The Dark Knight

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
The Dark Knight Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Excellent sequel much darker, more violent than the first.
  • PG-13
  • 2008
  • 152 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 156 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 654 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Extensive discussion of the rule of law versus the rule of force; police and political characters who work within the system are contrasted with the vigilante Batman. Political and police corruption are featured prominently in the plot. The thematic idea of order versus chaos also figures prominently in the film.

Positive Role Models

Batman is ostensibly the champion of justice, but his methods can get pretty iffy, and many characters wonder just how different he is from the "villains" he tracks down. The Joker is pure anarchy -- he embraces chaos for chaos' sake and doesn't flinch at hurting the innocent to accomplish his goals.


Extensive, intense violence, including (but not limited to) shootings, stabbings, fistfights, explosions, rocket attacks, grenades, and more. A thug is slammed face-first onto a pencil that's stuck in a table; an underling has an explosive device sewn into his body and then detonated; a hallucinogenic "fear drug" is used as a weapon; dogs are unleashed on victims; a man is set ablaze; cars crash; characters are bound in rooms full of explosives; live grenades are placed in the hands and mouths of hostages; two boats full of passengers are threatened with bombs on-board; suicide bombs are used as threats; knives and guns are brandished. Several characters have extensive facial scarring, either from knives or fire.


Some kissing; someone walks in on a couple (standing up and fully dressed), and it's clear they've been fooling around; bikini-clad women are shown.


Words used include "ass," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," "balls," "son of a bitch," and "oh my God."


Tie-in to vast quantities of related merchandise. Minimal; the Lamborghini brand is mentioned, and Budweiser products are visible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cocktail party scenes show adults drinking champagne, liquor, and beer, mostly in the background. Some scenes take place in bars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although The Dark Knight is an excellent movie, this sequel to Batman Begins is also much darker and more violent than the first one. Remember: Not all Batmen are created equal. Even though this movie is about a comic-book character, neither it nor its flawed hero and villain are aimed at younger kids or appropriate for them. The film is loaded with intense action, from bombs and bullets to martial-arts fighting and hand-to-hand combat. In addition to the hard-hitting action, expect some drinking and a bit of sexuality. And The Joker's nightmarish appearance has the potential to frighten viewers of all ages. Much of the movie's buzz surrounds actor Heath Ledger's excellent work in that villainous role -- his final completed part before his January 2008 death from an accidental drug overdose.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySofia18 June 18, 2020

Amazing but won't show to my younger brothers yet

I watched this movie for the first time when I was 15 and loved it, but rewatched recently to gauge whether or not I could watch it with my brothers (9 and 12).... Continue reading
Adult Written bypzacle April 9, 2008

How do you explain a psychopath to a kid?

The questions I've received from my mature 12 year old since the movie:

Why do psychopaths want to kill, and wreck havoc, for its own sake?

Are there re... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous January 4, 2020

The Dark Knight is the Best

I thought this movie was the best movie I've seen. What really held my attention was the Joker. The Dark Knight was very intense and disturbing! Not for yo... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byShaunOfTheBread September 18, 2016

Brilliant, and dark, there is never a slow moment in Nolan's superb masterpiece.

I must say, it takes a certain amount of maturity to understand the Dark Knight. When I watched it when I was about 10, I was terrified by the Joker's men... Continue reading

What's the story?

Following 2005's Batman Begins, THE DARK KNIGHT continues the adventures of billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), who poses as a playboy in public -- and in private takes to the streets as costumed vigilante Batman, working to clean up the beleaguered city of Gotham. This time around, Batman has allies, including up-and-coming district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), whose own crusade to stop Gotham's gangs and organized crime families is almost as effective as Batman's -- and, more importantly, carried out within the letter of the law. Weary and battered, Wayne is eager to help Dent so that he can retire Batman's shadowy efforts, but the arrival of a new player, the giddy and grim anarchist known as The Joker (Heath Ledger) tosses a very wild card into the game.

Is it any good?

Big, bold, and bruising, this is a prime example of how a high-budget, high-profile comic-book sequel can still be an actual movie -- well-made, exciting, invested, and engaging. Yes, it's going to sell tickets and toys, but credit has to go to director/co-writer Christopher Nolan for making a strong, rich film that gives audiences plenty to talk about and mull over even after the initial adrenaline rush wears off. Like the other filmmakers who've tackled Batman in the modern age, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, Nolan has an obvious enthusiasm for the character; unlike Burton and Schumacher, Nolan also has an obvious respect for the character's history, grounding the costumes and action with real character development and focused storytelling.

The actors are all excellent, as well; Ledger's work as The Joker is earning Oscar buzz, and that's not just post-mortem sympathy talking. His swaggering, unhinged take on the character makes for an unsettling, compelling interpretation. As Dent (who, as comic-book fans know, eventually becomes the scarred villain Two-Face), Eckhart also delivers a strong performance that goes much deeper than the special-effects makeup he winds up wearing. Bale's performance is also terrific, whether he's portraying Batman's driven crime-fighting exploits or the quieter moments of Bruce Wayne's struggles behind the mask. Supporting players Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Maggie Gyllenhaal also deliver in their smaller roles. The Dark Knight is two and a half hours long, but it never meanders or wastes time; instead, it's packed to the brim with action, ideas, well-drawn character moments, and surprisingly effective drama.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Dark Knight's violence. How does the film differentiate between "good" and "bad" uses of violence?

  • What distinguishes Batman from the Joker? Both are angry and dark; why is one a hero and one a villain? Is the rule of law more important than the rule of force?

  • What does it take to maintain order in the face of those who try to create chaos? Does keeping the public safe from harm justifying curtailing their right to privacy?

  • Talk about the media coverage around Ledger's role in the film. How does a tragedy like his death affect a film's marketing and publicity?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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