The Dark Knight is a 2008 superhero film directed, produced, and co-written by Christopher Nolan. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is the second installment of Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy and a sequel to 2005's Batman Begins, starring Christian Bale and supported by Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman. In the film, Bruce Wayne / Batman (Bale), Police Lieutenant James Gordon (Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart) form an alliance to dismantle organized crime in Gotham City, but are menaced by an anarchistic mastermind known as the Joker (Ledger), who seeks to undermine Batman's influence and throw the city into anarchy.
Nolan's inspiration for the film was the Joker's comic book debut in 1940, the 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke, and the 1996 series The Long Halloween, which retold Harvey Dent's origin. The "Dark Knight" nickname was first applied to Batman in Batman #1 (1940), in a story written by Bill Finger. The Dark Knight was filmed primarily in Chicago, as well as in several other locations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong. The film was the first mainstream feature to partially utilize IMAX 70 mm cameras, with Nolan using them for 28 minutes of the film, including the Joker's first appearance. Warner Bros. initially created a viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight, developing promotional websites and trailers highlighting screenshots of Ledger as the Joker. Ledger died on January 22, 2008, some months after he completed filming and six months before the film's release from a toxic combination of prescription drugs, leading to intense attention from the press and movie-going public.
Considered one of the best films of its decade and one of the best superhero films of all time, the film received critical praise for its screenplay, visual effects, musical score, mature themes, performances (particularly Ledger's), cinematography, action sequences and direction. The film also set numerous records during its theatrical run. The Dark Knight appeared on 287 critics' top-ten lists, more than any other film of 2008 with the exception of WALL-E, and more critics named The Dark Knight the best film released that year. With over $1 billion in revenue worldwide, it became the fourth-highest-grossing film at the time, and highest-grossing film of 2008; it also set the record for highest-grossing domestic opening with $158 million, a record it held for three years. At the 81st Academy Awards, the film received eight nominations; it won the award for Best Sound Editing and Ledger was posthumously awarded Best Supporting Actor. In 2020, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in the trilogy, was released on July 20, 2012.
A gang of criminals robs a Gotham City mob bank, murdering each other for a higher share until only the Joker remains; he escapes with the money. Batman, District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant Jim Gordon form an alliance to rid Gotham of organized crime. Bruce Wayne is impressed with Dent's idealism and offers to support his career; he believes that, with Dent as Gotham's protector, he can give up being Batman and lead a normal life with Rachel Dawes—even though she and Dent are dating.
Mob bosses Sal Maroni, Gambol, and the Chechen hold a videoconference with their corrupt accountant, Lau, who has hidden their funds for safekeeping and fled to Hong Kong. The meeting is interrupted by the Joker, who warns them that Batman is unhindered by the law, and offers to kill him in exchange for half of their money. After Joker kills Gambol and takes over his gang, the mob ultimately decides to accept the offer.
Batman finds Lau in Hong Kong and brings him back to Gotham to testify, allowing Dent to apprehend the entire mob. The Joker threatens a string of murders unless Batman reveals his identity, and starts by killing Police Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb and Judge Surrillo, who is presiding over the mob trial. The Joker also targets Mayor Anthony Garcia, but Gordon sacrifices himself to stop the assassination. Dent learns that Rachel is the next target.
Bruce decides to reveal his identity. Before he can, however, Dent announces that he is Batman. Dent is taken into protective custody, but the Joker appears and attacks the convoy. Batman comes to Dent's rescue and Gordon, who faked his death, apprehends the Joker, securing a promotion to Commissioner. Rachel and Dent are escorted away by detectives on Maroni's payroll; Gordon later learns that they never arrived home. Batman interrogates the Joker, who reveals that they have been trapped in separate locations rigged with explosives. Batman races to save Rachel, while Gordon attempts to rescue Dent. Batman arrives at the site but realizes that the Joker sent him to Dent's location instead. Both buildings explode, killing Rachel and disfiguring half of Dent's face. The Joker escapes with Lau, whom he later kills along with the Chechen.