Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and More Actors Who Have Played the Joker Through the Years

From Jack Nicholson to Jared Leto, a comprehensive list of every actor who's ever played the the DC Universe's infamous supervillain.

Photo: Tony Barson/WireImage; Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock
01 of 14

Joaquin Phoenix / Joker (2019)

'Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot' Premiere - 68th Berlinale International Film Festival
Dominique Charriau/WireImage

2013's Walk the Line actor Joaquin Phoenix took on the role of Batman's infamous super villain in the 2019 film that's quite different from its predecessors, as it serves as the origin story of the killer clown.

Titled Joker, the plot chronicles the evolution of outcast Arthur Fleck and his slow descent into a mad murderer — transforming into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker.

It's no surprise Phoenix took home a variety of awards (including the 2020 Best Actor Oscar) for his portrayal of the character due to the work he put in to prepare.

Similar to Jared Leto's Joker approach, Phoenix transformed physically and mentally with his method madness — losing 52 pounds for the role!

"It turns out, that affects your psychology. You start to go mad when you lose that amount of weight in that amount of time," the actor said at the Venice Film Festival.

02 of 14

Zach Galifianakis / The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Warner Bros

That's right — the best-loved character in The Hangover series voiced the Clown Prince of Crime himself in the animated comedy spin, The LEGO Batman movie (2017).

Zack Galifianakis, 48, starred in the follow-up to 2014's hit LEGO movie, a timely revival of DC fan's spirits following the negative reception of Suicide Squad the previous year. Featuring a collection of non-stop action, Batsongs, jokes at previous films, and comically self-aware characters, the movie received a significant 90 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, breaking over $300 million at the box office.

The LEGO Batman movie sequel is set for February 8, 2019.

03 of 14

Jared Leto / Suicide Squad (2016)

J. Merritt/Getty Images; Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

In 2016, Academy Award-winning actor Jared Leto, 46, took a stab at DC's esteemed supervillain, the first major onscreen debut since Heath Ledger's performance in 2008's The Dark Knight — an act critics agreed was tough to follow.

Despite its overall negative reception, Suicide Squad (2016), starring actors like Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Viola Davis, defied its reviews to become a box office smash.

According to MTV News, the actor's commitment to the part pervaded his off-screen behavior, "gifting" the cast and crew a plethora of vulgar items like used condoms, a dead pig, or a live rat.

04 of 14

Troy Baker / Arkham: Origins Video Game (2013)

Allen Berezovsky/WireImage; Warner Bros.

Troy Baker, 42, is one of the only actors to have ever voiced both the Joker and his black-caped crusader, Batman. A prominent video game actor, Baker played the infamous antihero in the 2013 game Arkham: Origins.

Baker provided the voice of Two-Face and Robin in its 2012 prequel game Batman: Arkham City, and will be lending his voice to Batman in the upcoming sequel to LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes in 2019.

05 of 14

Michael Emerson / Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2012)

Walter McBride/WireImage; DC Comics

Michael Emerson, 63, best known for his inscrutable role as Ben on the hit series Lost (2004-2010), plays an older, crazier joker determined to bring Bruce Wayne out of his retirement in the animated film, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2012).

The Golden Globe nominee, who's starred in films like Saw (2004) and Jumping of Bridges (2006) is no stranger to darker roles, finding it easier than some of his counterparts to access the character's demented persona.

"I have to say that I don't really have to search very far and wide to find a twisted or dangerous character," the actor said in a video interview, "It's actually harder for me to play untwisted."

06 of 14

Brent Spiner / Young Justice Series (2010)

Barry King/Getty Images;

In 2010, Brent Spiner, 69, took over as the jester of homicide in Cartoon Network's animated TV series, Young Justice.

Spiner, best known for his role as Data in the Star Trek franchise voiced the Joker in the series centered on teenage superheroes like Robin and Superboy, intended to be the younger version of the famous adult Justice League.

Despite popular fan support, the show was cancelled in 2013 after its second season. However, Warner Bros announced its revival in 2016 with a third season, Young Justice: Outsiders, set for a 2019 release.

07 of 14

John DiMaggio / Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Warner Bros.

Animation's voice king John DiMaggio, 49, one of the industry's most talented voice actors, took the reigns as Batman's ultimate enemy in the animated film Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010).

Produced by Warner Bros, it became the eighth animated feature in the DC Superhero Universe. DiMaggio, better known as Bender from Futurama and Jake the Dog from Adventure Time, played the former Robin (Jason Todd)'s abductor and relentless torturer in the film.

08 of 14

Heath Ledger / The Dark Knight (2008)

Tony Barson/WireImage; Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock

In what was perhaps the most celebrated Joker portrayal of all time, Heath Ledger was posthumously awarded the Oscar for Best Actor following his performance in the critically acclaimed sequel to Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008).

Ledger died on Jan. 22, 2008, after a toxicology report revealed a fatal mix of prescription drugs in his system. An avid method actor, he committed several weeks to getting into the mindset of the character. "I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices," he told Empire Online.

09 of 14

Steve Blum / Lego Batman: The Videogame (2008)

Barry King/FilmMagic; Warner Bros.

Since Steve Blum's voice acting debut in 1992, he's appeared in numerous video games, notably as Batman's arch nemesis in 2008's Lego Batman.

Blum, 58, has experience voicing other superhero villains like Lex Luthor, Spike from Cowboy Bebop (1998-2003) and Sub Zero from the Mortal Kombat (1992) games. In the video game, players navigate the Joker's funhouse to stop him from releasing his toxic laughing gas.

10 of 14

Jeff Bennett / Batman: The Brave and The Bold (2008)

David Livingston/Getty Images; Cartoon Network

Jeff Bennett, 55, best known for the voice of the mid 90s animated series Johnny Bravo (1997-2004), took on an alternate version of the typical animated DC Universe film adaptations.

In Batman: The Brave and The Bold, the characters' designs were modeled after those from the '60s era, creating a lighter-hearted tone throughout the movie, better suited toward younger audiences.

11 of 14

Kevin Michael Richardson / The Batman (2004)

J. Countess/Getty Images; WB

The Joker, played by 53-year-old veteran voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson, turns up with a radically changed look and an eerie new laugh.

Richardson, who voiced Lex Luthor in the 1992 DC Animated Universe and Cleveland Brown in The Cleveland Show (2009), told GeekMom that the Joker was his favorite character to play. "He was like a crazy sick sandwich. He had his highs and lows and the laugh, I almost passed out every time doing that laugh, but I would love to do it again," he said.

12 of 14

Mark Hamill / Batman the Animated Series (1992)

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; WB

Of all the actors that have filled the Joker's evil and maniacal shoes, Mark Hamill has done it the longest.

Kicking off the DC Animated Universe with his first appearance in the Emmy-nominated Batman the Animated Series (1992), Hamill has since gone on to star in adaptations of The Justice League and Superman.

Following his retirement announcement in 2011, he briefly reprised his role in the 2016 adaptation of Batman's "The Killing Joke" story, marking his 25-year anniversary with the character.

13 of 14

Jack Nicholson / Batman (1989)

Noel Vasquez/Getty Images; Warner Bros/DC Comics/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson, 81, played the Joker in Tim Burton's 1989 adaptation of the comic book. In 2007, Nicholson told MTV his acceptance of the role stemmed from his confidence and admiration of Burton's vision as well as his direction.

"Tim Burton's a genius. He had the right take on it. That's why I did the movie," he said. "I did the movie based on a single conversation with him. We both come from the cartoon world originally. We had similar ideas."

14 of 14

Cesar Romero / The Batman Series (1966)

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images; ABC/Getty Images

The original Joker, Cesar Romero, was known for his acting and singing skills well before playing the iconic character in the first of the caped vigilante films, Batman: The Movie (1966).

Adam West, the actor playing Batman, said that Romero "brought an enormous amount of energy to the role," in the A&E documentary series Biography, adding, "I don't know how he did it." Romero, however, found the performance relatively easy: "When [you] get in an outfit like that...you fall right into it," he said in the same special.

Related Articles