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The Best Joker Portrayals And Where Joaquin Phoenix Fits In

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?
by Emmanuel Calingacion | Jul 17, 2018
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About a week ago, it was finally confirmed that Joaquin Phoenix is set to play the role of the finest villain in comic and movie history, The Clown Prince of Crime, Joker.

Warner Bros. has confirmed that the low-budget origin story will focus on the “exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study but also a broader cautionary tale,” which will reportedly take place in the '80s. It will play out as a gritty, crime drama rather than a blockbuster superhero film. We can only assume what kind of Joker Joaquin Phoenix will portray, but if it is an origin story, we hope it will refer to the classic 1988 one-shot graphic novel, The Killing Joke.

This, of course, does not mean that Suicide Squad star Jared Leto is out of the table. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker will be a standalone release that’s outside of the continuity of the current DC Extended Universe.

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Speaking of other Jokers, there have been countless reincarnations of the Joker in animated series and movies, live-action films, and video games. Obviously, the Joker is one of the most prominent characters ever. From his debut in Batman #1 back in 1940, The Jester of Genocide has been the primary nemesis of the Caped Crusader. Would you believe that back then, just after his second appearance in the Batman comics, it was being planned to get him killed off the series so Batman wouldn’t appear incapable of ending the villain’s reign of terror?

If that unfortunate cancellation happened, we wouldn’t have the best cinematic portrayals of Mistah J. This is the reason why we should all count our blessings, preferably from good to best of those who have portrayed the Joker to their utmost best.

5. Cesar Romero Joker

Don’t get us wrong, Cesar Romero was outstanding as the Joker. To be honest, he was the perfect actor to play Joker in the 1960s Batman TV show. His performance basically made the template of every Joker actor that came after him. What limits his comedic take on the Joker is just that: '60s comedy that hindered the abilities of the character to become a sinister villain that Batman had to thwart. Plus, there's that issue that he wouldn't shave his moustache for the role. So, if you look closely, you'll actually see that they just painted over it.

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4. Jared Leto Joker

This could’ve been something really great, but this is the Joker that we got to spend the least time with. To be honest, we didn’t mind Jared Leto in this role. Majority of his performance, which isn’t much, convinced you to root for him and Harley and their unusual kind of “love.” Plus, it’s great to see a Harley Quinn-Joker dynamic in live-action for the first time. But the problem was there wasn’t much depth in the character since he appeared on the big screen for about 15 minutes. Hopefully, we see a lot more of his tattooed take on the Clown Prince of Crime because Jared Leto is one of this generation's greatest character actors. 

3. Jack Nicholson Joker

Jack Nicholson was actually the first to introduce us to the Joker we all loved and hated at the same time. Nicholson almost effortlessly stole the spotlight from Michael Keaton in the 1989 Batman. He maintained the insanity, and the humor throughout the film to produce his own take on the Clown Prince of Crime. Jack Nicholson hit this role out of the park with his acting and trademark sinister look to make it a little more realistic. The only downside was his age. Nicholson was too old to actually put up a fist fight against Keaton's Dark Knight. But other than that, the dude was perfect!

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2. Mark Hamill Joker

When Batman: the Animated Series was at its highest popularity, we could all agree that Mark Hamill's voice alone could induce nightmares of evil homicidal clowns, especially when Batman: Mask of the Phantasm came out in theaters. Hamill didn't need to be in front of the camera but just behind a mic to create the iconic Joker tone and personality we all know. The distinct Joker laugh, the sinister voice, the funny evil side of his personality, all of the different dynamics were present in Mark Hamill's portrayal of the Joker. It would've been amazing to see him actually be the Joker in a live-action movie.

1. Heath Ledger Joker

2008's The Dark Knight gave us probably the best incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime, and Heath Ledger has a post-humous Oscar under his name to prove it. Of course, when he was first cast, we couldn't help but have doubts in the Brokeback Mountain actor, but he absolutely blew us away with his unique and darker take with the sadism dialed up to 10000000. You couldn't even see Ledger beneath the makeup. His humor was terrifyingly grim and he outwitted the Batman at every turn. We're not sure if it was all happening according to plan or just things going his way in all the chaos. This is, without a doubt, the best Joker portrayal known to mankind.

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