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The Dark Knight: An In-depth Psychoanalytic Critique of Narrative and Characters (Draft) – Emmanuel Johnson


The film, The Dark Knight depicts an incredible embodiment of Psychoanalytic and Semiotic theories. It also connotes fragments of the screen-spectator relationship and unconscious fears within society.

This movie reflects the structure of the mind according to Freud, and represents the following components within it: the preconscious, the conscious and the unconscious (Cherry 2016).

The characters of the film are used in this construction, and thus play an essential role in its entire narrative.

The sole purpose of this analysis, is to dissect components within this film, and expose a much bigger framework, which seem subliminal at a glance.

The most notable cultural anxiety experimented on, in this film is the postmodern fear of terror. Because of recent terrorist acts such as the September 11 attacks, the fear of horror from this unknown ‘other’ has undoubtedly been drilled into postmodern societies of so called ‘first world’ countries. Mediums of expression such as films have capitalised on this collective memory and ‘regurgitated’ it to the public.

Deflem (2010: 29) argues that, questions such as ‘how the world is structured, what is valuable and unworthy, who is good and who is bad, and which kinds of actions are wrong or right’ are asserted in media texts. The mob bosses in this film are represented as either non-American or a racial minority, with the joker being the only exception, as he is represented as an intelligent antagonist. This representation reflects the unconscious American perception of the ‘other’ as ‘foreign’.

The Dark Knight details the surrealist performance of representing the ‘unconscious’ using images. This is made possible through the mixture of film with ‘real life’.

Nolan connotes Freud’s structures of personality, which include: the id, the ego, and the super ego (McLeod 2007). These traits are reflected in the following main characters within the film:

The Joker


As his name implies, he is an unserious character who represents himself as selfish, needy, unconscious and operating solely on the ‘Pleasure Principle’. He represents the ‘id’ personality. Freud describes the id as ‘the completely unconscious, irrational component of personality that seeks immediate satisfaction of instinctual urges and drives’ (Hockenbury and Hockenbury 2005: 3). In the film, he can be seen walking into a meeting with the mob bosses of Gotham, laughing and cracking jokes yet killing somebody in the process. His personality also stayed the same all through the film, connoting that, the id is the most dominant personality type within society.










Cherry, K. (2016) ‘The Conscious and Unconscious Mind: The Structure of the Mind According to Freud’ [online] available from <https://www.verywell.com/the-conscious-and-unconscious-mind-2795946> [2nd March 2017].


Deflem, M. (2010) Popular Culture, Crime and Social Control. Emerald Group Publishing Limited: Bingley.


Hockenbury, D., Hockenbury, S. (2005) Psychology. Worth Publishers: New York.


McLeod, S. (2007) ‘Id, Ego and Super Ego’ [online] available from <http://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html> [2nd March 2017].

One thought to “The Dark Knight: An In-depth Psychoanalytic Critique of Narrative and Characters (Draft)”

  • Bablofil

    Thanks, great article.


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