The Joker – Who did it best?
With the drop of the new Justice League: The Snyder Cut trailer, there’s been some conversation around Jared Leto being The Joker again. Especially after the Oscar-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix in the 2019 film Joker. With this in mind, we got thinking about The Joker and all his TV, video game and film appearances since his debut in the DC comic book, Batman, in 1940. Although the illustrations and storylines were first created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson. All 20 of the actors and voice actors that have taken on the role have put their own fantastic and entertaining spin on the menacing supervillain. But, who did it best? Below is a list of our top 10.
After all, “we live in a society” where The Joker is clearly the best villain in the DC Universe… “Isn’t that right, Batman?”
10. John DiMaggio
Batman: Under the Red Hood 2010 / Batman: Death in the Family 2020
When it comes to The Joker, you can’t just look at the live-action performances. Some of the best Jokers come from cartoons and video games. Where the character is propelled by amazing voice actors, such as John Dimaggio.
His serious and intimidating take on The Joker really stands out. It sends shivers down most viewers’ spines, especially when he does the trademark Joker laugh. Obviously, Dimaggio can’t take all the credit. The animators and screenwriters in both films complemented his take on The Joker. Despite the styles being different in each film.
Bonus Fact: DiMaggio also did a small voice role as The Joker in ‘Lego DC Comics Superheroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom’ in 2015. As well as voicing Lex Luther. Throughout his illustrious voice acting career, DiMaggio has voiced several DC and Marvel characters.
9. Zach Galifianakis
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)/ Batman Is Just Not That Into You (2017)
Normally, The Joker is associated with a darker creeper voice and presence. But, in ‘The Lego Batman Movie’, Zach Galifianakis gives us a completely different feel with his vocal performance. He is more jovial, funny and everyday-sounding. Rather than the dark menacing sound we have come to expect from the character. Obviously, this is to keep in tune with the Lego brand and audience. But funnily enough, it works for the Lego character, making him a definite contender for the top 10.
Bonus Fact: A lot of the lines between Batman (Will Arnett) and The Joker (Galifianakis) for the Lego Batman movies were improvised and they pretty much recorded on the spot.
8. Anthony Ingruber
Batman: The Telltale Series 2016 / Batman: The Enemy Within 2017
Again, we do need to shout out to the animators and storyboard writers at Telltale Games for this Joker. The incredible scenes, backstory and characteristics add to Anthony Ingruber’s interpretation of the character. In games like this, where the storylines push the narrative forward make you want to play it to until 3am. Even on a school night (talking from experience). You really have to get the voice acting right, otherwise, the story could just fall flat. Anthony Ingruber does just this in both games.
He manages to capture all the emotions in the animation and create a new creepy sound for this version of the Joker. Along with one of the best Joker cackles. Ingruber’s version of The Joker is so easy to detect throughout the game. Which is good as there are scenes when all you see of The Joker is his fingers through the bat signal.
Bonus Fact: As an accomplished screen and voice actor, Ingruber has also had another DC role in his career as the voice of Johnny Quick (AKA The Flash) in the 2018 Lego DC Super-Villains game.
7. Cameron Monaghan
Gotham (2015- 2019)
He may only be a baby Joker when we first meet him in Gotham, but throughout the series, his character grew and, boy, was he good! Just when we thought Gotham had killed off who we thought The Joker was going to be. He rises from the dead and brings his twin brother too (also Monaghan), who ends up being smarter and even more twisted. The many twists and turns in his storyline were incredibly binge-worthy. Yet, it was Monghan’s facial expressions, mannerisms and expert acting skills that really made this character one of the best villains in the Gotham series.
Bonus Fact: Whilst playing the part of The Joker in Gotham, Monaghan was only in his early twenties (22 – 26), making him the youngest Joker in the pack.
8. Cesar Romero
Batman: The Movie (1966) / Batman (TV Series 1966 – 1968)
In the first-ever Batman series and spin-off movie, we got our first-ever onscreen version of the Joker, Cesar Romero. The producers of the 1966 series loved Romero’s intimidating yet jovial portrayal of the character. So much so, in fact, that The Joker, alongside The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), were the most frequent villains on the series.
Even though Romero’s portrayal of the character was more jovial and mischievous than menacing (mainly because it was aimed at families and on daytime TV). Some of his attributes are still used in interpretations to this day. Including how he laughed and some of his movements as he pranced around the set.
Bonus Fact: Romero, also known as ‘The Latin Lover’, loved his trademark moustache so much that he point blank refused to shave it off for the part and instead famously just painted over it.
5. Jared Leto
Suicide Squad (2016), Justice League: The Snyder Cut (2021)
So, let’s face it, Leto’s take on The Joker is controversial and divides opinions. With a lot of anguish aimed at the ‘damaged’ tattoo on his head (which we agree was a bad decision). But the costume department and some of the scripting choices put to one side. Leto is actually a really great actor and played the part well, bringing across The Joker’s creepy and unpredictable behaviour.
Also, his depiction of the character matches up well with Margot Robbie’s Harlequin and works well for the Suicide Squad.
Although there is some disagreement around Leto appearing in the ‘Justice League: The Snyder Cut’. It does make sense in the current DC world. The characters from both the ‘Justice League’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ have intertwined since they started this set of movies. Even though it looks like Leto’s part might be short. With writing and directing skills from Zack Snyder, his take on The Joker may be given the freedom it needs to flourish a little more this time around.
Bonus Fact: When preparing for the role, before he met Harlequin (Robbie), Leto wrote her a love letter as The Joker along with a present. The present was a live rat! The cast apparently had shared custody of the rat until the end of filming, when it was gifted to ‘Pacific Rim’ director Guillermo del Toro, and it lived happily in his family home.
4. Joaquin Phoenix
The newest member of The Joker club. Joaquin Phoenix takes The Joker’s sinister undertones to new levels, drawing the character closer to the creepy clown realm than we have ever seen before.
After being seen as a joke, and not taken seriously, this Joker wanted to turn the city upside down. Making it the world that made this Joker who he is, not a chemical accident. This is portrayed superbly by Phoenix, revealing new sides of The Joker. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of this interpretation in the future.
Bonus Fact: As this character is based more on the mental stability of The Joker, when preparing for the role, Phoenix-based his laugh on videos he’d seen of people suffering from Pathological Laughter.
3. Jack Nicholson
In the late 80s and early 90s, we had a string of fantastic Batman films directed by Tim Burton. Not only were these films full of action and intrigue, with a drizzle of slapstick, they also brought the darker, fully realised DC characters to our screens and the forefront. And the one that stood out the most was Jack Nicholson’s take on The Joker.
As the Gangster turned Joker, Nicholson was the first to give the villain a little more of a murderous edge, tapping into the evilness of baddie. Nicholson was reported as being a hands-on actor, having a say on his makeup, as well as some of Burton’s scripting. Together Nicholson and Burton made this character one of the most honoured and referenced jokers of all time.
Bonus Fact: There were quite a few of famous people that were considered for this role, including Robin Williams and David Bowie, but Nicholson’s menacing ideas for the character won out.
2. Heath Ledger
The Dark Knight (2008)
One of the most memorable and iconic versions of The Joker comes from Heath Ledger in ‘The Dark Knight’.
It’s strange to think that back in 2007 when the cast for the film was released, the director Christopher Nolan was criticised for the casting. Fans had a few other names in mind of the role. At the time Ledger was better known for romantic comedies such as ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ and ‘A Knights Tale’. Which doesn’t really fit with the dark and brooding feel of the Batman franchise. But Heath Ledger proved all of the nay-sayers wrong.
Ledger stole the spotlight and out-acted everyone in the movie, including the titular Batman, played by Christian Bale. He went on to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe for ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role’. Unfortunately, the release of the film, the masses of critical acclaim and the awards came after Ledger’s heartbreaking and untimely death.
Extra Fact – Ledger put so much thought into his character right down to the makeup, insisting that he wanted to do it himself to make it look more realistic.
Disclaimer – We know putting Ledger in the second spot might be controversial, and yes, Ledger, is arguably the best live-action Joker (closely followed by Nicholson), but there is someone else that just clinches the top spot, whose voice embodies The Joker we all know and love…
1. Mark Hamill
10 video games/ 5 animated series/ 5 feature-length films / 3 short films (1992 – present)
As you can clearly see, Mark Hamill already wins on credits alone. So much so that listing all his Joker appearances would have taken up half of this article. But, is why we think he is the best Joker based on the number of appearances? Oh no, there are lots of reasons why we believe he earns the top spot! For example, like a lot of people in DC forums all over the internet, whenever we read comics now or think of the Joker, it’s his voice we hear.
Also, across the 3 decades, and throughout the TV, movies, cartoons and many video games, The Joker’s appearance and the world around him changes. Yet Hamill has somehow managed to expertly evolve his voice alongside the character and perfectly change it up slightly to fit the aesthetic in the specific medium. All while still making it familiar and quintessentially The Joker we hear in our own heads.
Extra Fact – Mark Hamill wasn’t the first choice to voice The Joker in the original Batman animated series. In 1992, Tim Curry recorded around four episodes; but, he had to step down. There are two rumoured reasons for this decision. The first is that Curry developed bronchitis, and the second is that the producers simply just didn’t like his take on The Joker.
So, there we have it, our top 10 favourite Jokers of all time, I hope you enjoyed reading our list. If you think there should have been another Joker up there, or you would have changed the order, let us know below.
But I think the above just proves that the ever-evolving Joker is the best DC villain of all time. If you disagree just ask yourself – ‘Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?’
Thank you for reading our article on The Joker, who did it best. Do you agree with our list? What would your order be? Let us know in the comments below.
See the teaser trailer for Robert Pattinson’s The Batman HERE.
9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies
There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.
1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)
Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.
2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.
3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.
4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.
5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)
Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)
I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.
7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)
This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.
8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)
We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.
9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.
That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.
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