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Joker actors ranked: who is the best Joker?

Which Joker is the best? Vote for your favourite Clown Prince of Crime?

Joker actors ranked: who is the best Joker?
Holly Pyne
10 March 2020
The Joker is unquestionably one of the greatest comic-book villains ever. As Batman’s arch-nemesis, he has terrorised Gotham City since his creation in 1940, which brings us to the question: who is the best Joker?
It's even more pertinent now that Joaquin Phoenix has won an Oscar for his version of the Clown Prince of Crime in Todd Phillips’ The Joker, as did Heath Ledger posthumously for his portrayal.

UPDATE:A new comic book run is set to focus on some of the greatest-ever Joker stories, brining in elements of The Killing Joke and other memorable storylines. Called Three Jokers, it will focus on the famous victims of the Joker, including The Red Hood (Jason Todd) and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon). It has been written by Geoff Johns, who has been involved in the brilliant Titans TV show and will be a three book run, out June 17.

And in Phoenix's version we get a more detailed look into how the supervillain we’ve come to love to hate came to be, as the story centres on failed stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck.
The film was hugely successful, but also very divisive - so will Phoenix becomes anyone’s favourite Joker? Or, will Heath Ledger always be the best Joker actor? After all, there has been many an iteration of DC’s most iconic supervillain.
Below are the actors we think are deserving of the role.
  • With a new Joker often comes a new Batman, so check our ranking of the best Batman actors to have your say

Best Joker actors

Best Joker actors

1. Heath Ledger

£24.99
View The Dark Knight on Amazon

To many, Heath Ledger will always be the ultimate Joker. As the main villain of the second, and ultimately most critically acclaimed, part of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, Ledger’s Joker was nothing like those who came before him. Ledger’s influence of graphic novels, Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, punk rock and Anthony Burgess’ The Clockwork Orange made his Joker unique.

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Best Joker actors

2. Joaquin Phoenix

£14.99
Buy now from Amazon

Joaquin Phoenix has won critical acclaim across the board for his version of the Joker, topping it all with a Best Actor Oscar for is role. Todd Phillips’ film received an eight minute long standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, with most of the clapping aimed at Phoenix, and it's become a huge, divisive success. Don’t go expecting a true comic-book version of the Joker, however The movie focuses instead on a story away from the official canon.

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Best Joker actors

3. Jack Nicholson

£11.65
View Batman (1989) on Amazon

In Batman (1989), Jack Nicholson’s villain stole the show. It was already known that Nicholson could portray lunacy with some scary reality from The Shining, but his Joker pushes that energy to its limits. Directed by Tim Burton, the film was everything you’d expect by him - quirky, outlandish, manic energy - and Nicholson was class casting and perfect folly to Michael Keaton’s Batman.


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Best Joker actors

4. Mark Hamill

From £50.99
View Batman: The Animated Series on Amazon

At the time - 1992 - it seemed like bizarre casting to allow earnest Luke Skywalker to play the baddest comic supervillain. And yet, it was a performance that put in him high demand for voicing for cartoon villains. He tapped into his inner psychopathic clown and the laugh just is The Joker. Similarly to his Batman counterpart, Kevin Conroy, he was that good at voicing The Joker he was asked to do it time and time again.

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Best Joker actors

5. Cesar Romero

From £49.90
View Batman (1966) on Amazon

Putting aside the comic books, Cesar Romero set the standard for all to come. In Batman (1966), he nailed down the cackle and twisted humour. Cesaro may have been nearly 60 (some seven years older than Jack Nicholson) when he took on the role but he brought the theatre and grandiose nature of The Joker to life.

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Best Joker actors

6. Cameron Monaghan

From £2.49
Buy Gotham on Amazon

Cameron Monaghan was in the first episode of Gotham but it took many more seasons for him to become pretty much The Joker... even though it was never actually confirmed he was the true Clown Prince. The official line is that he played a character called J and was seen as both Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska. Confused? Yep, so are we but, as the proto-Joker, his acting throughout the show was superb and unhinged.

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Best Joker actors

7. Zach Galifianakis

£7.99
View The Lego Batman Movie on Amazon Prime

The Hangover star was certainly curveball casting for the supervillain, but it did fit the lighter, brighter style of The Joker in The Lego Batman Movie. After all, kids were actually watching this one. While it might be a step away from the murderous portrayals by Ledger or Nicholson, Galifianakis is the perfect arch-nemesis to Will Arnett’s Batman.

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Best Joker actors

8. Jared Leto

£9.99
View Suicide Squad on Amazon

It is fair to say that Jared Leto’s version of The Joker divided opinion. Playing the villain in 2016’s Suicide Squad, the 30 Seconds To Mars singer stepped away from what had been The Joker’s previous looks choosing to have bright green hair, tattoos and probably most dubiously a gold grill. That being said, Leto did tap into The Joker’s homicidal nature terrifying well, there’s no doubt he got the creepy, unsettling element of the villain perfected.

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