Behind Closed Doors: 6 Interesting Movies That Featured Secret Societies

Batman Begins (2005)

Rebooting the Batman franchise with an origin story, Batman Begins is directed by Christopher Nolan from a script that he co-wrote with David S. Goyer. It retreads the well-told tale of a young Bruce Wayne witnessing the murder of his parents and being raised by the family butler, Alfred. It chronicles his teenage ‘wilderness’ years, and picks up with the character as he reacts to the release of his parents’ murderer.

Frustrated by the inadequacies of the justice system in Gotham City, Bruce (Christian Bale) heads off to travel the world – trying to find ways in which he can combat injustice effectively. It is on this journey – and while in Bhutan – that he’s recruited into The League Of Shadows by a man calling himself Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). Bruce undergoes rigorous training with the covert organization, learning a range of combat techniques, as well as psychological training to conquer personal fears. He discovers the true nature of the group, however, which causes him to be in conflict with them.

The League Of Shadows is revealed to be essentially a terrorist organization – seeking to act as a catalyst for reform in societies around the world, through the direct application of chaos and focused violence. The group’s activities are determined by its leader – the mysterious Ra’s al Ghul, who’s later revealed to be Henri Ducard. Bruce splits from the group when he discovers that Ra’s al Ghul has decided that Gotham City is beyond redemption, and should be destroyed. His plan is to harness the elements of organized crime already present in the city, and use their resources to cause mass madness through the dissemination of a toxic gas.

While the premise sets up an epic showdown between Batman and Ra’s al Ghul to sate even the most demanding action fan, it’s the nature of the secret society, and its relationship to Batman, that is the truly satisfying element in terms of this narrative. With The League Of Shadows being an extremist, terrorist organization, their recruiting of Bruce Wayne begs the questions of how vulnerable we all are to the right kind of persuasion, at the right time; and of how the intersection between villainy and heroism can create a somewhat murky moral situation.

Bruce encounters Henri Ducard at a time when he’s specifically seeking answers and clarification. Ducard claims to be able to provide them for him, through an association with The League Of Shadows. The training that Bruce undertakes with the organization is akin to a process of radicalization – but it is Bruce’s strength of character that enables him to reject the most extreme teachings of the group, when they threaten his home city.

But then, we’re left with the truth that the entire future actions of Batman are really only possible as a result of the training he received from terrorists. Certainly, it is the case that Batman takes that training and seeks to use it for the purpose of good rather than evil, but the seed of doubt is always present: if Bruce was susceptible to manipulation by Ra’s al Ghul in the first place, what prevents him from being susceptible to such corruption in the future?