From Hans Zimmer's MasterClass

Character Theme: Batman

What makes Batman's theme in The Dark Knight Trilogy so recognizable? Learn how he developed the theme by thinking about the story and character.

Topics include: Creating Batman Theme


What makes Batman's theme in The Dark Knight Trilogy so recognizable? Learn how he developed the theme by thinking about the story and character.

Topics include: Creating Batman Theme

Hans Zimmer

Teaches Film Scoring

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Part of the problem is when you use something as simplistic as a two-note device you don't quite believe in it. You think you're supposed to do more, you're supposed to write a big, heroic theme. But everything we tried in there always led us back to this. And so that's when we finally figured out, yes, those two notes will work. I mean, we had all sorts of other things playing over this scene. This is when we found our movie. I think it very much defined not just the style of this movie, but it defined the style of how we moved forward. Had it not been for the scene, the Joker's stuff would never have been done that way. As we learned, we can get away with the barest minimum of harmonic and tune. We didn't need a tune to go and play this. [MUSIC - HANS ZIMMER AND JAMES NEWTON HOWARD, "LASIURUS"] I had written a more heroic and more developed Batman theme, and a more, to me, obvious one. And Chris actually really liked it, and he kept saying, can't we use that tune, can't we put that tune in, somewhere. And I kept saying to him, I don't think the character is ready for that tune, in a funny way. And I was hoping that maybe he'll never be ready for the obvious heroic tune. And Chris kept coming back to this, and finally I said to him, it's just not in his eyes. And it was just was just that communication, figuring out how to-- I had a feeling about something, my director had a feeling about something, and it wasn't like he acquiesced, it was just he saw what I was going for, and I just couldn't figure it out in words. But I think, in the long run, it was worth both of our while that we kept coming back to that conversation. How much had the character developed, and how much had he not developed. [MUSIC - HANS ZIMMER AND JAMES NEWTON HOWARD, "VESPERTILIO"] The French horns for Batman is four French horns on the right, four French horns on the left, and they're up in a gallery, up way above the orchestra, in this church. So that's a whole bunch of microphones, because part of what you want is I want the geography of where they are. So they have to be low microphones and they have to be high microphones that catch some of this. Then you have the orchestra, which is basically playing tunes, long notes, whatever they're playing. But not rhythmic parts, because the rhythmic parts I wanted to have really, really, really super precise. So all that [OSTINATO PATTERN] These ostinato patterns, they were all done separately, which seemed like a really good idea at the time. It was painful. And I thought, hey, wouldn't it be interesting to have something that was above the orchestra, so that rather than just doing 3-D, not just do surround like this, but truly try to impose some idea of height into this thing. You know, at least have a go at it. Sometimes it doesn't actually matter if the audience really hears it, but it just helps me to think through the architecture of what I'm ...

Tell a story with music

Hans Zimmer didn’t see a film until he was 12 years old. Since then, he’s scored over 150 films, including Inception, The Lion King, and The Dark Knight. In his MasterClass, the self-taught Academy Award-winner teaches how he creates sounds from nothing, composes compelling character themes, and scores a movie before ever seeing it. By the end, you’ll have everything you need to start film scoring.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I have learned what I have to do to write the best music the world will ever hear

Such a simple and obvious description that has much more depth than a deep ocean.

This class has helped me in more ways then I know I have taken 2 masterclasses now and am going to take more, I think the way that they have set out lectures and have decided what they want to tell you as opposed to somebody else making the curriculum. Hanz Zimmer your analogy's and humour made it even better and easy to understand the way you look at music moved me.

Wow. Music is my life though I can't sing. This is what I needed to see to understand how music works. Can't wait to see the man himself live (Dublin)


A fellow student

Looking at this as a writer, rather than a musician, I was intrigued with his 2-note character, which meant so much more to me after watching this presentation. If I can achieve my character development as effectively as this, my readers will be so much fulfilled than they have been. Music opens a very different field to this aspect of story-telling. I love it.

Steve K.

I'm fascinated by the considerations that went into composing this music. He went beyond inventing sound. He created an emotional sensation.

A fellow student

Hans describes but he fails to explain. He makes a point by telling about something interesting, yet when he amplifies the point he does not dig deeper with the context. So obvious and unsurprising kind of content is offered but there no excitement or illumination as he progresses. At 7:59 when he uses the computer he does more of what’s needed. Bottom line - the composer [here a teacher] needed a director.

Robert A.

Wow amazing just amazing. This has really opened my ears up more as a rock musician/composer myself!!!. Thank you hans!!!. Onward!!!

Lorenzo G.

The secret to arrive to the emotions and to create something that works always is again the beauty of simplicity ..and he teaches it clearly with this character theme. It s brilliant.

Kenneth S.

Using the theme of the music to reinforce the story of the character is what this is all about, but in this case with Batman how he intentionally stunts the progression of the score, unfinished or restrained, minor and not major, dissonance and not consonance... I love it! Not always applicable to very character, but it is endlessly memorable here, and you know in an instant when you hear it that it's the character, Batman. For me personally, I'm a little stunned at the depth of understanding at how Hans translated the story of the character into THAT theme. The creativity alone, the French Horns, is incredible. Yeah, he won a Grammy for that for SURE!


The theme always seemed to me to personify Gotham as much as Batman. The rhythms of the city, low, tense, dark, and then the extreme height and difference of the horns could be the bat signal piercing the sky, or Batman swooping between buildings. The new and changing thing about Gotham = Batman.

Kori C.

Love the ideas, and thinking about the character building within the music.

Bruno D.

The more I listen and watch Hans, the more I realize that writing music for a movie is such a science in a way, but at the same time it's all about feeling and sensations. If it had only been science, then the obvious heroic theme would have made the score, but the character's eyes told something different, those two notes... Such a gift, thanks again Maestro.

Marcus M.

I did not realize the Batman theme was the first 2 notes of Danny Elfman's theme (really just a minor 3rd, but I still did not think about it). The idea of believing in the character is great as well. Sometime a simple 2 note theme is all you need...