A Definitive Ranking of the Best (and Worst) Actors To Play The Joker

A Definitive Rating of the Finest (and Worst) Actors To Play The Joker

The next story comprises spoilers for The Batman (2022)


A part of what makes Matt Reeves’ preliminary tackle Batman—in 2022’s The Batman—is that his villains are a bit off fundamental avenue so far as the historical past of the franchise goes. In Paul Dano’s Zodiac-esque Riddler and John Turturro’s easy tackle Carmine Falcone, he has a pair of fundamental villains who praise one another, appearing as totally different types of adversary for our fundamental hero—and never getting in one another’s method. However this is Batman, in any case, and Reeves was going to get his model of the man we had been all considering of in there, a technique or one other.

Close to the tip of the film, after the Riddler has been imprisoned, he makes a good friend in his cell. It is a laughing, cackling, scarred maniac—credited on the finish of the film solely as “Unseen Arkham Prisoner”—however everyone knows precisely who that is: The Joker, performed by Irish actor and Eternals star Barry Keoghan. A number of weeks after launch, Reeves launched a deleted scene from the film the place it is revealed that Batman (Robert Pattinson) and this bizarre, scarred, further creepy tackle the Clown Prince of Crime have a historical past, and a kind of Hannibal Lector Silence of the Lambs sort of relationship. It’s totally unusual, however it works—and we will not wait to see extra.

In fact, with only one quick scene and an extended scene that was in the end deleted, it is exhausting to rank Keoghan’s tackle the character subsequent to many others who’ve performed the function. However it’s attention-grabbing to consider the influence the character has had culturally; in 2022, Anita from West Aspect Story turned considered one of three characters in historical past to be performed by a number of totally different actors and win every of them Oscars. One in all them is Vito Corleone from The Godfather films. The opposite is the Joker.

Sure, it was only a couple years in the past that Joaquin Phoenix’s tackle The Joker netted him an Oscar, and that got here simply over a decade after Heath Ledger’s legendary efficiency received him a posthumous statue of his personal. It is exhausting to think about a 3rd grabbing the gold sooner or later, however hey, stranger issues have occurred.

That being mentioned, it is vital for us to mirror on the assorted Jokers that we have seen via the years. Some, in fact, are higher than others. The place will Keoghan’s tackle the character fall? Finally, it’s going to most likely take a number of years—if not the higher a part of a decade—to get a definitive reply to that query. However it feels secure to say he is off to a superb begin.

N/A: Barry Keoghan (The Batman)

To place it bluntly: we simply have not seen sufficient. Keoghan’s acquired some expertise enjoying creepy—simply take a look at his function in The Killing of a Sacred Deer—and based mostly on his two temporary appearances because the Joker (one deleted scene and one briefly in The Batman), he’ll present a complete new (and really gross!) tackle the character. However let’s let all of it play out earlier than we slot him in anyplace, proper?

9. Jared Leto (Suicide Squad)

The one saving grace of Jared Leto’s ridiculous efficiency as The Joker—or Mr. J, as Margot Robbie’s considerably superior Harley Quinn calls him—is that he is not within the film all that a lot. From dramatically laying and posing on the bottom like he is Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia! to the final Scorching Matter teen aura capped off by the tattoo throughout his brow that claims ‘broken,’ Leto’s Joker is by far the worst model of the character that is existed. Whereas he confirmed up briefly in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, he didn’t seem in The Suicide Squad, and we must always all be glad about that.

8. Cameron Monaghan (Gotham)

Fox’s collection a few younger Bruce Wayne by no means formally had a personality referred to as “The Joker,” however the brothers Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska had been presupposed to characterize “the thought” of the Joker. On the finish of the collection, it was unclear whether or not a 3rd brother known as “J” turned The Joker or if the characters themselves impressed the precise Joker in another type.

However nonetheless, Gotham used did a pleasant job of capturing the maniacal power of what most individuals think about the character to be. Plus, there is a scene the place Jerome staples his face on? And that is wild? The shortage of ever correctly being referred to as “Joker” retains him decrease on our record, however it’s a enjoyable portrayal nonetheless.

7. Cesar Romero (Batman [1966-1968])

Make-up and outfit apart, this model of The Joker is sort of unrecognizable from the character we have come to anticipate right now. With goofy plots and as a frequent object of slapstick humor, Cesar Romero’s Joker is actually a sitcom facet character. Plus, Romero truly by no means shaved his mustache beneath his make-up, and you’ll see it clearly in nearly each clip or nonetheless picture. It’s golden.

6. Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

By default, Joaquin Phoenix’s efficiency as Arthur Fleck/Joker in Joker is essentially the most in-depth, multi-dimensional portrayal of the character ever. The place different movies have merely proven him because the darkish foil to Batman’s hero, Joker reveals us how he acquired to be the best way he’s—he is the primary present right here.

And as at all times, Phoenix introduced his A-game. The film itself has been mired in controversy attributable to what some critics deem extreme violence, however Phoenix’s efficiency particularly has been singled out as considered one of his greatest, which is actually saying one thing. He received the Oscar for Finest Actor for his function, however in our Joker rankings it comes up a bit quick, if solely as a result of this Joker by no means actually feels just like the felony mastermind Joker that everyone knows—as a substitute, it simply looks like a sick one who is spiraling uncontrolled.

5. Zach Galifianakis (The Lego Batman Film)

This good spin-off of The Lego Film options Zach Galifianakis as the proper foil to Will Arnett’s Batman (who, we must always add, we additionally love). Not too heavy, this Joker simply needs to be worthy of Batman’s consideration—he virtually appears jealous of Batman’s rivalry with Superman (“Not a nasty man!,” Joker says). With so many different portrayals specializing in the character’s darkness, Galifianakis reveals it is nonetheless doable to poke slightly enjoyable at The Joker.

5. Alan Tudyk (Harley Quinn)

The Harley Quinn Joker—voiced splendidly by the ridiculously underrated Alan Tudyk—does two issues that we actually wanted this explicit tackle the Joker to do. Before everything, in fact: be a superb Joker. And he actually does that. However the facet of this Joker that feels new is the thought, in a collection centered on Harley Quinn, that the Joker is just not solely a nasty man, but additionally a reasonably fucking dangerous boyfriend. And this Joker is an entire asshole. Come for the Joker, stick round for the temporary run the place the Joker is “cured.”

4. Mark Hamill (Batman: The Animated Collection and extra)

Mark Hamill is greatest often called Luke Skywalker, and that most likely will not ever change. However within the time between Star Wars appearances, he earned a second career-defining function, voicing The Joker in quite a lot of totally different Darkish Knight properties. Beginning with Batman: The Animated Collection and persevering with via different cartoons and video video games, Hamill’s sinister tone would possibly truly be the one you think about in your head when eager about Batman’s arch-nemesis. He is essentially the most unhinged and maniacal of The Jokers, however most significantly? He nails the snort. Nails it.

2. Jack Nicholson (Batman (1989))

For almost 20 years, Jack Nicholson’s Joker was the cinematic standard-bearer. This model of the character started as a mobster named Jack Napier, who reworked into The Joker after a battle with Batman led to chemical burns and facial scarring. Phoenix and Leto tried to completely remodel The Joker into somebody new, however Nicholson’s portrayal is easier: it is principally “evil Jack.” Nicholson’s legendary coolness and director Tim Burton’s darkish creativeness helped make this Joker one of the iconic villains of the ’80s and ’90s.

1. Heath Ledger (The Darkish Knight)

There are some individuals who prefer to say that The Darkish Knight has “aged poorly” within the 11 years since its preliminary launch, however these individuals, fairly frankly, do not know what they’re speaking about. It should take a very long time for anybody to high Christian Bale as Batman (although Robert Pattinson is certain going to strive), however extra importantly, it looks as if a idiot’s errand to strive topping Heath Ledger’s flip enjoying the Crown Prince of Crime.

Launched and not using a backstory or motive of any type, Ledger’s Joker is not chill like Nicholson’s or a try-hard like Leto’s—he thrives on pure, unadulterated depth. Credit score for that has to go, in some half, to director Christopher Nolan. The Darkish Knight is crammed with moments the place your eyes are 100% glued to The Joker, and the satan’s within the particulars: the frantic licking of his lips; the flicking his greasy, not-quite-green hair out of his face; sticking his head out of a transferring automobile like a canine.

Ledger’s posthumous Oscar-winning efficiency (and his career-defining function) is one that will by no means be bested.

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