I'm of course referring to the Nolan trilogy. At the end of Batman Begins he

said to Ra’s Al Ghul "I won't kill you but I don't have to save you" and left him on the train that eventually crashes.

However, he

saves the Joker from the fall at the end of The Dark Knight, and the Joker says "You just couldn't let me go, could you?"

Why? Even though Ra's Al Ghul wanted to kill more people, the Joker succeeded in killing more people (including Rachel) and corrupting a symbol of hope that is Harvey, turning him into Two-Face.


3 Answers 3


He isn't inconsistent about saving people, he's consistent about not killing them.

TL;DR: Ra's drove himself off a ledge, but Batman threw the Joker off a building.

That is to say, Ra's Al Ghul killed himself, but if the Joker had fallen to his death, he would have been killed by Batman.

How did Ra's die?

He stole a train and drove off a ledge, killing him; Batman escaped the train at the last second. Batman didn't do this to Ra's, he was just there when Ra's did it. Ra's killed himself, and Batman let him do it. Batman didn't kill anyone.

How did the Joker fall?

Batman threw him out of a building. The Joker didn't jump. He wasn't driving a train off a broken track. He was standing in a building, and Batman threw him out. If the Joker had fallen to his death, Batman would have borne all the responsibility for the death. Batman would have killed him.

From Batman's perspective, these two situations are very different. "Crazy villain drives his stolen train off a ledge, and I don't stop him" versus "Crazy villain has specifically said he will not kill me, but I still murder him by throwing him off a building".

  • 3
    But at the same time, Gordon is the one that destroys the train track under guidance from batman, so in effect, Batman is the reason the train is flying of the rails. So he is in fact, directly responsible for Ra's death. Mar 24, 2016 at 19:50

It's time and reaction.

In the case of Ras, after the fight, Bats find himself in the position to choose to rescue him or just letting him die. He can cool down and make a decision.

When the Joker falls, he reacts instinctively and grab him. He doesn't have time to think and reacts driven by it's true nature (not to kill). Once he has the Joker, he cannot let him go, as it'll be a cool blooded killing.

First situation could seem quite hypocritical, and it is. However, this is the explanation to your question. The reason why he doesn't let the joker drop is because he reacts instinctively.

  • You referring to Batman as Bats had me like "OMG MR. J? <3". Back to reality, I think Batman had more time in Joker's case. In the former one he is in a train that's going to kill him if he doesn't leave in seconds. In the latter, Joker says "Did I tell you how I got these scars?" and Batman says "No but I know how you go these!" and uses those things on his arm which indicates he planned to strike him like that before doing so.
    – SarpSTA
    Nov 20, 2015 at 13:57
  • But probably didn't expect to throw him over the building, otherwise he won't reacted as he did.
    – Bardo
    Nov 20, 2015 at 14:00
  • He didn't try to do anything else though. Right after hitting him and catching him off-guard he threw him off. I think that was pretty planned.
    – SarpSTA
    Nov 20, 2015 at 14:02
  • 1
    @SarpSTA: Batman threw the Joker off the building? If so, he kinda had to catch him, otherwise his action would have killed him. Whereas with Ra’s, Batman didn’t start the train going or anything. Nov 20, 2015 at 14:21
  • 2
    @SarpSTA: “He blamed himself for people that Joker has killed because he didn't turn himself in.” Did he? I don’t remember that being suggested in the movie. Nov 20, 2015 at 17:03

The Joker wanted Batman to kill him.

"You just couldn't let me go, could you?"

If Batman had let him fall he would have won - succeeded in proving his 'sick philosophy' was correct.

BATMAN: I have one rule.

JOKER: Then that's the one rule you'll have to break to know the truth.

BATMAN: Which is?

JOKER: The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules. And tonight you're gonna break your one rule.

It probably would have been more sensible to kill him, given how dangerous he was, but that is precisely the unprincipled utilitarianism the joker is espousing. After the incredible bravery of everyone on the ferries defying the Joker's game, it would be poor form for Batman to immediately give in to it.

Batman is better than the Joker ("more than just a man") because he has his rules - what kind of message does it send if the symbol immediately abandons them when it gets a little tough?

(Or to put it another way, Batman wasn't 'just' trying to save the city like with Al Ghul - the Joker entered into a massive scheme to tear down the belief in things Batman stands for, so Batman has to fight back accordingly (and makes the ending very ironic!))

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