9 Valid Reasons Why Batman Begins Is Better Than The Dark Knight

The Film Gives Batman's Origin Humanity

It’s a widely held opinion that The Dark Knight is the greatest Batman movie of all time. Many would take the sentiment further and say the film may be the very best superhero film ever made. However, time provides perspective, and there’s an argument to be made that The Dark Knight is overrated. Sure, Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker will go down in history as one of the all-time great film performances, and rightfully so, but his exceptional performance masks the film’s many problems.

All of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films have merit in some form or another. The Dark Knight Rises is largely considered the weakest of the three, but it’s worth revisiting the first two installments to compare them. If one takes a moment to truly consider the evidence, there’s much to suggest that Batman Begins is better than The Dark Knight. Repeat viewings reveal that The Dark Knight features a number of often overlooked problems, whereas Batman Begins holds up among ALL Batman movies, not to mention grows better with age.

Upon re-examination, it can be argued that while The Dark Knight is no doubt the more popular film, Batman Begins is a stronger all-around film and may be the most underrated Batman movie simply due to the success of its sequel. There are plenty of reasons to consider Batman Begins as the seminal film about the Caped Crusader, from its superior action to its more atmospheric depiction of Gotham City.

1. The Film Gives Batman’s Origin Humanity

The Film Gives Batman's Origin Humanity

Some origin stories are common knowledge at this point, so no spoiler alert needed. We all know that Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider and that his Uncle Ben is shot and killed, leading him to become Spider-Man. Bruce Wayne witnesses his parents’ murder in an alley and is left an orphaned, broken child. Batman Begins includes this same key part of Batman’s origin story, but the rest of the film better reflects a Batman who does not forget his own motivations and humanity.

In The Dark Knight, Batman doesn’t change as a person. He questions his effectiveness as a vigilante, but isn’t as fueled by his inner demons so much as reacts to outside villains. In Batman Begins, Bruce is forced to earn the cowl. He almost murders a man out of hatred, he’s imprisoned, he’s pushed to breaking limits by the League of Shadows in training, and he questions his abilities. Every part of the story of the film includes Batman’s personal ethos and it makes for a deeper connection between hero and audience.

2. Batman Begins Is Actually About Batman

Batman Begins Is Actually About Batman

The Dark Knight is a solid film with a great villain. Batman Begins is a great film with a pair of solid villains. It would stand to reason this should balance the two films as at least equals. However, the competing factor that accounts for Batman Begins‘ victory as the better film has to do with the title character himself. Batman Begins is all about the eponymous Caped Crusader, whereas The Dark Knight highlights the villains.

Ask anyone about the sequel film and why it’s the “best one” and Heath Ledger’s Joker will be brought up. While, yes, his performance is masterful, his character overshadows the title character. In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne is a three-dimensional person played with subtle perfection by Christian Bale. Each scene and major plot point add to Bruce Wayne’s overall character development. In so many portrayals of Batman, he is often infallible and unbeatable, but in Batman Begins he is human and all the more interesting because of it.

3. Gotham City Has More Atmosphere In The First Film

Gotham City Has More Atmosphere In The First Film

Gotham City is as much a character in Batman’s mythology as any of the heroes or villains. Batman only exists because of the sickness of the city. Batman Begins comes the closest to illustrating the seedy and surreal nature of the city, up there next to Tim Burton’s films. In Batman Begins, Gotham has atmosphere that is painfully lacking in The Dark Knight. The latter’s version of the city is just Chicago.

In Batman Begins, the architecture feels otherworldly, like a nightmare come to life. Which makes sense, since director Christopher Nolan cited Blade Runner as an inspiration. Gotham is a dystopian noir filled with crime and monsters and that’s why it needs Batman to save it. In a world that insane, he makes sense. In Chicago, he’s just a weirdo in a suit. 

4. Batman Begins Isn’t Afraid To Show Batman’s Darker Side

Batman Begins Isn't Afraid To Show Batman's Darker Side

Superhero films, like most movies, are at their best when they straddle more than one genre, like Logan, which is a superhero film and also a sci-fi western. This elevates the film to more than just a comic book movie. To Nolan’s credit, both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight go beyond mere superhero films. However, inasmuch as The Dark Knight is a crime thriller, grounded and real world-feeling, Batman Begins is a darker, grittier horror story that harkens more to its character’s troubled beginnings.

In Batman Begins, Batman is treated similarly onscreen as Freddy, Jason, or the Xenomorph of Alien. He reaches our from hidden places, grabbing terrified criminals and disappearing with them into the darkness. He grapples with his own morality. This focus on terror and fear fits the character both in tone and theme perfectly. 

5. Batman Begins Embraces The Hero’s Comic Origins

Batman Begins Embraces The Hero's Comic Origins

Batman Begins owns up to its source material. It elevates Batman by making him human, explores what made him the way he is, and grounds him. All while still retaining the pulp and other-worldly nature of the comics that helped Batman stand apart from other superheroes for so long.

The Dark Knight, on the other hand, seems embarrassed to be a comic book adaptation at all. The second film was described as the “serious” one and not just a comic book movie. It feels like a different franchise. The film wants to be realistic, making the Joker extra scary and realistically psychotic, but also tries to incorporate more comic book-style elements like Two-Face and Bat-gadgets that fall entirely flat in the film’s new context.

6. Batman Is Depicted As The Genius Detective He Is

Batman Is Depicted As The Genius Detective He Is

The World’s Greatest Detective has yet to be the title for a Batman film. Despite the character first appearing in Detective Comics, filmmakers shy away from portraying this side of him. Nolan also doesn’t skimp on Batman’s more interesting features, such as his hand-to-hand combat skills, but Batman Begins actually embraces the planning and investigating that Batman is forced to do to protect his city. From tracking down criminals for information to looking into Scarecrow’s dealings at Arkham, Bruce Wayne was a detective for once.

While he does some research in The Dark Knight, none of it makes much sense. A sequence where Batman uses a chaingun to reverse engineer a shattered bullet in order to find a fingerprint makes even less sense than where, exactly, his black eye-makeup disappears to whenever he takes off his mask.

7. The Bat-Gadgets Make A Lot More Sense

The Bat-Gadgets Make A Lot More Sense

Batman has had some ludicrous gadgets over the years. Thanks to Batman Begins, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) presents Bruce Wayne with tech that holds understandable real-life value, from the military body armor re-purposed into the Batsuit to the cowl ears ordered online and assembled by hand to the batarangs sharpened in Bruce’s own basement. There are practical explanations for the hero’s gadgets in the first movie that are altogether missing in not only The Dark Knight, but nearly all superhero films.

In The Dark Knight, bizarre and over-the-top tech takes the place of useful and understandable tools. For instance, a scanner Batman uses to scan a pile of money, a Skyhook which is a self-inflating balloon line that is grabbed by a passing plane (based on real-life CIA tech that was rendered outdated when hovering aircraft were invented). Other badly conceived tools in The Dark Knight: sonar vision with the god-like ability to see literally all of Gotham, and the Batpod, a motorcycle hidden inside the Tumbler. All of them look cool, but don’t act as extensions of Batman’s humanity, just flamboyant representations of Bruce Wayne’s money.

8. The Dark Knight Feels Cold Next To Batman Begins’s Relatable Emotions

“Why do we fall, sir? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” Batman Begins is a movie fueled by emotion. Bruce’s relationships, first with his father and then with his mentor Alfred, are genuinely touching. Those relationships add a warmth and depth that flesh out not just Bruce Wayne, but the film as a whole.

The Dark Knight, while tense and shocking, is a cold and calculated movie. Even Rachel’s death feels empty as the characters feel her loss more than the audience. This stems from the core thematic differences of the two films. Batman Begins is about fear, a relatable and visceral emotion, whereas The Dark Knight is about chaos. It’s a more cerebral and philosophical film by design, but suffers from a lack of heartfelt connection. A connection that makes Batman Begins the better film in the franchise.

9. Batman Begins Isn’t Needlessly Complex

Batman Begins Isn't Needlessly Complex

Despite being a genre that in theory relies primarily on character and action, modern superhero films are oddly weighed down by plot. Unnecessary subplots and contrived twists have filled the genre that was once as simple as a person gaining powers and doing good. The Dark Knight is littered with so many side characters and B-plots, it’s a wonder Batman even fits into the movie.

While The Dark Knight‘s plot is nowhere near as egregious as the The Dark Knight Rises, the amount of coincidences and contrivances that make up the Joker’s “plan” make one wonder if he’s a genius or just lucky. As amazing as every Joker scene is, it’s hard not to wonder how anyone could realistically orchestrate this “planned chaos” or why anyone else would bother helping him, especially if they caught wind of how often he kills his own men. Batman Begins, on the other hand, is fairly straightforward. Bruce trains with the League, rebels, then must stop his former friends from destroying Gotham. It’s simple, but the execution elevates it, allowing for focus on character and thematic nuance without resorting to contrived plot points for shock value.