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.
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.
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.
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.
The King of Comedy is another Martin Scorsese classic starring Robert De Niro. In that 1983 film, he plays a delusional would-be comedian, Rupert Pupkin, who not only hopes to achieve the world-famous success of talk-show host Jerry Langford (played by Jerry Lewis) but even acts out his fantasies, complete with life-sized cardboard cutouts and a fake studio audience.
Joker's Arthur Fleck can understand that kind of madness. Pupkin's entitled, delusional fantasies mirror the state of mind of Fleck, who at one point fantasizes about being hand-picked from the studio audience of Live with Murray Franklin by Murray Franklin (De Niro) himself, and has designs on stand-up comedy fame of his own. Unlike Gotham's burgeoning Clown Prince, Rupert Pupkin doesn't go nearly as far with his obsession, but he does stalk Langford and eventually kidnap him.