Easter Eggs From Joker:
*As the title suggests, there will be major Spoilers.*
Joker is a masterpiece and there is no doubt about it. Joaquin Phoenix delivered a legendary performance and all of us kept cheering for him as he committed crimes one after the other. But there were many Easter Eggs & references perfectly hidden by Director Todd Phillips. And, there were some that actually paid clear homage to other great films from the past. For instance, Joker gave Batman a way to begin a new origin story as Bruce’s parents died in a dark alley once more. Matt Reeves could actually pick his story from this ending that Joker had. Nevertheless, let’s look at the Easter Eggs & callbacks from the film:
This amazing story comes the closest to an origin for the Joker in the comics. The live-action movie draws from this adaptation. Just like in The Killing Joke, Arthur Fleck is a failed comedian who turns into the cynical crime prince of Gotham. The live-action movie even takes up the infamous quote of The Killing Joke by Alan Moore:
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”
We don’t see this line being uttered exactly in the film, but close to the third act of the film, where we see Arthur sitting in Sophie Dumond’s apartment, he says: “I had a bad day.” Soon after that, he takes his true form as the Joker!
Another adaptation that Joker drew from was Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Just like in Joker, where Arthur Fleck appears on Murray Franklin’s (Robert De Niro) talk show, he appears on a talk show in The Dark Knight Returns. Guess what, he kills everyone on the talk show!
3. The King of Comedy
Martin Scorsese was originally one of the producers on Joker himself. He backed out of it later as his dance card was full, but Scorsese’s producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff was still attached. The point I’m making here is that because of the Scorsese connection, Joker was going to have references from Scorsese classics. So, there were major callbacks to the “The King of Comedy”, where Robert De Niro plays a mentally-disturbed failed comedian who idolizes Jerry Lewis’ successful TV host, Jerry Langford. Now, you’ve seen Joker and you know that Robert De Niro goes a full circle playing the TV Host Murray Franklin, who is again idolized by a mentally-disturbed failed comedian.
4. Taxi Driver
This is another Scorsese movie with Robert De Niro, who played a disturbed character. Well, even if you haven’t seen the film, you’d know that there is a direct homage to the classic as we see De Niro practicing with a gun in a shady apartment. And, he has got no shirt on! Who does that in Joker? You’re right, Arthur Fleck!
5. Modern Times
Brian Tyree Henry recently voiced the father of Miles Morales, and he has been cast as Phastos in Marvel’s Eternals. In Joker, he plays the administrative clerk at Arkham State Hospital.
Marc Maron (who is a comic book movie hater for real) also drops in for a quick cameo as he plays Murray Franklin’s (Robert De Niro) manager.
7. Alfred Pennyworth
We have seen different versions of Alfred on TV as ‘Gotham’ showed a rather middle-aged butler. While a new series called Pennyworth revolves around the story of a young Alfred. But in the films, Alfred has only been seen as the old man Butler. Michael Caine was a bit more involved with Bruce’s escapades, but Jeremy Irons was a bit more hands-on!
Although in Joker, we see Alfred as he has never been seen before on the big screen. He was an army man in his younger days and leaving the British army, he came to join the Waynes. He becomes the legal guardian of Bruce after his parents die in an alley. The film shows us a young Bruce and a comic accurate version of Thomas Wayne, but most people actually fail to recognize that Douglas Hodge plays Alfred in Joker.
8. Other Minor Comic Book nods
The social worker assigned to Arthur Fleck is named Debra Kane, which is a nod to Batman co-creator Bob Kane. Then there were two detectives that were investigating the murder of those 3 Wall Street Bankers on the subway. These two detectives are named Garrity and Burke. In Detective Comics #748, Detective Thomas Burke was introduced, and Shea Whigham plays the character in the film. There’s no comic book nod for “Garrity” in the movie.
Another Comic Book reference was for Dr. Benjamin Stoner whose name was mentioned on Penny Fleck’s Arkham file. In many of the 1980s DC Comics, Stoner was an Arkham doctor.
9. Real World Criminals
Watching Joker seems similar to a long episode of Mindhunter on Netflix. That show is based on the real life story of certain criminals that cause the FBI to change their way of thinking. Well, Joker is no real life criminal, but there were actually some real-world takeaways. As mentioned above, Arthur murders 3 Wall Street Bankers on the subway, which is taken up from the actual case of Bernie Goetz, who shot four young men on the New York subway.
Another subtle addition was the comedy club where Arthur plays his stand-up act. This club is called Pogos. This was a nod to the real-world serial killer John Wayne Gacy who used Pogo as an alias and had a career as a professional clown.
10. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
By the end of the film, we’re shown the murder of the Waynes, again! Martha’s necklace breaks, and the pearls fall, again! Burce ends up in the dark alley, again! Only this time, it happens because of Joker. This is a direct connection to the Batman origin story we’ve been seeing in several movies, but the connection with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice comes through Zorro.
In Joker, the movie theatre that the Waynes get out of plays Zorro, The Gay Blade. In Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the Waynes walk out of a theatre which displayed movies called Wolfen, Arthur and Excalibur. All of these films were released in the year 1981. So, in these two alternate Universes (DCEU & Joker Universe) there is a neat connection drawn to Batman’s origin story which takes place in 1981.
11. Fight Club
The big callback from Fight Club happens where Arthur Fleck imagines having a romantic relationship with Zazzie Beetz’s Sophie Dumond. He realizes it one day that he had been alone in all those moments that he thought he spent with Sophie. It is exactly like Fight Club where the protagonist imagines himself as a different made up the persona of Brad Pitt’s character. Even the ending of Joker leaves us thinking that the entire movie happened just in Arthur’s head when he was at the Arkham Asylum.
12. The Dark Knight
At the very end of the film, we see a direct nod to Heath Ledger’s Joker as Arthur Fleck stares out of the police car window, looking at all the chaos that he has caused. That’s when he feels free, and we saw a similar moment in The Dark Knight when the Joker escapes. Then Fleck extends his smile out of blood, which is another homage to Heath Ledger’s Joker. This movie defines the true meaning of how Alfred described Ledger’s Joker –
“Some Men just wanna watch the world burn.”