With Joker breaking box office records in theaters around the world, Joaquin Phoenix earning Oscar buzz for his frighteningly real performance as the eponymous villain and his civilian persona Arthur Fleck. The acclaimed film features a significantly more grounded incarnation of the iconic DC Comics character and the Gotham City in which he inhabits. However, Arthur''s final appearance as the Clown Prince of Crime contains subtle visual nods to several elements of the character's cinematic history, both in the costume and make-up.
Now, we're taking a look back at Arthur's Joker costumes and how past versions of the supervillain from the big screen informed the design of the latest cinematic incarnation of the cackling criminal.
With much of the film's depiction of Gotham City seemingly devoid of color and instead grimy, gritty and filled with bleaker, earthier tones, Arthur's decision to dress up in a costume consisting of a royal purple jacket and pants, goldbrick yellow vest and green shirt adds a much-need splash of visual vibrancy before his fateful appearance on Murray Franklin's late night talk show.
The entire ensemble is reminiscent of Cesar Romero's usual costume as the Joker from the 1960s Batman television series and its 1966 spinoff film. Romero's Joker also wore a solid green shirt. While he may have lacked a vest, the style and general color of the jacket and pants evoke the character's live-action cinematic debut from over 50 years ago.
Throughout the film, Arthur employs different forms of clown make-up as part of his day job as a clown-for-hire before his eventual termination for bringing a loaded revolver to a gig at a children's hospital. Prior to appearing on the late night talk show, Arthur goes a bit more dramatic with his choice in make-up, dying his hair a sickly green before establishing a white foundation across his face and adding blue triangles around his eyes and red eyebrows, nose and garish smile.
The long, green hair is a callback to The Dark Knight, which featured Heath Ledger's award-winning incarnation of the Joker in the first live-action appearance of the character with longer hair instead of his traditionally much shorter and neater hair. The make-up itself is also a reference to the self-applied style Ledger had in the 2008 film, and also to the masks that Joker and his various henchmen wore, which employ a similar color pattern. Rioters wearing incredibly similar masks to The Dark Knight are also seen throughout Joker to further this allusion.
This is a much more subtle reference given the darkened nature of many of the film's sequences taking place at night or in the city's perpetually overcast and dimly lit shadows, but Arthur usually wears patterned shirts including his murderous encounter with three Wayne Financial stockbrokers on the Gotham subway late one night. Before he truly became the Joker, he wore a patterned shirt with a large collar, which would've been the predominant style in the film's early '80s time period.
While both Romero and Jack Nicholson's incarnations of the Joker worn uniform colored shirts, Ledger's Joker preferred patterned shirts seen more visibly whenever he lifted or removed his jacket and most noticeable when imprisoned within the Gotham Police Department after a failed assassination attempt on Harvey Dent. Most tellingly, those shirts also had unusually wide collars. Taken with the scenes where on only wears a vest, these scenes establish a clear visual continuity between Dark Knight's Joker and Joker's titular character.
Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, Josh Pais and Shea Whigham.