No joking around, Ledger still rises to the top

Hailee Munno, Staff Writer

Between Two-Faced, Bane, Cat Woman, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc and countless others, Batman has his fair share of enemies. After hundreds of battles, and even a fight with Superman, no one compares to the Cape Crusader’s deadliest enemy, the Joker.

Joker first appeared in DC comics “Batman 1” during the spring of 1940. Due to his popularity, Joker got his own comic series from 1975-1976. Since then, Joker has taken the DC universe by storm.

After appearing on television for the first time in the 1966 “Batman” hit television series, Joker became a staple in the future of Batman productions. The Clown Prince of Crime has been animated, made out of Legos and has appeared in over 250 film and television adaptations. 

The iconic character that is the Joker has been voiced and performed by many actors, leading to the endless debate, which actor played the best Joker?

Kicking off with Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman”, Nicholson’s version of the Joker  revived the character itself. 

Nicholson  added a dark twist to it in order to be the supervillain everyone loves, but his witty comebacks and puns kept the comic Joker alive. 

This rendition was groundbreaking, and it became the blueprint for future actors to play the Joker.

Heath Ledger’s rendition of the Joker in the 2008 blockbuster, “Dark Knight” is unmatched. His Joker is darker and more twisted than Nicholson’s  rendition. 

Ledger brought a fresh, never before seen version to the Joker, that will now go down in history as the best Joker performance. 

The inspiration for the 2008 Joker was loosely based on Nicholson’s 1989 Joker. He remained true to the comedic personality, yet it was no longer dark yet appealing, but psychotic and sick. 

Ledger’s incredible performance strays away from the comic book Joker, though, and turns it into a raw, chaotic and evil character. 

Ledger even coined the iconic phrase, “Why so serious?”

While watching this movie, the viewer doesn’t see Ledger; instead, the audience sees the true psychopath  that is the clown prince of crime. 

Ledger took preparing for this role to new levels. He isolated himself and  kept a diary consisting of all the feelings he had to get in the mindset of the Joker. 

According to a 2007 Empire interview, “I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices,” Leger said. 

In order to achieve the perfect Joker voice, he practiced for weeks on end.  

According to Empire, “It was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath — someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts. He’s just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown,” Leger said. 

He exhausted himself to the bone, requiring him to take days and sometimes weeks between scenes because of how much mental preparation he put into the role. 

Though Nicholson’s performance was great, every other actor to play the Joker in the future is held to the standard of Ledger’s variation for which he won an Academy Award. It is unforgettable, yet mentally disturbing. 

Jared Leto’s portrayal of the  Joker in the 2016 film “Suicide Squad”, left audiences with a disappointing version of the previous award-wining Joker. 

Like Ledger’s preparation , Leto went to some dark places to prepare for the role. He was reported to have visited a criminal asylum on various occasions. 

Leto allegedly spoke to, “people who had committed horrendous crimes, and people who have been institutionalized for great periods of time,” according to Entertainment Weekly. 

Leto also sent his “Suicide Squad” co stars odd packages such as bullets and even live rats. 

Though he took some pretty outrageous steps to prepare for this character, moviegoers were still left with a subpar performance.

Compared to the past performances of the Joker, Leto’s is an insult to the character itself. His rather shallow performance takes the damaged, emotional aspect away from the Joker. 

Leto overacted the role and made a parody of the character. His Joker wasn’t unique, and his mannerisms felt forced. 

Between the horribly tacky tattoos and the awful metallic grill, Leto’s rendition of the Joker is just not up to standard. Even so , Leto reprised his role as the Joker in “Justice League.”

Joaquin Phoenix in the 2019 film “Joker” brought a brand new approach. Phoenix shies away from Nicholson’s sarcastic  Joker and portrays him as a sick, psychopathic narcissist, with a laugh that will leave you with chills. “Joker” tells the story of Arthur Fleck, and the inner workings of his twisted mind. 


“Joker” tells the alternative origin story of the Joker. As a failing stand-up comedian that struggles with mental illness and lives with his mother, the audience watches the world beat down on Fleck and gains an understanding as to why he is so sick and twisted. 

Seeing Joker as Fleck really humanizes him and makes the audience see the scared, sick man he really is which elicits sympathy. 

In order to capture what Phoenix had in mind for his rendition of the Joker, he put himself through months of extreme weight loss. In the movie, he is seen as so skinny, filmgoers can even see his ribs. This was to create a sickly, scary aspect of the character itself. 

Not only did he lose weight, but he physically punished himself. To prepare for his role, he ran through the streets of New York and threw himself into an incoming taxi. 

It’s safe to say that Phoenix went the extra mile to prepare for this role. His embodiment of the Joker is totally new and feels completely raw and real.