By Natalia Avayu
May 13, 2024

The last one was the most controversial. Is it really the worst interpretation of the character?

Joaquin Phoenix has been lauded for his role in Joker, a movie about the most influential villain in fiction history, which has recently premiered at movie theaters and has thousands of fans loving the film, and even comparing it to the one starred by the late Heath Ledger.

In relation to the premier, and to remember the other actors who’ve played the same character, Esquire magazine ranked the eight versions of the Joker.

Batman’s enemy created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson in 1940, it was written for cinema and television and here you can see every version ranked from the worst to the best one.

8. Jared Leto (Suicide Squad)

DC Entertainment

It was the most controversial version of the villain. In fact, Esquire deemed him as “awkward to watch and pretty ridiculous”.

“Leto seemed to be attempting a clown villain that fell somewhere between Heath Ledger’s unhinged performance in The Dark Knight and a disgruntled Hot Topic employee.” 

– Esquire Magazine.

7. Zach Galifianakis (The Lego Batman Movie)

Warner Animation Group

The actor from “The Hangover” was chosen as the voice for the Joker in this movie.

“Though he’s not as menacing and villainous as most of the others on this list, Galifianakis’s Joker is memorable for being as hammy and bizarre as the actor himself.” 

-Esquire Magazine.

6. Cameron Monaghan (Gotham)

DC Entertainment

Gotham, the TV series, after five seasons, also has a Joker. He was compared to Frankenstein.

“Unlike much of the series, Gotham’s take on The Joker’s origin story was quite faithful to the comics, and when Monaghan’s Jeremiah Valeska fell into the pool of acid at the Ace Chemicals tower, his transformation had some serious Tim Burton vibes. Monaghan did a fine, albeit short-lived take on the laughing nemesis.”

-Esquire Magazine.

5. Cesar Romero (Batman TV Series)

For Esquire, Romero’s interpretation was the “lighter” one in comparison to the others.

“Romero’s portrayal is stupid and goofy. Some longtime fans of the franchise still think this is the defining Joker: an oddball who’s a little scary and a lot weird. Others say it was just too cartoonish.” 

Esquire Magazine.

4. Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

DC Films

Phoenix’s take on the character has been described as the “darkest, most realistic and more twisted” of them.

Phoenix’s performance is incredible, from the little ticks, to the dancing, to his pathological laughter. But it feels as if, at times, Phoenix is doing too much. This version of the Joker is almost too human, as if he’s begging you to sympathize with this character.”

Esquire Magazine.

3. Jack Nicholson (Batman)

DC Films

It’s one of the most iconic and remembered interpretations in history. With Michael Keaton as Batman, Tim Burton’s Joker marked an entire generation.

“Nicholson perfectly balanced the lightness of Romero with the darker roots of the character’s 1940s noir origins. Backed by Burton’s spooky aesthetic, with a soundtrack that combined both Prince and Danny Elfman, Nicholson’s Joker has become a bonafide film legend.”

-Esquire Magazine.

2. Mark Hamill (Batman Animated Series)

DC Entertainment

The actor behind Luke Skywalker also played The Joker. This one was a little bit more unknown, but also a pop culture hit, since this was the Joker that appeared next to Harley Quinn that started in the TV series.

“His sharp, cunning, hyena-like voice acting for the character in the kickass Batman Animated Series is the defining Joker of our time.” 

-Esquire Magazine.

1. Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

The most beloved Joker of all times, and the most remembered by this new generation, to the point that many have named him as the best one. In fact, this actor was able to improvise some of the scene and play his character in excellent form.

“Christopher Nolan brought Batman into the modern era. His Dark Knight trilogy changed the game for the hero, warping the spooky of aesthetic of the Burton era into the much scarier, much more realistic world of a post 9-11 America (…) The breadth of his career shows that the actor was capable of staggering dramatic depth. His performance as The Joker is electrifying, and he was the best  character has ever been.” 

-Esquire Magazine.

Which was your favorite one?