Batman, The Dark Knight, and Moral Issues

You may have heard me say this before but I risk repeating myself: St. Ignatius emphasized that, when teaching, we should “enter through their door but be sure to leave through your door.” This means that we need to engage people where they are at and then invite them to move toward the Gospel of Jesus.

Right now, Batman: The Dark Knight can most definitely be considered “their door” – it is where we can find vast numbers of young people gathering. It is a door worth entering. This is not an endorsement of the movie as being fit for any particular audience nor am I recommending that you show it to students when it comes out on video. I am simply stating the fact that this movie is a phenomenon and if we want to engage young people, it is one compelling starting place.

In particular, The Dark Knight involves a number of complex moral and ethical issues:

  • Batman must choose to save the life of either his love Rachel or the crime-fighting district attorney, Harvey Dent
  • the people on the 2 ferry boats (one filled with ordinary citizens and the other with federal criminals) must decide whether or not to blow up the other ferry before the other ferry blows them up
  • the question of whether or not the end justifies the means is central to the story
  • the issue of civil rights/privacy rights is integral to the resolution of the conflict
  • the issue of whether or not it is acceptable to lie in order to achieve good (back to the “end justifies the means” issue) confronts us at the end of the movie
  • the issue of vigilantism vs. legal justice is raised
  • the question of whether people are basically good or basically evil is asked throughout
  • the issue of what really makes someone a hero is tossed about
  • the role of suffering and whether it has any meaning is also explored
  • the movie asks the question: is it worth it being good?

If you teach students who are in middle school, junior high, or high school, chances are that the majority will have seen this movie and will resonate with moral and ethical issues that you draw from the film.


About Joe Paprocki 2750 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

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