In over 80 years of his existence, Batman has been one of the most-known comic book characters in history and one of the most-known fictional characters in general. And what’s even better, during all those decades, he fought numerous villains with almost the same reputation as him among comic book fans. Batman has probably the best gallery of villains than any other comic book hero, but we can all agree that the Joker is the most special villain.
Playing the Joker on the big screen has become an honor for actors. Because when you play such an iconic character, you can be sure that you will either receive widespread acclaim or huge criticism. Older generations probably remember legendary Cesar Romero, who played the Joker in the Batman television series from the ’60s. Romero was the first actor to play this character, but today we think everything started with Jack Nicholson, who played Jack Napier/the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. Since then, quite a few actors have played this legendary villain in live-action movies, so today, we’ll list all of them and in which movies each of them appeared. Again, we’ll stick only to live-action movies.
How many movies featuring Joker are there?
In almost every medium in which Batman has appeared, Joker followed him as the shadow. Apart from comic books, this iconic duo encountered each other numerous times in live-action movies, TV shows, animated projects, video games, etc. But if we look only at the live-action movies, Joker has appeared in seven movies, played by six different actors. Some of these actors played the Joker, who was the movie’s main villain, and some only had minor roles in the movies they appeared in.
Movies featuring Joker in order (at a glance)
Six different actors have played the Joker in seven live-action movies this character has appeared in so far. Only one actor played the character in two movies, and only one of them played the Joker in the titular role. These are the live-action movies in which Joker appears:
- Batman (1966)
- Batman (1989)
- The Dark Knight (2008)
- Suicide Squad (2016)
- Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
- Joker (2019)
- The Batman (2022)
Are movies featuring Joker connected? Do you need to watch them in a specific order?
The movies featuring Joker are not connected with each other since each of them is part of a different franchise. When we look at it, even Suicide Squad and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, in both of which Jared Leto stars as the Joker, aren’t so connected, so you don’t need to watch Suicide Squad to understand Leto’s Joker in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. However, there’s a catch. Some Joker actors, like Heath Ledger, played the Joker in the sequels of some previous movies featuring Batman, so in that context, you might need to watch a movie in which Joker doesn’t appear to understand later the sequel he appears in.
What is the best way to watch movies featuring Joker?
Since every Joker that has appeared on the big screen so far is part of a different franchise, there’s absolutely no specific order in which you need to watch the movies featuring Joker. You can start with the latest or with the oldest movie featuring Joker; it doesn’t matter. However, when you want to watch some sequel in which Joker appears, it might be a good idea to watch the previous Batman movies in which he doesn’t appear to understand the full context. If you want to stick only to the movies featuring Joker, we recommend watching them by release date. So, that’s how we will list them in the next paragraphs.
Movies featuring Joker in order (by release date)
The Joker actor: Cesar Romero
Cesar Romero was the first actor in history who had the honor to play the most iconic Batman villain. He played him for three seasons in the Batman television series starring Adam West as Batman in the late ’60s. He reprised the role in the feature movie released in theaters in the summer between the first and second seasons of the series.
This incarnation of Batman and his villains were very campy since it was made when comic books weren’t taken as seriously as today. That’s why most Batman fans, particularly newer generations, tend to forget Romero’s Joker, although they really shouldn’t, because, despite the campy style, his performance was still widely praised.
The Joker actor: Jack Nicholson
Although it wasn’t the first Batman live-action movie, Tim Burton’s 1989’s Batman is often considered as such since it was the movie that introduced darker, more serious Caped Crusader to the big screen. Michael Keaton played Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Jack Nicholson was honored to play Batman’s arch-nemesis.
Although Nicolson had many conditions for the studio to play the role (including picking his own time of shooting), it was ultimately worth it because the movie was a huge critical and commercial success, and Nicholson’s performance as Jack Napier, aka the Joker, was widely praised.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Joker actor: Heath Ledger
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins from 2005 revived Batman on the big screen. And when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker in the sequel, the fans weren’t happy with this casting choice. The fans’ pessimism about the new Joker actor was ultimately unduly because Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker received widespread acclaim, and he’s still often named the best live-action Joker ever by the fans.
Although Ledger passed away before the movie premiered, he received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor posthumously. Ledger played the Joker in the second movie of The Dark Knight trilogy. Although that’s the only movie he appeared in, it’s a good idea to watch Batman Begins before jumping to this ultimate sequel, which is by many still considered one of the best superhero movies of all time.
Suicide Squad (2016)
The Joker actor: Jared Leto
Following Ledger’s performance as the Joker, it took eight for another Joker to appear on the big screen. Jared Leto, who won the Academy Award for Dallas Buyers Club in 2014, was originally set to appear in Batman V Superman. Still, he was cut and referenced in that movie before debuting in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. Unfortunately, although a box-office success, the movie received negative reviews, and Leto’s performance as the Joker was criticized, unlike Margot Robbie’s performance of Harley Quinn, which was praised.
The Joker actor: Joaquin Phoenix
After Jared Leto didn’t manage to meet expectations as the new big-screen Joker, WB changed the course and moved forward with the Joker solo movie with Joaquin Phoenix, which was set outside of DCEU. Although it was only loosely based on Joker’s story from the source material, this movie received widespread acclaim, and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance was widely praised. The movie was nominated and received numerous accolades, and Phoenix won the Academy Award for Best Actor. The sequel is now in production.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
The Joker actor: Jared Leto
After 2016’s Suicide Squad and 2017’s Justice League both failed to meet critical expectations, WB decided to put more focus on standalone movies in DCEU. However, following the large fans’ campaign on social media, Zack Snyder got a chance to release his director’s cut of Justice League in 2021, in which Jared Leto reprised his role as the Joker.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League received positive reviews, with many calling it superior to the theatrical cut. Even Leto’s performance received better reviews than reviews he received after Suicide Squad. However, with WB unwilling to restore the so-called Snyderverse, this remains Leto’s last performance as the Joker.
The Batman (2022)
The Joker actor: Barry Keoghan
After the standalone Batman movie starring DCEU actor Ben Affleck was canceled, Matt Reeves got a chance to rewrite the whole movie and cast a new actor for a new Batman movie outside of DCEU. Robert Pattinson was cast, which was the subject of fans’ criticism, and Paul Dano played the Riddler, the movie’s main villain.
Although Riddler and Colin Farrell’s Penguin were the movie’s main villains, the Joker appeared in one short scene in Arkham Asylum, and Barry Keoghan played this Joker. Shortly after the movie’s release, a deleted scene that showed more of Keoghan’s Joker was released. The sequel is now in development, but it’s still unknown if Keoghan will reprise the role in the sequel.
Where to watch movies featuring Joker?
Joker is a DC character, and all of DC’s movies are owned by WB. Therefore, every movie featuring Joker can be streamed on WB’s own streaming service HBOMax.
Will there be more movies featuring Joker?
The Joker movie from 2019 will get a sequel Joker: Folie à Deux, with Joaquin Phoenix set to reprise the titular role. Lady Gaga has been cast as Harley Quinn, and the movie was announced as a musical. That’s the only movie featuring Joker currently in development. The Batman – Part II, starring Robert Pattison, is also in development, but it’s not known if Barry Keoghan will reprise the role of Joker in that movie.
Joker: Folie à Deux is set to be released on October 4, 2024.