Harvey Dent, aka the villainous Two-Face made his debut in the pages of Detective Comics #66. The issue – dating back to 1942 – started the character on the road to becoming one of Batman’s most iconic villains and years later, Dent is the star of comics, TV shows, games and movies.
But who is Two-Face?
In this post I am going to take a look at all of the Two-Faces that have appeared in live-action Batman movies. From Harvey Dent’s first film appearance to his more recent brushes with the Dark Knight, I am highlighting his key moments in cinema.
- Billy Dee Williams
Harvey Dent makes his first live-action appearance in Tim Burton’s 1989 movie, Batman. Not only does this film mark Dent’s cinematic debut, but it is also the first time the character has appeared in live-action period.
In this movie the audience is only given one half of the character – this is Dent and not Two-Face. Not only is Two-Face absent from the film, Batman never touches upon the character.
Why? Because at this point in the Batman movie series Harvey Dent is merely a background player and nothing more.
So, what do we get? Well, the Harvey Dent of Batman is portrayed by Billy Dee Williams. Williams plays the character as a suave District Attorney who seems to have few cares.
When reporter Alexander Knox asks Dent about his opinion on masked vigilantes (referring the Batman), Dent replies: “Mr. Knox, we have enough problems in this city without worrying about ghosts or goblins.” Whether he believes in Batman or not, Harvey Dent does not concern himself with someone taking the law into his own hands – or at least, that’s what he leads people to believe.
While comments like these are interesting, it is difficult to get a real grasp on who Harvey Dent is in Batman as the character is not given a great deal of screen time. However, what is clear is that he is an important player in Gotham City, who appears at all key events including parties at Wayne Manor and the unveiling of the Bat Signal.
As Batman concludes, Dent is seen to remain an important figure in Gotham’s legal system. There are no hints of any future character development, he is merely a part of the film series.
- Tommy Lee Jones
The next time that Harvey Dent appears on screen in a Batman movie is in director Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever (1995). This Dent is the same one who appeared in Batman (1989), but it is clear he is radically different since the last time he popped up on screen.
Not only is a new actor taking on the role – Tommy Lee Jones takes over from Billy Dee Williams – but this is also a new take on the character. Harvey Dent is more or less gone, and Two-Face is very much in control.
So, what happened?
In this movie, Two-Face is given a brief origin story: As District Attorney, Harvey had acid thrown into his face during a trial. The acid left him physically and mentally scarred and resulted in him adopting the Two-Face persona.
This origin is told via a news report, which explains Two-Face’s origin. The origin story is brief, and it is not clear at what point in time this event occurred – all that the audience is told is that Two-Face is now very much a permanent fixture in Gotham City.
Living up to his name, Two-Face is in two minds about everything and not only likes duality, but also keeps the company of two henchwoman – Sugar and Spice. Sugar and Spice represent the two halves of his character, with Sugar representing Dent and Spice representing Two-Face.
Being of two minds he is also dependent on a coin to make his decisions. Tossing a coin gives him a 50/50 chance when making decisions and this allows him to make life and death choices.
It is clear that Two-Face is unable to make simple decisions in life and must rely on others (or his coin) to operate. This leads to his downfall, first through an association with the Riddler and second through an interaction with Batman.
In the case of the Riddler, Two-Face finds an ally in the Prince of Puzzles and they team-up to take on Batman. Under this partnership, Two-Face somewhat fades into the background, choosing to go along with the Riddler’s scheme rather than come up with a plan of his own.
He is incapable of making a decision and working with the Riddler, he gets to let someone else take control. However, his trust in the Riddler leaves him flying solo by the end of the movie – and this is where he has a final run-in with Batman.
Trying to decide a course of action, Two-Face tosses a coin into the air. However, before the coin can land, Batman throws a collection of coins into its path, leaving Two-Face unable to catch the coin he often relies on to make decisions.
In a moment of panic, Two-Face loses his footing and falls to his death. As Batman Forever concludes, Two-Face is dead and his journey from Batman to Batman Forever is complete.
Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent
- Aaron Eckhart
And now for something completely different.
While Batman focused on Harvey Dent and Batman Forever favoured Two-Face, Christopher Nolan’s 2008 film, The Dark Knight takes a different approach, by crafting a story that can balance both Dent and Two-Face. The first half of the film focuses on one side of the character, while the second half gives room for the other.
In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent is a District Attorney who is seemingly incorruptible. He knows the law inside out and is not afraid to serve justice, even if it does endanger his life and the life of those around him.
As Gotham’s ‘White Knight’ Harvey becomes a symbol of a better Gotham – a city to believe in. And it is Harvey who appears to be the city’s new saviour.
However, Harvey is not a saviour and instead, Harvey Dent becomes another victim of crime. He and his girlfriend Rachel Dawes are kidnapped and placed in separate death traps.
Dawes dies as a result of the kidnapping, while Harvey survives. But the tragic loss of his girlfriend is just one of the outcomes of the situation, as the Harvey is also injured, leaving half of his face burned beyond recognition.
Feeling that he has lost everything, Harvey vows revenge against everyone who played a part in Rachel’s death and his tragic downfall – including those he once called allies. In making this choice – and now calling himself Harvey ‘Two-Face’ – Dent becomes a criminal and yet another example of the people he once fought against.
Two-Face goes on a killing spree, utilising a coin to help him make his life and death decisions. Do the criminals go unpunished or do they face a death sentence? It is up to the coin to decide.
One thing is clear – this course of action is not favoured by Batman, and when he and Two-Face undertake a final showdown, the only possible outcome is death – Two-Face’s death. However, the choices Harvey made prior to his death have the potential to taint his legacy and this is something Batman does not want making public.
Working with Commissioner Gordon, Batman decides to keep Dent’s actions a secret, covering up his crimes and allowing himself to take the blame. It is the only way for Dent to remain Gotham’s White Knight and for the city to continue to have someone to believe in.
However, the truth eventually comes to light in the sequel, The Dark Knight Rises (2012), which ultimately leaves Dent’s legacy in tatters. The once incorruptible DA is now nothing more than a deceased criminal, consigned to the history books.
Across the course of multiple movies, Harvey Dent is shown to be a man of many different sides. In Batman he is a figure head of the city, while in Batman Forever he is a clear-cut criminal.
The Dark Knight offers a more complex Dent, exploring who the man was and who he becomes. In this respect, this film offers the best cinematic interpretation of the character so far.
Is it the ultimate interpretation? We will have to see what future movies serve up.
Ultimately, Two-Face is an interesting character who is both friend and foe. He will forever be locked in battle with Batman, but perhaps more importantly, he will forever be locked in battle with himself.
Face-to-face: Two-Face at a glance
To summarise, the live-action Batman movie Two-Faces include:
- Harvey Dent – Batman (1989)
- Harvey Dent/Two-Face – Batman Forever (1995)
- Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent – The Dark Knight (2008)
What are your thoughts on Two-Face? Do you think he should be included in more live-action Batman movies? Would you like to delve deeper into his story? Whatever your thoughts and feelings, sound off in the comments section and talk about Two-Face.