The 10 Best Things About Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy

Published 2 years ago by , Updated July 28th, 2012 at 1:47 pm, This is a list post.

10 Best Things About Nolan's Batman Trilogy

Batman Stands Alone in Batman Begins In 1997, the Batman saga seemed to jump the shark when George Clooney donned the bat suit in the critically-reviled film Batman & Robin. After four films in that series - featuring three different actors as the Caped Crusader- the franchise seemed to have nowhere to go. It was difficult to imagine then that Batman would soon be revitalized in a new series of films that were both commercially successful and critically-praised. But that changed in 2005 when Christian Bale put on the suit, Chris Nolan stood behind the camera and a new franchise was born with Batman Begins. Now, it's hard - especially for young people - to imagine Batman movies without Nolan behind the camera. Seven years after Begins hit theaters, the trilogy reached its inevitable conclusion with the release of The Dark Knight Rises (Read our review). With that in mind, we decided to list the 10 best things about this unforgettable trilogy of films.

The Themes

Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight Superhero movies are often seen as popcorn flicks. Viewers enter the theater to be entertained and a great superhero film can do that. But Nolan's Batman films were deeper and more thoughtful than that. Each of them was entertaining, but the movies spoke to something deeper about the human spirit. They struggled with profound themes such as heroism, honor and integrity. District Attorney Harvey Dent was a prime example of this. A public icon who stood for clean streets and ethical superiority became a vengeful monster when his loved one was murdered. But even after his death, Dent's legacy was maintained by those who thought to serve a greater good. The idea of hiding the truth about a political icon in order to maintain public morale, while undermining a true hero's innocence, was a fine example of how the Nolan's films took on deep concepts and made them a core part of the franchise.

The Tone

Batman and Bodies in the Dark Knight Rises Many of the previous Batman films were dark affairs. Tim Burton's films presented Gotham as a cold and dark town with seedy characters and an ugly underbelly. But Nolan's films took the darkness even deeper. Never descending into silliness or caricature, these movies maintained a serious tone even as other superhero movies offered more light-hearted fare. Nolan understood the solemnity associated with the story of a man who witnessed his parents get murdered and sought  vengeance against his city's criminal masterminds. These Batman movies were a far cry from movies like The Fantastic Four and the Spider-Man films - and yet, they succeeded despite offering up stories and issues that were far more serious in nature.

The Boldness

Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight In the latest episode of the Screen Rant Underground Podcast, Kofi Outlaw noted how shocking Rachel Dawes' death was in The Dark Knight. Dawes, an important supporting player in the first two films, was Bruce Wayne's on-again, off-again love interest. Few writers would dare to kill off such a character, and even fewer would dare to do it in the middle of a movie. But TDK showed that the filmmakers were willing to do anything to tell a good story. It was hard not to be surprised when Dawes was killed, but it was difficult not to be impressed with how Nolan used that tragedy to transform both Dent and Wayne into even more troubled figures. There were several other notable tragedies in this trilogy, but Rachel Dawes' death was the most interesting; killing off such a vital character set in motion a series of events that made this trilogy even more profound than it would have been, otherwise.

The Acting

Christian Bale and Michael Caine in the Dark Knight Rises From Batman Begins onward, it was hard not to be impressed by the A-list cast that Nolan brought to the series. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine (two Oscar-winning actors known for long and brilliant careers) accepted small roles in all three films, playing technological genius Lucius Fox and butler Alfred Pennyworth, respectively. Nolan was also lucky to get a leading man like Christian Bale, a highly-acclaimed character actor who won an Oscar for his performance in The Fighter (2010).  Also on board for the entire series was acclaimed thespian Gary Oldman, who played the small but pivotal role of Commissioner Gordon, Batman's unlikely ally. There were dozens of other highly-acclaimed  actors who took on roles in the series, including Liam Neeson, Tom Wilkinson, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard. It's hard to argue with a cast like that, and many of these actors delivered some of their best performances in these films.

The Villains

Heath Ledger as the Joker One of the greatest things about this entire franchise was the Oscar-worthy performance of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. The Joker was portrayed convincingly by Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie, but Ledger took the character to a whole different level, replacing Nicholson's manic character with a psychopath intent on showing the darkness that lies in each of us. Ledger posthumously won the Academy Award for his brilliant performance and created one of the greatest cinematic villains that's ever existed. Of course, Liam Neeson and Tom Hardy took respective turns as the murderous thugs in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, and both created solid characters, but it was Ledger's performance alone that created a new breed of cinematic villain.

The Direction

Christopher Nolan Directing Christoper Nolan is an imaginative and intriguing director. In movies like Memento and Insomnia, he told complex stories with strong thoughtful characters. Despite using some of the same concepts in his films, Nolan's movies are always worth talking about and debating. From Batman Begins on, the auteur redefined what a superhero movie can be. He showed us that they can be serious, high-class affairs that combine special effects and action sequences with discussions about passionate ideas and values. The filmmaker created a series of films that comic book fans can enjoy alongside general audiences and critics, who often look down upon the genre. Even though Batman's cinematic saga isn't over, and someone will likely soon take over the franchise, it will be difficult for the next set of films to creatively stand up against Nolan's trilogy.

The Main Character

Christian Bale and the Batman Suit Bruce Wayne, the flawed but self-sacrificing character at the heart of the franchise, is a complex and deep character, and Nolan's films presented him as the type of hero he was born to be. With superhero films, viewers are often presented with noble good guys fighting crazy bad guys to save the world, but Wayne's mission was more nuanced than that. He was simply a scarred young man hoping to avenge the brutal murder of his parents.  The feelings of insecurity and loss associated with that traumatic event led him to don a mask in order to protect Gotham from the thieves and monsters who threatened it. Even while he wore the cape and cowl, he was still a reluctant hero who in TDK  found relief  in the fact that a politician represented to Gotham a new breed of hero who didn't need to wear a mask in order to create order in the city. Those hopes faded, but the idea that Wayne wasn't a typical hero never did.

The Relationships

Christian Bale and Gary Oldman Batman would not be such a successful hero if it were not for his trio of allies who have looked out for him - sometimes begrudgingly - throughout the series. Those allies were Lucius Fox, Alfred Pennyworth and Jim Gordon. The relationships that Wayne/Batman shared with each of these characters helped him become an unlikely hero. From Gordon's trust in him in Batman Begins to Fox's support for him (despite their ethical disagreements) in The Dark Knight,  to Alfred's overt affection for him in Dark Knight Rises, these characters proved that the Caped Crusader couldn't be a hero without having his friends stand by him. Although none of these characters was ever the main focus of the story, their supporting turns provided much of the series' heart. Of course, these characters were created by strong actors, who allowed them serve an equally strong purpose throughout the trilogy.

The Special Effects

Special Effects in The Dark Knight Rises As previously noted, director Chris Nolan knows how to tell a great story on film. But in a superhero film, he was also expected to include some special effects - especially during the action sequences. And in all three films, Nolan proved up to the task. The explosions and effects in these movies never felt over-the-top and obnoxious. They were oftentimes more restrained and powerful than the effects in other, similar, features. With the bridge explosion in Dark Knight Rises, for instance, the effect wasn't to blow up the bridge in a flashy, Michael Bay style. The explosion was more subtle and clear, making it far less cartoonish and far more realistic. Such effects helped make the destruction that occurs in all three films more sobering than they would have been, otherwise.

The Completeness

Christopher Nolan and the Bat Signal Dark Knight Rises was, unfortunately, Chris Nolan's final Batman film. The director has proclaimed repeatedly that this was his final film about the Caped Crusader and even penned a goodbye letter to the series. In TDKR, that finality was clear. Nolan just wasn't making the film in order to end his partnership with the franchise; he made it to end his franchise completely. Without spoiling anything, TDKR focuses a lot on the ideas and characters that were presented in the first film. As noted in our list of  facts you should know before seeing TDKR, seeing Batman Begins and its sequel beforehand is necessary to appreciate  the third film for what it is: the final chapter in a well-plotted trilogy. Not only did Nolan wrap up Batman's story's, he used the final movie to question many of the actions in the earlier films, leaving viewers to remember how well these chapters work together as a complete series.

10 Best Things about the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy

The Dark Knight Trilogy Poster (Fan-Made) The Dark Knight Rises is the end of what many fans believe is one of the best trilogies of all time. In three chapters, director Christoper Nolan told the story of how Bruce Wayne became the Caped Crusader and how that affected who he was and what he eventually became. It was a masterful series of films that will not soon be forgotten. One can only hope that the next director to helm a Batman film appreciates and builds off of Nolan's brilliant legacy. Here, again, is our list of the 10 best things about Nolan's Batman trilogy.
  1. The Themes: Thoughtful Ideas to Ponder in a Superhero Movie
  2. The Tone: A serious setting for a serious story
  3. The Boldness: 'Darkness before the Dawn'
  4. The Acting: A-List Actors all around
  5. The Villains: Unforgettable Antagonists
  6. The Direction: A Filmmaker with a Vision
  7. The Complexity of Bruce Wayne: A Complicated Hero
  8. The Relationships: Wayne's Strongest Allies
  9. The Special Effects: A Visually-Engaging Film Series
  10. The Completeness : A Finite Story with a Clear Beginning and End
For more news on Batman and my thoughts on this remarkable series of films, follow me on Twitter @johnhanlon.
TAGS: batman, batman begins, the dark knight, the dark knight rises


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  1. I vote for bringing Batman back in ‘Justice League’ and make him sorta like the shadow. The other characters hear his voice the audience sees him in action and he remains a mystery for a while. He’s the power in the darkness that none of the other DC characters are, at least not the core characters anyway. So leave him there in that domain. Perhaps that’s another way of handling the Justice League story. Each hero is defined by what no other can do so why not do it, at least a first story that showcases each to get a different part of a larger goal accomplished.

  2. Just saw TDKR for the second time. Someone was smoking in the theatre. Who does that? I’m am very thankful and proud to not be so addicted to something that I can’t withhold from doing it for more than 2 hours. Batman would be so disappointed. He escaped from an inescapable prison after three months of physical and mental torture, but someone can’t hold back the jitters for a couple of hours. How rude.

  3. IMAX…..TDKR is a see must in “true” IMAX if at all possible. That’s one of the best n innovative aspects that Nolan brought out in the triogly. In TDK when he shot the stuff in the Toyko extraction n the truck flip scenes in IMAX n it went full screen… truly epic at the time. Now u get over a hundred mins in TDKR….not cheap or lazy

    • Saw it in IMAX the first time. No smokers. People who go to IMAX theatres to see movies are quality human beings who care about film. I don’t think anyone even talked during the IMAX screening. Reverential is what they were. People during the screening I just got back from were a bunch of knuckle draggers. Serves me right. Anyone who would go to that movie for the first time after a week is not someone who is very interested in the trilogy. They just want to smoke, rabble rouse, debauch, curfuffle, lollygag, and fraternize.

      • i dont understand your post. are you saying that if i go see TDKR this coming tuesday, that i don’t care about the movie? excuse me for having a life that doesn’t revolve completely around movies. i’m supporting my family and cant always afford to go see a movie on opening day, especially an imax upcharge. tuesdays are cheap prices all day, so i guess i will be dragging my knuckles on the way to the film, along with all the other curfufflers

      • For some reason, I think you wrote this post just so you could use all of the words in the last sentence. To label people who haven’t seen TDKR after a whopping week has passed is rather like a napalm-bombing offensive statement :P

        I’m sorry your recent viewing wasn’t as awesome as your IMAX occasion but I promise to go see it as soon as I get off my second job that I work from 11pm to 7 am and every weekend.

        • I love this series and unfortunately I haven’t been able to see the film at all since it premiered. Does that make me a rude moviegoer and not-a-fan of the film series? No it doesn’t. While I am dissapointed to have not seen the film I realize that I do not have enough time or money to catch the movie, and far less in IMAX which is the format that I want to see. So please refrain from making such general assumption.

          • Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to feed the troll?

  4. First; Joseph Gordon Levitt was named Robin. It would be really stupid of him to use his real name as a concealer for his true identity as a crime fighter. He is either meant to be Batman ala Batman Beyond, or Night Wing.

    Second, Christopher Nolan has done many things consistently throughout the series. Namely being only showing the title once it has happened. Batman Begins at the end of the movie since he really begins. Dark Knight at the end of the movie since it’s the first time he is mentioned as such. And Dark Knight Rises because the story, while being about Bruce, wasn’t about Bruce. It was about setting up the character for the future. It’s my take on it all.

    Third, this article is really good. I’m glad to see people liking the film. It is much better understanding what happens in the lesser known Batman Begins.

    • If I’m not mistaken,Nolan has shown the title only at the end of all of his movies,not just Batman.I think it’s one of his signatures as a director.

      I love Nolan’s vision for Batman,but I think that the article might be overlooking some aspects of his shortcomings as a storyteller.I think the overall plot of each film are great,but one of Nolan’s weaknesses in this series is putting together the finer details.

      For instance,probably the weakest subplots in TDK,is the whole reconstructing of the bullet fragment and later finding the police officers tied up.The whole thing was pretty convoluted and confusing.Also,there are some really bad edits in that scene as well.

      In TDKR,the robbery scene of the Gotham Board of Trade was good in theory,but again got bogged down in being a bit convoluted and the fact that it went from being broad daylight outside to pitch black in the span of nine minutes(movie time) is probably one of the worst time compressed scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

      Oddly enough,movies like Memento and Inception show that he has a great ability to not make those mistakes when directing.

      Don’t mistake my comments for being a hater of the Batman series,because I’ve loved every one of them,I’m being more critical of the article by bring to light some of the shortcomings of the series.

      • When Blake gets hit with an explosion while driving his car, your can see the pink/purple air bag used to flip cars old school style. While some finer details are noticeable to some, to the average film goer these details flash by with the brain never taking notice. This is what really qualifies Nolan as a great film maker, knowing when he can (time and space) cut corners and when he can’t (character development, story). I still have trouble with Batman nuking the fridge even if he is the god damn Batman, escape fixed or not.

        • escape POD fixed or not… i need to start proof reading my s***.

      • The Title appears in the beginning in Insomnia, The Prestige, Memento etc.
        The Title appearing in the end HOLDS significance.

        • Not trying to troll or anything,but what significance does that have? Chronologically speaking,one could make the argument that the title appears at the end of Memento,since the beginning of the movie is chronologically the end.Insomnia is his only movie that I don’t own,so I couldn’t check it like I just did the other two movies,and you right,they are at the start of those movies.

          Anyway,I think for the Batman series and Inception it’s more because it’s esthetically better for those movies to have the titles at the end than the beginning,and nothing more than that.

          • Longshanks,

            Now that I think of it, It’s as if Nolan showed what the title of the previous part described, in the following sequel.

  5. Awesome list John. Can’t say I was really shocked when Racheal died… nor did I feel sad or anything, but that’s probably just because I don’t like Maggie Gyllenhaal ;)
    Anywho, there were definitely other bold moments so I still agree about all 10 things mentioned.

    I would have added Zimmer’s score to the list as well and the fact this this was one of the very few trilogies in history that put out 3 very well received (i.e. good/great) films. Most franchises mess up with the sequel or sequel to the sequel, but IMO Nolan just kept improving the franchise after every film…

    • @ The Avenger

      I agree. There’s not very many whole trilogies i enjoyed & own on dvd. Imo it’s the 2nd sequel that really tests a director whether he wants to only make a trilogy or have the franchise keep goin. From there all bets are off on each sequel. Till this day i know they’re horror films, but it amazes me how many sequels Halloween,Nightmare On Elm Street & Friday The 13th spawned. I know they all had numberous directors, low-budget films, etc. Apparently they were that popular back then,still are. Zimmer’s score was only great in Batman Begins imo.

      • Wallwest,

        I liked Hans Zimmer in pretty much every movie he co-operates with. BTW, have you heard ‘A Storm Is Coming’,’Gotham’s Reckoning’, ‘Mind If I cut In’, ‘Underground Army’. Those were the ones among others more that I really liked.

        But ‘Imagine The Fire’ simply blew me away. It’s fast, furious and larger than life.

        • @ Amol

          Hans Zimmer is good but im not all familiar with all hsi work. Few Composers that are amongst my favorites are James Horner, John Williams, Danny Elfman aswell others. I have heard those themes. One of my favorites from Batman Begins score is ‘Molossus’. The theme that plays as Batman & Rachel are in the Tumbler gettin chased by police as they make it the Batcave.

          When Bruce & Selina are dancing in TDKR, i had the song ‘Face To Face’ in my head as that whole scene reminds me of Keaton/Pheiffer’s dance at Shreck’s costume party in Batman Returns.

  6. A typical ‘naysayer/hater’ opinion would be:

    “I know all these are pretty genuine opinions, BUT…since Nolan’s Joker did not fall into the chemical vat like in the story, that’s the biggest reason this series is pretentious. So what if Nolan got the Joker’s nature as perfect as could be in the comics ??? I simply say: NO to this series because of…the absence of that chemical vat.

    See? State of denial is a necessity for the naysayers and haters of Nolan to maintain their imaginary peace of mind.

  7. What? A positive article about regarding The Dark Knight Rises?! Wow. These are hard to come by these days. Thanks.

  8. Good list of reasons, but i can’t agree with the last one. With out including joker in the 3rd movie this is not a complete series. Of course, we know its a hard thing to do given the tragedy of heath’s death, but the sad truth is that the series is incomplete with out him. Although it ties up a lot of themes and ideas from the 1st movie, everything about the joker in the 2nd movie was completely untouched. And joker’s character defined that movie. His last words? ‘were destined to do this forever?’ and we never see him again. Nolans story of Batman, although great, is sadly far from complete. But this is all well get….

    • The Joker was awesome but Ledger is dead and the plot of TDKR didn’t require Joker’s presence. Think of what happened to Hannibal Lecter and Michael Myers and others. The more movies they were in the less effective they became. I just take that “destined” line as a nod to the fact that these two characters have been mortal enemies throughout all the various versions/continuities for 70 years and will continue to do so long after this series is discontinued. The trilogy feels complete to me.

  9. Nolan does a good job trying to build thematic continuity with the earlier films, especially Batman Begins. The film explores the crucially important questions of what is the right way to respond to injustice and where should humanity look for hope to save ourselves from evil. I’m looking at these questions from the film on my own blog.

  10. After the notorious unbankability, questionable cooked box-office, and historically insurmountable waves of heinous murderous criminal activity of the “Nolan Darknight” revision of Batman there seems to be a growing call to bring the original or earlier Batman we all know and love back to the screen, such as in a grand Justice League series treatment. IMAGINE, Justice League on the BIG SCREEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 8D

  11. A well written piece. It explains perfectly why I loved the Dark Knight trilogy.

    Essentially, it’s a contemporary, adult oriented movie about a superhero. I don’t like to call it a comic book movie; it’s something else entirely, making it unique.

    IMHO, the next director of this series will have large shoes to fill.

  12. Im sure the shoes will be well fitted if Nolan will be producing the reboot.

    • Doubtful. From what I’ve read, Nolan wants nothing to do with Justice League, and appears to be done with Batman (with Rises being his swan song piece).

      Other than Superman 2013, I think he may be done with the superhero genre. Regardless, I look forward to any other films he’s involved with.

      • @ chetc

        I guess we’ll see. If not Chris Nolan, WB/DC may try to keep his brother & David S. Goyer to take his place. Fans of Nolan have said it themselves really & im sure WB/DC will try to keep the three of them involved in any upcoming future CBM project. After Superman, we know more.

        • Ah, good point!

          Forgot about his brother and David Goyer.

  13. This Nolan Trilogy is perhaps the best series making TRUE justice to a comics character and displaying him, as he is, in the critically-acclaimed story-books.

    • @ Amol

      With all due respect, imo neither Burton,Schumacher & Nolan done True Complete justice to Batman. Even though they never made live-action films, id like to think Bruce Timm, Paul Dini & Co. came the closest to the character. Everyone is entitled to their opinion of-course.

  14. So, everywhere you go they hate Nolan and the Nolan Batman Knight series… except for 5 lone posters here on ScreenRant. I see… Hmmm… Interesting… LOL You guys must be the Nolan Knight optimist club. HAHA

    • My mistake. It’s actually more like 3 or more 2-and-a-half lone posters. But, it’s still curious. Maybe.

  15. Am I the only one that feels that Cillian Murphy’s brilliant portrayal of Scarecrow/Dr. Crane has been left in the dark here!? In my opinion he was one of the better villains and his portrayal of Crane’s particular psychosis was on par with Heath Ledger’s Joker.

    • I always felt that Scarecrow was such a minor character in this series and in the comic books. Maybe that’s why people haven’t said anything about the character (nor the actor that plays him).

    • Scarecrow…. Scarecrow… Come here Worzel Gummidge

  16. Saw it on IMAX it was a good experience I enjoy the film to say the least. The back story in the trilogy was accurate Best Trilogy of all time by far. NOLAN is brilliant he did a great job I`d say give him an Oscar. I am only hoping for the next Director to take notes and don’t ruin this fantastic character known as Bruce Wayne/Batman there is more to tell I believe and will love to see more characters. JUSTICE LEAGUE will be awesome for BATMAN no doubt about that

  17. This movie was TO DIE FOR. Had a killer ending, not the kind of movie people died of laughter watching, however it had killer graphics.

  18. and i saw it in colorado so it left me and my friends bloody satysfied!

  19. This is truly my new favorite film trilogy and IMO leagues above the competition in the same genre. Hoping that Man of Steel will continue this new trend of “Superhero” movies.

  20. not to mention, the fight choreo!!!

  21. Without doubt, the greatest trilogy of movies ever. Just edges The Godfather trilogy IMO.

    Christopher Nolan is a genius. And he is English – meaning he does not go over the top just to impress Hollywood!

  22. I was gravely disappointed with all three movies.
    Not ONE of them viewed the appearance of Batman’s worst villain:
    “The Condiment King”
    Ugh. Travesty. xD
    And since everything has been said praising this amazing trilogy, I will leave you with (IMO) my favorite three understated comedic lines/moments from each movie which I have not heard many mention anywhere:

    Food Cart Guy: “Flass! I have kids to feed….”
    Flass: “What? They don’t like falafel?”

    Gambol: “You think you can steal from us and just walk away?!!”
    Joker: “Yeah….”

    Crane: “So which is it to be? Death…or exile?”
    Stryker: “Exile!”
    Crane: “Sold! To the man in a cold sweat…”

    Laughed my ass off.

  23. I love this trilogy,though with the way TDKR was ended u will expect them to do a forth movie on it atleast before another reboot.this will allow them introduce robin and maybe joker breaking out of the prison again…norlan’s batman accesses the cape crusader from a more reality mordan chaos aspect.

  24. I love this trilogy,though with the way TDKR was ended u will expect them to do a fourth movie on it atleast before another reboot.this will allow them introduce robin and maybe joker breaking out of the prison again…norlan’s batman accesses the cape crusader from a more reality mordan chaos aspect.

  25. the adam west batman bugs me less than nolan’s batman, but unlike the latter, west’s batman doesn’t bug me a lot and is at least some what closer to how batman should be. not entirely, just some what.

  26. I agree with most of the points except for tone. The tone in the Batman trilogy was great. However, when I go see a Marvel movie I don’t REALLY want a dark movie. Not bashing Batman, I loved the series and tone, it’s just the tone doesn’t put it above, say, Avengers on tone alone

  27. This is kinda irrelevant but I don’t think Insomnia has a complicated plot. Same case with TDKR.

  28. Or how about JUST ABOUT GOD DAMN EVERYTHING. these films are awesome and I only watched them this weekend

  29. hi