Ranking All of the Jokers in the Batman-verse (Including Jared Leto in 'Suicide Squad')
By John Boone
Want to hear our best impression of the Joker? Bhaaa hA HA HAaa.
What do you think? Anyway, our take on the Clown Prince of Crime is beside the point. But Jared Leto is bringing his version of the infamous Batman villain to the big screen in Suicide Squad and he recently told ET, "When I got the part, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure -- or terror, you might call it."
"There have been such phenomenal, unforgettable performances, like Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Cesar Romero," he added. "It really encouraged me to work that much harder."
So, how does Leto's Joker stack up against those that came before him? We ranked them all to find out.
6. Various Voice Actors in Various Animated Batman Projects
Including Michael Emerson (The Dark Knight Returns), John DiMaggio (Batman: Under the Red Hood), Kevin Michael Richardson (The Batman), and Brent Spiner (Young Justice), among others. All have merits -- and this isn't meant as a knock against the craft -- but the look and physicality required of the role are just too important to ignore here. Albeit with one exception.
5. Cesar Romero in Batman (1966)
Romero was first to embody the comic book baddie in the flesh, in the short-lived '60s TV series, and he plays him as pure camp -- with white face paint slathered over his mustache and a deadly slot machine for creating chaos, often while singing! While his take inspired so many of the Jokers that followed, it's now so far removed from the darker and grittier foe we know today that they might as well be completely different characters.
4. Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989)
If Romero originated the most iconic iteration of the Joker, then Nicholson perfected it when director Tim Burton took over the franchise. His Jester of Genocide chews up scenery with a twisted sense of pleasure and just a touch of The Shining, that -- despite the cartoonish smile, truly a nightmare come to life -- feels practically understated compared to what would come.
In a film about bad guys -- a hitman, a psychopathic psychiatrist, a crocodile humanoid -- Leto's Joker remains the most dangerous maniac in the mix, a deadly wild card in a deck of wild cards. This lateest incarnation is unhinged and animalistic, with Leto and director David Ayer taking elements from the comics and amping them up to a billion. That Leto's role is more or less a glorified cameo likely means he has only scratched the surface, too. (Good luck to whoever co-stars with him in that movie.)
2. Mark Hamill in Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
Hamill rises above the medium, having provided the Ace of Knaves his distinctive cackle for so many years -- starting with The Animated Series in the early '90s before Arkham Asylum and, most recently, Batman: The Killing Joke in 2016 -- that he has become synonymous with the role, without having ever appeared onscreen.
Here's how beloved Hamill's Joker is: During an appearance at this year's Star Wars Celebration, it wasn't anything to do with Luke Skywalker that had fans losing their minds -- it was witnessing Hamill laughing as the Joker, live in person.
1. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008)
This may seem like an easy choice to top the list -- Ledger posthumously won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor -- but that's only because it is an easy choice. It's more than the Oscar, though: Ledger revolutionized how actors could and should approach playing the Joker, granting Leto and whichever actor inherits the role after him (and then after him) carte blanche to take a risk.
Ledger and Christopher Nolan gave us a Joker we had never seen before, one as anarchistic as he was brilliant, as utterly captivating as he was absolutely terrifying. And, as much as it chills us to say, he put a smile on our faces.