Obvious Warning -This is a Spoiler Article! Joker is now out in theaters, in the story it tells is going to be the subject of much debate, likely for years to come. So far, the most divisive element of the film seems to be its highly controversial ending, which is may leave some fans wondering what the deeper point of the film is. Below you'll find our explanation of Joker's ending, including the finer points of the everything to the thematic payoff, to certain quotes from the final scenes.
The climatic act of Joker sees Arthur Fleck go on the late show Live! With Murray Franklin, where he has been invited after the show played a popular clip of Arthur bombing at a comedy club. Arthur goes to the show in full Joker makeup and costume, knowing that Murray's true purpose for having him there is mockery - but Arthur decides to turn the tables. When his segment comes on, Arthur confesses to the vicious subway murders of the "Clown Mask Killer," and after delivering a loud, furious monologue about what a cesspool Gotham is, Arthur blows Murray's brains out on live TV.
The assassination sends the already tense and bubbling Gotham into a full-on frenzy. As Arthur is hauled away in a cop car, some clown-masked rioters ram the car, and pull Arthur free. As Arthur wakes up from his unconscious state, the infamous Wayne murders occur nearby, when a clown-faced killer assassinates Thomas and Martha Wayne in solidarity with Arthur's cause. Arthur is reborn as "Joker," and dances on the cop car with his acolytes all around, as Gotham burns in the background.
...And there is where the big debate about Joker's ending really begins.
The final sequence of the movie sees Arthur institutionalized, wearing a whit jump suit and speaking to therapist. The camera cuts to Bruce Wayne, traumatized, covered in the blood of his slain parents, and Arthur is seen laughing to himself. The therapist asks what so funny, and Arthur says, "It's a joke... you wouldn't get it." The movie ends with Arthur seen walking down the institution hallway with the therapist's blood soaked into his feet, leaving bloody footprints in this wake. The film closes on a sequence of an orderly pursuing Arthur back-and-forth across a hallway, in homage to an old Charlie Chaplin-style silent film comedy.
The debate among moivegoers is whether or not this origin story of The Joker is actually real, or just one big joke that director Todd Phillips is playing on us. There's an earlier shot of Arthur in an institution wearing a white jumpsuit during a scene with his social worker, when he claims he can't remember why he was in there. The social worker bears resemblance to the therapist at the institution in the ending, making some fans question whether it's a clue that Arthur's Joker rise is all just a fantasy in his troubled head, as an escape from his being institutionalized. The fun part is that like a lot of traditional Joker origin stories it's ambiguous enough to keep fans debating, and rewatching the film for deeper meanings and clues.
Joker is now in theaters. Upcoming DC Movies include Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020, The Batman on June 25, 2021, The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021, and Aquaman 2 on December 16, 2022.