Bob Dylan said it best: “Times, they are a changin.” Here we are in 2019 with a circle of cultural flames surrounding the new Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix. Rather than giving you the review spill that every other site on the planet is dropping, I figured I’d take a second to give you a look inside my Top 5 Live Action Jokers and why I ranked them so. It may get under your skin, so let us know which of our picks make you cringe in the comments! Let’s get right to it. Warning: Spoilers lie ahead, noobs!
5. Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
Jared Leto has been outspoken about the new Joker film. Rightfully so, I thought Leto was set up for failure in his depiction of the Clown Prince of Crime. I loved what they were going for and I think Leto fit the gangster-look better than anyone else in showbiz could have. The only problem is that Suicide Squad virtually failed in giving the Joker any sort of intriguing plot. In my opinion, Leto did a fine job given what the hand he was dealt. Plus, imagine trying to follow up the Ledger depiction of Joker. My heavens, no one deserves that sort of misery. On this list however, he finds himself at number five. But on the bright side, he is in tremendous company and has a potential future in a comeback role.
4. Cesar Romero – Batman Series
We have Cesar Romero to thank for where we are today in the Joker saga. Romero’s Joker is among the most groundbreaking of them all. Arguably, he did it first and that in and of itself deserves the winning prize. The Joker, however, has adapted since then and makes Romero’s character slightly behind more modern depictions of the clown. In spite of the course of time, Romero’s Joker has inspired the clowns to come and set the golden standard to follow. Romero let us know everything we needed to know about the Joker and his evil, twisted ways. 20 years ago, Romero was the best Joker to ever put on the suit.
3. Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Phoenix’s Joker was absolutely breathtaking. I refer to this as the single best sole-acting performance of the century. It was Arthur Fleck’s story and his story only in this Joker origin story. Stay woke, this movie is just a reminder that we live in a society. Unlike other Joker films, Fleck has a way of digging deep inside of the viewer in a way that others could not: finding compassion for a mentally-ill murderer. We saw a full transition into what became the Clown Prince of Gotham and Phoenix owned the role. Joker is the must-see movie of 2019 and a generation-defining film.
2. Jack Nicholson – Batman (1989)
My personal favorite Joker of all time, Jack Nicholson. Come on, you didn’t think this would be biased?
Jack’s clown was the first encounter I ever had with a Joker in film and I was blown away. Batman had its fair share of flaws, but Jack was the villain of the time and I firmly believe no one can encompass this depiction of Joker the way he did. In its own right, it’s a unique take on the Joker compared to its clown counterparts, but with much influence from Romero and the animated Joker (Hamill). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Jack’s antics and evil laugh as he awakes from the terror of Axis Chemicals is often overlooked because of Keaton’s Batman. No one can make this stuff up, this man terrorized a town to a song by Prince! I didn’t think the Keaton/Nicholson face-off could ever be beat, but by golly I was wrong.
1. Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
I vividly recall the day The Dark Knight was formally announced and Ledger was announced as the Joker. I said “who?”
Little did I know we were stumbling across the best version of the clown EVER. We were still new to the Bale Batman, but had loads of potential. First off, the Bale version of the bat fueled the fire to this movie. I refer to Bale as the best Batman to ever wear the gear, just ahead of Keaton. Ledger, however, played the best acting role in a face-off scenario that eyes will ever see. The laugh, the smile, the mannerisms of the Ledger clown took everything the comics ever said and amped it up to 1,000. I sit here today and firmly say it’ll never be done again. Respectfully, Phoenix paid homage to Ledger in the new Joker film. Additionally, Ledger’s Joker is not one of an entire origin film. Only Phoenix could pull that off. But when it comes to coming face to face with the bat, Ledger is king.
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