“I don’t really know what it means”: Christopher Nolan is Still Perturbed by 1 Iconic The Dark Knight Dialogue for a Bizarre Reason That Has Endured Time 

When even the mastermind behind The Dark Knight trilogy can’t get over a famous dialogue, and that wasn’t even penned by him!

“I don’t really know what it means”: Christopher Nolan is Still Perturbed by 1 Iconic The Dark Knight Dialogue for a Bizarre Reason That Has Endured Time 


  • Christopher Nolan has a celebrated filmography, including sci-fi epics and cult favorites like The Dark Knight trilogy.
  • But for years, he was “plagued” by a line in The Dark Knight, which was not even penned by him.
  • According to Nolan, when he first read the iconic line in the draft, he didn’t even fully “understand” it.
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Christopher Nolan is a true cinephile and one of the last remaining purists in cinema history. With a celebrated filmography filled with sci-fi epics, cult favorites, and one timeless trilogy, he has been making films for over 20 years. The mastermind behind The Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan, is acknowledged for his intricate storytelling and complex characters.


However, there is one line from The Dark Knight (2008) that has stuck with him over the years, and it wasn’t even written by him. In a recent interview with Deadline, the director, 53, admitted that he continues to be perturbed by the famous line, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. The line was written by his brother, Jonathan Nolan, and has haunted the Oppenheimer director ever since. 

Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan Almost Removed This Line from The Dark Knight?

The Dark Knight established itself as a major cultural icon in the weeks following its summer 2008 release. Ahead of the film’s home video release, people praised the film for its realistic portrayal of superheroes and, of course, quoting the Joker.


No doubt, the film has a profound meaning for each and every viewer. Pretty much everybody, actually. However, the director, Christopher Nolan, found no significance in one of its important lines. He recently told Deadline:

“I’m plagued by a line from The Dark Knight, and I’m plagued by it because I didn’t write it. My brother [co-screenwriter Jonathan] wrote it.”

Harvey Dent
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight

This particular quote from the film is among the most enduring scenes. It was delivered by Harvey Dent, portrayed by Aaron Eckhart, who famously said:

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to become the villain.”

These lines Harvey said to Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) early on in The Dark Knight. It hints at both Batman’s decision to become a villain in the eyes of the public in order to preserve Harvey’s status as Gotham’s white knight, as well as Harvey’s ultimate demise when he transforms into Two-Face.


Why Is Christopher Nolan Still Perturbed By That Iconic The Dark Knight Line?

gary oldman the dark knight 2
Gary Oldman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight

When Christopher Nolan first came across the line in his brother’s draft, he admitted that he was puzzled by its significance. But why? The director confessed (via Deadline):

“It kills me, because it’s the line that most resonates. And at the time, I didn’t even understand it I read it in his draft, and I was like, ‘All right, I’ll keep it in there, but I don’t really know what it means. Is that really a thing?’”

However, the line’s profound impact on the movie became apparent as The Dark Knight achieved both critical and commercial success. It now stands as one of the movie’s most enduring quotes, encapsulating the trilogy’s recurring themes of duality and moral ambiguity. With Christian Bale & Michael Caine in the lead roles, the movie has been rated as one of the best superhero movies ever made.

Even though Nolan is referred to as an auteur, he regularly exhibits his willingness to collaborate and work with others. And as his confidence in his brother shows, that strategy works—something he himself can attest to. Continuing, he said:


“And then, over the years since that film’s come out, it just seems truer and truer. In this story, it’s absolutely that. Build them up, tear them down. It’s the way we treat people.”

The 2008 flick is the second installment of The Dark Knight trilogy and the sequel to Batman Begins (2005). Breaking numerous box office records, it became the highest-grossing film of 2008 and the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time. A follow-up titled The Dark Knight Rises concluded The Dark Knight trilogy in 2012.

The Dark Knight trilogy is streaming on Max.


Written by Siddhika Prajapati

Articles Published: 1372

Between everyday normalities and supernatural abnormalities, Siddhika Prajapati finds the story in everything. Literature Honors Graduate and Post-Graduated in Journalism (from Delhi University), her undying need to deduce the extraordinary out of simplicity makes her a vibrant storyteller.

Serving as a Senior Entertainment Writer at Fandom Wire and having written over 1300 pieces, Siddhika has also worked with multiple clients and projects over the years, including Indian Express, India Today, and Outlook Group.

Who knows, maybe your next favorite persona on the screen will be crafted by her.