Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Jack Nicholson's Joker voted best comic book movie villain of all time

Heath Ledger's popular interpretation of same character controversially ranked second as Batman characters dominate list

Grant Bailey
Thursday 05 April 2018 13:04 BST
Scene from 1989 film Batman with Jack Nicholson playing The Joker

Jack Nicholson’s 1989 portrayal of The Joker has been voted the best-ever film version of a comic book villain, according to a survey.

He narrowly beat out Heath Ledger’s acclaimed 2008 depiction of the same character to claim the top spot.

Nicholson’s twisted turn as Batman’s infamous nemesis was selected by 23 per cent of the population, just ahead of Heath Ledger’s performance in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

And Danny DeVito’s demented rendition of The Penguin in 1992’s Batman Returns came third place in the poll of 2,000 Brits.

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight (Rex) (Rex Features)

Greg Tatton-Brown from online casino, who commissioned the study, said: “It seems the Batman series is best when it comes to memorable villains.

“And it’s little wonder, when you have performances as iconic as those of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, which have gone down in cinema history.

“Heath Ledger’s tragic death in 2008 - the same year his Joker appeared in The Dark Knight - has cemented his place in comic book villain lore.”

The top five best ever comic book movie baddies also included Gene Hackman as Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor, and Tom Hiddlestone’s mischievous Loki, who went up against a gallery of iconic heroes in 2012’s The Avengers.

In the same survey conducted through, the overwhelming majority also voted for the worst ever comic-to-screen baddie.

Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free
Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free

The dubious honour went to Arnold Schwarzenegger for his appearance as Mr Freeze in 1997’s Batman & Robin.

His performance was littered with cheesy ice-based catchphrases like: “Allow me to break the ice” and “Chill out!”

One in three Brits think a truly great comic-movie bad guy has to be sympathetic, making you almost want to root for them despite their evil deeds.

And a quarter think a chilling evil laugh is the most important way to make your mark as a top screen villain.

Three times as many people find comic book movies’ bad guys to be more interesting than the heroes of the film.

Some of the top reasons for this include the fact they say and do things that most people never would, they have interesting back stories and are totally unafraid to break the rules.

Four in 10 Brits believe there are too many superhero movies being released at the moment, and on average they’ve seen a whopping nine per person.

The top 10 comic book villain movie portrayals

  1. Jack Nicholson – The Joker
  2. Heath Ledger – The Joker
  3. Danny DeVito – The Penguin
  4. Gene Hackman – Lex Luthor
  5. Tom Hiddlestone – Loki
  6. Ian McKellen – Magneto
  7. Tom Hardy – Bane
  8. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Mr Freeze
  9. Margot Robbie – Harley Quinn
  10. Terence Stamp – General Zod


Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in