Comic book characters were an integral part of popular culture during the latter half of the 20th century. They achieved massive popularity in the 21st century when they were successfully re-imagined for the big screen with the power of technology helping to construct their worlds more realistically. Among the many comic book characters, only a few have been able to tickle the fantasy of cultural commentators and academics across the world like Batman’s archnemesis, Joker. He is a character without any superpower, but in terms of the ability to spread chaos and destruction, the Joker remains unparalleled. He is easily one of the most sinister villains the world of fiction has ever seen.
Unlike most other cartoonish comic book villains, the Joker is an agent of chaos. He is of the firm belief that the world is inherently evil and we just wear a mask of civility in order to avoid exposing our true selves. His goal is to make chaos rule the world and to show us how carnal we all actually are. This is the exact note that Todd Phillips’ 2019 film ‘Joker‘ tries to hit.
The story of ‘Joker’ centers around a failed comedian called Arthur Fleck. He is someone who tries to be a successful part of society, but is always turned down, bullied, and tormented with failures. His constant failures in life keep pushing him towards the edge until he loses his grip on his sanity. What follows is complete chaos and destruction which puts forward some grave social and philosophical questions for the audience. Joaquin Phoenix, as always, lights up the screen with a haunting performance as the Clown Prince of Crime. The movie is quite devastating but also thought provoking. If you’ve already seen the film and loved it, then we’ve got some more titles for you to check out. Here’s the list of best movies similar to ‘Joker’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘Joker’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
7. To Die For (1995)
Nicole Kidman is one of the most powerful actors we have seen in Hollywood since the 1980s, and she has always managed to stun us with her brilliant performances in some of the most challenging roles for women we have seen on the silver screen. The 1995 crime-comedy film ‘To Die For’ by Gus Van Sant explores Kidman’s ability to play a deranged character, and here she shines brightly. The film centers around a woman called Suzzane who can go to any length imaginable in order to have a career in television as a broadcaster. When she faces resistance from her husband, Suzanne doesn’t mind seducing a young guy and using him and his friends to kill him. The descent into madness of this woman and her obsessive qualities are portrayed brilliantly by Kidman in this film. The mockumentary format of the movie gives it a realistic quality which makes the lead character even more fearsome.
6. The Shining (1980)
The word ‘genius’ is thrown around too often, but if there is one filmmaker who really does justice to the word, it is none other than Stanley Kubrick. Whatever Kubrick has ever touched upon, he has set a benchmark for others to follow. ‘The Shining‘ was Kubrick’s first attempt at making a horror film, and he masterfully uses the horror tropes for making a film that goes above and beyond the scope of its genre. ‘The Shining’ tells the story of Jack Torrance and his family, who have been put in charge of the Overlook Hotel during winter when the hotel remains officially closed. Jack’s son Danny is able to sense that the hotel has a horrific past where a previous caretaker had lost his sanity and killed his entire family. Something similar happens to Jack who slowly descents into complete madness after the supernatural presence in the hotel begins to have a deep effect on his psyche. Now his wife and son have to keep themselves alive as Jack becomes hell-bent on killing them.
5. The Dark Knight (2008)
The interest in the character of the Joker grew in modern film audiences with the release of the film ‘The Dark Knight‘ in 2008. Heath Ledger stunned the world with his portrayal of the chaotic madman in this Christopher Nolan venture which is much more than a regular superhero film. The main theme of the movie is the eternal struggle between order and chaos. While Batman becomes the symbol of order in society, Joker represents the utter chaos that we constantly prevent ourselves from falling into. “Madness is like gravity. All you need is a little push” is the mantra of Joker. He wants society to expose its true, carnal self, and can go to any length to make that happen. Watch this film and make up your mind regarding who has played the role of the Joker to perfection.
4. The Master (2012)
Purposelessness is one of the main driving forces behind a man’s descent into madness. When you have nothing to do to give your life meaning, it tends to create an inescapable void from which it becomes impossible to exit. This is the condition of the leading character of the 2012 Paul Thomas Anderson film, ‘The Master’. Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) is a World War II veteran who struggles to return to normalcy after witnessing unspeakable violence during the war. He is taken inside the inner circle of the leader of a cult, and for the first time after returning from war he truly feels he is part of something important. A normal person on the surface, Freddie becomes uncontrollably violent whenever the leader of the cult is opposed to the slightest degree. The film essentially is about a sense of belonging, something that both Freddie and Arthur Fleck are constantly trying to find. The performances of Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman are beyond brilliant.
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3. The King Of Comedy (1983)
If there is one film that ‘Joker’ was perhaps inspired by, it is none other than ‘The King Of Comedy‘ by Martin Scorsese. Robert de Niro plays the role of a failed comedian who tries desperately to find any opening for himself on television. But his comedy isn’t received with enthusiasm by anyone, and all his attempts fail. Desperate to achieve success, Rupert ends up kidnapping a comedian and talk show host, Jerry Langford (played by the famous comedian Jerry Lewis) with the help of another deranged friend, Masha. Pupkin, who appears to be a naive and innocent comedian at first, thus begins his descent into insanity, keeping a silly smile on his face all along. De Niro’s versatility and Scorsese’s mastery behind the lens turn ‘The King of Comedy’ into a truly unforgettable experience.
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2. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Another Stanley Kubrick film finds its way to this list, and this time we focus on the psychopathy of teenager Alex DeLarge. Alex and his group of friends are school-goers in a futuristic London who derive pleasure from causing pain to others. They beat up an innocent old man, and rape a woman while humming ‘Singin’ In The Rain’. “Ultraviolence” is their motto, and they show no remorse for their terrible crimes. Kubrick here tries to make a point that as we become more and more technologically advanced, we are constantly alienating the youngsters from humane qualities, thus indirectly allowing them to expose their carnal sides to the world.
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1. Taxi Driver (1976)
Scorsese’s magnum opus, ‘Taxi Driver‘ is one of the greatest character studies in the history of cinema. The central character of the film, Travis Bickle, is a Vietnam War veteran who drives a taxi in New York. It is through his constant journey all around the city that Scorsese shows us the grim and dark side of the city. Bickle later falls in love with a girl, but after he takes her to watch a porn film, she dumps him. He also witnesses an underage prostitute being brutally treated by her pimp. All the negativity around him finally catches up with Bickle and just like Arthur, he transforms into an agent of chaos. The film offers us a look at a person who has been emotionally destroyed by the chaos he witnesses around him. It is the depravity in society that is responsible for his descent into madness.
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