The Joker Success: The 'Worst' Villain Leads One of DC's Best Movies
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The Joker Success and How a Horrific Villain Leads One of DC’s Best Movies

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BY April 28, 2020

Comic book readers, movie fanatics, and casual cinema-goers alike have all heard about Joker by now. You don’t have to be a superhero fan to feel like it’s a “must-see”. (And Joker really is). Included in all of the chatter about the film is, of course, some words about its multiple controversies. Many fear that the violent nature of the film may encourage others to follow in Arthur Fleck’s footsteps. But, amongst all of the polarized commentary, it’s title is still spilling out of the mouths of everyone, from your coworker to your twitter feed. So, how did we get here? Joker and Joaquin Pheonix’s transformative performance in the titular role is merely a footprint in the long journey of the character. And now that we know that Joker can earn plenty of money and success, how are critics reacting? Well, it’s a pretty mixed bag.

How Joker Came To Be What Success It Is Today

Similar to the film, the character of The Joker is not unknown. Whether you heard about the villain from Heath Ledger’s Academy Award winning performance, or through Sunday morning cartoons, you know who he is. He’s the clownish, white-faced and purple robbed antithesis to Batman. And everybody knows Batman. With a backstory that encouraged plenty of villains to come, The Joker has been creating movie roles and comic book editions for decades. Now, plenty of people have played the Joker. And while you may have your preferences, the most influential portrayal will always go to Jack Nicholson. He played the madman Joker in the 1989 Batman.

Pheonix a Joker Success

Image via Warner Bros.

The brave actors who dared to follow Nicholson’s performance deserve their praise. (Well… most of them.) But, as Deadline reported, it was Nicholson’s Joker performance was nothing short of legendary. And that’s all because of how Nicholson is legendary himself. He was known for getting what he wanted and having the power to influence everybody behind the camera. 12 Academy Award nominations can do that to you. Nicholson’s Oscar nominations are beaten only by Meryl Streep and (tied with) Katharine Hepburn, though we aren’t opposed to Streep’s rendition of the Joker.

What Reactions Are Coming From Joker, And Is It A Really A Success?

Jack Nicholson earned a Golden Globe nomination for his Joker. Back when Batman came out, superhero movies weren’t particularly of interest to the Academy. Interest has slowly been rising. However, it’s Heath Ledger’s posthumous win in 2008 for his Joker portrayal in The Dark Knight that has proven the Joker is a character capable of winning big. So, with a mixed history of awards, audiences and critics are wondering if Pheonix will be the second Oscar winner in the Joker role. Reactions appear to be quite mixed. Academy members told The Hollywood Reporter that Joker is well received, but the reviews may be too mixed to bring home anything big. But what seems to be unanimous is that, if anything, Pheonix’s performance is just too good. While a Best Picture nomination is up for debate, Pheonix will likely at least get a nomination.

While reviews are up and down, the box office only points up. The film made $93.5 million in the U.S. alone, which was way above projections. This means that it beat Venom for the biggest October premiere. Worldwide success was also proven, with a global gross of $234 million. With director Todd Phillips $55 million budget, that’s quite a success. If anything, it means that Joker won’t be the last solo character-study within the superhero genre.

Like It Or Not, Joker Is Getting Attention

People aren’t going to stop talking about Joker for quite some time. The film reinvents our preconceived notions about what a film within the genre has to look like. It uses an already established character, while simultaneously changing everything that we thought we knew. Though, while Joker is such a massive success, it’s hard to tell if another character could do the same. So, do you have a character, whether hero or villain, that you’d like to see given the character-study treatment? And, despite all of the controversy, what did you think about Joker? Let us know!

Featured image via Warner Bros.


Meghan Hale is a graduate student living right outside of Toronto, Canada. She has always been the go-to gal for talking about anything film related and has a frustratingly long list of movie trivia up her sleeve. She is currently working on her first screenplay, as well as a horror novel, with the goal of publishing it while Stephen King is still around to read it.

arthur fleckBatmanjack nicholsonjoaquiin pheonixJokerthe joker

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