Joker – Film

About Joker – Film

Joker Film

Joker is a 2019 American psychological thriller film directed by Todd Phillips, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver. The film, based on DC Comics characters, stars Joaquin Phoenix as Joker. Set in 1981, it follows Arthur Fleck, a failed clown and aspiring stand-up comic whose descent into mental illness and nihilism inspires a violent countercultural revolution against the wealthy in a decaying Gotham City. Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy appear in supporting roles. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, Joker was produced by Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Films in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, Bron Creative and Joint Effort.

Phillips conceived Joker in 2016 and wrote the script with Silver throughout 2017. The two were inspired by 1970s character studies and the films of Martin Scorsese, particularly Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1982), who was initially attached to the project as a producer. The film loosely adapts plot elements from Batman: The Killing Joke (1988), and The Dark Knight Returns, but Phillips and Silver otherwise did not look to specific comics for inspiration. Phoenix became attached in February 2018 and was cast that July, while the majority of the cast signed on by August. Principal photography took place in New York City, Jersey City and Newark, from September to December 2018. Joker is the first live-action theatrical Batman film to receive an R rating from the Motion Picture Association.

Joker premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2019, where it won the Golden Lion, and was theatrically released in the United States on October 4. The film received polarizing reviews from critics, with praise directed toward Phoenix’s performance, Phillips’s direction, the visual style, editing, musical score, and cinematography, while the tone, portrayal of mental illness, lack of originality and handling of violence divided opinions. The film was a box office success and set records for an October release. It grossed over $1 billion, the first R-rated film to do so and became the sixth-highest-grossing film of 2019 during its theatrical run. The film also received numerous accolades. A sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux, is set for release on October 4, 2024.



A clown and aspiring stand-up comedian named Arthur Fleck lives with his mother, Penny, in crime-ridden Gotham City during the early 1980s recession. Arthur suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to have random, uncontrollable laughing fits, requiring medication for which he depends on social services to obtain. After Arthur is attacked by street urchins, his co-worker Randall gives him a revolver for self-defense. Arthur pursues a relationship with his neighbor, single mother Sophie, and invites her to see his routine at a comedy club.

Arthur is fired from his job at a children’s hospital when he accidentally exposes the gun despite his explanation that it was given to him by Randall, who denies this. While riding home on the subway still wearing his clown makeup, Arthur is mocked and beaten by drunk businessmen from Wayne Investments; he fatally shoots two of them in self-defense and murders the third as he attempts to flee. The killings are condemned by their employer, billionaire mayoral candidate Thomas Wayne, but protesters begin donning clown masks in Arthur’s image. Budget cuts shut down the social service program, leaving Arthur without his medication.

Sophie attends Arthur’s stand-up routine, which goes poorly; he laughs uncontrollably, and his jokes fall flat. Arthur intercepts a letter from Penny to Thomas, alleging that he is Thomas’s illegitimate son, and berates his mother for hiding the truth. He goes to Wayne Manor, where he meets Thomas’s young son Bruce, but flees after a scuffle with family butler Alfred Pennyworth. Penny suffers a stroke and is hospitalized. Arthur’s idol, popular late-night talk show host Murray Franklin, presents clips of Arthur’s failed performance on his show and mockingly calls him a “joker”.

Arthur confronts Thomas at a film theatre. Thomas tells him that he is not his father, and Penny is not his biological mother. In denial, Arthur visits Arkham State Hospital and steals Penny’s file, which states she was a narcissist who adopted Arthur while working as a housekeeper for the Waynes in the 1950s. Penny then raised Arthur with her abusive boyfriend, who later died in jail. Penny was sent to Arkham for allowing the abuse. Distraught, Arthur enters Sophie’s apartment unannounced. Frightened, Sophie asks him to leave, revealing their relationship to be a figment of Arthur’s imagination. The following day, Arthur smothers Penny to death at the hospital.

After his stand-up clips go viral, Arthur is invited to appear on Murray’s show. He subsequently plans suicide during the broadcast. While crafting a clown-inspired persona, he is visited by Randall and another ex-colleague, Gary. Arthur kills Randall, but spares Gary for his kindness to him in the past. Two detectives investigating Arthur’s involvement in the murders of the businessmen pursue him onto a subway filled with clown protesters. One detective accidentally shoots and kills a protester, thus inciting a riot, while Arthur escapes.

Before the show goes live, Arthur asks Murray to introduce him as “Joker”, a reference to his earlier mockery. Arthur behaves lewdly, tells morbid jokes, confesses to the subway murders, rants about how society abandons the downtrodden and mentally ill, and berates Murray for ridiculing him. After one more morbid joke, Arthur fatally shoots him on air. He is arrested, and riots erupt across the city. One of the rioters corners the Wayne family in an alley and murders Thomas and his wife, sparing Bruce. Rioters in an ambulance crash into the police car carrying Arthur, freeing him; he stands atop the car, starts to dance to the cheers of the crowd, and smears blood on his face into the shape of a smile.

At Arkham, Arthur laughs to himself about a joke while with a therapist, but declines to tell it, claiming she would not understand it. He leaves behind a trail of bloodied shoeprints as he is chased down a corridor by an orderly.


  • Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck / Joker: A mentally ill, impoverished party clown and stand-up comedian disregarded by society, whose history of abuse causes him to become a nihilistic criminal with a clown-inspired persona. Phoenix had been interested in a low-budget “character study” of a comic book character and said the film “feels unique, it is its own world in some ways and maybe It might as well be the thing that scares you the most”. Phoenix lost 52 pounds (23 kg) for his role in the film.
  • Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin: A talk show host who plays a role in Arthur’s downfall. De Niro said his role in Joker pays homage to his character from The King of Comedy (1982), Rupert Pupkin, who is a comedian obsessed with a talk-show host.
  • Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumond: A cynical single mother and Arthur’s “love interest”. Beetz, a “huge fan” of Phoenix, said that it was “an honor” to costar with him and that she learned a lot working with him on set.
  • Frances Conroy as Penny Fleck: Arthur’s mentally and physically ill mother, who formerly worked for Thomas Wayne.
    • Hannah Gross as young Penny.



Between 2014 and 2015, Joaquin Phoenix expressed interest to his agent in acting in a low-budget “character study” type of film about a comic book villain, like DC Comics character the Joker. Phoenix had thought of the idea 1 to 2 years before Phillips conceived Joker in 2016. Phoenix had previously declined to act in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because he would have been required to reprise a role, such as the Hulk (initially portrayed by Edward Norton before he was recast by Mark Ruffalo) or Doctor Strange (ultimately portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch), in multiple films. Phoenix ruled out the Joker for his “character study” idea and tried to think of a different one. “I thought, ‘You can’t do the Joker, because, you know, it’s just you can’t do that character, it’s just been done'”. Phoenix’s agent suggested setting up an exploratory meeting with Warner Bros., but he declined and let go of the idea. Similarly, Todd Phillips had been offered to direct comic-based films a number of times, but declined because he thought they were “loud” and did not interest him. According to Phillips, Joker was created from his idea to create a different, more grounded comic book film. He was attracted to the Joker because he did not think there was a definitive portrayal of the character, which he knew would provide considerable creative freedom.

Phillips pitched the idea for Joker to Warner Bros. after his film War Dogs premiered in August 2016. Prior to War Dogs, Phillips was mostly known for his comedy films, such as Road Trip (2000), Old School (2003) and The Hangover (2009); War Dogs marked a venture into more unsettling territory. During the premiere, Phillips realized “War Dogs wasn’t going to set the world on fire and I was thinking, ‘What do people really want to see?'” In addition, he found that it was difficult to make comedy films in the “woke culture”, throughout opposition of “30 million people on Twitter”. He finally thought that “How do I do something irreverent, but fuck comedy? Oh I know, let’s take the comic book movie universe and turn it on its head with this”. He proposed that DC Films differentiate its slate from the competing Marvel Studios’ by producing low-budget, standalone films. After the successful release of Wonder Woman (2017), DC Films decided to deemphasize the shared nature of its DC-based film franchise, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). In August 2017, Warner Bros. and DC Films revealed plans for the film, with Phillips directing and co-writing with Scott Silver and Martin Scorsese set to co-produce with Phillips. According to Tatiana Siegel of The Hollywood Reporter, Scorsese considered directing Joker before Phillips was chosen, though a Warner Bros. source said he only became involved because the film needed a New York City-based producer.

According to Kim Masters and Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter, Jared Leto, who portrayed the Joker in the DCEU, was displeased by the existence of a project separate from his interpretation. In October 2019, Masters reported that Leto “felt ‘alienated and upset'” when he learned that Warner Bros.—which had promised him a standalone DCEU Joker film—let Phillips proceed with Joker, going as far as to ask his music manager Irving Azoff to get the project canceled. Masters added that Leto’s irritation was what caused him to end his association with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), as he believed “his agents should have told him about the Phillips project earlier and fought harder for his version of Joker”. However, sources associated with Leto deny that he attempted to get Joker canceled and left CAA because of it.

Warner Bros. pushed for Phillips to cast Leonardo DiCaprio as the Joker, hoping to use his frequent collaborator Scorsese’s involvement to attract him. However, Phillips said that Phoenix was the only actor he considered, and that he and Silver wrote the script with Phoenix in mind, “The goal was never to introduce Joaquin Phoenix into the comic book movie universe. The goal was to introduce comic book movies into the Joaquin Phoenix universe”. Phoenix said when he learned of the film, he became excited because it was the kind he was looking to make, describing it as unique and stating it did not feel like a typical “studio movie”. It took him some time to commit to the role, as it intimidated him and he said “oftentimes, in these movies, we have these simplified, reductive archetypes and that allows for the audience to be distant from the character, just like we would do in real life, where it’s easy to label somebody as evil and therefore say, ‘Well, I’m not that.


October 4, 2019


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