In Uzbekistan, Bane, a mysterious terrorist and former member of the League of Shadows, abducts nuclear physicist Dr. Leonid Pavel from a CIA aircraft.
Eight years after the death of District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman has disappeared. Organized crime has been eradicated in Gotham City thanks to the Dent Act giving expanded powers to the police. Commissioner James Gordon has kept Dent’s murderous rampage as the vigilante Two-Face a secret and allowed blame for his crimes to fall on Batman. He has prepared a speech to read revealing the truth, but decides not to read it. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, and Wayne Enterprises is losing money after Wayne discontinued his fusion reactor project when he learned that it could be weaponized.
Bane sets up his base in the city sewers, and prompts Wayne’s corporate rival John Daggett to buy Wayne’s fingerprints. Cat burglar Selina Kyle obtains Wayne’s prints from Wayne Manor for Daggett, but she is double-crossed at the exchange and alerts the police. Gordon and the police arrive and pursue Bane and Daggett’s henchmen into the sewers while Kyle flees. The henchmen capture Gordon and take him to Bane. Gordon escapes and is found by rookie officer John Blake. Blake, a fellow orphan who deduced Wayne’s secret identity, confronts him and convinces him to return as Batman.
Bane attacks the Gotham Stock Exchange by using Wayne’s fingerprints in a series of transactions that leaves Wayne bankrupt. Batman resurfaces for the first time in eight years while intercepting Bane and his subordinates. Wayne’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, is convinced that Wayne is not strong enough to fight Bane, and resigns in an attempt to save him. Wayne finds comfort in new Wayne Enterprises CEO Miranda Tate, and the two become lovers. Using the stolen transactions, Bane expands his operations and kills Daggett.
Kyle agrees to take Batman to Bane but instead leads him into Bane’s trap. Bane reveals that he intends to fulfill Ra’s al Ghul’s mission to destroy Gotham. Batman fights Bane in a lengthy brawl but Bane defeats him, dealing a crippling blow to his back before taking him abroad to an underground prison where escape is virtually impossible. The inmates tell Wayne the story of Ra’s al Ghul’s child, who was born and raised in the prison before escaping — the only prisoner to have done so.
Bane lures Gotham’s police into the sewers and uses explosives, trapping them and destroying bridges surrounding the city. He kills Mayor Anthony Garcia and forces Pavel to convert the reactor core into a decaying neutron bomb before killing him as well. Bane reads Gordon’s speech to the crowd, and releases the prisoners of Blackgate Penitentiary, causing anarchy in the city while exiling and killing Gotham’s elite in kangaroo courts presided over by Jonathan Crane.
Months later, Wayne escapes from the prison and returns to Gotham. Batman frees the police and they clash with Bane’s army in the streets; during the battle, Batman overpowers Bane. Tate intervenes and stabs Batman, revealing herself as Talia al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter. She activates the bomb’s detonator, but Gordon blocks her signal. Talia leaves to find the bomb while Bane prepares to kill Batman, but Kyle arrives and kills Bane. Batman and Kyle pursue Talia, hoping to bring the bomb back to the reactor chamber where it can be stabilized. Talia’s truck crashes, but she remotely floods and destroys the reactor chamber before dying. With no way to stop the detonation, Batman uses his aerial craft, the Bat, to haul the bomb far over the bay, where it safely explodes. Before takeoff, Batman indirectly reveals his identity to Gordon.
In the aftermath, Batman is presumed dead and honored as a hero. Wayne Manor becomes an orphanage and Wayne’s estate is left to Alfred. Gordon finds the Bat Signal repaired, while Lucius Fox discovers that Wayne fixed the malfunctioning auto-pilot on the Bat. While vacationing in Florence, Alfred discovers that Bruce is alive and in a relationship with Kyle. Blake resigns from the GCPD and receives a parcel from Wayne leading him to the Batcave.