Joker is a 2019 American psychological thriller film directed and produced by Todd Phillips, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver. The film, based on DC Comics characters, stars Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker and provides a possible origin story for the character. Set in 1981, it follows Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian whose descent into insanity and nihilism inspires a violent counter-cultural revolution against the wealthy in a decaying Gotham City. Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, and Marc Maronappear in supporting roles. Joker was produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films, and Joint Effort, in association with Bron Creative and Village Roadshow Pictures, and distributed by Warner Bros.
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 and The King of Comedy), who was initially attached to the project as a producer. The graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) was the basis for the film’s premise, 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-ratingfrom the Motion Picture Association of America, due to its violent and disturbing content.
Joker premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2019, where it won the Golden Lion, and was released in the United States on October 4, 2019. The film polarized critics. Although Phoenix’s performance, the musical score, and the cinematography were praised, the dark tone, portrayal of mental illness, and handling of violence divided opinion and generated concerns of inspiring real-world violence; the movie theater where the 2012 Aurora, Colorado mass shooting occurred during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises refused to show it. Despite this, Joker became a major box office success and set records for an October release. It grossed over $1 billion, making it the first R-rated film to do so, the sixth-highest-grossing film of 2019, and the 31st-highest-grossing film of all time.
Joker received numerous accolades. At the 92nd Academy Awards, the film earned a leading 11 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, winning Best Actor for Phoenix (who became the second actor to win an Oscar for portraying the Joker following Heath Ledger in 2009) and Best Original Score for Hildur Guðnadóttir. Phoenix and Guðnadóttir also won at the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award ceremonies.