From Hans Zimmer's MasterClass

Character Theme: The Joker

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.

Topics include: Creating Joker Theme


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.

Topics include: Creating Joker Theme

Hans Zimmer

Teaches Film Scoring

Learn More


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. [GUNSHOT] 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.

It was incredible to go inside Hans's brain and see how he views the world and work and story above all. Many great insights learned about life in general. Thank you Hans!

Incredibly insightful!!! Its just amazing the correlations you can draw from this class to be a better leader!

Thanks to Hans for doing this. This class gave me inspiration to start to compose again and really focus on the story and the emotional side. I am 35yo guy who loves music, listen and create, more than i can put in to words. When i get my first score done i will send it you hans since i want you to know that your words have a huge meaning.

I absolutely loved Hans's insight and wisdom. Ive been a fan of film scores for a long time and think i listen to them in a very different way to many of my peers. Now though I'm already hearing more in-depth layering and colourful canvases i never heard before. Would highly recommend this class!


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.

Godwin A.

The lesson was great. I learn to to accompany movies and character with the right note

Nate S.

I imagine the Joker represents a very seductive idea; that ultimately nothing will matter in the end. That we should look out for short term happiness; endulge; that we're all truly free to do as we please and that we should. The Joker whispers to his victims and he seduces them, and his whispers sound alluring, "you'll be ok, don't worry, just try it, trust me..." However, he most certainly IS lying and he damn well knows this. When he tells Harvey Dent "Do I look like a guy with a plan? Those people are the schemers, not me" he was actually following through with his plan to cause more chaos. Because the Joker is not a man, but an idea, a dangerous idea. And he knows, he's CONFIDENT that human nature will push him to victory eventually, that Gotham will be seduced by him, and that Gotham will then destroy itself. No, he's not admirable, in fact he's the most evil part of human nature. It's a part of us we must constantly battle internally or risk being destroyed by. That's what that slow siren noise says to me; chaos starts quietly. But if you let it in, it will stay until you destroy yourself. Then it will laugh, spit in your face, kill you slowly with a knife, and enjoy seeing you at your weakest and most afraid as you realize the mistake you made of trusting it in the first place. All the Joker had in his pockets were knives.

Xavier L.

This was brilliant genius and simplicity all wrapped in one. Talented he is..!


I never knew Film Scoring can be so complicated or sophisticated. Thanks for showing me how you developed Batman and the Joker score. It's amazing to see and hear the contrast with simple notes. Definitely something different.

Bruno D.

"Do the opposite" appears to be quite a regular and efficient credo in Hans's work. And he's so right ! It's so exciting to try different things, to avoid clichés. That's what makes his scores so special.

Jonathan S.

Even with this one note, a big part of what Hans does is use timbre to control how we feel. Is it a "clean" sound? Is it scratchy? Does it have an octave played along with it? Is it repeated rhythmically? Does it start softly and swell until it slaps you in the face? Way back in an early lesson we saw him start with a simple sine wave and begin to turn it into something ominous. You can do that by having multiple instruments working together or in conflict with each other.

Judith M.

I'm not sure what to say about it. Having watched the movie now, it is eerily applicable to the feel of the actor...before visualising Jack Nicholson as the Joker I wasn't sure it worked. But the mindset came across really well. Disturbingly so. It made me understand the idea of how you can become too close to a role you play, create or write as well. I also liked how the modern Batman integrated the music into the storyline so well, that if it had been dropped it would have had a detrimental effect on the story. Kudos to all concerned for that.