The Joker is portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the 1989 film Batman. In the film, the character is a gangster named Jack Napier, the right-hand man of crime boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance). Napier is disfigured during a confrontation with Batman (Michael Keaton) in which he is shot in the face by a ricochet from his own pistol and falls into a vat of chemicals. His trademark grin is the result of a botched attempt at plastic surgery. Driven insane by his reflection, he kills Grissom and takes over his gang, launching a crime wave designed to "outdo" Batman, who he feels is getting too much press. He describes himself as a "homicidal artist" who makes avant garde "art" by killing people with Smilex gas, which leaves its victims with a grotesque grin. When Bruce Wayne confronts the Joker, he later recognizes him as the mugger who murdered his parents. The Joker kidnaps reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) and attempts to massacre all of Gotham City, but Batman foils his plan. As the Joker is about to escape in a helicopter, Batman ties a grappling hook onto the Joker's leg and attaches it to a stone gargoyle; the Joker falls to his death when the gargoyle breaks loose of its moorings.
Nicholson's performance was well-received; Newsweek's review of the film stated that the best scenes in the movie are due to the surreal black comedy portrayed in this character. In 2003, American Film Institute named Nicholson's performance #45 out of 50 greatest film villains. Tim Burton says he wanted to kill the Joker at the end of the film, because he thought having the villain come back would be too unrealistic.