The Joker: Past, Present and the Future

‘The Joker’ is no doubt one of DC’s most iconic villains to date, with every incarnation bringing something a little different to our screens. The first Joker most audiences ever saw was Cesar Romero’s, in 1966-68 TV and film versions of ‘Batman’, and what a brilliant starter block he created. His refusal to shave for the role made his moustache prominent underneath the make-up, and his  slapstick style fighting throughout, and the exaggerated laugh made him and the first version ‘The Clown’.

The next version to grace our screens was Jack Nicholson’s from Batman in 1989. Jack’s outfit and laugh felt a lot closer to the mark. His stretched out unnatural smile also made him quite scary to look at.

Jack Nicholson The Joker

Jack Nicholson opposite Michael Keaton as The Joker

Throw in a bunch of professional criminals and suddenly he was a force to be reckoned with, and not just another Batman villain. If Cesar Romero was the clown, then Jack Nicholson’s version was no doubt ‘The Gangster’.

Next up was Heath Ledger’s version in The Dark Knight back in 2008. This version was no doubt my favourite to date and brutally took the character places it hadn’t gone before.

His make-up and demeanour were deliberately messy, his character switching between intelligent calm to crazy clown with the drop of a proverbial hat. Heath’s sublime performance cemented him in iconic movie history by famously winning a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his efforts. His version was obviously ‘The Anarchist’.


Health Ledger gets made up for his role as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Image Credit – The Huffington Post

The next and latest actor to take on the mantle was Jared Leto, starring in 2016’s Suicide Squad. This version again took the character in new unexpected ways. His subtle make-up, grilled-teeth, array of tattoos and expensive clothes easily separated him from what had come before.

His style of acting on the other hand seemed familiar; it seems like Jared has drawn influence from all of the actors that come before. I can see a little bit of Cesar, Jack, and Heath in his performances (deliberate or not), but I also see Jared as his own Joker, ‘The Psychopath’. But what was most interesting about this version was seeing emotions we hadn’t seen in a Joker character before. Jealously, lust, and possibly even sympathy, all brought-on by fellow psychopath Harley Quinn (Brilliantly played by Margot Robbie).


Jared Leto in Suicide Squad

These aren’t the only Jokers we have seen of course, but they are the mainstream versions most people will have seen and heard of. We have also seen a bunch of cartoon versions, the best of them is probably one of the most recent, ‘The Killing Joke’, where the Joker is played fantastically by Mark Hammill. Hamill also provided the voice of ‘The Joker’ for the game ‘Arkham Asylum’.

Another version we saw was in the TV series Gotham, albeit briefly (if it is even him!). Sound complicated? It is. Cutting the long story short, there is a character that is basically the foundation of what the Joker would go on to become and he was fantastic too.

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What’s next for Joker? Well the rumour mill is in full-flow at the minute with many conflicting and crazy ideas. The first and most obvious is Suicide Squad 2, where the Joker will apparently be a main character this time around and no longer a cameo. The second rumour is Gotham City Sirens. This would star Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn as the Sirens and main characters of the movie (With an expected cameo from The Joker played by Leto). The third is that Leto’s Joker will star in The Batman movie (which is about to go into production).

There is also rumours The Joker will get his own standalone film, but it is unknown whether Leto is expected to star in this one. It doesn’t matter in what context, or even who plays him. But, the quicker they get The Joker back on our screen again, the better.

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