Is This Why the Joker Didn't Return in 'The Dark Knight Rises'?

Christopher Nolan's 2008 film The Dark Knight gave Batman and movie fans both what remains the best and most chilling take on The Joker to date. Heath Ledger's performance as the iconic villain remains the gold standard for the role, the portrayal so good that Ledger even won an Oscar for it. Unfortunately, Ledger's sudden death before the film even opened all but ruled out the villain's return for the final film in Nolan's trilogy -- The Dark Knight Rises. Now, though, one fan thinks they may have pinpointed a story-related reason we never saw or heard from The Joker again.

In a post shared to Reddit's Fan Theories sub, one fan suggests that the reason The Joker doesn't factor in is because the villain believed that Batman had truly murdered Harvey Dent and gone on a killing spree connected to it, acts that would mean that The Joker had won.

Generally, many fan theories about the absence of the villain in The Dark Knight Rises hinge around the idea that The Joker doesn't feel a need to be a problem since Batman is gone. However, a gone Batman was never The Joker's goal. It was to show that Batman has the capacity for evil. Retiring or leaving Gotham doesn’t prove that.

Batman killing someone, however, does. As fans of The Dark Knight will recall, after Rachel Dawes is killed as a result of The Joker's machinations, a distraught and horribly disfigured Harvey snaps and goes from heroic district attorney to a killing spree. While Harvey is ultimately taken out by Batman to save Jim Gordon's son. To spare Gotham the truth about Harvey's end and thus preserve the hope he gave the citizens, Batman takes responsibility for the killing spree. It's something that quickly turns the hero to a villain -- precisely what Joker wanted.

There is a slight problem with the theory, however. In The Dark Knight, The Joker is already aware that it's Harvey that went on the murder spree. After all, The Joker had a hand in orchestrating Harvey's snap. Harvey going full villain was part of The Joker's ultimate plan and he even gloats to Batman that the people of Gotham will lose all hope when they hear of Dent's rampage. With that in mind, the idea that The Joker would come to believe he had flipped Batman simply doesn't hold up.

Plot issues aside, there are other reasons why The Joker didn't appear in The Dark Knight Rises. Ledger's untimely death was probably the largest, but it wasn't the only reason. Nolan notably wrote in the forward of his book The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy that he had never considered a third film to be possible and only agreed to do one if a worthwhile story could be found. With that being the case, there were likely never any plans for The Joker to appear in The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan has also noted in the past that he wanted to have a very different sort of villain than what fans might expect, a choice that led him to use Bane.


While there fans will likely always wonder what The Dark Knight Rises might have been if The Joker were the primary villain, they don't have to wonder if they will ever see it on the big screen again. Fans will have a chance to Ledger's Joker as well as Tom Hardy's Bane in theaters this spring. Warner Bros. Pictures recently announced that all three films in Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy -- Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises -- will be returning to theaters for special 70mm film engagements which you can find more information about here.

What do you think about this theory about the Joker? Let us know in the comments below.