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You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Now I'm fairly certain I've been saying that line for at least ten years, don't know where I heard it, but now someone pointed out I was referencing The Dark Knight and I honestly couldn't believe it when I googled the phrase and found nothing but Dark Knight sites.

That expression must be older than 2008. Right?

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I would actually like it even more if this quote has been around longer than this movie. (just realized the movie is 5 years old) –  TylerShads Mar 19 '13 at 20:13
    
Not sure I really care for finding the origin of a quote questions. Sure, it might be from a movie or tv show, but it might also be from some other media. –  DForck42 Mar 19 '13 at 21:35
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The quote reminds me of Hermann Göring's quote: "We will go down in history either as the world's greatest statesmen or its worst villains." –  Yannis Mar 19 '13 at 21:54
    
meta discussion: meta.movies.stackexchange.com/questions/909/… –  DForck42 Mar 19 '13 at 21:59
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Googling for instances of this quote prior to 2008 and excluding batman, the dark knight and harvey dent, results only in forum signatures, which aren't reliable since many boards render the signatures real-time. –  phantom42 Mar 22 '13 at 19:52
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted
+50

It's highly likely that the the quote originated from 'The Dark Knight' movie. Apparently Batman (and other super-heros) was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher. A lot of aspects of Batman are inspired by Nietzsche's beliefs which would explain why the movies seem very philosophical at times.

Along with the fact that there seem to be no references to this quote prior to the movie release (or any variation of it), I conclude that it did in fact originate (at least main stream) from the movie.

There is also more proof of this in the book, Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul while it doesn't specify the quote, it does discuss the connection between Batman and Nietzsche.

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This quote does originally come from the film. Harvey coins the phrase (no pun intended) in response to Rachel's comment abot Caesar. He isn't using a common expression, but it does come off quite eloquently. Still it is very similar to the philosophy of Michael Foucault who criticized political and social figures who turn to abusing power for indulgent convenience.

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