The Joker, the archenemy of the comic book superhero Batman, has appeared in various forms of media. WorldCat (a catalog 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 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, he has been voiced by various actors in animated, motion comic and video game form.
Batman (1966–1968 TV series)
Cesar Romero portrayed the character in the 1960s Batman television series. Romero refused to shave his distinctive mustache for the role, and it is 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 madman. In the Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77 comic book crossover, it is revealed that the Joker discovered Batman's secret identity and invaded Wayne Manor, causing Alfred to die out of shock. Batman subsequently murdered the Joker out of rage, resulting in his retirement as he broke his own moral code.
Other television portrayals
- Of the six Batman OnStar commercials that ran from 2000 to early 2002, the Joker appeared in one of them played by Curtis Armstrong.
- The Joker makes a cameo appearance in an episode of the 2002–03 series Birds of Prey, portrayed by Roger Stoneburner and voiced by Mark Hamill (the voice of the Joker in various DC projects).
- A character based on 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." The mythology of the Joker is explored further during season three, and Jerome himself returns in the second half of the season bearing a physical resemblance to The New 52 incarnation of the Joker; Jerome's face was surgically removed before his resurrection, forcing him to staple it back in place.
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, and received acclaim for his performance; 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 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, which turns his hair green, his skin chalk white and his lips bright 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, whom he feels is getting too much press. 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 recognizes 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 as the Joker in Batman Unchained, the fifth film planned for the Batman series. He 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, and was posthumously nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, ultimately winning the Oscar.
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 from the film.
The Joker makes his debut in the 2016 film Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer. Flashbacks reveal that the Joker, already known to be Gotham City's most powerful crime lord, manipulated psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel into falling in love with him during his time as a patient at Arkham Asylum. He eventually managed to convince Dr. Quinzel to free him, and he subsequently gave her electroshock therapy. The Joker then took her to the Ace Chemicals plant, and Quinzel voluntarily jumped into the chemicals that created her lover, bleaching her skin and completing her transformation into Harley Quinn. At some point, the Joker killed the 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 and make their getaway. The chopper is shot down, however, and Harley jumps 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, stated 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 later reprised his role in the music video "Purple Lamborghini", by Skrillex and Rick Ross, from the film's soundtrack.
The Joker appears in the 2011 theatrical production Batman Live (portrayed by Mark Frost), in which the character masterminds a plot to defeat Batman by uniting several of the superhero's greatest foes, including Harley Quinn, Riddler, Penguin, Two-Face, 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 for the animated version 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 accomplice and lover, Harley Quinn, to such acclaim that she became a character in the comics. The Joker was later prominently 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-gray tinge, while his eyes had their sclerae removed, and were replaced by cavernous black spaces with white pupils. His trademark ruby-red lips were omitted, focusing more attention on his teeth, and his green-tinged hair was now almost completely black. His tuxedo's colors were also changed from purple and orange 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 Gang, and pits the Justice League against the Royal Flush Gang as part of an elaborate ruse, respectively. He also starts a crime spree in the Static Shock (2000–2004) episode "The Big Leagues".
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, wild hair, and initially wore a purple straitjacket, though he later adopts his signature purple suit. He also appears in the 2005 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 as drawn by Dick Sprang. On a parallel earth, he is known as the heroic vigilante Red Hood.
Young Justice (2010–2013)
The Joker appears in Young Justice, voiced by Brent Spiner, as a member of the Injustice Gang.
Justice League Action
The Joker appears in Justice League Action, with Mark Hamill reprising his role.
DC Super Friends
John Kassir voices the Joker in "The Joker's Playhouse" (2010), an original video animation produced for Fisher-Price Imaginext's DC Super Friends.
The Joker appears in the animated special Lego Batman: Be-Leagured, with John DiMaggio reprising the role from Batman: Under the Red Hood.
The Joker has appeared in several DC Universe Animated Original Movies:
- "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. He lures Batman and Robin (Jason Todd) to Sarajevo, Bosnia, where he captures and beats the latter with a crowbar before leaving him to perish in an explosion. Years later, Todd returns as the Red Hood to force Batman to kill the Joker, but the Dark Knight refuses to do so and the villain is returned to Arkham Asylum.
- 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.
- The Joker makes a brief cameo in Son of Batman. His laugh is provided by Dee Bradley Baker.
- The Joker appears in Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014), set in the Batman: Arkham universe, with Troy Baker reprising his role from the video game Batman: Arkham Origins. When the Suicide Squad break into Arkham Asylum, the Joker escapes his cell and reunites with Harley Quinn before activating a bomb hidden in her mallet. While the Joker is defeated by Deadshot, Batman deactivates the bomb.
- Troy Baker reprises his role as the Joker in the films Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem (2015) and Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants (2016), both part of the Batman Unlimited franchise.
- 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.
- The Joker appears in Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016), voiced by Jeff Bergman.
- The Joker appears in The Lego Batman Movie (2017), voiced by Zach Galifianakis. When Batman refuses to acknowledge the Joker as his greatest enemy, the Clown Prince of Crime manipulates the Dark Knight into sending him to the Phantom Zone, where he gathers an army of villains from the Lego multiverse to destroy Gotham City.
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 platforming shoot-em-up 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, some having separate abilities as well as different 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 who 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.
replaced Mark Hamill as the voice of the Joker for Arkham Origins
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 been widely praised, as critics have lauded the voice acting and the exploration of the Joker and Batman's rivalry. He won the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards "Character of the Year" award for his appearance in Arkham City.
- In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the Joker and Harley Quinn take over Arkham Asylum in an elaborate trap set for Batman, and inject their thugs with the "Titan formula" (a more potent version of Bane's Venom) 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. In the game's PlayStation 3 version, the Joker is a playable character in the Challenge Maps, where the thugs are replaced with Arkham guards.
- In Batman: Arkham City, the Joker is locked up in Professor Hugo Strange's new city-sized prison "Arkham City", and is involved in a gang war with Two-Face and the Penguin. The Joker later infects Batman with a sample of 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 efforts, the Joker ultimately succumbs to the disease and dies. During the credits, he can be heard singing Only You (And You Alone) to Batman. The Joker also appears in Batman: Arkham City Lockdown.
- The prequel Batman: Arkham Origins focuses on Batman's first encounter with the Joker. The Joker kidnaps and poses as the crime lord Black Mask (voiced by Brian Bloom), and hires eight assassins to kill the new vigilante in Gotham City. The Joker eventually reveals himself to Batman as the mastermind behind the evening's events, though he is later captured and sent to Blackgate Prison. There, he meets psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel for the first time and shares his past with her before escaping and starting a riot to take over the Penitentiary. The Joker then attempts to corrupt Batman by coaxing him into killing Bane, but fails and realizes that his nemesis is his philosophical opposite, thus beginning his obsession with the Dark Knight. During the credits, the Joker can be heard singing Cold, Cold Heart while being returned to his cell at Blackgate. He is a playable character in the Batman: Arkham Origins multiplayer mode, and he also appears in Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate.
- In Batman: Arkham Knight, Batman begins to hallucinate the Joker after the residue of his nemesis' blood in his system mixes with Scarecrow's fear gas, causing him to experience the Joker's memories of Barbara Gordon's crippling and Jason Todd's torture. It is later revealed that Joker's blood also infected four other people: Henry Adams (voiced by Garrick Hogan), Johnny Charisma (voiced by Michael Rosenbaum), Christina Bell (voiced by Sara Cravens), and Albert King (voiced by Isaac Singleton). Each of them develop aspects of Joker's personality and appearance, though they are all ultimately killed. At the end of the game, Batman is able to fully break free of Joker's influence and locks him away within his mind. The Joker also appears in the Batgirl: A Matter of Family DLC story content. Set before the events of Arkham Asylum, the Joker and Harley Quinn kidnap Commissioner Gordon, whom Batgirl and Robin attempt to rescue.
- At the end of the PlayStation game Batman: Arkham VR, the events of which are set before Batman: Arkham Knight, it is revealed that Nightwing and Robin's deaths were caused by Batman himself, who was possessed by the Joker. However, it is ultimately revealed that the entire game is a nightmare within 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 civilizations, 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.
- The Joker appears in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, voiced by Richard Epcar. He and Deathstroke are recruited by Lex Luthor to investigate the "invaders", but the Joker soon goes rogue, deciding to use his new magically-enhanced weapons to get revenge on Batman. In the Joker's ending, he uses his new powers to take over Gotham City and hold his own Mortal Kombat contests; the winner earns the right to face him.
- Mark Hamill reprised his role as the Joker in DC Universe Online.
- The Joker appears in Infinite Crisis as a costume for purchase.
- The Joker, referred to as "John Doe", appears in Batman: The Telltale Series, voiced by Anthony Ingruber. In "Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham", Bruce Wayne meets the Joker for the first time at Arkham Asylum after he is drugged and arrested for assaulting Oswald Cobblepot. The Joker gives Bruce a tour of the asylum while sharing information regarding Lady Arkham's past. He then starts a prison riot, resulting in Bruce either taking the opportunity to call his lawyers or Lieutenant Gordon, or attempt to put an end to the fight. During their conversation, it is implied that the Joker knows of Bruce's alter ego as the vigilante Batman. In "Episode 5: City of Light", the Joker is among the inmates freed by Lady Arkham at the asylum. He is later seen at a bar watching Bruce/Batman on live television, and states that he plans to go after him.
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