Franchises of All Time
The Batman Films
The Dark Knight (2008)
Batman (1989) | Batman Returns (1992) | Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) | Batman Forever (1995)
Batman & Robin (1997) | Batman Begins (2005) | The Dark Knight (2008) | The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Batman (1943) - serial | Batman and Robin (1949) - serial | Batman, The Movie (1966) | Catwoman (2004)
The Dark Knight
Film Plot Summary
The film opened with Gotham City besieged by crime. A robbery of a high-rise office building's "mob bank" in Gotham City was being conducted by five clown-masked thieves (Grumpy, Chuckles, Happy, Bozo and Dopey) including their leader The Joker (Heath Ledger) with ghastly clown-makeup - who had masterminded the theft so that they would each kill each other - leaving him with all the shares. He told the downed bank manager: "I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you stranger." The crime-ridden city was still plagued by drug-dealing Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), who brought along Batman-copycats for a shootout during a transaction with new mob boss The Chechan (Ritchie Coster). The real Batman (Christian Bale) appeared in his Batmobile and fought off the thugs.
In secret, Batman met with Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), the head of the Major Crimes unit, to discuss whether to include the new DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) in their plan to combat the mob by seizing mob-run banks and flushing out its dirty money with marked bills (rather than go after the single Joker). [Official police policy was "to arrest the vigilante known as Batman on sight."]
While Wayne Manor was being rebuilt, Bruce Wayne lived in a city penthouse and centered his operations in an underground Batbunker, where he discussed Dent with his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine): "I need to know if he can be trusted." Dent was dating Bruce's childhood friend and assistant DA Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and in court prosecuting the new head of the Falcone crime family, Salvatore Maroni (Eric Roberts). Meanwhile, Wayne Enterprises decided to refuse a joint venture with Chinese accountant Lau (Ng Chin Han) of Lau Security Investments (LSI) in Hong Kong - their revenue stream was possibly "illegal." Convinced that Dent was sincere about fighting crime, Bruce decided to host a fundraiser for him.
A meeting of underworld crime bosses including Maroni, the Chechen, and African-American gang leader Gambol (Michael Jai White) was held to discuss where to protectively hide mobster money, now that US banks were targeted. Lau (by TV hookup) announced that he had already moved all mob deposits to his investment firm in Hong Kong, far away from Dent's jurisdiction and the crackdown by Lt. Gordon. [Gordon suspected that Dent had Maroni's people in his office, who tipped off the mob to move their "life savings" immediately.] The meeting was interrupted by laughter from the Joker, who proposed to kill their mutual enemy Batman - "It's simple. We, uh, kill the Batman" - in exchange for half of the Mafia's money. Gambol was incensed by the clown and challenged him with a bounty: "Five hundred grand for this clown dead." Shortly later, the Joker cleverly infiltrated through Gambol's gang into a pool hall where he threateningly told the boss about the origin of his facial scars (and his perpetual smile), and then killed Gambol - and took over his operation.
With Wayne Enterprises inventor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce prepared for their trip to Hong Kong to capture Lau and extradite him back to Gotham City for prosecution. In a nightime scene in Hong Kong after entering into the high-rise LSI building by cannonballing through the glass, Batman captured Lau, blew out the windows with sticky bombs placed earlier, and released a high-tech weather balloon into the air. A C-130 transport plane with a Skyhook device flew overhead and snagged the two of them. Back in the US when questioned by Assistant DA Rachel, Lau agreed to testify in court - and identify all of his mob clients who had pooled their money - all the mobsters could be charged as one "criminal conspiracy" - in exchange for Lau's immunity and return to Hong Kong. Over five hundred mobsters were arrested and charged with multiple counts of extortion, racketeering, fraud, conspiracy murder, and obstruction of justice.
To retaliate, the mobsters hired the "clown" Joker to eliminate Lau and to reveal Batman's identity ("Will the real Batman please stand up" - in a video-taped ultimatum, he announced: "Batman must take off his mask and turn himself in. Oh, and every day he doesn't, people will die - starting tonight"). Lt. Gordon attempted to provide protective custody for the Joker's initial targets - Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb (Colin McFarlane) and Judge Surrillo (Nydia Rodriguez Terracina), but they were murdered (by poisoning and a car bombing, respectively) - by corrupt officers in the police force. The third target was Harvey Dent - who was confronted personally by the Joker at the Bruce Wayne fund-raiser. The Joker first circled around "Harvey's squeeze" Rachel and intimidated her with a knife as he told her another version of his facial scarring. Dent escaped detection when Batman arrived - the superhero was forced to fight against the Joker's thugs and then saved Rachel when she was tossed off the side of the building.
During ceremonies to honor the fallen Comm. Loeb, Mayor Anthony Garcia (Nestor Carbonell) was the Joker's next target, but the murder plot was thwarted by Batman. As Lt. Gordon dove in front of the Mayor to protect him, he appeared to be shot in the back. [Shortly later, an unhurt Gordon went into hiding to avoid risking his family's safety.] The public was becoming weary of crime and the continual murders (the Joker couldn't be apprehended and the next to be targeted was Rachel), and pressure built for Batman to reveal himself. Dent held a press conference to convince the public to keep Batman's identity secret: "Should we give in to this terrorist's demands?" but the public clamored for the Batman to step forward. Surprisingly, Dent stepped forward and sacrificially admitted: "I am the Batman" before he was arrested - to serve as bait to draw the Joker out: "When he attacks, the Batman will take him down." The police convoy escorting Dent to the County Jail in a SWAT van was ambushed by the Joker, driving a 16-wheeler.
The chase scene was exceptional because of the wide variety of vehicles involved -- police cars, an overhead helicopter, a SWAT van, the 16-wheeler, and Batman's new wide-wheeled Batpod after his own Batmobile suffered "damage catastrophic." The copter was brought down in a fiery crash, and then there was a furious pursuit. The sequence ended with a face-off battle between the Joker in the 16-wheeler and Batman's Batpod - with the spectacular sight of the 16-wheeler flipping end over end. After crawling from the wreckage, the Joker stood in the street and challenged Batman's Batpod to hit him, when Lt. Gordon was able to put a gun to the Joker's head ("We gotcha, ya son-of-a-bitch!"). For his efforts, Gordon was appointed as the new Police Commissioner by the Mayor. However, that night as Dent and Dawes were being escorted by police, they disappeared.
Enraged, Batman interrogated the Joker in the Major Crimes Unit building - who proposed that the police escorts were working for Maroni, and that the two hostages were in warehouses on opposite sides of the city. Each was tied up and wired to oil-drum explosives with timers set to about 5 minutes - and only one could be saved by Batman ("Choose between one life or the other. Your friend the district attorney, or his blushing bride-to-be"). Batman chose to go after Rachel, while Gordon and other police went to get Dent - however, the Joker lied and had reversed locations. Meanwhile, the Joker escaped from custody (with Lau) using a planted bomb, as Batman arrived to find Dent. The DA had struggled to escape, causing his face to be half-covered with diesel fuel. When the bomb exploded, the left side of his face was hideously burned (and he adopted the name Harvey "Two Face"). Rachel perished from the detonated bomb when Gordon arrived too late to save her.
At abandoned shipyard docks in the hold of a rusted cargo ship, the Joker had piled the mob's money into a 30-foot high stack (with Lau bound at the top). The Chechen watched as the Joker set the pyre on fire - and then became the Joker's next victim (off-screen). Meanwhile, blackmailing Wayne Enterprises accountant Coleman Reese (Joshua Harto) had determined Batman's identity and went on TV threatening to reveal his secret - in response, the Joker issued an ultimatum: "I don't want Mr. Reese spoiling everything" - "If Coleman Reese isn't dead in 60 minutes, then I blow up a hospital." Police protected Reese from being eliminated, so the Joker, dressed as a nurse (with a nametag reading Matilda, the name of Ledger's real-life daughter), visited Dent in his Gotham General Hospital room, and convinced him to seek revenge against various "schemers" in his life. Dent flipped his coin - and when it came up heads - spared shooting the Joker in the head. As the Joker left, he detonated bombs in the hospital and drove off with a school bus full of evacuated hospital patients.
After recovering, Dent vengefully sought out all of his enemies, including corrupt cop Officer Wuertz (who was shot after a coin-flip came with the scarred side up), crime boss Maroni (who was killed in an overturning car crash), and Officer Ramirez (Monique Curnen). The Joker issued a chilling announcement to Gotham: "Come nightfall, this city is mine, and anyone left here plays by my rules. If you don't wanna be in the game, get out now" - this caused a massive flight from the city, although hampered by a bomb threat targeted at the city's bridges and tunnels. The only alternative for evacuation was by ferry - one, named The Liberty, was packed with released convicts in orange uniforms ("Harvey Dent's most-wanted scumbag collection"), and the other, named The Spirit, with "sweet and innocent" civilians. The Joker (located by Batman at the Prewitt building) announced his "social experiment" to the ferry riders - he had put explosives on both ferries: "Each of you has a remote to blow up the other boat...At midnight, I blow you all up. If however, one of you presses the button, I'll let that boat live. So who's it gonna be?"
Two of Gordon's SWAT teams readied themselves at the Prewitt building, where it appeared that the evacuated hospital patients were held hostage by the Joker's clown-masked henchmen. Meanwhile, Dent forced compromised Officer Ramirez to call Gordon's wife/family and lure them to the building where Rachel died - holding them as hostages at gunpoint. Batman discovered that the Joker had disguised the hostages as his own men ("The clowns are the hostages...Doctors are targets"), forcing him to fight off both the SWAT teams and the Joker's henchmen. Batman viciously fought against the Joker past the midnight deadline, with neither ferry blowing up the other. The Joker was thrown off and held suspended on the side of the building by Batman - but kept alive ("You just couldn't let me go, could you?...You truly are incorruptible, aren't you? Huh? You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness"). Batman left the Joker in the SWAT team's hands as he went to locate Dent.
Lt. Gordon found the crazed Dent in the 52nd Street warehouse, holding his family members hostage - and Batman arrived soon after. With three coin flips of chance, Dent judged everyone's innocence, including his own. Heads for Batman, although he shot him in the abdomen (protected with body armor). Heads also for Dent. When he flipped for the fate of Gordon's son, Batman saved the young boy by hurling himself at Dent and tackling him off the side of the building, where he fell to his death. Gordon feared that the citizenry of Gotham would lose hope if they knew how Dent's heroic goodness had been brought down by the Joker. Batman urged: "They must never know what he did...the Joker cannot win. Gotham needs its true hero." Batman urged Gordon to hold him responsible for the many murders: "I killed those people. That's what I can be...I'm whatever Gotham needs me to be."
In the film's epilogue, Gordon delivered Dent's eulogy at his funeral, calling him a hero ("Nothing less than a knight, shining"). As Gordon smashed the Bat-Signal with an axe, Batman said:
The film ended with Gordon and his son watching Batman flee and disappear into the darkness, to escape from a massive police sweep with dogs, and to rise another day: "Because we have to chase him" although "he didn't do anything wrong." Gordon ended the film with this voice-over:
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
A violence and action-packed superhero film based on the decades-old comic-book hero, with Christian Bale reprising his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman (in a sleeker bat-suit), and deceased co-star Heath Ledger as the villainous, ghoulish bank robber named the Joker (who tragically died shortly after the film's shoot, six months before the film's release).
Director Christopher Nolan brought his 'Batman trilogy' to a close with the eighth Batman film: The Dark Knight Rises (2012), following after his own Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008).
It was notoriously snubbed for a Best Picture Academy Award nomination, and some credit its omission with forcing the Academy to expand the number of nominees to 10 in 2009.
With eight Academy Award nominations (and two wins): Best Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger posthumously) and Best Sound Editing.
It made box office records in its first weekend, making it the biggest three-day opening weekend of all time with $158.4 million, beating the previous year's Spider-Man 3 (2007) at $151.1 million. [This record was topped by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011) at $169.1 million.] The movie set a new record for the biggest opening day gross at the box office with $67.1 million. [This record was topped by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011) at $91 million.]
Most impressively, it became only the second movie in history to break the $500 million barrier in domestic box-office, the first being James Cameron's Titanic (1997) with a domestic gross of $601 million. And it hit the $500 million mark in just over 6 weeks -- half the time it took Titanic to reach the same milestone.
The film brought in $533.3 million (domestically) and $1,004.6 million (or over $1 billion) worldwide, with a production budget of $185 million.
Also Worth Your Attention...
Lt. James Gordon
DA Harvey Dent
(Ng Chin Han)
(Michael Jai White)
Mayor Anthony Garcia
Judge Janet Surrillo
(Nydia Rodriguez Terracina)
Police Comm. Gillian B. Loeb
Officer Anna Ramirez
Series-Introduction - Index to All Films | Series-Box Office