Five years ago today, on July 18, 2008, "The Dark Knight" soared to the top of the box office and left behind a rich legacy that's forever embedded in film history.
The second entry in Christopher Nolan's acclaimed Batman trilogy, "Knight" had a cloud cast over it when co-star Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose six months before the film's release. The movie's attention in the press and among moviegoers proliferated, and the debut went on to mark the highest-grossing opening weekend in history with $158.4 million in ticket sales.
The exaltation continued among critics, who almost unanimously praised the film and its cast -- which also includes Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Morgan Freeman -- for what Rolling Stone's Peter Travers called "haunting and visionary" and The New York Times' Manohla Dargis described as a blend of "poetry and entertainment." A campaign to attract Oscar nominations sprung up among fans and awards pundits, and the movie's Best Picture shutout is often cited as a major snub in recent Academy Awards history. Still, Ledger received a posthumous Best Supporting Actor prize for his lauded performance as the sadistic Joker.
"The Dark Knight" eventually grossed more than $1 billion worldwide. It currently sits at No. 16 on the list of all-time highest grossers and No. 5 on the ranking of largest opening weekends, with its first-place spot having been supplanted by "The Avengers," "Iron Man 3," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" and, fittingly, "The Dark Knight Rises."
Just earlier this year, a journal Ledger kept from the vantage point of the Joker surfaced, punctuating the actor's deep immersion in the role and his work. Take a look at a video of the diary, which was featured on a German documentary series: