The Dark Knight is the second in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, and often regarded as the best Batman film to date. A huge part of the films success can be attributed, of course, to Nolan's directing, but also to Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker.
While the Batman franchise was already a massive success before Nolan's films, The Dark Knight put it on an entirely new pedestal for future films to live up to. Christian Bale and Heath Ledger make an undeniably electric duo, and the action sequences and cinematography are enough to leave you jumping out of your seat wanting more.
When reinventing Batman, Nolan made sure to pull out all the stops. His goal was to make the movie as real as possible, seeing as how Batman himself is one of the most realistic superheros we have. You may be surprised which parts of the film are digitally enhanced, and which are actually real.
There has been a lot of curiosity surrounding Ledger's Joker performance - especially since his incredibly sad and untimely overdose. Was he always in character on set? Did he ever take a break? How did people like working with him?
These behind-the-scenes photos, captured while filming and preparing for the film, give us a look into how exactly this masterpiece was created. From motion capture, to green screen, to straight-up real world action - this film has it all. Let's delve a little deeper into The Dark Knight, and see what really went on behind the scenes.
Here are 21 Behind-The-Scenes Photos From The Dark Knight That Change Everything.
21 Joker Takes A Break
Heath Ledger as the Joker may be one of the most terrifying movie villains of all time. He played the villain with such dedication and realism, and not to mention insanity, that he will forever be remembered as one of the best.
In fact, Ledger even won a posthumous Academy Award for his role as the Joker.
It was often speculated how much Ledger stayed in character on set, but judging from many pictures and on set encounters, he was a total joy to be around.
Everyone on set of The Dark Knight said it was a complete privilege to watch Ledger work and get to work with him. Nobody had a single bad thing to say about the process.
20 Rooftop Views
We've established that a fair amount of The Dark Knight was created with he help of CGI, but what may even be more impressive is the parts that weren't. Here we see Christian Bale actually on a rooftop looking over the city - though not without help, of course.
When it comes to stunts, Bale clearly doesn't shy away from doing his own when he can. His harnesses were digitally removed in the final cut.
It looks like there's quite a few people ready and waiting in case anything goes wrong, but we're pretty sure this was all tested multiple times before they put Bale on the edge of a skyscraper.
19 The Interrogation Scene
While the infamous interrogation scene between Batman and the Joker appears to be just the two of them alone in a room - this is clearly far from the truth.
This is one of the most intense scenes in the film, and with Christian Bale and Heath Ledger's acting chops, it's easy to get lost in the moment and forget you're watching a movie all together.
The camera follows Bale as he throws Ledger around, and at no point do we see a reflection of a camera or another person anywhere in the room.
It's a testament to Christopher Nolan's directing skills as well, creating an environment that is bleak and alone even with multiple people and cameras in the room.
18 Batsuit and Joker masks
Somehow, even when not being worn by criminals, these clown masks from the film are just as scary sitting still on a table. The costume department definitely pulled out all the stops for The Dark Knight to make sure Christopher Nolan's vision came to life in the creepiest way.
This picture is a great juxtaposition of the good - Batman - and the bad - the Joker and his gang. Audiences will never forget the intense opening scene where the Joker and his men rob a bank. It is only revealed after the robbery commences that the Joker is under a mask all along.
To the far left we see the mask Ledger wears, right next to the Batsuit.
17 Green Screen Sonar
If you thought Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman were actually looking at Batman's sonar technology - think again. This is yet another moment where good acting and movie magic creates an entirely different environment from set to film.
While Batman's cave is already impressive without CGI, here we see how one of Batman's best tools was made.
When you see Freeman - who plays Lucius Fox - staring intensely at this massive wall of screens, he's basically staring at nothing.
Both Bale and Freeman are talented and experienced enough actors to not be thrown off by this. In fact, much of The Dark Knight relies on CGI technology to make it all look real.
16 The Joker Gets Caught
Christian Bale, is that you? Are we sure that isn't a dummy stand in for the scene? Okay, he's likely just getting up and got caught in an awkward moment. What's more important is taking a look at the intense moment where Batman crashes as he's about to hit the Joker.
After the intense chase scene and semi-truck flip, Batman comes incredibly close to running the Joker down on his bike - something the Joker welcomes.
Instead, Batman skids to avoid him and crashes, which is where this behind-the-scenes moment takes us. Getting that extreme close-up on the Joker is no easy feat - the camera man is really getting his arm work-out in for the day.
15 Motion Capture Two-Face
If you ever find yourself wondering just how they made Two-Face look so realistic, wonder no more.
Here we see Aaron Eckhart, who plays Harvey Dent aka Two-Face, with motion capture dots spread all over him.
It looks like green screen technology is being used on the pillow as well.
Motion capture is widely popular, especially in action movies, because it is one of the most accurate ways for computers to detect detailed motion. Even the smallest movement of Eckhart's face is digitally recorded. The animators can then add whatever effects they desire, giving us this creepily realistic version of Two-Face.
It can be hard adapting comic book characters to the screen, but Two-Face is spot-on.
14 Hanging Out
Remember the scene where the Joker is dangling from a building, giving one of his many evil genius speeches to Batman? Well, as is the way, it turns out he wasn't exactly hanging from a building after all.
In fact - likely to make the stunt safer - Heath Ledger instead was dangled in a studio in front of a large green screen to get the full effect.
This is yet another example of Ledger's acting chops, we never would have guessed that he was in the studio with basically no environment to work off of, and likely not even looking at Batman.
Good thing he has white face make-up on - the blood was probably rushing to his head pretty quick!
13 Nolan Gives Direction
If you're a movie buff, or even just a casual movie viewer, or if you've ever seen a movie at all - you've probably seen a Christopher Nolan movie.
There's a reason he's lauded as one of the great working filmmakers. Films such as Memento, Inception, The Prestige, and Intersellar are among his many masterpieces.
Here we see Nolan giving direction to Aaron Eckhart and Christian Bale.
Nolan always has a very concise vision that he executes, and in this candid moment we get to see him in action - signature scarf and all. What we wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall at this set!
12 The Joker's Jump
In this scene, right after Batman crashes to avoid the Joker, we get another perspective without the camera men. In a perfectly still shot in mid air, we see Heath Ledger in all of his Joker glory just before he is taken by the Gotham police. It's a perfectly caught moment worthy of a picture frame.
One of the more impressive parts of The Dark Knight is the costuming and sets.
In this shot, it looks like we might as well be watching the actual movie.
Slightly brighter lighting aside, Ledger captures the entire essence of his character here. We can see how it was easy to get caught up in filming this movie, and really get into the world of Gotham.
11 Not Quite Falling
There are a lot of stunts that had to be worked out while filming The Dark Knight. Being a superhero movie, that's is a given. Thankfully Christopher Nolan had a huge budget to work with - $185 million, to be exact.
Here we get a look at how Nolan and his team did another one of the action sequences - without actually sending the actors or stunt doubles flying down the side of a building to their doom.
Harnesses seem to be a favorite for these kinds of stunts, as well as green screen which gives the illusion that Christian Bale - Batman - and Maggie Gyllenhaal - Rachel Dawes - are actually falling.
This is one instance where camera angles and CGI are everything.
10 Bank Heist
Here we see Christopher Nolan amidst the opening scene of The Dark Knight. The bank heist was an incredibly thrilling way to kick off the film.
Nolan admits that he got more than a little inspiration from the film Heat.
The bank heist is one of the shining examples of this inspiration. In fact, the bank patron who stands up to the Joker and his men is played by William Fitchner who starred in Heat.
Nolan told THR that there was "a slight genre shift, going a little more into the crime story, a little more into the kind of epic city stories of films like Michael Mann’s Heat, things like that, which I think achieve great scale, even though they’re confined within one city.”
9 The Joker's Scars
The Joker's look could have easily been a "make or break" moment for The Dark Knight. There have been multiple adaptions of the Joker over the years, but none like Heath Ledger's.
The decision to give him hideous facial scars along with childlike circus make-up over the top gave the Joker a manic realism that was missing from previous Jokers.
Here we get a glimpse of Ledger with the scars but without the make-up. There is one scene in the film, when the Joker is impersonating an officer, that we get to see the bare scars as well.
This up close and personal picture shows us just how talented the make-up department was.
8 Director's Perspective
It can be easy to forget the behind the scenes perspective when viewing a film. That is, after all, the entire point isn't it? It can also be fun to see what the people behind the making of the movie actually go through on set.
This appears to be cinematographer Wally Pfister with Christopher Nolan. Pfister was also the cinematographer for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, along with other Nolan films.
It's not often we get to see the director and cinematographer's perspective.
To not acknowledge all the work done behind the scenes is a huge disservice to the hundreds, sometimes thousands of people who make movies happen.
7 Batman's green snuggle
If you thought Christian Bale actually swooped out of a skyscraper window into the night sky while holding Ng Chin Han, think again. We hate to break it to you, but this is another case of movie magic.
Okay, so it may not be that surprising, but we like to believe Bale actually is Batman and can do everything that entails. As great as Bale is, he still needed some help from the trusty green screen for this stunt. Whether or not it was Bale or his stunt man who actually went through the window, well, we'll just keep it a mystery.
We hope those spikes on Bale's Batsuit are fake too. If not, Han's arm is about to get it!
6 Take 4
There is something incredibly eerie about the opening sequence of The Dark Knight, before we even learn that the Joker is one of the men under the masks. Interestingly enough, the mask chosen for the Joker is a face with a huge frown - completely juxtaposing his signature grin.
Was this made to throw audiences off, or just a coincidence? With Nolan's track record, the latter seems unlikely.
Here we see the big frown up close, and even hidden behind a mask, we can still feel Heath Ledger's undeniable Joker energy.
Also, can we appreciate the details on this clapperboard? Batman symbol and all.
5 Mold of Bale
It's not often we get up close and personal with all of the behind-the-scenes costuming details. While people are often more interested in how the big action sequences take place, or seeing Batman and the Joker out of character, costuming is an incredibly important starting point for any film.
Without the proper costuming, superhero movies can turn into massive flops. Getting the look of both hero and villain is a time consuming process.
Here we see Christian Bale's neck marker, with drawn on eye lines to mark his helmet and everything. To the left is the top half of his Batsuit; a masterpiece in progress!
Judging from all the gadgets in the back, building this suit was no easy feat.
4 Method To The Madness
Here we see again director/writer Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister in an intense conversation about how exactly the scene should go.
Apparently, Nolan had a very clear vision of the Joker's from the start. Notice there is no back-story when it comes to the Joker in The Dark Knight, only the chaos he causes.
Of the Joker, Nolan told Wired, "he's like the shark in Jaws... the Joker cuts through the film, he's incredibly important, but he's not a guy with a backstory. He's a wild card."
This approach made Ledger's portrayal of the Joker all the more realistic. There isn't always a method to the madness; sometimes it's just madness!
3 Another Side of Two-Face
In an alternate view of Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face, played by Aaron Eckhart, we see him here without his motion capture dots and instead with bandages still on his face.
Though motion capture was used to create Eckhart's burned face, Christopher Nolan himself stressed the need for everything to be as realistic as possible. He admitted to sometimes trying too hard for reality, and digital effects were added later.
Especially in a Batman film, where the hero isn't supernatural or other-worldly, he wanted to keep the realism.
"Anything you notice as technology reminds you that you're in a movie theater," Nolan told Wired, "even if you're trying to portray something fantastical and otherworldly, it's always about trying to achieve invisible manipulation."
2 Party Crashing
We're beginning to wonder: were any of the city views real in The Dark Knight? There is a surprising amount of green screen used when it comes to buildings and overlooking windows in The Dark Knight.
This picture was taken during the party scene where the Joker crashes the event and ends up terrifying everyone in the process. Of course, most importantly, this is also the moment he sends Rachel flying to her doom, leaving Batman to save her.
CGI or not, Heath Ledger still makes for a terrifying joker. We're willing to bet it didn't take too much acting for the extras in the background to be shocked. Ledger was the real deal.
1 Dummy Batman
When Christopher Nolan said he wanted everything to be as realistic as possible in The Dark Knight, he wasn't kidding. The importance of the make-up and costume department in the film is clear, from the Joker's look to Batman's suit.
Here we get a glimpse of the man the Joker kidnapped and filmed. Or at least, here's his dummy.
In one of the more dramatic moments in The Dark Knight, the Joker hangs this man from a building with face paint and bat mask on to send a message.
While likely nobody thought an actual person got flung over a building for the making of the movie, it still looks eerily real on screen - and in this picture!
What's your favorite aspect of The Dark Knight? Let us know in the comments!