Music & 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.
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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.

The moment when he casually sits at the keyboard and explains his choices for a theme is the most astonishing thing I saw in 2017.

Thank you for this! Thank you for bringing in Hans Zimmer, his class was facinating but he spoke about all creative processes, not just music composition and it is relevant to anyone in a creative field. His music is hauntingly beautiful but it is his need to converse and share and bring to life that makes him so compelling. Thank you very much, truly!

Inspiration from experience Very inviting of others to the creative process of storytelling-music- discovery and deadlines .... Inspirational

Great introduction. Calm and casual, just the way I like it.


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.

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.