The film ends by showing us that Bruce didn't die after all and he got the autopilot to work. Alfred finally gets his wish, as he sees Bruce in the way he'd always wanted to see him, smiling back at him, but the real kicker is that the woman with Bruce is Selina, who's gone on to live a peaceful life with Bruce. It doesn't end there - Bruce makes sure to tell Commissioner Gordon that he's all right by fixing the Bat Signal, and Lucius Fox gets to figure the truth out as well when he learns that Bruce hacked the flyer to get the autopilot function working. We also find out that John Blake's full name is Robin John Blake, and that Bruce realized that Robin is a worthy successor and leaves the Batcave, and the duty of protecting Gotham, to him.
Especially the brief glimpse of Selina: even from behind we can tell that she's beaming and chatting happily with Bruce, the only time in the film we see her looking truly happy.
It's also the only time in the entire trilogy that we see Bruce looking truly happy and at peace.
For that matter, it's one of the few times in any Batman continuity that Bruce was able to finally move on from his parents' deaths.
Selina's motivation: All she wants is a clean slate and a chance to live a normal, peaceful life. In the end both Bruce and Selina start a new life together away from the troubles of their pasts.
Remember the first film? When Ra's mentioned that he had lost a woman he loved? She was willing to throw herself, when pregnant, into a hellish prison if it meant saving the man she loved. Oh, and that's not even the half of it. Bane realized that it was wrong to hurt such an innocent child, and he wanted to redeem himself by protecting it. That's right, folks. Bane wasn't the child who escaped from the prison, but the protector who allowed her to escape. For that, he was horrifically disfigured, but she came back and freed him.
Playing on from that, when Talia is explaining that her protector was Bane, you can't help but feel some form of pity and respect for the brute who protected a young child from the horrific fate her mother suffered. Talia's also affectionately caressing Bane's face when fixing his broken mask showing the deep bond that the two of them still share.
Assuming that Bane really was born and raised in the prison, this adds another layer to his protectiveness of Talia. Being raised in such a dark, terrible place is what turned Bane into the monster that we see in the film, and he saw an innocent child, alone and afraid, like he was, and empathized with her. It's likely that Talia is the only person Bane has ever cared about, to the point that he was willing to fight off almost all of the other inmates, suffering an agonizing disfigurement in the process, just so that she could have the freedom that was denied to him. And she came back for him, bringing the might of the League of Shadows to bear against the prisoners who injured Bane and murdered Talia's mother, asking Ra's to spare Bane. With all this in mind, it's hardly a surprise that he's so loyal to her.
Right before Bruce flies off with the bomb, apparently ready to sacrifice himself for the city of Gotham, Gordon mentions that he never cared who Batman was, but the people should at least know "the hero who saved them". Bruce says (basically) that "a hero can be anyone". Then, he tells Gordon who he is by quietly referencing that small act of kindness from so long ago: Gordon putting Bruce's father's coat around his shoulders after his parents were killed, and giving him a few warm words. It takes a moment, but as the Bat lifts off, Gordon realizes who Batman is. It's both a heartwarming moment and a complete tearjerker.
Batman: A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy's shoulders to let him know the world hadn't ended.
Gordon:(stunned realization) Bruce Wayne...?
What makes it even better, is that the only time Gordon met Bruce Wayne as an adult in the trilogy was after Bruce wrecks his Lambourgini in The Dark Knight. Bruce has his playboy act going and convinces Gordon that he's a clueless, selfish idiot that doesn't even remember Gordon or what he did for him. So not only did he fulfill Gordon's wish of knowing who Batman is, but he redeemed Bruce Wayne, at least in the eyes of one person.
And, in a way, Batman, a person who we never suspected to have a hero of his own (perhaps outside of his father), saying to Gordon: "You were my hero, sir," just for committing that small act of kindness.
And then, after Batman gets the bomb out in the bay, a One-Woman Wail plays. We get a look of Batman's face, and he looks to finally be at peace. The bomb hasn't went off yet, but he knew that Gotham was already safe. All he had to do was to keep going forward... and wait for the autopilot's ejection. He had completed his legacy. It's the end.
When Talia reveals herself and we see the flashback in full, Bane starts fighting off the men in the prison so that she could escape. When they pull away the cloth from his face, he meets her eyes and whispers, "Goodbye." It is by far one of the most heartwarming, tearjerking moments in the film because while Bane is still a ruthless mercenary, his motivation for destroying Gotham is completely understandable based on his devotion to Talia.
Literally tearjerking: it earns a tear from Bane.
The kiss and conversation, Selina gives Bruce before he hauls the bomb off into the bay. Especially since she initiates it and he doesn't pull away until she does. Nice Call-Back to the masquerade party, too.
Catwoman: You could've gone anywhere, did anything, but you came back here. Batman:So did you... Catwoman: Then I guess we're both suckers. *Big Damn Kiss happens*
The fact that Bruce still believes in Selina even after she hands him over to Bane. He admits he was "let down", but goes with his gut instinct that tells him there is more to her than just being a thief. Moreover, his faith in her is also what motivates her to save the city instead of running.
The Ominous Arabic Chanting featured in the trailers whenever Bane was shown was actually encouragement for prisoners attempting to climb out of the Pit.
Also shows the difference to the prisoners in Bane's time; since they are all his victims, they want someone to succeed.
Additional layer of Fridge Brilliance. Banesprings the not-at-all innocent inmates from Blackgate, who he insists are innocent insofar as Harvey Dent's legacy is fraudulent. So Batman is Not So Different from Bane who is Not So Different from Dent, none of whom are as far from The Joker as they'd like to be... Damn.
The fact that Talia came back for Bane is heartwarming in of itself.
And the fact that she presumably went with him after her father excommunicated him.
After climbing out of the pit, Bruce tossed a rope down so that the other prisoners could escape.
Before someone assumes something wrong, it's stated those are Bane's prisoners, which are most likely all innocent.
Bruce's relationship with Selina when you realize that he's ostensibly everything she despises and he has every reason to hate her, yet he not only treats her with courtesy and respect (and, judging by her reaction, is possibly the first person to do so), but he still is willing to trust her and believe the best of her even after she betrayed him. No wonder she falls for him.
In the end, Bruce takes only one thing from his former life: his mother's pearl necklace, which Selina liked so much. Why? So he could give it to her legitimately.
Bruce keeping his mother's pearl necklace, which is the exact same or at least similar to the one that Chill killed her and Bruce's father over, tight in a safe so no one could take it, and his going to such great lengths to get it back when Selina steals it.
And now it is also a reminder of how Bruce and Selina have met each other for the first time. Sure, the circumstances here have been, uh... more than unusual, but you can't help but go "d'awww" over that.
One of the last scenes of the movie is the unveiling of a statue of Batman in what appears to be the court house. They wanted to make sure they didn't ever forget.
This bit of dialogue showing Batman's incredible devotion to Gotham and its citizens, no matter what he has to sacrifice to save them.
Catwoman: You don't owe these people anymore. You've given them everything. Batman: Not everything. Not yet.
When Gordon lectures Blake about putting the heat on Batman for Harvey Dent, he says, "One day, you may face such a moment of crisis, and in that moment, I hope you have a friend like I did!" He had no idea who Batman was, but still thinks of him as a friend after eight years of disappearance.
The previously-jerkish Deputy Commissioner Foley turning up in the climax leading the police against Bane's army, while wearing his full dress uniform.
Even better: He probably has put on the dress uniform because of what Gordon had said to him earlier, while he was unsuccessfully trying to convince him to join La Résistance: That he doesn't exactly expect him walking around in his dress uniform, but that something has to be done.
When Batman creates his flaming, artificial Batsignal on the bridge, you'd expect Bane to be the first person shown to see it. But he's not. That honor goes to just an ordinary family, making it quite clear what the messageis.
The sheer joy on Gordon's face when he sees the repaired Batsignal and realises that it means Bruce survived. Ditto for Fox being told that the Bat's autopilot was fixed by Bruce Wayne and realising the same. These men thought a good man had died saving the city, only to discover that he had cheated death.
This YouTube comment sums up the heartwarmingness of the film and the trilogy's ending(s) perfectly:
What's so Great about this ending is that all the villains lose, and all the heroes win.
Ra's Al Ghul: His attempt to destroy Gotham fails both in Begins when Gotham is not destroyed by fear, fear which Scarecrow represented in it's fullest as well as in Rises when Talia, his daughter, fails to destroy the city with the bomb. However, his training of Bruce allows him to have created a true legend that would become the image of true justice. Bruce's faith in good prevails over Ra's and Talia's cynical viewing of Gotham.
Bane: Though he manages to break Bruce's body, he fails to destroy his spirit which rises to victory from the pit. Bruce manages to find the strength to embrace the fear of death, and in doing so he finds self worth which allows him to climb out of the hole that he has been trapped in his entire life. Bruce is then able to have something worth fighting for, and this allows him to finally "stop" Bane.
Joker: The Joker had managed to tarnish the idea of Batman by making it represent something to fear and hate. Through his implementation of chaos, he destroyed Bruce's life by killing Rachel and made Batman have to fall, leaving Bruce in defeat when Batman finally had to break his morality, and his one rule, in order to kill Harvey Dent to save Gordon's son. However, even when his chaos finally became realized through Bane's rule and even as Gotham "burned" with anarchy, the hope for Batman to return and enduring faith in justice ultimately prevailed and thus his destructive legacy was finally defeated and replaced with honorable justice, the noble idea of Batman, restored to Gotham.
Selina: Selina represents an "adaptable" survivor in Gotham. She manages to move in and out of the moral gray as "Catwoman" in order to survive, though she doesn't want to pursue this forever. Even as the promises of Bane were given to the people, she realized that it was an excuse to forsake the ideals of good since deep down she wanted to start a new clean life. She realized that "the fire" that would erupt would be the flames of chaos and that running would be "letting the world burn", This helped her learn to care for something outside of herself. This finally gave her the strength to be reborn, and thus pursue "a clean state" with Bruce and leave her past without scars.
Alfred: Bruce's struggle to discover the strength to move past his parent's murder and ultimately find a life for himself, was Alfred's struggle. Since he was the only family Bruce had, he made himself promise that he would raise Bruce as his own son. Alfred helps Bruce attempt to remain his identity as "Bruce Wayne" and not just Batman. When Rachel, the only connection Bruce had to his previous identity before his parents' murder was destroyed both symbolically and physically, Alfred had to finally make his "son" face reality by leaving him, forcing him to find a life outside the cave. This devastated him, but he finally realized that he made the right decision when he finds Bruce with Selina, far from the past of Gotham City. Now that Bruce has moved on, Alfred feels closure knowing that his duty is fulfilled.
Lucius: Bruce may have discovered the will to become Batman from Ra's Al Ghul, but Lucius was the one who ensured that he truly was something more by making him the strongest and best equipped hero he could be. By helping Bruce become what he needs to be, not only does he find a purpose for himself as Wayne Enterprises tries to "keep him out of trouble." He is one of the first to help Bruce return to being Batman due to his strong friendship, and he manages to learn his valuable role in Batman's life when he discovers that his technology was useful, he also feels a sense of closure.
Gordon: Gordon represents Gotham's heart itself. On the surface, he appears to be controlling the city with order, however it becomes apparent that deep corruption has taken hold of the city and therefore impedes Gotham's ability to enact true justice. That is why he is so connected to Batman, because he comes to learn that Gotham needs help against the corrupt mob. However, in his blindness he refuses to believe that the corruption affects him, which leads to the ultimate destruction of Harvey Dent, the white knight. He finally pays for his mistakes when Bane's revolution threatens to destroy Gotham, and only with Batman can he save the city he protects. When justice is restored, Gotham finally has a symbol it can believe in since it saved Gotham without being corrupted, and this brings peace to Gordon.
Blake: The ideal cop, Blake also represents a mixture between Gordon and Batman in terms of justice. Blake is a cop, and he believes in both the principles and "the structures" of justice, but he also knows what it's like to be an orphan and he manages to prioritize the ideals of justice over the "structures." Even when he resigns from the Police Force, realizing that the "structures have become shackles" which impose on the rightful legacy of Bruce Wayne, he retains faith in justice. Therefore, if crime ever did return to Gotham City, he would have to strength to rise into the symbol of Batman should the need arise.
Bruce: Bruce goes through a quest to rediscover humanity as he takes on the persona of Batman. In order to find the means to fight injustice, he goes on a journey that pushes everything to the limit. His will is tested by Ra's, his morality is tested by the Joker, and Bane tests his spirit. As he struggles to protect his city, which he loves, he allows himself to be tested by all these individuals. He finally triumphs though and he manages to make Batman a symbol to believe in, all the while finally managing to find the strength to leave his past behind and embrace a new life.
There was speculation as early as Batman Begins that Robin was too unrealistically bright, in all senses of the phrase, and would never make it into the grim, realistic The Dark Knight Trilogy. Nolan and Bale themselves confirmed these rumors. But at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, John Blake is revealed to be a composite of Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Jason Todd. Not to mention his real first name is Robin.
The scene at the football stadium. The player who runs the touchdown and makes it to the end zone as the field collapses behind him? That's Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver at the time this movie was filmed. He was released from the team in March 2012, and after trying his luck in the free agent market, decided to retire. Although it was the smart move to let him go(at 36, his best days were behind him), a lot of people saw the decision to cut him as heartless. For Steelers fans watching this movie, field collapse notwithstanding, it was nice to see Ward, in black and gold, taking it to the house in Heinz Field one last time.
According to interviews, Christian Bale says that the very last scenes that he shot for TDKR were the scenes with Anne Hathaway on the rooftops. So as soon as he finished his last line, the director shouted "Cut! Okay, that's a picture wrap for Christian!" What, then, was Christian Bale's final line as Batman? "So that's what that feels like." Equal parts funny, awesome, heartwarming, and tearjerking at the same time.