The Dark Knight (2008)

Christopher Nolan’s stylish second stab at Batman had a secret weapon: the late Heath Ledger’s show-stopping performance as The Joker.

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“Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment, it goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind.”
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times, 2008

Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to Batman Begins is bigger and bleaker, lavishing a $185 million budget on spectacular action sequences, gadgets – the sleek Batmobile with its ‘Loiter’ and ‘Intimidate’ settings – and an even more sweeping vision of the dystopian Gotham City, terrorised this time by the anarchic Joker.

Jack Nicholson, who played the role in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, left big boots to fill, but Ledger stomps off with the part. With his obscenely smudged lips, an untamed tongue that he can scarcely keep in his mouth, and scuttling, cockroach-like movements, he is gloriously grotesque. Christian Bale returns as Batman, but Straight Man might be closer to the truth: it’s Ledger’s film. The posthumous bestowal of an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor was no mere sentimental gesture.

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) was a breezier but equally effective superhero reboot. For a more tender side to Heath Ledger, see Brokeback Mountain (2008).

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