How could it be anyone else? No reflection on surprising, brilliantly effective dark performances would be complete without mention of Heath Ledger's transformative take on the Joker for The Dark Knight.
Heralded with a tidal wave of confusion and apathy, Ledger's casting was as controversial as Michael Keaton's had been a couple of decades before hand and it was just as successful in the end. In fact, Ledger's measured portrait of a man well beyond breaking point was so complex and impressive that it has continued to inspire analysis years after it first screened.
While discourse rages around why he is as he is, we shouldn't overlook the majesty of the way Ledger plays him. He's creepy, intoxicating and danger personified - a coiled spring without a discernible trigger who seems to revel in our inability to classify him. He's Batman's most terrifying screen foe because he's such an unknown quantity and the fact that all of it came from Ledger is still incredibly strange and wonderful.
Which other dark performances belong on this list? Share your suggestions below in the comments thread.