The Joker is a warped, sadistic serial killer and sinister crime boss. He’s one of the most recognisable Batman Villains and often pitched as Batman’s evil equal. The Joker is an icon of the DC universe, a character whom carefully mixes madness, violence and humour.
Described by his creators as ‘visually exciting, bizarre and memorable’, as well as a ‘remorseless serial killer’, Joker has come to leave quite an indelible mark across many different types of creative medium, including film. With these descriptors in mind, we’ll be ranking each live-action silver screen incarnation of the character from worst to best in this, our Live-Action Jokers edition of Ranked.
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5. Jared Leto – Suicide Squad (2016)
In Suicide Squad (2016), it feels as though Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto is offering little more than his best attempt to create a version of Joker that isn’t like that of Heath Ledger’s, which is understandable seeing as how he was the first to play the role following Ledger’s Oscar-winning, career-defining presentation of the character in The Dark Knight in 2008. The issue with this approach is that the performance lacks depth, and it’s tough to claim that it ever had any on the page either – what Squad offers is a gangster version of the Joker (“Gangsta” by Kehlani is played over one of Harley’s memories of him) who looks like he was created by a person operating under the instruction of ” create a psychopathic crime boss for those playstation kids” and has little more to do in the narrative than alter Harley Quinn’s position within it.
Leto’s green hair is so green it’s comical (not in a good way) and he is wearing lipstick as opposed to anythimg even close to the Joker grin. Instead, he has a grin tattoo on his hand. Rather than sinister or even mysterious, it feels like Leto is doing an impression of Jim Carrey (who did play the Riddler in Batman Forever) doing The Joker for an SNL sketch rather than an anticipated performance from an award winning actor in a high budget and at one time promising movie.
Visually Exciting: No.
Bizarre: Yes, but not in a good way.
Memorable: Please no.
Remorseless Killer: Yeah sure.
4. Cesar Romero – Batman (1966)
Just beating Leto for his comic (and not in a good way) version of The Joker is Cesar Romero. Of course, Romero does suffer from being a part of the Silver Age of the Batman series – under the Comic Code Authority rules on “depictions of violence”, The Joker lost his murderous backstory and became more of a prankster villain – and as such he comes across as an arch-nemesis who is more likely to tickle you in an attempt to be annoying than to burn you with acid. In Batman he becomes almost a henchman for The Penguin, doing whatever he is told, all while laughing of course. Romero’s Joker is a court jester and lacks the manic spirit that the character has become known and loved for having, and his position within the narrative as a lackie for Penguin proves it.
Famously, Romero refused to shave off his ‘Latin Lover’ moustache for this movie, and as such it is simply painted over. In retrospect he may have some charm, but the reality is that this depiction is far from the groundbreaking quality of those to come.
Visually Exciting: Only in an ironic way.
Bizarre: Not really.
Remorseless Killer: Not even a little bit.