It turns out people really, really like the Joker. The gritty alternate origin story of Batman’s most famous villain just became the first R-rated film to hit $1 billion at the worldwide box office. It’s the seventh movie to cross the billion-dollar line this year, and the only non-Disney property to do so (so far). The milestone is much rarer for Warner Bros. – the studio has only released four films that have crossed the $1 billion mark, and half of them feature the Joker.
Todd Phillips’ take on the popular DC Comics character was met with mild controversy in the weeks before its release, with some criticizing the film’s arguable glorification of a character who is a mass murderer, but Joker has proven to be an unstoppable force at the box office. It set a record for the biggest opening weekend in history for the month of October, and star Joaquin Phoenix has been enjoying virtually non-stop Oscar buzz since its release.
Joker is a much-needed win for Warner Bros., after a series of high-profile flops like The Goldfinch, The Kitchen, Motherless Brooklyn, and Doctor Sleep. The Scorsese-inspired comic book adaptation had a mid-level production budget of approximately $62 million, effectively making it one of the most successful films in history in terms of recouping its costs.
Even though making a sequel to a billion-dollar movie seems like a no-brainer, especially a movie about a comic book character, plans for a Joker sequel are very much up in the air. Both Phillips and Phoenix have expressed interest in making a second movie only if they can find a compelling artistic reason to do so, and not just for the money. Phillips may be more susceptible to the financial argument of doing a follow-up (*cough* The Hangover 3 *cough*), so I expect Phoenix to be the real holdout on a Joker 2. We’ll see what happens as Joker continues to sell tickets around the globe.