A Definitive Ranking of the Best (and Worst) Actors To Play The Joker

7. Cameron Monaghan (Gotham) Fox's series about a young Bruce Wayne never officially had a character called "The Joker," but the brothers Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska were supposed to represent "the idea" of the Joker. At the end of the series, it was unclear whether a third brother referred to as "J" became The Joker or if the characters themselves inspired the actual Joker in some other form. But nonetheless, Gotham used did a nice job of capturing the maniacal energy of what most people imagine the character to be. Plus, there's a scene where Jerome staples his face on ? And that's wild? The lack of ever properly being called "Joker" keeps him lower on our list, but it's a fun portrayal nonetheless. Fox

6. Cesar Romero (Batman [1966-1968]) Makeup and outfit aside, this version of The Joker is almost unrecognizable from the character we've come to expect today. With goofy plots and as a frequent object of slapstick humor, Cesar Romero's Joker is essentially a sitcom side character. Plus, Romero actually never shaved his mustache beneath his makeup, and you can see it clearly in just about every clip or still image. It is golden. ABC

5. Zach Galifianakis (The Lego Batman Movie) This brilliant spin-off of The Lego Movie features Zach Galifianakis as the perfect foil to Will Arnett's Batman (who, we should add, we also love ). Not too heavy, this Joker just wants to be worthy of Batman's attentionhe almost seems jealous of Batman's rivalry with Superman ("Not a bad guy!," Joker says). With so many other portrayals focusing on the character's darkness, Galifianakis shows it's still possible to poke a little fun at The Joker. Warner Bros.

4. Mark Hamill (Batman: The Animated Series and more) Mark Hamill is best known as Luke Skywalker, and that probably won't ever change. But in the time between Star Wars appearances, he earned a second career-defining role, voicing The Joker in a number of different Dark Knight properties. Starting with Batman: The Animated Series and continuing through other cartoons and video games , Hamill's sinister tone might actually be the one you imagine in your head when thinking about Batman's arch-nemesis. He's the most unhinged and maniacal of The Jokers, but most importantly? He nails the laugh . Nails it. Warner Bros.

3. Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) By default, Joaquin Phoenix's performance as Arthur Fleck/Joker in Joker is the most in-depth, multi-dimensional portrayal of the character ever. Where other films have simply shown him as the dark foil to Batman's hero, Joker shows us how he got to be the way he ishe's the main show here. And as always, Phoenix brought his A-game. The movie itself has been mired in controversy due to what some critics deem excessive violence, but Phoenix's performance in particular has been singled out as one of his best, which is really saying something. He's already one of the frontrunners for this year's Best Actor Oscar , and he's somehow never won before (despite literally acting his face off in Her, The Master, and Walk The Line, among many others). Warner Bros.

2. Jack Nicholson (Batman (1989)) For nearly 20 years, Jack Nicholson's Joker was the cinematic standard-bearer. This version of the character began as a mobster named Jack Napier, who transformed into The Joker after a fight with Batman led to chemical burns and facial scarring. Phoenix and Leto tried to totally transform The Joker into someone new, but Nicholson's portrayal is simpler: it's basically "evil Jack." Nicholson's legendary coolness and director Tim Burton's dark imagination helped make this Joker one of the most iconic villains of the '80s and '90s. Warner Bros.

1. Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) There are some people who like to say that The Dark Knight has "aged poorly" in the 11 years since its initial release, but those people, quite frankly, have no idea what they're talking about. It's going to take a long time for anyone to top Christian Bale as Batman (though Robert Pattinson is sure going to try), but more importantly, it seems like a fool's errand to try topping Heath Ledger's turn playing the Crown Prince of Crime. Introduced without a backstory or motive of any kind, Ledger's Joker isn't chill like Nicholson's or a try-hard like Leto'she thrives on pure, unadulterated intensity. Credit for that has to go, in some part, to director Christopher Nolan. The Dark Knight is filled with moments where your eyes are 100% glued to The Joker, and the devil's in the details: the frantic licking of his lips; the flicking his greasy, not-quite-green hair out of his face; sticking his head out of a moving car like a dog. Ledger's posthumous Oscar-winning performance. with the release of Joker, Joaquin Phoenix will certainly have his work cut out for him. Warner Bros.

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