Despite Joker being the most heavily Oscar-nominated comic book movie in history, in the end it only took home two awards at this year’s ceremony: Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix and Best Original Score for composer Hildur Guðnadóttir. However, its wins continue a trend of live action movies featuring the Clown Prince of Crime to have picked up at least one of the film industry’s most coveted honors.
First off, no, this sadly doesn’t include 1966’s Batman: The Movie, the Adam Ward TV series taken to the big screen in a ludicrous expansion, which unsurprisingly did not set awards season alight. Outwith that colorful and villain-overloaded campfest, the Joker’s first live action appearance was Jack Nicolson’s gangster in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie. The film’s only Academy Award nomination was for Best Art Direction, and was picked up by production designer Anton Furst and set decorator Peter Young.
Despite the popularity of Batman’s nemesis and his making numerous appearances in animated movies, it would take until Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2008 to appear in live action again, where the iconic villain was re-imagined as an anarchist wielding game theory like a weapon. He was unforgettably played by Heath Ledger, who was awarded Best Supporting Actor posthumously, which was only the second time for this to have occurred in an acting category, after Peter Finch for 1976’s Network. The film’s supervising sound editor Richard King also won the second of his currently four awards for Best Sound Editing.
The response to David Ayer’s garbled mess of a movie Suicide Squad, meanwhile, was decidedly mixed among audiences and critics alike, and technically counts here even though Jared Leto’s jittery psychopath didn’t fit properly into proceedings. The film won its single Oscar nomination though for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, which was shared between Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Allen Nelson.
Comic book movies are often seen as lesser than much of the vast cinematic pantheon, but the drawing power of the Joker certainly seems to make people sit up and take notice, even when it comes to awards that are taken very seriously.