These past few decades, we've seen many talented, respected actors take on the famous role of The Joker in several different interpretations of the iconic character. Whether it's Jack Nicholson's memorable version from Tim Burton's Batman, or Mark Hamill's long-standing voice-only version of the Clown Prince of Crime, the late, great Heath Ledger's incredibly disturbing Oscar-winning performance as the legendary Dark Knight foe, or, recently, Joaquin Phoenix's outstanding Oscar-winning take on the title character in Joker, we've seen several acclaimed actors crush it in this part.
Though not everyone did the villainous role justice (looking at you, Jared Leto), almost every actor who adopted this challenge did wonderful work. And there's a good chance that we'll see another actor or 12 pick up the torch in the future. But who should be next? Here are six performers who'd be great Jokers.
While most moviegoers are best acquainted with the former child actor through his long-standing lead role in the Harry Potter film franchise, Daniel Radcliffe has taken seemingly every opportunity available to him since then to play strange, surprising roles in a variety of different movies and shows.
Through his audacious performances in movies like Swiss Army Man Imperium, Horns, and, recently, Guns Akimbo, Daniel Radcliffe has taken big chances and he's not afraid to push against his popular image to play characters that go against his child star image. In that spirit, Radcliffe could really challenge himself in a major way if he were to adopt the role of The Joker in an upcoming DC adaptation. The actor is fearless in the right roles, and he'll do comedic and dramatic roles in equal fashion. He is unflinching in his recent choices, and if done well, he could provide a memorable take on the antagonistic character. It'd fit in line with the odd, deranged roles he's taken on lately, and it'd let audiences see him as more than Harry Potter.
Quickly becoming one of the most accomplished and versatile young actors in Hollywood, LaKeith Stanfield is a bonafide talent. Making an impression on FX's excellent Atlanta after previously making strong supporting turns in movies like Short Term 12, Straight Outta Compton, and Selma, Stanfield has built a resume filled with highlights, notably with standout roles in Get Out, Sorry to Bother You, Knives Out, and Uncut Gems, to name only a few. He's an actor who continues to prove himself in a variety of roles in various different genres, and his ability to perform in a multitude of roles proves that he has what it takes to tackle the challenges that come with playing The Joker.
Certainly, there has been interest in seeing Stanfield playing the part, as the actor himself has publicly expressed interest. Just last month, in fact, Stanfield noted that he would love to play The Joker with the Safdie brothers.
Though we've made this suggestion before, Will Poulter would absolutely be a fantastic choice for The Joker. The English actor is best known for roles that are either comedic (Son of Rambow, We're the Millers) or unsettling (Detroit, Midsommar) in nature. It's no surprise to know that he was previously set to play Pennywise the Clown in Cary Fukunaga's abandoned adaptation of IT, which I firmly believe would have been an incredible performance. Nevertheless, while that menacing clown part didn't work out, Warner Bros. has a great opportunity to redeem themselves by casting Will Poulter to play the Clown Prince of Darkness. He's an actor of commendable range and unnerving conviction, and in the right menacing parts, he proves himself adept at making you feel totally unnerved. Plus, those prominent eyebrows will work wonders under the white clown make-up.
With an assorted career filled with top-notch career, character actor Willem Dafoe is an incredible performer, capable of playing a wealth of characters of various varieties. While he's incredible at playing a kind-hearted souls in movies like The Florida Project, or Jesus Christ himself in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, he's often most commonly associated with playing more undesirable characters. For instance, many know him best for playing the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies. He also played an entertainingly unbecoming type of man in The Lighthouse. And he played one of the most memorably vicious supporting characters in cinema history (at least, in my view) in David Lynch's Wild At Heart. These roles in particular prove that Dafoe has the chops to be one of the most famous villains in cinema history. Hell, "foe" is even in his name!
Apparently, at one point in the '80s, there were conversations regarding Dafoe taking on The Joker. Sadly, that didn't pan out, but it's not too late!
Because why not? Nicolas Cage is an Oscar-winning actor who is known for performances that are both brilliantly bold and shockingly unhinged in a gobsmacking way. You never really know what you're going to get with Nicolas Cage, other than the fact that the actor will almost always commit fully to his own personal brand of insanity. I think that makes him an excellent candidate for The Joker. While letting Cage have the chance to become the Clown Prince of Crime might seem foolhardy to some, fearing it might flying too close into the sun, this is the character that Cage was born to play.
Nicolas Cage has a deep, long-standing reverence for comic books, particularly DC Comics; he even named his son Kal-El. He starred in Ghost Rider and voiced Superman, among other comic book roles, and he's a seasoned star with an extensive history of letting loose and playing it up to the nines. Some may think that Nic Cage playing The Joker is a recipe for disaster, but I believe he would the perfect performer to embody the classic DC villain.
Back in the 1990s, Macaulay Culkin was one of the most famous movie stars on the planet. The Home Alone actor became a mega-famous celebrity, particularly for a younger generation. Though, in the 2000s, Culkin started stepping away from the limelight, opting instead to work on other projects. In recent years, however, the former child star has been working his way back into the acting business, appearing in weird art projects like Adam Green's Aladdin and Father John Misty's "Total Entertainment Forever" music video. He also played a small role in Seth Green's directorial debut, Changeland.
Up next, the Golden Globe-nominated actor will appear in the newest season of American Horror Story, though some fans have a few other ambitions for the actor. Specifically, there has been interest to see Macaulay Culkin take on the role of The Joker, which sounds a bit odd at first, but as you think about it, it could be very interesting. The actor's adult work has a sporadic, unhinged quality that's enjoyable to watch, suggesting that the second phase of Culkin's acting career might be defined by bolder, weird choices. Certainly, that would play in the actor's favor here while playing The Joker.
Who do you think should don the make-up? Who would kill it as the killer clown? Let us know in the comment section below!
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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