AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Dark Knight
Director: Christopher Nolan (Dir)
Release Date:   18 Jul 2008
Duration (in mins):  152
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Cast: Christian Bale  (Bruce Wayne [also known as Batman, The Dark Knight])
  Heath Ledger  (Joker)
  Aaron Eckhart  (Harvey Dent [also known as Two-Face])

Summary: In a perfectly timed and executed bank robbery in Gotham City, a grotesquely made-up criminal named the Joker comes to the attention of vigilante superhero Batman. Despite strong public support for Batman throughout Gotham, police consider his tactics illegal and seek his identity and whereabouts. On the evening of the robbery, Batman meets police Lt. Jim Gordon at the bank where detective Anna Ramirez has found security camera footage of the Joker. When Gordon, who is a secret ally, reveals that the bank housed mob money, Batman asks Gordon if he trusts new district attorney Harvey Dent. The next morning, wealthy playboy and business man Bruce Wayne, known only to a very few as the real identity of Batman, meets with his lifelong friend and valet, Alfred Pennyworth, in his secret control center underneath the Wayne Enterprises building. There they watch a video of Harvey with Bruce’s childhood friend and former love, assistant D.A., Rachel Dawes. After Harvey and Rachel spend the day in court prosecuting mob head Salvatore Maroni, Gordon meets Harvey, who demands to know why Batman remains at large and why Gordon’s team includes so many agents under investigation for corruption. Gordon asks for Harvey’s trust and praises the principled D.A. as Gotham’s “White Knight.” Across the city, at Wayne Enterprises, business manager and research head Lucius Fox confides to Bruce his unease with a venture between Wayne and Lau Security Investments. That evening, when Bruce and his date run into Harvey and Rachel, Bruce offers to throw Harvey a fund raiser. A few days later, mob leaders hold a teleconference with Mr. Lau, their Hong Kong financial adviser, who suggests they allow him to protect their money then admits that he already has stolen it. The teleconference is interrupted by the arrival of the Joker, who after accusing the mob leaders of being afraid of Batman, offers to rid Gotham of the masked crusader for fifty per cent of the mob’s funds. That night, as Gordon and Harvey meet with Batman to argue about Lau absconding with the mob’s millions and exchange accusations that their respective offices are corrupt, Batman vows to return Lau to Gotham City. Meanwhile, in order to frighten the mob, the Joker boldly kills a mob leader in his own territory. Soon after, Bruce secretly accompanies Lucius to Hong Kong where Lucius surreptitiously plants a sonar device in the Lau Security building, then meets with Lau to inform him that the co-venture has been canceled. That night, Batman uses the sonar device to locate Lau, then spirits him away in a daring escape. Back in Gotham, Rachel questions Lau, who agrees to reveal information on the mob members’ locations. Delighted, Harvey has Gordon arrest 549 mobsters. Later, while Harvey and Gordon meet Mayor Anthony Garcia in his office, a dead body dressed in a Batman costume slams against the outside window. Found on the body is a video showing the dead man’s murder by the Joker. The video ends with the Joker’s demand that until Batman turns himself in, someone will die every day. The next evening at the Wayne Enterprises penthouse fund raiser for Harvey, Bruce calls the D.A. Gotham’s “bright future.” Back at police headquarters, Ramirez tells Gordon that DNA tests on the joker playing card found on the Batman double’s body matches that of Judge Surillo, Commissioner Loeb and Harvey. Realizing that these are the Joker’s next victims, Gordon orders protection sent to the judge’s home and hurries to Loeb’s office to warn him, but he is too late. Within a few moments, Surillo dies in a car explosion, and Loeb unwittingly sips poisoned whiskey in front of Gordon. Back at Bruce's penthouse, after Rachel evades answering Harvey’s marriage proposal, Bruce drags the D.A. to a safe location before hurrying away to don his specially crafted Batman suit. After the Joker bursts into the fundraiser in search of Harvey, Batman appears and the men fight until the Joker grabs Rachel and flings her out the window. Using the powerful wings on his suit, Batman leaps after Rachel and breaks her fall. The next day, as Batman reflects upon the latest murders, Alfred cautions him that the Joker may not desire any tangible spoils, but rather glory in sowing chaos. That evening, the Joker tips off Gordon and Batman where to find two dead men in clown make-up and the crime scene contains clues indicating that Harvey and the mayor are future targets. Examining the scene, Batman removes a section of wall pierced by a bullet, and with Lucius's assistance digitally reconstructs the bullet's casing, complete with a fingerprint. The following morning, as the public funeral procession for Loeb commences, Bruce races to the address of the man matched to the casing fingerprint. At an empty apartment overlooking the funeral services, Bruce finds several bound and gagged policemen stripped of their uniforms. Just as Bruce realizes that the Joker and his henchman have taken the places of the police funeral escort, the officers, made up of the Joker without his trademark makeup, and his henchmen, fire a traditional rifle salute. When the shooting abruptly becomes random, Gordon throws himself protectively over the mayor, but is himself shot and killed. In the subsequent chaos, an outraged Harvey confronts one of the Joker's disguised men and finds his police name tag, which lists Rachel as the next victim. Later that evening, Batman locates Maroni in a nightclub and demands to know the location of the Joker. After Batman stops Harvey from attacking the henchman, he demands that Harvey give a press conference at which Batman will give himself up. At his penthouse, Bruce discusses his plan with Rachel, who has taken Harvey’s advice to hide there, but doubts Bruce’s sacrifice will stop the Joker’s rampage. When Bruce asks Rachel if she would resume their relationship once he gives up being Batman, Rachel says yes, but points out that circumstances would never allow them to be together. Although Alfred urges Bruce to “endure” as Batman, at the news conference the next day, Bruce remains determined to give himself up. When the crowd of spectators and reporters demand Batman’s surrender, however, Harvey abruptly declares that he is Batman and promptly is taken into custody. Watching the news in the penthouse, Rachel is angered that Bruce does not intercede, but Alfred suggests that Batman is attempting to be more than a hero. Before hurrying off to see Harvey, Rachel gives Alfred a note for Bruce and asks him to pass it on “when the time is right.” Despite Rachel’s pleas to Harvey not to serve as bait for the Joker, Harvey insists on going through with a transfer to the county jail facilities and leaves Rachel his lucky two-headed coin. As the van carrying Harvey drives through Gotham, the Joker and his men attack the police escort cars and fire on the police van. Batman, following the convoy in his specially equipped automobile, attempts to cut off the Joker's semi-truck but crashes and is forced to resume the pursuit in his distinctive motorcycle. After the Joker's men bring down a police helicopter, Batman shoots steel cables around the semi’s front axel and securing the line around several lamp posts, flips the truck. Dazed, the Joker survives the crash only to be arrested by Gordon, who is alive and had faked his death to lure the Joker into the open. After the mayor promotes Gordon to commissioner, Gordon and Batman interrogate the Joker, who implies that both the police and city hall are corrupt. The Joker then taunts Batman by insisting that Batman will always fail because he is restrained by an empty social and moral code. When the Joker reveals that he has kidnapped both Rachel and Harvey, and holds each at separate locations, he challenges Batman to make a choice of whom to rescue. The Joker then misdirects Batman and Gordon to the warehouse locations of Harvey and Rachel, resulting in Batman racing to Rachel, only to discover Harvey, who has been tied to a chair, surrounded by oil barrels and a timed explosive device. As Batman pulls Harvey away, the explosives detonate causing the left side of Harvey’s face, which has been covered by oil, to catch fire. Meanwhile, unable to reach Rachel in time, Gordon and his men watch in horror as the warehouse where she is bound, blows up. At the same time, the Joker, who has placed an explosive inside the body of one of his jailed henchmen, uses his allotted telephone call to trigger the device and escapes during the chaos of the explosions’ aftermath. The following morning at Wayne Enterprises, Alfred secretly reads Rachel’s note, which declares that she loves Harvey and intends to marry him as she believes that Bruce will never give up his Batman persona. When a grieving Bruce tells Alfred that he is certain Rachel would have returned to him in time, Alfred decides not to give him the note and destroys it. Some time later, at Gotham General hospital, Harvey awakens to learn of Rachel’s death when Gordon visits bearing his lucky coin which, like Harvey, is severely burned on one side. Gordon reveals that they have learned that the Joker blackmailed Ramirez and detective Wuertz into giving up Harvey and Rachel. A little later, the Joker interrupts a television news interview with Reese to declare that he will blow up one of Gotham’s hospitals if Reese remains alive. Although Gordon immediately orders all the hospitals evacuated and places Reese under protection, the Joker reaches Gotham General where, disguised as a nurse, he makes his way to Harvey’s room and goads him by pointing out the weakness of society to deal with brutal crime. Leaving the hospital, the Joker sets off numerous bombs, destroying the buildings. Nearby, Bruce, who has helped Gordon protect Reese, worries if Harvey was safely evacuated. The Joker then publicly announces his intention to take over Gotham and although urging the public to flee, hints that he has already sabotaged the bridges and tunnels leading out of the city. While Gordon, the police force and military investigate the bridges and tunnels, Harvey, demented by grief and pain after being set free by the Joker, locates Wuertz in a bar and shoots him. The mayor orders the city ferry system be used to evacuate Gotham residents, including prisoners, which include the mob’s men. While Harvey next confronts and kills Maroni, the Joker radios two ferry boats, one carrying regular citizens, the other carrying the prison’s criminals, and reveals that both ships have been wired to explode by midnight. Each ship also has a detonator to destroy the other ship and if used, the Joker vows to spare that ship. Continuing on his vendetta, Harvey uses Ramirez to take Gordon’s wife and son hostage. At Wayne Enterprises, Batman asks Lucius to help him locate the Joker, revealing that he has applied Lucius’ sonar technology to Gotham’s telephone system to create a vast sonar web. Although angered that his technology is being subverted, Lucius agrees to help. As the situation on the ferry boats becomes tense, Lucius and his sonar device locate the Joker in a building overlooking the harbor, after which Gordon, Batman and various SWAT teams convene on a neighboring high rise. As midnight approaches, Gordon and the others spot a group of kidnapped hospital evacuees positioned with clown masked guards in the windows of the building held by the Joker. Believing Harvey may be one of the hospital hostages, Gordon refuses Batman’s request to help, but Batman descends onto the top of the building using his costume’s wings as a glider. Then, using sonar goggles, Lucius is able to guide him remotely through the building which is now teaming with SWAT members, hostages and the Joker’s henchmen. While Batman incapacitates the SWAT members and gangsters, Gordon receives a call from Harvey revealing that he is holding his wife and son. Batman then confronts the Joker on the building’s top floor and the men battle. As midnight strikes, neither the prisoners nor the citizens will destroy the other ferry, forcing the disappointed Joker to struggle for his detonator, thus allowing Batman to throw him off the building. When Batman then catches the Joker with a cable and hoists him back up, the Joker reveals that he still has triumphed because he has corrupted the soul of Gotham’s White Knight by turning Harvey into a murderer. Meeting Harvey at the remains of the building where Rachel died, Gordon pleads with him to spare his wife and child, but Harvey blames him for Rachel’s death. Batman arrives as Harvey is threatening Gordon’s son. After flipping his defaced lucky coin, Harvey then shoots Batman. Despite Gordon’s fervent apology, Harvey is about to kill the boy, when Batman, saved by his new bullet-repelling suit, revives and tackles Harvey, sending them both over the edge of the building. After Gordon rushes below, he finds Harvey dead and Batman stunned. Gordon later thanks the battered Batman but laments that the Joker has indeed won as all Harvey’s good works will be forgotten when the people of Gotham learn of his murder spree. Batman however, declares that no one will ever know of Harvey’s actions, vowing to take the blame for the murders himself to maintain Harvey’s image as Gotham’s true hero and “White Knight.” 

Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Company: Legendary Pictures, Inc.
Syncopy Productions
DC Comics
Director: Christopher Nolan (Dir)
  Nilo Otero (1st asst dir)
  Brandon Lambdin (2d asst dir)
  Richard Graysmark (2d asst dir)
  Sarah MacFarlane (2d asst dir)
  Jessica Franks (Addl 2d asst dir)
  Stefan Rand (Visual eff addl 2d asst dir)
  Greg Pawlik (2d 2d asst dir)
  Clare Glass (3rd asst dir)
  Andy Mannion (3rd asst dir)
Producer: Emma Thomas (Prod)
  Charles Roven (Prod)
  Christopher Nolan (Prod)
  Benjamin Melniker (Exec prod)
  Michael E. Uslan (Exec prod)
  Kevin De La Noy (Exec prod)
  Thomas Tull (Prod)
  Jordan Goldberg (Assoc prod)
  Philip Lee (Line prod, Hong Kong)
Writer: Jonathan Nolan (Scr)
  Christopher Nolan (Scr)
  Christopher Nolan (Story)
  David S. Goyer (Story)

Subject Major: Criminals
  Impersonation and imposture
  Police commissioners
Subject Minor: Assassination
  Automobile accidents
  Bank robberies
  District attorneys
  Family life
  Hong Kong
  Missing persons, Assumed dead
  Unrequited love

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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