Joker and Batman have been pitted against each other in most of the Batman comics, movies, and videogame series. The first comic book appearance of Joker was in 'Batman #1,' published in April 1940, which means that they have been at each other’s throats since the day of their inception. Talk about a match made in heaven! 

Now, more than half a century later, fans are still excited about the casting of the infamous character in the upcoming DC Films’ The Batman Trilogy. War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves was appointed to direct the movie in 2019. 

It was first reported by the Direct’s contributing insider Daniel Richtman that Joker could make an appearance in the second and third installments of the trilogy. Ever since then, speculations have been growing on what kind of Joker we would be getting this time around.

Its already confirmed that the first installment of The Batman Trilogy in 2021 would feature at least four villains, including Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, and Carmine Falcone

The movie is set to focus on the formative years of Batman; that’s the reason why The Lighthouse star Robert Pattison, who is in his thirties, has been appointed to portray Batman. 

But expect from Richtman’s comments, there have been no comments from Matt Reeves or  Warner Bros regarding the appearance of Joker in The Batman Trilogy. Still, fans have been theorizing that The Batman movie in 2021 will likely crossover with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, given the context of their existence primarily outside of the DCEU core timeline stories. Robert Pattinson’s spontaneous comment on Pheonix’s Joker in September 2019 also has been fueling to the speculation that the version of Joker may feature in The Batman trilogy. 

Joaquin Pheonix’s portrayal of Joker was the most recent version of Joker fans got to see in Todd Philips’s 2019 movie of the same name. The directorship of Philips wowed fans’ hearts with its tragic-take on the clown criminal history, and many of us wished that he would crossover to future DC films.

Who's The New Joker: The article speculates the most compatible version of Joker for The Batman 2021 

However, we should take any of the speculations with a grain of salt until official confirmation arrives. Till then, here we present to you the many versions of Joker along with our verdict on the most compatible version for The Batman Trilogy.   

The Many Faces of Joker

Cesar Romero’s Joker (1966)

Joker was first portrayed on the screen by Cesar Romero in the 1966 film Batman. The film was in turn adapted from the 1960s live-action Batman series starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as his sidekick Robin. The 60s television series was a goofy and light-hearted take on Batman, and hence Romero’s portrayal of Joker in the series was of a mischievous criminal who just wanted to have a good time.

Whether it was entering an art contest, challenging Batman to a surfing duel, or just trying to rob Wayne Manor mansion, Romero’s over the top performance won over the television audiences during the 60s. He was always wasting time, prancing around the room, and laughing maniacally. However, his diabolic personality never went beyond trying to coat Batman in wax or tricking Batman to come around his disguised underground lair. His schemes felt more like a light-hearted prank than a diabolical plot.

And that was the charm of Romero’s Batman. He did not pretend to conceal a dark and violent past. He played his Joker with a goofy intensity who pranced around his crime scenes like a child.

Romero’s Joker wreaked so much sinister glee without even trying that he was befitting of the title "Clown Prince of Crime." Some older generations think that he still is the best live-action Joker that comes closest to his comic origin.

Jack Nicholson’s Joker (1989)

Many of the millennials who grew up with Tim Burton’s Batman (1989 ) will be very familiar with Nicholson’s featuring as the sinister villain. Cesar Romero’s portrayal of Joker had widely influenced his performance. 

Nicholson’s acting as a flamboyant, psychotic criminal dressed up as a clown was so charismatic that he even stole the show from Batman whenever he was on screen. 

Not only was Nicholson’s performance darker than Romero’s, but he was also witty with well-timed puns and fancy one-liners. Most would even argue that Mark Hamill’s Joker on Batman: The Animated Series drew inspiration from this version of Joker.

Heath Ledger’s Joker (2008)

Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) took the world by storm. When the trailer was finally released, everyone was glued to their seats in anticipation as Batman drove straight toward Joker in his "Batpod," after which Joker screamed, “HIT ME!”. Everyone on the Planet knew then that what they were about to witness would be nothing short of a masterpiece.

Understandably, Heath Ledger did not want to base the version of Joker on the previous Jokers; instead, he drew inspiration from the graphic novels: ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ and ‘Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.’ He locked himself away in a hotel room for a month and spent time writing down Joker’s thoughts in a diary. He certainly pushed himself to the limits when it came to immersing in the role. Some even believe that this was the reason for his medication overdose resulting in an untimely demise. Whatever the case, Ledger’s portrayal as the Joker, will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest acting performances of all time.

His version of Joker was witty, chaotic, deranged, and violent. From mocking clap at Inspector Gordon’s promotion to creating the two separate home-made hostage videos of Batman-wannabees just to warn Batman, Ledger’s Joker showed a high level of unpredictability in the movie. 

Jared Leto’s Joker (2016)

Right after his much-lauded performance as a drug-addicted transgender person with AIDS in the film Dallas Buyer’s Club, Jared Leto was appointed to play Joker in Suicide Squad. It was a perfect match made in heaven.

In this David Ayer’s version of the clown prince, Leto wanted to ground his Joker to our reality. Thus, he found inspiration from the “drug lords on Instagram," who had pictures of tigers lounging by the pool, bikini-clad women with RPG’s, and gold plated guns in Gucci designer bags.

In this way, Leto’s’s Joker was inspired to chose an illegitimate but luxurious high-life of a criminal in the movie.

A lot of it has to do with creating a character with some kind of history and footprint in our world. And not have this sacrosanct being outside of our continuum, our reality. If a guy like him really existed today, where would he come from? How would he do business? Who would he know? What would he look like? In my mind, I took a lot of inspiration from drug lords on Instagram. It’s a great way to understand the lifestyle of a villain.

However, Ledger’s Joker didn’t care about the lifestyle and money. He just wanted “to watch the world burn.” Leto’s Joker, on the other hand, loved the extravaganza and the money that his power gave. But Leto’s version did try to portray Joker’s notorious and carefree side in the movie.

Behind the scenes, Leto also channeled his character’s soul and pranked his castmates. He gifted a live rat to his co-star Margot Robbie, dropped a dead pig on the table during the cast’s rehearsal, and sent playboy magazines to the “Killer Croc” actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and even sent used condoms to everyone. Yuck!

But all that went off people’s heads when they watched his performance. A lot of people felt that he was putting on a show for the audience rather than actually inhabiting the character. People commented on his over-the-top tattoos (not to forget the on-your-face “damaged” tattoo smack on his forehead).

To be fair to Leto, we have to consider that most of his scenes were cut at the editing table because Warner Bros wanted to make the story a more “light-hearted”. We know Leto is a fine actor, so I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker (2019)

Joaquin Pheonix’s Joker is based on a character study of how the sociopathic clown descended to madness. In the movie of the same name, the individual focus was on the character of Joker, unlike previous Batman movies, where we got to see multiple casts, side stories, and the typical battle between the superhero and villains.

After watching the movie in 2019, some hardcore “Joker” fans complained that the character of Joker only worked when pitted against his arch-nemesis Batman. Some fans also argued that the movie should have opted-out from revealing the origin of the character. They believed that part of Joker’s appeal was that his origin was a mystery. 

But the movie proved everyone wrong. It crossed the billion mark in the box office and showed once for all that standalone DC Films based on individual characters may work if portrayed beautifully. 

Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the Joker in the movie was applauded for its visceral portrayal of a schizophrenic man on the edge of his sanity. We watched and felt every pain as Arthur Fleck descended into the darkest pits of the human wasteland. Phoenix’s character study in Joker (2019) was the closest we got into the mind of this Machiavellian sociopath.

Matt Reeves’ Gotham: Which Version I Prefer In The Batman Trilogy?

To answer which version of the Joker would fit Matt Reeves’ gritty Gotham tale, we have to know the nature and story of the Batman and Gotham he wishes to create.

Matt Reeve's Gotham

The first hint of the kind of Gotham we can expect from the upcoming film is its shooting location, Glasgow. It is the most populous city in Scotland, and the majority of its old buildings are of Victorian-style architecture, some even dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. 

The Victorian-styled buildings have distinct features consisting of intricate window frames, pointed domes, and its castle-like stature. All these give off a very neo-gothic feel. A gothic style Gotham had also been often depicted in many Batman comic books and most-notably in Tim Burton’s 1988 Batman.

Nature of Batman

Now moving on to the nature of Batman, Matt Reeves has gone on record saying that his take on the Batman won’t be an experienced veteran, and neither would he be a “deer-in-the-headlights” amateur. He has also clarified that the upcoming version of Batman will focus on him being "the world's greatest detective." So, what kind of Joker would challenge Robert Pattinson’s noir, Batman?

The Winner

Nicholson’s Joker was a whimsical mob-boss who would love to do a dance number while shooting everyone in the bank. Ledger’s Joker was an archaic agent of chaos who was grounded in the gritty realism of Nolan’s modern metropolitan city. Leto’s Joker was an over-the-top drug lord whose volatile temperament gave the chills to anyone who dared disagree with him. And then Phoenix’s Joker was a very relatable sociopathic professional clown who just wanted to be appreciated and understood.

And the winner is...Jared Leto’s Joker!

Some of you may ask in protest, “Why chose Leto when you have such powerhouse performances from Ledger and Phoenix?”

However, the winner is actually based on the adaptation of the Joker and not on the performance itself. We have a Batman who is in his 30s and is probably in his second or third year as the caped crusader. Then, we have the neo-gothic Gotham that is filled with old-money mobsters like John Turturro’s Carmine  Falcone and Colin Farrell’s Penguin, with some newer post-batman lunatics like Peter Sarsgaard’s Two-Face and Paul Dano’s Riddler.

We need a Joker that can match their wackiness and yet feel real to the Victorian-style Gotham that Matt Reeves is building. And that is why Jared Leto is my choice.

‘The Batman’ 2021 Cast and Release Date

The anticipated superhero movie will release on October 1, 2021. It will be the first movie of the trilogy by Warner Bros.  

In the DC superhero film, Robert Pattinson will appear as Bruce Wayne (Batman) alongside a massive enable cast consisting of John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Jayme Lawson, Colin Farrell, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano, Zoë Kravitz, and Jeffrey Wright.