The character of the Joker through the agesWatch full movie
From Jack Nicholson’s kooky jokester to Joaquin Phoenix’s haunting performance. Watch Joker on Showmax.
The Joker is comics books’ most famous and exciting villain. So popular and revered, it got a standalone movie, Todd Philips’ critically and commercially acclaimed Joker, currently streaming on Showmax. The creation of the character is fittingly controversial, with the three men – Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and Bill Finger – involved telling different tales of how it came to be. Interestingly, the character’s origin stories have also been different. Some comic books say he fell into a chemical ditch. Others say he was the leader of the red hood gang, one of Batman’s earliest adversaries in Gotham, and Phillips’s film put Joker as a mentally ill man pushed to destruction.
The Joker is also received differently by fans; a hero or antihero to some, a terrorist to others. Both sides agree that he’s a mad man, and his madness has unravelled uniquely over the years. The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight only desires chaos, while Jared Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad is a power-hungry king of Gotham and Harley Quinn’s obsessive boyfriend.
All of these make the Joker a joy to watch and portray. Below are some elite actors who have played Gotham’s crown prince and what they brought to the character.
Jack Nicholson’s Joker
In 1989’s Batman, Jack Nicholson kickstarted the dark Joker we see in mainstream movies today. Nicholson’s Joker is one of the most balanced and fully realized versions of the clown prince and has inspired recent depictions of the characters. He had the uncontrollable laughter of Joaquin Phoenix‘ Joker, the unhinged chaos of Heath Ledger’s, and mirrors the obsessive lover we see with Leto’s Joker.
Heath Ledger’s Joker
Under the meticulous guidance of Nolan, Ledger unleashed a scary, deranged Joker in The Dark Knight. A Joker with no weaknesses, unknown intentions and grievances. He is a man who “just wants to watch the world burn”.
With every passing moment, you fear Batman (and good) will finally lose to his archenemy (and evil) because this Joker was unhinged and enjoyed provoking Bruce Wayne. Ledger’s performance won him a posthumous Oscar, the first for a comic book character.
Jared Leto’s Joker
Often underrated, Leto’s Joker came after The Dark Knight and Ledger’s performance was some big shoes to fill. But this Joker was different, he didn’t have Batman to combat with, and unlike Ledger’s Joker, who wasn’t interested in anything but chaos, he was a boyfriend and the king of Gotham underworld. It was with Leto’s Joker that the Joker-Harley Quinn relationship debuted on the big screen. Their abusive relationship and eventual breakup led to the empowered Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker
Todd Philips 2019 blockbuster tries to explain the Joker. It is an origin story that departs from the cartoonish takes of the comic books and is more grounded in today’s America. This Joker starts as Arthur Fleck unlike in previous films where we see the fully realised Joker. He is mentally ill, a comedian who can’t crack a joke and is unloved by everyone but his mother. The world has been unfair to him all his life, and this pushes him to the edge. And when he accepts his inner demons, he transitions into the Joker. Phoenix, like Ledger, won an Oscar for his devastating performance.
Watch Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, now streaming on Showmax.