The Joker is an actor’s dream role. Who doesn’t want to play a psycho killer clown? There have been so many interpretations of The Joker over the years. Sometimes he’s dark and twisted, sometimes he’s zany and playful, and sometimes he has an evil twin (I’m looking at you Gotham).
Joaquin Phoenix is about to bring The Joker’s story to the big screen yet again. Before that happens, let’s take a look back at all the actors who have smiled their way through sadism as this perfect Batman villain.
In 1989, Tim Burton directed perhaps the most iconic Batman film ever created. Jack Nicholson was cast as The Joker. Nicholson is no stranger to psychotic characters. With roles in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Shining already under his belt, he seemed like a natural choice.
Nicholson completely stole the show as The Joker, so much so that we can’t help but compare everyone who’s played the villain after him to this performance.
In 2008, Heath Ledger played The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. This film took a more realistic approach to the classic superhero flick, giving us a darker, more grisly look at Gotham. Ledger described The Joker as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.”
Unfortunately, Ledger died of a drug overdose before the film was released. Many people think that the depths to which Ledger explored this dangerous character may have contributed to his poor mental state at the time of his death.
Hugo Blick portrayed a young Jack Napier, the man who would become The Joker, in Burton’s 1989 Batman film. Although he never donned the famous Joker makeup, he set the stage for Jack Nicholson’s performance.
Blick plays The Joker before he’s dropped into Axis Chemical acid.
Cameron Monaghan plays a variation of The Joker on the television show Gotham. Gotham is intended to be a prequel to the Batman story, so Monaghan plays an early version of The Joker (although he’s never explicitly named as The Joker).
Cameron actually plays two characters. Jerome Valeska, and his twin brother, Jermaine Valeksa.
In October 2019, Joaquin Phoenix will star as The Joker in Todd Phillips’s film Joker. The movie will give us a closer look at how The Joker became the maniacal villain we know and love to hate.
We’ve only gotten a few glimpses of Phoenix in his Joker makeup so far, but I can’t wait to see what he does with the role.
Larry Storch was an American comedian and voice actor. He is the first actor to ever voice Batman’s arch enemy, The Joker, as a cartoon. Storch also leant his voice to other iconic cartoon characters, such as Cool Cat, Merlin the Magic Mouse, and the Tin Man.
He also voiced characters on Scooby-Doo, Treasure Island, and The Pink Panther Show.
You probably know Mark Hamill best as Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars film franchise. During the long Star Wars hiatus, Mark Hamill seemed to fly under the radar. A lot of people thought he wasn’t doing much acting because they weren’t seeing him in popular films.
Hamill was in fact making a living as an actor— a voice actor. His most famous voice acting role was as The Joker in the 1992 series Batman: The Animated Series.
In 2016, Jared Leto portrayed The Joker in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. Although critics enjoyed Leto’s performance, they weren’t so thrilled with the film overall.
Leto described his role as “nearly Shakespearean” and “a beautiful disaster of a character.” Leto took a method acting approach and never broke character during filming.
Cesar Romero played The Joker from 1966 to 1968 on the television series Batman. He refused to shave his mustache for the role, so he simply covered it with white makeup.
He also played The Joker in the 1996 Batman film. His version of the character was included in TV Guide’s 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time.
Jeff Bennet is an American singer and voice actor. He’s the man behind Johnny Bravo, The Man with the Yellow Hat in Curious George, Merlin in Sofia the First, and a whole bunch of Batman: The Brave and the Bold characters— including The Joker, of course.
I think I’d like to a be a voice actor in my next life. It seems like a fun job.
Fight Batman Fight! is an unauthorized Filipino Batman film that was released in 1973. It stars famous Filipino actors, including Rod Navarro as The Joker.
Rod Navarro was also the host of Tawag ng Tanghalan, which translates to “Call of the Stage.” It was a Filipino singing competition show that ran in the ’60s and early ’70s. A new incarnation of it is still going on today.
John DiMaggio has become something of a famous voice actor, however paradoxical that phrase may be. He’s best known for voicing Jake on Adventure Time and Bender on Futurama.
DiMaggio voiced The Joker in Batman: Under the Red Hood, Lego DC Comics Superheroes, and Lego DC Comics: Batman Be-Leaguered.
In 2017, Zach Galifianakis voiced The Joker in The Lego Batman Movie. Galifianakis also plays a clown character in his show, Baskets.
This may not have been the most serious performance of The Joker ever, but in the words of The Joker himself, “why so serious?” We can have a bit of fun with this character too.
Christopher Corey Smith
Christopher Corey Smith is an American voice actor who’s known for providing English-dubs of various Japanese anime shows. He voiced The Joker in Lego Batman: The Movie— DC Superheroes Unite.
He also leant his voice to the character in several video games featuring Lego Batman and the Lego Joker.
American actor Michael Emerson voiced The Joker in the straight-to-video films Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 and Batman The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2.
Emerson is better known for his live-action acting work. He played serial killer William Hinks on The Practice and he played Benjamin Linus on Lost.
Kevin Michael Richardson
Kevin Michael Richardson was nominated for two daytime Emmys for voicing The Joker in The Batman from 2004 to 2008. He’s also voiced Captain Gantu in the Lilo and Stitch franchise, Goro in Mortal Combat, and Barney Rubble in The Flintstones: On the Rocks.
This guy is a voice acting superstar.
Jeff Bergman is a voice actor who’s provided voices for a lot of the modern day Looney Tunes characters. He also voiced The Joker in Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader and Batman vs. Two-Face.
Bergman voiced The Joker opposite Adam West, who voiced Batman.
Tony Hale voiced The Joker in the 2018 film Batman Ninja. Batman Ninja is a Japanese animated superhero movie directed by Junpei Mizusaki.
IGN gave the film a score of 9.7 out of 10, adding,”DC tried something new by bringing in visionary Japanese animators to offer a refreshing take on one of the company’s most beloved characters, and the finished product not only built upon the great adaptations that have come before, but surpassed them.”
Troy Baker is an American voice actor best known for playing lead characters in several video games. He voiced Joel in The Last of Us, Kanji Tatsumi in Persona 4, Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite, and, of course, The Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins.
Do you think this guy has the coolest job in the world? Because I do.
Ok, you caught me. Willem Dafoe hasn’t actually played The Joker… yet. There’s still time. I’m not giving up on this dream.
I don’t know why this hasn’t happened yet. He’s perfect. His last name is literally “da foe.” Look at this artist’s rendering of Dafoe as the Joker and tell me you don’t want this. You can’t. It’s amazing.