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5 of the Best Joker Performances of All Time: A Ranked List

There are few supervillains more iconic than The Joker. Whether it’s the intense madness of Jared Leto or the campy cackle of Cesar Romero, the Joker has always been the foil to The World’s Greatest Detective.

Through the decades, actors have put their own spin on the characters in movies, cartoons and video games. Each one was unique and gave it their all, but which one was the best joker? We’ll examine the top five jokers of all time and why they made it to the top 5.

If you love Batman and his nemesis, The Joker, then check out our list of joker actors.

Cesar Romero

The 1960s Batman was a camp fest designed to attract children and adults alike. It was a more innocent time on television where fun and ridiculous outweighed the heavy and dark renditions that followed. Cesar Romero was already an icon of the time, so when he refused to shave his mustache, they just covered in white paint.

You can still see it and it just added to the cartoonish and weird way he portrayed Mr. J. Romero played Joker as an opposite to the always logical Batman played by Adam West. Romero’s cackle and over the top acting help define The Joker for decades and you can still see it in some of the more recent portrayals.

Jack Nicholson

By the time Tim Burton’s Batman came out in 1989, Jack Nicholson was already a legend. He played Jack Napier, and in Burton’s reimagining, the killer of Batman’s parents. When he went up against Batman and was dumped into a vat of chemicals, it transformed him into The Joker.

Burton’s Batman was more serious, but nowhere the dark and broody narrative that Christian Bale would bring to it several years later. Nicholson’s Batman was a cold-blooded killer, but still had the over-the-top style of Romero’s Joker.

Perhaps more than any other portrayal of The Joker, it all Nicholson. This was the first portrayal that showed the true dark side of the Joker. The unrepentant murderer that killed for the sake of killing and to bring a little mirth to Gotham City.

Joaquin Phoenix

When people heard there was a Joker standalone movie that was separate from Jared Leto’s version from Suicide Squad, they were both excited and worried. It was a total reimagining separate from any canon comic books, movies or television shows.

It didn’t show him as a monster bent on maniacal destruction, but a man with a mental illness who had been beaten down by life. His name is Arthur Fleck and we watch as the man loses control and eventually commits horrible acts that spurs the creation of the legend.

You can see this even more in Joker deleted scenes.

Unlike other portrayals that always gave him a sense of humor even in the direst of circumstances, there is nothing funny about Arthur Fleck. Even his laughter is a product of madness and mental illness.

Joker wasn’t a superhero movie with Joker as a character. It was a character journey of one man. There was no Batman to defeat and no scheme. It was walking into the madness and mind of the man who becomes The Joker.

Everything from the pathological laughter, his ticks and dancing was brought to life through Phoenix’s phenomenal acting ability. You watch the movie not knowing to hate or feel sorry for him.

The movie offers little in the way of answers and conclusions, but we’ll get to see Phoenix as The Joker again in a planned sequel.

Mark Hamill

The face of Mark Hamill will always be known for Luke Skywalker, but his voice will forever be The Joker. Hamill voiced the Joker in several cartoon and video game incarnations giving him that high pitched and gravelly voice tinged with madness.

Hamill started his journey in the now-iconic Batman the Animated Series opposite Kevin Conroy’s Batman. Hamill brought the Joker mainstream for years and was the voice for a generation. He was like a mix of Nicholson’s sociopath and Romero’s humor.

Hamill was able to take the character to new performance heights week after week. We watched as he developed his obsession with Batman and the love of his life, Harley Quinn. The Joker’s abusive treatment of her was a new dark and brought out the horrors of abusive relationships.

He voiced The Joker through several incarnations including the tremendously popular trio of Arkham video games. It brought his unique to a whole new audience. This Joker was both insane and methodical.

He was seemingly always one step ahead of Batman and haunted The Dark Knight even in death. Hamill’s face may never be connected with The Joker, but his voice defined him for two generations.

The Best Joker: Heath Ledger

The Dark Knight Trilogy created perhaps the darkest rendition of Batman. He’s not just a hero, but a man haunted by the death of his parents and the psychological damage associated with that. There are times where he seems broken, so when Heath Ledger created his version of The Joker it was the exact opposite.

We don’t know much about The Dark Knight’s Joker except he was abused by his father. Ledger sociopath was the pinnacle of logical insanity. Ledger not only researched and brought to life the most dynamic version of The Joker but became him.

Ledger became depressed because of the depth of his portrayal, which led to the best version of the Joker, but also troubles for the actor. Ledger died in 2008 of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, pain medication, and anti-anxiety meds.

He was posthumously given the Oscar for his performance and will forever be known as the best portrayal of The Joker.

Who Is Your Favorite Joker?

There have been others that portrayed The Clown Prince of Crime including Jared Leto and Cameron Monoghan, but they didn’t make this list. Who is the best Joker in your opinion?

For more information about comic book villains, please explore our site.

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