These anniversaries just keep sneaking up on me. A few weeks ago marked 20 years since Undertaker threw Mankind off of the Hell in a Cell structure. By the time I found out, it was far too late in the day to write anything, and once you miss it, you miss it. However, when I saw that today marked the 10th anniversary of the release of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, I simply could not let the moment pass.
I could spend quite some time talking about why this is quite possibly the best superhero movie of all time. I could spend time discussing the perfection of Heath Ledger’s Joker and the pain of the actor’s passing. I could spend time making fun of Christian Bale’s “batman voice”. But today is a day of celebration. Today I give you my personal list of the top 10 scenes in The Dark Knight.
10. “No, not me. Why are you coming for me?”
I want to say that this is on the list because of the trick Joker pulled by having Bruce think he was heading to save Rachel when he was actually headed to Harvey. I want to say that this is on the list because of Alfred’s response to the note and Bruce’s mental state. I want to say that this is on the list because that this was the birth of Two-Face. But no, this is on the list because Nolan’s trilogy desperately needed to extricate itself from the Rachel Dawes character. It’s crude, but man is it true. If that’s too dark for you then just choose one of the other reasons listed.
9. “Some men just want to watch the world burn”
A perfect description of what we know Joker to be, but especially so in Nolan’s interpretation. Heath Ledger’s Joker was as perfect a performance as one can expect to get out of a supremely talented actor being given such a profoundly unique and intriguing role. Ledger deserved his Oscar and Alfred’s explanation stands the test of time. He was the first person to recognize Joker for what he truly was… a psychopath with an appetite for destruction, chaos and anarchy unlike anything you can imagine.
8. “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”
This scene and this line in particular encapsulates Harvey Dent’s eventual transformation from Gotham’s DA and hero to a madman who may just want to watch the city burn alongside Joker when he becomes Two-Face. Some people may point at this line and say it’s cheesy, but it is easily one of the most quotable lines from the movie and is a line that will be remembered for years to come.
7. “Remember that name you all had for me…”
Ok, so this is mostly fan service. From what I remember, we didn’t really have view of Two-Face’s face until it was revealed in the movie. Even in the movie there was a decent amount of build to the ultimate reveal. I’ve watched some Batman in my day, the makeup/effects they did for Aaron Eckhart’s Two-Face is nothing short of phenomenal. This is the standard for any future live action depictions of Two-Face.
6. “What doesn’t kill you makes you… stranger”
Another nod to the internal workings of Heath Ledger’s Joker. First, the line itself is amazing. He takes a common saying and twists it with his Joker flair. But even moreso, it’s the change in the intonation of Ledger’s voice that gives the line so much power. The first part of the line is kinda soft, not necessarily full throated. But the emphasis on stranger and how he says it is simply magnificent.
5. Joker blows up the hospital
Two things, Joker making an explosion noise with his mouth while pressing the button to set off an explosion while in the building he is blowing up is just, wow. Second, legend has it that the little bit when Joker is standing outside of the hospital and there is a pause in the explosion is improv by Ledger while the crew were trying to figure out what went wrong. Be that true or not, Joker standing there tapping the detonator like, “something’s wrong” and then almost skipping on to the bus is another iconic moment in the film. Let’s not even talk about the strange Captain Jack Sparrow inspired walk that Ledger employs as he walks out of the hospital.
4. “This town deserves a better class of criminal”
More great lines from Ledger, another superbly acted scene. From the sliding down the money pile to the “I enjoy dynamite, gun powder and gasoline.” Some of the best moments in The Dark Knight are those where people realize just who they’re dealing with when it comes to Joker. It’s that twinge of shock, bewilderment and eventually fear that grips them every time. It’s one of the best running gags in the film.
3. “I don’t wanna kill you. What would I do without you?”
“Who did you leave him with? Hmmmm? Your people?”
“I don’t wanna kill you. What would I do without you?”
“You, you complete me”
“You have nothing… nothing to threaten me with…”
This is all just impeccable. I can’t even add to this. Just watch the video above.
2. “You wanna know how I got these scars?”
The two scar stories in The Dark Knight are crucial to having an overall understanding of the Joker. First off, the mere fact that he has two completely different stories for how he got the scars is interesting. Second, when you consider that both stories are equally horrifying and also tied to family means that there may actually be some family relationship as a part of the true story. Third, and most interesting is the look on his face as he tells each story – he appears equally committed to each tale while also looking as though he is simply making it up as he goes along. It makes it difficult for us the viewer to know which story or even if either story is true at all. It also goes to the core of the insanity that is Joker.
1. “Madness, as you know, is like gravity, all it takes is a little push…”
This final back and forth between Joker and Batman tells you everything you need to know about Joker’s view of their relationship. Joker truly believes there is a yin and yang to him and Batman. It also speaks to how intelligent Joker is. He had two backup plans to his main plan. He had his own detonator for the boats. He also had Two-Face as is ace in the hole. The other thing about this scene is Joker’s glee after Batman tosses him off the building. Joker fully believed that he had gotten Batman to break his one rule and thus was victorious, even if it meant his own death. He was laughing because he thought he had won, and winning meant his death. It’s insane, much like the Joker character in general.
All in all, The Dark Knight will be most remembered for an iconic, and Oscar-deserving performance of the Joker by Heath Ledger, as it should be. Almost all of the film’s best moments involve him and the core of the movie seems to revolve around him as much as Christian Bale’s Batman. It’s no wonder that it is the first live action Batman film to not include “Batman” in the title. This is essentially a Joker movie, but the villain can’t really win – even though Joker is proven right in much of the events of The Dark Knight Rises. Feel free to agree or disagree with this list or its order – if nothing else, queue up The Dark Knight on your favorite streaming service tonight and watch this masterpiece again.