Joker: Ranking The Joker Actors

Send in the Clowns

The Joker: [to Carnage] “I always thought of myself as the Orson Welles of crime and chaos- while you, apparently, aspire to be nothing more than… David Hasselhoff!

Spider-Man and Batman: Disordered Minds

The Joker is one of the most famous villains of all time. He’s appeared in countless comic books, dozens of video games, and almost always appears in Batman movies and TV shows. The Joker is finally getting his own movie in 2019 with Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. An audience at the Venice Film Festival gave Joker an eight minute standing ovation amid critics calling for Oscars.

Before everyone goes mad over Phoenix’s portrayal of The Joker, let’s take a look at the five best depictions of the Clown Prince of Crime so far.

#5 Jared Leto

Joker: “Oh, I’m not gonna kill ya. I’m just gonna hurt ya really, really BAD!”

Suicide Squad

Jared Leto’s Joker has the least screen time of all the Joker actors. He’s a glorified extra in Suicide Squad, appearing for less than ten minutes. Despite that his role was heavily promoted and audiences were led to believe that he was a major focus.

Despite the limited screen time, Leto is an interesting Joker actor. He plays up the Joker’s sadism and toxic relationship with Harley Quinn. The hodgepodge of bling and tattoos looks silly, but helps to give this version of the Joker his own distinct look.

Leto’s Joker is set to cameo in 2020’s Birds of Prey. Rumor has it the Leto is not actually playing The Joker, but that might be because he is busy filming Morbius with Sony.

#4 Cesar Romero

The Joker:After I’ve gotten rid of Batman and Robin for good, I will rule the waves. Me, the Joker, king of the surf and all the surfers. Then, Gotham City! Later, the world!

Batman: Surf’s Up, Joker’s Under” (Season 3, Episode 10)

There are many Joker actors now, but Cesar Romero was the originator and biggest of them all when he debuted in 1966. His Joker was more in line with the Silver Age of Comics, meaning he was a harmless prankster opposed to a showy mass murderer. Romero famously refused to shave his mustache for the role and it is almost always visible under his makeup.

Cesar Romero was also the first actor to play the Joker in a movie. He appeared in Batman: the Movie alongside Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, and Julie Newmar’s Catwoman. He was part of the United Underworld, one of the first supervillain teams to appear in a movie.

Cesar Romero passed away in 1994, but his incarnation of The Joker has survived him. Jeff Bergman voiced the role in Batman: the Return of the Caped Crusaders and reprised the role in Batman vs Two-Face.

#3 Jack Nicholson

Carl Grissom. “Jack, listen. Maybe we can cut a deal.”
The Joker. “Jack? Jack is dead, my friend. [emerging into the light] You can call me…Joker. And as you can see, I’m a lot happier.”

Batman (1989)

Romero was good for the campy ’60s show, but the 1980s needed something different, something darker. They needed a Joker actor who could make the genocidal jester shine on the silver screen. So who else should appear but three-time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson?

Nicholson gave audiences a more violent Joker, complete with backstory. This version was a crook named Jack Napier who mugs and then kills Thomas and Martha Wayne. Jack was disfigured after falling into a vat of chemicals while fighting Batman and became The Joker.

Moviegoers adored Nicholson’s performance, and still quote classic lines from the film decades later.

#2 Mark Hamill

Solomon Grundy: [to Lex Luthor] “You’re crazy.
Joker: [entering] “And what’s wrong with that? It’s done wonders for me!

Justice League “Injustice For All” (Season 2, Episode 11)

He’s best known as Luke Skywalker, but Mark Hamill has made a career out of voicing The Joker. Between cartoons, animated movies, and video games, Hamill has the most screen time of all the Joker actors.

Hamill has tried to retire his Joker role several times. His first attempt was with the Batman: Arkham video game series, where the role ended with that Joker incarnation dying. The second try was after Batman: The Killing Joke, when he tried to retire after performing in the Joker’s most famous story. Despite the retirement attempts, he always returns.

For a generation, Mark Hamill is the most iconic Joker actor. Some of you may be ticked that he isn’t our number one pick, but I have a question for you: why so serious?

#1 Heath Ledger

Joker:I believe that whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you… stranger.

The Dark Knight

Show of hands, who didn’t think Heath Ledger would be Movie Rewind’s top Joker actor?

Casting Heath Ledger sounded like a mistake back in 2007. He had been in a lot of movies, but his biggest role had been as a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain. Many doubted he could do justice as the Clown Prince of Crime. Then the lights went out, the laughter started, and audiences everywhere ate crow.

Ledger’s Joker was a smash hit. For months you couldn’t look around without being bombarded by Joker memes and quotes from the movie. It actually became annoying how the lines were run into the ground. But the sheer amount of repetition shows how much impact Ledger’s Joker had.

There were plans for Joker to appear in The Dark Knight Rises that were shelved by Ledger’s passing. He is the only Joker actor to win an Oscar for his portrayal. Perhaps Joaquin Phoenix will join him in that exclusive club.

Who is your favorite Joker actor? Would you swap the list around? Let us know in a comment.

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