The Joker is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most iconic villains in history.
On par with Darth Vader, The Joker's become instantly recognisable and a household name - something that can be attributed to the many actors, down through the years, who've given the character life through exceptional performances. It's been the subject of countless debates, so once and for all, we're drawing a line underneath it.
Who was the best on-screen Joker? Was it Jack Nicholson in the 1989 Batman? Was it Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight? Was it Cesar Romero back in the '60s? Was it Mark Hamill in Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm and the '90s Animated Series? Or is the best yet to come with Jared Leto in Suicide Squad or Zach Galifinakis in the Lego Batman Movie?
Here's a quick rundown on the choices...
JACK NICHOLSON in Batman '89
As the man himself described it, Tim Burton's take on the Joker was akin to pop art. In fact, Nicholson's own fascination with art was written specifically into the character at his suggestion. For our money, Nicholson's Joker was the funniest and most deranged. Just take a look at this.
MARK HAMILL in Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm
Many would consider Hamill's take on the character as being the closest in spirit to the comics. At the very least, Hamill's Joker bridged the gap between Cesar Romero's truly clownish performance and Jack Nicholson's more toxic, deranged version. Hamill's high-pitched laughter and ability to shape his voice around the Joker was incredible and definitely puts him high in our estimation.
JARED LETO in Suicide Squad
Although we haven't seen Suicide Squad in its entirety, the trailers are showing off an interesting take on Joker. More akin to an actual crime figure than a crazed terrorist / prankster, Leto's Joker costumes and mannerisms appear to be inspired by the likes of Tony Montana and Scarface than anything else.
HEATH LEDGER in The Dark Knight
It's funny to think back when Ledger was announced as the Joker and how many people protested his casting. You really couldn't imagine any other actor taking on the Joker in the way Heath Ledger did. More than anything, both Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger managed to focus the Joker through the prism of reality. There's been countless theories about Ledger's Joker; that he was a former soldier with PTSD, that he was hired by the League of Shadows and Ra's Al Ghul. One thing's for certain, Ledger's Joker was the most extreme version of the character seen so far.
CESAR ROMERO in Batman '66
It's easy to dismiss Cesar Romero's Joker as being a clownish, outdated version of the character. It's more about understanding the context in which it exists. The very idea of taking Batman seriously, that he was a serious character and an intimidating one, was utterly ridiculous in the '60s. You just couldn't picture it in any way, shape or form. So, the option was to go in the exact opposite direction and turn Batman into a live-action cartoon. With that in mind, Cesar Romero played Joker to the absolute hilt, screaming and cackling his way through the series. The same goes for Burgess Meredith's Penguin, completely screeching in a similar fashion.
ZACH GALIFINAKIS in The Lego Batman Movie
Like Suicide Squad, we can't claim to have seen much of what's in store, but Zach Galifinakis as the Joker strikes us as pitch-perfect casting. Whether he'll play it straight (highly unlikely) or make reference to previous iterations, nobody can say for sure. Galifinakis doesn't take roles all that lightly, so if he's involved, he's clearly got some ideas up his sleeve.