The Joker is one of the most iconic comic book villains. He is also known as the clown prince of Gotham and arch-nemesis of fan favourite DC superhero Batman. There are several actors who have portrayed the character on screen.
The first actor to play the Joker was Cesar Romero in the 1960s Batman television series. He reprised his role in the 1966 film Batman. The Joker was a member of the United Underworld, alongside fellow Gotham City villains the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman.
Romero kept his Latin lover moustache in the white makeup. His version of the Joker was more a harmless fraud than a reckless Gotham villain, which was fairly good at the time. He had a childlike sense of mischief in both, the TV series and the film.
In Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman, Jack Nicholson took on the mantle of the Joker. The inspiration for the character was taken from Alan Moore’s comic, The Killing Joke.
It showed the transformation of Jack Napier into the Joker, as he falls into a vat of chemical waste, turning his skin white, his hair green, and his lips red. With Nicholson’s natural smile, which stood at par with the Joker, his performance was praised. He played both, the wise gangster and the lunatic with perfection.
Nicholson's performance was openly cruel, which gave many children’s nightmare, but also hilarious and clever. His Joker is also famous for the line,"Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?"
One of the best portrayal of the Joker is Heath Ledger's. He played the character in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2008. The Joker is hired by Gotham City's mob bosses to kill Batman and announces that he will kill people every day until Batman takes off his mask in public and surrenders himself to police.
Ledger stunned everyone with his finest performance of the manic clown. He set a new benchmark as the schizophrenic, mass-murdering, psychopathic clown with zero empathy. The actor won several awards.
After a milestone act by Heath Ledger, the depiction of the villain was more observed by the audiences. Jared Leto played the Joker in the DC Extended Universe in Suicide Squad. It shows how the clown prince of Gotham, turns Dr Harleen Quinzel into Harley Quinn and then rescues her from a deadly mission.
Leto impersonation of the character received several backlashes from many, as the expectations were high. However, others praise him for his performances in much less screen time. It was a modern gangster depiction.
Todd Philips’s Joker, a standalone film of the character, stars Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role. He portrays Arthur Flex, a party clown and aspiring stand-up comedian who suffers from a mental illness that causes pathological laughter. Due to uncertain events, he turned into the madman.
Phoenix received immense appreciation for his unique representation of both the comedian and the maniac. The actor is on a streak of winning several awards for his performance.
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