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37% Of People Think This Is The Best Joker

Nowadays, it's hard to imagine the cinema landscape without a single super-powered property taking it over. New installments into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as the DCEU have become commonplace in the past few years, but the mainstream acceptance of superhero movies dates back to one specific name: Batman. Thanks to the smash success of 1989's Batman, starring Michael Keaton in the title role, it became cool to root for caped protagonists, as well as their sinister villains. Following in the footsteps of the late Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson redefined the Joker in the big screen production — adding further legitimacy to the Clown Prince of Crime's legacy.

Since the summer of 1989, a handful of talented actors have attempted to make their swing at the legendary antagonist their own. Heath Ledger turned in an unforgettable performance for 2008's The Dark Knight, Jared Leto stirred up controversy with his Suicide Squad Joker from 2016 (and will return in Zack Snyder's 2021 Justice League), and, most recently, Joaquin Phoenix gave it his all for the first Joker solo movie in 2019. Not to mention, the aforementioned Romero, Mark Hamill, and Cameron Monaghan, among others, brought him to life on the small screen both in animation and live-action.

With so many names to choose from, one has to wonder, who is the best of the best? We here at Looper set out to answer that exact question through a recent survey, and the masses made their voices heard.

Heath Ledger's Joker remains unmatched

In the vote, we consulted 650 people total, and their consensus couldn't have been more clear: Heath Ledger's revolutionary Joker portrayal stands head and shoulders above all others. 

He ran away with 37.08 percent of the ballots, trailed by Jack Nicholson's 28.77 percent, then Joaquin Phoenix with 13.69 percent, and Jared Leto at 6.46 percent. Cesar Romero earned 5.85 percent, Mark Hamill's rendition took 4 percent even, and Cameron Monaghan came in last with a meager 1.23 percent to his credit. Additionally, write-in votes accounted for 2.92 percent — however, these responses simply accounted for those without a definitive pick.

It should come as no surprise that Ledger's version of the Harlequin of Hate took the win this time around. He went above and beyond to prepare for the part, as proven by his famed "Joker diary," which helped him take the timeless baddie in a new direction. He leaned heavily into the character's sadistic side and rejected the campiness often found in the source material. It was a huge risk, but it paid off in dividends, scoring Ledger a posthumous Oscar for Best Actor in 2009 following his untimely death on January 22, 2008. The only other actor to earn an Academy Award for their time under the face paint is Phoenix, who took home that same award in 2020.

At the end of the day, there are more Joker interpretations in pop culture than one could count, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. They all have their fans, and rightfully so, since every individual behind them did their best to make a positive contribution to the Batman mythology. Even still, as evidenced by this poll, Heath Ledger's Joker sits firmly at the top of the heap, a status which the late actor gave everything he had — and then some — to achieve.