Whether it’s in our favorite superhero cartoon, or terrifyingly brought to life in the silver screen, The Joker has found a cozy, morbid place in all our hearts. Since his inception on paper back in 1940, the Clown Prince of Crime has been wreaking havoc on Gotham and its people. Sometimes it’s bombs loaded with Joker Toxin, other times it’s just holding the mayor at gunpoint. Regardless of what his plans are, chaos is guaranteed to follow.
Some people call him insane, himself included, yet others argue that he is in fact super sane. He commits his actions knowing full well the consequences and aftermath, and does so to cleanse Gotham of the evil running through its core. No one really even knows his origins, and as far as we know, he hasn’t even divulged that information to those closest to him.
Ever since I saw him in Batman and heard his iconic laugh in The Animated Series, I have been drawn to this villain like a criminally-insane, love-struck, med student. This list is to commemorate those that have brought this character to life on screen, whether hand drawn, a real human, or CGI’d in a virtual Gotham City.
10. Andrew Koenig – Batman: Dead End
Remember Growing Pains? Boner? Yeah. He went on to portray The Joker in the 2006 short film, Batman: Dead End. In it, Batman apprehends The Joker after he escapes Arkham for the billionth time, only to be interrupted by a Xenomorph and a Predator. All in all, a pretty solid short for something not directly produced by DC. And although Koenig’s portrayal was brief, he had the look and the sound of a classic Joker. His sharp jaw and angular features proved beneficial in adding a menacing look to the role. Sadly, Andrew committed suicide in early 2010 after battling depression. Thankfully, he can live on in our memories as Joker and Richard ‘Boner’ Stabone.
9. Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
Leto is a stellar actor and has proved it time and time again. However, since Suicide Squad is yet to be released and all I’ve seen is the trailer, I can’t rightly rank this gentleman higher. However, after seeing the promotional shots and said trailer, I can safely say I am freaking stoked for this movie. I’ve already heard stories of Leto getting lost in character. He has apparently sent Margot Robbie, who plays Harley Quinn, a love letter in a black box containing a live rat, and Will Smith, who plays Deadshot, a box of bullets. The tattoos may take some getting used to, as even the craziest of Jokers would find “HAHAHAHA” tattoos a little tacky. But hey, he still looks crazy as hell and ready to raise the bar.
8. John DiMaggio – Batman: Under the Red Hood
I adore this man. Not only has he given us the voices of Bender B. Rodriguez and Jake the Dog, but multiple voices on Gravity Falls, Marcus Fenix of Gears of War, and plenty of supporting roles. He got a shot at the Joker in Batman: Under the Red Hood. Given he wasn’t the main baddie in this one, he did still get a chance to show his worth. While he beats down on Jason Todd, his calm demeanour and subtle hints of the underlying anger show what the Joker is truly capable of. And when Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd are finally face to face in the climax, Joker still shines as he mocks the situation, asking for a family portrait with them. He aces the comedy needed for the role, and that laugh is pretty dang good, too.
7. Kevin Michael Richardson – The Batman
Richardson has been on the scene for a long time. A long, long time. One of his first voice acting roles was in Porco Rosso, and has since gone on to play minor roles in movies and cartoons including Samurai Jack, Powerpuff Girls, Invader Zim, multiple Disney shows, as well as video games like Halo 2, Kingdom Hearts 2, and Spyro: A New Beginning. It wasn’t until 2004 that he had his first opportunity to play The Joker. People must have loved it, because he continued to do so for four years over the course of The Batman (04-08) as well as a few projects in between. He brings a lower, gravely voice to a more lighthearted Joker. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a psycho killer, but his mannerisms and nuances through this stage were definitely more kid friendly, yet his voice could still strike fear into children’s – and adults’ – hearts.
6. Michael Emerson – The Dark Night Returns
If you managed to sit all the way through Lost, then you know ol’ Ben. More recently he is the man behind The Machine in Person of Interest. He has made a career playing offbeat of odd characters. There’s something about Michael Emerson that just… makes you distrust him. So what better person to play the joker than him? He brought a new creep factor to the character in The Dark Knight Returns, an adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name. Set 10 years after Batman put down the cowl, Joker is in Arkham Asylum, and has stayed there. Without Batman, there is no Joker. So he sat and he waited, until The Bat came back. And with that, one of the most terrifying portrayals of the Joker ensued. Laughing like a mad man, firing his gun off at random, his final moments in the Tunnel of Love are enough to unsettle even the most hardcore of Joker fans.
5. Troy Baker – Arkham Origins
Over the past 4 years, Troy Baker has absolutely dominated the video game voice industry. Between him, Nolan North and Jennifer Hale, the three have been in almost any AAA game release of the past 5 years. It’s truly astonishing. Especially considering the fact that you can hear him as Joel in the last of us, and then find out he’s your main character in Infamous: Second Son, Bioshock Infinite and Shadow of Mordor. Troy was no stranger to the DC universe by the time he dons the voice of the Joker. He had even played Batman a few times in other games. However, in Arkham: Origins, Troy Baker slays it. However, that being said, all I could hear was an impression of Mark Hamill’s Joker. An impressive display, but just not quite the original. Regardless, this man has enough vocal talent that even if DC decides to completely kill off Mr. J, he will still have plenty of job security.
4. Cesar Romero – Batman (1960)
This man is THE Joker. He donned the purple suit and white make-up – over his moustache – back in the 60’s to take on Adam West’s Batman. This was the first time anyone had seen a live portrayal of The Joker, and it was perfect for the show. Campy, goofy, ridiculous, and freaking awesome. Cesar is equal parts clown to criminal. Whereas his later versions have a much darker tone, the 60s didn’t really go for that sort of thing. Anytime you saw him, you were guaranteed to see some shtick. His hand-buzzer or his squirting flower of knockout gas. And without a doubt, you’d get to see him thwarted by some hilarious means like reversing the direction on the Emergency Batpole Elevator or beat him in a surfing competition.
3. Mark Hamill – Batman: The Animated Series
Many of us grew up knowing Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Myself being one of them. So the day I learned that the scrawny Jedi from Tatooine also happened to be one of the most iconic voices in comic history, I nearly needed a new pair of pants. From Batman: The Animated Series to the Arkham Trilogy, Mark Hamill has proven to be the definitive voice for animated Jokers. To see the man do it live is also something to give you shivers. He doesn’t just do the voice, he becomes the character. Unfortunately, he has retired from the Joker, unless of course a worthy script comes his way. Or so he says. Oh well, at least we get to see him wield a light saber come December again.
2. Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Don’t act surprised. You knew this name was going to be on here. Ledger brought a unique, quirky darkness to the role that no other actor had before – animated or live action in The Dark Knight. Audiences hushed when he was on screen and we were hanging on his every word. This was the first Joker that was less jokes and more psycho, yet somehow maintained a level of comedy. Even if it was incredibly dark, I laughed when he made the pencil disappear. With the addition of his scars and no clear explanation on his origin, it added a horrifying mystery to him. Every monologue he delivers is so meticulously insane that you kinda root for the guy. You want to see how far this will go, so you kinda want him to get away with it. Unfortunately, Heath passed away from an accidental overdose of medication and never got to see the final product of his efforts.
1. Jack Nicholson – Batman – (1989)
Well, if number 1 wasn’t Heath Ledger, then there’s really only one other that could fill that position. The illustrious Mr. Jack Nicholson. Having already been in numerous Hollywood features, by 1989’s Batman, Nicholson already had a decent following of fans. He was the first choice for producer Michael Uslan and creator Bob Kane. He even got a share of the profits from the movie, giving him an additional $60-90 million on top of his $6m salary. This was the first time he had been portrayed since Cesar Romero played Joker in the 60’s, and since Tim Burton was going for a darker tone, we didn’t really know what to expect out of Nicholson. What we got blew us away. While still maintaining the goofiness of Cesar, he brought to it more fear and chaos than anything previous, from laughing maniacally as he electrocutes a man to death in his hand to dancing while listening to Prince and defacing priceless art. A truly sick man with a rotten sense of humor – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.