Ranking the Joker performances

October 4, 2019

“Joker” is making headlines this weekend with a controversial origin story.

Where does Joaquin Phoenix rank among the best Joker performances?

Let the countdown begin.

6. Jared Leto — “Suicide Squad” (2016)

After reports of sending rats to his co-stars in some weird form of Method acting, Jared Leto’s performance was largely relegated to bizarre flashbacks and upstaged by Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.

5. Mark Hamill — “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992-1995)

An entire generation knows Mark Hamill as the animated voice of the Joker, but it’s hard to give him the edge for voice work over other live-action performances.

4. Cesar Romero — TV’s “Batman” (1966-1968)

The O.G. Joker was Cesar Romero, who hammed it up across Adam West’s Batman and Burt Ward’s Robin in the campy ’60s TV series. His villainy was matched by Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler and Julie Newmar’s Catwoman.

3. Joaquin Phoenix — “Joker” (2019)

Joaquin Phoenix is downright scary in this Joker origin story, losing 52 pounds for the role with his ribs protruding from his emaciated body. But it’s more than just a physical transformation. Phoenix wheezes as he tries to control sudden fits of piercing laughter, covering his mouth with his arm and crying because he can’t stop cackling. It’s heartbreaking. Read my review here.

2. Jack Nicholson — “Batman” (1989)

It might seem cartoonish in hindsight, but for all its candy-colored lunacy, Jack Nicholson’s Joker ushered in a darker brand of Batman under the guidance of Tim Burton. Nicholson was both terrifying (“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”) and hilarious (“This town needs an enema!”), earned an Oscar nomination.

1. Heath Ledger — “The Dark Knight” (2008)

“Why so serious?” Heath Ledger was so committed to the role that many believe it drove him to the grave. A grieving Academy honored him with a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, cementing Christopher Nolan’s film as the greatest superhero film ever made.

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