It was July 18, 2008 when director Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight hit theaters, mere months after the first Iron Man film debuted. Together, the two movies reshaped the superhero movie landscape in ways that are still being felt 12 years later. What’s more, The Dark Knight gave Batman fans a completely new take on the iconic villain Joker when Heath Ledger took on the role.
Now, over a decade later, fans still regularly discuss the movie and obsess over Ledger’s version of Joker. Whether it’s the best incarnation of the character or not is a personal opinion, but he certainly brought something new to the table and created plenty of memorable moments.
The character is also responsible for the movie’s best Easter egg. Nolan didn’t pack his Batman movies with too many of them, but there are certain nods to other pieces of the DC universe, as well as potential nods to what was still to come–and what could have been had Ledger not passed away after the completion of filming.
After doing a deep dive into The Dark Knight, we’ve come up with 26 different Easter eggs, references, and fun facts you might have missed the last time you watched the film. Take a look at the below.
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1. Some men just want to watch the logo burn
Halfway through The Dark Knight, Alfred tells Bruce that some men, like Joker, just want to watch the world burn. The movie foreshadows that by opening with the Batman logo in flames, teasing what’s to come.
2. That mask looks familiar
The mask Ledger’s Joker wears to rob the bank is actually made to look like one Cesar Romero’s version of the character wore in an episode of the 1966 Batman TV series.
3. A friendly neighborhood Joker
If you look incredibly closely, the first shot we see of Joker also includes a poster for Spider-Man 3. Chances are this wasn’t intentional at all–after all, it’s so deep in the background. That said, it’s good to know Tobey Maguire was making Spider-Man movies in this universe.
4. Joker loves gas
It’s hard to see this scene and not think of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie. In it, Joker uses his own special mixture of gas, which he calls Smylex, to kill the citizens of Gotham. In the comics, dating back to his first appearance in Batman #1, Joker uses a toxin called Joker Venom. It’s typically dispersed as a gas that causes his victims to laugh wildly.
Seeing the Batsignal put to work is comforting in a city like Gotham. You may remember Gordon got this at the end of Batman Begins, as a gift from Batman. In comic book lore, the Batsignal first appeared in a 1942 issue of Detective Comics.
6. How the mighty have fallen
In Batman Begins, Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) was the primary antagonist. Now, in the aftermath of that film, he’s merely a drug dealer on the streets. That’s quite a fall for the villainous psychologist. Don’t worry, when The Dark Knight Rises rolls around, he becomes a judge in Bane’s dystopian version of Gotham City. Scarecrow first appeared in the comics in a 1941 issue of World’s Finest. At the time, the character didn’t have the infamous fear toxin that he used to torment his victims. That didn’t come alone until 1955.
7. The gadgets
Jack Nicholson’s Joker said it best in 1989’s Batman. Where does he get those wonderful toys? The Dark Knight doesn’t shy away from giving the Caped Crusader some pretty interesting gadgets, starting with the giant can opener on his gauntlet that lets him cut into this van. Batman has a long history of using various gadgets, thanks to his trusty utility belt. The belt has an important part of the character since he first began appearing in comic books. Given that Batman has no actual superpowers, he uses his various gadgets to defeat criminals, whether it’s his Batarang weapon or something as silly as shark repellant spray, which was one of the funnier gadgets in the ’60s Batman TV show.
8. The Joker robbed the bank on release day
If you look very closely, the security camera still of Joker is dated July 18, 2008. That means he robbed the bank on the day The Dark Knight was released to theaters.
9. “You want to be able to turn your head”
A constant criticism of several Batman movie costumes is how still actors looked in them, often leading to the Caped Crusader not being able to look to the side or turn his head. Obviously, Lucius (Morgan Freeman) knows that and wants to help out.
10. “It should do fine against cats”
Batman is attacked by a dog at the beginning of The Dark Knight and is hoping his upgrades will help avoid that in the future. Unfortunately, Lucius can’t make that happen. However, he does advise him it should hold up if he’s attacked by a cat. That’s good to know, given he’d be going toe-to-toe with Catwoman in the next movie.
11. Batman is the real Slim Shady
Is Joker an Eminem fan? This card that references the 2000 track “The Real Slim Shady” sure makes it look like it.
12. Here’s how he got those scars
Joker has several different stories to explain his scars, and chances are none of them are true. As for what the scars are, that’s a Glasgow smile, which is done by cutting the corners of the mouth. If it looks familiar, you may have seen one on Sons of Anarchy star Tommy Flanagan (Chibs). The actor was on the receiving end of one after being attacked outside of a club.
13. Why Joker keeps licking his lips
Throughout the movie, Joker is constantly licking his lips. It’s a quirk that made the character even more strange. As it turns out, though, there’s a specific reason Ledger did that. In the documentary I Am Heath Ledger, it was revealed the actor did it to make sure the prosthetics for his scars stayed applied to his face.
14. Joker’s clever weapon has a long cinematic history
If the knife hidden in Joker’s shoe seemed familiar, it’s possible you’re a James Bond movie fan. The villainous Rose Klebb (Lotte Lenya) has one of her own in 1963’s From Russia with Love. Of course, a shoe with a concealed knife has been used as a weapon in multiple films since then, as well, including Kingsman: The Secret Service, Logan, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Mortal Engines.
15. Joker’s Italian voice has a secret legacy
In the Italian dub of the movie, Adriano Giannini provides the voice of Joker. That casting ends up being a nice tribute to his father, Giancarlo Giannini, who provided an Italian voice for Joker in the dub of 1989’s Batman.
16. Ledger’s Joker inspiration
There’s been a lot said about who could have possibly inspired Ledger’s take on Joker, including an Australian interview with singer Tom Waits from 1979. According to Nolan, though, it was Sex Pistols lead singer Johnny Rotten that provided Ledger with a template for the character.
“We very much took the view in looking at the character of The Joker that what’s strong about him is this idea of anarchy,” he explained. “We wanted to show the pure anarchy of someone who wants to do harm purely for its own sake.”
17. Mark Millar got busted playing on the Batpod
Did you ever hear about the time the creator of Kick-Ass got in trouble on the set of the film? According to Mark Millar, he was on location in Chicago filming Wanted when he stopped by the set. After having a chat with Nolan, he sat on the Batpod when nobody was looking. Then he got caught by Nolan’s Wife, producer Emma Thomas, who told him to get off of it.
18. Rory’s First Kiss
Most movies film under working titles, rather than the names they will be released under. The Dark Knight was called Rory’s First Kiss, a nod to Nolan’s son. The Dark Knight Rises filmed under the title Magnus Rex, in tribute to his other son.
19. A familiar face
Why yes, you have seen this man (David Dastmalchian) in a bunch of things, including the Ant-Man films and Blade Runner 2049. Most interestingly, though, he played another crazed henchman of Joker in the TV series Gotham. Dastmalchian appeared in Season 3 as Dwight, a follower of Jerome.
20. Dent loses his grip on reality
Long before he becomes Two-Face, the cracks in Dent’s sanity begin showing themselves. Yes, he has a two-headed coin so chances are he was never going to shoot Schiff. However, it’s clear he’s losing his grip on reality–especially when he sees Rachel is in danger–and it’s only going to get worse from there.
21. The death of an IMAX camera
While most major movies are released in IMAX now, the format wasn’t as commonplace when The Dark Knight hit theaters. What’s more, there wasn’t a surplus of the massive IMAX cameras at the time, and each of them cost $500,000. So chances are when one was destroyed while filming the underground chase, nobody was happy. And yet, it happened again during the filming of The Dark Knight Rises.
22. Yes, they really flipped a truck
The scene in which the semi-truck Joker’s driving flips upside down is one of the most impressive visuals in the entire movie. You’ll be happy to hear that wasn’t a CGI trick. They actually flipped a truck in the middle of Chicago, where The Dark Knight filmed. What’s more, they actually flipped a few while figuring out how to make the stunt work, which you can see in this behind-the-scenes featurette.
23. A new origin
Classically, Two-Face’s disfigurement came after acid was thrown on his face. In The Dark Knight, though, Nolan goes for a completely different approach. Dent’s face is burned when oil on the ground where his face is lying catches fire. It looks horrifically painful and, at the very least, somewhat more realistic.
24. The other Batmobile
This is a little too on-the-nose for Bruce Wayne, to be honest. The billionaire playboy drives a Lamborghini Murcielago in the film. Murcielago is the Spanish word for bat, making this his undercover Batmobile.
25. Another familiar face
If this prisoner looks familiar to you, it’s because he has a long list of movie credits, including his role as Deebo in the Friday film franchise. More significantly, though, he’s a former professional wrestler. Tom Lister Jr. appeared in WWF during the late ’80s as Zeus, after playing the character in the movie No Holds Barred, opposite Hulk Hogan. He later appeared in WCW as Z-Gangsta.
26. What could have been
Joker’s final scene in the film certainly points to the possibility that further movies would have featured Ledger as the primary antagonist. “We’re destined to do this forever,” he tells Batman. Unfortunately, that never came to pass. As for what plans there were for Joker’s return in a third movie, there are no concrete story details. However, Ledger’s sister revealed that the actor planned on portraying the character again. “He was so proud of what he had done in Batman. And I know he had plans for another,” she said.
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