The Joker is a character who’s had many representations over the years. Similar to James Bond, the Joker isn’t tied to one specific actor. His face changes all the time. However, some of the Joker’s many faces have been better than others. This list takes a look at some of the best versions of the Clown Prince of Crime in movies, TV and video games.
3. Jack Nicholson
Considered by many to be the best Batman movie outside of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Tim Burton’s 1989 film, “Batman,” has one of the most outstanding versions of the Joker I’ve seen on screen. Now, I may have some problems with a version of Batman who kills, and I’ve never liked the idea that the Joker was actually the one responsible for killing Bruce Wayne’s parents, but aside from these flaws in the film, there is almost nothing to fault in Nicholson’s performance. Playing opposite Michael Keaton’s Batman, Nicholson delivers a magnificent and chilling performance. With iconic lines like “dance with the devil in the pale moonlight” and a frenzied craziness perfected years earlier during his role as Jack Torrance in “The Shining,” Nicholson’s Joker strikes the perfect balance between calculatingly devious and downright maniacal.
2. Heath Ledger
Everyone knows of Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as the Joker in Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” Every film fanatic and Batman fan has heard the stories of Ledger’s intense method acting techniques. How Ledger was so frightening in the role that he scared Michael Caine, a veteran actor, into forgetting his lines. And of course, how Ledger was awarded an Oscar posthumously for the role following a drug overdose. Ledger is, without a doubt, the best live-action representation of the Joker that has ever been seen on film. He disappeared into the character, completely bringing to full form all his insanity and neuroticisms. His voice, his look, his walk, his facial expressions all brought the terrifying character into the real world. Ledger’s performance was so phenomenally good that, despite the dozens of interpretations that came before him, he became the one true face of the Joker in the minds of many fans. It’s impossible to describe all the ways in which Ledger completely nailed the part.
So why, then, is he only in the number two spot? Because while Ledger may be the best live-action version of the character, there is one actor who has been consistently voicing The Joker since 1992.
1. Mark Hamill
Yes, the “Star Wars” veteran is responsible for voicing the version of the character I consider to be most definitive. What “Star Wars” fans might not have known about the man that plays Luke Skywalker is that he has a very wide range of vocal abilities. The voice he lends to the Joker is both light and sinister, playful and lethal. It has highs and lows that match the character’s volatile moods and can positively chill your bones at times. But the most impressive part of Hamill’s version is his evil, maniacal laugh — something that the two versions listed above didn’t really have.
Hamill has voiced the Joker since 1992 when he started on the TV show “Batman: The Animated Series.” Since then he has reprised his role in countless video games, animated movies and TV shows. Hamill alone has dozens of different Joker appearances under his belt. But his best, in my opinion, is the version from Rocksteady Studios’ “Arkham” video game series. These beautiful cinematic games perfectly capture the essence of the Joker and his relationship with his antithesis Batman. They are an absolute must-play for any Joker fan.
A new version of the Joker is set to come out soon. Oct. 4 brings the release of Joaquin Phoenix’s new Joker origin story film, titled simply “Joker.” I have very high hopes for the film, and the trailers promise a stunning new version of the character. It’s too early to tell whether Phoenix will replace one of the representations on this list, but Joker fans will be able to see for themselves soon enough.