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Batman And The Joker Pairings Ranked Worst To Best

Every superhero needs a villain to square off against. A good villain should challenge the hero physically, draw their mission into question, and provide a visual contrast. Consider Batman: He's dark, brooding, and often portrayed as the grim counterbalance to many of the DC universe's other, cheerier superheroes. By that logic, his perfect inverse should be someone bright, flashy, and ludicrous. This, of course, describes the Joker perfectly.

Now, Batman has one of the finest rogues' galleries in all of comic books, with such heavy hitters as the Scarecrow, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, the Riddler, and too many others to count. But there is no other villain who tests Batman the way the Joker does. This is a striking fact: Batman has whole contingencies in place for the entire Justice League, should they go rogue, but there are days when he just can't handle a single clown. A clown with no sense of human morality, who sees everything, including life and death, as one big joke, granted — but still.

From the small screen to the silver screen, the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince of Crime's relationship is never short of electric. The duo have been portrayed by some of entertainment's most celebrated (and sometimes most underrated) performers. So get out your Batarangs and make sure you're immune to laughing gas, because we're going to rank the most famous Batman and Joker pairings from worst to best!

The New Adventures Of Batman (Adam West and Lennie Weinrib)

To say that The New Adventures Of Batman is a bad cartoon would be overly harsh. By 1977 standards, it's a perfectly acceptable take on the character and his world. Here, Batman is voiced by the man who made him famous on the airwaves of the 1960s, the incomparable Adam West. He does his best to bring charm to the character, as always. The Joker is voiced by Lennie Weinrib, doing a fairly average send-up of Cesar Romero with limited success. This cartoon was made fairly early on in the history of superhero adaptation and televised animation, and it shows: The notion of bringing the same level of performance one would bring to a live-action role to an animated one was clearly not yet the norm.

Now, don't get us wrong: This is a perfectly serviceable cartoon. But it just doesn't do much to move the needle in terms of depth, character development, or real stakes. It's also a far cry from the stellar animated adaptations fans would be exposed to decades down the line, such as Batman: The Animated Series and the highly acclaimed animated films put out by Warner Brothers. All in all, this is a mediocre, mildly charming cartoon that might elicit fine nostalgic memories for some. But as far as Batman and the Joker go, it's definitely not indicative of the dark and often psychologically intriguing interactions the pair would become known for in later years.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (Adam West and Jeff Bergman)

This is one of the more unique additions to the DC animated catalogue, and one that more people should check out. 2016's Return of the Caped Crusaders is a lovely animated tribute to the 1960s Batman series, which is known for its bright colors and campy performances. It's definitely a far cry from the more serious interpretations we've become accustomed to, but if you can accept its unique approach, it's a wonderful animated film. Plus, it's made even better by the fact that both Adam West and Burt Ward return to reprise their roles as Batman and Robin. In short order, they prove they're very much still capable of bringing the charm and verve that helped make them, and the show, famous.

Jeff Bergman, most famous for being the modern-day voice of multiple Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera characters, steps into the role of the Joker. While Bergman does a satisfactory job emulating the work of the great Cesar Romero, he's ultimately just providing a copy of what has already been done. It's hard to praise someone for simply imitating the work of a previous performer — but in no way should he be criticized for it. His interactions with West are pitch-perfect, and suit the film well. Bergman does the best he can to replicate Romero's unique inflections and trademark giggle, and largely, he succeeds. This might not make for a legendary performance, but it does serve to immerse viewers in the campy world to which the film pays tribute.

The Batman (Rino Romano and Kevin Michael Richardson)

The 2000s were a strange time for the Caped Crusader. Not only did Batman Begins subvert any and all expectations about what could be done with the character in film, The Batman was giving kids all kinds of new expectations for Batman and his rogues' gallery. This cartoon is a definite oddity,  if only for its visuals, which were crafted by some of the same talent behind the lovably cheesy Jackie Chan Adventures. The show deviates heavily from previous DC cartoons' aesthetics, opting for more slender and angular designs, as opposed to the classic, box-like look of Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League.

Romano plays Bruce a bit differently than other versions: He's younger and more energetic, but always maintains the undercurrent of tragedy all the best versions of the Dark Knight tend to have. This performance is intriguingly offset by Kevin Michael Richardson's criminally underrated portrayal of the Joker. His design is a definite divergence from the character's standard look, ditching the sleek jacket and more sophisticated attire for a warped asylum outfit, complete with stained yellow teeth and larger, more chaotic hair. But if you can accept those differences, you're in for a real treat.

The relationship between this Batman and Joker is ultimately pretty standard. There's no greater depth given to the pairing, other than in the fairly interesting episode "Strange Minds", in which Batman must head into the Joker's own mind in order to locate a hostage. We're treated to a Burton-esque backstory, complete with a vat of neon green acid.

Batman: Under the Red Hood (Bruce Greenwood and John DiMaggio)

Who knew the dude who played Bender on Futurama and Jake the Dog on Adventure Time could pull off an amazing Joker as well?

Batman: Under the Red Hood is often hailed as not only one of the best DC animated features, but also as one of the best Batman movies ever made. Whether or not it is very much depends on your own personal tastes and opinions, but there's no denying that Under the Red Hood is definitely worth your time. This is due in no small part to the stellar voice work of Bruce Greenwood, who has appeared on the likes of Mad Men, The People vs. OJ Simpson, and J. J. Abrams' Star Trek films, and John DiMaggio who, in addition to his work on Futurama and Adventure Time, has starred on Kim Possible, Disenchantment, and a plethora of other animated classics. As Batman and the Joker, respectively, they're a dream team.

Greenwood's Batman is a gruffer version of Kevin Conroy's, which perfectly suits this film's grittier tone. DiMaggio excels at bringing a cartoonish, yet surprisingly dry sense of humor to his version of Joker. The final confrontation between Batman, Joker, and the titular Red Hood is a stand-out scene, in which Batman explains, in a beautifully delivered speech, why he will never kill the Joker ... and the Joker asks for a group photo of the trio, plus "one with the crowbar" he used to kill Jason Todd. In short, they're a great pairing for a great movie.

Batman: Arkham Origins (Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker)

This is a pairing that doesn't often get its due praise. Roger Craig Smith brings a gruff and brutal quality to this version of Bruce Wayne, who is fresh off his training and has only recently begun his crusade for justice. Troy Baker, who many might remember as the voice of Joel Miller in The Last of Us, among many other high-profile games, opts to take many aspects of his performance from the legendary Mark Hamill. But he adds his own unique flair as well, making the role his own.

A common interpretation of Batman and the Joker's bond, seen in fan communities and the DC canon alike, is that, in many ways, their relationship is a very messed up romance. Arkham Origins showcases the birth of this twisted bond when Batman puts himself in harm's way to save the vicious sociopath. This completely messes with the Joker's head (which says a lot), and makes him hell-bent on convincing Batman that they, being a pair of misfits created by society, are essentially the same. This is encapsulated when Joker says, "We both exist because of them!" To him, that's the core of their relationship: They're the monsters the world made of them, and whatever moral differences keep them apart mean little in the face of that truth.

Arkham Origins is often disregarded as the weakest entry of Rocksteady Studios' Batman: Arkham games. But there is no denying that this is a great pairing, and an interesting interpretation of the Batman-Joker relationship's beginnings.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Diedrich Bader and Jeff Bennett)

The late 2000s animated series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover. Many fans originally wrote off the show as a goofy and disposable addition to the Caped Crusader's cartoon canon. But upon giving it a chance, they were caught off guard by just how endearing, enthralling, and unique this series actually is.

Batman is voiced by Diedrich Bader, who many will remember as Hoss Delgado from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and Lawrence from the cult classic film Office Space. Bader pulls off one of the funniest ever interpretations of the Caped Crusader, as delightfully hammy as he is charismatic. However, he is still able to lean into more serious moments when needed, as in the acclaimed episode, "Chill of the Night." Bader is matched by the talented Jeff Bennett, who many might know from his performance in the titular role on Johnny Bravo. Rather than imitate any previous Joker, Bennett opts to go in his own direction, and pulls off a cartoonish but impressively inflective voice.

Those looking to see the duo's chemistry in action should check out "Game Over for Owlman." Due to the meddling of a dimensional doppelganger, Batman needs help to clear his name. The only person he can seek aid from is the Joker, which leads to some hilarious moments.

1966 Batman (Adam West and Cesar Romero)

Starring the legendary Adam West in the titular role, alongside his faithful ward, Robin (Burt Ward), 1966's Batman TV series was a game-changer. Together, this duo battles such foes as the Riddler, the Penguin, Catwoman and, of course, the Joker, played by the masterfully manic Cesar Romero.

To call West and Romero's portrayals corny would be doing both of them a genuine disservice. West brings an impeccable sense of sophistication and intentionally stilted comedic timing to his version of Batman, and never fails to throw himself headfirst into whatever multicolored insanity the show faces him with. It's not easy to sell fans on a dance move called the "Batusi," but Adam West finds a way.

For his part, Cesar Romero displays deliciously evil jubilance, even when clad in a purple suit and pounds of white makeup (which infamously does little to hide Romero's stylish facial hair). Some actors on this list opt to play the Joker as a maniacal serial killer, while others go for a more comedic portrayal. Romero's take definitely falls into the latter category, and can, in fact, be considered one of the funniest portrayals of the Clown Prince of Crime ever put to film.

This pairing might not be dripping in gothic angst, or have any deeper layers to deconstruct. But it's most definitely a classic example of two fine actors at the top of their respective games, hurling themselves headfirst into the campy insanity of a classic series.

Zack Snyder's Justice League (Ben Affleck and Jared Leto)

Who would have thought the day would come when Batman would be dropping f-bombs to the Joker in a post-apocalyptic landscape? But then, who would have expected a fan campaign could bring about a re-cut version of a theatrical release that disappointed fans and critics alike — let alone one that boasts a four hour runtime? But here we are, in the world #ReleaseTheSnyderCut made.

Zack Snyder's Justice League surprised many people by being a genuinely good film that offers far more in terms of character development and story structure than the theatrical cut does. One of its biggest shocks is the return of Jared Leto's divisive portrayal of the Joker, last seen in Suicide Squad, who is shown as a necessary but undesirable ally in the "Knightmare" epilogue. He and Batman share a powerhouse scene in which the Joker, in the sickest way possible, lambastes Bruce for allowing Robin to die at his hands. This leads to Batman saying in no uncertain terms that he will kill the Joker, using a particular expletive never before uttered by the Dark Knight. 

This sequence has been praised for its unique take on the duo and their bizarre relationship, opting to show it as an alliance built on necessity that could hemorrhage at literally any moment. It's a tense, fraught, and altogether uncomfortable bond — and that's what makes it so memorable.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Peter Weller and Michael Emerson)

It's Batman and the Joker played by RoboCop and Ben Linus from LOST – honestly, we could end this entry right there. But that would be a disservice to this movie, which is truly something special. This two-part animated adaptation of Frank Miller's game-changing graphic novel is often considered one of the best animated Batman films, right alongside Batman: Under the Red Hood and Batman: Year One

This distinction is attributed not only to the stellar animation and attention to detail on display throughout the film, but also to the voice cast. As is now to be expected from an animated DC production, said cast is stellar. Peter Weller excels at playing a tough, grizzled, and intimidating Batman, while Michael Emerson brings a perfect harmony of snarky comedic timing, crossed with completely gleeful mental psychosis.

Sheer, tragic hilarity ensues when, lacking a Batman to fight, the Joker enters a catatonic state. This is only broken upon the Dark Knight's titular return, leading to the classic line: "Batman ... darling." This leads, of course, to a brutally bloody battle between the two of them in, what else, the tunnel of love.

The Dark Knight Returns is considered a seminal work of the DC canon and one of the most important entries in Frank Miller's bloody, battle-worn body of work. The moments that Batman and the Joker share are a big reason why, and this adaptation captures that magic perfectly.

The Lego Batman Movie (Will Arnett and Zach Galifianakis)

The low-key bromance vibes between Batman and the Joker are a big part of their bond. In a very sick way, they complete each other — and, of all movies, The Lego Batman Movie opts to lean into that trope with gusto. 

Some might snicker at this choice, but despite the fact that this is a film populated by sentient Lego figures, it's still a worthy addition to the Batman canon. It pays tribute to all the versions of the character who have come before in a funny and respectful way, while still going in a fresh and unique direction. That's hard to do in any situation, let alone when one's entire cast of characters lacks fingers.

Will Arnett plays an egotistical, often delusional, and very meat-headed version of the Dark Knight, who seemingly cannot go a single scene without praising himself or his epic skills. This Batman literally sings his own praises. A take like this could easily come off as unlikable, but Arnett, best known for his work as Gob Bluth on the cult comedy series Arrested Development and the hit animated dramedy BoJack Horseman, brings such cynical charisma and well-timed delivery that it's impossible not to love him. 

The same can be said for Zach Galifianakis, most famous as Alan from The Hangover series. He brings semi-affable and totally pathetic charm to the role: This Joker is honestly destroyed when Batman says that he means nothing to him, and neither does their relationship. It's an interpretation so strange, it could only exist in a world populated by beings made of plastic.

Gotham (David Mazouz and Cameron Monaghan)

Gotham had a bit of a rough start, as far as TV series go. But eventually, it settled into its niche as a pulpy and stylized interpretation of the Batman mythos. This was, without question, the right thing to do. Where else can you find a show with a blood virus that turns people evil, a Poison Ivy who changes actors three times, and a Mr. Freeze who looks like an ice cream company mascot?

A show this bonkers needs a Batman and Joker pairing that fits its rampant insanity — and it definitely delivers. Here, our Bruce Wayne is a teenager played by David Mazouz, while the first of this show's Jokers is a 20-something carnival worker-turned-cult leader known as Jerome Valeska, played by Cameron Monaghan. Bruce is an awkward, socially stilted adolescent embarking upon a quest to avenge his parents. Jerome is maniacal, hilarious, and strangely charming, despite his increasingly grotesque features.

You might've noticed we said one of this show's Jokers. Jerome has a secret twin, Jeremiah (also played by Monaghan), who doesn't want to be part of his brother's sick plans. This changes after Jerome's demise. Jeremiah proves to be just as twisted as his brother with a far more organized approach to evil.

This is one of the strangest interpretations of the Joker, and accordingly, one of the strangest renditions of the Batman-Joker bond. Monaghan and Mazouz share a wonderfully twisted chemistry with each other, perfectly representing their comic book counterparts despite their different ages and designs. Jerome sums it up well in the episode "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies:" "We make a good team, you and me."

Batman (Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson)

Seeing Tim Burton's Batman on the big screen in 1989 was one heck of an experience. From the tidal wave of merchandise to the (now extremely dated) soundtrack to its lasting impact on comic book films, this film's importance cannot be overstated. It changed pop culture, superhero movies, and Batman forever.

Batman oozes charisma and has, for many fans, Batman's definitive aesthetic and musical score. Burton made this film 100 percent his, not just in terms of his trademark style, but also in his casting decisions. As hard as this might be to believe, when Michael Keaton was first announced for the role, there was a serious fan backlash. And bear in mind, the internet didn't even exist yet — that's how repelled fans were by this choice. But Keaton, who had previously worked with Burton on Beetlejuice, surprised fans by delivering a different but magnetic performance as the world's greatest detective. Keaton portrays a man on the edge of sanity: He's scarred by tragedy, but managing to mask it under an outgoing and charming façade. Keaton is one of the only men who can smile as Batman, and, with all due respect to Val Kilmer, have it make sense. Plus, when he says the words "I'm Batman," you believe him completely.

Jack Nicholson opts to lean into the traits that have made him famous. As the Joker, his sinister delivery is peppered with a healthy dose of manic energy, complete with a gloriously evil laugh. When the Joker vandalizes an art museum while dancing wildly to Prince, it's impossible to not sense that Nicholson is having the time of his life. His gleeful energy rubs off on the audience, as entertaining as it is frightening.

Burton took some liberties with the characters' origins: In this film, it's a young Jack Napier, the future Joker, who guns down Thomas and Martha Wayne in Crime Alley, in front of young Bruce. Whether or not this is a good change has been the subject of much debate, but it definitely makes for a unique version of the classic duo and a more cathartic climax when they face off in the cathedral.

The Dark Knight (Christian Bale and Heath Ledger)

What can be said about this pairing that hasn't been said already? The Dark Knight set the world on fire, raked in a gargantuan amount of money, and changed the face of movies forever. While Batman Begins definitely laid the foundation The Dark Knight builds upon, this is the film that cemented the modern perception of Batman and his universe.

Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne is of very high quality: He's equal parts subdued and subtly humorous, shown mostly through his wonderful interactions with Michael Caine's Alfred. As Batman, he brings with him a sense of unshakable authority and physical intimidation. While the voice he opts to use while in costume has been the subject of much parody and debate in terms of its quality, it gives his Batman an undeniably unique touch.

By this point, praising Heath Ledger in an original way is almost impossible. Everyone who has a single opinion on Batman has dissected and analyzed the brilliance of this performance — multiple times over, in some cases. Ledger's Joker is a complete enigma with an unknown backstory that he himself keeps changing, depending on who he is talking to. From the sloppy make-up to his unique inflections to his complete disregard for human life, this is still one of the darkest and most terrifying Joker performances ever put on screen.

The chemistry between Ledger and Bale is one of a kind, encapsulated perfectly in the famous interrogation scene, in which the Joker explains to Batman that ultimately, in society's eyes, they're both just freaks. It's a tragedy that the untimely passing of Heath Ledger meant these two could only share one film together, but at least it's a film that will always be appreciated as a top-tier example of just how good a portrayal of Batman and the Joker can be.

Batman: The Animated Series (Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill)

From its unforgettable character designs and beautiful backgrounds to the stellar quality of its writing, Batman: The Animated Series is often hailed as the gold standard when it comes to Batman media. It's a show that chooses not to play it safe, fully showcasing the darkness of Gotham City and its denizens in a way that proves engaging for kids and adults alike.

For many, Kevin Conroy is the Batman, and we're not going to disagree. In reality, playing Batman is really playing two roles: The Dark Knight and his alter ego, playboy Bruce Wayne. Some actors excel at playing only one of the two parts, but with his velvet voice, charming demeanor, and ability to turn on the intimidation factor at a moment's notice, Conroy encompasses every aspect of the character in one marvelous performance.

Mark Hamill, best known as Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars films, is regarded by many as the definitive Joker, and it isn't hard to see why. Everything is precisely on point with his performance, which balances on the line between absolute abandon and sly charm. Hamill brings an ineffable energy to the role that simply can't be duplicated: Actors who attempt to ape him always end up sounding washed-out in comparison. There's no copying Hamill's maniacal energy — and definitely no copying his insane Joker laugh, which is undoubtedly the best ever recorded.

Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are so synonymous with these roles, it's almost impossible to think of one without the other. They're Batman and the Joker at their most iconic: A stalwart hero devoted to justice, and an anarchic villain who thinks justice is the funniest joke of all.