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Villain Overview
Jack? Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me… Joker! And as you can see, I'm a lot happier.
~ The Joker taking up his new identity.
Tell me something, my friend. You ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? I always ask that of all my prey. I just like the sound of it.
~ The Joker's most infamous quote.
If you gotta go...GO WITH A SMILE!!!
~ Joker during the parade
"Winged freak terrorizes… ?" Wait'll they get a load of me!
~ The Joker's famous quote laughing at a magazine about Batman.

The Joker, real name Jack Napier, is the main antagonist of Tim Burton's 1989 Academy Award winning superhero film Batman. He is a criminal supervillain and the archenemy of Batman, as well as his parents murderer.

He was portrayed by Jack Nicholson, who also played Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men, Jack Torrance in The Shining, James R. Hoffa in the 1992 film Hoffa, Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick, and Frank Costello in The Departed.

History

Past

Jack Napier was born in Brooklyn and came to live in Gotham City. In his school years Jack proved himself to be emotionally unstable, but highly intelligent, showing aptitude in art, science, and chemistry. He also turned to a life of violent crime. When he was fifteen, Jack was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

Young Jack Napier

Young Jack Napier after killing Bruce Wayne's parents

Years later, as a young man at the age of 26, he and his partner in crime mugged Bruce Wayne's parents, Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, while they were walking home from the movies. When Thomas interceded to protect his family, Napier stepped from the shadows and shot both him and Martha in cold-blooded murder. Napier pulled the hammer back on his gun and next pointed it at Bruce. Napier inquired "Tell me, kid… you ever danced with the devil by the pale moon light?". Before Napier could fire, his panicked partner urged him to leave, saying "Let's go, Jack" (which caused Napier to turn to his partner with a puzzled look). Napier decided to spare the boy and left, saying, "See you around, kid." Little did Jack know that his prediction would come true — that he and Bruce would meet again someday..

Meeting Batman and Becoming the Joker

JackNapier

Jack Napier while working for crime boss Carl Grissom.

Eckhardt!! Think about the future!
~ Jack, as he is about to kill Lt. Eckhardt.

Years later, Napier became the right-hand man of the crime boss Carl Grissom, but when Carl found out that Napier was fooling with his girl, Alicia Hunt, he called Lt. Eckhardt to kill his right-hand man, who (along with his men) was trying to erase evidence of criminal activity in the Axis Chemical Factory.

Eventually, Napier meets Batman for the first time. Before he was going to escape, he kills Eckhardt after he told him to think about the future. Napier then turned the gun on Batman and caught a ricocheted bullet through his cheeks; in a panic, Napier stepped off a catwalk over a vat of a toxic chemical. Though Batman caught Napier's arm and attempted to pull him back up to safety, Napier's leather glove slipped through Batman's and he plummeted into the chemical vat below him.

Napier somehow survived and the reaction of the chemicals left him with chalk white skin, green hair and red lips. He tried to do reconstructive surgery, which severed critical facial nerves, leaving him with a wide, ridiculous and famous smile. He began to realize his insanity after looking through a mirror, much to the surprise of the surgeon. He returned to Grissom's office to kill him in revenge for his attempted murder, which he did and became the new crime lord known as the Joker. When sitting on his now deceased boss' desk, he picks up a newspaper which reads "Winged Freak Terrorizes Gotham City". Now wanting publicity and plotting to get rid of Batman, he replies with a smile "Wait til they get a load of me", and then laughs.

Crime Spree

When he learned about Vicki Vale, the Joker fell in love with her and tried to steal her from Bruce Wayne. He made a remarkable and drastic entrance near the city hall where he killed a fellow crime lord with his quill pen. His mime henchmen then started to shoot all over the place and killing the crime lord´s  aliies, with Bruce Wayne being "hit", but survived. He then heads for his limo and solemnly waves goodbye to Bruce before taking off.

The Last Laugh

In The Joker, We Trust

The Joker while riding on his parade during the festival, gives away free money to all of the people of Gotham City.

The Joker's Parade

The Joker's parade during the Gotham City Festival was later stopped by the Batman.

The Joker begins his "parade" at the start of the Gotham City Festival that celebrating the city's 200th anniversary, bringing very hefty sums of cash to all Gotham's citizens. Along with his parade were his precious and cartoonish balloons filled with the deadly Smylex gas made from the ingredients used to create his cosmetic Smylex products. He notices Batman's Batwing up in the sky and proceeds to go as planned with his balloons. After throwing the money to everyone in the streets, the Joker wrapped up his speech saying everyone should "go with a smile".

The Joker & Vicky Vale

The Joker dances with his hostage Vicky Vale and even toys with her.

But after Batman stopped his maniacal festivities and saved everyone from the Joker's Smylex via his Batwing, he shot and killed his right-hand man Bob the Goon, and eventually went on to face Batman while his men ordered everyone to leave the money-littered, panic-stricken streets. The Joker used his peashooter revolver and shot the Batwing down. He then found Vicki Vale near the Batwing in front of the old Gotham City Cathedral and takes her hostage (telling her "Darling, I've got to get you to the church on time.").

Batman followed them into the cathedral. While Batman battled his thugs, Joker dances with Vicki before the Dark Knight finally faces him.

Death

Sometimes I just kill myself!
~ The Joker's last words.

During their deadly confrontation, in which they identify each other and their motivations, Batman repeatedly beats up the Joker and manages to knock him off the balcony, but the Joker reached both his arms up, and managed to pull Batman and Vicki down, themselves holding on for life from a narrow ledge while the Joker stomps and dances on the ledge in an attempt to make both of them fall. The Joker's helicopter arrived to retrieve him to safety. Batman used a grappling hook to tie Joker's ankle to a large, heavy gargoyle. Batman sealed The Joker's fate when he broke it loose.

Unable to break free from the heavy burden of the gargoyle, The Joker lost his grip on the helicopter's rope ladder and fell screaming to his death, hitting the cathedral's flight of steps below hard, breaking every single bone in his body.

Jackjokerdeath

The Joker's last laugh.

Ironically, just a few seconds beforehand, he said "Sometimes I just kill myself!" Commissioner Gordon came upon The Joker's body, hearing a repetitive laugh. He reached into The Joker's coat and pulled out a laugh box that had been activated by the landing.

Despite the Joker's reign of terror finally met to an end for good, Bruce Wayne would continue to have bad memories of Jack Napier slaying his parents for several years.

Quotes

He can't run this city without me. And besides, he doesn't know.
~ The Joker.
It's me, sugarbumps.
~ The Joker to Carl Grissom.
Fried? Is that what you heard? You set me up over a woman. A WOMAN! You must be insane.
~ The Joker complaining to Carl Grissom that the latter set him up over Alicia Hunt.
I've been dead once already. It's very liberating. You should think of it as... therapy.
~ Jack Napier talking to Carl Grissom.
Honey, you'll never believe what happened to me today!
~ The Joker showing his new grin to Alicia Hunt.
Well, Tony, nobody wants a war. Can't do business? We'll shake hands and that'll be it.
~ The Joker before killing a crime lord in front of the the late Carl Grissom's fellow crooks.
Ooh, we've got a live one here. Oh, there will be a hot time in the old town tonight!
~ The Joker.
Batman? Batman? Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in, where a man dressed up as BAT gets all my press? This town needs an enema!
~ The Joker sees Batman on the news
I have given a name to my pain and it is Batman.
~ The Joker about Batman.
Never rub another man's rhubarb!
~ The Joker after shooting Bruce Wayne, not realizing that he survived.
Why is it every time I come for you, someone always gets it in the way?
~ Joker to Vicky Vale
I'm only laughing on the outside. My smile is just skin deep. If you could see inside I'm really crying, you might join me for a weep.
~ The Joker to Vicki Vale.
Joker here. Now you fellas have said some pretty mean things. Some of which were true under that fiend, Boss Grissom. He was a thief and a terrorist. On the other hand, he had a tremendous singing voice. He's dead now and he's left me in charge. Now, I can be theatrical and maybe even a little rough - but one thing I am not is a killer. I am an artist. I love a good party. So truce. Commence au festival! And I've got a surprise for Gotham City. At midnight, I will dump 20 million in cash on the crowd. Don't worry about me, I've got enough. You heard it, folks. 20 million. And there will be entertainment the big du karoo. With me in one corner and in the other corner, the man who has brought real terror to Gotham City, Batman. Can you hear me? Just the two of us; mano y mano. I have taken off my makeup. Let's see if you can take off yours.
~ Joker's televised message challenges Batman
If you gotta go… GO WITH A SMILE!
~ The Joker in his infamous advertisement.
Hey bat-brain, I was a kid when I killed your parents. It's just I made you, ya gotta say you made me. How childish can you get? You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses, huh, would ya? Huh?
~ The Joker before Batman punches him off the balcony.
What are you laughing at?!
~ The Joker to an inanimate gargoyle while laughing because Batman and Vicki are about to fall to their deaths.
They don't make 'em like they used to! Do they, eh? Eh, Batsy?
~ The Joker to Batman while trying to make him and Vicki to fall to their deaths.

Trivia

  • Jack Nicholson's name is often listed in the credits before that of Michael Keaton (who plays Batman), except in the end credits.
  • The 1989 film's Joker is different from his animated counterpart; while Mark Hamill's Joker can survive long falls, Jack Nicholson's Joker cannot.
    • Also in the animated series, there have been hints that the Joker's full name really is Jack Napier; some people think it's either that or one of Joker's many aliases.
    • Nicholson's portrayal of the Joker in the movie was also the inspiration for his animated version's physical appearance in the DC Animated Universe.
  • He looks similar to Cesar Romero's Joker from the Adam West Batman TV series, except his hair is more green than yellow, and his suit is more purple than fuchsia.
  • He is the only main villain of the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher series that does not share the role of main villain with another. The villains of Batman Returns are The Penguin, Max Shreck, and Catwoman, the villains of Batman Forever are Two-Face and The Riddler, and the villains of Batman & Robin are Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and Bane.
  • Joker (again played by Jack Nicholson) was planned to appear in a cancelled fifth installment in the Burton/Schumacher series titled Batman Triumphant in which he would have appeared in a hallucination when Batman was exposed to Scarecrow's fear toxin. Also, Harley Quinn was to appear in the film as Joker's daughter (instead of his therapist, as she is usually portrayed). However, with the failure of the 1997 film Batman and Robin, the project was scrapped, and the series was rebooted in 2005 by Christopher Nolan.
    • This concept however, later become inspiration for Joker's hallucination that haunted Batman in Batman: Arkham Knight game, though how the apparition began to manifest was different: Joker uses his infected blood to Batman and some other people that gained blood transfusions from him.
  • According to a tie-in book, the money that Joker threw into the crowd at the parade was counterfeit.
  • Nicholson was first Oscar winning actor to play an incarnation of the Joker, followed by Heath Ledger (2008) and Jared Leto (2016).
  • Joker's role as the killer of Thomas and Martha Wayne is typically taken by Joe Chill in the comics and other media.
  • There are two things that foreshadows Jack Napier's transformation into the Joker. Prior going to Axis Chemicals, he is wearing a purple business suit, and he pulled out a Joker card from his deck of cards.
  • It is speculated that his love for Vicki Vale was actually real. There is a fatal flaw in this: after Batman punched the Joker off the balcony, the latter pulled him and Vicki off the balcony as both were hanging on for their lives, and the Joker was laughing.
  • The name Jack Napier was later used as the Joker's real name for the 2017 comic book Batman: White Knight.
  • Before Jack Nicholson was cast as Jack Napier/The Joker, Brad Dourif, Tim Curry, the late David Bowie, John Lithgow, James Woods, the late Robin Williams, and Daniel Stern originally auditioned for the role of Jack Napier/The Joker, but turned down the role.

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Movies
Batman (1966): Joker | Catwoman | Penguin | Riddler
Batman (1989): Joker | Bob Hawkins | Alicia Hunt | Carl Grissom | Max Eckhardt | Vinnie Ricorso
Batman Returns: Penguin | Red Triangle Circus Gang (Organ Grinder, Poodle Lady, Tattooed Strongman, Stungun Clown, Thin Clown, Fat Clown, Sword Swallower & Knifethrower Dame) | Max Shreck | Catwoman | Charles "Chip" Shreck
Batman Forever: Riddler | Two-Face | Sugar | Spice | NygmaTech (Frogmen) | Neon Gang (Neon Gang Leader) | Salvatore Maroni
Batman & Robin: Poison Ivy | Mr. Freeze | Bane | Snowy Cones Thugs | Golums | Jason Woodrue
Batman Begins: Ra's al Ghul | League of Shadows (Ra's Decoy) | Scarecrow | Carmine Falcone | Victor Zsasz | Joe Chill
The Dark Knight: Joker | Joker's Thugs (Thomas Schiff, Chuckles, Kilson, Bus Driver, Happy, Dopey & Grumpy & Bus Driver) | Two-Face | Sal Maroni | The Chechen | Gambol | Lau | Bank Manager | Michael Wuertz | Burmese Bandit
The Dark Knight Rises: League of Shadows (Bane, Talia al Ghul & Barsad) | Catwoman | John Daggett
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Lex Luthor | Doomsday | Anatoli Knyazev
Suicide Squad: Eyes of the Adversary (Enchantress & Incubus) | Suicide Squad (Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, El Diablo, Killer Croc, Slipknot & Amanda Waller) | Joker's Gang (Joker, Jonny Frost, Panda Man & Monster T) | Griggs
The Lego Batman Movie: Joker | Phantom Zone Criminals (Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Two-Face)
Joker: Clowns (Joker, Clown) | Penny Fleck | Randall

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