The Joker: Who Played the Clown Prince of Crime the Best?

Ahead of Jared Leto debuting The Joker in Suicide Squad, we break down the best version of the crown prince of crime over the years….

By Chris Smolinksi — special to Nerdcore Movement

So yesterday we got a full out glimpse of Jared Leto’s Joker. He made the cover of Empire Magazine, totally rocking his Arkham Asylum pants and a, crock skin?, leather jacket. So this got me thinking, there have been a TON on Jokers played, mostly animated, but who are the best?

I sat down and researched the idea. I watched video after video of all the voices that have played Mr. J, ok I actually only watched three videos where it played a bit of each person’s Joker, but to my defense they were each 10 minutes long.

What I took away from all these Jokers is that you either have a Jack Nicholson, the gangster type jokester. Guys like Larry Storch, Lenny Weinrib, and Michael McKean all played this type of Joker. Then you have the Heath Ledger, psychotic jokester type. Guys like Mark Hamill, Richard Epcar, and Kevin Michael Richardson all played this type of Joker. It really boiled down to the writing and the theme of the show.

Which leads me to my first selection:

Honorable Mention: Cesar Romero

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How can I not have him in my list, I mean Cesar was the very first Joker. He played the J man on the old Batman TV series. He was a very campy Joker, but then again, so was the show, it fit perfectly. Back in the 60s TV was didn’t have a grey area, so things were either good or bad. The villains of the 60s were more like the old cowboy version, where they would steal the girl and tie her to the train tracks but the good guy always got there in time to save her, yeah that kind of bad guy. Elaborate stunts that never worked in their favor. Cesar’s J was kooky and fun, and that’s why he makes my list as honorable Mention.

No. 5: Kevin Michael Richardson

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In the number five spot I put Kevin Michael Richardson’s Joker. He played the J man in The Batman (animated TV series) from 2004 – 2008.

This show got very mixed reviews. From what I watched of it, which wasn’t a ton, it was funny. It looked good enough that if it came out today, I would watch it. I mean it got a 7.5 rating on IMDB, so it couldn’t be that bad. Anyway, Kevin’s Joker is sinister and much more loose cannony, which fit the show perfectly.

No. 4: Ricard Epcar

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In my book, number four goes to Richard Epcar. He played the Joker in the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Richard also played Mr. J in Mortal Kombat vs DC and Infinite Crisis, as well as about a million other games. Epcar was creepy but keep the clown side, well clowny. He had a mix of fun and demise all rolled up in a dynamite package. His skill as the Joker just seems to improve every time he lays down the vocals for him.

No. 3 and No. 2: Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger

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In the number three spot, and the number two spot, only because I can’t decide which is better, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger.

The reason I can’t pick which is better is because picking either of them isn’t a wrong answer.

They were both fantastic characters. Jack played Mr. J in Batman’s first movie role since Cesar Romaro did 20-plus years before him. He took the Joker from a lovable loser and turned him upside down in Tim Burton’s Batman, turning him into the real clown prince of crime. He was truly diabolical and wanted nothing less than complete destruction. Yet he showed a soft, sort of, side that was full of pranks almost like he was a clown that played as a psycho. He also had some fantastic lines, “Wait until they get a load of me!” and so on.

Heath on the other hand was a complete psycho who dressed up as a clown in The Dark Knight. He just wanted the world to burn, starting with Batman and Gotham. To me they really are polar opposites but they both convey the same devious character.

No. 1: Mark Hamill 

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Number one, and by a long shot, goes to Mark Hamill. Yes Luke Skywalker plays the best Joker you will ever hear/see.

Mark played Mr. J many times, most notable in the Rocksteady Batman series of games, and Batman: The Animated Series. He is also going to voice the Joker one last time in the video adaptation of the Killing Joke comic, which is my favorite one by far. Mark is both campy and maniacal as the Joker. He is straight jacket crazy, but fun loving and laugh out loud funny. Many people get by as the Joker because they have a good laugh, but Mark’s is by far the best in the business. He is perfect as the Joker and will forever be on the top of the mountain.

I do have a P.S. person to mention before I sign off. Cameron Monaghan, though it turns out he wasn’t the Joker on Gotham, could have played a fantastic one. I bet he would have made many a lists. He had it all, jokes, scariness, creepiness, you name it, the kid portrayed it.

One final thought, in my opinion Jared Leto isn’t going to be the Joker. I know they are calling him Mr. J, but I feel like he is going to be the “next” Joker, not the original one. Maybe even a former Batman associate…

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