A number of actors have played the role of the Joker in Batman films – both live-action and animated – from Zach Galifianakis to Jared Leto, and Troy Baker, amongst others. But who are the best Joker actors?
Below is a list of the top five actors to have played or voiced the Joker for a feature-length Batman movie.
The first name on this list is the first actor to take on the role of the Joker – Cesar Romero. Romero has the distinction of not only appearing as the Joker in the first ever Batman film – 1966’s Batman: The Movie – but also an actor who also played the role across three seasons of the hit 1960s Batman television show.
Romero’s Joker was a prankster, with little character development. However, Romero made the role his own and ensured his appearance in Batman: The Movie was an utter delight.
The actor also gets bonus points on this list for refusing to shave off his moustache during film of both the movie and the TV show. This is why, if you look carefully, the Joker sports facial hair under his make-up.
Joker No.2 is Jack Nicholson – an actor so larger than life that he received top billing on his one and only Batman film, 1989’s Batman. Yep, Batman actor, Michael Keaton had to accept second billing to Nicholson.
For almost twenty years, Nicholson’s Joker remained the go-to live-action take on the character. In the role of the Clown Prince of Crime, he was able to give the character a real edge, which allowed him to straddle a fine line between criminal genius and complete psychopath.
While Nicholson was turning the Joker into a pop-culture phenomenon in a live-action Batman movie, Mark Hamill was providing an equally impressive voice to the Joker in animation. The actor first voiced the Joker on the hit television show, Batman: The Animated Series, before going on to voice the character in movies: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000), and Batman: The Killing Joke (2016).
Outside of Batman: The Animated Series and the animated features, Hamill has continued as the voice of the Joker in various cartoons and computer games. For an entire generation, Hamill IS the Joker.
Back to the live-action movies now and a Joker who needs little introduction. Heath Ledger played the role of the Joker just once, in the 2008 movie, The Dark Knight, but this one-off performance was enough to stand head and shoulders above most.
Providing a dark, gritty realism to the character, Ledger’s Joker stole the movie out from under Batman actor Christian Bale. Not that Bale minded – Ledger was simply that good.
Ledger sadly passed away before The Dark Knight hit cinema screens, but upon release of the movie his performance was met with huge critical acclaim. The actor won a number of posthumous accolades in 2008 & 2009, including an Academy Award for his role as the Joker.
And finally, yet another actor who raised the bar when it comes to playing the Joker – Joaquin Phoenix.
For the 2019 standalone story, Joker, Joaquin Phoenix gave an outstanding performance as a man battling mental health issues. His Joker was a tragic figure, who invoked both sympathy and sheer terror from audiences.
Who do you think played the Joker the best? Does each actor bring something different to the role or does one stand out above the rest? Sound off in the comments section about your favourite Joker actor.