07/28/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT
Back in 1989 Jack Nicholson played the Crown Prince of Crime for laughs. Heath Ledger's take on the role is no joke.
THE LOOK: Natty Nicholson's whiteface was immaculate, while Ledger's angrily applied makeup accentuates the hideously creepy scars carved into his cheeks.
THE PRANKS: Nicholson was a merry, scary jokester, frying a foe with an electrified joy buzzer. Ledger's gags, like making a pencil "disappear" into a victim's skull, are even darker.
THE HOBBIES: His love of balloons and Prince music made Nicholson's Joker seem clownish. Ledger's baddie craves nothing but chaos—and is positively chilling.