To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact

Arts & Entertainment

Character Theme: The Joker

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 9:06 min

Hans fell in love with the Joker, and created a haunting tune from just one vibrating note. Watch as he discusses how the story and character's impact on the story helps create the theme.

Hans Zimmer
Teaches Film Scoring
From collaborating to scoring, Hans Zimmer teaches you how to tell a story with music in 31 exclusive video lessons.
Get Started


Working on Dark Knight, I knew I had nothing if I didn't have the Joker's motif. I wasn't thinking about a bad guy. I was just completely intrigued by the character. And I kept thinking, oh hang on a second, he's the only one who always tells the truth in this movie. Everybody else is sort of bullshitting or they're lying or they're not being straightforward or they're being secretive. You know, the Joker comes up to you and he tells you exactly what he thinks, and he tells you the truth. I thought that was admirable in a way. And his sense of anarchy, tossing thing up into the air, is maybe something that I quite like. I never did the big [STRINGS PLAYING] evil chords thing. I did quite the opposite. It was much more of sort of a punk attitude, which I can sort of get into and just anarchy in Gotham City. It was fun. I need to know what the spine of that character is. Sometimes, I need to know what his heart is. But really, what makes the thing tick? What gives tension to it? It took a while to get to something so incredibly simple. And one of the first things I realized was that the most compelling thing I could do rather than, you know, he's this bad guy. It's anarchy. He blows stuff up. Let's be loud and ballsy. And I did exactly the opposite. I was very, very quiet. So you sort of had to lean in. I think there's something much more to be had out of an audience having to lean in. [TRUCK HONKING] Hey, you wait like everybody else, pal. And that starts off it. It just whispers at you. It just whispers, gets a little unstable, starts arising. What the hell is that. Obstruction ahead. Obstruction ahead. Damn it. All units divert down on to lower fifth. I repeat. Exit down. Exit down. Lower fifth? We'll be like turkeys on Thanksgiving down there. One of the problems with music is you always know when something is finishing, or when it comes to a resolution, or when the tension is going to be released. I was just playing with the ideas that-- what happens if you never release tension? Is there such a thing as infinite tension? It's the idea of a bow or steel, a steel cable being pulled and figuring out when will it snap. And I'm not going to tell you when it will snap. And I never let it snap. So you're just holding your breath constantly, because you know, sooner or later, it's going to snap and just tear your face. It's like a guitar string which is too tight. So the sound itself has a built in recklessness and a built in danger to it. And it's really actually very quiet. And it's not bassy. Usually for the bad guys you put a lot of bass in. I mean, there are all these cliches, just like the violin for the love scene. There's all these cliches. And part of the fun is to go, let me show you or let me play you something that you haven't heard before. [MUSIC BUILDING] [MUSIC BUILD...

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.

Superb. Hans is so easy to connect to, his humanity, explanations, encouragement - wonderful.

Just start now because I was busy outside. Thanks for this Masterclass. Located here in Europa. Have a big love for score music, and playing piano.

Super interesting and inspiring. What a great, honest and humble guy.

I did not waste one second of my life sitting through the Hans Zimmer Masterclass... Thank you Hans and the team who put this together... Ok, now to go and write something!


Antonia T.

The Joker "theme" is brilliant. A D that slowly goes to E. Amazing. "It took a while to get to something so incredibly simple" / Heath!!!

Carlos J.

One note tell us all, the Joker is coming!! I love this Nolan movie, and it would be the same without the perfect work of Hans.

Mary S.

Amazing class! Hans brings you into his world and gives such a different perspective to films. Now I need to watch these movies again just to listen to the score.

Adam S. M.

How utterly fascinating to have the process of character development (or in this case 'lack' of development) rendered musically. A masterful framework for analysis, and appreciation.

Rachel R.

I was ecstatic to hear his process of character motifs from one of my favorite movies! There's so much more that goes into such writing than people realize.

A fellow student

Fun to see and hear Hans Zimmer explain his Batman theme. We would love to have seen more of him on the actual music/keyboard talking, rather than work explanation. Also would like to have heard more explanation of the percussion parts.

Ethan F.

I think Hans asked himself, "why so serious ?" when thinking about the joker's theme ! And BAM, just one note. He made the complexe piece for bad guys disappear !

A fellow student

Really enjoying this class thanks! Ive seen this film about 15 times and this lesson has helped me understand why I like the character so much! Such a brilliantly simple score, thank you!

A fellow student

The fact that the character was so present , and more and more present and threatening, with only one note, is remarkable. From what I'm learning, developing a character is a fine tuned business- nothing necessarily obvious. But this was so threatening, and quietly, seductively dangerous and then building to a crescendo of evil. Thank you for this knowledge shared.

Bill R.

There was only a hint of the actual music for the actual scene. It was confusing if we were hearing what was eventually the soundtrack.