Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.
There have been many versions of The Joker and when it was first announced that Heath Ledger would be Christopher Nolan’s version, many were hesitant. We now know that he would reinvigorate the role and make it his own, creating a version that was crazy, funny and bizarre but equally as scary. The introduction to the character also shows that he isn’t some deranged maniac but actually a brilliant strategist too and the opening scene of The Dark Knight represents this.
Greatest Scene Number 24: The Dark Knight – What doesn’t kill you only makes you stranger.”
Considering that The Dark Knight is a superhero movies, it clearly takes the more realistic, dramatic route than the fantastical. The opening bank robbery which starts the movie showcases this and is much more in keeping with a thriller like The Town or Triple 9. It is a very focused, frantic and well-crafted scene which has a clear story and calculated plan at the center.
The clever aspect of the bank robbery is how The Joker has gotten everyone to betray the other. Each person has been told to remove the person they are working with, unaware that their fate will the same. When they first discuss that they have to split the loot six ways, they comment on how The Joker won’t get his cut because he isn’t there, another part of his master plan.
The audience are aware of which of them is The Joker due to the opening of the scene, showing the character holding the “unhappy clown” mask before he is picked-up but he hasn’t let anyone else know and it plays to how well the character has planned the robbery. It also gives opportunities for the character to show other cunning aspects to his personality.
Aside from the plan that slowly removes it’s own henchmen, The Joker is forced to think on his feet on a couple of occasions. The first is when bank manager William Fichtner strikes back at the crooks. The Joker baits the shotgun wielding manager out into the open by tricking another henchman into exposing his location. It is such a small moment but one which represents the genius of the character.
Add to this the moment where it seems The Joker’s plan will actually fail. One of the henchmen has worked out the ploy and is about to kill The Joker when, quite suddenly and shockingly, a school bus breaks through the wall (something which will play perfectly into the finale of the scene). It demonstrates the characters nerves of steel and his manipulative nature, especially when he unceremoniously kills the driver of the bus.
Of course the most memorable moment of the scene is when William Fichtner’s injured manager shouts to the iconic villain, asking him “what do you believe in?” There will be many memorable, quotable lines from the film, some much more iconic than this, but as the first look at the horrifically scarred face of Ledger’s Joker, his delivery of the line, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you…stranger” couldn’t have been more appropriate.
Overall, the bank robbery scene isn’t just a perfect piece of storytelling and a thrilling, explosive way to open a movie but it also gives the audience the first look at the film’s protagonist. Heath Ledger’s Joker would become the version of the character to beat and this scene is the first example of why.