When it comes down to it, the Joker makes a pretty terrifying movie villain. He’s the personification of chaos, completely unpredictable, and his presence has contributed to several of the best Batman movies. Christopher Nolan agrees, stating that nothing gets to him quite like the Joker.
In a new book, Christopher Nolan: The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work, the filmmaker discusses his Dark Knight trilogy and its underlying philosophies. In an excerpt published by SlashFilm, he clarifies what infatuates him about Batman’s arch-nemesis. “The Joker is what I am afraid of more than anything,” Nolan says. “More than any of the villains, these days particularly, when you feel civilisation is very thinly lined. I think the Joker represents the id in all of this.”
Heath Ledger was the Joker actor in The Dark Knight, a performance that earned the star a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Ledger’s portrayal was so good it intimidated Barry Keoghan in The Batman, and that’s no small feat.
David S Goyer, who co-wrote the story of The Dark Knight with Nolan, mentions that their goal was to make Joker truly spine-chilling. “I liked the [Tim] Burton films a lot, but the one bone to pick with film, television, anything: I just never felt that the Joker was scary. Chris and I wanted the Joker to be scary,” Goyer says.
Before Ledger, Jack Nicholson played the Joker in the Tim Burton movie Batman (1989), while Cesar Romero played the character in the superhero movie Batman: The Movie from 1966. I’m not sure I’d consider Nicholson’s Joker not scary, but one thing you can definitely say about all off these is that Ledger’s turn was more grounded than the other two, making him seem terrifying.
Christopher Nolan: The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work, written by Ian Nathan, arrives November 8, 2022. If this has you wanting more caped crusading, check out our guides to the DC movies and Batman actors.