As the world gears up to see Joaquin Phoenix take a deep-dive into the psyche of The Joker, Heath Ledger's transformative performance is still on our minds. Rotten Tomatoes conducted a poll of almost 25,000 people to find the most memorable movie moment in the past 21 years. The winner, by a massive margin was The Joker from The Dark Knight with Thanos' snap pulling in second place.
Fans were skeptical when rom-com star Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain) was cast as Batman's most famous villain. After an extensive marketing campaign that had fans going on an internet scavenger hunt, the first image was released. People quickly got on board. Director Christopher Nolan's (Dunkirk) Batman films brought a realism to superhero blockbusters that hadn't quite hit the mainstream, and Jack Nicholson's iconic joker wouldn't work in that world.
Instead, makeup artist John Caglione Jr. and 42 Entertainment CEO Susan Bonds had to create a "decaying, kind of broken-down" look by experimenting with different makeup on the actor. They kept going back to the even-lined clown look, but it wasn't right for Nolan's Gotham. Eventually, the prolific director gave the artists books of Francis Bacon paintings that presented a blurry Joker. "That really set the tone," Caglione said. It "set us in a direction of really just muting down and degrading the makeup." The man behind the unrecognizable Ledger added this:
"Our riff on it was that it had to be a very organic-looking makeup. Like this guy is putting on makeup and maybe sleeping in his clothes for a week. His hair is kind of oily and greasy, and he doesn't take off his makeup for like, three to five days."
It wasn't just his appearance, or the way that it was revealed to the fans that made Ledger's Joker iconic. His performance transcended the screen with each line delivery and earned the actor an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2009. Sadly, he passed away before the film was released, but his performance forever changed the way movie goers saw the character. Check out all the other movie moments that have stuck in the minds of viewers below. This poll was conducted by Rotten Tomatoes
- Most Memorable Movie Moments of the Past 21 Years
- 1. The Joker from The Dark Knight
- 2. The Snap from Avengers: Infinity War
- 3. "I see dead people" from The Sixth Sense
- 4. Carl and Ellie in the opening of Up
- 5. Avengers assemble in New York from Marvel's The Avengers
- 6. The government lobby scene from The Matrix
- 7. Gollum talks to Smeagol from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
- 8. "No Man's Land" from Wonder Woman
- 9. The upside-down kiss from Spider-Man
- 10. Juan teaches Chiron to swim from Moonlight
- 11. "Santa, here? I know him!" from Elf
- 12. Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort duel from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
- 13. "Remember me?!" from Mad Max: Fury Road
- 14. The chest-waxing scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin
- 15. The bridesmaids get food poisoning from Bridesmaids
- 16. London is deserted from 28 Days Later...
- 17. A kiss in the rain from The Notebook
- 18. Satine's entrance from Moulin Rouge!
- 19. Crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma
- 20. Heather's confessional from The Blair Witch Project
- 21. "Cars don't fly!" from Furious 7