Jake Gyllenhaal and 4 Other Actors Who Could Be the Best Joker Yet

By Noah Davis
Published on July 19, 2023

Hollywood has struggled to get the Joker right since the death of Heath Ledger.

Ledger’s iconic and award-winning rendition of the legendary comic book character was probably going to be brought back to close out Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but the actor’s untimely death nixed that possibility.

Since then, Hollywood has marveled at the darkness, sharp wit, and comic relief of the character, trying desperately to breathe new life into it.

The jury is still out on whether or not that mission has been or will be successful.

Jared Leto’s take resembled an embarrassing caricature of what someone at a comic con convention would think to turn the Joker into.

He looked pretty cool here, but from the neon green hair to the metal grill, everything just seemed so over the top.

You may have had the unfortunate displeasure of seeing this brought to life in the underwhelming Suicide Squad, and it’s sadly coming back in a sequel, and then some.

Leto didn’t add anything amazing to this character, and it ultimately only made Ledger’s spin on the Joker come off as even more brilliant.

Regardless, he’ll be donning the clown makeup at least two more times.

Up next will be Joaquin Phoenix’s attempt at honoring Ledger’s performance, as he’s said to be .

Set up as a dark and twisted journey through the Joker’s beginnings, this actually could have some legs to it. Unlike Leto’s version of the Joker, Phoenix would promise to deliver a more realistic alternative and one that’s, well, not so forced.

If you’re hoping for someone to get it right, Phoenix isn’t a bad try. This is one of the better actors Hollywood has at their disposal, while Phoenix has displayed serious range throughout his career.

The soft edges of Her, Signs, and Return to Paradise are all there for Phoenix to find a way to make the Joker somewhat redeemable and watchable.

His darker qualities were unearthed in Gladiator and The Master, too, making it rather easy to identify the necessary balance to pull off this role.

The talent isn’t the question, though.

It’s the delivery, the method, and the approach. If Phoenix doesn’t do it just right, he’ll come off as a gimmick like Leto - or worse, an unimaginative Ledger copycat.

Even if it works out to some degree, there’s still a chance Phoenix’s Joker run will fall flat. In due time, comic book fans everywhere will be demanding a fresh attempt at nailing one of the greatest villains in comic lore.

Considering Phoenix’s turn to kick the Joker’s tires isn’t just coming after Leto but during his time with the character, it’s easy to imagine another Joker project popping up in the near future.

When that day comes, here’s my favorite list of actors that could deliver as the Joker.

Iwan Rheon

If you have spent any time watching Game of Thrones, you’re well aware of Ramsay Bolton, a special kind of evil that stopped at nothing to obtain power.

It wasn’t enough for Rheon to dismember, sexually assault, or murder. He had to make his victims taste their sorrow, and he relished it every step of the way.

You’re sure to see his fate at some point in that show if you haven’t already, but the man GoT fans grew to love was exceptionally good at crafting a harrowing villain.

Heath Ledger certainly didn’t pull any punches when he was the Joker (the guy put a bomb in a dude’s stomach), so I can only wonder what Iwan Rheon would do with this role.

This is as good of a time as any to pause and go over the Joker criteria, too.

For one, I don’t think it has to be some major star. Leto and Phoenix are big stars, and Ledger certainly wasn’t an unknown, but someone like Rheon who really only has one identifiable role should still be in play.

In addition, I think a certain look would be good to target (although not completely necessary), while the actor should probably have displayed some level of a sick and twisted demeanor in his acting resume.

Rheon has the devilish smile, that deceptive softness, and the utter savagery to completely nail this role. Something tells me GoT fans would agree.

That’s a man that enjoys being swept up by darkness.

Leonardo DiCaprio

DiCaprio is without a doubt one of the top actors in circulation, and I don’t think he’s met a role he wasn’t fully equipped for.

The desire to play this role may never necessarily be there, especially since buddy Christopher Nolan would probably discourage him from traveling down a road Heath Ledger did.

Still, DiCaprio can certainly channel madness (Shutter Island), and it’d be very interesting to see him go fully dark as a villain.

Remember, Ledger as the Joker pretty much came out of nowhere.

Few were fully bought into him as the choice to take on such a hefty Batman villain, and even more were pleasantly surprised that he nailed it.

DiCaprio is a huge star, but he’s not the first guy you think of when you start talking about future Joker actors. Perhaps a big star that doesn’t make total sense might be the perfect direction to go here.

Tom Hardy

Another huge star that makes even more sense is Hardy, who is not afraid to dip his toe into a wide array of Hollywood franchises.

It might be a bit weird for Hardy to take on two Batman villain roles, seeing as he already knocked Bane out of the park. Hardy has also taken over as one of Spiderman’s biggest foes in Venom for Marvel Studios and also has his time tied up in the Mad Max franchise.

The guy is certainly busy, but there is no doubt he’d excel in a role demanding wit and pure evil.

Hardy knows how to build the intensity (watch The Drop), and if you’re wondering if he can tap into his inner savage, just take a look at him in Bronson.

Tom Hiddleston

This may be my favorite of this list so far, as Hiddleston probably brings more range to the table than Rheon could, while he may have the best natural look fans may be pining for.

Hiddleston is already tied to Marvel Studios as Loki, but it’s not crazy to think that he may be interested in another “super” challenge down the road.

I do question Hiddleston’s build and natural demeanor, though, as he really isn’t physically imposing. However, the Joker isn’t some brute who overpowers people; he’s more of an opportunist who strikes when and where you least expect it.

Hiddleston has the proven personality to master the madman approach. It all comes down to whether or not he’d want the gig and if it’s offered to him.

Jake Gyllenhaal

Except, there is one truly perfect actor to take on the Joker, and that’s none other than Jake Gyllenhaal.

I like the other four actors in this list, but nobody strikes me as a better suit for this role than the guy who morphed into a completely different person in Nightcrawler.

I’ve always come away impressed with Gyllenhaal’s performances in the past, but he really dug deep and ripped out the roots of a true sociopath in that movie.

The film itself was fine, but Gyllenhaal’s transformation is probably one of the better acting performances on screen.

With Gyllenhaal’s range (when it comes to comics) likely to be further exposed as Mysterio in an upcoming Spiderman film, it’s possible he could head to the front of the line in this argument.


The best part of this hypothetical discussion is that it doesn’t have to end here.

You might have a better idea as to who should play the Joker next, or maybe I’m just wasting my time and Phoenix is going to crush this role.

Either way, there could be money to be made here, as the top entertainment betting sites like tend to create prop bets before this information ever officially breaks.

They did it for James Bond, and they should probably do it for Indiana Jones, the Joker, and others as well.

It’s fun to think about and discuss, but if you can make cash based off of who you want to take on a role, that’s just gravy.

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Jake Gyllenhaal and 4 Other Actors Who Could Be the Best Joker Yet
With the Joker character becoming a prominent fixture again in Hollywood, we take a look at viable actors who could nail the daunting role. Read our thoughts, here.
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