In the final scene of The Dark Knight, we see Batman go on a final confrontation with the corrupted Dent.

Dent, hell bent on making Batman and Gordon pay for Rachel's death, flips his trademark coin to decide the fate of the 3, Gordon being replaced with his son.

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Batman's fate turns out poor, while Dent escapes, however, Gordon's fate seemingly is decided as poor and Dent prepares to shoot the boy. In a quick act, Batman lunges at Dent and both of them fall a few stories down the blown up building.

The Joker: Oh, you. You just couldn't let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren't you? You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won't kill you because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.

(emphasis mine)

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We have confirmation from Nolan that these events killed Harvey Dent and actually set into motion the events of The Dark Knight Rises.

Does this mean the Joker actually won, and caused Batman to break his one rule?

The Joker: You have these rules, and you think they'll save you.

Batman: I have one rule.

The Joker: Oh, then that's the rule you'll have to break to know the truth.

Anyone that knows Batman mythos knows that Batman's one rule is never kill.

A similar thing happens at the end of Batman Begins. While Batman and Ra's are duking it out on the train, it turns out to be just a distraction while Gordon derails it. Batman then claims to Ra's:

Ra's al Ghul: Have you finally learned to do what is necessary?

Bruce Wayne: I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you.

Allowing Ra's to die.

Do these two events actually count as Batman breaking his One Rule? Or are they actually excusable occurrences due to the nature of events.

  • This is similar to Aquaman, letting Black Manta's father die in the submarine scene. Same dilemma
    – DanielV
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 11:16

7 Answers 7


Batman has more than one rule, but the one line that he refuses to cross - the one thing that would turn him from a crusader into a villain - is that he does not kill. Only taking Christopher Nolan's Batman into consideration then yes, he did break this rule by directly causing the fall that accidentally killed Harvey Dent.

Let's look at the scene:

Batman is shot, Dent is safe, and the boy's fate is undecided, but Batman can't let a coin determine that fate. He lunges at Dent and the boy and all three go over the edge. Despite his armor, Batman is injured and not at full strength. He is only able to save the boy before he himself falls after Dent. Crashing through more debris than Dent (who was pushed far enough out that he was clear (and who may have survived had he not been in such a badly burned condition)) Batman gets more injured on the way down and lands near Dent.

Later on when talking to Gordon, Batman says:

"You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I can do those things, because I'm not a hero, like Dent. I killed those people. That's what I can be." ----- "I'm whatever Gotham needs me to be."

It's a great and powerful scene, but in its essence, it's one man (Batman) pushing another man (Dent) off a building and killing him (while saving an innocent boy), then taking the blame for not only Dent's death but the deaths caused by Dent as well. Batman is not just telling Gordon that he killed Dent, he is saying that he killed those people too. Batman feels directly responsible for their deaths and in Harvey's case, he is directly responsible.

This is the true genius of Nolan's Batman; he's not only real and plausible, he is constantly trying to figure out what he's doing, why is he doing it, and has he gone to far? Nolan made Batman break his most important rule.

A lot of fans don't want to admit that Batman killed. An accidental killing doesn't count as breaking his rule they say, but to Batman it does count. It will haunt him. The deaths Two-Face caused will haunt him. He takes the blame for everything that happened. He pushed Two-Face off of a building and Two-Face died. The line has been crossed. How will Batman deal with that? How will he deal with being a criminal? The next movie will definitely deal with this but it is a huge step for Batman.

Nolan has created a realistic Batman. In Batman Begins we got to see what makes a man become a Batman. What training, what psychological problems, what Gotham's corruption had to do with it. When fighting Ra's al Ghul, we started to see a bending of the rule not to kill. Leaving Ra's al Ghul on the train was not killing in Batman's mind because Ra's al Ghul had survived a seemingly unsurvivable situation before, plus he had planned meticulously. If Batman could survive it, then he assumed Ra's al Ghul could as well.

At the start of The Dark Knight we start to encounter a basic problem with his rule: if Batman doesn't kill, why do criminals need to fear him? By the end of the movie Batman has killed and has taken the blame for more killings. This not only adds to the myth of the Batman but it directly affects his mental state. Throughout The Dark Knight we see him wrestling with how far he should push himself, what is his limit, what keeps him from being the Joker?

Then he breaks his most important rule and it seems to define him more. Did he plan to kill Two-Face? No. Did he directly cause his death? Yes! He did it in the only allowable way, to protect the innocent, and he did so by accident, but he still killed and still broke his rule.

Now we have a whole new Batman going into The Dark Knight Rises. One who has killed. One who has become a villain. Yet he is more sure of himself and what he stands for than ever before.

  • 7
    I disagree with what you have said there because I don't think batman's rule is never to kill anyone directly or indirectly. I think his rule is never to execute someone or deliberately kill someone unless unavoidable. In the scene you are talking about with dent Batman is saving the boy's life not killing Dent. He had to knock dent of the biulding in order to do that and no longer had the strength to save Dent as he had been shot. If he was simply killing dent he would not have arrived and tried to talk to dent first, he would have just killed him straight away.
    – hmmmm
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 21:11
  • 4
    When he is talking to Gordon and telling him that he killed those people and dent he is not telling Dent he feels responsible for it he is just telling Gordon that that has to be their story in order to save Gotham. I think the death that will haunt him (and you can see in the latest film has) is Rachel's death not Harvey's. I would also say that the third film kind of shows that your last line is not very true.
    – hmmmm
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 21:15
  • 3
    I would also add that in the films his rule comes about when eaz al ghul asks him to execute someone and bruce says that he cannot do that as then he would be too similar to the criminals however when he saved gordons son and killed harvey this was a very different case and one in which I'm sure most people would say was the right thing to do. This was not killing in the same sense as executing a prisoner. So in relation to the original post I would say that the circumstances of the kill definitely mean that it does not count as him breaking his rule.
    – hmmmm
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 21:19
  • @hmmmm, Sounds like you have some awesome points to share. mind to present them as an answer?
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 12:47
  • I always thought that he took responsibility for the murders as a way to make Batman scarier, since the criminals figured out that Batman does not kill
    – alexgbelov
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 21:56

Dent dies as the result of an accident, not because Batman killed him.
Batman's one is to never kill. But that does not mean that he goes out of his way to not let the bad guys be killed. If he has a choice, if it is necessary, the bad guys can be left to fend off on their own. Like in Batman Begins, when he leaves Ra's on the train while making his escape. In The Dark Knight, Dent as Two-Face is hell-bent on trying to seek his warped justice by deciding people's fate with chance. When Gordon's turn forces the gun on the boy, Batman tries his best to save the kid, jumping on Dent and plunging the both of them to the ground. Inspite of such a fall, Batman (injured) managed to make his escape. Dent dies as the result of an accident, not because Batman killed him.

  • 3
    And this is why Batman interests me so much. If you've played the game Arkham City, after a certain villain is on his deathbed, Batman has the means to save him. The villain causes those means to be destroyed in an accident while trying to kill Batman. Watching his foe die, Batman says he still would have saved him regardless of what he has done. This is obviously a different Batman universe but the same curiosity applies.
    – Tablemaker
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 2:18
  • 3
    Well in the fall he saved the kid, he really couldn't save both
    – DForck42
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 3:31
  • @TylerShads: Batman Arkham City adheres well to the comic Batman universe. <br>@DForck42: He was trying to save the kid, not save / kill Dent, though he really wanted to save 'Gothams White Knight' Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 15:15
  • 2
    @TylerShads Those kicks to the head and other fight maneuvers (slamming shields in people's throats etc.) in Arkham City should or rather would kill a great many mooks, as he does in all the Arkham games: youtube.com/watch?v=hCl0Qv8DkvQ
    – BMWurm
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 12:08

I would like to say he didn't break his rule, but he actually did. He didn't save Ras, which is fair enough, he saved a young boy by killing Dent, unintentionally (though he may have died from infection eventually anyway), both are questionable. What most people are forgetting is that in the first movie, when Bruce claims to not be an executioner, lets one man live (a thief) by causing an explosion, killing most of Ras Al Gul's men, and also killing the guy pretending to be Ras. The building exploded because of Bruce, we saw people die, so he technically broke his rule before putting on the mask.

All that being said and done, if i was in his shoes, i wouldn't have changed anything he did, and deem them ok.


If we assume Batman's rule to be "Don't kill", it's a bit ambiguous, and very limiting. Instead, we should assume the rule is "Don't Murder". This is more in line with his actions.

He didn't murder Dent. He didn't intentionally cause his life to end. Dent died accidentally, as a byproduct of trying to stop Dent from murdering a child. While risky, there was a chance Dent would have lived. It's manslaughter at worst, more like a justifiable homicide. It's very close to suicide by cop. By the first interpretation or the second, he didn't kill Dent.

Ra's is harder to justify. Nolan Batman is grittier than the typical Batman characterization. Batman would normally always attempt to save someone about to die, even if it's the villain. Allowing someone to die through inaction would violate "Don't Kill", but not "Don't Murder".

In other Batman characterizations, Batman has been seen killing henchmen through inaction or indirect action. These henchmen are always attempting to kill Batman or civilians. Notably, henchmen thrown off fatal heights, or causing them to fumble explosives leading to walls painted red. As the saying goes, it's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop. Batman causes the fall, not the sudden stop.


I think the Joker's plan does turn out, but not in Batman killing Harvey; but Rachel. Joker says "killing is making a choice. Choosing one life over another." he tells Batman that his (Batman's) rules won't save him. The Joker says Batman's one rule will have to be broken; he'll have to play the Joker's "little game". The Joker tricked Batman into inadvertently killing Rachel by accidentally choosing Dent's life over Rachel's.

  • If Joker tricked Batman into doing something (as we know he did), than Batman did not make the choice, hence. Commented May 29, 2014 at 11:44
  • Yeahhh, hence!! Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 17:53

In the First movie, Batman doesn't break his rule. He explains: "I won't kill you, but that doesn't mean I have to save you." He didn't, technically, kill him.
The Dark Knight, however, is a different matter. Yes, in this film, he does break his rule. That's the thing about Dark Knight: It's about Batman failing. That's why The Dark Knight Rises is called what it is; because Rises is about the consequences of breaking that rule and his quest to rise above it.


Short answer: Batman did break his rule. He killed Harvey Dent.

Batman never hated Harvey. He, in fact empathized with his predicament handling Rachel's loss through mindless violence. However, Batman isn't a "nice" guy. He's not harmless, that's not why he doesn't kill. Batman doesn't kill because he has trained himself to the peak of human embodiment, training as a ninja and using his high IQ to good use.

A key lesson Joker taught Batman through his terror in Gotham was that you must break rules. To Lucius Fox' distaste, Batman used a sonar surveillance tool that could spy on everyone in Gotham. As silly as it sounds in a superhero film, this is the first rule Batman breaks. Lucius reminds Batman that he's breaking people's fundamental right to privacy. Batman says he has no other way to find and stop the Joker before he kills more people.

In the climax, Batman kills Harvey because he knew there's a chance the coin flip will show heads, leaving the kid without anyone to save him. The only chance for Batman to save the boy, was to knock out Harvey from the edge of the building. There were no inventory in Batman's belt, or his ninja skills that could save the boy. Batman broke his rule in the first place.

But then it raises a question: did Batman care so much to not break rules? Not really. No one is that much of a boy scout, or a rule follower to never kill someone.

In fact, Batman has actually committed manslaughter in Batman Begins by not saving Ras Al Gul's from the speeding train.

I don't think this makes us love Batman as a superhero though. Batman becomes corrupted at the end of The Dark Knight, but he is the tolerable one since he can't possibly commit more. He's always been a vigilante who never killed. But he's a special kind of vigilante, a wrong-doer who can be justified - a Dark Knight.

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