That sound you hear faintly in the distance? That’s the maniacal cackling of Joker, which has become so successful in its global theatrical run that it’s passing the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office today. And this doesn’t just give the movie bragging rights of entering the billion dollar club alongside fellow superhero movies like Avengers: Endgame, The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Incredibles 2, Iron Man 3, Captain America: Civil War, Aquaman, Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. Joker also has the distinction of becoming the first R-rated movie to ever cross that threshold.
Joaquin Phoenix, director Todd Phillips, and the executives at Warner Bros. are probably doing a little jig of their own today, as Deadline reports that Joker will have pulled in more than one billion dollars by the end of the day. Their Martin Scorsese-inspired period drama about the origins of the Clown Prince of Crime has to be the least-expensive superhero blockbuster to cross the billion dollar mark. An impressive component of this news is the fact that Joker managed to make that much money worldwide without even playing in China, which is one of the world’s largest film markets and has often served as the location which was able to push many of its contemporaries over the hump.
On October 25, Joker became the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history at the worldwide box office, passing Deadpool 2. Not long afterward, in early November, it became the first R-rated title to cross $900 million globally. But now it’s entered into a steadily-growing but still relatively exclusive club with only 43 other members. It’s just the seventh movie in WB history to cross that billion dollar line.
Frankly, I’m a little shocked that this movie continues to perform this well. I realize the Joker is a pop culture icon and while I certainly appreciated Joaquin Phoenix’s amazing performance, I personally found Joker to be an exercise in miserablism, a two-plus hour stylistic pastiche that wanted to be provocative but didn’t quite have enough clarity of vision to be able to make a coherent statement by the time the credits rolled. But it’s also one of the rare movies these days that people felt like they needed to see in order to weigh in on the cultural conversation, so maybe I shouldn’t be this surprised. I suspect we’ll continue to talk about Joker well into awards season, as Joaquin seems like a lock for a Best Actor nomination for the upcoming Oscars.
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