A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Peripheral condemnation of the rich and powerful who do nothing to help the downtrodden get on their feet; if not for their selfishness, a monster like the Joker could have been avoided. But while movie disparages hate, anger, unkindness, it doesn't necessarily promote kindness, love, generosity. Connections suggested between mental illness and criminal acts/behavior, which is troubling.
Positive Role Models
Joker is most certainly not a role model; his transformation and his discovery of his own strength and freedom involves violence, killing. It's an extremely negative portrayal of how a human should operate, but also possibly a cautionary tale. He's portrayed as having a mental illness, which impacts his trajectory -- a connection that may feel stigmatizing.
Violence & Scariness
Extremely graphic killing, with blood spurts/spatters and dead bodies. Guns, shooting, people being shot. Stabbing in throat and eye with scissors. Kids smash a wooden sign in the main character's face, stomping and kicking him when he's down. Bullies beat up the main character, punching and kicking him. Brief strangling. Smothering with pillow. Character is hit by car. Fighting, rioting, shouting. Implied child abuse. Drunk men harass a woman on the subway.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Extremely brief images of (somewhat) graphic nudity in the flipped-through pages of a journal. Signs for porno theaters with suggestive titles and pictures. Main character seen with hand down underwear (suggested masturbation). Kissing. Character bathes in a tub (nothing graphic shown).
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Several uses of "f--k" and its variants, "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "pr--ks." "Jesus" as an exclamation. Middle-finger gesture.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Frequent cigarette smoking. Main character takes prescription pills. The Joker's first victims are drunk and abusive.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Joker is an intense, complex, powerful thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix as the famous Batman villain. It's far darker and more violent than other takes on the character. Expect extremely graphic killings and blood spatters/sprays, guns and shooting, and stabbing. Several characters bully and beat up the main character, punching and kicking him, and there are scenes of fighting, rioting, rage, and shouting, as well as a scene of smothering with a pillow. There's brief nudity as the pages of a journal are flipped through, plus images and movie titles on porno theaters. The main character is shown with his hand down the front of his underwear, suggesting masturbation, and there's kissing. Language isn't constant but includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," etc. The main character takes prescription pills, and characters smoke frequently. The Joker isn't presented as a role model, but the movie does condemn those who do nothing to help the downtrodden get on their feet, which positions him as a somewhat sympathetic character. It also suggests that mental illness is one of the contributing factors to his villainous acts and behavior, which is troubling. The story disparages hate, anger, and unkindness, but it doesn't exactly promote kindness, love, or generosity. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Led by Phoenix's ferocious, feral performance, this especially dark, gritty comic book movie is a character drama that's drawn more toward real-world troubles than to capes and crusading. With Joker, director Todd Phillips sets aside his penchant for juvenile comedies like The Hangover and channels early Martin Scorsese, especially Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. The film rages at the human condition and the darkness that might break a person and turn that person into a monster. Specifically, Phillips points fingers at the wealthy and powerful, who claim to want to help but make it impossible for the downtrodden to pick themselves up.
Phoenix embodies the utter despair of this situation, digging deep with a full-bodied performance, forever struggling to find hope but failing. Skeletal and dark-spirited, he moves his limbs like a balletic spider, either twining as if spinning a web or flailing and flapping like a manic cartoon character. But Batman's famous nemesis isn't just villainous any longer; he's a heartbreaking mistake that could have been prevented. It's no coincidence that Joker is set during a garbage strike, given that humans here are thrown to the curb just as easily as black plastic bags. In this very bleak movie, the bright colors of the Joker's clown makeup offer a violent, horrifying escape.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.