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The Joker’s Onscreen Evolution

The Joker’s Onscreen Evolution

Arguably the most enduringly popular of all Batman’s arch-villains, the Joker has undergone an incredible evolution both in the comics and onscreen. His treatment by writers and interpretation by actors all highlights different aspects of the character known for his clown-like appearance.

No matter which portrayal you consider, you have got to admit one thing: the Joker is no laughing matter.

Cesar Romero – Batman, 1966

Giggling and mischievous, Cesar Romero was the first actor to portray the Joker on TV and cinema screens. While Romero brought a sinister quality to the character, he lacked the violent psychopathy of the villain as he appeared in the earlier comics. The actor, who made his name in romantic lead roles, made the character suitable for 1960’s TV audiences. As important as his contribution was to the Batman franchise, Romero’s version is a far cry from later interpretations.

Jack Nicholson – Batman, 1989

1989’s Batman brought together director Tim Burton’s gothic sensibilities and Jack Nicholson’s unique ability to play some of the most demented characters. The result was a Joker that was far closer to the original comic book version of the character; a figure that is unhinged and ruthless.

Like Romero, Nicholson’s character sported a purple suit and green hair, as well as white face paint and bright red lips. However, instead of giggles, Nicholson gave us breathless cackles that pointed to a dementia that future actors in the role would further explore.

Heath Ledger – Dark Knight, 2008

As intense as the action at Kiwi betting sites, Heath Ledger’s magnificent portrayal of the Joker in the 2008 film the Dark Knight would be his last. The actor, who posthumously won an Oscar for his performance, took the twisted madness of Nicholson’s Joker to the next level. In doing so, he also took the character even further away from Romero’s almost-loveable fop.

Ledger’s Joker is a scarred, damaged individual who wants nothing more than to replace law and order with anarchy and chaos.

Jared Leto – Suicide Squad, 2016

When Jared Leto prepared for his role as the Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad, he sent used condoms to fellow cast and crewmembers. His character may have kept the green hair and circus-inspired make-up, but gone were the non-descript suits of some of the previous characters.

Instead, Leto’s version of the character sported pimpin’ threads and chunky jewellery. Textual and graphic tattoos are another feature of the character that had to play second fiddle to Harley Quinn and the Squad in the movie.

 Joaquin Phoenix – Joker, 2019

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, 2019’s Joker is a very different visual treatment of the character to what fans have been used to. The film, set in 1980’s New York, is more of a prequel, and does not even feature the Bat.

Instead, what we get is a failed comedian with a history of social isolation, mental illness, and being abused. Things take a turn when he inspires misfits and outcasts to a riot that has far-reaching consequences.