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.
In the world of film, every once in a while, an actor plays a part to such an exacting standard that you immediately know you are watching history being made right there on the screen.
Think Al Pacino in The Godfather, Jack Nicholson in The Shining, Anthony Hopkins in The Silence Of The Lambs and most recently, the late great Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
Heath Ledger’s The Joker has been voted the Best Movie Villain of All Time.
Ledger, who died ten years ago today (January 22), portrayed the anarchic comic book creation in Christopher Nolan’s second (and best) Batman movie The Dark Knight.
Tragically, Ledger died before the movie was released in cinemas, but his performance was so revered that it bagged him a posthumous Best Supporting Actor award at the 2009 Oscars.
And a decade on from his passing, he’s also still remembered as the Best Movie Villain of All Time in a Ranker.com poll.
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
It’s no wonder the Joker came in first place really. Ledger poured his heart and soul into the part and the fact that the role was to be his last makes his performance all the more poignant.
Having originally been asked by director Christopher Nolan to play the title character in Batman Begins, Ledger declined, saying that he would ‘never do this type of film” and the role went to Christian Bale.
However, when it came to securing Ledger for the role of the Joker, Nolan didn’t have to do much persuading, saying that instead, ‘Heath chose me’.
“He just was determined to do it,” Nolan said during a Q&A at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
“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 and showed viewers his son’s personal diary/scrapbook that he filled in while preparing for the part. It showed just how dedicated he had been.
“He pretty well locked himself up in a hotel room for weeks,” Heath’s dad Kim explains in the film.
“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.”