I think I should just state the obvious before you read on. I adore Heath Ledger. As soon as I laid eyes on that clean-shaven god from A Knight’s Tale, I was hooked. He was an Aussie dreamboat - and I made it my 12-year-old mission to watch every movie he ever made. And boy did I watch them ALL, including Candy when I was 14-years-old… yep, that taught me a lot of lessons.
I tell you this because I’m going to try my best to remain unbiased. I’ve taken my love away – as much as it hurts – and asked myself the ultimate question.
With Suicide Squad about to hit our screens, it's time to finally decide: Who’s the best Joker? Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger or Jared Leto?
#3 Jared Leto
I feel bad for Jared because he’s on the back foot already - he has some pretty tough competition. To the credit of Suicide Squad creators they took their Joker in a different direction this time around: but I question if that was the right direction. Covered in tattoos and rocking a mean set of grills, Leto’s Joker is decidedly obvious.
Don’t get me wrong, on the surface he appears to fit the bill; an exciting mixture of insanity and charm that makes him equally as entertaining to watch than every Joker before him. It is, however, his general appearance that throws me off - it is total overkill. I mean, he has the word ‘damaged’ tattooed on his forehead and scribblings of ‘ha ha ha ha’ across his body...
Soz, Jared. I still love your luscious locks but you’ll have to take last spot for now.
#2 Jack Nicholson
Nicholson’s portrayal of our favourite comic-book villain is a playful, comical, and even campy interpretation. It feels like Nicholson’s Joker is trying to get the audience to laugh along with his cruel antics. Well, I guess he IS named the Joker after all... To Tim Burton’s credit, this is one of the closest depictions of the comic book character itself – a crazy clown reeking havoc on Gotham City.
However, as we’ve moved through the decades, audiences seem to demand more than just a light-hearted, funny antagonist - now we want a truly creepy, gritty villain who shakes us to our core. This is why, albeit a brilliant performance, Nicholson must take second string to our man, Heath Ledger. I was scared of Nicholson’s Joker - but Ledger's was on the next level.
I'd rather take my chances with Nicholson's Joker rather than a cold, maniacal Ledger anyday.
#1 Heath Ledger
Let’s be honest, we all knew we’d end up here. Truly the best Joker we have seen to date.
There was something different about Heath’s role: from the fantastic blotchy make-up to the greasy hair, two underrated creative decisions that established his instability as a character without being as blatantly obvious as tattooing 'damaged' on his forehead...
A lip-licking and lip-smacking maniac, Ledger injected a personality into the Joker that we had never seen before. Scarily, he was oddly likeable, whilst also remaining bloody well frightening. I don’t want to have to bring up the ‘pencil trick’ to remind you...
I’m sure it helped that Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise overall was a grittier, deeper and more realistic depiction than all of its predecessors – giving Ledger the perfect base to work from. But, Ledger’s performance is – in my opinion – flawless. I could watch him hang his head out of the police car all day, permanent goose bumps etched on my skin. Epic.
Photo credit: Suicide Squad
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