Great fictional villains have the power to frighten, moralise and petrify and they’ll undoubtedly stay with movie-going audiences forever, returning now and again in quiet shadowy moments.
Yet they’re hard to come by, often seeming one-dimensional in the acting out of pure evil. Not Heath Ledger’s Joker.
So twisted and depraved and colourful was Ledger’s performance, The Joker has just been voted the Greatest Movie Villain Of All Time by an Internet Ranker poll.
On this day ten years ago, Hollywood lost an acting legend in Heath Ledger. It’s only fitting then, we remember the 28-year-old performing artist at his best – and everyone else’s, apparently.
Here’s the gospel according to Ranker voters, starting with the top five villains:
1. The Joker – The Dark Knight
2. Darth Vader – Star Wars universe
3. Hannibal Lecter – The Silence Of The Lambs
4. Lord Voldemort – Harry Potter universe
5. Freddy Krueger – Nightmare On Elm Street universe
And bringing up the latter half of this illustrious but evil top ten:
6. Jack Torrance – The Shining
7. Emperor Palpatine – Star Wars universe
8. Agent Smith – The Matrix universe
9. The T-800 – The Terminator
10. Magneto – The X-Men universe
There are some incredibly disturbing on-screen portrayals in the list, but none so chilling as Ledger’s Joker, according to the people.
The cinematic epic, directed by Christopher Nolan and co-starring Christian Bale as Batman, was critically acclaimed and adored by viewers, at least in part thanks to Ledger’s convincing performance.
You can see why in The Dark Knight below:
During a Q&A at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Christopher Nolan said of the casting process:
Heath chose me. He just was determined to do it. He just had a vision for something and the way he termed it to me at the time was, he really didn't like to work too much.
He liked to do a character and then stop working then let enough time go by. He wanted to be hungry for it and when he came to me, he was clearly in that state: very hungry.
He was ready to do something like that and just own it - which is what he did.
After his death, Ledger's father appeared in a documentary about the late great actor, which gave us an insight into his acting process.
Heath's grieving father, Kim, showed viewers his son's personal scrapbook which he'd filled with notes, sketches and inspiration while preparing for the part.
It showed just how dedicated he had been.
Kim recalled his son's passion for the part, saying:
He pretty well locked himself up in a hotel room for weeks. He galvanised the upcoming character.
That was typical of Heath. He would do that. He liked to dive into his characters, but this time he really took it up a notch.
You can watch the trailer for I Am Heath Ledger below:
Ledger's dedication in bringing the Joker to life didn't go unnoticed as he posthumously won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for the role.