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.
Below are the actors we think were deserving of the role. Upvote your favourites and if you disagree with our choices, have your say in the box at the bottom of the page.
- 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
1. Heath LedgerView 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.
2. Mark HamillView 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.
3. Jack NicholsonView 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.
4. Joaquin PhoenixView trailer on YouTube
The world is yet to see Joaquin Phoenix in full swing, but he’s wowed us all in the trailers of the new movie, and won critical acclaim across the board for his version of the Joker.. Todd Phillips’ film recently received an eight minute long standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, with most of the clapping aimed at Phoenix. 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.
5. Cesar RomeroView 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.
6. Zach GalifianakisView 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.
7. Jared LetoView Suicide Squad on Netflix
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.