Every hero needs a villain, and while loads of evildoers have it out for Batman, none make the Dark Knight tick like The Joker. The two characters have been duking it out for over 70 years (The Joker first appeared in 1940’s Batman #1), and just as their comic book looks have changed dramatically over the years, so have their onscreen counterparts.
BATMAN (ORIGINAL SERIES) - (Adam West and Cesar Romero) -- Blam! Zap! Pow! Though the campy 1960’s Batman TV series only enjoyed a two and a half season run, it secured Adam West and Cesar Romero permanent spots on Bat-Mount Rushmore. West’s deadpan, melodramatic readings are the stuff of legend, but without Romero’s kooky, well-coiffed Joker (he refused to shave his moustache for the show, so they just painted it white) matching him step for step, it would have been a Bat-tastrophe.
THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN (Olan Soule and Larry Storch) -- To kids growing up in the 70s and 80s, Batman was primarily an animated hero. And whether you were watching him beat up criminals in The Adventures of Batman or holding down the Hall of Justice on the Super Friends, you were listening to the sweet pipes of voice actor Olan Soule. While The Joker only cropped up from time to time (Batman has lots of enemies, you know), he was most often played by legendary cartoon character actor Larry Storch.
BATMAN (1989) - (Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson) -- Best known for playing likable, mischievous goofballs, Michael Keaton seemed an odd fit for the Caped Crusader in this Tim Burton-directed blockbuster. He handled the part well enough, though it’s easy to look good when you’re sharing the screen with Jack Nicholson. Arched eyebrows, maniacal laugh, creepy grin -- Nicholson made the character his own, though he’d later make headlines for being grumpy about Heath Ledger getting cast in the role in The Dark Knight.
BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill) -- Bat-aficionados believe in two truths: Kevin Conroy is Batman, and Mark Hamill is The Joker. And frankly, it’s tough to argue with them. The four-time Emmy winning series is an animated legend, and not just for its amazing scripts and spot-on portrayal of Batman. Using two different voices for Batman and Bruce Wayne, Conroy embodied the role and has played it longer than any other actor. As for Hamill, let’s just say his deranged take on The Joker almost made everyone forget that he’s also Luke Skywalker. Almost.
THE DARK KNIGHT ( Christian Bale and Heath Ledger) -- Why so serious? Because Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker in what many consider the greatest superhero movie of all time is seriously great. Nabbing the actor a posthumous Oscar, Ledger’s homicidal, chaotic mess of a criminal makes other Jokers look positively pleasant. And while Bale’s Batman mostly just growls and fights, he’s still loads better than Val Kilmer (or George Clooney).
BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM (Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill) -- When fans learned that Conroy and Hamill would reprise their roles in a cool new Batman video game, they were excited. When they played the final game, they were ecstatic. The best comic book video game ever is pure Bat-goodness through and through thanks in large part to the effortless banter between the two.
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY (Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill) -- First, the good news: both Conroy and Hamill are back in the absurdly anticipated Batman: Arkham City, which breaks down the walls of the first game and lets players zip around Gotham as they try to stop an assortment of escaped ne’er do wells. Now, the bad news: it’s reportedly Hamill’s final performance as The Joker. Say it ain’t so!