A good movie will draw you into the world it has created and make you feel part of it. So much so, that there’s a chance you’ll leave the theater after with a bit of an adrenaline rush. Maybe the latest Bond flick has you feeling like you can be the next 007. Maybe an over-the-top car chase has you pressing on the gas pedal and drifting like a pro. Maybe the story of a talented musician has you thinking you could pick up a guitar and strum a perfect rhythm.
Most of the time we’re left with wanting more. We want something similar, yet new at the same time. You don’t want to watch the same film again, you want to watch something that pairs nicely. Here at ScreenAge Wasteland, we’ve selected six films that you should watch after Joker.
Here are the pairings.
The King of Comedy | Vincent Kane
For those of you who have seen The King of Comedy and Joker, or even just the trailers, then you will see this as an obvious choice as Joker pulls inspiration from Martin Scorsese’s 1982 film. The King of Comedy is one of Scorsese’s films that is just not talked about enough and has one of my favorite performances by Robert De Niro (who also appears in Joker).
The King of Comedy is a crime drama with some uncomfortable comedy about a failed comic (De Niro) who craves to be in the spotlight and will do whatever it takes to get there. Rupert Pupkin is a mentally deranged stand-up comedian who, after multiples failures, finally gets what he thinks to be his big break when he meets a big-time comedian and talk show host Jerry Langford, played by Jerry Lewis. Pupkin has delusion fantasies where he and this big shot celebrity are colleagues even though he is continually blown off by Langford and his staff. Pupkin then decides to take matters into his own hands to make his big break happen by taking drastic measures.
What makes this black comedy so effective is how much it is set in reality. A reality we see play out too many times here in the real world. An entitled, mentally unstable individual doesn’t understand that maybe he just isn’t meant to be in the spotlight. Instead of accepting that and seeking help or not having others intervene, he is willing to commit crimes that put others in danger for his benefit no matter the cost. Sound familiar?
The Warriors | King Alvarez
Since Joker is set in the ’80s, I’d like to think of The Warriors as a slight extension of the film.
Think about it.
What would happen in a pre-Batman world? The Joker’s penchant for anarchy would spread across the city like wildfire and in turn, like some sort of a weird nod to the 60’s Batman show, it would create tons of these ridiculously themed gangs running amok in the city fighting for control of New York City, I mean Gotham. Over time, the gangs would outnumber the police by three to one. And no one could do anything about it. People would be forced to stay in their homes after dark (and maybe even during the day). War in the streets.
That is until one day, Cyrus, leader of the Gramercy Riffs, calls for the summit in Van Cortlandt Park to propose a permanent citywide truce among the gangs to form an alliance that would allow for them to control the city completely. This does not make the Joker happy. He doesn’t want a truce among the gangs. It goes against every fiber of his being. So, in turn, he sends Luther, leader of the Rogues, to kill Cyrus at the summit. Chaos ensues.
Unfortunately, the Warriors are the ones framed for the murder. Following the aftermath of the shooting things settle a bit, but they are attacked by a rival gang. Narrowly escaping and unaware of the fact they have been framed, they go on the run. Since all of the gangs and police are looking for them they realize they have to fight their way back to Coney Island, surviving at any cost.
Luckily, the Riffs are visited by a gang member who attended the summit and witnessed Luther shoot Cyrus. Alleviating the bounty on the Warriors’ heads but also eliminating the chance of a city-wide truce.
Long live chaos.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead | Mitch Roush
The best thrillers are the ones that keep us grounded in authentic humanity no matter how absurd the raising of stakes becomes. They peel back the layers of our own mind as much as the narrative pivots along the way.
A quick glance at the leading players is enough to grab our attention. Peak Philip Seymour Hoffman is a criminally underrated, tour-de-force (I mean, this scene); Ethan Hawke packing the electric vulnerability we’ve grown to love; and impeccable Marissa Tomei, the glue holding it all together. Not to mention Albert Finney, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, and Rosemary Harris making memorable appearances. The deck is stacked as we enter the web of white-collar crime, the underbelly of high society drugs, and a deceitful love triangle between brothers.
BTDKYD slips us into the warm bath of mania, desperation, addiction, and self-preservation in a fashion that only a master of the craft would achieve. Sidney Lumet’s final title is a guttural tailspin of fractured family and self-sabotage that never sacrifices the nuances that mark a personal experience. Of course, it may be a touch on-the-nose that the whole thing boils down to, “I never got daddy’s approval” … but when it’s executed to this degree with this level of talent—the slow burn into a murderous maniac and jealous rage becomes, in and of itself, an intoxicating drug of which we can’t turn away.
Lumet, as he showed throughout his career, was onto something. The slow disintegration of man and family and image is a ride we’re always ready to strap-in for. At the end of the day, who wouldn’t want to see Hoffman and Hawke throw-down with Tomei caught in the middle?
Cecil B. Demented | Sailor Monsoon
The world is unkind to Arthur Fleck. He’s a man desperately trying to find a reason to smile in an environment determined to break him. Gotham City is not dissimilar from the city it was inspired by: New York. Not the Rudy Giuliani Disneyland-esque New York of today but the grimy, crime ridden New York of the 70’s. A Gotham without Batman is an unsafe hellscape that eats the weak alive. It’s the absolute worst place for a man crippled by mental illness. A man who’s battling his demons in order to entertain. He wants to be a stand up comedian; making people laugh is his life’s purpose. Entertainment is his solace, but what if it wasn’t? What if the thing he loves the most was the thing that drove him crazy in the first place? What if his need to entertain was replaced with an insane drive to destroy inferior entertainment? Then he’d probably be a helluva lot more like Cecil B. Demented than Rupert Pupkin.
A renegade group of independent film makers lead by the insane Cecil B. Demented (Stephen Dorff) kidnap an A-list Hollywood actress (Melanie Griffith) and force her to star in their underground film. A biting satire from the king of trash cinema, Cecil B. Demented is John Waters’ most vitriolic film to date. The state of cinema had become so bad, Waters felt the need to create a character who’s sole purpose in life was to burn it down. Reduce Hollywood to rubble and maybe from the ashes, a phoenix can arise. The phoenix of independent film. I see Joker doing the same thing. Not the character, the film. We need more films that have an edge, that aren’t afraid to push buttons. In a world where Disney owns the marketplace and superhero films are the soup du jour, we need more films with that Cecil B. Demented spirit and I think Joker can fit that bill.
Black Swan | William Dhalgren
Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan isn’t the kind of film that spoon-feeds you its meaning. The plot seems straightforward enough: A young ballerina, Nina, struggles to embody both the innocent and pure White Swan and the more mature and overtly sexual Black Swan in a prestigious production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. But when you throw in Nina’s paranoia, her bizarre relationship with her mother, the lesbian affair that might or might not be a hallucination, the doppelgänger thing, the ugly red scars that form on Nina’s back and then slowly become something much more horrifying, Black Swan goes from straightforward to pretty fucking complicated. And in the best way possible when we’re talking about film.
Questions quickly emerge. Is Nina losing her mind? Is she breaking free of her mother and pushing beyond the sexual repression that prevents her from properly portraying the Black Swan? Does her story simply detail the cost of achieving artistic perfection? Or is it all simply a fiction that exists solely in Nina’s mind?
You can go and read about what Aronofsky had in mind when he conceived Black Swan if you want, but I encourage you to see the film and decide for yourself before you go looking for authorial intent.
On paper, Todd Phillips’ Joker and Aronofsky’s Black Swan could be two sides of the same coin. Psychological trauma. Sexual repression. Social alienation. Mommy issues. Take all that and run it through two separate lenses, one masculine, and one feminine, and it seems like you got a pretty good doubleheader on your hands.
Black Swan was nominated for five Academy Awards and Natalie Portman took home the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of the ballerina Nina. It’s hard to know if Phillips’ Joker will fair as well when awards season arrives. We’ll know soon enough. And when you’ve finally seen it and you’re ready for another psychological thriller, go out and find a copy of Black Swan. Pop it in the Blu-Ray player. And temper that toxic masculinity with some toxic femininity for a change.
La Haine | Lee McCutcheon
La Haine follows three Parisian youngsters and their struggles to make it through everyday life. Urban riots are a regular occurrence and racial tensions with the police are sky-high. A fresh-faced Vincent Cassell takes centre stage playing Vinz, a young Jewish man with a short fuse. Along with his two friends (one of Afro-French descent and the other a North African Muslim), he is seeking revenge for a police attack on a fellow friend that has left him severely injured and hospitalised. Vinz is full of anger, mainly aimed towards the police, but also towards the society that has marginalised him, his family and his friends. Shot entirely in black and white, we follow the trio for the next 20 hours of their lives in one of the rundown housing projects outside Paris (commonly known as la banlieue). Filled with some explosive and harrowing events, we get a disturbing look at the police brutality and racial disparity they have to contend with, including a shocking final scene. Although we have a certain degree of empathy for Vinz (he is ultimately a product of his surroundings), it’s difficult to condone his behaviour. Hatred breeds hatred and if after watching Joker you are looking for a completely different take on how the wider society can shape our actions, La Haine is worth your time.
Those are our pairings; now it’s your turn. What do you think would pair nicely with Joker?