In Batman Begins, Gotham City has a futuristic/fictional and run down look: think of Oldtown, the trains built by the Wayne Corporation etc.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Gotham City looks like plain old real world New York City — we don't see the trains anymore. Oldtown is just a standard poor neighborhood. Lots of the locations used in the movie are easily identified as real world NYC locations: the stock exchange or East River bridges for example.

My question is: Why did Nolan change Gotham city from a shady fictional more cartoon-like town to plain old NYC?

Edit: The examples from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises were just for illustration; I didn't intend to limit the question to those two movies.

Edit 2: I specifically want to know why Gotham City was changed from a cartoon-like city in Begins to an almost real-world NYC in The Dark Knight Rises (via not so cartoon-like but not yet real-world like Chicago in The Dark Knight Rises). Why it's NYC or Chicago is not so important for me. But why, e.g., were the trains which featured prominently in Begins gone in The Dark Knight Rises? There was only a very short in-universe time-span between the events of the two movies, yet Gotham changed drastically.

  • 2
    related question on movies.stackexachange: Why was Gotham City moved to New York City in The Dark Knight Rises? - note that that question is asking more about filming locations than visual style.
    – phantom42
    Nov 19, 2013 at 17:48
  • 1
    Everything in the Nolan series is reflected in a real world sense. The Bat Mobile, The Joker, the city, etc. I think the idea was to show the Batman universe in a way we can relate to and not in the style of a comic book
    – Kai Qing
    Nov 16, 2017 at 17:48

2 Answers 2


Thematically, it just makes sense.

When the series begins, Gotham City is incredibly corrupt and crime is rampant. Wayne Enterprises is run by a greedy CEO. Gotham City lives in fear, and the League of Shadows has deemed it so far gone, that it must be completely destroyed.

Then Batman arrives and starts protecting the city at the street level. Harvey Dent arrives and starts his war on crime on the more official level. Now instead of every citizen being a victim, you have many standing up to do the right thing. Bruce Wayne has turned Wayne Enterprises around. Gotham has started rebuilding itself from the ground up.

By the time Bane shows up, Gotham has made a lot of headway. It's the sort of big, successful city or metropolis (not to be confused with the city) that one typically identifies with modern cities such as New York.

You also have the whole dark-to-light theme of the series. Gotham starts a dark, dangerous place and becomes a bright and shiny place full of hope. This is expressed through the story itself, the color/lighting scheme and even the very design of Gotham City.

  • Didn't Nolan also say that he designed Gotham to be a sort of Pseudo-amalgam of Chicago and New York? I believe it was said in an interview when they were questioned why they shot scenes in both cities. I could be wrong on this though. Nov 19, 2013 at 17:26
  • @JaredTritsch, From everything I've read, TDKR was not filmed in Chicago.
    – phantom42
    Nov 19, 2013 at 17:45
  • @JaredTritsch The general idea though, is something I'm pretty sure I've read in the past, but wasn't able to find a source on this morning. I'll try digging a bit more tonight.
    – phantom42
    Nov 19, 2013 at 17:46
  • 1
    TDK (Second Movie) and Begins had several scenes shot in Chicago. Notably the Mayor's Funeral procession in TDK and the underground road scenes in both films (lower Wabash). Nov 19, 2013 at 17:49
  • @JaredTritsch, right, but the question was asking about TDKR which was filmed in New York, Pittsburgh, LA and France
    – phantom42
    Nov 19, 2013 at 17:50

Basically everyone has always known "Gotham" was supposed to be NYC. There are old pre WW2 radio broadcast and movie reels where NYC is literally refered to as Gotham almost the same way as Hollywood was referenced as "Tinsel Town." So kind of an open secret though its not as common in the present day.

This might in part be due to the fact that NYC was set as Metropolis in the Christopher Reeves Superman movies, even though those same old radio and movie references refered to Chicago as Metropolis. If you look at how they were originally depicted Metropolis was a huge city on the plains of the Midwest surrounded by corn fields. Does that sound like NYC or Chicago? Meanwhile Gotham had everything from the same architecture to similar geography as NYC.

So everyone just pretty much knew... I wouldn't be that surprised if Nolan specifically set it in what's obviously NYC exactly to reassert that NYC is Gotham, not Metropolis.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.