Real world, real problems, real hero.
In celebration of Detective Comics #1000 and Batman’s 80th anniversary this month, we’re counting down the 13 GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER — from all media — as selected by a panel of 16 experts, including such luminaries as former DC publisher Paul Levitz, legendary Batman artist Neal Adams and Batman: The Brave and the Bold producer James Tucker. For a complete rundown of how the vote was conducted and the full list of panelists, click here. The countdown will run daily across 13 days and culminate in THE ULTIMATE BATMAN READING AND VIEWING GUIDE, which will feature every single Batman story cited by our panel.
Next up on the countdown:
8. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. Directed by Christopher Nolan.
In 1989, Tim Burton gave hardcore Batman fans what they wanted — a vision of a Caped Crusader who lived in a world of blacks and grays, steamy streets and grimy alleyways.
But in the distance of 30 years, it’s easy to see how fanciful that world actually was.
Really, Burton was intent on playing in a fun-house version of reality — a larger-than-life place of larger-than-life good guys and bad guys. You can still detect the DNA of the 1966 TV series hidden amid the shadows.
Nearly 20 years later, however, director Christopher Nolan pushed the line forward by borrowing the simple premise of Watchmen: What if superheroes really did exist in our world — the “real” world.
The answer was a trilogy of films exemplified by its creative peak — 2008’s The Dark Knight, which underlined the futility of dressing up like a bat to combat crime and chaos.
But unlike Watchmen, The Dark Knight doesn’t look down on its protagonist — rather it finds honor in the fight, especially when your adversary is a nihilist who just wants to watch the world burn.
So much has been said about Heath Ledger’s riveting, Oscar-winning turn as the Joker that it seems almost pointless to highlight it again.
Besides, the movie isn’t about comics’ greatest villain, anyway. It’s about comics’ greatest hero.
The Dark Knight has myriad quotable scenes and notable moments. But you can find its heart in a quiet scene between Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne and Michael Caine’s Alfred.
Forlorn in his penthouse, Bruce sits in anguish – his love dead and the man he thought could save Gotham blown halfway to hell.
“What would you have me do?” Bruce beseeches Alfred.
“Endure,” Alfred responds.
In the end, Batman doesn’t win so much as survive.
Just like most of us in the “real” world.
The panelists weigh in:
John Morrow, the publisher of TwoMorrows, selected The Dark Knight as his #1 pick: “Because Heath Ledger was just so scary and incredibly effective as the Joker. The scene with the guy getting a pencil through his eye stopped me dead in my tracks.”
Chris Franklin, co-host of Batman Knightcast: “Building on the groundwork of the excellent Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David Goyer took off the training wheels and fully embraced their grounded Gotham City. The order Batman and Harvey Dent are slowly restoring is capsized by the arrival of the chaotic Joker, who nearly brings the city to its knees.
NEXT: The #7 PICK is…