Infamous for his cunning criminal tricks, signature grotesque smile and fiendish laughter, The Joker has been chilling our spines ever since the release of Batman in 1966. The role has been played by various actors in different DC films and series, some of whom have perfectly brought out the character of the impractical joker.
We’ve already ranked the stars who played Batman but which actor portrayed his nemesis best? Who brought the best Joker to life? We rank the seven popular actors from least to most impressive…
7. Zach Galifianakis
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Comedian Zach Galifianakis put a new spin on The Joker in 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie, and it wasn’t just kids who were endeared by the miniature version of the killer clown. Less sinister and more satirical, the animated Joker in this children’s movie was fun and cheeky, giving us a more innocent rendition of a character who’s so typically darker. This Joker wasn’t as villainous or murderous compared to what we’re used to, but his hilariousness and obsession with Batman still kept us entertained. Even if we couldn’t see Zach, his kooky and funny presence was still felt through the cartoon character.
6. Jared Leto
Suicide Squad (2016)
Jared Leto had big shoes to fill following Heath Ledger’s performance, but it’s safe to say he did a great job in Suicide Squad. In fact, despite his many cut-out scenes from the movie, The Joker stole the show from the actual Squad. Described as a blend of Tony Montana (Scarface) and the Alien in Spring Breakers, Leto’s tatted and thuggish Joker certainly had the psycho factor. Hanging out with mob gangs and wearing expensive tuxedos and teeth grills, this version of The Joker is more likely to be found in a clubhouse than in the traditional fun house as seen in the past. Jared Leto played the part considerably well. There’s no doubt he’s helped the legend live on.
5. Cesar Romero
Original ‘Batman’ Series (1966)
Embodying the original character of The Joker was Cesar Romero in the 1966 Batman series. The first face of The Joker, clad in a purple suit with his painted white face and thin Latin lover moustache, presented a more cunning version as opposed to the devilish psychotic criminal we see today. Critics have said that Romero, in this role, portrayed a childlike kind of mischief. The mischievous Joker on the Batman TV series together with other villains turned their enemies into a colorful pile of dust – all very innocent and child-friendly. This differs to more recent films where The Joker carries out more ruthless and deadly pranks. It seems that over time The Joker can only grow darker and diabolical.
See how Heath Ledger pays homage to Cesar Romero’s Joker in our list of Batman Easter Eggs!
4. Mark Hamill
Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
Hamill was popular for being the vocals behind the iconic Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. His chilling, infectious laughter and sly remarks were voiced in a number of video games as well. In 1992, Hamill finally made an appearance on television as the face of The Joker. His presence was felt more when he took up the role in 1993’s Batman: The Mask of Phantasm. Hamill’s version of The Joker was playful although seemingly evil. He didn’t exactly portray the capacity to kill. Hamill depicted a more buffoonish image of The Joker to make the act more comical. Since the movie was meant for children, he maintained his tricks to a level that was acceptable for the watershed slot. In comparison to all the other actors who have played The Joker, Hamill was indeed, the funniest.
3. Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin gave such a powerful performance as Mistah J, it was difficult not to place him as the second best Joker actor (but it would be offensive to drop the iconic Jack Nicholson down). Dubbed Oscar-worthy by critics and fans, this rendition of The Joker was possibly the darkest and most terrifying yet. The actor’s psychotic characterization, from his menacing, shrieking laughter to creepy face expressions had fans truly enticed throughout his origin story. This might have been the most realistic depiction of the deranged supervillain, covering issues of mental illness, and all. Joaquin’s portrayal in the popular movie was ever-so-similar to Heath Ledger’s, but we were okay with that – simply because it was that good. Heath would be proud.
2. Jack Nicholson
At the time of its release, Batman was greatly applauded in the film industry leading to its crown as a blockbuster movie. Perhaps it was their right move at casting Nicholson as The Joker that propelled this top Batman film to its great status. Academy Award-winning actor Nicholson gave an Oscar-worthy performance as the Clown Prince of Crime. Downing colorful trench coats and fedoras, Nicholas gave the world a scarier version of The Joker compared to the original characters. His poisonous Smilex gas and his thirst to kill the vain in society gave many children nightmares. It’s his giddiness, frightful energy and sinister grin that lands him at the second spot in our list today.
1. Heath Ledger
The Dark Knight (2008)
For an actor who wasn’t a fan of superhero movies, he gave a hauntingly accurate performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger resurrected the spirit of the brutal villain exceptionally, reviving a Joker who was even eviler than his previous depictions. Less cartoonish than his predecessors and a lot more “serious”, menacing and sadistic, Heath Ledger’s Joker isn’t only the best Batman supervillain but possibly one of the greatest supervillains in film ever. There’s no surprise Ledger won an Oscar for his performance. From his twisted sense of humor, to his iconic laughter and tone of voice, this version of the criminal mastermind has been classed as the best Joker of all time. Simply iconic.
Despite his many crimes and insane antics, there’s no denying that the killer clown is a movie villain we love to hate. Each depiction has brought something new to the table but which one gave the best Joker performance? Let us know in the comments below…
Did you know the Joker was almost cancelled out of the comics? Find out why in our list of DC facts and learn more about the comic’s best villain!