Batman Begins is a 2005 superhero film based on the fictional DC Comics character Batman, directed by Christopher Nolan. It stars Christian Bale as Batman along with Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman. The film reboots the Batman film series, telling the origin story of the character from Bruce Wayne's initial fear of bats, the death of his parents, his journey to become Batman, and his fight against Ra's al Ghul's plot to destroy Gotham City. It draws inspiration from classic comic book storylines such as The Man Who Falls, Batman: Year One, and Batman: The Long Halloween.
After a series of unsuccessful projects to resurrect Batman on screen following the 1997 critical failure of Batman & Robin, Nolan and David S. Goyer began to work on the film in early 2003 and aimed for a darker and more realistic tone, with humanity and realism being the basis of the film. The goal was to get the audience to care for both Batman and Bruce Wayne. The film, which was primarily shot in England and Chicago, relied on traditional stunts and miniatures—computer-generated imagery was used minimally.
Batman Begins was both critically and commercially successful. The film opened on June 15, 2005, in the United States and Canada in 3,858 theaters. It grossed $48 million in its opening weekend, eventually grossing over $372 million worldwide. The film received a generally positive critical response. Critics noted that fear was a common motif throughout the film, and remarked that it had a darker tone compared with previous Batman films. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and three BAFTA awards.
- Wayne is a billionaire industrialist whose parents were killed by a mugger when he was eight years old. Traveling the world for several years to seek the means to fight injustice, he returns to Gotham. At night, Bruce becomes Batman, Gotham City's vigilante protector. Bale was cast on September 11, 2003, having expressed interest in playing Batman since Darren Aronofsky was planning his own film adaptation. Some of the early candidates for the Batman/Bruce Wayne role were Billy Crudup, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Joshua Jackson, Eion Bailey, Cillian Murphy, and Heath Ledger. Amy Adams served as the casting reader for the casting of Bruce Wayne/Batman in a favor to the casting director. Bale felt the previous films underused Batman's character, overplaying the villains instead. To best pose as Batman, Bale studied graphic novels and illustrations of the superhero. Director Nolan said of Bale, "He has exactly the balance of darkness and light that we were looking for." Goyer stated that while some actors could play a great Bruce Wayne or a great Batman, Bale could portray both radically different personalities. Bale described the part as playing four characters: the raging Batman persona; the shallow playboy façade Bruce uses to ward off suspicion; the vengeful young man; and the older, angrier Bruce who is discovering his purpose in life. Bale's dislike of his costume, which heated up regularly, helped him get into a necessarily foul mood. He said, "Batman's meant to be fierce, and you become a beast in that suit, as Batman should be – not a man in a suit, but a different creature." Since he had lost a great deal of weight in preparation for his role in The Machinist, Bale hired a personal trainer to help him gain 100 pounds (45 kg) in the span of only a couple of months to help him physically prepare for the role. He first went well over the weight required and created concern over whether he would look right for the part. Bale recognized that his large physique was not appropriate for Batman, who relies on speed and strategy. He lost the excess weight by the time filming began. The role of Bruce Wayne at age eight was portrayed by Gus Lewis.
- The trusted butler to Bruce Wayne's parents, who continues his loyal service to their son after their deaths. He is Bruce Wayne's closest confidant. Nolan felt Caine would effectively portray the foster father element of the character. Although Alfred's family is depicted in the film as having served the Wayne family for generations, Caine created his own backstory, in that before becoming Wayne's butler, Alfred served in the Special Air Service. After being wounded, he was invited to the position of the Wayne family butler by Thomas Wayne because, "He wanted a butler, but someone a bit tougher than that, you know?"
- He trains Bruce in martial arts. Writer David Goyer said he felt he was the most complex of all the Batman villains, comparing him to Osama bin Laden; "He's not crazy in the way that all the other Batman villains are. He's not bent on revenge; he's actually trying to heal the world. He's just doing it by very draconian means." Christopher Nolan had discussions with his Memento collaborator Guy Pearce about playing the role, but both of them decided that the actor was too young for the part. Neeson is commonly cast as a mentor, so the revelation that his character was the main villain was intended to shock viewers.
- Bruce's childhood friend who serves as Gotham City's assistant district attorney, fighting against the corruption in the city. Nolan found a "tremendous warmth and great emotional appeal" in Holmes, and also felt "she has a maturity beyond her years that comes across in the film and is essential to the idea that Rachel is something of a moral conscience for Bruce". Emma Lockhart portrays the young Rachel Dawes.
- One of the few uncorrupted Gotham City police officers. He was the officer on duty the night of the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents. In this way, he shares a special bond with the adult Bruce and thus with Batman. Nolan had originally approached Oldman about playing a villain, but when Chris Cooper turned down the role of Gordon to spend time with his family he decided that it would be refreshing for Oldman, who is renowned for his portrayals of villains, to play the role instead. "I embody the themes of the movie which are the values of family, courage and compassion and a sense of right and wrong, good and bad and justice," Oldman said of his character. Oldman filmed most of his scenes in Britain. Goyer said Oldman heavily resembled Gordon as drawn by David Mazzucchelli in Batman: Year One.
- A sadistic psychopharmacologist who works at Arkham Asylum and has developed fear-inducing toxins. He takes on the persona of the Scarecrow to use during his experiments, in which he uses his patients as human guinea pigs for his toxins. He works with Ra's al Ghul and Carmine Falcone. Nolan decided against Irish actor Murphy for Batman, before casting him as Scarecrow. Murphy read numerous comics featuring the Scarecrow, and discussed making the character look less theatrical with Nolan. Murphy explained, "I wanted to avoid the Worzel Gummidge look, because he's not a very physically imposing man – he's more interested in the manipulation of the mind and what that can do."
- The ruler of the Gotham City underworld. He had shared a prison cell with Joe Chill after Joe murdered Wayne's parents. He had Chill murdered when he decided to testify against Falcone. He goes into business with Dr. Jonathan Crane and Ra's al Ghul by smuggling in Crane's fear toxins through his drug shipments over the course of several months so that they can be mixed in with the city's water supply.
- A high-ranking Wayne Enterprises employee who was demoted to working in the company's Applied Science Division, where he conducts advanced studies in biochemistry and mechanical engineering. Fox supplies Bruce with much of the gear necessary to carry out Batman's mission and is promoted to CEO when Bruce repossesses the company by the end of the film. Freeman was Goyer's first and only choice for the role.
Other cast members include Rutger Hauer as William Earle, the CEO of Wayne Enterprises who takes the company public in the long-term absence of Bruce Wayne; Mark Boone Junior as Gordon's corrupt partner Detective Arnold Flass; Ken Watanabe as Ra's al Ghul's decoy; Larry Holden as district attorney Carl Finch; Colin McFarlane as Police commissioner Gillian B. Loeb; Linus Roache and Sara Stewart as Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce's parents; Richard Brake as Joe Chill, the Waynes' killer; Gerard Murphy as the corrupt High Court Judge Faden; Tim Booth as Victor Zsasz; Rade Šerbedžija as a homeless man, who is the last person to meet Bruce when he leaves Gotham, and the first civilian to see Batman, and Andrew Pleavin as a uniformed policeman. Actors John Foo, Joey Ansah, Spencer Wilding, Dave Legeno, Khan Bonfils, Rodney Ryan, Dean Alexandrou, James Embree, David Bedella, Emil Martirossian, Mark Strange, Justin Miu and Chuen Tsou appear as members of the League of Shadows.
As a child, Bruce Wayne falls into a well, where he is attacked by a swarm of bats; he develops a phobia of them as a result. Soon afterward, he witnesses his parents' murder by mugger Joe Chill, leaving Bruce to be raised by the family's butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
14 years later, Chill is granted parole in exchange for testifying against Gotham City crime boss Carmine Falcone. Bruce goes to the trial, intending to kill Chill, but one of Falcone's assassins does so first. Bruce's childhood friend, assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, chides him for attempting to take the law into his own hands. Bruce later confronts Falcone, who tells him that real power comes from being feared. Bruce decides to travel and learn about the criminal underworld, before becoming a criminal himself. In a Bhutanese prison, Henri Ducard offers to train him in the arts of stealth and fear as a member of the League of Shadows, led by Ra's al Ghul. After completing his training, Bruce learns the League's true intention is to destroy Gotham, which it views as corrupt beyond saving. Bruce refuses to join them and burns down the League's temple. Ra's is killed by falling debris, while Bruce saves an unconscious Ducard, leaving him with the local villagers.
Soon afterward, Bruce returns to Gotham. Publicly posing as a spoiled playboy, he takes an interest in his family's company, Wayne Enterprises, which is now run by the unscrupulous William Earle. Bruce meets Wayne Enterprises's top scientist Lucius Fox, who shows him various prototype technologies, including the Tumbler (a heavily armored car) and a protective bodysuit. Taking these, Bruce finds an entrance to the cave under his well, confronts his fear of bats and creates a workshop, taking up the identity of "Batman". As Batman, he intercepts a drug shipment and provides Rachel with evidence to indict Falcone, empowering the honest Sgt. James Gordon and the Gotham police to arrest the previously untouchable criminal. Meanwhile, a prototype Microwave Emitter is stolen from a Wayne Enterprises cargo ship.
Back in Gotham, Falcone and his henchmen are declared mentally unfit for trial and transferred to Arkham Asylum by the corrupt Dr. Jonathan Crane, who had been using Falcone to import a drug that causes terrifying hallucinations. Crane exposes Falcone to the toxin while wearing a burlap mask, driving Falcone insane with fear of the "Scarecrow". While investigating Crane, Batman is also exposed to the drug, but is rescued in time by Alfred and given an antidote by Fox. Rachel goes to Arkham, where Crane reveals that he has been dumping the toxin into Gotham's water supply before dosing her with it. She is rescued by Batman, who exposes Crane to the toxin and interrogates him. Crane reveals that he was working on the orders of Ra's al Ghul, but Batman refuses to believe him, replying Ra's is dead. Batman escapes with Rachel in the Tumbler, inoculating her and giving her two vials of the antidote, one for Gordon and one for mass production. Meanwhile, Gordon finds out that the compound has been laced into the entire city's water supply, but can only cause harm if inhaled.
At his birthday celebration at Wayne Manor, Bruce is confronted by Ducard, who reveals himself to be the real Ra's al Ghul. Feigning drunkenness, Bruce kicks his guests out so they will be safe, leaving him alone with Ra's and his men. Ra's reveals the League's plan to destroy Gotham: having stolen the Microwave Emitter and conspired with Crane, they intend to vaporize the city's toxin-riddled water supply, making it airborne and creating mass hysteria and violence. The League sets fire to the mansion and Bruce is nearly trapped inside, but Alfred saves him at the last minute. As the League begins unleashing the toxin, Batman rescues Rachel from a drug-induced mob and indirectly reveals his true identity to her. He entrusts Gordon with the Tumbler and pursues Ra's, who is using Gotham's train system to deliver the weapon throughout the city. Batman confronts Ra's on the train and escapes just as Gordon uses the Tumbler to destroy the elevated tracks, leaving Ra's to die in the ensuing crash.
Batman becomes a public hero, but loses Rachel, who cannot bring herself to love both Bruce and Batman. Bruce buys a controlling stake in the now publicly traded Wayne Enterprises, fires Earle, and replaces him with Fox. Gordon is promoted to Lieutenant, showing Batman the Bat-Signal and mentions a criminal who leaves Joker playing cards at crime scenes. Batman promises to investigate this new criminal, and disappears into the night.