Reviews available ahead of this weekend's release of Christopher Nolan's superhero saga have people buzzing that the late Heath Ledger, who plays the Joker, has helped deliver the best Batman movie ever
Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, ...
Credit: Stephen Vaughan

This may be one of those instances where it seems advisable to whole-heartedly believe the summer blockbuster hype. We sorted through the major reviews available ahead of this weekend’s highly-anticipated release of director Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight, and at this point, there is almost unanimous praise for the flick, which stars Christian Bale as Batman and the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. Critics are saying that Knight blows away Nolan’s 2005 attempt, Batman Begins, and several claim that Ledger has turned in the greatest Joker portrayal ever.

So is this the best Batman movie of all time? Read why EW’s Owen Gleiberman gives The Dark Knight an A-, and the scorecard of the other major critics who’ve weighed in below.

  • Verdict: 3 of 4 stars
  • ”Christopher Nolan’s film is indeed an epic that will leave you staggering from the theater, stunned by its scope and complexity. It’s also, thankfully, a vast improvement over his self-serious origin story, 2005’s Batman Begins.” — Christy Lemire

Verdict: Positive
”Batman flies around the skyscrapers of Gotham and Hong Kong, rips through any number of villains with his martial arts, tears through streets in his armor-clad, two-wheeled Bat-Pod, and has more tech backup than James Bond. While all modern movie action is visual-effects driven, the stunt work in Dark Knight looks like it’s happening on the streets and not in a computer.” — Kirk Honeycutt

Verdict: Neutral
”There’s not a touch of lightness in Bale’s taut, angst-ridden superhero, and as the two-and-a-half-hour movie enters its second half, the unvarying intensity and the sometimes confusing action sequences take a toll.” — David Ansen

Verdict: 3.5 of 4 stars
”I can only speak superlatives of Ledger, who is mad-crazy-blazing brilliant as the Joker. Miles from Jack Nicholson’s broadly funny take on the role in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, Ledger takes the role to the shadows, where even what’s comic is hardly a relief. — Peter Travers

Verdict: Positive
”With little humor to break the tension, The Dark Knight is beyond dark. It’s as black — and teeming and toxic — as the mind of the Joker. Batman Begins, the 2005 film that launched Nolan’s series, was a mere five-finger exercise. This is the full symphony.” — Richard Corliss

Verdict: Positive
”One of the few action filmmakers who?s capable of satisfying audiences beyond the fanboy set, Nolan honors his serious themes to the end; he bravely closes the story with both Gotham City and the narrative in tatters, making this the rare sequel that genuinely deserves another.” — Justin Chang

The Dark Knight
  • Movie
  • 152 minutes