Movie Reviews

The 8 Movies Christopher Nolan Screened For The Dark Knight Cast During Production

Christopher Nolan is such a hard-working director that he’s known to bring movies in under budget and well within their deadlines, and according to Anne Hathaway, that’s because he has a “no chairs” rule. However, other reports explain he’s nowhere near as strict or self-regulated.

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On the first four days of shooting The Dark Knight, Nolan did nothing of the sort, and according to What Culture, the director put the cast and crew in a sort of movie boot camp. The filmmaker screened two movies per day for four days, and they were anything from 1940s classics to his own movies. And though the films are massively varied and tonally different, their influence on The Dark Knight is clear in the final cut of the 2008 superhero movie.

From the very opening shot of The Dark Knight, Heat’s influence on the Batman movie is clear as day. The opening sequence of the 2008 movie sees the Joker and his goons following through on an elaborate bank heist that goes off without a hitch, and it’s instantly familiar, being a possible homage to Heat.

The 1995 Michael Man-directed crime drama is an epic heist movie and one of the best cat-and-mouse chase thrillers ever made. And just like Batman and the Joker, Neil and Vincent have so many similarities, and it’s only their morals or lack thereof that separate them.

Anybody would be hard-pressed to throw a stone in Hollywood and hit someone who isn’t inspired by Citizen Kane, and it’s Martin Scorsese’s favorite movie too. Narratively, there aren’t many parallels between the two movies, only that Charles Foster Kane has a huge influence on the public and is trying to clean up society, just like Harvey Dent.

But whether it’s the cinematography, directing, acting, music, or any other element of the film, any one part of the filmmaking process can find influence in the 1941 classic. The movie, which follows the conflicting stories of a publishing tycoon’s life, started contemporary cinema as audiences know it today. And despite being over 80 years old, the film not only holds up, but it’s a timeless classic.

The connection between King Kong and The Dark Knight isn’t instantly obvious, and the comparison might be a bit of a stretch. But The Dark Knight deals with the Joker feeling like he doesn’t fit in and that people are scared of him simply because of his appearance, and that’s pretty similar to Kong’s narrative.

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And when looking at how both characters fall to their deaths at the end of the movies (though Joker eventually gets saved,) the idea that Nolan is comparing the clown prince of crime to the giant gorilla makes a lot more sense. However, where audiences are empathizing with King Kong every step of the way, not one viewer has any remorse for The Dark Knight’s Joker.

Stalag 17 comes from the mind of Billy Wilder, who was such a diverse and prolific director in the 1950s. The filmmaker could shoot anything from a Marilyn Monroe-starring romantic comedy to a mortifying War drama, and they’d both be the gold standard of their genres.

Stalag 17 fits into the latter, as it’s based in a German Prisoner of War camp in 1944. The film follows a group of prisoners who thinks there’s a German spy in the group. Its influence on The Dark Knight isn’t clear, but it could be that Nolan screened it simply because he’s a fan of the movie. However, it could also have been to get into the mind of a prisoner of war, as some theorize that the Joker is actually a war veteran.

Of all of the traumatizing movies about Vietnam War veterans who have PTSD, Black Sunday is one of the most underrated and shocking of them all. The movie follows the war vet who teams up with terrorists to bomb the Super Bowl.

As Nolan is such a big fan of the 1977 movie, it wouldn’t be surprising if it was Black Sunday that inspired the scene where Bane blows up the football stadium in The Dark Knight Rises. The two narratives are too similar for that not to be the case. On top of that, it also once again pays credence to the theory that the Joker has PTSD too.

If there’s a common theme amongst these movies, it’s that there’s a character who is generally violent and unpredictable. That’s the case with Black Sunday, Heat, and Stalag 17, and A Clockwork Orange is the best example of that.

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The movie follows Alex DeLarge, a violent, despicable rapist who has so much control over his droogs and sadistically even turns on his own men, just like the Joker does throughout the whole of The Dark Knight. On top of that, Alex’s sinister grin must have influenced Heath Ledger to some extent, as the Joker’s smirk is almost identical.

As was the case with Stalag 17, Cat People is a weird movie to show the cast of The Dark Knight. It’d make more sense for Nolan to screen Cat People during the production of The Dark Knight Rises than anything else. After all, the 1942 movie is a gothic movie about a woman who thinks she’s a cat.

Given that Batman is inherently gothic and Cat People is one of the most aesthetically gothic movies ever made, Nolan could have been screening it to the cast and crew to help them understand the look he’s going for. But even, then it’s still a very strange movie choice for Nolan to show, as the provocative movie sees a woman believing she turns into a panther whenever she’s turned on.

It almost goes without saying that Nolan screened The Dark Knight’s predecessor, Batman Begins, for the cast and crew, and it wouldn’t make much sense if he didn’t. Even watching the movie today, it’s hard to believe that Nolan pulled off such a dark and gritty reboot of the caped crusader so successfully.

What’s more impressive is that Nolan didn’t even lean on the more popular villains in Batman’s Rogue Gallery to guarantee its box office success. And that’s what Warner Bros. so desperately needed after the financial failure of Batman & Robin. The film focuses on Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul, two C-tier villains that Nolan managed to spin into fan favorites, and there was only the smallest hint of the Joker right at the final moment of the movie.

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