The Joker, the archenemy of the comic book superhero Batman, has appeared in various forms of media. WorldCat (a catalogue of libraries in 170 countries) records over 250 productions featuring the Joker as a subject, including films, television series, books, and video games. Live-action films featuring the character are typically the most successful.
The Joker has been portrayed by Cesar Romero in the 1966 Batman television series, Jack Nicholson in the 1989 film Batman, Heath Ledger in the 2008 film The Dark Knight, and Jared Leto in the 2016 film Suicide Squad. Over the years, various actors have provided the character's voice in animated, motion comic, and video game form. Mark Hamill is often credited as the iconic voice of the Joker.
Batman (1966–1968 TV series)
Cesar Romero portrayed the Joker in the 1960s Batman television series. Romero refused to shave his distinctive mustache for the role, so it was partially visible beneath the white face makeup applied. This version of the Joker is based on the character in the 1960s comics, who is more of an elaborate prankster than a psychopathic murderer.
A character acting as a precursor to the Joker, named Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan), is featured in the Fox TV series Gotham. Monaghan stated that he drew inspiration from previous interpretations of the Joker for his performance, particularly that of Mark Hamill, adding "I think he’s the Joker in that he represents the idea, the greater concept." In season three, Jerome returns bearing a resemblance to The New 52 incarnation of the Joker; Jerome's face was surgically removed before his resurrection, prompting him to staple it back in place. In January 2018, it was confirmed that Jerome will not become the Joker, though he will play a part in the character's creation and ultimate appearance in the show's fourth season.
On March 20th, 2018, Gotham's version of the Joker, played by Cameron Monaghan, was officially revealed.
Cesar Romero reprised his role in the 1966 film Batman, in which the Joker is a member of the United Underworld, alongside fellow Gotham City villains the Penguin, the Riddler and Catwoman.
Batman (1989–1997 film series)
Jack Nicholson played the Joker in Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman. The Newsweek review of the film stated that the best scenes are due to the surreal black comedy portrayed in the Joker. In 2003, American Film Institute ranked Nicholson's performance #45 on their list of 50 greatest film villains. Hugo Blick and David U. Hodges play younger versions of the character in flashbacks in Batman and Batman Forever, respectively.
In the film, Jack Napier is the right-hand man of mob boss Carl Grissom prior to his transformation into the Joker. During a confrontation with the vigilante Batman in a chemical factory, Napier's face is wounded by a ricocheting bullet and he falls into a vat of chemical waste, turning his hair green, his skin white and his lips red. A botched attempt at plastic surgery leaves him with a permanent rictus grin. Driven insane by his reflection, the Joker kills Grissom and takes over his syndicate, launching a crime wave designed to outdo Batman. The Joker describes himself as "the world's first fully functional homicidal artist" who makes avant-garde "art" by killing people with cosmetics laced with Smylex, which leaves its victims with a grotesque grin similar to his own. Bruce Wayne later recognises the Joker as the mugger who murdered his parents, leading him down the path of becoming a crime-fighter. After telling Batman that they "made each other", the Joker attempts to escape via helicopter, but Batman ties a grappling hook around his leg and attaches it to a stone gargoyle, causing the Joker to fall to his death when the statue breaks loose of its moorings.
Nicholson was to reprise his role in Batman Unchained, the fifth film planned for the series. The Joker was to return as a hallucination in Batman's mind caused by the Scarecrow's fear toxin, and Harley Quinn was to appear as his daughter trying to get revenge on Batman for his death. Due to the critical and commercial failure of Batman & Robin, however, this film was cancelled.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Heath Ledger played the Joker in Christopher Nolan's 2008 film The Dark Knight. Ledger's interpretation of the character was specifically influenced by the graphic novels Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. In the film, he wears the character's traditional colour palette, while his facial appearance includes clown makeup that covers facial scars of a Glasgow smile. This version of the Joker embodies themes of chaos, anarchy, and obsession; he expresses a desire to upset social order through crime, and defines himself by his conflict with Batman. The character explores techniques found in Ledger's previous performances, including his clown act in Terry Gilliam's fantasy film The Brothers Grimm. It also references paintings by artist Francis Bacon, Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, and various punk rock musicians.
The Joker is considered to be Ledger's finest performance; he himself regarded it as his most enjoyable. When the film was released in July 2008, six months after the actor had died from an accidental prescription drug overdose, the performance caused a sensation and received universal acclaim; Ledger was posthumously awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
DC Extended Universe (2013–present)
Academy Award-winning method actor Jared Leto portrays the Joker in the DC Extended Universe. Originally set to appear in Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the character was ultimately cut and only referenced in the film.
Jared Leto debuts as the Joker in David Ayer's 2016 film Suicide Squad. Flashbacks reveal that the Joker manipulated psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel into falling in love with him during his time as her patient at Arkham Asylum. He eventually managed to convince Dr. Quinzel to free him, and he electrocuted her before taking her to the Ace Chemicals plant. Quinzel then voluntarily fell into the solution that created her lover, bleaching her skin and completing her transformation into Harley Quinn. At some point, the Joker killed the Gotham City vigilante Batman's partner, Robin, with Harley's help, though Quinn was ultimately apprehended and blackmailed into joining Amanda Waller's government task force composed of captured supervillains. In the present day narrative, the Joker attempts to extract Harley from the task force. He tortures one of Waller's security officers for the location of the facility where the nano explosives used as leverage over the criminals are manufactured, and threatens an A.R.G.U.S. scientist there to disable the bomb implanted in Harley's neck. After commandeering a military helicopter, the Joker and his men rescue Harley during the task force's mission in Midway City. The chopper is shot down, however, and Harley falls out while the Joker seemingly perishes in the explosion, prompting Quinn to rejoin the task force. After the "Suicide Squad" defeat the Enchantress, the Joker, who survived the crash, breaks into Belle Reve Prison with his gang to free Harley from her cell, and the pair reunite as the movie ends. Critics praised Jared Leto's performance despite his character's negligible screen time. Mark Hamill, the voice of the Joker in various DC projects, said that he "loved" Leto's take on the character. Although many scenes featuring the Joker were omitted from the theatrical release, some of this unused footage did make it into the extended cut. Leto also appeared as the Joker in the music video "Purple Lamborghini", by Skrillex and Rick Ross, from the film's soundtrack.
Jared Leto is set to reprise his role in multiple upcoming DCEU instalments, including Suicide Squad 2, Gotham City Sirens, and an as-of-yet untitled film centred on the Joker and Harley Quinn.
Untitled Joker origin film (TBA)
In August 2017, Warner Bros. announced that a film focusing on the origin of the Joker is currently in development, with a plot that takes place in Gotham City during the 1980s as a "hard-boiled crime drama". Todd Phillips has signed on to co-write/direct/co-produce the film, with Scott Silver serving as co-writer and Martin Scorsese acting as co-producer. The project will reportedly feature a younger actor portraying the Joker and will be separate from the DC Extended Universe. In September 2017, The Hollywood Reporter stated that Leonardo DiCaprio was eyed for the main role, though no formal offer was made. In February 2018, it was reported that Joaquin Phoenix is in early negotiations to play the character.
The Joker appears in the 2011 theatrical production Batman Live, portrayed by Mark Frost. He masterminds a plot to defeat Batman by uniting several of the superhero's greatest foes, including Harley Quinn, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, Poison Ivy, and Scarecrow. The show is an adaptation of the Batman property, drawing inspiration from the 1966 television series, Tim Burton's series of Batman films, and the 1992 animated series, among others.
The Joker appears as a recurring villain in the 1968–1969 Filmation series The Adventures of Batman, voiced by Larry Storch. He also appears in five episodes of Filmation's 1977 series The New Adventures of Batman, voiced by Lennie Weinrib.
Storch reprises his role as the Joker in two crossover episodes of the 1972 series The New Scooby-Doo Movies, in which he teams up with the Penguin and runs afoul of Batman, Robin and the Mystery Inc. gang.
The Joker appears in The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (1985–1986) episode "The Wild Cards", voiced by Frank Welker. He assists Darkseid by disguising himself as Ace, the leader of the Royal Flush Gang.
DC animated universe
The Joker appears in various animated series set within the DC animated universe, voiced by Mark Hamill, who is often credited as the iconic voice of the character because of his wide range of "joyful, gleeful, maniacal, [...] malevolent and evil laughs." The Joker first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series (1992–1995). The show is notable for introducing his sidekick and lover, Harley Quinn, to such popularity that she became a character in the comics. The Joker was also featured in the spin-off film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993).
The Joker returned in the follow-up series The New Batman Adventures (1997–1999) with a stylistic redesign. His white skin now had a bluish-grey tinge, while his eyes had their sclerae removed, and were replaced by cavernous black spaces with white pupils. His trademark red lips were omitted, focusing more attention on his teeth, and his green hair was darkened. His suit's colours were also changed from purple and yellow to purple and green. In the Superman: The Animated Series (1996–2000) episode "World's Finest", the Joker travels to Metropolis and makes a deal with Lex Luthor to kill Superman. In the Justice League (2001–2006) episodes "Injustice For All" and "Wild Cards", the Joker joins Luthor's Injustice League, and pits the Justice League against the Royal Flush Gang as part of an elaborate ruse, respectively. In "A Better World", a lobotomised Joker is briefly seen in an alternate universe ruled by the Justice Lords. The Joker was later featured in the Static Shock (2000–2004) episode "The Big Leagues", in which he starts a crime spree.
The Joker made his final chronological appearance in the direct-to-video feature film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000), in which he mysteriously returns to Gotham City in the future. Flashbacks reveal that before he died, the Joker kidnapped and tortured Robin (Tim Drake), turning him into an insane, miniature version of himself dubbed 'Joker Junior'. The Joker's death was edited and redubbed amid controversy surrounding the Columbine High School massacre; the original version sees Joker Junior shoot the Joker in the heart, whereas the edited version simply sees him push the Joker into damaged cables to be electrocuted out of sight. However, a microchip implanted in Drake's neck was revealed to have possessed a copy of the Joker's consciousness and DNA, allowing him to take over his host until he is defeated by the new Batman (Terry McGinnis).
The Batman (2004–2008)
The Joker appears in The Batman, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. This version has long and wild hair, is barefoot, and initially wore an Arkham Asylum straitjacket before later adopting his signature purple suit. The Joker also appears in the direct-to-video spin-off film The Batman vs. Dracula (2005).
Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008–2011)
The Joker appears in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, voiced by Jeff Bennett. His appearance and personality are similar to the Silver Age version drawn by Dick Sprang. His counterpart on a parallel earth is a vigilante known as the Red Hood.
Young Justice (2010–2013)
The Joker appears as a member of the Injustice Gang in Young Justice, voiced by Brent Spiner.
Justice League Action (2016–present)
The Joker appears in Justice League Action, with Mark Hamill reprising his role.
- "The Jester", a heroic version of the Joker from a parallel earth, appears in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010), voiced by James Patrick Stuart. He is a member of the Justice League/Justice Underground.
- The Joker appears in Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010), voiced by John DiMaggio. During a confrontation with Batman and Robin (Jason Todd), he beats the latter with a crowbar before leaving him to perish in an explosion. Todd later returns as the Red Hood to force Batman to kill the Joker, but the Dark Knight refuses to do so and the Joker is returned to Arkham Asylum.
- The Joker appears in the short animated promotional film DC Super Friends: The Joker's Playhouse (2010) produced for Fisher-Price Imaginext, voiced by John Kassir.
- The Joker appears in the two-part adaption of The Dark Knight Returns (2012–2013), voiced by Michael Emerson.
- The Joker appears in Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Super Heroes Unite (2013), an adaptation of the video game Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (2012), voiced by Christopher Corey Smith.
- In the 2013 adaptation of the 2011 Flashpoint storyline, Martha Wayne briefly appears as the Joker in an alternate timeline, her laugh provided by Grey DeLisle.
- The Joker makes a cameo appearance in Son of Batman (2014), where his laugh is provided by Dee Bradley Baker.
- The Joker appears in Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014), set in the Batman: Arkham video game universe, with Troy Baker reprising his role from Batman: Arkham Origins. When the Suicide Squad breaks into Arkham Asylum, the Joker reunites with Harley Quinn before activating a bomb hidden in her mallet. Batman deactivates the bomb and the Joker escapes.
- John DiMaggio reprises his role as the Joker in the animated special Lego DC Comics: Batman Be-Leaguered (2014).
- Troy Baker reprises his role as the Joker in Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem (2015) and Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants (2016), both part of the Batman Unlimited franchise.
- The Joker appears in Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League – Gotham City Breakout (2016), voiced by Jason Spisak.
- Mark Hamill reprises his role as the Joker in the 2016 animated film adaptation of the Eisner Award-winning graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke, which is the first DC animated film to be rated R.
- Jeff Bergman voices the Joker in Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) and its sequel Batman vs. Two-Face (2017).
- The Joker appears in The Lego Batman Movie (2017), voiced by Zach Galifianakis. He gathers an army of villains from the Phantom Zone to destroy Gotham City.
- The Joker appears in Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018), with Jeff Bennett reprising his role from the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series.
- The Joker appears Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash (2018), voiced again by Jason Spisak.
- A Feudal Japan version of the Joker will appear in Batman Ninja (2018), voiced by Wataru Takagi.
As Batman's nemesis, the Joker has appeared in several Batman-related video games.
Early appearances (1988–2003)
The Joker's earliest video game appearance was in Batman: The Caped Crusader (1988) developed by Ocean Software for 8-bit home computers such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 and by Data East for other platforms such as the Apple II, Commodore Amiga, and PC. The game contains two parts that can be played in any order—the Joker's story or the Penguin's story. The Joker also appears in several games based on the 1989 film, released between 1989–1992, including Batman: The Movie for the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, and ZX Spectrum; Batman: The Video Game for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy; Batman for the Genesis; and an arcade game, Batman.
Two games were released based on Batman: The Animated Series. The first was the Konami-developed game Batman: The Animated Series (1993) for Game Boy. The second, The Adventures of Batman & Robin, was released for the Super NES as an action adventure platform and for Genesis as a side-scrolling shooter. The only game based on the Batman Beyond franchise, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, was released as a companion to the eponymous film for Game Boy Color, PlayStation and Nintendo 64. Batman: Vengeance (2001) was released for several platforms, based on The New Batman Adventures and starring its voice cast, including Mark Hamill as the Joker.
The Joker is featured in the platform game Batman: Return of the Joker, released for the NES in 1991 and the Genesis in 1992. Other games include Batman: Chaos in Gotham (2001) for Game Boy Color, Justice League: Injustice for All (2002) for Game Boy Advance, and Batman: Dark Tomorrow (2003) for GameCube and Xbox. The Joker also makes a cameo in Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu (2003), released for several platforms.
- The Joker is a playable character in Lego Batman: The Videogame (2008), voiced by Steven Blum. He leads a group of villains—Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, and Killer Moth—to spread his toxin in Gotham City.
- The Joker returns in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (2012), voiced by Christopher Corey Smith. He breaks out of Arkham Asylum using "The Deconstructor", a kryptonite-powered weapon developed by Lex Luthor.
- Smith reprises his role as the Joker in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (2014), who joins Lex Luthor's Legion of Doom. There are several versions of the character with different abilities and costumes.
- The Joker is a playable character in Lego Dimensions (2015), voiced again by Smith. In the story mode, he is a member of Lord Vortech's army of villains that face off against the three main heroes (Batman, Wyldstyle, and Gandalf) in Springfield from The Simpsons. He is also featured in the story mode for The Lego Batman Movie.
Mark Hamill reprises his role as the Joker in the main trilogy of the Batman: Arkham franchise, while Troy Baker voices a younger version of the character in the prequel Arkham Origins. This depiction of the Joker has received widespread acclaim, as critics have lauded the voice acting and exploration of his rivalry with Batman. The Joker won the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards "Character of the Year" award for his appearance in Arkham City.
- In Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009), the Joker takes over Arkham Island with Harley Quinn's help in an elaborate trap set for Batman. He releases all of the inmates and injects his thugs with the "Titan formula", a more potent version of Bane's Venom drug, to create an army of genetically-enhanced henchmen. After foiling the other freed villains' agendas, Batman confronts and defeats a Titan-enhanced Joker atop Arkham Asylum. In the game's PlayStation 3 version, the Joker is a playable character in Challenge Maps where opposing thugs are replaced with Arkham guards.
- In Batman: Arkham City (2011), the Joker is involved in a gang war with Two-Face and the Penguin in Professor Hugo Strange's new city-sized prison "Arkham City". The Joker infects Batman with his poisoned blood after it is revealed that he is slowly dying as a result of his Titan overdose in Arkham Asylum, thus motivating Batman to find a cure for them both. But despite Batman's best efforts, the Joker ultimately succumbs to the disease and dies. During the credits, he can be heard singing Only You (And You Alone). The Joker also appears in Batman: Arkham City Lockdown.
- The prequel Batman: Arkham Origins (2013) features Batman's first encounter with the Joker, who kidnaps and poses as the crime lord Black Mask and hires eight assassins to kill the new vigilante in Gotham City. After being captured by Batman, the Joker meets Dr. Harleen Quinzel for the first time at Blackgate Prison, where he shares his past with her before escaping and taking over the Penitentiary. The Joker then attempts to corrupt Batman by coaxing him into killing Bane, but fails and realises that his nemesis is his philosophical opposite, thus beginning his obsession with the Dark Knight. During the credits, he can be heard singing Cold, Cold Heart. The Joker is playable in the game's multiplayer mode, and he also appears in Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate.
- In Batman: Arkham Knight (2015), Batman begins to hallucinate the Joker when the residue of the latter's blood in his system mixes with Scarecrow's fear gas, causing the Dark Knight to experience his nemesis' memories of Barbara Gordon's crippling and Jason Todd's torture. The Joker's blood also infected four other individuals: Henry Adams, Johnny Charisma, Christina Bell, and Albert King. Each of them develop aspects of the Joker's personality, though they are all ultimately killed. Batman is eventually able to fully break free from the Joker's influence and locks him away within his mind. During the credits, the Joker can be heard singing Look Who's Laughing Now. He also appears in the Batgirl: A Matter of Family DLC story.
- At the end of the PlayStation game Batman: Arkham VR (2016), the events of which are set before Batman: Arkham Knight, the Joker possesses Batman and kills Nightwing and Robin. The entire game is then revealed to be a nightmare in Batman's mind.
- The Joker appears as a playable character in Injustice: Gods Among Us, voiced by Richard Epcar. In an alternate universe, the Joker tricks Superman into killing his lover, Lois Lane, which detonates a nuclear bomb that destroys Metropolis, killing millions of its citizens. Driven insane, Superman murders this Joker and takes over Earth with the Regime. The primary universe's Joker nearly destroys Metropolis with a nuclear bomb as well, but he is accidentally transported to the Regime universe when the alternate Batman and Lex Luthor bring most of the Justice League to their world. The Joker is ultimately defeated by the alternate Lex Luthor and taken back to the primary universe by the prime Batman.
- The Joker returns as a playable character in Injustice 2, with Richard Epcar reprising the role. While still deceased in the alternate universe, he appears as a hallucination to Harley Quinn caused by Scarecrow's fear gas. Refusing to let the Joker abuse her again, Harley defeats the hallucination and breaks free of the toxin's influence. After executing Brainiac in his single-player ending, the Joker mixes Earth with a number of alien civilisations and watches as the people begin to slaughter each other. Character dialogue indicates that he is either a fear toxin hallucination, the primary universe Joker from the first game, or that he tricked Nekron into restoring him to life.
Anthony Ingruber voices the Joker, referred to as "John Doe", in Telltale Games' episodic point-and-click graphic adventure Batman video game series.
- The Joker makes his debut in the first season, titled Batman: The Telltale Series. In "Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham", Bruce Wayne meets "John Doe" for the first time at Arkham Asylum. John gives Bruce information regarding the Children of Arkham's plans before starting a prison riot. In "Episode 5: City of Light", John is among the inmates present during Lady Arkham's siege of the asylum. He is later seen at a bar in Gotham City watching Bruce/Batman on live television.
- The Joker returns in the second season, titled Batman: The Enemy Within. In "Episode 1: The Enigma", Agency director Amanda Waller reveals that after being discharged from Arkham, "John Doe" joined a criminal cabal led by the Riddler called "The Pact". John later betrays Riddler by orchestrating his defeat and assassination. In "Episode 2: The Pact", John recruits Bruce into the organisation, which is composed of Bane, Mr. Freeze, and John's former psychiatrist Harley Quinn, whom John claims to be in love with. In "Episode 3: Fractured Mask", either John or Catwoman will help Bruce steal Riddler's laptop from Harley for information. In "Episode 4: What Ails You", John is abandoned by Harley during the Pact's heist to steal a virus from SANCTUS, a rogue division of the Agency. After deducing that Bruce is Batman, John searches for Harley at a defunct carnival and murders several Agency operatives. Bruce confronts John and either retains his trust or shatters their friendship. The former choice results in John helping Bruce to apprehend Harley, while the latter decision leads to John saving Harley and vowing to become Batman's mortal enemy.
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