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Is Heath Ledger Oscar-worthy?

July 18, 2008

Heath ledger in Batman

The hype around Friday’s release of the “The Dark Knight” has reached a fever pitch, with Heath Ledger’s dark turn as the Joker generating an avalanche of posthumous Oscar buzz.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone has called Ledger’s performance “mad-crazy-blazing brilliant,” while the sequel’s director Christopher Nolan has raved in the New York Times that Ledger’s portrayal of the sadistic makeup-caked villain is “stunning” and “iconic”.

The big-ticket Academy Award categories have typically been bereft of summer blockbuster nominees.

But is Ledger’s performance so bone-chillingly remarkable that it can survive the hype and the action-movie stigma?

As the 2006 best-picture shunning of “Dreamgirls” demonstrated, presumptive hype can lead to a snub when the Academy Award nominations are announced.

The Internet Oscar buzz alone for the Australian actor – lead by a gallery of fans likely still reeling from the shock of his untimely death in January – has eclipsed the praise of traditional critics, elevating the risk that Ledger will become a target for backlash.

The film is likely to surge above the $100-million mark during its opening weekend, placing the film in the same mega-earning category as “Iron Man” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”.

clip_image002.jpgWriting Ledger’s name on a ballot will perhaps become more palatable for Academy voters given the length of time between opening weekend and when Oscar nomination polls close on Jan.12, 2009.

This may be one time when fading memories are deemed an advantage amongst the fickle Hollywood elite – cementing Ledger’s legacy as an Oscar-worthy talent.

For full coverage of “The Dark Knight”, click here.


I’ve read many reviews on “The Dark Knight” and they all are fantastic. It is 5 star rated; you can’t get any better than that. The Academy of Arts and Sciences has “goofed” many times. Most recently, Eddie Murphy was a shoo-in for best supporting actor and it took it away because of a movie (Norbit) that was released before the awards were announced. What did Norbit have to do with his performance in “Dreamgirls”? Right, nothing. The English award equivalent to the Oscar was given to Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain, so does that make America stupid or was there decision based upon him being a Australian actor? To make up for the Academy’s misdeed, MAKE SURE THAT HE WINS IT IN 2009!!!


My comment above says it all. The Academy of Arts and Sciences are somewhat biased. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of Ennis Del Marr knocked the socks off of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s gay man portrayal. Hoffman’s portrayal was sickening and embarassing to watch. Yuk! I like Hoffman much better in “Scent of a Woman”. To me, Hoffman is not a good lead actor; supporting roles are better for him.


Sorry, I’ll be the 1st to say the Ledger is only getting all this attention because he is dead. Prior to his OD, they were showing small parts of Batman, but nothing was being said that would make him worthy. As soon as he had his drug OD, they made him the King of this movie.

If he were alive, this movie would be just another Batman movie.

Posted by Dusty | Report as abusive

Dusty, have you seen th movie? I myself am not a Heath Ledger fan but got invited by a friend to go along to a midnight showing and I must say Ledger portrayal of the Joker was amazing. One of the best developed characters and Joker was truly creepy. Regardless of whether or not Ledger is dead the acting he did in the film was definitely something to take note of.

Posted by Amy | Report as abusive

i just saw the dark knight, less than fifteen minutes ago.. and even though Heath ODed, his performance was already oscar winning material. Other actors have touched the joker subject, but they’ve never been able to portray how psychotic and deranged this villain truely was and that’s exactly what he did. he was brilliant.

Posted by jess | Report as abusive

I just finished watching “The Dark Night”. All I can say is WOW! What a great movie. Heath Ledger’s performance was breath taking. He deserves the Oscar! If he doesn’t win it, then there really is something terribly wrong with the Academy. Rest in peace, Heath. Everybody down under loves you. You made us proud.

Posted by Joao | Report as abusive

My apologies. “The Dark Knight”.

Posted by Joao | Report as abusive

Dusty have you seen the Dark Night? I know it just came out but…go see it, THEN give your opinion on it. Ledger is NOT getting the attention because he is Dead…Ledger was AMAZING. Ledger did a great job; an oscar-worthy performance I’d say. Do you have any idea how much he went through to create this role? Apart from learning to think and act like a madman…he also somehow out acted some of the biggest actors out there. Morgan Freeman, Christian Bale (who mind you went to Julliard (one of the best acting school there is)), Aaron Eckhart, Cillian Murphy…Ledger out-acted every single one of these people.

Posted by John Paul McCartney | Report as abusive

I realize that may he has not been in the limelight for very long, but he has made a definite inpact on the movie goer society. He deserves a chance to be rewarded like others, even if he is no longer with us. I am sure he worked as hard as anyone. That for sure shows in his performance in what he has played in. God bless him.


I completely disagree with the comment that this would be just another Batman movie. First off, what Nolan did not only completely changed the face of the Batman Franchise, but also changed how superhero movies are being approached. The darker tone and more serious manner are a direct result of Batman Begins. This movie was NOT just another superhero movie to blow off it was filled with qualities that many best picture choices contain. What you’re saying is comparing this movie to other Batman movies with people such as Michael Keaton and George Clooney, which is downright insulting. Maybe you haven’t seen the movie, but it is a lot more than just another ordinary run of the mill film.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

I saw this movie at midnight, and I must say that Heath Ledger’s performance IS fantastic. His portrayal of the joker is right on, and I do believe that it is worthy of an Oscar. It is absolutely stunning, and I disagree that the hype for this movie is only because he died, it honestly is an amazing film. They were showing small parts because he OD’d early on in the year and the movie wasn’t realeasd until the summer, it was a bit too early to try to round up fans. While some fans may have gone to see the film to see his last performance, they will leave stunned after watching his amazing talent. I admit that I was curious to see the role that drove him to nightmares, but I’m also a huge Batman fan, and I take offense to “just another Batman movie”. But that’s not the point to my ramble, he played the part extremely well so why shouldn’t he be up for an award?

Posted by Cori | Report as abusive

what made the Joker scarier was the flesh color creeping thru the caked makeup and his real arm as he hung out of the speeding car the guy was no cartoon character, he was a true psycho Ledger Oscar-worthy? absolutely!

Posted by Di | Report as abusive

Anyone who denies Heaths performance was anything than the best performance of his entire career; knows little about ART and Passion and the things that define greatness in Art. He was and will now always be “The Joker”. Jack Nicholson as the joker was
“a joke” compared to Ledgers portrayal. And I think we can all agree that the Oscars are a bunch of Bureaucratic Bullshit. It doesn’t matter if he wins one, stop giving the Oscars so much power over what YOU think is Great Art. Heath Ledger— those of us who see,,,,will miss you very very much.
And to your family and friends and children, I hope you are doing OK.
I want you to know that Heath has help me in my life in countless ways, just watching him perform, has rejuvenated my faith in this shitty business of show
I live in hollywood and I hate it for what it is and for what it isn’t, but I’m stuck here and I feel nothing but compassion for anyone who falls victim to it’s Collateral damage.


Quoting DUSTY:

“Sorry, I’ll be the 1st to say the Ledger is only getting all this attention because he is dead.”

What gives you the right to speak of the deceased like that? What could possibly be going through your mind to say something so inhumane? He passed away, that’s a fact but have some respect. If he is nominated for it or if he wins people like you will just say it was because he passed away.

The fact is that if you sit in that theatre pay the 11 bucks to watch this movie, you will enjoy yourself. It is a genuinely entertaining movie, which is what movies were made to do. He was is funny, crazy, and down right creepy as joker, which is exactly what the role was supposed to be. When you were watching the movie you weren’t watching Heath Ledger play joker you were watching the Joker terrorize gotham. He made that role and that’s that.

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

Just saw the Dark Knight with my kids. While I am not a huge fan of the Batman movies I have to give praise to Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. HE IS the best part of the movie! He is creeply convincing and not just a “cartoon character”. I have to say, he “steals the show”. He will be missed

Posted by Karen | Report as abusive

I saw The Dark Knight last night. Now, I’m a movie lover and an actress, so I know a good performance when I see one. THAT was a great performance. It was something special, something that people will always remember. Heath was phenomenal. I am still getting chills thinking about it. From my point of view, his portrayal of The Joker is definitely Oscar-worthy.

Posted by Elise | Report as abusive

To add to my previous comment, Heath Ledger transcended the screen. He could have been as convincing as a villian in ANY movie. Could have been Red Dragon or Silence of the Lambs instead of Batman. He was up against an amazing cast: Michael Cane, Morgan Freeman, Christian Bale, just to name a few. He ABSOLUTELY stole the screen. What an actor; what a human loss.

Posted by Karen | Report as abusive

When Heath Ledger was cast to play the joker i had my doubts, I wasn’t sure he could live up to the character. I was so wrong! He completely embodied the joker persona. He was funny, psychotic, and creepy all at once. His performance was truly remarkable and he really deserves all the oscar praises he is recieving.

Posted by Ashley | Report as abusive

Dusty, you’re crazy. Have you even seen the movie? I saw the midnight release this morning and his preformance was amazingly creepy. Dead or alive I think his preformance would still be Oscar-worthy. He was completely convinicing and was the talk of all 3,000 people who saw the premier in my town.

Posted by Ashley | Report as abusive

the oscars mess up all the time. whether or not heath ledger even gets nominated, his performance as the joker can never be topped. he was perfect. *that* was the joker comic fans have been waiting for. *that* was the joker you can see in ‘the killing joke’.
the dark knight is a great film, and it’s sad that it’s going to be a cult film, just because it’s heath ledger’s last. it deserves cult status anyway.
heath ledger won me over completely with brokeback mountain. i didn’t think i could respect his talent any more, even if i tried.
i was wrong.
and that’s depressing.

Posted by R | Report as abusive

Heath Ledger was brilliant.
The whole time I was watching the movie, I tried so hard to see through that joker character and find Ledger behind it.
Not only I was unsuccessful, but it made me think that the movie should be named “Joker, and Batman” or something…
The character development was so wonderful and acting was superb. Nowadays, filmmakers so easily create a figure using
CG and greenscreen. Only thing Heath needed was white powder and lipstick… it was amazing. Anybody who is foolish enough to say that the joker character is hype because of Heath’s death is just a ignorant person who did not see this movie, but wanna get some attention from
other bloggers. We will always miss Heath for this great movie. Thank you

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

I just caught the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight” and was clearly impressed with Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance exploring the depths of psychotic evil and madness of The Joker character.

It’s not often an actor rises to the challenge of making a complicated character ‘Larger Than Life’ on the Big Screen but with Ledger’s genius in portraying the subtleties of such a dark villain showing up at every turn I believe he not only set the standard of how to master such a difficult role but raised the bar as well.

The only other dark villain portrayed with such passion and psychological skill that comes to mind although in a different dramatic format was the Marlon Brando character Colonel Kurtz in the Heart Of Darkness story portrayed in Apocalypse Now.

An excellent brilliant performance by Heath Ledger.

Posted by Jeff | Report as abusive

I have to say that when i saw the midnight showing of “the dark knight” i was completely unbiased at the fact that heath ledger was dead. I couldnt remember who he was and it didnt click for me until the next day. So what im trying to say is that i saw the movie withought any biased towards the actor heath ledger. His role as the Joker was truly brilliant and bone chilling. It was a spectacular film that deserves all the great ratings its gotten so far.

Posted by Mario | Report as abusive

Absolutely disagree with you, Dusty.

Aside from the typical response to the death of a promising young actor, sadless and loss, his role in the Dark Knight now provides yet another misfortune.

Now, not because of box office, but to avoid the appearance of sentimentality, he might end up being ignored.

Had he lived, there’d be no question of an oscar nomination.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive

What craft he had! He was brilliant… If he could act like that at 28 years old, just imagine what amazing films he would have made! He will be missed! May he rest in peace and never forgotten! Matilda will be proud of her father.

Posted by arden | Report as abusive

I went and saw this movie last night and let me tell you, it was one of the best movies I have seen in a incredibly LONG time! Now one of my favorite movies of all time. Heath Ledger did a amazing job playing the Joker. He was captivating, thrilling and just downright scary. I think he does deserve an Oscar for his role because I have not seen someone play a role better than that in years. He was brilliant.

Posted by Sophie | Report as abusive

I wonder if there would be as much “hype” if Ledger was still alive. . . Yes, he was a good actor but no different than any other actor/actress such as Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable in THE MISFITS?


I saw the movie last night, and I can say that Heath Ledger was awesome. He depicted the role of the joker as a deranged freak quite well. I can say that i’m not a huge ledger fan, but after seeing this movie, I can say that his character was one of the best in recent memory. That doesn’t mean we should hand the oscar over to him right away, but based on his strong performance, he should at least be considered. Keeping that in mind, because he is no longer with us, and this was one if his last films (the last one is The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus in 2009); he is receiving some bias from the media. Yes, he would still be getting outstanding reviews if he were still alive, but do you think the academy would give him an oscar because this is his last chance? What about other great actor’s movies that haven’t come out yet?

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

I just saw Dark Knight, and Heath performance was amazing. Of all the batman films, he has been the best villain, again, just an amazing performance

Posted by trsdos | Report as abusive

Saw it, didn’t really like the performance. Way over-hyped. I’d give it ***. That’s it. It’s just a bit on the silly side. Jack Nicholson was much better. I guess that just comes with maturity that Ledger will never attain.

Posted by jim | Report as abusive

i saw the movie today and i absolutely loved heath ledger in it. the joker was by far the best character in the film, at the very first scene he grabbed your attention and kept you on your feet for the rest of the movie. i loved how clever and insane the joker was and i even felt pity for his sad past. heath definately out acted the other big names, which surprised me. i was more captivated by the villian than the hero. i cannot praise enough how great heath ledgers acting was and this is hands down oscar worthy.

Posted by dana | Report as abusive

So many actors end up forgotten. As long as The Dark Knight is shown and watched Heath Ledger will never be forgotten nor will his Joker ever be surpassed.

Posted by Sonny | Report as abusive

If heath ledger was alive still, the movie would still be AMAZING!! His performance was great, but the movie in general had a great plot and one of the greatest Batman movies to date. It wasn’t corny, had a great plot and who doesn’t love Commissioner Gordan, Rachel, Harvey Dent, Joker and BATMAN!! So worth the wait and too bad Heath is gone because it would have been amazing to have him in more Batman Films.

Posted by jo | Report as abusive

Follow the money trail, Batman will beat them all!!!

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

Jim…are you kidding?…Jack Nicholson’s portrayal better and NOT over the top and NOT on the silly side??? Okay…you cannot be taken seriously…..thinking Heath’s portrayal as sillier. Give me a break!

Oh…and my thoughts on Heath’s acting job…INCREDIBLE! He definitely deserves the Oscar. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him in every scene. He did an extraordinary job. He IS the joker…signed, sealed, and delivered!

Posted by Colleen | Report as abusive

i think in my opinion that this movie is the best of the batman series thus far. i’d give it 4 out of 4 stars. the thing that went well with this movie was that the theme or the feeling of the movie was alot darker then the previous ones. one factor is also the role of the joker. this is how it should be done and he was born for this part. the performance was sick off the charts. this movie in my opinion could easly pass to be a rated R film if it wanted to.

Posted by mr. thao | Report as abusive

although ironman was the long awaited movie of the summer this movie i can say would easly take that spot.

Posted by mr. thao | Report as abusive

Fabulous! The movie was great but Heath’s performance took it to the next level. He was a phenominal actor and it is a tragedy that someone would only believe this hype was due to his untimly death. It is remarkable how such a young man can bring such emense talent to the screen. As Ebert would say, “Two thumbs up!”.

Posted by Kara | Report as abusive

hi im sophia i think heath ledger was the best man in the world. i wish he had never died. I LOVE YOU HEATH LEDGER!!!


TOO much hype, everyone is expecting a so-so performance from Ledger… Including myself… However, not only does his Joker live up to the hype, it far surpasses anything I could have hoped for. He’s worthy of a nomination at minimum… Have to wait and see what else arises…But if you have not seen the film, please don’t comment on it.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

I just got back from watching this movie…Although it was a downer I absolutely loved it…Heath Was amazing and in my opinion the better Joker.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Just saw Dark Knight and am not a big Batman Fan. Heath Ledger was phenominal. If i didn;t know it was him I would have been shocked to hear it was. He played the Joker so well. Even though he has past, people should not critisize because he is gone. Very proud :)

Posted by Betz | Report as abusive

I just returned from seeing this movie, and I must say Heath Ledger was phenomenal. He gave an incredible performance which has nothing to do with his untimely death. A brilliant portrayal of a madman – a must see for sure!

Posted by D.S. | Report as abusive

Just saw the movie and am speechless. Ledger’s performance was undoubtedly one of the best I have ever seen. oscar worthy? absolutely.

Posted by Hanky | Report as abusive

These super-hero comic book epics are the epitomy of American cinematic art – why not give them their full due, they’re all we’ve got.

Posted by Jose R. Pardinas | Report as abusive

This guy is one of the best actors i have ever seen. My personal favorite is “a knights Tale”. Seeing him play the joker was… amazing this guy captured the jokers personalty perfect this guy better get an Oscar on his grave

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

I don’t care what anyone says; regardless of whether Heath Ledger is alive or not, his acting is phenomenal. His role as the Joker was amazing and blew my mind and personally I thought he was better than any other character in the movie (although everyone did in fact do an amazing job). His death certainly has nothing to with the simple fact that he has immense talent. Perhaps they’re putting a bit more focus on him than they would have had he still been alive but that doesn’t mean that his role doesn’t deserve an Oscar. Heath was entertaining and kept me interested… he was insane and witty and kept me waiting for more of his scenes. People are definitely making a huge deal out of this. The man has passed away, so let his work shine for those who love and appreciate it.

Posted by Kara | Report as abusive

I just got back from seeing The Dark Knight. I had been waiting for a long long time just like everyone else. It went above and beyond all the hype. Seeing Heath Ledger as the Joker was the single greatest acting performance I have ever seen. Much respect to Jack Nicholson but Heath’s portrayl blows his out of the water. Give Heath the Oscar!!

Posted by Derek | Report as abusive

heath ledger puts on the performance of a lifetime..he should most definetly win the oscar… no one, and i mean no one could have put on a better performance then heath ledger


Perhaps it is a little of both. Lets say he totally nailed it. Great. But “mad man” is not nesessarily the hardest role to pull off. Yet let us say it is oscar worthy. But there are other movies out this year with oscar worthy performances. The difference is that this surge at the box office is led by a bunch of heart broken heart throb fans that would be calling for an oscar even if his only seen was of him deficating on a popcicle. I watched most of his movies and enjoyed his work, detication to the art and his style but, these people remind me of all the Nirvana “die hard fans” that showed up after KC’s death. Posers who need lives.

Posted by JustGreg | Report as abusive

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