Batman / Batman Joker

How Did the Joker Become the Joker in Batman 1989?

The Joker is one of the most iconic and recognizable villains in all of popular culture. He has been portrayed on film, television, and in comic books for decades.

But how did the Joker become the Joker in Batman 1989? Let’s take a closer look.

The Origin Story

In Batman 1989, the Joker’s origin story differs from previous iterations of the character. In this version, the Joker was originally a low-level criminal named Jack Napier (played by Jack Nicholson).

Napier was working for crime boss Carl Grissom when he was set up to take the fall for a crime. During his escape attempt, he fell into a vat of chemicals that turned his skin white and his hair green.

The Transformation

The transformation from Jack Napier to the Joker is one of the most iconic scenes in Batman 1989. As Napier stumbles through the chemical plant, his skin begins to burn and peel away. His hair turns green as he screams in agony.

The makeup used for Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the Joker was groundbreaking at the time. It took over an hour and a half to apply each day.

The Motivations

Unlike other versions of the character, the Joker in Batman 1989 has clear motivations behind his madness. In this version, he seeks revenge against those who wronged him – specifically Carl Grissom and Batman.

He also desires power and control over Gotham City. This is evidenced by his plan to release deadly gas balloons throughout the city unless his demands are met.

The Legacy

Batman 1989’s portrayal of the Joker has had a lasting impact on popular culture. Jack Nicholson’s performance is still considered one of the greatest portrayals of any comic book villain on film.

It also paved the way for future iterations of the character, including Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance in The Dark Knight.

The Merchandise

The Joker’s popularity in Batman 1989 led to a plethora of merchandise featuring the character. From action figures to t-shirts, fans could not get enough of the Clown Prince of Crime.

  • One of the most popular items was a Joker-themed pack of playing cards.
  • The cards featured images of the Joker from the film and were highly sought after by fans and collectors alike.


The Joker’s origin story in Batman 1989 remains one of the most iconic depictions of the character. Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Napier turned Joker is still revered by fans and is often cited as one of the greatest portrayals of any comic book villain on film.

With Joaquin Phoenix’s recent portrayal in 2019’s Joker, it’s clear that the legacy of this iconic villain continues to thrive.