By Ayush Das

When you re-create a character for the cinemas for the fourth time, you have to pay homage to the previous versions. And if the character is arguably the most famous comics character ever, you have to have references to it as well.

We all have seen Todd Philips’s version of Joker movie by now, in which Joaquin Phoenix has given an Oscar-worthy performance. But if you are a movie buff like me or like to keep yourself updated with world new old and new, you must have had the feeling of déjà vu.

It’s like you have seen something similar before or Philips is deliberately nodding at something but you can’t really point out at it. Well, let me help you with it. Let’s start with the simple ones first. 

1. Deadpool 2

While watching the timid and shy Arthur Fleck trying to woo his crush, his neighbor, did you feel that niggling feeling when the neighbor (played by Zazie Beets) appeared on the screen?

Like, you have seen her somewhere before in the superhero movies but can’t place where…? Well, yes. Beets did appear in another superhero movie before – Deadpool 2, as the character Domino.

Huh, first Josh Brolin and now Beets, it seems these DC and Marvel casting directors can’t think outside the box to cast fresh faces that aren’t in these superhero universes already. 

2. Fight Club

Talking about the Fleck’s crush, remember when the neighbor walked in to her apartment and panics when she finds a disoriented Fleck sitting on her couch?

That is when Philips with his brilliant storytelling skills showed that the romantic dates and the sweet memories Fleck experienced with her were all his dream and imagination.

But if you are a movie nerd like me, the rewinding and replaying of scenes with her and showing he was alone in the date to give the hint of a dream sequence must have felt familiar, like you have seen that exact same thing in some other movie before and it is… Fight Club.

Yes, David Fincher in his 1999 movie chose this exact way of camera glitch and rewinding (read: retelling) to show Brad Pitt was actually Edward Norton’s imagination all along. 

3. 17th Century Pierrot Clowns

In the movie, Arthur Fleck is often seen lost in his own world dancing to music or just for himself right before or after his subtle nudge or a bold action against society. Well, that dance form that he engages in is a nod to the style the Pierrot clown of the late seventeenth century of Italian troupe.

Yes, a clown, and it was performed by them, unmasked but with a white painted face. Philip’s Arthur too, in the end, does the same, completing his transformation as the clown- the Joker. 


Read More: If The World Is Cruel To You, Will You Also Turn To Psychotic Murderous Behavior Like Joker?


4. The Dark Knight Returns

Now let’s talk about the Murray Franklin Show that Fleck dreams to be on and finally that becomes the place where he comes out as the Joker. The Murray Franklin Show episode has a lot going on simultaneously.

First, that’s a nod to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Just like Murray, Carson too would like to bring people to his show as novelty acts and make fun of them as a form of entertainment.

Now you know where Philip got his idea of the scene and setup. Next, Joker goes to the Murray Franklin Show and kills the talk show host in front of live TV just like in the comics as well as the 2012 animated movie ‘The Dark Knight Returns‘. 

5. Robert De Niro

While talking about paying homage or giving a nod to other movies or straight up taking scenes from other movies, you can’t help but wonder about the casting of Robert De Niro as the talk show host.

Well, the movie has multiple and major nods, references, and settings taken from two classic De Niro cult movies – King of Comedy and obviously, Taxi Driver.

In King of Comedy, De Niro plays the role of a struggling standup comedian who lives with his mother and dreams to be in a talk show with his idol and thus tries to befriend the host only to end up committing a crime and going against the law.

Well, that’s exactly what Philip’s Arthur did – while De Niro’s character ended up kidnapping the host, Arthur killed three civilians.

In Taxi Driver just like Phoenix in Joker, De Niro’s character play with guns in his home, mimics blowing off his head with the gun, writes his thoughts in a journal, goes on a chaotic murder spree after a physical transformation and both film end with a hint of being an imagination from the beginning. 

6. Heath Ledger’s Joker

After Arthur claims himself to be the Joker and commits the crime in front of live TV, he is arrested and shown to be taken to the prison in a police car.

The scene where he stares at the crowd and chaos outside from the backseat of the police car, it is a direct homage to the iconic scene of Heath Ledger’s Joker having a joyride in a police car in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

afraid of clowns

When Arthur tries to find his mother’s past medical records, he goes to Arthur State Hospital. Yes, that’s Arkham Asylum for those of you have read the comics. DC’s Batman universe is a fan favorite amongst the comic readers for its real-life scenarios and the resemblances to issues and emotions of a common man.

Along with all these, Todd Philips has taken real-life incidents and placed them in his movie to make the comic book villain have a much real setting. The movie is set in a time when the city is supposedly going through a sanitation strike and rats are causing a rampage throughout the city.

This is directly taken from the 1968 sanitation worker’s strike in New York City. Philips’s Arthur later shoots down three civilians in the subway and although initially, police cannot figure out who did it, he, later on, goes on to confess to it in front of a live television audience.

The surrender might not have been that dramatic but a similar incident did occur in the 1984 New York subway where four African- Americans were killed and just like in the movie those murders did cause enough chaos as some people were terrified and some even took the killer’s side.

While the 1940 origin story of Joker had him being thrown in an acidic VAT to give him his maniacal transformation, Philips in 2019 chose to throw his Joker in the society, a very realistic one.

For that, he did not refrain from adopting from real- life incidents and tragedies which don’t let you live with a smile on your face but you have to draw it yourself with red paint. 


Image Credits: Google Images


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