The Joker is an iconic villain in the history of comic books. His insanity, his obsession with the dark arts, and his cunning have made him a fan favorite among both children and adults. While many know him from his comic book appearances, the majority also know him from his movies. With a variety of different actors putting their own spin on the character over the years, the opportunity to bring the Joker to life on the big screen has been taken advantage of. With the release of Joker this past weekend, audiences have gotten their first real opportunity to see what all the hype is about and find out who the true King of Criminals might be.

Why Is The Joker Such an Iconic Villain?

It’s not everyday that you get the opportunity to slay a king, so when you do, you’ve got to live it up. The chance to fight the most notorious criminal in the world is the stuff of comic book legends. It’s an opportunity that many would give their right arm for. The man who wears the white suit with black tie in the above image is responsible for hundreds of deaths and supervillainy, which makes him one of the most dangerous individuals in the world. He’s been featured on television shows, in video games, and pretty much anywhere you’d find a villainous turn of events. It wasn’t until 1932 that the idea of a superhero actually leading a crime-fighting organization first emerged. That year, Batman (real name: George Washington Morales) was created and put into place in order to combat a wave of crime that had overwhelmed Gotham City. Since then, the Batman franchise has had countless stories, many memorable villains, and the Joker was one of the mainstays of the series. With his brutal murders, his penchant for chaotic shenanigans, and his surprising competency in the sleight of hand artistry, the Joker has always been a fascinating character to not only watch, but to fight too.

The Many Different Versions of The Joker

While there is no question that the Joker is one of the most recognizable villains in cinematic history, his iterations have varied widely. He’s been a part of countless stories over the years, and while a couple of his costumes and looks remain iconic, it’s not hard to see how many different ways the Joker has appeared over the years.

First off, let’s examine some of the more recognizable looks of the Joker. For decades upon decades, the Joker wore a red suit with white stripes down the sides. This suit was inspired by the Italian Renaissance festival costumes that Piero della Francesca would wear. It wasn’t until 1967 that this outfit was deemed too distracting for the actor playing the role, so a black suit with white pinstripes was substituted. This change didn’t hurt the image of the Joker one bit, as this version of the character remained a popular choice for both children and adults alike for years to come. The above image is from a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series where the Joker makes another appearance. Here he is wearing his now-famous black and green outfit. This combination of colors was inspired by the 1966 Batman movie where the Joker wore a similar combination of colors, only here they seem to be in constant competition. When the Joker has worn green and black, he’s always been a bit of a villainous counterpart to the Batman. While other characters might question the suit choice, it’s clear that Batman knows exactly what he’s doing and why he’s wearing what he’s wearing. It’s also worth pointing out that the Joker’s skin color has varied wildly over the years. In some stories he appears almost black in complexion, while in others he seems very pale. This too has added a bit of color to the character, making him something of a chameleon in terms of how he looks.

The Many Different Movies Of The Joker

With so many different stories to choose from, it’s not hard to see where the Joker’s popularity comes from. It’s not necessarily the villains that people love most about the character, but it’s certainly the situations that he finds himself in. The list of Joker movies is pretty much as long as the list of Batman films. With so many different directors and writers making their mark on the character, it’s obvious that there’s room for plenty of variation when it comes to showing what the Joker is capable of. Here are just a few of the many different movies that feature the legendary villain.

The Dark Knight (2008)

One of the more recent outings of the Joker is The Dark Knight. This story focuses on the fallout of the Joker’s crimes several years after the events of Batman. It tells the tale of a crime-ridden Gotham City that has become a haven for the kind of criminals that Batman was first established to combat. The Joker’s crimes are still fresh in the minds of the citizens, and as a direct result, the police are overburdened and can’t be counted on to keep the peace. The Joker takes advantage of this and begins targeting children, the young, and the not-so-morally-correct. He’s joined by a new partner, whose name would soon become synonymous with betrayal. While some of the more famous stories about the Joker revolve around his penchant for chaos and destruction, it’s clear that the aim of this story is to explore the depths of human depravity and the damage that the Joker is capable of causing. Here he demonstrates several new skills, all of which are showcased with brutal efficiency. He is indeed a highly skilled psychopath. The scene where he tears the arm off a young girl is one of the most memorable and disturbing scenes in the movie. While it’s not clear at first if the Joker actually harbors any kind of romantic feeling towards anyone, his actions towards the end of the movie hint at a possible connection to someone or something that he cares about deeply. The Dark Knight is often hailed as one of the best Batman movies ever made and is considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. It’s safe to say that Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker was a major factor in this regard.

The Killing Joke (2008)

One of the more critically-acclaimed movies about the Joker is The Killing Joke. Directed by Kevin Smith and adapted from Brian Aldiss’s book of the same name, this tale of the Joker is considered by many to be the best of the many different adaptations of the character. The movie version of the Joker is closer to his comic book counterpart than we’ve seen him in a long time, and while it’s not necessarily a kid-friendly film, those who have kids will enjoy it. The story follows an isolated Joker as he’s dragged away by the cops after his murder of a mob boss. While in captivity, the Joker develops a relationship with a psychiatrist, who eventually assists him in escaping from prison. Once again, it’s a story of pure chaos and carnage, mixed with a touch of drama and pathos. If you’re a fan of the character, this is one of the best movies to show it off.

The Prestige (2006)

Another great depiction of the Joker can be found in the 2006 film, The Prestige. This movie is a bit more adult in nature than the previous two entries on this list, but it’s still a great story about a man who finds himself in a life-or-death struggle against one of the greats of all time. Here the Joker is pitted against magician Robert Angier (Christian Bale). Using his illusions to distract the police and the crowd, Angier manages to outwit the Joker and escape with his life. The movie is filled with spectacular set-pieces and even more spectacular trickery. It’s an exciting display of magicianship that will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you’re a fan of magic and deception, this is the movie for you. Here’s a trick. You’ll need a partner to keep an eye on the person receiving the letter, but it’s worth it.

What Is The Joker’s Most Famous Quote?

While many know the Joker for his iconic laugh and his obsession with chaos, his infamous quip is often quoted, as it’s been said by many different characters over the years. Here it is, as spoken by a young Harvey Dent (Jack Nicholson):

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain.”