Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are ranked among the greatest movies ever made. And it’s not just the greatest superhero movies ever made – they’re on lists of the finest bona fide masterpieces in the history of cinema. They’re all included on IMDb’s Top 250 list, with Batman Begins taking the number 116 spot, The Dark Knight Rises taking the number 67 spot, and The Dark Knight topping 12 Angry Men, Schindler’s List, and Pulp Fiction for the number 4 spot. So, Nolan’s achievements with the movies – especially considering he had to win back fans who were put off by George Clooney’s Bat-nipples – are pretty impressive.
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10 “He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”
Gary Oldman is the unsung hero of The Dark Knight trilogy. In fact, Mark Kermode felt he gave the strongest performance in The Dark Knight. In his review, he acknowledged that Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker was fantastic, but he felt that Oldman’s performance as Commissioner Gordon was “the best performance in the film, by a mile.” He isn’t talked about as much as the other actors, but his performance was just as nuanced as anyone else’s, shown particularly when he says, “He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So, we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector.”
9 “Let the games begin!”
Tom Hardy had his work cut out for him when he signed on to play the villain in The Dark Knight Rises. He had to find a way to top Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Ledger had been acclaimed by critics, made into a cultural icon, and awarded a posthumous Oscar for his performance.
So, living up to that couldn’t have been easy. Hardy’s Bane’s voice and mask might have been a subject of ridicule among the fan base, but however you spin it, he was far more memorable and iconic than most movie supervillains, if not as much as Ledger’s Joker.
8 “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Origin stories don’t usually make great movies, because they can rarely be rewatched. It’s hard to watch a superhero movie over and over again when the character isn’t really a superhero until the third act. They’re fun the first time around, but quickly become boring. Batman Begins doesn’t really have that problem. Being a Christopher Nolan movie, there’s still plenty to enjoy in the cinematography and editing and music and production design, even if the relatively straightforward origin-story narrative becomes stale. This Alfred quote calls back to an earlier scene in which Bruce’s father tells him, “Why do we fall, Bruce? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
7 “Madness, as you know, is a lot like gravity. All it takes is a little push.”
The Joker might be totally crazy, but he also has a lot of wisdom. It’s haunting wisdom that shocks you to your core, sure, but he has some interesting philosophies. The psychological community has been struggling to diagnose just what mental illness Heath Ledger’s Joker suffers from, because he’s mad and wants to bring the world to its knees with his fiery chaos, but he’s also acutely aware of that madness and meticulously plans a lot of his schemes. This self-awareness is seen when he says, “Madness, as you know, is a lot like gravity. All it takes is a little push.”
6 “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”
This line actually comes up a couple of times in Batman Begins. Firstly, Rachel says, “It’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.” And then later, Bruce himself says it, owning it: “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” The line essentially says that actions speak louder than words. Bruce Wayne might be a broody, tormented billionaire orphan in his private life, tortured by his own internal moral compass, but as long as he fights crime and does the right thing as Batman, he’ll be defined as a hero.
5 “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
It is often said that too many villains spoil a superhero movie. Just think of Spider-Man 3, Iron Man 2, Green Lantern, and countless other stinkers. However, if they’re used correctly, it can work wonders for the movie. The downfall of Harvey Dent is both enthralling and tragic. He starts off as an upstanding citizen who fights for good and is a hero in the eyes of the public, but after he gets corrupted by the Joker and becomes Two-Face, it’s not long before he’s just another sinister villain bent on creating chaos. He foreshadows his own fall from grace with this line.
4 “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
There’s nothing particularly wrong with how Jeremy Irons has been playing Alfred Pennyworth in the DC Extended Universe, but he hasn’t made nearly as much of an impact as Michael Caine did in The Dark Knight trilogy. Caine’s Alfred wasn’t just the guy who got Batman’s vehicles ready or brought him his dinner at the right time. Caine played Alfred as a guy who promised the couple he worked for that he would keep their son safe after they died, and then felt tormented as he watched that son go into a life of caped vigilantism. In other words, Michael Caine played Alfred as a real guy with real emotions.
3 “You think darkness is your ally.”
One of the most iconic moments in the history of the Batman comics is the time Bane broke Batman’s back. He picked him up and then slammed his back down on his knee to break it. In the comics, this established just how powerful Bane was. Christopher Nolan took note of this and used it in his own movie. It wasn’t simply a way to tease the comic book readers – it was thrown in to evoke the same mood as the comic. He talks a lot about darkness: “You think darkness is your ally. You’ve merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was a man, and by then, it was only blinding.”
2 “I never said, ‘Thank you.’” “And you’ll never have to.”
This line sums up the Batman character pretty perfectly. The Caped Crusader doesn’t take to the streets of Gotham City and fight crime to be thanked. He doesn’t want Commissioner Gordon to sing his praises to the city and shower him with all kinds of medals and awards for his work.
He merely wants Commissioner Gordon to cooperate with him and work towards cleaning up the crime-ridden streets of Gotham, and the great thing about Gordon is that he’s willing to bend the rules just enough to allow Batman to do his thing. That’s thanks enough, as far as Batman is concerned.
1 “Why so serious?”
Heath Ledger plays the Joker’s whole “Why so serious?” monologue with a captivating level of psychopathy that dares you to look away: “You wanna know how I got these scars? My father was a drinker, and a fiend. And one night, he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy grabs the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn’t like that. Not. One. Bit. So, me watching, he takes the knife to her, laughing while he does it. He turns to me and says, ‘Why so serious?’ He comes at me with the knife. ‘Why so serious?’ Sticks the blade in my mouth. ‘Let’s put a smile on that face!’”