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Joker (1989 film)

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Jack? Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me... Joker. And as you can see, I'm a lot happier.
~ Joker before killing Carl Grissom
Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight? I always ask that of all my prey. I just like the sound of it.
~ Joker
I'm only laughing on the outside, my smile is just skin deep. If ya could see it inside, I'm really crying. Mind if I join you for a weep?
~ Joker

Jack Napier, better and later known as The Joker, is the main antagonist of the 1989 superhero film, Batman. He is a criminal supervillain and the archenemy of Batman. He was portrayed by Jack Nicholson, who also portrayed Colonel Nathan R. Jessup and Jack Torrance.



Tell me, kid. You ever dance with the devil by the pale moonlight?
~ Napier threatens young Bruce Wayne

Napier was born in Brooklyn and came to live in Gotham. 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, 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. Napier decided to spare the boy and left, saying, "See you around, kid." Little did he know that his prediction would come true—that he and Bruce would meet again.


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

Jack Napier while working for crime boss Carl Grissom

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, 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.

Becoming the Joker

Jack is dead my friend. You can call me, Joker.
~ Joker, moments before his murder of Carl Grissom.

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, 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 before taking Vicki Vale hostage, who was there alongside her fellow photojournalist Knox. Batman followed them into the old Gotham City Cathedral. While Batman battled his thugs, Joker dances with Vicki before the Dark Knight finally faces him.


Sometimes I just kill myself!
~ 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. 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.


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.


If you gotta go...GO WITH A SMILE!
He can't run this city without me. And besides, he doesn't know.
What are you laughing at?!
It's me, sugarbumps.
Fried? Is that what you heard? You set me up over a woman. A WOMAN! You must be insane.
I've been dead once already. It's very liberating, you should think of it as... therapy.
'Jack?' Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me... Joker. And as you can see, I'm a lot Happier.
'Winged freak terrorizes...?' Wait'll they get a load of me!
Honey, you'll never believe what happened to me today!
Well, Tony, nobody wants a war. Can't do business, we'll shake hands and it'll be it.
Ooh, we've got a live one here. Oh, they'll be a hot time in the old town tonight!"
Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?
Never rub another man's rhubarb!
Hey bat-brain, I was a kid when I killed you're parents. Let's just I need you, ya gotta say you made me and how childish can you get? You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses, huh, would ya? Huh?


  • Jack Nicholson's name is often listed in the credits before that of Michael Keaton (who plays Batman), except in the end credits.
  • The Joker is different than his animated counterpart; while Mark Hamill's Joker can survive long falls, Jack Nicholson's Joker obviously can't.
    • Also in the animated series, there have been hints that the Joker's full name really is Jack Napier. Either that or it is 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.
  • 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 of 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. 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 apparation began to manifest was different: Joker uses his infected blood to Batman and some other people that gained blood transfusion 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 played incarnation followed by Heath Ledger (2008) and Jared Leto (2016).
  • Joker is the only villain in the Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology film series to be a Complete Monster.


Promotional Photos

Batman 1989

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