Filmmaker and actor John Waters has named Todd Phillips' Joker one of his top-ten movies of 2019. The Hairspray and Cry-Baby director released his annual top ten list in Artforum, where Waters celebrates the Gaspar Noé-directed Climax as his number one movie of the year. Following is Bruno Dumont’s Joan of Arc, Quentin Tarantino’s 1960s-set epic Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Swedish film Border from director Ali Abbasi, two documentaries — Amazing Grace, Alan Elliott and Sydney Pollack’s documentary about Aretha Franklin, and Penny Lane's Hail Satan? — the Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz-starring Pain and Glory, period crime-horror The Golden Glove, and Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir.
“Irresponsible? Maybe. Dangerous? We’ll see,” Waters wrote of Joker, ranked tenth. “The first big-budget Hollywood movie to gleefully inspire anarchy. Bravo, Todd Phillips! Only you could get away with it.”
The Joaquin Phoenix-led Joker, an R-rated origin story for the infamous Batman villain, has so far grossed over $1 billion worldwide to become just Warner Bros.' fourth DC Comics-inspired film to reach the milestone behind The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises and Aquaman. The once controversial Joker overcame worries the film might spark instances of real-life violence inspired by its titular character, who descends into madness and becomes an icon of the downtrodden in crime-ridden Gotham City.
“I had grown up loving these sort of intense character studies of the ‘70s and early ‘80s, and I thought, ‘God, you could probably get one of those made nowadays if you did it about one of these characters,’ and it was that basic of an idea,” Phillips recently told Deadline’s Behind the Lens. “I’d always been attracted to Joker because he’s an agent of chaos, which I’ve always liked, so I thought that could be an interesting approach to do a deep-dive character study on a villain. That was the genesis of the idea.”
Phillips acknowledged he was “going for an unsettling tone, for sure,” admitting Joker is “not a movie for everybody.”
“That was one of the things I said to [Warner Bros.] in the beginning. Comic book films are generally PG-13, kind of aiming at four quadrant, so to speak, but we were very specific in that this is not necessarily a movie for everybody,” he said. “If it ends up attracting everybody, great, if it crosses over, and people discover it the way they seem to have with Joker now, but we made it in mind, very specifically, narrow focus, if that makes sense.”
Joker releases to 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Jan. 7.