17 Important References In 'Joker' You Might Have Missed

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Vote up the most interesting references and Easter eggs from 'Joker.'

Todd Phillips's Joker attempts to be the antithesis of modern comic book movies, but like most other films in the "superhero" ballpark, it's still chock full of Easter eggs. A fair share of moments in the film are nods to specific aspects of the comics, but Joker places itself in a far different cinematic tradition than most of its DC and Marvel contemporaries - and as such, its references range from the likes of '70s Martin Scorsese crime films all the way to dark real-life events.

From the moment the first teaser dropped, fans were quick to point out similarities between Joker and Scorsese films like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy - a connection bolstered by Robert De Niro's presence in the Joker cast. But the film also manages to sneak in references to films as varied as Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times and the action spoof Zorro, The Gay Blade.

While the film as a whole isn't fully based on a specific comic, it does reference several of the most famous Batman comics as well as the Joker's many comic book appearances through the decades. But no matter how closely you were watching the film, it was no doubt a bit challenging to pay attention to every tiny Easter egg while an off-duty clown was gushing blood from a scissor-wound to the neck. So, we've taken the liberty of compiling some of our favorite Easter eggs and references for your perusal.

  • 1
    745 VOTES

    That Warner Bros. Logo Is From The 1970s And '80s

    Rather than the traditional Warner Bros. logo we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years, Joker opens with an entirely different, vintage version of the WB logo.

    This isn’t some new design the filmmakers came up with to make the film appear dated - it’s the actual logo Warner Bros. used from 1972-1984.

    745 votes
  • 2
    475 VOTES

    Arthur's Bad Day Echoes His Origin In A Famous Alan Moore Storyline

    Arthur's Bad Day Echoes His Origin In A Famous Alan Moore Storyline
    Photo: Batman: The Killing Joke / DC Comics

    Joker pulls from several important Batman comics to create its story, but the one it perhaps references most directly is The Killing Joke by writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland. In the classic 1988 comic, Joker - who also starts off as a struggling stand-up comedian - suggests it only takes "one bad day" to turn a person into either a hero like Batman or a monster like Joker. 

    In the movie, not only do the events happen over the course of just a few days, but Arthur Fleck, the budding Joker himself, says he had "a bad day."

    475 votes
  • 3
    594 VOTES

    Pogo The Clown Was John Wayne Gacy’s Alias

    Arthur Fleck's disastrous stand-up set occurred at a comedy club called Pogo's.

    This immediately brings to mind Pogo the Clown, which was the clown alias of the notorious John Wayne Gacy.

    594 votes
  • 4
    329 VOTES

    There Are Several 'Taxi Driver' Allusions

    There Are Several 'Taxi Driver' Allusions
    Photo: Taxi Driver / Columbia Pictures

    Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is considered one of the greatest films of all time. Like Joker, it revolves around an alienated, mentally unstable man living in New York City (Gotham's real-world proxy) and eventually descending into madness and carnage. Taxi Driver is, in many ways, the template for Joker, and as such, the latter makes several references to its 1976 inspiration.

    Taxi Driver's most famous scene is Travis Bickle's "You talkin' to me?" moment in front of the mirror, in which he practices pulling his concealed firearm on a hypothetical foe. Joker's Arthur Fleck not only has own share of moments forging his fledgling identity in front of a mirror, but has his own play-acting session with his newfound piece, alone in his living room.

    The two protagonists share numerous other similarities, including the fact that they both jot down their increasingly disturbed thoughts in a personal journal. And then of course there's Robert De Niro - Travis Bickle himself - who pops up in a key role in Joker. Perhaps the most overt visual nod, however, takes place early on, during Arthur's first onscreen interaction with his neighbor (and burgeoning crush), Sophie (Zazie Beetz). As they share gestures and small talk about the state of the world - and the state of the rickety elevator they're sharing - Sophie mimes putting a piece to her head in a shot that directly mirrors an iconic image of Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver's bloody climax.

    329 votes
  • 5
    328 VOTES

    The Actor Who Played Bruce Wayne Also Played A Young Version Of Joaquin Phoenix

    The Actor Who Played Bruce Wayne Also Played A Young Version Of Joaquin Phoenix
    Photo: You Were Never Really Here / Amazon Studios

    In 2017, Joaquin Phoenix starred in another movie about a dangerous weirdo who lives with his mom - Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here. Between scenes of Phoenix bashing people with a hammer, viewers are treated to flashbacks of the character’s childhood. The child who played the younger version of Phoenix's character was Dante Pereira-Olson.

    In Joker, Phoenix reunites with his once-younger self, as the young Bruce Wayne is played by none other than Dante Pereira-Olson. Maybe the kid is just a good actor, but if they're trying to subtly imply Bruce could be Arthur Fleck's brother, picking somebody a casting director thought looked like a young Joaquin Phoenix is a great place to start.

    328 votes
  • 6
    425 VOTES

    'Joker' References The Bernie Goetz 'Subway Vigilante' Incident

    Arthur's breaking point in Joker loosely references the infamous Bernie Goetz subway shooting in New York City. In 1984, Goetz drew a side arm on the subway and shot four African American teenagers he claimed were preparing to rob him, sparking a wide array of press and backlash in the city and nationally.

    In Joker, the men are wealthy finance types who hassle a woman, then move on to Arthur and beat him up before he draws on them. The confrontation is fatal and ignites more angry sentiment toward the rich, with the unknown assailant being propped up as something of a hero, and the Wall Street guys as deserving victims. But the general framework of the reference - an '80s subway shooting igniting a firestorm of tabloid press and varied passionate public opinion - certainly appears intentional.

    425 votes