When Batman: The Animated Series premiered in 1992, it was a breath of fresh air. Fans loved this take on a darker Batman that did justice to him and his famous rogue’s gallery of villains.
The best of the bunch was the Joker, and casting Mark Hamill was sheer brilliance.
The former Luke Skywalker made the role his own. Many consider him the greatest Joker of them all.
Hamill voiced Joker for Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures series, and he made guest appearances in Superman and Justice League. His Joker appeared in over two dozen BATS episodes, making it tricky to focus on the best.
The addition of sidekick Harley Quinn boosted him, and many stories were just him in a cameo appearance. Joker’s best appearances concentrated on his madness, his ego, and pulling off crimes no one else could conceive.
They’re also fun and showcase how the Joker is always Batman’s opposite number. In a way, they need each other.
These are the ten best Joker-focused episodes of the BTAS universe and how Hamill’s performance added to his iconic standing.
Honorable Mentions: Harley and Ivy, The Mask of the Phantasm movie, Be A Clown, Make ‘Em Laugh.
Joker’s Favor (Season 1, Episode 22)
This episode is historic. It is not only as one of the first Joker episodes but also introduces the future beloved character Harley Quinn.
Mild-mannered accountant Charlie Collins makes the mistake of nearly running the Joker off the road. The Joker spares the terrified Collins on the condition he now owes a favor.
Two years later, the Joker calls in the debt for Collins. Joker has him open a door at a function for Commissioner Gordon. This allows the Joker to raid the place and slap a bomb onto Gordon.
It shows the dark side of the Joker with his conniving and a great showdown where Collins ends up getting the last laugh on him.
Almost Got ‘I’m (Season 1, Episode 35)
One of the most beloved episodes of the series shows what the Dark Knight’s enemies think of him.
At a seedy bar, Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Penguin, and Killer Croc swap stories about Batman. The villains tell how they “almost got him.”
The Joker is last. His story sets Batman up on a killer game show. He runs afoul of Catwoman, but gets the upper hand.
It’s a fun episode with a tremendous twist, but the other enemies’ reactions make it clear how the Joker is always Batman’s top foe.
Joker’s Wild (season 1, episode 41)
The Joker’s ego is tremendous. That’s the focus of this fun episode.
A casino magnate opens a lavish new casino resort modeled after the Joker. He naturally flips his lid at being used like this.
The Joker broke out of Arkham, heading to the casino to — literally — bring down the house. That’s just what the owner wants as a complex insurance scam.
The only thing worse than insulting Joker is trying to fool him. Batman has to work fast before Joker crushes this house of cards.
It’s worth it for the scene of the Joker being mocked by an “unknowing” Bruce Wayne at a blackjack table.
The Laughing Fish (Season 1, Episode 46)
The Joker comes up with some screwball schemes before. This one takes the cake.
Adapting a classic comic book story, the Joker dumps chemicals into the ocean to give all fish white faces, red lips, and green gills.
The Joker demands filling out copyright forms. According to his “logic,” because they all look like him, he gets a legal cut of every fish sale in North America.
When he’s told you can’t copyright a natural resource, he doesn’t take it very well. It leads to a thrilling battle with Batman facing a shark.
It’s a wonderful story. Only Joker could cook up a plot this crazy.
The Man Who Killed Batman (Season 1, episode 49)
The Joker’s role in this episode is small, but it’s also one of the best of the entire series.
The Man Who Killed Batman opens with the public and press in an uproar over news that Batman is dead. This wasn’t Joker, Riddler, Two-Face or Ra’s al Ghul. It’s meek two-bit hood Sid “The Squid” Debris.
Hunted by cops and the underworld, Sid reflected on how it was an accident. Finally, Joker found him.
He “tests” Sid’s work by pulling a robbery and is disappointed Batman doesn’t show up.
This leads to a glorious “eulogy.” Joker didn’t know what to do without Batman.
Of course, Batman is alive. Sid eventually enjoys fame as the guy who got one over on the Joker, but the speech alone makes this a classic episode.
Trial (Season 2, Episode 9)
Does Batman attract the crazy supervillains, or is he the excuse for their actions?
The focus of this episode has Gotham’s new district attorney, Janet Van Dorn, argue Batman’s activities cause more problems than they solve.
Ironically, Janet has to defend Batman when the villains take over Arkham Asylum and put Batman on “trial.” The Joker, of course, is the judge.
Along the way, Janet exposed how these criminals would have turned out the same without Batman.
The Joker himself is a great highlight with his hysterical reaction when Batman breaks out. He proves who the madman in the bunch truly is.
Joker’s Millions (New Batman Adventures season 1, episode 7)
Updating an old Silver Age story, Joker learns a deceased rival left him a fortune, allowing him to live it up in a legal lifestyle.
But the joke’s on him. When the IRS comes calling, Joker discovers most of the “fortune” is fake.
Now he’s in a bind as he can’t pay the taxes. If he tries to steal cash, folks will know what’s happened. He’ll be the laughingstock of the underworld.
So Joker faces the challenge of pulling off robberies without his usual tricks like a common crook.
This is a fun story with the Joker first living large (even replacing Harley with a new sidekick) but reining in his ego for a regular robbery.
There’s also his classic line. “I’m crazy enough to take on Batman, but the IRS? No, thank you!”
Mad Love (New Batman Adventures, Season 1 Episode 21)
Paul Dini adapted his own Eisner-winning graphic novel revealing the origins of Harley Quinn.
As Joker plots against Batman, Harleen Quinzel remembers how she went from a bright psychiatrist to falling in love with this madman.
Trying to impress “Mr. J,” Harley sets up a trap for Batman herself. But Batman turns the tables by showing Harley how this “love affair” was manipulation by the Joker.
It’s a dark tale, showing the Joker’s twisted madness and why Harley gravitates to him. But, through it all, the episode shows the bizarre bond the pair share.
Injustice For All (Justice League season 1, episodes 18&19)
This is a bit of a cheat. It is not from the regular Batman series, but is notable for a great Joker appearance.
Lex Luthor is dying of Kryptonite poisoning. He decides if he’s dying, Superman’s going with him. He organizes an “Injustice Gang” of villains to take on the League.
After their first defeat, Joker joins the Gang. He points out, “I know how the Bat thinks,” and aids them in capturing Batman.
Amazingly, Joker shows sanity, pushing Luthor to kill Batman rather than hold him captive.
It’s a fun story with Hamill and Clancy Brown bouncing off each other. Even amid some twisted villains, the Joker is still the ace.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
This direct-to-video movie became infamous for a sequence so dark it ended up cut from the original release for years.
In the future, an aged Bruce Wayne became the mentor to new Batman, Terry McGinnis. Long believed dead, the Joker returns, forcing Batman to remember their epic final encounter that warped Tim Drake’s life.
It’s a dark story. This is not the jovial Joker, but a twisted madman enjoying his murderous games and meeting a brutal fate.
Hamill’s voice work sells a more sinister vibe to the story.
It fits this is the last Joker story of the Batman: The Animated Series continuity as it’s also one of the most gripping ever.