Since 1940, we’ve seen the Joker turn from a comical, ludicrous villain, to one who is relatively more human, and that’s just made him more terrifying than ever. He’s a psychotic killer whose only goal is to bring out the psycho in Batman, to prove that even the strongest can be pushed over the edge. There have been many great animated portrayals of the character, from Larry Storch in “Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder” (1968) to Lennie Weinrib in “The New Adventures of Batman” (1977). But nobody — and we mean nobody — voices a joker like Mark Hamill.
Hamill voiced the Clown Prince of Crime in “Batman the Animated Series” (1992), “The New Batman Adventures” (1997), and even the upcoming “Justice League Action” (2016). Mark Hamill has been the voice of the Joker for more than 20 years, effortlessly capturing the villain in all his lethal madness in TV shows, films and video games. For many fans, his is the definitive Joker, at least in voice. Here are 15 of the actor’s best turns as the Joker, and why they so thoroughly shook us to the core.
SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers ahead for multiple Joker stories in TV, video games, films and comics.
15. Joker’s Favor (Batman: The Animated Series)
The episode titled “Joker’s Favor” in the animated series is notable because it marked the first appearance of Harley Quinn and set the tone for the infamous relationship that followed. The Joker, upset by the fact that Commissioner Gordon will be receiving an award, decides that he’ll go and “honor” the commissioner as well. The scene is set by one monologue given by the Joker expressing his twisted way of thinking, and is received with a round of forced applause from his thugs, as well as a very enthusiastic Harley Quinn.
This scene has even more power thanks to Mark Hamill, given that the animators of the Batman animated series stated that their animation of the Joker was inspired by Hamill’s tendency to enthusiastically move about in the booth during his recording sessions. Translating that physical verve to the screen during his performance gives just the right amount of energy and life to a character as devious and maniacally complex as the Joker.
14. Mad Love (The New Batman Adventures)
After failing to kill Batman for the millionth time, an infuriated Joker returns to his secret lair with his partner-in-crime and pseudo-lover Harley Quinn. There, the devious clown angrily plots Batman’s demise. Harley, meanwhile, is down with whatever she can to make her puddin’ happy. Joker is not having any of that, though, so he kicks her out. The rest of the episode follows Harley as she recalls the first time she met the Joker, and how she turned from a well-meaning clinical psychiatrist to a caped-crusader-fighting clown sidekick.
She ends up capturing Batman herself, just to cheer her lover up, which only enrages him so much so that he throws her out of a window. There’s a lot in this episode, and a lot that can be attributed to Mark Hamill’s distinctive Joker voice, which, especially during his sessions with Dr. Quinzel, seems to emanate both madness and undeniable charm. We can almost understand Harley’s affection for him despite the monster he really is. Almost…
13. Batman Arkham Asylum
Some of the best performances Mark Hamill has ever given as the Joker, has been on developer Rocksteady’s “Batman: Arkham” video game series, which began with “Batman: Arkham Asylum” in 2009. One of the most memorable moments in that first video game was early on, after the Dark Knight had brought Joker to Arkham Asylum, which, even in the comics, has a terrible reputation when it comes to security. The security depicted in the game is a lot thicker, something which the Joker takes full advantage of almost immediately.
No one could play the Joker half as well as Hamill, who by 2009, had pretty much mastered the Joker’s laugh. After Batman chases his maniacal nemesis through the Asylum, he fights a mad experiment on the loose and is given a chance to end the Joker’s life by the twisted clown himself. Of course, he doesn’t take that opportunity and the Joker escapes, hinting at the outrageous plans he’s prepared. In that scene especially, the talented Hamill, effortlessly shifts from Joker’s ominous words to hysterical laughter, which makes for an unforgettable exit.
12. Almost Got ‘Im (The New Batman Adventures)
If you ever needed proof of the Joker’s powerful presence, even in the form of animation, look no further than this episode of “The New Batman Adventures,” which features not one, not two, but six of Batman’s greatest foes (not counting Catwoman) — Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, Two-Face, Penguin, Harley Quinn and of course, Joker. The episode follows five of these villains as they recount some of their fights with the Dark Knight.
It’s memorable for its depiction of Batman’s rogues gallery interacting with each other, and yet the Joker stands out above the rest with his signature laughter and outrageous tale, which included his takeover of a late night talk show, an electric chair powered by laughter and a cat food factory. While it seems wacky, Hamill is able to give the character the confident lack of sanity that makes his tale seem more like a twisted, obsessive serial killer instead of just the plot of cartoon writers.
11. Injustice for All (Justice League)
Even when pitted against the entire Justice League, while allied with (tenuously, as one would expect) some of the worst villains in the DC Animated Universe, Mark Hamill’s Joker possesses an indomitable presence, which even the likes of Lex Luthor, Shade and Solomon Grundy could never hope to outshine. Oddly enough, Hamill’s Joker, with his brutal confidence and ominously carefree attitude, makes the character anything but a joke.
That fact can’t be denied by the end of Part I, when he actually succeeds in capturing Batman for the Injustice Gang. From his dramatic intrusion on the Injustice Gang’s meeting, his merry attack on Wonder Woman and the Flash, to the final “you’re dethpicable” remark to Batman after being badly beaten, Mark Hamill masterfully works a laugh, a chuckle, a growl and a scornful hiss into a line in ways few other voice actors have managed to match.
10. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Released a little over a year after the debut of the animated series, “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” sees Gotham turned against the detective after a mysterious figure intervenes during Batman’s pursuit of a gangster, Chuckie Sol. The figure murders Sol before vanishing without a trace, leaving Batman to take the blame for the gangster’s violent death. After the death of a second major gangster, the Joker is hired by a third, Valestra, to kill Batman before Batman kills him. The Joker however, knowing that Batman doesn’t kill, murders Valestra and finds the mysterious figure involved.
The clown then begins his own investigation through Gotham’s underworld in order to find out who the Phantasm is, which brings him to the offices of Councilman Arthur Reeves, who, as it turns out, is a former associate. But it’s not the Joker’s actions that terrified us back then. It was that deranged, psychotic quality in the Joker’s voice and haunting laughter that makes this scene so unforgettably horrifying.
9. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (The Finale)
While his performance throughout the rest of the film maintained its unsurpassable height, the film’s epic conclusion was where Mark Hamill really hit his peak. During the emotional, action-packed climax of the film, Batman and the Phantasm face Joker and both fail to wipe that gleeful grin off of his face. Even after being beaten to the point where blood is streaming down his face, the Joker — in the face of what seemed to be death itself and surrounded by the explosive flames engulfing an abandoned amusement park — did nothing but laugh hysterically, as if nothing that happened had any real effect on him whatsoever.
Chances are, it didn’t. He has nothing to lose and despite being caught once again, still managed to cause pain for not one, but two of his major enemies. And while they walk away, wounded but triumphant, the Joker knows that they re both that much more broken inside.
8. World’s Finest (Superman: The Animated Series)
In this three-part crossover story arc, Joker visits Metropolis and strikes a deal with Lex Luthor — Joker will kill Superman in exchange for a billion dollars (we all have to make money somehow). How does the Joker intend on fighting a solar-powered fighting alien? Why, with the ever so rare ( yet seemingly always obtainable) kryptonite that Joker stole just prior to visiting Metropolis.
Throughout the episodes, he never loses his smile, even when facing Superman himself. The Joker feigns defeat and proceeds to splash Superman with acid while he is distracted by Lois, who is tied up with a bow. Because of the energy he exudes, you’re never really sure if Joker was ever thrown off by Superman’s suit or if he’d planned for it all along. Even when it’s so blatantly clear that he’s been defeated in the finale, when Joker is left without a means of escape in a crashing plane about to explode, he goes down laughingthe maniacal laugh that Hamill made famous; a truly haunting swan song.
7. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Death Scene)
In 1999, a new Batman was introduced to fans. His name was Terry McGinnis, a misunderstood high school student who ends up under the employ of an 80-year old Bruce Wayne. After stumbling into the batcave and discovering Bruce Wayne’s former alter-ego, Terry McGinnis inevitably dons a new and improved suit, becoming the Batman of future-Gotham.
The 2000 film “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” sees the Joker mysteriously reappearing after his apparent demise at the hands of Robin (Tim Drake), decades prior. If the character of the Joker wasn’t nightmarish enough, Mark Hamill’s skill makes his impossible return even more chilling during a flashback scene where young Tim Drake, twisted by weeks of torture by the Joker, is commanded to fire one of Joker’s darts into a beaten Batman. Drake, struggling with the trauma of it all, soon breaks free from the mental anguish and fires the dart into the Joker instead, who, as he lay dying, utters, “that’s not funny”.
6. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Slideshow)
The previous scene follows a cold reveal of how the young Robin seemingly turned on Batman, revealing all his secrets to the Joker, such as his identity. The Joker narrates a slideshow of all the torturous equipment and painful moments that went into turning young Robin into a mini-Joker, who Joker and Harley Quinn could then “adopt.” Hamill’s smooth shifts in tone and emphasis on certain words, makes the scene so much richer.
No other villain could bring Batman that close to his breaking point, as Bruce realizes that the cowl no longer hides the vulnerable man behind it. That’s when Joker brings it home. “Behind all the sturm und batarangs, you’re just a little boy in a playsuit, crying for mommy and daddy! It’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic… Oh what the heck, I’ll laugh anyway!” he taunts, followed by one of the most villainous laughs Mark Hamill has ever given as the Joker.
5. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Joker’s Back)
The scene that really showed “Return of the Joker” audiences that the film wasn’t just going to be a simple showdown between Batman and Joker, was the moment Joker revealed himself to Bruce at the billionaire’s “welcome back” party. First, the gang of Jokerz attacked, creating chaos by stampeding through the guests, overturning tables, knocking out employees and generally taking the phrase ‘crashing a party’ a bit too literally. Finally turning to Bruce Wayne and throwing him on to the floor, the thugs set the stage for their leader’s big return.
Purple smoke bursts out from a hatch and a figure fades in from the smoke. Standing there, with his classic toothy grin and iconic ghostly complexion, is the Joker. Bruce looks up, confused and horrified at what he’s seeing. The best part about this scene is Joker’s televised greeting to Gotham and a foreshadowing taunt to “Brucie,” declaring that the Joker is back in town, before following it up with Hamill’s spine-tingling evil laughter.
4. Batman: Arkham City
The 2011 sequel to “Batman: Arkham Asylum” featured a larger, more open world environment, as well as a dozen more villains to fight. “Arkham City” has Hugo Strange and Mayor Sharp expanding Arkham Asylum and using an entire section of Gotham City to do so. Their aim was seemingly to throw criminals into said city and allow them to rot away there. But there’s a larger scheme taking place here; and when Bruce Wayne finds himself locked up in Arkham City, he takes it upon himself to uncover the mastermind behind it.
The Joker, poisoned by the Titan formula he used back in “Arkham Asylum,” takes advantage of the situation and forces Batman to search for a cure, one that ultimately never makes it to the Joker’s lips, purely due to his own recklessness. It’s a twist ending nobody saw coming and Mark Hamill pulls it off perfectly, giving the Joker a death sequence worthy of the maniacal clown prince, with a throaty death rattle that still churns our stomachs today.
3. Batman: Arkham Knight
Though the series boldly killed the character off, Joker returned for the conclusive instalment in the “Batman: Arkham” series for one epic showdown with the caped crusader, and one that takes place entirely in the dark knight’s head. Racked with guilt, and poisoned by traces of Joker’s toxic blood, Batman is faced with a Gotham City overrun by criminals and super villains, vying for power and seeking revenge on Batman. After a brief encounter with Scarecrow, Batman is tasked with shutting down the doctor’s fear-toxin bomb. While he manages to save the majority of the city, he is exposed to the gas and suddenly finds his own psyche turned against him, in the form of the Joker.
It was an exciting surprise for all, since Mark Hamill had announced that “Arkham City” was to be his last performance as the Joker. It turned out, however, that Hamill still had one amazing performance to give throughout “Batman: Arkham Knight,” one that ended with a fitting send-off for the villain, with Batman finally claiming victory over the psycho that refused to die, even if he was just a voice.
2. Batman: The Killing Joke (That Song)
Evidently unable to give up the role of the Joker, Hamill returned once again as the dark knight’s arch-nemesis for “Batman: The Killing Joke”, the animated film adaption of the famous 1988 graphic novel. It was the film Hamill had been eager to participate in for years, encouraging fans to petition for a film to be made. Finally, in July 2016, the animated feature was released to excited audiences everywhere.
While there were a few odd additions made for film that irked much of its audience, it generally stayed quite faithful to its source material. Commissioner Gordon‘s ride through a seedy tunnel-of-love made the transition to film, for example: a controversial scene showing a wounded Barbara in various stages of undress to taunt the lawman. All the while, the Joker taunts him in song, encouraging the good commissioner to let go and allow himself to lose his sanity, just to prove that all it takes for one to become as twisted as the Joker, is “one bad day.”
1. Wild Cards (Justice League)
This two-part “Justice League” story arc has Joker in his own televised event (after having deceived a couple of network executives), on which he demands that the Justice League diffuse the bomb he’s hidden somewhere in Las Vegas. He keeps a close eye on them all through the cameras he’s set up all over the city. Superman quickly discovers that there isn’t just one, but 25 bombs the Justice League must diffuse.
On top of everything, there are fakes hidden among the bombs and the Royal Flush gang has been ordered to hinder the heroes. This story arc shows Joker as the destructive force he is, manipulating the mightiest of heroes and using others (in this case, Ace, a powerful telepathic metahuman) to wreak havoc upon society. You can tell how much more freedom Hamill had in playing the character, seeing as how the Joker sits behind a screen for the majority of the story arc, laughing and engaging with his entranced and terrified audience.
Which were your favorite moments featuring Mark Hamill’s Joker? Give us a giggle (and a chill) in the comments!
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