First off, let’s pay our respects.
The Joker has been an iconic role for multiple generations. Cesar Romero, the “Latin from Manhattan” first filled the role alongside Adam West in the original Batman television series. All the way back in 1966.
The iconic Jack Nicholson is also among the greats who have embodied the Joker. He appeared as the Joker in Tim Burton’s acclaimed “Batman” in 1989.
And most recently, 30 Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto attempted to reinvent the clown prince in 2016’s Suicide Squad, but both Leto and fans were disappointed with his time as the Joker.
Despite the wild energy Romero brought to the roll, besides the air of greatness Nicholson generated, and in spite of Leto’s failed attempt, Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight is the greatest incarceration of the Joker ever seen on film (Mark Hamill’s voice acting does not qualify him here, but we see you animated series fans).
Heath Ledger is the Best Joker. Period.
Seriously though, here is why:
When you think of Heath Ledger, it is impossible not to associate his tragic death with the iconic role. However, that is explicitly NOT a reason Heath Ledger is the best joker ever.
He is the best, because, well, who has ever captured the creepy crazy of The Joker better than Ledger? As seen in comics like The Killing Joke, the Clown Prince is as cruel as he is insane. Romero captured the insanity well, and Nicholas the aura, but Ledger fuses the two to great success.
“Why so Serious?”
It is not often that a character receives a new catchphrase after fifty years of tradition. And yet, ledger managed to utter the most iconic phrase in Joker history: “Why so serious?”
I do not think there is a single scene that better captures why Ledger is the best clown prince than the Nurse Joker scene. In this scene, Joker commits an act of unspeakable atrocity, and does so while wearing a nurses costume. The sly smile that slides across Joker’s face sends chills up the viewer’s spine. Somehow, the ludicrous getup only adds to the psychotic aura of Ledger’s joker, rather than distracting from it. This is the embodiment of Joker fans had been waiting for, and there it is, immortalized forever.