THIS IS NO JOKE
Everyone knows that the Joker is unique as a villain: he’s as popular (okay, almost as popular) as the big Batguy he battles on a regular basis across countless comics, TV shows and movies.
But, for all his scene-stealing appearances, the Joker has never had his own movie jam.
KILLING JOKE? JOKER MAKING A KILLING!
As Deadline Hollywood reports:
Warner Bros and DC are in the early stages of another Batman Universe spinoff movie, this one telling the origin story of the signature villain The Joker. The studio has set The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips to co-write a script with 8 Mile scribe Scott Silver. Phillips will direct the movie, and Martin Scorsese will produce it with Phillips. This will be the first film under a new banner that has yet to be named in which WB can expand the canon of DC properties and create unique storylines with different actors playing the iconic characters.
Todd Phillips? MARTIN SCORSESE? Those are some big, big names. Hey, The Hangover-meets-Taxi Driver is a great pitch for a Joker movie right out of the box!
LET’S GET IT ON!
Top 10 Joker Portrayals
#10: Brent Spiner
“Young Justice” (2010-13)
To be forever remembered and associated with his role as Lt. Commander Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, it might surprise you to hear that he has actually done other things. As the wildcard of the Injustice League in the TV series Young Justice, Joker wastes no time trying to spread his patented Joker Venom around the world. Though he only appeared in one episode, Spiner’s disposition is a perfect match for The Joker’s creepy, unpredictable personality. Despite being a cartoon aimed at younger audiences, this version of the Joker does not hold back and he definitely made our skin crawl.
#9: Michael Emerson
“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” (2012-13)
Michael Emerson’s no stranger to playing the antagonistic role – having played the easy-to-hate Ben Linus on Lost- so he was the perfect candidate for the Clown Prince in the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Taking place in the future, Joker had fallen into a catatonic state for ten years; but when news hits about Batman coming out of retirement, he wastes no time going back on a rampage. Emerson’s Paul Lynde imitation brilliantly gives life to an incarnation of The Joker so twisted, he goes on an amusement park shooting spree before framing Batman for killing him, by breaking his own neck.
#8: Troy Baker
“Batman: Arkham Origins” [Video Game] (2013) & “Batman: Assault on Arkham” (2014)
Troy Baker’s had some experience voicing Batman, so it’s quite a surprise to realize that he voices Bat’s archenemy as well. Baker was called in to voice a younger Clown Prince in the prequel spin-off of Rocksteady Studios’ Arkham games. As the Arkham video game series’ Joker was already portrayed by Mark Hamill, Baker’s role is to replace that performance as a younger sounding version and doing a really damn good job at it. A year later he would reprise his role in 2014’s Batman: Assault on Arkham, and again pulls of a performance that you would almost swear was Mark Hamill, all be it a liiiiitle bit more restrained.
#7: Kevin Michael Richardson
“The Batman” (2004-08)
Kevin Michael Richardson’s had his share of villainous roles with his deep and menacing voice, and his portrayal of Joker in 2004’s animated series “The Batman” is no exception. This Clown Prince of Crime is wild in every possible way: from his crazy dreadlocks, insane laugh, harebrained schemes and monkey kung-fu fighting style. It’s truly a unique version of the Joker and Richardson is more than able to keep up. The world’s a stage for this cuckoo clown, and he lives to be the center of attention while he drives everyone else as crazy as he is.
#6: Jeff Bennett
“Batman: The Brave and the Bold” (2008-11)
Jeff Bennett’s voiced some hilarious characters over the years, which makes him the perfect candidate to voice the Joker in the more light-hearted series: Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Serving as a tribute to his more comedic side seen in the early comics and 60’s TV series. As eccentric as they come, Joker is all over the place in this series, even teaming up with Batman to defeat Owlman. He could drop crime and be a hero, but where’s the fun in that? In his twisted eyes, This Joker is the villain that the other crooks look up to; and with the right power, even taking over his own animated world.
#5: John DiMaggio
“Batman: Under the Red Hood” (2010)
Everyone knows John DiMaggio as Bender from Futurama or Jake from Adventure Time, but DC fans will recognize him for his creepily fantastic portrayal of the Joker in Batman: Under the Red Hood. He already makes a great first impression by killing off the infamous second Robin – Jason Todd. He depicts the Joker as a much more calculated villain, with clinical insanity replaced with genuine malice and cruelty. With his deep mocking voice, DiMaggio nails it at portraying one of the darkest incarnations of the sadistic jester.
#4: Cesar Romero
How could we talk about The Joker without mentioning the first actor to bring the iconic laugh into everyone’s homes? The 1960’s Adam West series was the very first Batman show, and it doesn’t get any more self-aware than this. So it only fits that a campy Batman should fight a campy Joker armed with shocking joy buzzers, sneezing powder, and plenty of creative deathtraps. This felonious funnyman is more of a prankster than his sociopathic successors, but Romero’s boundless energy and shrieking laughter left a powerful impression that served as a foundation for all future Jokers to follow.
#3: Mark Hamill
“Batman: The Animated Series” (1992-99)
Now we come to the king of Joker voice actors: Mark Hamill. Making his debut as the clown in Batman: The Animated Series, Hamill treats Joker’s laugh like a musical instrument, and seeing him at work in the recording studio is truly magical. He continued the role throughout most of the DC Animated Universe features, and became the most recognized and iconic voice. Even though we’ve just gone over some really good animated performances, anytime we hear the Joker and it’s not Mark Hamill, there is always a little bit of disappointment. He keeps trying to retire from the role and they always bring him back, and we hope he will always be around to give us the crazy.
#2: Jack Nicholson
No one expected Michael Keaton to nail the role of Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 movie, but Jack Nicholson’s Joker really steals the show here. Nicholson is no stranger to depicting unbridled insanity, and the mental breakdown that turns Joker’s from wild card crook to insane crime boss is one of the character’s most memorable moments ever.
Not only does he ace The Joker’s creepiness, but he also shows off boundless energy that even rivals that of Cesar Romero. Always trying to outshine The Dark Knight and steal the spotlight, Nicolson’s performance is both theatrical and authentic.
Before we unveil our number one Joker, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Injustice: Gods Among Us” [Video Game] (2013)
Cameron Monaghan as ‘Jerome’
#1: Heath Ledger
“The Dark Knight” (2008)
Taking the number one spot is unarguably the most realistic and terrifying portrayal of The Joker in Batman history. While Batman’s origin story may have been examined in detail during Christopher Nolan’s now classic trilogy, his version of the Joker is that of a character with purpose, but seemingly no cause. Ledger manages to portray the Joker as believably real, without having to sacrifice any of the character’s well established quirks – honoring the source material while building upon it at the same time. Showcasing every established personality disorder classically associated with The Joker, the sheer spectrum of talent on display here is nothing short of spectacular. The role that arguable lead to his tragic death 2008, it’s his performance, and not the events surrounding it that cements him as the best portrayal of The Crown Prince of Crime.