Batman faked his own death and had the Bat-plane on autopilot to dispose of the nuclear bomb. Alfred finds Bruce and Selina living life at an Italian café as he had always hoped. Meanwhile, Blake (whose actual name is Robin) finds the entrance to the Bat-cave and the bat-suit rises as he enters.
Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) is Talia al-Ghul, Ra's al-Ghul's (Liam Neeson from 'Batman Begins') daughter. Bane (Tom Hardy) was her protector as a child.
Their goal is to continue Ra's plan to destroy Gotham City, using a nuclear fusion device Tate developed with Wayne Enterprises that Bane had reverse engineered into a nuclear bomb.
Bane reveals to Gotham the truth about Two-Face, exonerating Batman of Harvey Dent's crimes/murder.
During the final battle, Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) kills Bane via missiles from the Batpod. Batman (Christian Bale) sacrifices his life by transporting the bomb away from Gotham via his flying vehicle, dying in the ensuing nuclear blast.
Gotham City erects a statue in Batman's honor, and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) rebuilds the Batsignal for symbolism.
Alfred tracks the coordinates of Bruce's last transmission to an outdoor bistro/restaurant in Europe. There, he sees Bruce sitting with Selina (Hathaway).
Back in Gotham, Wayne Manor has been made into an orphanage in the names of Bruce's parents.
John Blake's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) full name is revealed to be 'Robin John Blake'. He is given coordinates to the waterfall entrance to the Batcave by an unknown source, and the film ends with him discovering Batman's armory and becomes heir to the cape and cowl.
The film takes place eight years after Harvey Dent's death from the Dark Knight.
It starts with a CIA-organization picking up nuclear physicist Dr. Pavel and two hooded henchmen who worked for Ra's alGhul's League of Shadows. They begin interrogating the henchmen on the plane, asking them for information on a masked mercenary named Bane (Tom Hardy). It is revealed that one of the hooded henchmen is Bane, and the CIA plane is attacked and destroyed in mid-air, but only after Bane and Dr. Pavel are extracted.
Gotham City, meanwhile, is idyllic, with Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) lauded as a hero, though his family has left him. Batman has not returned, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale, playing both Bruce and his heroic alter ego) is crippled and a recluse, still mourning to this day the loss of Rachel Dawes. We later discover that Wayne Enterprises is struggling under the leadership of Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), mainly because Bruce has not allowed them to activate a nuclear fusion energy reactor that they built with the contributions of wealthy philanthropist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who is desperate to meet Bruce.
At a party honoring the eighth anniversary of Dent's inspirational death (where Commissioner Gordon almost reads a speech revealing the truth about Harvey Dent and Batman), Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) works as a caterer. In reality, she is a very accomplished cat burgler (nicknamed the "Cat" by the media). She steals Bruce's mother's necklace from an "uncrackable" safe, and though Bruce catches her in the act, she manages to escape. Bruce later realizes that she also lifted copies of his fingerprints from the safe. Selina is almost killed by her employers, who work for Bane, but the police interrupt and several chase the henchmen into the sewers. All police are killed except Commissioner Gordon, who is captured and brought to Bane's sewer lair and severely wounded by Bane before he escapes. The only police officer who believes Commissioner Gordon's story about Bane is officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
Bruce's encounter with Selina and the rumors about Bane convince Bruce to reemerge from his self-imposed exile. He gets treatment for his crippled leg and discovers that Fox has continued developing tools for Batman in a secret armory. Bruce discovers that Selina is a notorious robber who can never seem to successfully sell her stolen goods, and that Bane was born in an underground prison considered "Hell on Earth" before making his escape and gaining employment as an enforcer for Gotham industrialist John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn). Blake also approaches Bruce and reveals that he knows that Bruce is Batman. Blake is also an orphan and was cared for by a charity supported by Bruce, and said that he could tell in Bruce's eyes that he had a thirst for vengeance. Yet, Blake states that seeing Bruce's courage inspired him to let go of his own hate and become a police officer. This seems to finally spur Bruce into once again donning the cape and cowl.
Bruce tracks down Selina and recovers his mother's necklace, and the two flirt with each other. His Batman persona reemerges when he attempts to stop Bane from an attack on the Gotham Stock Exchange, though the police still view Batman as the bigger menace. Commissioner Gordon promotes Blake to detective and has him investigate Daggett's construction holdings. Meanwhile, Bruce's butler Alfred (Michael Caine) resigns and leaves Gotham, unwilling to watch Batman take on the monster that is Bane. Alfred also shared a story that he always hoped Bruce would never return after he left the country (and ultimately trained with the League of Shadows), but that he would one day happen to find Bruce in a Parisian cafe with a woman and family he loved. Alfred realizes that with Batman's return, this will never come to be.
It turns out that the attack on the Stock Exchange provided Bane and Daggett with the rest of the info needed (besides the fingerprints) to fraudulently have Wayne Enterprises go bankrupt and place the company in position to be taken over by Daggett. It is also revealed that Daggett had promised to give Selina a program that would wipe out her considerable criminal record, but he reveals that no such program exists. Bruce, realizing Daggett's plan, instead convinces Miranda Tate to take over Wayne Enterprises. He also reveals that the energy reactor they built together was never activated because, in the wrong hands, the core could be used as an atomic bomb. Miranda and Bruce grow ever closer, eventually developing a physical relationship. Meanwhile, the police now take Commissioner Gordon's warnings about Bane seriously, and prepare all city policemen to scour the sewers in search of his lair. Bane reveals that he intends to crush Gotham, and murders Daggett.
Batman approaches the Cat to ask her for her help leading him to Bane. She agrees, but when they arrive at the lair, it turns out that she led him into an ambush. Selina helped Bane in exchange for her debt to them being paid. Batman is completely overmatched, and Bane breaks his back. Then, Bane reveals that his lair is under Wayne's secret armory, and Bane and his minions invade it, commandeering all of Batman's batmobiles and technology. Bane takes Bruce and says he wants to destroy his spirit, throwing him in the prison he grew up in and forcing him to watch the events in Gotham on TV. The only way to escape the prison is to climb up a well, but only one person (Bane) has ever successfully accomplished this feat. Bane says hope never truly exiss, and both Bruce and Gotham will realize this to be true when he is done. Bruce begins rehabbing his body in the prison. Bane also steals the core to the energy reactor and has Dr. Pavel convert the core into a bomb before killing him.
Blake discovers that Bane was using Daggett's construction sites to install explosive-filled concrete throughout the city. Before he can effectively warn anyone though, Bane ignites the explosives, kills the mayor, trapping most police officers underground and also destroying all but one bridge leading into Gotham. Bane also exposes Harvey Dent as Two Face and embarasses Commissioner Gordon by revealing that he had lied about the whole thing. Bane says as long as the people of Gotham are subservient to the League of Shadows they will live. But, he warns that if anyone enters or leaves Gotham, he will trigger the bomb. But this is only false hope, as Bane secretly reveals that in five months the core will destabilize and explode, destroying Gotham anyways. Bane frees all the prisoners from Gotham to serve as his army, and a court is established with Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy, reprising his role from Batman Begins) as the judge. They sentence to death all those who lived wealthy in the old regime, and anarchy reigns. Meanwhile, Bruce hallucinates visions of Ra's alGhul who tells him that Bane is actually his son. Eventually, Bruce learns to fear death and embrace life, and manages to successfully climb out of the well and returns to Gotham. There is only about one day left, however, until the core goes nuclear.
Batman encounters the Cat and says he still believes in her. He gives her an actual copy of the criminal record deletion program and his Bat-cycle and instructs her to free the police. She says she will, but that she will then flee Gotham after that. Batman also rescues Commissioner Gordon and Blake, who will locate the bomb and disengage the trigger. Meanwhile, Fox waits at the energy reactor, ready to stabilize the core once it is returned to the facility. Batman and the cops attack Bane and his forces (who are also holding Miranda captive) while Blake attempts to lead the citizens out of the city. The mainland cops have blocked the bridge, not wanting Bane to trigger the bomb (and not knowing it has been disengaged) in order to keep people from leaving in violation of Bane's rules. When Blake tries to convince them that the bomb is temporarily disabled and attempts to cross, the cops shoot at him and then destroy part of the bridge, effectively sealing everyone into Gotham permanently to await their deaths.
Batman and Bane fight, but this time Batman defeats Bane (attacking Bane's mask, having learned in the prison that Bane was disfigured and the mask feeds him continuous pain killers that are the only thing that allow him to function). While Batman prepares to go after the core, Miranda embraces him, and then stabs him. She reveals that she is actually Ra's child, Talia alGhul, and she is the leader of the League of Shadows. Also, it was she who was born in and escaped the prison (Bane was an inmate there who had protected her from all the other bloodthirsty criminals and aided in her escape up the well). Talia and Ra's had later linberated the criminals and Bane. She hated her father until Batman had killed him, at which point she and Bane decided to finish Ra's mission. She then leaves to protect the core, and Bane having had his mask repaired by Talia, prepares to kill Batman. Before he can, however, Bane is killed by the Cat, who shoots him with the guns on the Bat-Cycle. Batman recovers his Batplane and the two heroes manage to crash the truck containing the core. Talia is fatally injured in the crash, but she reveals that she has already destroyed the energy reactor facility, and now nothing can stabilize the core. She gloats of her victory with her final breath.
Batman connects the core to the Batplane and intends to fly it over the ocean where the detonation will not hurt anyone. Catwoman kisses Batman passionately before he leaves. Batman also reveals that it was Commissioner Gordon's actions that gave Bruce hope for the future. Bruce also says that anyone can be a hero, Bruce need not be the sole symbol of the city. Batman then flies off with the core, and all Gothamites witness the plane and Batman destroyed in the ensuing nuclear blast. Blake, disenchanted that the mainland police were willing to let Gotham perish and that Bruce will never get recognition, quits the police force.
We see that Bruce has left his remaining fortune to Alfred (who returns to Gotham and apologizes to the Bruce's parent's graves for being unable to keep Bruce alive and happy). Wayne Industries is given to Lucius, who also discovers that someone had fixed the broken auto-pilot function on the Bat Plane months before the explosion. Commissioner Gordon is also pleased to discover that someone has mysteriously repaired the Bat Signal. Wayne Manor is converted into a permanent home for the orphaned children charity. We learn that Blake's first name is actually "Robin," and he later discovers the entrance to the Batcave and the Bat costume raises up before him and bats fly around him after he enters.
In the last scene, Alfred, having retired to Florence, Italy, goes to a little cafe. He looks up and sees Bruce there with a woman, who is revealed to be Selina. Bruce and Alfred smile happily at each other.
Thanks Evan, Brian and Herbmeistr!