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|“||Do you wanna know how I got these scars? My father was a drinker, and a fiend. And one night, he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn't like that. Not. One. Bit. So, me watching, he takes the knife to her, laughing while he does it. He turns to me, and he says, "Why so serious?" He comes at me with the knife. "Why so SERIOUS?!" He sticks the blade in my mouth—"Let's put a smile on that face!" Aaaand... Why so serious?||„|
| ~ The Joker telling his supposed backstory to Gambol before killing him - his most famous quote.|
|“||You just couldn't let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren't you? Huh? You won't kill me, out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness... and I won't kill you, because you're just too much fun! I think you and I are destined to do this forever.||„|
| ~ The Joker's final confrontation with Batman.|
|“||I took Gotham's "White Knight", and I brought him down to our level. It wasn't hard. See, madness, as you know, is like gravity: all it takes is a little push!||„|
| ~ The Joker explains how he drove Harvey Dent to insanity before he is arrested.|
The Joker is the main antagonist of the 2008 superhero film The Dark Knight, the second installment of Christopher Nolan's the The Dark Knight trilogy. He was a psychotic anarchist and notorious criminal mastermind who, describing himself as an agent of chaos, rose to power in the criminal underworld by thrusting Gotham City into turmoil, and drew Batman ever closer to crossing the fine line between heroism and vigilantism.
His depiction in the film is often considered by many to be the darkest and most realistic version of the original Clown Prince of Crime since his early beginnings in DC comics (prior to a softening of character), at least in regards to the live action films. Perhaps due to the popularity of The Dark Knight, the mainstream Joker's extreme sociopathic tendencies have begun to be more emphasized.
|“||Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.||„|
|~ Alfred Pennyworth.|
The Joker was nothing more or less than a personification of radical nihilism, insanity, cynicism, murderous nature, mental instability and anarchism. He viewed himself as not bad, good, or neutral, but rather a level higher than everyone else when it came to life. Joker believed that superficial and meaningless chaos and selfishness was basic human nature and tried to get everyone to agree with that theory.
The Joker was very egocentric and vainglorious in this area, as he disliked people who resisted or fought his opinion. The Joker took pride in having reached that conclusion before everyone else and viewed morally strong people as naive, immature, ridiculous, and foolish. The Joker was also not greedy and had no interest in money or even companionship. The Joker was really hard to place, as he knew what he was doing was evil by modern standards, but at the same time, he hoped that his behavior would become acceptable once everyone realized that anarchy was the only way to live. However, once the people of Gotham proved him wrong, outside of a brief moment of anger, he didn't really care. This implies that he was doing this all for fun. Interestingly, the only times in which he's ever shown anger are when people call him a freak, as seen when he became visibly annoyed by the other mobsters calling him a freak, and decided to feed the Chechen to the dogs when he called him a freak.
The Joker was also shown to be abnormally manipulative, temperamental, treacherous, impatient, and above all sadistic. He took immense joy in others being physically or psychologically wounded and even made dead-pan jokes on the occasions. The Joker was also utterly fearless and masochistic which robbed Batman of his pain-inflicting and fear inducing tactics on his enemies.
Those traits also make Joker a good hand-to-hand opponent for the Caped Crusader despite him seemingly having no martial arts training as he frantically charged at Batman and ruthlessly wailed on him, something an opponent with a fear of getting hurt would never have done.
Similar to Two-Face, the Joker left prominent examples of chaos to chance, such as blowing up a hospital or the two ferries. However, unlike Two-Face, the Joker never left it up to something that he could not control, like a coin. Instead, he let the people of Gotham choose the outcome. He also left no option in which everyone was safe, and made it perfectly plain that people were going to die regardless of what option was chosen.
The Joker also shared characteristics with the other primary antagonists of the Batman trilogy. Like Ra's al Ghul and Bane, the Joker did not like the way that Gotham had existed or functioned, thought that his evil means were justified by their ends, used fear as torture, hid nothing of his plans from the protagonists to induce panic, and pigheadedly thought himself "ahead of the curve," to avoid facing his flaws.
Joker differed from the other two by wanting to revolutionize Gotham City rather than destroy it. He was the only one of the three who was not a martial artist or a member of the League of Shadows. The Joker was also far more maniacal and intelligent than they were and was also the only one who never found out Batman's identity. The Joker stood more or less in between the three villains as he was an anarchist, while Ra's al Ghul was flat out delusional, and Bane was admittedly: "Necessary Evil".
In addition, the Joker was exceedingly cunning, manipulative through the use of fear, oblivious to his insanity and depravity, and flawlessly thorough in his plans. The Joker's only real setback was his blind ambition that everyone was as cruel deep down as he was on the surface. The Joker also lacked any fear of being killed in his actions, as demonstrated by his trying to goad Batman into running him over as well as laughing when Batman threw him off the roof of a building, which made him far more dangerous.
- Harvey Dent/Two-Face † - Enemy-turned-Indirect Puppet
- Joker's Thugs - Henchmen
- Bruce Wayne/Batman - Archenemy and puppet.
- Sal Maroni † - Former Ally turned Enemy
- Chechen † - Former Ally turned Enemy
- Gambol † - Enemy and Victim
- Lau † - Enemy and Victim
- Rachel Dawes † - Victim and puppet.
- Harvey Dent- puppet, attempted victim, and pawn.
- Mike Engel
- Mayor Anthony Garcia † - Target
- Judge Surrillo † - Target
- James Gordon- Puppet , attempted victim, and target. Also other archenemy.
- Commissioner Gillian Loeb † - Target
- Stephens †
The Joker in the film has since been regarded as one of the most memorable and recognizable villains in cinema. Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker received critical acclaim, winning numerous posthumous awards for his performance, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, and a Best Actor International Award at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards.
"I can only speak superlatives of Ledger, who is mad-crazy-brilliant as the Joker", wrote Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, stating that the film is deeper than its predecessor, with a "deft" script that refuses to scrutinize the Joker with popular psychology. Travers praised the cast, saying each brings his or her "'A' game" to the film." Travers said Ledger moves the Joker away from Jack Nicholson's interpretation into darker territory and expresses his support for any potential campaign to have Ledger nominated for an Academy Award.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated that Heath Ledger's portrayal is a "key performance" and pondered whether he would become the first posthumous Academy Award-winning actor since Peter Finch in 1976.
Mark Dinning from Empire magazine called Ledger's performance "monumental" and wrote "The Dark Knight is Ledger's movie. It is a towering performance. ... A force of fucking nature". Kevin Smith commented on Ledger, calling his "incredible" performance "the most frightening, smart and well-played villains ever. Ever." Mark Lee, writing for The Daily Telegraph, commented that Ledger accomplished "a genuinely unsettling, brilliant nuanced portrait of evil". Tim Teeman commented for The Times that "Ledger is so terrifying and unpredictable that his very presence on screen makes you nervous." Total Film reviewed that Ledger is "burning brightly as he embodies an icon. ... This is the definitive Joker", calling the performance "a masterpiece". For The Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt called Ledger's performance "a beauty." Entertainment Weekly put the film on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Every great hero needs a great villain. And in 2008, Christian Bale's Batman found his in Heath Ledger's demented dervish, the Joker." Emanuel Levy wrote Ledger "throws himself completely" into the role.
David Denby of The New Yorker magazine, otherwise critical of the film, praised Ledger's "sinister and frightening" performance, which he says is the film's one element of success. Denby called Ledger "mesmerizing" and said, "His performance is a heroic, unsettling final act: this young actor looked into the abyss." "It's just one of the most iconic movie performances of modern times," declared chief film critic of Variety Scott Foundas.
Film critics, co-stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Caine, and many of Ledger's colleagues in the film community joined Bale in calling for and predicting a nomination for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in recognition of Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight.
WatchMojo ranked The Joker as #2 on their "Top 10 Most Iconic Movie Villains" list, behind Darth Vader. Complex, also ranked The Joker as #2 on their "50 Best Villains in Movie History" list, behind John Doe. Empire ranked The Joker as #21 on their "50 Greatest Villains" list.
- The movie was released after Heath Ledger's death in 2008. Following Ledger's death, The Dark Knight was dedicated to his memory and to his family. Ledger would posthumously win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the Joker, which makes the Joker so far the only comic book character to ever win an Academy Award. The film's director Christopher Nolan received the award in his name before Joaquin Phoenix become the second actor who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2020 as the fourth actor who portrayed Joker in history since Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro won for Oscar for share role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather
- Heath Ledger's Joker was considered the most evil version of the Joker ever filmed.
- Alongside Two-Face, the Joker was the only main antagonist in The Dark Knight Trilogy that had no affiliation with the League of Shadows. Ra's al Ghul was the former leader, Carmine Falcone was an associate, Scarecrow was an affiliate, Bane was defrocked and Talia al Ghul was a high-ranking member due to the fact that she was the daughter of Ra's.
- However, the Joker's actions were indirectly responsible for their later takeover of Gotham City in the next installment.
- Mark Hamill, no stranger to Joker, called Ledger's performance, "The most original (he) has ever seen since Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs".
- The scars on Joker's face were known as the Glasgow Smile Scars.
- Similar to Ra's al Ghul and Bane, the main antagonists of the trilogy's other installments, the Joker's real name was never revealed and was only known by his alias.
- Elements of this Joker were later used in the creation of the version for the Flashpoint story arc. However, it should be noted that the latter version was depicted as a far more tragic character, being Martha Wayne, who had been driven completely insane due to her son, Bruce, being murdered by Joe Chill.
- This is one of only three Joker incarnations who's backstory does not involve falling into a vat of chemicals and permanently being disfigured by them to resemble a clown, the other two being Arthur Fleck and Martha Wayne from the Flashpoint story arc.
- When Heath Ledger portrayed the Joker in the film, he was 28 years old, being the second youngest actor to portray the character (the first being Cameron Monaghan, who played Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska in Gotham).
- Before the premiere of the documentary I Am Heath Ledger, Heath's sister Kate debunked the rumor that the role of the Joker contributed to his Death saying "Honestly, that's been the biggest thing for us as a family," "He had an amazing sense of humor and certainly playing the Joker, for him it was one big gag. He had so much fun doing that. It was actually the exact opposite. There was no doom and gloom. ... That was a shock to me that people even thought that, really." She also revealed he loved playing the Joker and that he planned to reprise the role. "He was a really happy person and he had huge plans for his future,""I spoke to him the night before (he died) and we were laughing and joking. He was so proud of what he had done in Batman. And I know he had plans for another Batman. He loved working with Chris Nolan and Christian Bale and Gary Oldman. He just had the best time ever doing that film".
- Whenever he removes his gloves except when he's disguised as a nurse, bits of his facial makeup can be seen on his hands.
- The Joker is one of the two villains in the The Dark Knight who doesn’t die, along with Scarecrow.
- There's a popular Reddit theory which suggests that the Joker is actually the real hero of The Dark Knight. This is because before the Joker's arrival to Gotham City, Gotham was plagued with organized crime and corrupt officials that caused the citizens to turn to Batman to save them. Once the Joker starts his campaign against Batman, almost all crime in Gotham gets wiped out (with most criminals ending up dead or imprisoned) and Batman is forced into hiding. The only contradiction to this theory, however, is that the Joker tempted prisoners and pedestrians to blow up each other to save themselves near the film's climax for no apparent reason, which proves that the Joker is evil.
- The Joker was originally set to appear in The Dark Knight Rises, in which he was supposed to appear without his make-up nor his purple clothes, as a prisoner of Blackgate, and, later as a freeman following Bane's mutiny. Eventually, this was ultimately shelved by Christopher Nolan, feeling it would not be respectful toward Ledger's demise. According to Kate Ledger and Aaron Eckhart, Ledger was willing to reprise the role in the third film before his death.