I really could have just said "any scene the Joker is in" because even when he's not on-screen, Heath Ledger's presence is felt in every frame of this film. And this isn't the last time he'll show up on this list.
It's hard to imagine what watching The Dark Knight would have been like had Ledger not died before it premiered. When he was cast, it garnered a lukewarm if be-groaned reaction from fanboys and internet trolls. That was until that first trailer came out -- the one ending with our first glimpse of that classic showdown between The Joker and Batman in an empty Gotham street, with the deranged clown firing a an assault rifle in his patented purple suit, like some warped burlesque gangster, screaming "COME ON, HIT ME!!!" And then we heard that chilling cackle for the first time. The internet went bonkers, and then he died a week later.
The emotional undercurrent going into my midnight screening at the Forest Ave theater on Staten Island was strong. His performance had garnered serious buzz since his death, and I had a gut-feeling we were in for the swan song of a lifetime.
It's really hard to pick JUST ONE scene from this film that inspires me. Wall to wall, ceiling to ceiling, it's fucking amazing. It dared to treat a comic book movie as a crime drama, and it goes the distance. It's the reason why the Academy Awards extended the amount of best picture nominees.
But GOD, if I had to pick one -- it's this scene. We get a glimpse of the Joker in the bank heist opening, but this is the "sit down, enjoy the theatrics" part of the show. I'll never forget the thunderous round of applause in the theater when the Joker does his "pencil trick".
Ledger owns every beat of this scene. There are a ridiculous amount to point out, but just watch at about 2/3 through the scene when he asks for "half", followed by someone off-screen telling him he's crazy. Watch how his face, his entire demeanor changes in a split second. It's here where we're introduced to his unpredictability -- how his little ticks and mannerisms snap and change from moment to moment. It's incredible.
You hear about actors "disappearing" into roles. It's true to an extent, but there's always something reminding you that the person you recognize is still in there. It's like watching a dynamite celebrity impression on Saturday Night Live -- the mannerisms, the voice, the costume and makeup, it's all there -- but the performer, good as they are, is still behind that impression. They're leaving a little bit of themselves in there.
When I watch The Dark Knight, I don't see Heath Ledger. He completely disappears. I see The Joker.