This weekend sees the release of Suicide Squad, the anticipated blockbuster from Warner Bros and DC Comics. The latest superhero film brings something new to the genre film by focusing on the a group of super villains featuring the likes of Deadshot (Will Smith), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). However, another supervillain makes an appearance in Suicide Squad, and he is all too familiar with the silver screen. This villain is none other than The Clown Prince of Crime: The Joker. Played by Jared Leto, The Joker causes havoc throughout the events of Suicide Squad and seeks to get Harley back. The latest appearance of the iconic villain makes it the fifth time that The Joker has appeared on the big screen, with each appearance more different from the last. So to commemorate the new film, here is a brief look at Joker's cinematic history (including his appearance in Suicide Squad) to prove the impact that this villain has had in the world of film.
5. Batman: The Movie
Before Batman was known for being dark and gritty, most viewers knew the Caped Crusader in a campier light thanks to 1966 television series. While the show is dated, there is no denying that the show has remained nostalgic to both viewers and Batman fans alike. After its first season, the series received a feature-length film known as Batman, or Batman: The Movie. In the film, Batman and Robin take on Gotham's most notorious villains, and among the rogues is none other than The Joker, played by Cesar Romero. Of all the portrayals of the Joker, Romero's take is one that has a minimal impression on the timeline of Joker's. However, one can still appreciate Romero's performance as the Clown Prince of Crime. While it may be a dated, take on the character Romero did set the stage for future performances. Plus there is no denying that the actor's eccentric take on the Joker did work in the context of the show as well as the movie.
4. Batman (1989)
If you are from my generation, odds are you were raised with Tim Burton's Batman. Before the movie world catered an array of superhero films, Batman was the prime example of bringing superheroes to the silver screen. To this day, this blockbuster is one of the pioneers of the genre. Taking the role of the Joker was none other than Jack Nicholson. In the film, Joker starts off as Jack Napier, the second-in-command to mob boss Carl Grissom. After being betrayed by Grissom and falling into a pit of acid, Jack becomes The Joker and takes over Grissom's empire by disposing of the elderly crime boss. Now in control, Joker begins his reign of terror on Gotham City by poisoning citizens with his Smilex products.
Nicholson's take on the character was an interesting one as it breaks away from Joker's normal direction and back story. However, this is not to say that actor's take was ineffective. Meshing subtle and outlandish antics, this movie villain was one that made a lasting impression. So while Nicholson's performance may not have been a spot-on take of the character, there is no denying that actor's portrayal on the supervillain was one that did The Joker justice.
3. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm
Because of the popularity of Tim Burton's Batman, Warner Bros. decided to produce an animated series based on the adventures of the Dark Knight. This series would be known as Batman: The Animated Series. To this day, the show is perhaps one of the best interpretation to the iconic superhero. With its dark atmosphere and gripping stories, Batman: The Animated Series set itself apart from several cartoons in the '90s. Because of this direction, the series is cherished by fans even to this day (myself included).
The series was so popular that Warner Bros. decided to produce a feature-length film called Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Despite its underwhelming performance in theaters, Mask of the Phantasm is beloved by fans as its gripping story and characters has made the movie perhaps the most underrated film to feature the Dark Knight. In the film, Batman comes face to face with a new vigilante known as The Phantasm, who is killing off an array of gangsters. It comes to the point where the sole surviving mobster, Salvatore Valestra, seeks help to get rid of the Phantasm. Who should he get help from? None other than The Joker, voiced by Mark Hamill.
As fans to Batman: The Animated Series will tell you, Mark Hamill is the voice of the Joker. Hamill has played the character for years and, on each occasion, the actor's take always personifies the essence of the villain. Hamill's portrayal in Mask of the Phantasm is no exception to this. Though Joker's role in the film is (to an extent) minimal, there is no denying that the character steals the show in all of his scenes. He may only in appear in the later part of the movie, but it seems that Mask of the Phantasm would not be the same without the inclusion of The Joker.
2. The Dark Knight
After 1993, it would be quite sometime before the Clown Prince of Crime would be seen again on the silver screen. Fortunately the character would make his triumphant return in the 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight. Continuing from the events of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight centered on Batman going face to face with the Joker, who begins his reign of terror by creating as much chaos as possible. In the movie, the role of the Joker was played by the late Heath Ledger, and the rest is history. To this day Ledger's take on the infamous Clown is legendary as it was twisted, deranged and little charming. It was no shock the actor's performance not only stole the show but managed to win an Oscar for best supporting actor. Ledger's performance not only did justice to The Joker, but it has paved the way for actor taking up the role of the iconic villain and supervillains in general.
1. Suicide Squad
And now we come to man of the hour: Jared Leto as The Joker. In Suicide Squad, Joker is content to tracking down and getting back Harley, who is apart of Task Force X in the movie. There is no denying that Leto had a lot to live up to as he is coming off from Heath Ledger's performance. However, I feel that Leto's take on the Clown Prince of Crime is a dynamic one. Like other portrayals in the DC Extended Universe this take on Joker is different but true to the source material. The new Joker is unpredictable, theatrical and very much someone you do not want to meet in a dark alley. The creepy nature of this portrayal could even give Ledger's Joker some pointers. The only issue with Leto's Joker is that the character only has a few scenes, but then again this not necessarily a bad thing. For starters the movie's concept is about the supervillain team and not the Clown Prince of Crime. However Leto's take on the villain left me wanting to see more (in a good way). With the DC Extended Universe continuing its expansion, I can only hope that future film will further development of Leto's Joker, as there is much potential for this deranged psychopath.
There is no denying that The Joker has played a major role in movie history as the character has been depicted five different times on the silver screen, and this is not even including direct to DVD films that have featured the villain. It seems that no matter the portrayal, be it Cesar Romero or Jared Leto, each interpretation of the Joker has brought something new to the silver screen; and while the Joker's future is uncertain for the moment, there is no denying that the iconic villain will laugh again on the big screen in one way or another.
Make sure to catch Suicide Squad in theaters August 5th!