10 Reasons Heath Ledger’s Joker Is The On-Screen Best Version

"Why so serious?"

Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker is one of the lowest points in the Warner Bros. franchise known as the DC Extended Universe, which includes "Man of Steel" and "Justice League." His appearance in "Suicide Squad" was largely panned by fans and critics alike, yet he is still being considered for a comeback in a potential DCEU film.

Leto's appearance in "Suicide Squad" has inevitably led to comparisons to Heath Ledger’s fantastic performance in Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece The Dark Knight, considered the superior of all the Joker performances.

One writer at ScreenRant had a different perspective. In an article retweeted on Wednesday, he claims that Leto's Joker is better, opining that “he’s somewhat of a fashion icon” and “he has an amazing car.” Riveting arguments. This earned some strong responses from many fans, including The Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro.

As the resident expert in nerd culture, I could not let this stand. Here are the top 10 Reasons Heath Ledger’s Joker is the best version:

1. He has no origin.

The Joker just appears to wreak havoc, offering intriguingly conflicting information about himself. Unlike Jack Nicholson's 1989 version, where his origin plays out on the screen, Ledger needs no introduction. This plays perfectly into his complex, often contradictory background in the comics, which present various possibilities for an origin, including "Lovers and Madmen," "Case Study," and the stand-alone "The Killing Joke." As Batman once said, "Like any other comedian, he uses whatever material will work.”

2. His very presence is intimidating.

Cesar Romero brought a funny, albeit benign Joker in 1966, but no one could say he was intimidating. Nicholson at times pulled off a sinister air, but the theatrics undermined it. Same for Leto, who relied on an over-the-top personification. When Ledger appeared on screen, you immediately feel a tingle go down your spine. He did not need flash, a tuxedo, or a fancy car. It is merely his nature that chills us.

3. Incredible one-liners.

Heath Ledger’s dialogue is spot-on. Anyone who has seen the film remembers, "Whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger," "I’m an agent of chaos," and, of course, "Why so serious?" Nicholson, of course, has some great one-liners too, including, "Where does he get these wonderful toys?" and "Ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?" No one remembers "Suicide Squad" dialogue, except for maybe, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah …"

4. He’s smarter than Batman.

While it’s true the Joker underestimated the goodness of the people of Gotham, he still manages to stay one step ahead of the Caped Crusader through most of the film. While Romero may baffle Batman at times (and the audience), our hero always comes through in the end. Nicholson's only real mind game with Batman is his deadly poison mixture. Even in the final act of "The Dark Knight," the Clown Prince of Crime still had an edge on Batman.

5. Ledger’s chemistry with co-star Christian Bale.

The hero and villain of the film shared some incredible moments throughout the film. From their first face-off on the streets, to their battle at the Joker’s hideout, the two challenged each other and that contest brought out the best in one another.

6. He actually has a sense of humor.

Every single joke told by Leto falls completely flat. His lines are uninteresting and unmemorable. Nicholson has some witty dialogue to banter with his prey or with Batman, however, Ledger’s dialogue, along with his creepy body language, brings a dark humor, an uneasiness, and a finely tuned sense of terrifying comedy to the screen.

7. The laugh.

Ledger may not have a deep, throaty laugh, but it is twisted, raw, and sinister. As he laughs at the chaos that he brings, you can feel the genuine glee emanating from him, a perfect expression of the Joker he portrays, and better than his predecessors and successor.

8. His henchmen don’t wear panda suits.

One of the most bizarre things from "Suicide Squad" was the random gangster wearing a furry costume. It was out of place and did not even match the motif. Nicholson's henchmen are also a little cartoonish. The henchmen in "The Dark Knight" are dressed in street clothes, but with the signature clown masks seen throughout the comic books.

9. He pays tribute to Mark Hamill.

While Ledger may rule the roost in live-action, no one can deny that Mark Hamill (yes, Luke Skywalker) has the edge in animation, especially in "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm." His walk, clothing style, and his use of cards all pay homage to the dark deco design perfected by animators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski.

10. The preparation that went into it.

The late, great Heath Ledger took time to prepare for this role. He read Joker-themed graphic novels, including "The Killing Joke" and "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Earth," letting the comic books inspire his performance. Ledger also incorporated his own mannerisms and personality into the role giving it a gritty realism. It was not gimmicky or buffoonish but instead thrilling, dark, and threatening.

After the ouster of DC Entertainment head Diane Nelson, the future of the superhero franchise is in question. While some films have had success, poor casting decisions, bad director choices, and delayed projects have plagued the films. If they decide to move forward with another Batman film or force the poorly conceived Joker spin-off through, they will need to find someone who can fill Ledger’s shoes.

Ten years later, we are still talking about the iconic role in "The Dark Knight." No one will be talking about "Suicide Squad" in the near future.


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