Happy Bye Week 2.0!! Since Georgia Tech has two bye weeks this year, we’re fully taking advantage and giving you another whole week of power rankings! I get to get things started off this week, so I’m going to talk about a character that recently had a movie made about him: the Joker.
The Joker is one of my favorite characters in all media, and I always love to see new versions of this character. The way that I view the Joker is that he can literally be anyone; all it takes is a little push. That makes it a lot more entertaining for me, as it helps explain why the Joker doesn’t really have or need a defined backstory.
I could come up with some criteria as to why I’m ranking them in the order I am, but I’ll just leave it at this: I’m ranking them by which one I like the most. If you don’t like my order, give me yours below in the comments! Now, let us begin with the bottom of the list!
6. Cesar Romero
Cesar Romero is really the original Joker to ever be in a TV show or movie. There may have been others before him, but none that quite had the impact that Romero did. He was a perfect fit for the 60s Batman TV show. He was goofy and campy and had a wonderful laugh, fitting for a Joker. I certainly don’t hate Romero’s Joker, but I never saw much of it. I’ve seen the movie and the TV show in syndication and thought they were fine, but I think the other Jokers on this list just bring a good bit more to the table.
5. Jared Leto
Appearances: Suicide Squad (2016)
I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering how I could rank the guy with “Damaged” tattooed across his forehead and a grill as something other than dead last. Well, I know this might be a hot take, but I really don’t hate Jared Leto’s version of the Joker. I like how different this version of the Joker is, especially following Heath Ledger’s performance, which we’ll get to later.
My biggest problem is that we don’t get to see much of the Joker in Suicide Squad. I think if he had been given more time to actually show what he can do, he would have been more well-received. I’m not a fan of his laugh, but I think he does a great job of playing to the narcissistic personality of the Joker, which is certainly a choice. Leto’s Joker is always in control of the situation and knows exactly what he’s doing, and personally, I appreciate Jared Leto (and the writers of the movies) for providing us with a very different version of the Joker instead of trying to recreate a past Joker.
4. Jack Nicholson
Appearances: Batman (1989)
Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight? Formerly the hitman named Jack Napier, this version of the Joker has a very specific backstory that we don’t see much from other Jokers, that is, he killed Thomas and Martha Wayne. Personally, I don’t really like that part of the backstory. I think the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents and the Joker should remain two not-directly-related parts of his life.
There’s also a lot to like about Nicholson’s Joker, starting of course with Nicholson himself. I don’t know what it is, but he is really good at playing someone that is completely insane, and that’s the case here. We get a revenge-focused Joker that has a lot of fun doing what he does before he meets his demise at the hands of Batman at the end of the movie, which was...not really fitting for Batman, but it is what it is.
3. Cameron Monaghan
Appearances: Gotham (2015-2019)
Despite never physically taking the name “Joker,” Cameron Monaghan plays two different Jokers through his two characters in the Fox TV show, Gotham: twins Jeremiah and Jerome Valeska. Jerome got things started in Season 1 when he was arrested for killing his mother. Up to the point that was revealed, he played innocent, but then we got the cackle as he admitted to it. From there, we watched Jerome continue to descend into madness, as he attempted to set a school bus full of high schoolers on fire, take over GCPD, have his face removed completely and then stapled back into place. Oh yeah, he also died and then was brought back to life by the cult that his actions as the Joker inspired before ultimately dying again.
But wait, there’s more! Jerome had a twin brother that nobody knew about. A young man named Jeremiah, who was the opposite of Jerome in almost every way. He was brilliant and not the least bit crazy. At least he wasn’t until he got a little going away present from Jeremiah: a face-full of Joker gas, a super-powered chemical laughing toxin that drove Jeremiah insane. He became a much darker, intelligent form of the Joker. He was calm, collected, and easily the smartest person in any room. His growing obsession with Bruce Wayne culminated with the end of the series, which saw Jeremiah take a dip in the infamous vat of chemicals to complete his transition into full-fledged Joker.
2b. Joaquin Phoenix
Appearances: Joker (2019)
Earlier this month, we got the newest Joker to add to this list in Joaquin Phoenix. Since the movie is still less than a month old, I won’t spend a whole lot of time talking about specifics, so as to not spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it yet. Instead, I’ll try to keep it a little more general.
Quite frankly, I’m not a huge fan of this version of the Joker, in that, he is not cold and calculating, but rather, he’s just completely insane. I also don’t like how mental illness is treated in the film. It’s not great, especially in 2019. It’s something that I think could have been handled a lot better. Despite all that, I still rank this version of the Joker this high for one primary reason: Joaquin Phoenix. Without a doubt, I’d say this version of the Joker is the most well-acted version. Phoenix absolutely nails it. The movie is worth seeing for his performance alone.
2a. Heath Ledger
Appearances: The Dark Knight (2008)
Would you like to know how I got these scars? One of the greatest portrayals of any comic book villain ever, Heath Ledger comes in at Number 2 for me. He is everything I want in the Joker. He’s a complete sociopath that wants one thing: chaos. And he will stop at nothing to get it. Add in Ledger’s incredible performance, and it’s clear why this is one of my top Jokers. I don’t have much to add here, so go watch The Dark Knight.
1. Mark Hamill
I should preface this by saying that Mark Hamill is one of my favorite actors of all time. From playing Luke Skywalker to the Joker to Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Hamill has played key roles in a few things that hold a special place in my life. And quite honestly, I think his version of the Joker is the best.
Let’s start with the laugh. Some of the guys on this list have a good laugh, but none of them are as terrifyingly creepy as Hamill’s. He plays a version of the Joker that is all of the good parts of Heath Ledger’s Joker but is somehow more insane.
We also get to see Hamill portray the Joker in a wide variety of things, whether it be Batman: The Animated Series, one of the DC animated movies, or one of several video games. Because of that, I also think Hamill’s Joker is very underrated, because a lot of people don’t take the time to watch him. So do yourself a favor: if you don’t know much about Hamill’s Joker, go to YouTube and watch as many clips of it as you can. You won’t be sorry.
How do you rank the Jokers?