One of the crown jewels of bad guys in movies is Batman’s main nemesis, The Joker. While Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger remain the most popular actors to play the bad guy, there have been many iconic versions in movies, television and the animated world. The latest man to play The Joker is Michael Emerson, who many television fans remember as Ben from “Lost.” Emerson appears as The Joker in the upcoming “The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2,” which hits stores and video-on-demand on Jan. 29.
Here is a look at the most iconic versions of The Joker and how many actors reinvented the character into their own image.
Cesar Romero starred as The Joker in the Batman television series in the ’60s and reprised the role in the 1966 film “Batman: The Movie.” Romero brought a sense of dashing brilliance to his role as the lunatic Clown Prince of Crime. Romero, who refused to shave off his mustache for the role, simple painted his entire face white, including the mustache, giving him an iconic look no other actor achieved.
For many people, the best Batman remains Jack Nicholson, who appeared in Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” film. The problem with this Batman is that Nicholson was playing a psychopathic version of himself in the role. However, the madness that Nicholson brings with him to all his roles fit The Joker perfectly. Jack took the comic book character and brought him to the big screen, a murderous psychopath with a giant smile on his face and quirky one-liners. He made it almost impossible to follow.
One man whose name always comes up in conversations about who the best Joker of all time is might come as a surprise to some people. There are many, many people who place Mark Hamill, the man who played Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars,” above both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger in the argument. Hamill voiced The Joker in animated movies, including “Mask of the Phantasm” and “Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker.” Overall, he voiced The Joker from 1992 until 2011, when the video game “Batman: Arkham City” featured the last time Hamill uttered his now legendary laugh.
The man that most people today look to as the crown jewel of The Joker’s existence is Heath Ledger, a man who brought anarchy and unrest to the role. Ledger died shortly after completing his performance as The Joker and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor posthumously. Unlike those before him, Ledger was not so much a clown, but more of a dangerous sociopath with no regard for any kind of civilized plans, simply killing and creating chaos everywhere he went. With Ledger, the crazed smile was gone, replaced with a scarred, evil demeanor.