Movies & TV Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for movie and tv enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Throughout The Dark Knight, the Joker licks his lips when in conversation.

Why does the Joker do this? Is this a psychological affect commonly observed in sociopaths or people with mental imbalances (or however you'd choose to describe the Joker)?

Or is this merely a product of Heath Ledger's portrayal? If this is the case, what was his motivation to do so?

share|improve this question
Relevant:… – stevvve Jan 6 '13 at 17:03
I have found myself doing this when I have a cold sore on my lip. Seems natural to me. – Almo Apr 22 '15 at 21:26
up vote 30 down vote accepted

From an interview with Christopher Nolan:

I don't really know where that came from... He actually had a sort of prosthetic appliance for the scars that wrapped over his lower lips, and the first couple of scenes where he was playing it that way, I actually had thought it was a mistake... I thought the prosthetic was coming loose on the bottom lip and he was sticking it down with his tongue or something.

And it was only after we shot a couple of scenes I realized oh no this is a thing he's found, this is a sort of... I think it's a lizard like... or serpent like elemental kind of gesture.. and I think it works... I think it's very creepy...

[Click here to listen to Nolan talk about Ledger's creepy lip-smacking]

share|improve this answer
This answer does provide useful insight, but still only sort of answers the question. We only know that Nolan didn't direct him to do it. The dream solution: Ledger commenting on it. +1 pending more info. – stevvve Jan 5 '13 at 20:21
@stevvve - Unfortunately Heath Ledger died about 6 months before The Dark Knight was released. So interviewers who did ask him about the Joker probably hadn't seen the movie, and therefore his perfomance, yet. It's possible that Ledger brought it up himself at one point, although in this interview he avoids revealing too much. When asked how his portrayal differs from Jack Nicholson's he says "You just have to check it out to find out the answer to that question." – Oliver_C Jan 5 '13 at 22:50

The Joker in The Dark Knight had a Glasgow smile. There would have been scars on the insides of his cheeks as well as on the outsides. I thought Heath Ledger was acting out the behavior of someone who had never gotten used to their presence, and was constantly poking and worrying at them with his tongue, especially right at the corners of his mouth.

share|improve this answer

Several options come to mind.

  1. It maybe a feature of a maniac antisocial. Maniacs have several sorts of behavioral uniqueness. It might be Joker's uniqueness.

  2. It maybe an approach like a reptile. Like they do this tongue-work before leaping into a prey, this behavior might indicate Jokers saurian satanic thought process.

  3. Like incognito said it might be due to the irritation on his skin caused by his makeup.

  4. Might be he does it, when he becomes nervous.

  5. A discrete feature proving he is crazy!

share|improve this answer

It was actually an honest bad habit of Ledger's. He would often lick his lips and it fit in with the character. The joker is symbolically described as a dog in the film and there is many references.

  1. He is a self proclaimed "dog chasing cars"
  2. He is the unloyal hungry dog as compared to Chechen, the Russian's, pets/protection
  3. There is a scene where he is hanging out the window of a GCPD patrol cruiser and licking his lips as wind blows his hair much like a dog would.
  4. He is often seen licking his lips.

But, it began as just Heath's bad habit and personality

The symbolism is he is an animal that can play tame but, much, like a pitbull, he is raw power and wilderness.

share|improve this answer
I do like this explanation, but do you have a source for it being his habit? – TylerShads Feb 20 '13 at 17:59
I agree w/@TylerShads – stevvve Feb 20 '13 at 18:03
It's been a while, I've been into batman all my life so I'm always looking stuff up, I can't remember exactly when or where I learned this – Matt Feb 20 '13 at 19:35
Let me look into it – Matt Feb 20 '13 at 19:40

My opinion is - Joker wore paint on his face so this might be causing dryness and hence the constant licking

share|improve this answer

protected by Mistu4u Apr 11 '13 at 17:27

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.