The Dark Knight Beat Sheet

The Dark Knight Beat Sheet

The Dark Knight

Download The Dark Knight Screenplay (PDF)

Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Running time: 145 minutes
Year: 2008

Full Beat Sheet


The Dark Knight Screenplay Prologue

1 – OPENING IMAGE: Flames engulf the screen. The Bat Symbol grows out of the flames until it fills the screen with blackness.

2-6 – THE JOKER robs a mob owned bank. He’s duplicitous and calculating, killing all who worked with him.


7 – Batman’s reputation on the street has intimated low-level criminals.

10 – BATMAN takes down SCARECROW and Batman impostors during a drug deal between Scarecrow and THE CHECHEN.

The Dark Knight Screenplay Inciting Incident

12 – INCITING INCIDENT: GORDON and Batman have identified all the mob owned banks.

13 – ALFRED stitches up Wayne after the previous night’s injuries…

Alfred bites the thread. Examines his stitches. Looks at the SCARS criss-crossing Wayne’s shoulders.


Know your limits, Master Wayne.


Batman has no limits.


Well, you do, sir.

15 – DENT’S COIN SETUP: HARVEY DENT shows up late for court, annoying his assistant DA RACHEL DAWES. He flips a coin to see which attorney leads…


I’m serious, Harvey, you don’t leave things like this to chance.


I don’t.


I make my own luck.

19 – EXTORTION SETUP: REESE, a M&A consultant lawyer, questions Fox regarding Wayne’s behavior. Fox brushes off the question and has Reese run the due diligence on L.S.I. again.

The Dark Knight Screenplay Strong Movement Forward (External)

19 – STRONG MOVEMENT FORWARD (External): Fox meets with Wayne in the empty board room. Fox believes LSI has a revenue stream off the books. Wayne has him cancel the deal, admitting he just wanted a closer look at their books.

The Dark Knight Screenplay Strong Movement Forward (internal)

22 – STRONG MOVEMENT FORWARD (Internal): Wayne interrupts a dinner with Rachel and Dent and discovers Dent shares his vision for justice in Gotham. Wayne agrees to throw Dent a fundraiser.

23 – Addressing Gotham’s criminals — The Chechen, Maroni, GAMBOL — from a satellite feed,  Lau informs them their money has been moved before Gordon can raid the banks.

The Dark Knight Screenplay End of Act One Turn

28 – END OF ACT ONE TURN: On MCU rooftop, Dent uses the Bat-signal to bring in Batman. Gordon appears; he and Dent accuse each other’s offices for leaking the bank raid information to the mob. Dent gets down to business: they need Lau in their custody, but he’s in Hong Kong and the Chinese will not extradite. He asks Batman to bring him in.

28-30 – Wayne plans his trip to China, has Fox build a new suit for Batman.

31 – Believing the bounty on The Joker claimed, Gambol is outsmarted by The Joker and killed.

The Dark Knight Screenplay End of Act One Decision

35-38 – DECISION: Batman kidnaps Lau from his China offices and drops him off at Gordon’s MCU.


The Dark Knight Screenplay Act Two

39 – Rachel / Dent strike a deal with Lau to turn on the mob (he handled all their investments).

40 – Gordon arrest The Chechen and Maroni and all their men.

49 – COMMISSIONER LOEB is poisoned by The Joker and dies.

49 – Dent proposes to Rachel, but Rachel can’t say yes, or no.

49 – JUDGE SURRILLO’S car explodes and kills her.

50 – Wayne knocks out Dent and drags him to safety — The Joker has crashed the party to kill Dent.

The Dark Knight Screenplay First Trial

53 – FIRST TRIAL: The Joker and Batman face off. The Joker gets a gun and holds Rachel hostage. At this point, Joker has the opportunity to kill Batman, but reveals another plan — to unmask Batman. He tosses Rachel out the window, Batman dives after and saves her, and The Joker escapes.

54 – Dent barges into the MCU. With Gordon at his side, he throws Lau a bullet proof vest. They’re gonna get him on record before more attacks happen.

58 – EXTORTION LINE: Reese, the corporate lawyer from the LSI Holdings diligence, links Wayne to Batman through spending and development in their Applied Sciences Division. He attempts to extort Wayne through Fox, but Fox intimidates him and Reese backs down.

The Dark Knight Screenplay Combat

63 – ONE HOUR (and three minute) WAR: The Joker and his men, disguised as the honor guard, fire at The Mayor, but Gordon sacrifices himself and is shot.

63 – Dent questions one of The Joker’s men and discovers Rachel is their next target. He drives away from the scene with the suspect.

The Dark Knight Screenplay Alfred

71 – With the Bat-­bunker cleaned out, Alfred burns the last of the documents that could link Fox and Rachel to Batman.


People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?

Alfred looks into Wayne’s eyes with a fearsome gaze.


Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it, but that’s the point of Batman... he can be the outcast. He can makes the choice no one else can face. The right choice.

The Dark Knight Screenplay Midpoint

73 – MIDPOINT: At the press conference, Dent turns himself in as Batman. Wayne does not stop him.

73 -­ Rachel and Alfred watch the press conference from the Wayne penthouse. She’s furious Wayne would let Dent take the fall for Batman’s crimes. Rachel gives Alfred a note for Wayne as she leaves.


The Dark Knight Screenplay Act Two B

75 – Rachel attempts to talk Dent out of using himself as bait to capture The Joker. He agrees to flip her for the decision. She insists you cannot leave your life to chance and he hands her his coin. It’s double-sided.

75-83 – The Joker attacks Dent’s convoy, but Batman intercedes. Their big showdown in the streets — with Batman racing toward The Joker on his Batpod, The Joker taunts Batman to kill him. Batman cannot kill and ditches the Batpod and knocks himself unconscious. Seconds before Joker unmasks Batman, Gordon gets the drop on him — The Joker has been arrested.

88-90 – Batman interrogates The Joker at MCU. The Joker lets Batman know he’s upset the balance of power and corruption in Gotham. Things are worse as a result.

90 – The Joker lets Batman know where Rachel and Dent are being held — he must choose which one to save.

92 – Dent and Rachel are in different locations, tied to explosives. Both are able to talk to each other through speaker phones.

95 – The Joker subdues a police officer and uses a cell phone to blow a bomb in the MCU for his escape.

96 – Seconds before she dies, Rachel lets Dent know she’ll marry him.

The Dark Knight Screenplay Assumption of Power

96 -­ ASSUMPTION OF POWER: Before Gordon and his crew can rescue Rachel, her building explodes. Batman gets Dent out, but a fireball ignites Dent’s clothing and face.

Wayne’s two reasons for retiring Batman are gone.

104 – The Chechen arrives at an abandoned cargo ship with all the mob’s money and Lau. His plan is revealed — he burns his half of the money, kills Lau and the Chechen.


All you care about is money. This city deserves a better class of criminal, and I’m going to give it to them. This is my town now. Tell your men they work for me.

The Dark Knight Screenplay End of Act Two Turn

105 – END OF ACT TWO TURN: The Joker calls into The Mike Engel Show. He tells the audience if Reese is not dead within one hour, he will blow up a hospital.

The Dark Knight Screenplay End of Act Two Decision

105 – DECISION: Wayne decides to intercept Reese before he is killed.

107 – Wayne tails the convoy protecting Reese. Gordon’s in the SUV w/ Reese.

111 – The Joker removes Dent’s restraints. He puts a loaded gun in Dent’s hand, pressing the barrel to his own forehead.


It’s the schemers who put you where you are. You were a schemer. You had plans. Look where it got you. I just did what I do best- I took your plan, and I turned it on itself. Look what I’ve done to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Nobody panics when the expected people get killed. Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying. If I tell the press that tomorrow a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics. Because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, everybody loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy, you upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos, Harvey?

Dent looks into the Joker’s eyes. Finding meaning.


It’s fair.

112 – EXTORTION PAYOFF: Wayne spots a man in a truck attempting to crash into the van holding Reese. He floors his Lamborghini, putting his car the path of the truck. The truck smashes into Wayne’s Lamborghini. Wayne protects Reese.

113 – The Joker blows up Gotham General Hospital after leaving Dent’s room.


The Dark Knight Screenplay Act Three

115 -­ The Mike Engel show broadcasts a message from The Joker. Mike Engel hangs upside down, reading from one of Joker’s scripts. Anyone who stays in Gotham come nighwall will play by his rules. Engel ends by saying “the bridge and tunnel crowd are in for a surprise.”

The Dark Knight Screenplay Point of No Return

117 -­ POINT OF NO RETURN: If The Joker talks within range of any phone within the city, they can triangulate his position. Fox agrees to help, but tells Wayne he will resign his positon as CEO as long the machine exists at Wayne Enterprises.

122 – Fox helps Batman triangulate The Joker’s position: The Prewitt Building.

The Dark Knight Screenplay Act Three

123 – With no commutation between the ferries or the outside, The Joker delivers the final twist to his plan:


The Joker stares out over the harbor, at the ferries. Talking into a cell phone. Holding a     detonator, with TWO BUTTONS.


Each of you has a remote to blow up the other boat.


The Prisoners and Corrections Officers listen. Appalled.


At midnight, I blow you all up. If, however, one of you presses the button, I’ll let that boat live. You choose. So who’s it going to be- Harvey Dent’s most wanted scumbag collection... or the sweet innocent civilians?


Oh, and you might want to decide quickly, because the people on the other boat may not be quite so noble.

124 – With Dent holding her at gunpoint, Ramirez calls Gordon’s wife, instructing her and the children to travel to a secure location — a trap set by Dent. Dent blames Ramirez for Rachel’s death and flips his coin. She comes up heads and Dent spares her life.

128 – Batman takes out The Joker’s thugs and prevents the SWAT teams from harming the hostages.

The Dark Knight Screenplay Climax

133 – CLIMAX (External): Batman fires scallop blades from his gauntlet, hitting The Joker. Batman frees himself and kicks The Joker over the edge. The Joker falls, enjoying the ride to his death, but is saved by Batman’s grapple gun. Batman pulls The Joker back up.

135 – The Joker reveals he got to Dent…


This city just showed you it’s full of people ready to believe in good.

The Joker looks up at him. A twinkle in his eye.


Till their spirit breaks completely. Until they find out what I did with the best of them. Until they get a good look at the real Harvey Dent, and all the heroic things he’s done.

(indicates ferry)

Then those criminals will be straight back onto the streets and Gotham will understand the true nature of heroism.

(off look)

You didn’t think I’d risk losing the battle for the soul of Gotham in a fist fight with you? You’ve got to have an ace in the hole. Mine’s Harvey.

Batman hauls the Joker up, nose to nose.


What did you do?


I took Gotham’s white knight. And I brought him down to my level. It wasn’t hard- madness is like gravity. All it takes is a little push.

Joker laughs. Batman leaves him to the SWATS.

139 – Batman talks Dent out of harming Gordon’s boy…


It’s not about what I want. It’s about what’s fair.

(to Gordon and Batman)

You thought we could be decent men in an indecent world. You thought we could lead by example. You thought the rules could be bent but not break... you were wrong. The world is cruel.

(shows his coin)

And the only morality in a cruel world is chance. Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.


Nothing fair ever came out of the barrel of a gun, Dent.


(shows the coin)

His boy’s got the same chance she had. Fifty-fifty.

Batman steps closer, desperate, trying to reach Dent.


What happened to Rachel wasn’t chance. We decided to act. We three. We knew the risks and we acted as one. We are all responsible for the consequences.

Dent looks at Batman. Pleading.


Then why was it only me who lost everything?

Batman looks into Dent’s eyes. Emotional.


It wasn’t.



The Joker chose me!


Because you were the best of us. He wanted to prove that even someone as good as you could fall.



And he was right.


But your fooling yourself if you think you’re letting chance decide. You’re the one pointing the gun, Harvey. So point it at the people who were responsible. We all acted as one. Gordon. Me. And you.

140 – Dent flips the coin and Batman turns up tails. Dent shoots him. Dent flips the coin again, this time for himself, and comes up heads.

142 – Dent decides to punish Gordon by turning the gun on Gordon’s son, but Batman attacks and knocks them off the building’s edge. Gordon’s son is unarmed. Batman survives the fall, but Dent doesn’t.

The Dark Knight Screenplay Climax (internal)

143 – CLIMAX (Internal): Batman takes the fall for Dent’s crimes.

Gordon and Batman stare down at Dent’s body. Grave.


The Joker won.

Gordon stares down at SCARRED SIDE of Harvey Dent.


Harvey’s prosecution, everything he fought for, everything Rachel died for. Undone. Whatever chance Gotham had of fixing itself... whatever chance you gave us of fixing our city... dies with Harvey’s reputation. We bet it all on him. The Joker took the best of us and tore him down. People will lose all hope.


No. They won’t.

(looks at Gordon)

They can never know what he did.



Five dead? Two of them cops? We can’t sweep that under-


No. But the Joker cannot win.

Batman crouches to Dent’s body.


Gotham needs its true hero.

Gently, he turns Dent’s head so the good side of his face is up. Gordon looks from Dent’s     face to Batman. Understanding.


You? You can’t-


Yes, I can.

Batman stands. Faces Gordon.


You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I can do those things because I’m not a hero, like Dent. I killed those people. That’s what I can be.

143 – RACHEL’S NOTE PAYOFF: Alfred sets fire to Rachel’s letter.

144 – Fox types his name into the machine and the machine begins to self-destruct.

145 – Gordon explains to his son that Batman is the hero Gotham deserves…


The Batman LURCHES between shipping containers. STUMBLING. BLEEDING. He makes it to the bat-pod...


...he’s the hero Gotham deserves... but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero...

The bat-pod streaks through Gotham’s underground streets, the Batman’s cape fluttering     behind. A wraith...


...he’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector... a dark knight.

The Batman races up a ramp into a blinding light-


The Dark Knight Screenplay End

145 – THE END.

Learn More About The Dark Knight

William Robert Rich
William Robert Rich

William Robert Rich is a story analyst, screenwriter, and co-author of Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan. He's currently based in Austin, Texas.

Articles: 120



  2. I Believe… “The Dark Knight” was what every aspiring film-maker DESERVES! and to have it broken-down like this is like a dozen times of re-watching saved!

    CHEERS guys, very noble of you!

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