The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight


On the heels of Batman Begins, which explores the origins of the ordinary-if-crazy-wealthy superhero, director Christopher Nolan continues to explore the dark side of the comic book story and its relationship to the world his audience is living in.

With ordinary crime—that is, crime motivated by self-interest—contained, a new and more insidious evil unleashes itself on Gotham. The conjurers of the Joker underestimate the chaotic power of pure amorality, becoming consumed themselves in a horrific game with no rules.

For Bruce Wayne, who was hoping to retire behind the face of public crime fighter Harvey Dent, the Joker represents another level of identity crisis. Is the myth of redemptive violence still true when the ends don’t justify the means? The Joker, after all, is a liar who is not a broken human being, but an archetype of evil who won’t be defeated by might or reason. For those who think they see a glimpse of his humanity, it’s usually the last thing they see.

Is there hope for Gotham in The Dark Knight? And if Nolan is indeed referencing terrorism in a post-9/11 world, is there hope for us?


Discussion Questions

With thanks to

  • A reviewer from the Montreal Film Journal writes, “The Dark Knight is an ambitious, complex, unpredictable and uncompromising morality tale that evokes the current war on terror as much as ancient Rome besieged by the barbarian invasions. Is it possible to maintain decency in an indecent world? That is the question at the heart of the film.” Do you see the allusions he references? How does the film answer that central question?
  • The film sets up Bruce Wayne, the Dark Knight, and Harvey Dent, the White Knight, as foils. If Dent is the face of hope and the hero, what is it that Gotham needs Batman to be? There's much talk about Batman being "something more" than a hero? What does that mean?
  • Bruce Wayne creates a new technology that he says is the best way to watch Gotham's criminals. Lucius Fox says, "At what cost? This is too much power for one man." How far is too far when it means protecting lives? What parallels do you see here with post-9/11 security measures in the U.S.? What do you think Nolan was trying to say about the balance between security and privacy?
  • Do you believe, as the Joker attests, that all humans will drop their morals and codes when fear rips away the established order? Explain. What's the difference between believing all men are sinful, and believing they are truly depraved if only pushed? Is there a difference?
  • What specific decision/act does the ending narration imply makes Batman into the dark knight?
  • What does the film imply about the possibility of pure evil and pure goodness? Is there any hope in the world of the film? In our world as alluded to in the film?