman while on the receiving end of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to extract information on the location of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes who have been kidnapped. He rightly points out that Batman can't achieve anything with all of his strength.
  • 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.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: At the beginning of the film, the Chechen is upset with Dr. Crane for supplying him with fear toxin as a street drug (which has horrific, non-pleasurable effects) because his business needs repeat customers.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: During the fundraising party for Harvey Dent:
    Joker: (to Rachel) A little fight in you, I like that.
    Batman: Then you're gonna love me.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • In the opening, if you listen carefully, you can hear Grumpy say "what the fuck?" when Bozo tricks the manager into using his last shotgun round on Grumpy's left shoulder. Grumpy then complains, "Where did you learn to count?!"
    • The Joker questioning why the mob bosses fear getting caught since Batman's arrival: "What happened, did your balls drop off?" Later in the scene, you can also hear someone utter, "Holy shit!" when the Joker reveals all the grenades he has under his coat.
    • As Commissioner Loeb is poisoned to death, Gordon audibly yells "Oh shit!" as he tries to keep him from falling. Television edits didn't fall for the slip.
    • It's not a terribly obvious one, but after Batman fails to hit him with the Batpod, the Joker mouths the f-word. Blink and you'll miss it.
    • Later in the same scene, Gordon says "we got you, you son of a bitch" when he (temporarily) captures the Joker.
  • Pre-emptive Declaration:
    Joker: No no no, I kill the bus driver.
    Grumpy: Bus driver? What bus driver?
    Cue a bus crashing through the bank's front.
    • Later:
      Joker: You know how I got these scars?
      Batman: No, but I know how you got these! (launches his spring loaded scallops at Joker's face)
    • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Two-Face has a moment that doubles as both tropes when he kills Maroni's driver and at the very least causes further injury to Maroni, who had already been reduced to walking on a cane following a Bat Interrogation.
      Two-Face: You're a lucky man. (flips his coin a second time) But he's not.
      Maroni: Who?
      Two-Face: [buckles seat belt] Your driver.
  • Prisoner's Dilemma: There's an explicit but a little more sadistic Prisoner's Dilemma with actual prisoners. In the boat sequence, each boat has a detonator to a bomb on the other boat. If they blow the other boat, their own bomb is disarmed. One prisoner even hints at one of the usual solutions to Prisoner's Dilemmas committing not to blow the other boat by ditching the detonator. Of course this being the Joker, he has a secondary detonator set to blow both boats if they cooperate, which Batman stops him from doing.
  • Product Placement: A lot. One notable case is Bruce Wayne's driving a Lamborghini Murciélago. Also a Bilingual Bonus Stealth Pun: murciélago is Spanish for bat.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Harvey Dent starts out an idealistic prosecutor looking to clean up Gotham City from crime and stays that way for most of the movie. While other factors were chipping away at him beforehand, what really sends him over the brink is Rachel's death, not to mention having half his face scarred. Add onto that the Joker and the result is Harvey going from the film's deuteragonist to its secondary antagonist.
  • 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 Knife Nut: Though he's perfectly willing to use guns and anything else if necessary, Joker's preferred weapon is knives. His logic:
    The Joker: Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can’t savor all of the little... emotions. You see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in a way, I knew your friends better than you ever did... Would you like to know which of them were cowards?
  • "Psycho" Strings: On the soundtrack the Joker's theme is made mostly of these. It's the sound that's produced from razor blades on string instruments.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Why. So. Serious?"
    • From the same speech: "Not. One. Bit."
    • "LOOK! AT! ME!"
  • Put the "Laughter" in "Slaughter": In the car chase, the Joker takes a semi truck with the words "LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE" and spraypaints a red S in front of "Laughter".
  • Rank Up: Jim Gordon is promoted to Commissioner after the Joker's capture. Unfortunately he was still a Lieutenant at the start of the movie, making this one hell of an overnight promotion. Perhaps no-one else wanted the position after what happened to the last one...
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Internet commentators complained about fake-looking CGI in the movie, particularly the eighteen-wheeler-flipping scene. Most of the VFX shots in this film were not CGI, but rather performed either with scale models, or in the case of the eighteen-wheeler, done by flipping an actual goddamn eighteen-wheeler.
    • The launching mechanism is even visible in the sequence, but instead of scrubbing it out in post, it's left in just to let the viewer this is a real 18-wheeler flipping onto its back.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: It is possible that the ending of TDK was setting up Joker to return in Rises (he doesn't die, he says they'll be doing this forever, etc)... but then Heath Ledger died. Anyways, the Joker did not appear and was not even mentioned in The Dark Knight Rises, and a lot of people suspect the lack of the Joker in that movie was not part of the original plan (the Joker was mentioned in passing, though, in the novelization).
  • Reckless Gun Usage:
    • The Joker ignores all basic gun-handling rules, but being that he is 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. For example, in the car chase, when he's climbing out of his semi truck after he gets flipped over, he stumbles and the Smith & Wesson M76 sub-machine gun he's carrying accidentally goes off, spraying bullets in a random direction. Probably because he's semi-concussed and trying to use the gun as a crutch.
    • 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.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Even Maroni has had enough of all this and gives the cops the Joker's location. Two-Face finds him soon afterwards.
  • Rejected Marriage Proposal: Downplayed. Harvey proposes to Rachel and she tells him she "doesn't have an answer" and needs time to think it over. This is due to her also having feelings for childhood friend Bruce Wayne, whom she had previously promised to wait for until he stopped being Batman so they could be together. She eventually tells Harvey she accepts his proposal...shortly before she's killed in an explosion set up by the Joker. Harvey really doesn't take it well. Bruce is left with the impression she was still going to wait for him and Alfred burns a letter from Rachel telling him she's actually going to marry Harvey in an attempt to spare him more pain.
  • Retired Badass: Alfred apparently did some military spec-ops work some time before being Bruce's butler, providing him with anecdotal experience concerning the Joker's MO. The story also goes to hint at a rather dark side to the generally pleasant and amiable sophisticate:
    Bruce: Alfred, the bandit, did you ever catch him?
    Alfred: Oh, yes.
    Bruce: How?
    Alfred: We burned the forest down.
  • Right Behind Me: "Don't tell me it's Wayne. The guy's a complete f--"
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: The Chechen owns a pack of them. After the Joker apparently feeds The Chechen to his own dogs, he adopts the pooches and uses them against Batman in the final showdown.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Harvey Dent embarks on this after his transformation into Two-Face.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: The opening bank robbery. Unlike other movies exhibiting this trope, the Joker averts it by being knowingly aware that he's stealing mob money. On the other hand, the clowns he hires, then tricks into shooting each other during the job, play the trope straight.
  • 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: 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 Symbolism: When Harvey and Rachel are kidnapped, Harvey's room is brightly lit, while Rachel is in darkness, foreshadowing who is going to die.
  • 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 the 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)
  • Running Gag Stumbles: See Rule of Three.

    S - Z 
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • The Joker's M.O. So much so that Roger Ebert interpreted this concept as one of the Joker's main themes.
      Ebert: The Joker is more than a villain. He’s a Mephistopheles whose actions are fiendishly designed to pose moral dilemmas for his enemies.
    • Two-Face gives Gordon a choice between his wife, daughter or son being executed.
    • When Reese goes on national television to reveal Batman's Secret Identity the Joker calls the show and tells the audience that he'll blow up a hospital unless Reese is killed within the next hour.
  • Saved by Canon: Anyone familiar with the Batman canon would guess that Gordon's death was faked, as he was only a lieutenant at the time and he's supposed to be "Commissioner Gordon."
  • Saved for the Sequel: Surprisingly averted with Two-Face. He's Killed Off for Real less than half an hour after he gets his iconic scars. However, Harvey Dent's representation as a symbol of true justice is destroyed by Bane in the next movie.
  • Sick Captive Scam: Subverted. One of the Joker's henchmen claims to have severe stomach pain. The guards initially ignore this, but it eventually becomes clear he has a real problem, to wit: the Joker sewed a bomb into him in order to create a distraction and escape.
  • A Scar to Remember: Narrowly averted twice, both concerning the Joker:
  • Scare Chord: The Joker's leitmotif, a strident violin piece that feels and sounds almost like the droning of an insect swarm.
  • Scary Black Man:
    • Gambol talks tough and is the only mobster to openly challenge the Joker. He pays for it, gruesomely.
    • Subverted with Ginty, the hulking black prisoner on the ferry who acts like he'll blow up the other boat for the guards, only to throw the detonator out the window once they give it to him.
  • Scenery Porn: They seem to show off a lot of downtown Chicago scenery in the car chase
  • Scheherezade Gambit: Variant when the Joker is captured by the police. Using only his words, he manipulates a police officer into attacking him, then takes the officer hostage.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Salvatore Maroni as he's dropped from the second floor by Batman.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Inverted; the Joker has no rules.
  • Sealed Orders: The Joker starts targeting the highest echelons of Gotham's judiciary system in rapid succession to prevent them from efficiently taking down the Mob. When he targets Judge Surrillo, who is scheduled to preside over the trials, a couple of cops go to her house and tell her she needs to move to a secure location. They hand her an envelope and tell her to open it once she's in her car and go where it says. However, this is subverted because it's a trap. The cops are stooges (not clear if they're on the Mob's payroll or the Joker's), the card just says her destination is "Up", and she gets about a second to process this before her car explodes.
  • Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics: In relation to the comics, The Dark Knight is an exception to the rule. In the comics, it's a rare, rare person who escapes the attentions of The Joker alive, much less uninjured. In the movie, many do so, even cops who are usually the first to go. The Dark Knight and Batman Begins seem to be working very hard to present Batman and his world in a 'realistic' setting. In a superhero setting where the main characters (even heroes and villains with "no powers" like Batman and the Joker) are far more powerful and capable than normal humans, The Joker can go homicidal easily enough. But when you present Joker as a 'realistic' psycho, he's more limited. He still racks up a large death toll, but the level of realism doesn't allow him to be a near-inescapable killing machine like in the comics.
  • Secret Identity: Deconstructed; Batman cannot keep his secret from everyone, which leads to problems. In addition to the ones who found out in Batman Begins, accountant Coleman Reese discovers Where He Gets All Those Wonderful Toys and intends to blackmail Bruce Wayne, but is dissuaded by Lucius Fox. When he tries to sell Batman's Secret Identity, he discovers that the Joker is not happy with the secret being made public. He is saved by Batman and might be ashamed enough to become a Secret-Keeper.
  • Secret Identity Apathy: The Joker starts out demanding Batman remove his mask, but eventually decides that would be boring, and puts a hit out on a man who threatens to reveal Bruce's identity.
    The Joker: I had a vision, of a world without Batman. The mob ground out a little profit and the police tried to shut them down, one block at a time. And it was so...boring. I've had a change of heart. I don't want Mr. Reese spoiling everything, but why should I have all the fun? Let's give someone else a chance. If Coleman Reese isn't dead in sixty minutes then I blow up a hospital.
  • Secret Test of Character: When Bruce Wayne meets Harvey Dent and Rachel in a restaurant, he allows his date says disparaging things about Batman in order to get Harvey to respond and get his opinion. Harvey rebukes the criticisms and refers to Batman as "an ordinary citizen standing up for what's right".
  • Shabby Heroes, Well-Dressed Villains: Played with. Batman wears a suit of high-tech armor to contrast the filthiness and poor hygiene of the Joker, which would make this an inversion. However, the Batsuit is designed for utilitarian purposes and it's later confirmed that the Joker had all of his clothing custom-made so that no labels could be traced to him.
    Joker: Oh, and by the way, the suit? It wasn't cheap. You ought know, you bought it!
  • Sheep in Sheep's Clothing: Harvey Dent is first presented as a awesome and incorruptible crusader for justice, and is a romantic rival to Bruce Wayne. Especially since everyone knows he becomes Two-Face, the obviously... well, obvious assumption would be that he's hiding a dark, corrupt side to his character. Turns out... he isn't. He really was the great guy he seemed to be (at least until he was Driven to Villainy). In the novelization, Bruce/Batman is shown investigating Dent, believing him to be too good to be true, and all he finds is that Dent hides the fact that he had an unhappy childhood with a cruelly abusive father.
  • Shipping Torpedo: Bruce Wayne, towards Harvey and Rachel, since this essentially relegates him to Unlucky Childhood Friend status with respect to the woman he's loved for years.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Will the real Batman please stand up?" Possibly also a reference to that musical they never made.
    • The Joker's monologue to Batman about the people eventually casting him aside and turning against him rings a couple of bells towards a similar speech made by The Green Goblin in Spider-Man. Only this time, the Joker was right.
    • William Fichtner as the banker with the shotgun in the opening heist was an intentional Casting Gag by Nolan, who built the sequence as an homage to Heat.
    • The Joker's goons don clown masks during the opening scene as a reference to Stanley Kubrick's heist film The Killing.
    • The Shawshank Redemption: The detonator found on the prisoners' ship is concealed in a box resembling a book
    • Naturally, since Nolan is a card-carrying Bond fan, the blade at the tip of the Joker's shoe is From Russia with Love. The film also makes use of an Action Prologue, just like the Bond films.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The defective gun Wilmer Rossi brings in a courtroom trying (and failing) to assassinate Harvey Dent is made of carbon fiber, and not metal. This is so that the gun could pass through the metal detectors without any trouble, as practically every courthouse in America have metal detectors.
    • The SWAT team's tactics when entering the building the Joker's minions have occupied are in fact, the actual procedures a real SWAT team would carry out under the same situation: the officers approach the suspects with weapons drawn and at the ready and identify themselves, demanding that the suspects surrender. Until the suspects present a threat to either the officers or innocents, they have to hold fire. More than one reviewer questioned why SWAT wasn't opening fire, not realizing that this was how they really operate.
    • Commissioner Loeb's funeral procession was made of off-duty Chicago Police Department officers, including the bagpipe marching band.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Batman to the Joker.
    Batman: What were you trying to prove? That deep down, everyone's as ugly as you? You're alone!
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Harvey to Rachel, as he's about to be loaded into the armored car.
  • Sky Heist: Batman kidnaps the Chinese mob boss Mr. Lau from his Hong Kong skyscraper using a skyhook - after blowing out one of the skyscraper's windows, he trails a cable out of the window that catches the underside of a cargo plane piloted by his allies, dragging him and Mr. Lau out of the building.
  • Smash the Symbol: In 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.
  • Smokescreen Crime: The Joker announces that if Coleman Reese isn't killed in sixty minutes, he will blow up a hospital. While the authorities focus on protecting Reese and evacuating every hospital in Gotham, the Joker sneaks into Harvey Dent's hospital room and preys on the prosecutor's trauma to trigger his full descent into a murderous rage.
  • Smug Snake: Salvatore Maroni.
  • Spanner in the Works: The Joker is a self-proclaimed "Agent of Chaos" - he really doesn't plan, he just sizes up his enemies' plans and attacks the weak point that causes the most chaos.
    The Joker: I just did what I do best—I took your little plan, and I turned it on itself.
  • Siamese Twin Song: Notably, the closing notes of the soundtrack's 1st piece, "Why So Serious," (i.e. the soundtrack of the Cold Open involving the Joker) leads straight to the opening tones of the 2nd piece, "I'm Not a Hero" (the very first track directly themed to Batman—which plays in his encounter with the Chechen and Scarecrow).
  • Spoiler Cover: The trilogy collection has Dent as Two Face on the cover. Not really a huge surprise for anyone who is familiar with the comics, but he spends much more of the movie as Harvey Dent than as Two Face.
  • The Spook:
    • The Joker is given no backstory, and the only explanation we get for why he's doing what he's doing is simply a desire to push Gotham to the brink. When he's caught by the Gotham P.D., they aren't able to find any evidence to identify him.
    • Batman is also this from the perspective of the citizens of Gotham, who have no idea who he is or where he comes from.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Again, Batman/Bruce Wayne of all people is this towards Rachel.
  • Stealing from the Till: A sympathetic example. Lucius and Bruce are technically embezzling assets from Wayne Enterprises, a public company with shareholders, and they are discovered and blackmailed by an auditor (technically again).
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The Joker blocks a stretch of road with a fire truck...that's on fire. A fire truck, get it? Just another way the Joker Crosses the Line Twice.
    • By the end of the second act, the Batmobile had lost a wheel (the Batpod), and the Joker got away.
    • During the trip to China:
      Lucius Fox: It emits a high-frequency pulse for mapping an environment and records a response time.
      Bruce Wayne: Sonar. Just like a...
      Lucius Fox: Like a submarine, Mr. Wayne. Like a submarine.
    • The final dilemma the Joker presents is similar to the Prisoner's Dilemma. One of the parties in the dilemma is a ferry full of convicts.
    • Bruce Wayne drives a Lamborghini Murciélago. Murciélago is Spanish for "Bat".
  • Steel Eardrums:
    • The first driver of the semi truck has them when the Joker shoots the cop at the roadblock, who is standing by the driver's door, from the passenger's seat, with the bank manager's shotgun, firing no more than a few feet from that driver's ear. The driver is killed later on in the chase by shrapnel from the Tumbler, so we don't know if he was deafened enough to keep doing his job or not.
    • When Harvey Dent is approaching the ambulance Thomas Schiff is in after the shooting at Loeb's eulogy, there is a gunshot from somewhere. You notice that Dent flinches, while all of the officers scatter and immediately grab their weapons, but curiously, the paramedic tending to Schiff's leg doesn't so much as flinch, unless he's got auditory exclusion.
  • Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee: Gordon plays this straight when he lets Batman interrogate the Joker.
  • "Stop the Hero" Twist: When Batman heads to confront the Joker, he discovers the villain has disguised his goons as prisoners and the prisoners as goons, meaning the SWAT units going in will likely shoot the wrong people. He thus takes a detour to punching out the SWAT cops before they can do any harm.
  • Storming the Castle: The assault on Pruitt Building, Joker's hideout. An epic Mêlée à Trois between Batman, the SWAT and Joker's goons where Batman's non-lethal policy is truly tested.
  • Straw Nihilist: Two-Face, with his talk of random chance being the only true morality in the world. The Joker would be a straw nihilist, except that wouldn't nearly begin to encompass his craziness.
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred!: A major theme of the Joker's actions in this movie. Joker's not afraid of being killed, as it would destroy Batman's moral code or just create more chaos in general. He wins no matter what happens.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The Joker really likes building bombs.
    Joker: See, I'm a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite... and gunpowder... and gasoline! Do you know what all of these things have in common? They're cheap!
  • Subverted Punchline: When Bruce Wayne is given a new device by Lucius Fox which allows his cellphone to emit sonar pulses to map a room.
    Bruce: Sonar. Sorta like a-
    Lucius: Like a submarine, Mr. Wayne. Like a submarine.
  • Suddenly Shouting: More like Suddenly Snarling, but the Joker drops every last trace of Affably Evil with shocking suddenness during the scene where he's terrorizing poor Brian Douglas on video. It's enough to give you a Jump Scare:
    The Joker: So you think Batman's made Gotham a better place? Hm? Look at me. LOOK AT ME!
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome:
    • Rachel, though not until the end of Act 2.
    • Commissioner Loeb suffers this as well.
  • Super Cell Reception:
    • Sonar-emitting phones.
    • Not to mention one whose reception doesn't falter inside a man's stomach.
  • Super Window Jump: In Hong Kong, Batman jumps from the top of a skyscraper, glides for dozens of meters and then enters Lau's building smashing through the glass window. Downplayed in the final battle at the unfinished Prewitt Building, where Batman does the same entrance but there is no glass, only a plastic panel.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Batman's actions during the first movie come back with this one.
    • At the beginning, Gotham's criminals pick up on the fact that Batman is only effective through his stealth and surprise. The Chechen realizes this and brings along his dogs to give him an early warning.
    • Batman's tools need money and development, and no matter how carefully you hide it, there will be a paper trail. Coleman Reese, an accountant for Wayne Enterprises, finds out Bruce is Batman simply by going through files on how Bruce's money is spent, and locating the blueprints for the Tumbler in the company's archives. This knowledge, however, doesn't do him any good because, as Lucius points out, Reese is attempting to blackmail one of the richest men in the world, who is also a ruthless vigilante that puts hardened criminals in the hospital on a near nightly basis; There is no possible way this will end well for Reese, and he concedes.
      • Following on from Bruce's tools, the limitations of the Batman Begins Batsuit finally come to a head here. Yes, it was designed to protect advanced infantry...but all that Kevlar and Nomex means that Bruce is still ultimately carrying around a lot of weight. Even during Begins, it was evident the suit was hindering his combat skills (on top of problems moving his neck due to the custom graphite cowl). A year's worth of frustrations finally leads to Bruce asking Fox to streamline and update the armor. While Fox redesigns the Batsuit to Bruce's satisfaction, stripping down the weight and increasing its flexibility results in necessary tradeoffs like reduced armor plating and protection. Fox's warnings about it being vulnerable to knives also come true as he gets stabbed by Joker during their final fight and then by Talia in the next film.
    • Once the criminals clue in that Batman has rules and find someone scarier than him, Maroni calls out the fact that no one will talk to Batman.
    • Dirty cops just don't spring into being, as exemplified by Ramirez pointing out that her mother's hospital bills are why she turned.
    • The superhero-story trope of "villain makes the hero choose which of two or more people to save" is not original to this film. But usually, the hero finds a way to Take a Third Option and save everyone. Not here. Additionally, the villain tends to be honest about things like which person is where, even if they don't really have a reason to be.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: The Bat-Cell-Phone-Sonar machine.
  • Symbolic Mutilation: Here's a fun game: watch The Dark Knight and count how many times people say the word "face" in reference to Harvey Dent, before his accident. By the time you get each instance counted out, Harvey will have lost any interest in playing nice for the public or in prettying up his face, or lack thereof.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: First, The Joker admits that Batman is better than the mob bosses he used to rip off. Then, as he's saved from falling to his death, the villain praises how his nemesis is incorruptible as "you won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness".
  • Take a Third Option: Subverted with Rachel and Harvey. Played straight during the Prisoner's Dilemma in the film's climax.
  • Taking the Bullet: First, Gordon does this by tackling the mayor to the ground just as the Joker is about to shoot him. Later it's combined with Car Fu when the Batmobile intercepts a rocket grenade that was intended for the armored prison transport carrying Harvey Dent, and again when Bruce Wayne uses the Lamborghini to block a pickup truck from smashing the police SUV.
  • Taught by Experience: Again, zig-zagged with the Gotham Mob's response to Batman in the year since Begins. They've been able to somewhat adjust their tactics to counter him in the field (ex. the Chechnen bringing guard dogs as an early warning system). However, Batman is still so much of an Outside-Context Problem to them that they're basically incapable of fully adapting and are losing (thus forcing them to rely upon the Joker).
  • Technical Pacifist: Batman won't outright kill anyone, but he has no qualms dropping Maroni from a fire escape because he probably won't die from the fall.
  • Television Geography: The bank robbery falls into this when you go by the actual filming location (the old post office at Van Buren Street and Canal Street on the west side of the Chicago River). When the Joker, Grumpy and Chuckles are getting out of the car, they're on the north side of the building. They enter through a north-facing door, but they make a right turn and face west as they run into the lobby and begin shooting into the air. This means that when the school bus bursts through the other doors, it comes in from the west side, meaning it comes in from a north-south street. However, in the exterior shot of the Joker merging with the line of passing school buses, if you look at the buildings in the background or notice the drawbridge gates in the distance, the bus is clearly facing north and turning east and onto the east-west street the station wagon was parked on.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • During the Lower Wacker Drive section of the car chase, the Joker rakes the armored transport with a machine pistol and a shotgun. Harvey Dent asks the SWAT officer riding in back with him if the vehicle is bulletproof against such hits. The officer replies, "He's going to need something a lot bigger to get through this!" Cue the Joker's henchmen handing their boss a rocket launcher.
      Shotgun SWAT: Wha...! What is that, a bazooka?!
      [The Joker fires, hitting the back of the police car in front of the armored car. The cruiser limps along, the officer struggling to control his car. The henchman driving the garbage truck rams the armored car from behind]
      Shotgun SWAT: I didn't sign up for this! [The Joker fires another rocket, taking out the police car in front for good]
    • Maroni saying of the Joker: "Some two-bit whack-job. Wears a cheap purple suit and make-up. He's not the problem. He's a nobody". Hohoho if they only knew back then...
    • The same could be said of Batman: "One man, or the entire mob? He can wait."
    • "My dogs are hong-gray! Pity there is only one of you..."
    • Commissioner Loeb says, "You're unlikely to discover this for yourself..." before giving Gordon some advice on what it's like to be a police commissioner. Moments later he's dead, whereupon Gordon is made police commissioner.
    • During the climactic scene where both Rachel and Harvey are tied up in separate warehouses, they are talking to try to calm each other down. Harvey tells Rachel not to worry, that they're coming to save her. Rachel replies, "I know they are, but I don't want them to. I don't wanna live without you..." Very soon afterward, Batman arrives to rescue Harvey, having been told the mixed-up addresses by the Joker. Rachel is subsequently killed.
  • Terrorist Without A Cause: The Joker is a domestic terrorist who's only goals are to inflict chaos and prove that every person no matter how morally righteous is capable of giving into their darker impulses. What he hopes to accomplish beyond that is never stated.
  • Think Nothing of It: After Batman saves Gordon's son, in a Call-Back to the epilogue of Batman Begins.
    Gordon: Thank you.
    Batman: You don't have to thank me.
    Gordon: Yes, I do.
  • Three-Volley Flinch: Gordon flinches during the three-volley salute at Commissioner Loeb's funeral. Justified in a different way than usual: Gordon is expecting the Joker to strike again using the funeral salute as cover for his sniper. Rightly so, as it turns out: the Joker takes a shot at the mayor and Gordon ends up Taking the Bullet.
  • Throat Light: That cell phone the Joker planted in an inmate provides one.
  • Time Skip: Joker's dialogue during his first meeting with the Mobsters establishes that a year has passed in-universe since the events of Batman Begins.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Happy, the Safecracker Specialist, is told to kill Dopey (the Alarm Specialist) as soon as his job was done, so there would be more for everyone else. Did he really think this wasn't going to happen to him too? After all, the reasoning for his assassination would be the same: one less share, one less accomplice. Ditto the Bus Driver.
    • Grumpy (the Crowd Control Specialist) does catch on, not that it saves him. Still counts for not realizing it sooner.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: The Joker. Detective Stephens, who's in charge of watching him, even lampshades it.
    Detective Stephens: 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.
    • Few seconds later, after Joker insult his friends (see Would You Like to Know How They Died?):
    Stephens: (rolling up his sleeves) I know you're gonna enjoy this, so I'm gonna have to enjoy it even more.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: Batman pummels the Joker in the police interrogation room, but the Joker laughs it off because torture would never make him talk. He only tells Batman what Batman wants to hear because it amuses him to.
  • Tragedy: Harvey Dent's fall into the Despair Event Horizon, an ending that almost borders on being a downer, heroes performing actions that are questionable - Knight certainly shows traits of this genre, thought its a more hopeful example than most of its ilk.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: Gordon's men use lightly irradiated bills (secretly provided by Batman) to make drug buys from dealers working for the mob. They turn up in the vaults of the banks that have been robbed by the Joker, allowing the cops to figure out where the mob's money is being held.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Zigzagged. The first trailer uses Joker's line "It's all part of the plan," but in the film the line is a part of his rant to Harvey that plans are pointless because the world is chaos. However, it becomes VERY clear that Joker does have a master plan, he just spins it in unpredictable ways.
  • 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.
    • Although it wasn't exactly guaranteed, it was pretty doubtful that Gordon was going to die before he became Commissioner.
  • Tranquil Fury: At the end, when his attempt to prove that everyone in Gotham is at core vile and self-centered goes wrong, in contrast to his previous antics the Joker goes very, very still and his voice becomes a low growl.
  • Traitor Shot: A subtle version, but Ramirez doesn't look as happy as you'd think she'd be watching a victorious Harvey Dent get into a car driven by her (equally compromised) colleague after the Joker has been captured by a Not Quite Dead Gordon.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Harvey Dent loses the love of his life and half of his face in one day. It doesn't take much for The Joker to push him over the edge after that.
  • Treachery Cover Up: Batman decides to take the blame for Harvey Dent's crimes at the end of the film, so that Harvey can remain an inspiration to Gotham.
  • Trespassing to Talk: The Joker manages to sneak into a heavily guarded meeting of mob bosses, makes a pencil disappear, and makes an offer to kill Batman for them.
  • Trojan Ambulance: Played with. After the Joker and his henchmen open fire on the crowd at Commissioner Loeb's memorial, one of the henchmen (Thomas Schiff) is shot and put into an ambulance, handcuffed to the stretcher. Harvey Dent takes the opportunity to commandeer the ambulance and kidnap Schiff, who is still handcuffed in the back, to isolate and interrogate him away from police intervention.
  • Troll: What the Joker will resort to when his target has no other obvious flaw he can utilize to get inside their heads.
    • There's one particularly subtle and tragic example of this. When Batman "greets" the Joker, he smashes his face into the interrogation table. The Joker admonishes him that attacking the victim's head makes them fuzzy. Later on, when he tells Batman the addresses where to find Harvey and Rachel, he deliberately mixes them up all while acting "fuzzy".
  • 21-Gun Salute: There is an honor guard of seven officers who fire their rifles three times each at the funeral of Commissioner Loeb. Except, just before they fire the third volley, they suddenly turn their rifles on the mayor and Gordon suddenly notices that the closest one is the Joker sans-makeup, and he immediately tackles the mayor to the ground just as the Joker pulls the trigger. The Joker and his men then melt into the scattering crowd, with Thomas Schiff being tagged in the leg and captured.
  • Twisted Echo Cut: Rachel tells Harvey her answer to his marriage proposal is "Yes." Batman then kicks down the where Harvey is imprisoned, causing him to shout, "NO! NO! NO!" because he thinks Rachel is going to die (not knowing that Gordon has gone to the address where she's being held).
  • Two-Headed Coin: Played straight by Harvey; subverted when he becomes Two-Face and the coin gets marked on one side.
  • Uncertain Doom: Grumpy gets hit by a flying piece of furniture when the school bus smashes the bank entrance. Wether he's killed or knocked out remains unclear. The bank manager's fate is also unclear since his death via smoke grenade is never confirmed and the Joker may be practicing his "what doesn't kill you makes you stranger" philosophy. Additionally, it's unclear if Maroni survived his car crash; Gordon mentions later on that Harvey's rampage killed five people, but we only see three die (including Harvey) and Maroni would only make four. It's possible, though not likely, that he survived.
  • Underestimating Badassery:
    • 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.
  • The Unfettered: The Joker.
  • Unflinching Walk:
    • Lucius Fox as he leaves the control room for the cell phone sonar system as it blows up behind him.
    • 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 detonator, 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.
  • 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.
    Joker: Very poor choice of words!
  • Unreliable Narrator: The Joker, naturally.
  • The Unreveal: Downplayed. When Gordon visits Harvey at Gotham General Hospital after his disfigurement, the reveal of his Two-Face look is built up a bit. At first, he's positioned in bed such that we only see the intact half of his face; he turns all the way to face Gordon but the camera cuts to his reaction, delaying the reveal just a tad longer. We do see the full face shortly after.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Harvey. "NO! NOT ME! WHY ARE YOU COMING FOR ME?!" Doubly so, as Batman also wanted to save Rachel over Harvey. The Joker's just like that..
  • Venturous Smuggler: They never appear on-screen, but Batman hires a crew of South Korean smugglers to help him kidnap a Chinese money launderer from his home base in China. The implication is that they're this trope.
  • Victory Is Boring: Why Joker ultimately decides against killing Batman.
    Batman: Then why do you want to kill me?
    The Joker: (laughs) I don't wanna kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no. No. No, you... you complete me.
  • Vigilante Injustice: This topic is discussed and is later called into question by the film itself. The previous film, Batman Begins, saw Bruce become Batman because Gotham PD was rotten to the core and all attempts at de-corrupting the city were being sabotaged. Between the end of that film and now, Gotham has gotten cleaner as citizens and police have rallied around Batman as a symbol of justice. This has led to a number of copycat vigilantes trying to enforce justice of their own as well outside of the law. Batman's existence and the city's embrace of him are questioned given the city's history, and many see his existence as problematic because The Joker is demanding he turn himself in, but Batman proves to be the person Gotham needs to take the Joker down, and because the Joker exists because Batman exists.
  • Vigilante Militia: Batman's activities have unfortunately inspired several copycat vigilantes to take on the criminal underworld of Gotham. At least some of these are working together, as seen when two or three of them try to take down Scarecrow's operation. Bruce is not happy about this, as these average citizens don't have the same resources he does and are more likely to get themselves killed. Indeed, the Joker starts targeting them in his hunt for the Batman and brutally murders one on camera.
  • 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, 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...
  • Villainous Face Hold:
    • The Joker crashes a party and begins interrogating the guests on the whereabouts of Harvey Dent. First he grabs the jaw of a middle-aged man and jiggles his jowls, then he grabs another man by the jaw and threatens him with a knife. When he's prevented from going further by Rachel, he grabs her jaw and forces her to look at him whilst he tells her how he got his scars.
    • Joker later does this again to Gambol during the famous 'Why so serious?' scene. He holds Gambol's face still as he threatens him with a knife and again tells the origin story of his scars.
  • Villains Never Lie: The Joker repeatedly claims to be "a man of my word". He's very fond of Exact Words, but seemingly only outright lies once: when he switches the locations of Harvey and Rachel. That he is always believed is presumably due to this trope.
  • 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".
  • Virtue Is Weakness: Once the mob bosses settled down a truce, they've discussed how Batman doesn't kill the criminals he captures and sees that as a reason not to fear him at all. Batman proves them how wrong they are, by showing how non-lethal but painful a fall can be.
  • Voiceover Letter: Rachel's "Dear John" Letter to Bruce that we see Alfred reading is voiced out by Rachel herself.
  • Walking Spoiler: Played with. While Harvey Dent himself isn't this, his alter ego Two-Face more than qualifies.
  • 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.
  • Wham Line: When Batman is interrogating Joker about Harvey Dent's kidnapping in the MCU lockup and Joker suddenly reveals he's had his men kidnap Rachel as well.
    Joker: Well, there's only minutes remaining, so you'll have to play my game if you want to save one of them.
    Batman: ... Them?
    Joker: You know... for awhile there, I thought you really were Dent. The way you threw yourself after her!
  • Wham Shot:
    • After being told by the Joker the two locations where Harvey and Rachel are being held, Batman and the police split up to deal with the situation, Batman going after Rachel, and the police going after Harvey. Sure enough, we see them reach their own destinations, with Batman being shown kicking in the door... to the room where Harvey is being held.
    • The convict doing the right thing by chucking the prisoner ship’s detonator out the window, and thereby removing any chance of them proving the Joker correct. The civilian ship didn’t take it to that extreme. Best of all, Batman had nothing to do with the decisions made by either ship.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Batman makes no secret to Harvey Dent that threatening to shoot Thomas Schiff on the basis of a coin-toss is wrong. note 
      Batman: You'd leave a man's life to chance?!
    • Rachel's reaction to Bruce letting Dent take the fall as Batman. Though she doesn't directly confront him about it, she professes her disapproval to Alfred, saying that it's completely unheroic, and even decides that it's the last straw regarding her chances of rekindling her romance with Bruce.
    • Dent's reaction to Batman bursting in to rescue him, since he wanted Rachel to be saved instead of himself. So did Batman, for that matter.
    • 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 detonator to the other boat.
      Ginty: Give it to me, and I'll do what you should'a did 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 sonar-augmented mobile phones to eavesdrop on the entire city and track down the Joker.
  • Where's the Kaboom?:
    • When the Joker blows up the hospital, it only partly detonates — at first. When the last bomb doesn't go off, Joker glares at the intact building, annoyed, and starts fiddling with the detonator and ultimately starts smacking it against his hand until demolition resumes. At that point, he starts running. Contrary to popular rumor, the "malfunction" was fully intentional, to make sure Ledger was a safe distance from the building.
    • Turned against the Joker in the climax with the bomb-strapped passenger ferries. When Joker has Batman pinned with the midnight deadline for one ferry to blow up the other about to occur, he gleefully tells Batman, "We don't want to miss the fireworks. And here...we...go." However, both ferries refused to carry out Joker's demand, causing visible confusion on Joker's face at the lack of an explosion. He even turns around to look at a clock, and when he sees the clock has surpassed midnight, he is visibly shocked that his social experiment failed.
  • 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...
    • In contrast to the usual examples of this trope, however, eventually someone does decide to "bell the cat", so to speak. One of the civilians finally steps up and asks for the detonator, his rationale being that the criminals have already made their choices and screwed up their lives. But, after some agonizing, he doesn't blow up the criminals after all.
  • 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.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?:
  • With Great Power Comes Great Opposition: Discussed between Harvey Dent and Mayor Garcia. The latter says that while Dent (and for a semi-related case, the Batman, who is one of his greatest contributors) has so much over against Gotham's crime problem, he's made many enemies out of those who profited from it. The trope's quote sums it all up:
    "They're all coming after you now. Not just the mob: politicians, journalists, cops. Anyone whose wallet's about to get lighter."
  • Witless Protection Program: Batman kidnaps a mob accountant and turns him over to Gotham police, and the accountant agrees to help the police bring the mob down in exchange for amnesty. In response, the mob hires The Joker as a "problem-solver"; Joker proceeds to get himself arrested, blow up the police station with a cellphone bomb, spring the accountant from his cell and execute him by immolating him with gasoline.
  • World of Badass: The film presents a Batman at the height of his power, being able to extract a criminal entrenched inside a skyscraper from halfway across the globe, and a Joker who is very good with weapons and able to at least match Batman with some very crazy stunts. Supporting characters such as Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon are more than capable to hold their own, non-action ones like Alfred and Lucius are very dominating, and even minor characters like the bank manager are deadly.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: When analyzing surveillance footage of the Joker, Bruce tells Alfred that the Joker, like any other criminal, has a very simple motive like money or power, only for Alfred to tell him that's not true of every criminal. To illustrate his point, Alfred recalls when he was stationed in Burma, decades back, that he was tasked with bribing local warlords with jewels, only to learn that the caravans carrying the jewels were being stolen by a bandit. Alfred and his men were sent to look for whoever was trading with the bandit, but nothing came up. Sometime later, he saw a child playing with a large jewel, and Alfred concluded that the bandit had no intention of fencing the loot, he robbed the caravans because he thought it was fun.
    • Later in the film the Joker, after getting Lau back, takes his half of The Mafia money and burns it.
  • Worthy Opponent: Several observing SWAT give Batman an astonished non-verbal compliment when he takes out a full squad, with their own rappel lines, after being designated to be out the game.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Two-Face knocks Anna Ramirez into unconsciousness, after his coin spares her life.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: Done by the Joker after Stephens presses his Berserk Button. "Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can’t savor all of the little... emotions. You see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in a way, I knew your friends better than you ever did... Would you like to know which of them were cowards?"
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The Gotham mob think they are in a crime film, where being the leaders of the various mob gangs means they are the top dogs and can do whatever they want. With that much money and power, surely they can keep this clown under control. They're not. They're in a superhero film where the clown is a supervillain whose capacity for chaos, death and destruction is limitless, and they realize too late that the clown is beyond anyone's control.
  • 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 targeting 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 shooting 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 the bus driver.
    • Dopey is the first one to be offed and is completely unaware, as his is the first task completed.
    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: That's funny. He told me something similar!
      Happy: What? [turns to see Grumpy pull out a pistol] No-no-NO-[cuts to the Joker walking in the lobby with the sound of a gunshot]
    • Averted with Chuckles, who gets shot and killed by the bank manager with a loaded shotgun In the Back before any betrayals can be pulled off, unless it was always planned to let his "usefulness" end as a sacrificial pawn.
    • Grumpy figures out the pattern after killing Happy and figures that Bozo, the only other remaining clown, was ordered to kill him as soon as the cash was loaded. While close, he messed up the order (as well as not realizing "Bozo" was always The Joker).
    Grumpy: [gun drawn on "Bozo"] I'm bettin' the Joker told you to kill me as soon as we loaded the cash.
    The Joker: [scoffs] No-no-no-no. I kill the bus driver.
    Grumpy: [confused] Bus driver? ["Bozo" glares back at him] What bus dri-[The back end of a school bus bursts through the bank doors and runs over him]
  • You're Insane!: "No, I'm not. No, I'm not."
    • It could be argued that the Joker spends the whole movie trying to convince himself of this.
    • He later does admit that he brought Harvey down to his and Batman's level and that "madness is like gravity, all it takes is a little push!"
  • You Remind Me of X: The Joker tells Senator Patrick Leahy that he reminds him of his father after the latter stands up to him.
  • Your Little Dismissive Diminutive: This version of the Joker uses a LOT of these.
    [to the organized crime community] Look, I know why you choose to have your little group therapy sessions in broad daylight...
    [to the organized crime community] Soon little Gambol here won't be able to get a nickel for his grandma.
    [to Batman] You just take off your little mask and show us all who you really are, hmm?
    [to Batman] Does Harvey know about you and his little bunny?
    [to Harvey Dent] They're schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds. (Referring to the police and the organized crime community alike.)
    [to Harvey Dent] I just took your little plan and I turned it on itself.
  • Your Grandma: "If we don't deal with this now..... soon, (motions to Gambol) little... uh, Gambol here won't be able to get a nickel for his grandma."
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: The ending. Batman chooses to take the blame for Dent's murders so his mob convictions won't be overturned and his reputation will remain untarnished.

"Why so serious?"


The Joker's Social Experiment

The Joker creates a version of this dilemma for a boat full of civilians and another full of (literal) prisoners.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / PrisonersDilemma

Media sources: