- "It's not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you."
- ―Rachel to Bruce[src]
Rachel Dawes was a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. As she grew into a young woman, Rachel became a bold and crusading assistant D.A. in Gotham City that was under the thumb of powerful crime lords. Although Rachel truly cared about Bruce, she was convinced that the trauma of seeing his parents killed had changed him forever, and wondered if it was justice or revenge that Bruce sought as Batman.
- "Justice is about harmony. Revenge is about making yourself feel better, which is why we have an impartial system."
- ―Rachel to Bruce[src]
Rachel was a childhood friend to Bruce Wayne. Rachel's mother worked for Bruce's parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne and the two often played together on the grounds of Wayne Manor. After Bruce's parents were murdered by a mugger, Rachel's mother sought other employment and left Wayne Manor with Rachel. Rachel and Bruce remained close even after he fell in the future Batcave, but their friendship was never the same.
Rachel enrolled in law school and got an internship at Gotham's District Attorney's Office during her first year. After Chill was murdered for testifying against Mafia boss, Carmine Falcone, Bruce revealed to Rachel that he intended to kill Chill himself. Rachel was horrified, and told Bruce that his late parents would have been ashamed of him. Soon afterward, Bruce left the United States and Rachel continued her studies in law school. Years later, she became Assistant District Attorney. Rachel also had a brief relationship with her boss, District Attorney, Carl Finch.
Working with Batman
- Rachel: “You could die. At least tell me your name.”
- Batman: “It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”
- ―Rachel and Batman[src]
Rachel dedicated her career to eliminating crime in Gotham, which made her enemies of both Falcone and Dr. Jonathan Crane, Arkham Asylum's chief psychiatrist, who was in Falcone's pocket. Falcone eventually sent two thugs to kill her. Rachel apparently anticipated that Falcone attempted to kill her and carried a taser on her, which she threatened to use on one of the thugs in front of her, although the thug fled mostly because his partner (who had followed her off the train) was beaten down by the arrival of Batman. She was rescued by Gotham's mysterious vigilante, Batman, who also supplied Rachel with incriminating photographs that were related to a judge so she'd have the method of ensuring that Falcone was sent to jail when the time came. Around the same time, Bruce returned to Gotham. Rachel was surprised that he didn't call her, and was later disappointed that he apparently became a selfish playboy.
Later, Crane drugged Rachel with his Fear Toxin at Arkham Asylum while she evaluated Falcone, who had suffered a psychotic breakdown. Batman rescued her again, administered an antidote, and told her that Crane worked with a terrorist organization that was called the League of Shadows. He then gave her instructions for a plan to save the city from the League's attack. Rachel delivered samples of an anti-toxin to Batman's ally, GCPD Detective Sgt. James Gordon.
The League started a riot in one of Gotham's slums, and Rachel was trapped. Crane, who assumed the criminal alter ego of "The Scarecrow", attacked her again. She defended herself and a boy who was caught in the riot by firing a taser at Crane.
Soon, Gotham was overrun by Arkham's inmates, whom the League had released, and Rachel and the boy were surrounded by lunatics who were led by Falcone's henchman, Victor Zsasz. Batman saved them at the last minute, however, and gave Rachel a hint to his secret identity. As Rachel realized that her masked savior was Bruce, he left to save the remaining innocent bystanders.
One morning, after the riot was over, Rachel went to the ruins of Wayne Manor, which was burned down by the League, and reconciled with Bruce. Despite their mutual attraction, Rachel decided that they couldn't be together if Bruce was determined to lead a double life. She kissed Bruce goodbye, left him to fulfill his destiny, and hoped that he would come back to her when Batman was no longer needed in Gotham.
The Dark Knight
- "Bruce, don't make me your one hope for a normal life."
- ―Rachel Dawes to Bruce Wayne[src]
Rachel, by this time, is the assistant DA to Harvey Dent, a man who is challenging the mob in Gotham in a legal way. She has also started dating him, creating a love triangle between herself, Dent, and Bruce.
When the mob hires the Joker to kill Batman out of desperation, the Joker says he will kill people until Batman reveals his identity. Despite Bruce's initial reluctance to give in to the Joker demands he finally decides to turn himself in not wanting anyone else to die because of him. He then asks Dent to assemble a press conference in which he will show his true identity and be arrested. Afterward Rachel tries to convince Bruce not to turn himself, but he remains firm in his decision. Bruce then kisses Rachel hoping that the two will be together once he reveals his identity. Harvey, realizing how important Batman is, says that he is the Batman in order to keep the real Batman free. Rachel confronts Alfred about this deception, but Alfred simply suggests that Bruce and Harvey both recognize that Batman represents something more than a man. The plan appears to succeed when Batman and Commissioner Gordon capture the villain, but Rachel privately questions Bruce's new plan to use Harvey as bait to capture the Joker when he goes after Dent.
But during this time, Joker manipulates two cops into bringing Dent and Dawes to different buildings in the city. There, both of them are tied up with bombs and barrels of gasoline surrounding them, along with a radio that allowed the two of them to speak to each other. Joker reveals the locations to Batman and the police during his interrogation, but deliberately switches the locations. Batman sets out to save Dawes, while Gordon goes to rescue Dent, unaware of the falsehood in Joker's words until Batman arrives at the storage to find Dent, not Dawes as he believes, inside. Still, Batman manages to get Dent out–arriving moments after Rachel had told Harvey that she would marry him, having previous requested time to consider his proposal–although half of his face is caught on fire and hideously burnt in the explosion that occurs seconds after their escape from the building. However, Gordon arrives too late to save Rachel, and she dies when the bombs surrounding her are detonated, her last words assuring Harvey that it is OK for him to be saved instead of her. But it did seem as if Rachel expected Batman to be there, to save her. But when she realizes that Batman has gone off to save Dent (unaware of the Joker's falsehood), she accepts it because she knows that to Bruce Batman is everything and Batman realizes that Harvey Dent must be saved at all costs for Gotham needs him.
Earlier before her abduction and death, Rachel left Alfred a note for Bruce, leaving it unsealed so Alfred could also read it and know the right time for Bruce to read it. She explains in the letter that because she loves Harvey and thinks that Bruce will not be able to give up his life as Batman, she is going to marry Harvey (but that she will always love Bruce and will remain his friend). The fact that Dawes states here that she will always love him is because she never did stop loving him at all but she knew that Bruce would never give up being the Batman and that Havey is a great man and he loves her too, in a simple and uncomplex way. Hence, she feels that Harvey is a simple man and it would be the best choice to spend the rest of her life with him. Alfred goes to give it to Bruce after her death, but instead takes it back moments later when he decides it's not yet time. He later burns the letter when he hears that Bruce is sure that she would have waited for him, knowing that it would never be the right time, and recognizing that just as Batman and Gordon would later sacrifice Batman's reputation to preserve Harvey's sometimes people need lies to fulfill their hopes.
- "Dear Bruce. I need to be honest and clear. I'm going to marry Harvey Dent. I love him, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. When I told you that if Gotham no longer needed Batman we could be together, I meant it. But now, I'm sure the day won't come when you no longer need Batman. I hope it does; and if it does I will be there, but as your friend. I'm sorry to let you down. If you lose your faith in me, please keep your faith in people. Love, now and always, Rachel."
- ―Rachel Dawes' letter to Bruce, which Alfred burned following Rachel's death to spare Bruce the pain of reading it. [src]
Following the deaths of Rachel and Dent, Bruce retires as Batman and does nothing further with his personal life after seeing his only chance for a normal life destroyed along with Rachel. He becomes a recluse and loses connection with the world for eight years. When Bane attacks Gotham City, Bruce decides to return to his crime-fighting life to stop him. In an attempt to dissuade Bruce, Alfred finally reveals to him that Rachel chose Dent and that he burned the letter in order to spare Bruce the pain. This revelation puts a severe strain on Bruce's relationship with Alfred, who leaves Wayne Manor when Bruce decides to continue as Batman.
Bruce keeps a picture of Rachel inside Wayne Manor that both Selina Kyle and Miranda Tate pick up and examine, the latter to manipulate Bruce. After Rachel died, Bruce never had a relationship with anyone during his time as a recluse. Alfred also tells Bruce that he should move on from her death, and find somebody new. He does have a brief relationship with business partner Miranda Tate, before she revealed herself as Talia, the daughter of Ra's al Ghul. After Bruce and his allies defeat Bane, Talia, and the rest of the League of Shadows, Bruce officially retires his role as Batman after fulfilling his vow to turn Gotham into a city of order. He passes his legacy as Gotham's Dark Knight to Detective John Blake, and enters a relationship with Selina, finally moving on from Rachel's death and also proving Rachel wrong about her belief of Bruce never giving up being Batman.
Behind the Scenes
- Rachel's eyes went from hazel (Emma Lockhart), to grey (Katie Holmes), and to blue (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
- She was the first major female character to be killed off in any Batman film. Originally Vicki Vale was going to be killed at the end of the 1989 film but Kim Basinger romanced the film's producer and survived.
- Rachel Dawes death was similar to how Jason Todd was killed: both characters ended up killed by the Joker, and both of their deaths involved the explosion of a building they were trapped in seconds before their attempted rescuers arrived. Both deaths also greatly affected Batman as a result and resulted in him becoming more determined to stop the Joker and very narrowly avoiding killing the Joker as a result. Frank Miller's 1986 Dark Knight series (whose premise "The Dark Knight Rises" was largely based on) featured an alternate storyline where Batman retires after Jason Todd's death and enters into a similar depression, remaining inactive for ten years (before resuming his vigilantism).
- In casting the role for both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan elected to cast actresses (Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal) that were more 'the girl next door' rather than the typical Hollywood beauty. He wanted the role to be more true to life and keep the audiences attention more towards the performance rather than the actresses physical appearance.