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12 Great Movies Like The Dark Knight

12 Great Movies Like The Dark Knight

movies like dark knight

From Tim Burton’s blockbuster that kickstarted the Batman series in 1989 to Todd Phillips’ Joker (2019), here are 12 movies like The Dark Knight for fans of the thriller genre.

Christopher Nolan redefined superhero movies with The Dark Knight. He singlehandedly changed the landscape of blockbuster storytelling shooting 28 minutes of the film in IMAX, the first Hollywood feature film to do so. Nolan further explores the themes of chaos versus order by creating leads who’re essentially two faces of the same coin. The Joker, immortalized by Heath Ledger’s chilling performance is one of the most iconic antagonists of all time. His action while seemingly random is designed to uncover the hypocrisy of the sole protector of Gotham. In a rare moment in mainstream moviemaking, the film actually lets the villain win. 

In this list, we take a look at some of the classics that influenced Nolan to make his masterpiece along with modern action films that borrowed Nolan’s template to mount their own stories successfully.

 

1. The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Source: Letterboxd

The silent film is based on Victor Hugo’s 1869 eponymous novel. The gothic romance explores the lives of Gywnplaine, a disfigured son of a nobleman who rescues an infant, Dea from imminent danger. Scared that Dea might find him ugly because of his deformity, he never confesses his love for her. Can this story ever have a happy ending?

Upon release, it wasn’t very well received by some critics feeling that the subject matter was too morbid. It’s only recently that this small German film has found its audience with the great Roger Ebert calling itone of the final treasures of the German silent Expressionism.” Legend has it that comic book artists Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson were heavily influenced by Gywnplaine when they were creating The Joker. DC even released a graphic novel in 2005 titled Batman: The Man Who Laughs as a homage to this film.

 

WATCH: 100 Films That Changed My Life

 

2. Tim Burton’s Batman (1989)

Source: Variety

Tim Burton’s blockbuster kickstarted the Batman series, providing the basis for the multiple full-length feature films, tv series, and video games that would follow. One of the biggest selling points of the film was its distinct visual style that was far ahead of its time. Michael Keaton effectively expresses the psychological torment behind Wayne, while transforming into a robotic figure when he dons the Batman suit. Jack Nicholson’s unhinged portrayal of The Joker is one for the ages. He intentionally goes over the edge acting as an interesting counterweight to Keaton’s take on the protagonist. 

This movie was panned by film-goers who were expecting a campy cartoon but were instead shown a gritty tale featuring an elaborate battle between two freaks. But with time, it began to be embraced by both critics and comic book aficionados. They seem to be in particular awe of the exquisite set design. Take a journey into Burton’s psychological world to truly understand where the fascination with the Caped Crusader began. 

 

3. Falling Down (1993)

Source: Vox

Joel Schumacher’s film follows the story of William Forster, an average American man driven to rage by the injustices he faces. Michael Douglas portrays Forster, a typical consumer who is pragmatic and unhinged in equal measure. By a twist of fate, he comes into the possession of weapons capable of mass destruction, setting him on a collision course with Detective Martin Pendergast, who is grappling with his own personal crisis.

A large part of why Falling Down works is the vicarious thrill of watching Douglas’ character wreak havoc on his surroundings and retaliate against those who provoke him. Duvall’s character also grapples with similar frustrations, but channels his aggression in a more restrained manner. Falling Down isn’t just your average action film. It’s more of a scathing social commentary on how a person’s environment influences their actions.

 

4. Heat (1995)

Image Source: Warner Bros.

Micheal Mann’s Heat is, without a doubt, one of the greatest heist movies ever made. It features two of Hollywood’s biggest legends Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on opposite sides of the law. Al Pacino plays a hardened detective while De Niro takes up the role of a street-smart criminal. Like The Dark Knight, Heat features an iconic bank robbery scene and an unforgettable confrontation between the two leads. 

Heat is one of those rare movies that delivers beyond its promises. Mann takes care to craft every scene meticulously and casts exceptional actors for even the smallest of roles. The writing makes us care for every character, a rarity for an action film. This attention to detail elevates the film beyond the genre, making for a supremely entertaining watch. Though more than two decades have passed since its release, not a single scene feels dated. Every action sequence remains as fresh and impactful as it did years ago.

 

5. Enemy of the State (1998)

Source: Mubi

Enemy of the State stars Will Smith as a Washington DC-based lawyer whose life is thrown for a toss when he finds incriminating proof against the government in the mysterious killing of a Congressman. Jon Voight plays the government official hellbent on making Smith’s life a nightmare. He plants sexual gossip in the paper, cancels his credit cards, and even attempts to pin a murder on him. The film tries to examine the unethical surveillance system used by governments that illegally track phone calls to look for trigger words. Voight wants a communication bill passed and is ready to destroy anything and anyone who comes in the way of his objective. 

With nowhere to go, the lawyer seeks help from Brill, a shady ex American spy played by Gene Hackman. Brill lives in a rundown warehouse building and has withdrawn himself from public life. He explains to our supposedly fugitive lawyer how the government monitors personal conversation under the guise of national security. 

Tony Scott of Top Gun fame gives us a fast-paced thriller that concludes with a shocker of a finale. Watch Enemy of the State for its frenetic pace and exhilarating chase sequences.

 

6. Collateral (2004) 

Source: Slant Magazine

The second Michael Mann movie on this list, Collateral is a tense thriller where the story mostly unfolds within the confines of a cab. Max (Jamie Foxx), a taxi driver is convinced by the suave, smooth-talking Vincent (Tom Cruise) to drive him around the city. Max is in for a shock of his life when he realizes that Vincent is a seasoned assassin and that the stops they’re making are all targets. 

Mann gives us a glimpse of LA in all its glory, bathing the City of Angels in shades of blue, black, and brown. Tom Cruise effortlessly switches between charming and ruthless. On the other hand, Jamie Foxx’s wonderfully subtle performance captures the vulnerability of the character effectively. But, the script relies on too many coincidences to keep things moving.

Nevertheless, Collateral is one wild car ride you need to hop on to right away.

 

7. V For Vendetta (2005)

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

It’s hard to believe that the superbly staged V for Vendetta was James McTeigue’s debut feature. Based on Alan Moore’s eponymous graphic novel, this movie narrates the story of a masked anarchist, voiced by a spectacular Hugo Weaving fighting against a corrupted, authoritative society. In this process, he rescues an employee of a state-sponsored television network. Evey (Natalie Portman) soon comes to realize that there might be some truth to his revolutionary statements. 

Hugo Weaving’s charismatic portrayal of the masked anti-hero is a treat to watch. Portman holds her own and is the film’s emotional anchor. Like The Dark Knight, V for Vendetta features stretches of well-choreographed action, filmed by the late cinematographer Adrian Biddle. Visually, it’s a spectacle to behold,  accentuated further by Dario Marianell’s rousing score. V for Vendetta is a thrilling adventure that is also extremely relevant in today’s socio-political climate.

 

8. Watchmen (2009)

Source: HBO

Zack Synder’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name is a dark, absorbing thriller that like The Dark Knight tries to subvert genre conventions. The story takes place in an alternate universe teeming with masked warriors and superheroes. The government scared about the power they hold decides to outlaw their existence. But, the mysterious murder of a vigilante, The Comedian brings back the Watchmen. Rorschach who wears a mask with shifting inkblots believes that this might be part of a larger conspiracy. This investigation of his forces him to confront a truth that could alter the course of history as we know it. 

Watchmen features an eclectic group of superheroes, each flawed in different ways. This allows us to get into their heads and truly understand the weight of their actions. Deeply visceral, the film makes you feel like you’re flipping through a graphic novel. 

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9. I Saw The Devil (2010)

Source: Esquire

Kim Ji-Woon’s thriller is clearly not for the faint of heart. We follow a chilling cat-and mouse-game between the two leads, one a violent psychopath, other a cop. Their paths cross when Soo-Hyun’s girlfriend happens to be Kyung-Chul‘s latest victim. Will the honest cop get his shot at retribution or will the devilishly smart killer continue to evade him?

Byung-hun Lee and Min-sik Choi are great in their roles and complement each other brilliantly. While Lee plays the calm, collected cop with restraint, Choi goes all out and is madly expressive. The characters aren’t written entirely black or white. The viewer is left to form their opinions. The fight scenes are brutally real with the leading men turning to hand-to-hand combat at one point.

If you’re seeking an intense film that doesn’t shy away from violence, I Saw the Devil might be the perfect choice.

 

10. Skyfall (2012)

Source: Collider

If there’s one villain in recent times who seems directly inspired by Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, it’s Raoul Silva from Skyfall. Played by Javier Bardem, Silva is a former Secret Intelligence Service agent turned cyber-terrorist. A suicide attempt gone wrong when he’s captured by the Chinese scars him psychologically. Years later, he’s left seeking revenge against the very organization that deserted him. He builds a criminal empire from ground up by crippling economies with his improved hacking skills. By the time Bond squares off against him, Silva is drunk with power with a limitless reserve of money and resources. 

Sam Mendes mimics Nolan’s approach to his protagonist by having Bond introspect and confront the weight of his actions. Silva despises M believing that she’s the reason for all the suffering he had to endure yet he cannot bring himself to kill her when given the chance. He may have been vanquished by Bond, but his plan ultimately succeeds as M collapses in Bond’s arms.

 

11. John Wick (2014)

Source: Decider

Only a handful of action thrillers have achieved a cult following like The Dark Knight. John Wick is certainly one of them. It revitalizes the familiar trope of an anti-hero drawn back into the world of crime after losing something precious — in this case, an adorable beagle named Daisy. John Wick reinvigorated Keanu Reeves’ career, solidifying his status as an action star who’s here to stay. Reeves maintains a calm and collected demeanor even in the most intense scenes, and this Zen-like quality gives him a poised yet brutal physicality.

Chad Stahelski and David Leitch put all their experience as stuntmen to good use giving us intricately choreographed set pieces. DoP Jonathan Sela’s stylish visuals help create an immersive world populated by nefarious Russian mobs. John Wick has evolved into an insanely popular franchise with four films in the series.

 

12. Joker (2019)

Source: Roger Ebert

Todd Philip’s latest film, Joker is a deeply disturbing origin tale of one of DC’s crowning creations The Joker. It was always going to be a big ask to follow up Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the madman, but Joaquin Phoenix comes pretty darn close. It’s a performance of a lifetime that surely was Oscar-worthy in one of the best movies of 2019. Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, a struggling comedian trying to make ends meet by dressing as a clown. On the verge of an emotional breakdown, a revelation about his past accelerates his descent into madness.

Joker tries to humanize the antagonist by suggesting that it was the people around him that drove him to seize control and embrace chaos. Todd tries to highlight the importance of mental health, but I’m not sure how effective that was given that it’s been overshadowed by the debate about the film supposedly inciting violence. That aside, Joker‘s a thoroughly engrossing film with an electrifying lead performance.

 

Conclusion

There you have it. That’s my list of movies that I think you’ll enjoy if you liked Nolan’s The Dark Knight. I’ve included some classics along with modern action thrillers. I’d also recommend you to check out Batman: The Animated Series that features the great Mark Hamill as The Joker and Christopher McQuarrie’s brilliantly executed Jack Reacher. 

 

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