The Joker: A History of Batman's Most Essential Enemy | Short Documentary

The Joker: A History of Batman's Most Essential Enemy | Short Documentary

From MAN WHO LAUGHS to Batman #1 to Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix… this is the story of The Joker. This video essay / mini-documentary covers the character’s origins, Alan Moore’s hugely influential Killing Joke, Joker’s most famous portrayals, why he can’t be killed, and how his influence infects the minds of people both real and make-believe. 

There’s also an extended cameo from the Ayatollah Khomeini. 

The Joker co-creator Jerry Robinson discusses his creation: 01:07
The Joker’s first origin story, as The Red Hood: 02:01
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke: 02:53
Batman (1989): 05:43
Mark Hamill’s Joker: 07:25
Heath Ledger and THE DARK KNIGHT: 08:00
Is The Joker the Hero of THE DARK KNIGHT?: 09:38
The Other Jokers: 11:52
Why Doesn’t Batman Just Kill The Joker?: 14:01
The Joker = $$$$: 15:21

Watch it now or get to an Alamo Drafthouse screening of JOKER at least seventeen minutes early to watch their preshow presentation. For tickets to Todd Phillips’ JOKER (including 35mm and 70mm screenings), visit

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Written, edited, and voiced by John W. Smith (

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Jessica Ritchey (@Ruby_Stevens)

#TheJoker #Batman #Joker #TheDarkKnight #HeathLedger #MarkHamill

48 thoughts on “The Joker: A History of Batman's Most Essential Enemy | Short Documentary”

  1. 15:25 Even that's not a good reason. If the Joker were killed off, then any one of his followers who view him as an almost God-like figure could take up his mantle. In fact, I kind of wish they would go that rout as it would make the Joker far more terrifying than he already is. The Joker as he is now, despite everything, is still just a man and every bit as mortal as you or me. But if the Joker became a mantle that anyone could adopt, then he would have transcended his mortality and become the living incarnation of human evil. A being that can never be destroyed. Because as long as humans exist, there will always be a Joker.

  2. Certain bits of trivia can be put to rest at this point. Cesar Romero’s mustache I’d imagine is universally known at this point. I don’t think the 60’s Batman can be mentioned without it at this point.

  3. I'm sorry, but if you think Jack Nicholson was doing an impression of himself you really havent watched any Jack Nicholson films. I never hear this complaint about any of his other numerous movies. Youd think you guys actually knew him personally. The guys a phenomenal actor and for me the closest we've had to the comic book Joker onscreen despite what the fan boys would lead you to believe.

    In relation to the 89 movie, its a fantasy film. Im pretty sure I can knock enough holes in The Dark Knight itd look like a cullunder by the time im finished. Like how contrived the whole plot is, like howd he rig a whole hospital with explosives without anyone noticing, like Batman taking the fall for Harvey, who murdered people, regardless if he was driven crazy, what makes him any different from the man that killed Bruces parents? Its the most un Batman thing he could ever do. I could go on…

  4. Thanks for mentioning how Gwynplaine isn't like the Joker. He isn't, in the sense that Gwynplaine isn't a murderous nihilist, but the two do share more than just looks in common. Whereas the Joker uses the clown theme to spread death and destruction, Gwynplaine is a clown in a more classical way. He takes to the stage to cheer up the people, even at his own expense, and later in the story when he's face-to-face with the aristocracy who are responsible for his disfigurement, he directly calls them out for his personal trauma and that of the people at large: "I am the bleeding mouth from which the gag has at last been torn!" he declares. And so, while Gwynplaine and the Joker are two figures who embody vastly different aspects of the clown archetype, they're both men who society sees as fools at best and threats at worst. And, as a side note, I've written a play adaptation of "The Man Who Laughs" and am hoping that, with all this interest in the Joker and Gwynplaine at the moment, a production will happen soon. If anyone would like to read it, I'd be happy to share it.

  5. Batman and Joker are the ultimate archenemy duo in any piece of fiction. Their dynamic is symbiotic and meaningful. Out of all of Batman's close relationships, whether that be the Robins, Catwoman, or even Alfred; while they all may love Bruce in their own ways, none truly understand him completely. Joker on the other hand, while being his arch-nemesis, is the only who truly understands Batman. Batman is crazy, just as crazy and psychopathic as the Joker, though he fights for justice and order, whereas Joker wants unbridled chaos. They are essentially two nutjobs in an insane asylum, who disagree on everything, yet their opposition is what gives their insane lives meaning. Joker in a messed up way, is closer and more personal to Batman than any of his friends or lovers. You cannot have one without the other. It's a messed up, twisted and nightmarishly beautiful relationship, and one that will endure forever.

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