|“||Why so serious?||„|
|~ The Joker's most famous quote|
|“||You wanna know how I got these scars?||„|
|~ The Joker's catchphrase|
|“||You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve.||„|
|~ The Joker to Batman.|
He was portrayed by the late Heath Ledger, who later won an Academy Award for the role posthumously.
Origin and Early Life
No one knows who the Joker really was, and little could be confirmed about his early life before he turned to a life of crime. Despite his capture, no traces could be found on his fingerprints, dental records, or DNA matches against the GCPD's databases.
The Joker's own testimony, while normally quite true when it came to carrying out threats, seemed at times contradictory, and he was known to give conflicting accounts at times when describing past events in his life, more specifically how he got the scars of his characteristic Glasgow smile.
One of his anecdotes told of his supposed extremely abusive, uncaring, alcoholic, opprobrious, and intoxicating father, stating that after attacking his mother with a knife, the blade was next turned on the young man, creating his mutilated smile. The fact that the Joker later referenced his father and his hatred of him to a party guest while crashing Harvey Dent's party implies that at the very least, he did have an extremely poor relationship with his father.
Another story he told was when his gambling wife told him not to worry so much and that he should smile more. This advice went overhead when she allowed her face to be carved by enforcers of loan sharks, and the couple discovered that they didn't have enough money to pay for surgery. In a desperate effort to assure his wife that he did not care about the damage to her appearance, he took a razor to his cheeks to make his Glasgow smile match hers, but the disturbing image instead caused his wife to leave him, damaging his psyche.
It is not revealed to what degree these stories hold truth if any. It is possible that the Joker himself is unaware of his true origins. Some psychological profiles of the Joker indicate that he is insane to such an extent that he literally reinvents both his own psyche and history on a daily basis. It is therefore possible that, if neither story is true, he genuinely believed both as he told them.
In a report filed by the GCPD, there were three theories presented for Joker's identity and origin. The first was that Joker was an escaped patient from Arkham Asylum. However, that theory was debunked on the basis that his identity had no place within any records. The second theory was that Joker was a former employee of the Harley Brothers Circus, which was documented to have connections with the mob. It was reasonable to theorize that Joker was a disgruntled former employee that had bad business with the mob. The third theory presented was that Joker was a former soldier who suffered from acute PTSD, which explained his unusually cool demeanor and familiarity with weapons, as well as his devastating effectiveness in various forms of combat.
Criminal BeginningsShortly after the death of Ra's al Ghul, Batman discussed with Lt. James Gordon the effect that he had made on Gotham City since his appearance. Gordon then revealed that a criminal with a "taste for the theatrical" had recently committed a double homicide and an armed robbery, and left behind a Joker playing card as a "calling card". Gordon also warned that just as escalation occurred in terms of a Police Force against crime, so might the scale and style of criminality change in reaction to Batman's appearance.
Some time later, Joker orchestrated the theft of a large shipment of ammonium nitrate from the Gotham Docks. The explosive chemical was saved for storage in the Gotham General Hospital and on two passenger ferries sometime later. In addition, Joker also frequently attended the various heists and crimes that his gang committed while disguised as one of the accomplices, which was believed to be at least partially where he got his name from.
Gotham National Bank Robbery
|“||If you're good at something, never do it for free.||„|
|~ The Joker.|
Several months later, a group of bank robbers under the direction of the Joker, robbed the Gotham National Bank which was used as a money-laundering front for Gotham's gangs. The clown mask-wearing robbers whittled down their own numbers within minutes in a series of calculated betrayals. Finally, only "Bozo" remained, who revealed himself as the Joker to the Gotham Bank Manager, who had earlier confronted the robbers with a shotgun. In addition, largely because he couldn't resist appearing on-camera, Joker also deliberately unmasked himself in front of a surveillance camera and posed. The Joker then escaped with the bank's cash in a yellow school bus, concealed his identity by driving within a convoy of other school buses, and also left the bank manager at the mercy of a gas grenade that was stuck in his mouth.
"Kill the Batman"
Dealing with the Mob
|“||Why so serious?||„|
|~ The Joker mocking Gambol.|
Shortly following the bank robbery, Salvatore Maroni mentioned the Joker's recent theft of mob-owned cash to his fellow crime leaders at a business meeting, who dismissed him as a threat and said that he was a "nobody" who wore "a cheap purple suit and make-up." The Joker overheard that comment and the plan presented to the Mob by corrupt Chinese accountant Lau and arrived unannounced at the meeting while he faked a laugh, as he saw their "so-called plan" as a bad joke. The mobsters were at first unwilling to hear him out, and Gambol, one of the crime lords who seemed to take the most dislike for the Joker, sent one of his men to take him out by force.
The Joker stated that he wouldn't kill Batman because he was simply too much “fun” and Batman wouldn't kill him because of his “moral obligation.” In the film, instead of trying to kill Batman, the Joker attempted to show Gotham and subsequently Batman that anyone could be as bad as him under the right circumstances.
The Joker unexpectedly performed a magic trick by making a pencil "disappear," embedded the pencil in the table, and shoved one of Gambol's men head-first into the pencil where it indeed disappeared inside the man's head, instantly killing him. The Joker also mentioned that his suit wasn't cheap and that they ought to know that since they bought it, which meant that he had used the money that he had stolen at the start of the film to buy his suit. Joker proposed that it was Batman's interference that had resulted in idealistic leaders like Harvey Dent rising in popularity, and offered his services to kill him for half of all the money that Lau, an illegitimate Chinese accountant, took away from Gotham for safe keeping. Joker also warned the Mob that Lau would betray them if he was arrested, and claimed to know a squealer when he saw one. While the Bratva mobster, the Chechen and Maroni were interested, Gambol, angered by the Joker's lack of respect, attempted to attack him, which forced the Joker to reveal his insurance policy: several grenades hidden under his coat rigged to blow, which allowed him to make a quick escape. Frustrated, Gambol proceeded to put a bounty on the Joker: $500,000 dead or $1 million alive so he could "teach him some manners."
Assassination of Gambol
The Joker later took revenge that night by having his men come to Gambol and claimed that they had killed the Joker. In a bit of unintended tragic irony that regarded the fate of his actor, the Joker's 'dead' body was brought inside in a garbage bag before he attacked Gambol and proceeded to tell him the origin of his mouth scars as a way of psychological torture and intimidation. Then, when Gambol was the most terrified and shaken, the Joker proceeded to kill him with one of his knives. Then with the remains of Gambol's men overpowered and at his mercy, Joker took a pool cue, broke it in half, made it spear-like, said that there was only one spot open at the moment to join his "team", threw the piece of sharp stick in the middle of Gambol's scared men, and had his gang, which was made up mostly of mentally ill and unstable vicious crooks that had escaped from Arkham Asylum who seemed to have taken the Joker as their leader, made Gambol's men fight to the death with the stick until only one was left, and advised them to "make it fast".
Assault on Gotham
Proposing an Ultimatum
|“||Harvey, Harvey, Harvey Dent. Oh, 'scuse me. I wanna drive!||„|
|~ Joker to his unconscious truck driver.|
Joker eventually, realized that Batman had retrieved Lau from Hong Kong and that the police had struck a deal with him to testify against them. Sal Maroni and the Chechen relented and finally hired the Joker to kill Batman in return for half the mob's money. The Joker first kidnapped a Batman impersonator, filmed his murder and hung the body, complete with white make-up and Joker scars, outside the Mayor's Office. In the murder tape that he sent to the media, the Joker viciously mocked Brian Douglas (a Batman impersonator who was arrested along with Scarecrow by the real Batman at the beginning of the film), as well as terrorizing him to the point of leaving him absolutely frozen and weeping and taunting his beliefs and his actions. Then when he has finished humiliating and terrifying him, the Joker proceeded to give Gotham an ultimatum: Batman must take off his mask and turn himself over to the authorities and every day that Batman refused to do so, he would murder innocent people day after day.
The Joker's Game
As a result of Batman not turning himself in, the first major victims were Janet Surrillo, the judge that presided over Dent's indictments, and then former GCPD Commissioner Loeb, the former via a car-bomb and the latter by inserting acid into the Commissioner's scotch, respectively.
Later, the Joker and his gang stormed a fundraiser at Bruce Wayne's Penthouse to kill Harvey Dent. When Joker was unable to get the guests to inform him of Dent's location, he decided to settle for killing off the guests. Joker then attempted to threaten an unintimidated guest (whom he noted bore a resemblance to his own hated father), before he eventually attempted to kill Rachel Dawes. Dawes attempted to drive Joker away, with a knee to the crotch, but he laughed it off and became more interested in killing her for her having "some fight in her." Joker was then confronted by Batman. The Joker only managed to escape by throwing Rachel Dawes out a window, who Batman then leaped after and saved. That encounter also led him to initially suspect that Batman's true identity was Harvey Dent.
Attack on Mayor Anthony Garcia
The killings then continued with two innocents and an attempt on the Mayor's life at a memorial for the murdered Loeb. The Joker appeared in public without makeup, impersonated one of the guards, and had most of his gang impersonate the rest of the Honor Guards. In order to further ensure that the GCPD was kept on its toes, Joker also placed a sniper rifle on the window sill of the apartment room, as well as a timer to release the blinds for the GCPD sharpshooters to shoot at anyone hapless enough to be caught in the trap. Afterward, Joker, still disguised as an Honor Guard, shot his rifle at the Mayor, and Gordon was struck in the back after he willfully leaped in front of Garcia, in order to fake his death to avoid any future attempt by the Joker of attacking him with his family at home. As a result of that, Batman told Dent to call a press conference so he could reveal his identity and stop the killings. In a surprise move, Dent instead claimed to be the Batman himself and was subsequently arrested.
First Standoff with Batman
While Dent being transported to the GCPD, the Joker and his gang attacked the caravan of police vehicles to kill Dent with his weapons. Batman soon arrived to stop the assault but stayed his hand at killing the Joker. The Joker prepared to unmask Batman, but Lt. Gordon, newly resurrected from his hoaxed death, stepped behind him, aimed his shotgun at his back, and said: "We got you, you son of a bitch." The Joker was successfully jailed at MCU, and as a direct result, Lt. James Gordon was promoted to Commissioner by the Mayor. Joker also did a sarcastic clap for the newly-promoted Commissioner.
Interrogation and Gotham Bombings
|“||I don't wanna kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off Mob Dealers? No, no. You... complete me.||„|
|~ Joker to Batman during his interrogation.|
With the Joker in custody, Gordon and Batman believed his madness was over, but became alarmed when informed that Harvey Dent had gone missing. Desperate, Gordon let Batman interrogate the Joker for information, but the Joker seemed unshaken by the pain. Instead, he gleefully told Batman his view of people as selfish and violent, only needing a little pressure before descending into madness. He also admitted he could never kill Batman, considering him his only equal. Dent's kidnapping was part of a test, to see if Batman would save him or Rachel, whom the Joker could tell Batman cared for. The Joker willingly told him where both were located, and Batman headed over to Rachel's while Gordon and his men headed over to Dent's, unaware that they were heading over to save the opposite person.
After most of the police were gone, the Joker took his guard hostage and escaped by detonating a phone-activated bomb he surgically planted in the stomach of one of his men who was arrested with him, with Lau in tow. After failing to save Rachel and learning about the Joker's escape and Dent's near survival from getting the left side of his face burned away (with Batman's help), Gordon came to the realization that it was a setup and that that Joker planned to be caught to obtain Lau.
In the hospital, Dent was driven to madness regarding the loss of Rachel and blamed Batman, Gordon, and the Joker. That act caused Sal Maroni to tell Gordon the Joker's location, now finding him and his craziness "too much" for business. The Joker later met the Chechen in a container ship with Lau and was given his reward: half of the Mob's smuggled money, which he casually burned along with Lau. Joker then betrayed the Chechen and took control of his men. He declared that Gotham deserved a new breed of criminal - one unmotivated by money or power, but who committed crime purely for fun. That corresponded with something that Alfred said to Bruce Wayne earlier in the film:"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."
The Joker then made a call to a news program where Coleman Reese was threatening to go public on the news with information about Batman's identity. He was interrupted by the Joker who stated that he had changed his mind and believed that Gotham would be too boring without Batman. To "give others the fun," joker threatened that if someone didn't kill Reese in sixty minutes, he would blow up a hospital. Gordon then abandoned his ambush on the Joker to focus on evacuating all of the city's hospitals.
|“||Introduce a little anarchy-upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos, it's "fair".||„|
|~ Joker persuading the disfigured Harvey Dent.|
During the mass evacuation, the Joker disguised himself as a nurse (still wearing his trademark face paint) and entered the hospital room of Harvey Dent. He first apologized to Dent and maintained that he was not responsible for Rachel’s death as he lacked any idea for the repercussions of his actions, while the restrained Dent attempted in vain to kill him. The Joker introduced the former D.A. to his view of the world that his time in Gotham had introduced him to, that people, or the "schemers" as he called them, were the truest form of evil in the world, as it was them who laid out the plans of society, including when human lives were expendable.
To prove his argument, Joker pointed out that if his threats were aimed at 'gangbangers' or "soldiers", then people wouldn't really care as society trained them to see the death of such people as acceptable. Thus, Joker turned the disillusioned Dent against society and against the "schemers" who put his and Rachel’s lives in danger, namely the corrupt cops who kidnapped them, as well as the "schemers" who viewed Rachel's life to be expendable, namely Batman and Gordon. After he gave Dent a gun, the Joker advised him to break away from the law that failed him and turn to chaos, which he described as the only truly fair system, as the fate of everyone would be only decided by chance, without the interference of the flawed laws of Man. Dent responded by flipping a coin to decide the Joker's fate, which gave him the same chance that Rachel had. Soon after Dent left, Joker detonated the hospital and skipped merrily away (pausing and hitting his detonator when most of the bombs temporarily failed to blow). He and his men then stole one of the nearby evacuation buses and kidnapped the TV reporter and his crew inside.
Gotham Under His Rule
The Social Experiment
|“||Tonight you are all going to be part of a social experiment. For the magic of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate, I am ready right now to blow you all sky high. Each of you has a remote to blow off the other boat. At midnight I blow you all up. If however one of you presses the button, I'll let that boat live. So whose it going to be? Harvey Dent's most wanted scumbag collection? Or the sweet and innocent civilians? Oh, and you decide quickly because the people on the other boat may not be quite so noble.||„|
The Joker declared that he would rule the streets and that anyone left in Gotham would be subjected to his rule. Joker told people that they could leave, but that he would have a surprise for them in the tunnel and on the bridge, which people then avoided, used two ferries instead: one ship full of ordinary civilians and one of the criminals, as Gordon feared the Joker would want to recruit them. However, the Joker had loaded each of the ferries with explosives, in the hopes of showing everyone how evil and corrupt they could be. Joker gave the passengers of each ship the detonator to the bombs to the other and offered both a chance at survival if they detonated the other ferry. If they didn't choose by midnight, the Joker would then blow up both ships.
Batman discovered not only the Joker's location at an unfinished skyscraper but that the majority of his "gang" were actually hostages who were wearing clown-masks with unloaded guns that were taped to their hands and that the people dressed as the hostages were the actual criminals. Batman was forced to fight not only the Joker's men, but the SWAT teams as well in order to save the hostages.
Final Standoff and Arrest
|“||I took Gotham's "White Knight" and I brought him down to our level. It wasn't hard. You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push! (laughs maniacally)||„|
|~ Joker's last words before his arrest.|
Batman finally confronted the Joker, which led to an intense fight between the two vigilantes (with the Joker using a metal bar and a knife). But, despite Batman's advanced technology and actual martial arts skill, Joker managed to get the upper-hand with sheer unpredictability, and pinned Batman under a piece of scaffolding. He gleefully waited as the ferry's deadline neared, and was visibly disappointed when both groups of passengers refused to kill the other to save themselves. The civilians voted to blow up the other ferry but could not bring themselves to actually do so, while one of the convicts on the other ferry stepped forward, took the detonator, threw it out a window, and said that the cops should have done that from the start. As the deadline passed, Batman asked the Joker if he was trying to prove that everyone was as ugly as him deep down, and bluntly informed him that he was alone in both his corruption and insanity. Before Joker could detonate both ferries, Batman hit him with his shooting wrist-blades and threw him over the edge. The Joker started to laugh as he fell down to die, but Batman, refused to kill him, caught him with his Grapple Gun, and left him hanging for the police to capture, much to the Joker's anger.
With that act, the Joker acknowledged that Batman really was incorruptible, but that Dent was no longer the "White Knight". He unleashed the scarred man onto the city. Joker stated that Dent was his "ace in the hole" in his plan to show the people of Gotham that everyone was corruptible, thus undoing Dent's work before his transformation into Two-Face. Batman then angrily left a laughing Joker to dangle while he pursued Dent. A SWAT team pointed their guns at the Joker and he was promptly arrested.
Heath Ledger, the actor who played the Joker, died under mysterious circumstances due to a drug overdose before the movie was released but luckily, after the filming of the film was done, or at least his part. Out of respect for him, the filmmakers did not even mention the Joker whatsoever in the following film, The Dark Knight Rises. Thus, it was unknown what happened to the Joker after he was arrested. But according to the original script of the third movie, it was likely stated that the Joker was imprisoned far away from Gotham City (possibly Guantanamo Bay), and was never heard from again. Another likely scenario was that he died by the time of Bane's revolution, possibly by Bane, because the Joker wanted anarchy in Gotham whereas Bane wanted to destroy it.
The novelization of 'The Dark Knight Rises' placed Joker as possibly the one and only prisoner of Arkham Asylum, (the way Rudolf Hess was in Spandau Prison) or perhaps he had escaped. Nobody was really sure.
The Joker was nothing more or less than a personification of insanity, mental instability, delusional evil 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. The Joker was also 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 which caused his final plan to backfire on him. Joker 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, which made him far more dangerous.
- Harvey Dent/Two-Face † - Enemy turned Ally and Corruption Victim
- Joker's Thugs - Henchmen
- Bruce Wayne/Batman
- Sal Maroni † - Ally turned Enemy
- Chechen † - Ally turned Enemy
- Gambol † - Ally turned Enemy and Victim
- Lau † - Ally turned Enemy and Victim
- Rachel Dawes †
- Mike Engel
- Mayor Anthony Garcia † - Target
- Judge Surrillo † - Target
- James Gordon
- Commissioner Gillian Loeb † - Target
- Stephens †
|“||If you're good at something, never do it for free.||„|
|“||Harvey, Harvey, Harvey Dent. 'Scuse me, I wanna drive!||„|
|“||I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no...you complete me."||„|
|“||I'm a man of simple tastes: I enjoy Dynamite, Gunpowder, and Gasoline!... and you know the thing they have in common? They're cheap. All you care about is money. This town deserves a better class of criminal, and I'm gonna give it to them! Tell your men they work for me now. This is my city.||„|
|“||I had a vision, a world without Batman. The Mob tried to ground a little profit and the police tried to shut them down, one block at a time, and it was so... boring.||„|
|“||Tonight, you're all going to be part of a social experiment. I'm ready right now to blow you all sky high.||„|
|“||Madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push.||„|
|“||Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are tonight's entertainment!||„|
|“||What's the time?||„|
|“||Well, depending on what the time is he might be in one spot or several.||„|
|“||Do I really look like a guy with a plan? Ya know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars, I don't know what to do with one if I caught it. I just... do things.||„|
|“||Ah, ya made it. I'm so thrilled.||„|
|“||So do you think Batman has made Gotham a better place? Hmmm? Look at me. LOOK AT ME!||„|
|“||Can you just please give me a minute!?||„|
|“||Does it depress you? Just to know how alone you really are?||„|
|“||And. Here. We. Go."||„|
|“||Ooh, look at you go!||„|
|“||What happened? Your balls drop off?||„|
|“||How about a magic trick! Ah, it's gone.||„|
|“||Very poor choice of words.||„|
|“||I thought my jokes were bad.||„|
|“||The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules. And tonight you're going to break your one rule.||„|
|“||A little fight in you? I like that.||„|
|“||I like this job! I like it!||„|
|“||You couldn't just let me go? Could you?||„|
|“||I didn't rig those charges.||„|
|“||Don't talk like you're one of them! You're not - even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a freak, like me. They need you right now, but when they don't, they'll cast you out - like a leper. See, their "morals", their "code"... it's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these, ah, "civilized people"? They'll eat each other. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve.||„|
|“||There's only a few minutes left, so you're gonna have to play my little game if you want to save one of them.||„|
|“||You know, for a while, I thought you really were Dent. The way you threw yourself after her...!||„|
|“||Look at you go! Does Harvey know about you and his "little bunny"?||„|
|“||Choose between one life or the other: Your friend the District Attorney, or his blushing bride-to-be!||„|
|“||You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with! Nothing to do with all your strength! But don't worry, I'm gonna tell you where they are! Both of them, and that's the point. You'll have to choose. He's at 250 52nd Street and she's on Avenue X at Cicero.||„|
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, 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.
- Heath Ledger's Joker was considered the most evil version of the Joker ever filmed.
- Joker was the only main antagonist in the 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 a secret assistant, Bane was defrocked, and Talia al Ghul was a high-ranking member due to the fact that she was the daughter of Ra's al Ghul.
- However, his actions were indirectly responsible for their later takeover of Gotham 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".
- Heath Ledger (posthumously) won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the Joker, which made the Joker the only comic book character to ever win an Academy Award. Film's director Christopher Nolan received the award in his name.
- 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.
- This Joker had many similarities with the Darkrai from the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Series:
- Both made their debut in the second installation of their respective series.
- Both manipulated individuals and events to their own gain.
- Both drove an individual into becoming evil and insane (The Joker drove Harvey Dent into becoming Two Face, while Darkrai drove Dialga into becoming Primal Dialga).
- Both desired absolute destruction and chaos of their worlds, though the Joker caused chaos and destruction simply for entertainment, while Darkrai had plans to rule the tattered remains of its world.
- Both had their minions help them against their fight with the heroes (The Joker had his dogs and Darkrai had his fellow Pokemon).
- Both had backup plans should their original plan fail (The Joker was going to blow up the two ferries anyway, while Darkrai would escape through the dimensional hole).
- Both survived their fights against the protagonist, but not without suffering some form of punishment, despite being small compared to the damage they caused (The Joker went to prison, while Darkrai suffered amnesia).
- Both of their actions led to devastating consequences in the future (Darkrai's actions led to a completely wrecked future as a result of Primal Dialga, while Joker's plan ultimately lay the groundwork for Bane, Talia al Ghul, and the reformed League of Shadows take over and near destruction of Gotham City).
- This Joker also has many similarities with Dimentio from Super Paper Mario:
- Both have manipulated individuals and events to their own gain.
- Both may seem funny and non-threatening at first but are later shown to be terrifying once their true natures are revealed.
- Both offered their services to other villains only to betray them once they outlived their usefulness.
- Both have manipulated another villain for their own gain by using the lost of their love interests. (Two-Face for the Joker and Count Bleck for Dimentio)
- Both desire absolute destruction and chaos of their worlds, though the Joker caused chaos and destruction simply for entertainment, while Dimentio was planning to recreate new worlds)
- Both used someone to help them against their fight with the heroes (The Joker used his dogs and Dimentio used Luigi)
- Both had backup plans should their original plan fail. (the Joker was going to blow up the two hostage ships anyway, while Dimentio would still destroy the world)
- Both of their action had to be undone by a villain's death for who they manipulated.
- Both are utter psychopaths.
- Both are Complete Monsters.
- Unsurprisingly, Joker also shared several similarities to Kefka Palazzo from Final Fantasy VI:
- Both manipulated various individuals and events to their own gain.
- Both seemed funny and non-threatening at first, but are later shown to be terrifying once their true natures are revealed.
- Both seemed to be acting in the interest of a certain villainous party, but it later turns out they were only using them and then proceeded to betray them.
- Both used someone to help them against their fight with the heroes (the Joker used his dogs and Kefka used the husks of the Warring Triad)
- Both of their defeats required a very grave cost to accomplish (Joker managed to be defeated, although at the cost of Batman being forced to kill the newly insane Harvey Dent, and his pinning the murders committed by Harvey Dent onto himself specifically to ensure the prisoners he kept off the streets weren't released, and later Batman was forced to fake his own death to save Gotham from a nuclear bomb caused by the League of Shadows, while Kefka's defeat resulted in magic permanently disappearing from the world, the total extinction of the Esper race, and nearly killed Terra Branford, and it is also implied that Shadow committed suicide shortly afterward if he was present at the party).
- Both were demonstrated by the late point to be utter nihilists.
- A web series named The Joker Blogs acted as an unofficial sequel to The Dark Knight and followed on the life of the Joker after his capture. He was played by Scott McClure.
- 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 two 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 only other being the version from the Flashpoint story arc.
- When Heath Ledger portrayed the Joker in the film, he was 28 years old. Thus, it is considered to be the youngest version of the Joker ever.
- The Joker also had many similarities with Slade Wilson of Arrow:
- They are the main antagonists in the second installment of their franchises.
- They were the archenemies of a millionaire hero (Bruce Wayne/Batman and Oliver Queen/Green Arrow respectively). Also, their enemies were trained by Ra's al Ghul at a specified moment of their lives, before or after (as an interesting fact, The Dark Knight Trilogy's Ra's al Ghul actor Liam Neeson expressed interest in reprise his role in Arrow before Matt Nable was cast).
- They were the only main antagonists of a respective installment in their franchises that aren't related to the League of Assassins (although in The Dark Knight Trilogy the League of Assassins was renamed as League of Shadows; while in Arrow, his original name remains).
- They caused anarchy and destruction in their respective cities (Gotham City and Starling City).
- They threatened the protagonist of kill two important persons in his life (for Bruce Wayne/Batman, his ex-fianceé Rachel Dawes and his friend Harvey Dent; and for Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, his mother Moira and his sister Thea). At the final, the protagonists only saved one of them, while the other was killed (Joker killed Rachel and Slade killed Moira).
- The used for cause more corruption the help of a politician of high-ranking (the District Attorney Harvey Dent for Joker; and the candidate for mayor Sebastian Blood). However, Dent was a good man before his deformation by the Joker's acts and became evil after the Joker told lies to him about Dawes.
- They were finally defeated by the heroes and send to maximum security prison (although in the case of Joker, this is assumed, due the fact that he wasn't present in the third installment of his franchise).
- Their actions affected very much their respective cities and subsequently, the League of Assassins, leaded by a direct relative of Ra's al Ghul (in The Dark Knight Rises was Talia al Ghul/Miranda Tate and in Arrow was Nyssa al Ghul), take over that cities (curiously, in both cases, the daughters of Ra's al Ghul are referred in this wiki with a -verse term).
- The Joker is also similar to Goro Akechi from Persona 5:
- Both manipulated various individuals for their own gain.
- Both seemed to be non-threatening at first, but shown to be psychopathic once their true natures are revealed.
- Both act on the interest of a villainous party, but they were only using them and then planned on betraying them.
- Both have daddy issues.
- Both are narcissists and nihilists.
- Both used someone to help them against their fight with the heroes (the Joker used his dogs, Akechi used his Personas).
- Both took their defeat well.
- This version of Joker shares a resemblance to the version of the animated series The Batman: both, having kidnapped a law official (Harvey Dent in the Nolanverse, Ethan Bennet in The Batman) corrupts them by transforming them into two criminals.