6. Logan (2017)
It’s 2029 and mutants are now a dying breed. Logan lives in a remote hideout on the Mexican border and spend his days drinking and making petty cash as a driver for hire. Also living in exile with him are outcast Caliban and a dying Professor X, who is plagued by seizures. When Logan is tasked with an attempt to escort a young girl to safety, he finds himself facing off against dark forces and a familiar villain from his past.
For those used to the bright, funny and CGI packed blockbuster comic book films, Joker was a breath of fresh air. Dark, nihilistic and more visually stylistic, Joker appealed to those experiencing Marvel and DCEU fatigue. Logan is another comic book film that steps away from the usual formula and gives audiences an infinitely darker and grittier viewing experience.
In the same way that Joker focuses on one depressed character who is making a transition to becoming someone else, Logan does the same and shows a character’s transition from one stage of his life to another. Logan was one of the best films of 2017 and fans of Joker will undoubtedly find the same appreciation of the unique take on the comic book genre as they did with Joker.
Trivia: Sir Patrick Stewart claimed that he has been a steady weight since he was a teenager and has never tried to lose weight, but he lost over twenty pounds to play an ailing Professor X. In all the scenes where Logan carries Professor X, it is really Hugh Jackman carrying Patrick Stewart.
7. Gladiator (2000)
Emperor Marcus Aurelius is dead. And with his death, the Roman Empire is thrown into chaos. Marcus’s son Commodus ascends to the throne and sends Marcus’s trusted advisor and general Maximus to be executed. When Marcus escapes, he is captured by slave traders and forced to become a gladiator. Using his newfound glory in the arena, Maximus decides to challenge the rule of Commodus.
The reason for the inclusion of Gladiator in this list is a simple one, and that is simply to give another example of a film which features an incredible performance by Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix has been tipped for an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for Joker and his performance in Gladiator saw him earn a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Playing another villain, albeit a very different one, Phoenix is brilliant as the conniving and backstabbing Commodus. His performance as Commodus is so good that several actors have cited him as an inspiration and influence for their own performances, most notably Jack Gleeson and Iwan Rheon have said that Phoenix inspired their own performances in Game of Thrones as Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsey Bolton respectively.
For those that loved Phoenix’s performance in Joker then any of his filmography is certainly worth checking out, but Gladiator is one of the best.
Trivia: Real tigers were brought in to film the scene in the arena where Maximus fights Tigris the Gaul. A veterinarian was armed with tranquiliser darts and Russell Crowe had to stay at least fifteen feet away at all times for safety.
8. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Based on a true story, Dog Day Afternoon takes place on a hot summer afternoon in New York. Shortly before closing time, friends Sonny and Sal burst into a bank with the intention of robbing it. However, what should have been a run of the mill bank job soon turns into a catastrophe when everything that can go wrong does. Soon events escalate when the situation turns into a media circus.
Another film which inspired Joker director Phillips was Dog Day Afternoon. Phillips cited Dog Day Afternoon as being a helpful reference “because of how the anti-heroes become embraced.” Dog Day Afternoon is also another film, like Joker, which is character driven as well as being shaded with social commentary. Phillips and co-writer Scott Silvers wanted to make a film that was similar to Dog Day Afternoon and felt that doing it within the comic book genre would give them more scope and resources within the current Hollywood industry.
Trivia: The outdoor sequences were actually filmed during very cold weather. Before each take, the actors would place ice in their mouths to stop their breath being visible on camera.
9. Naked (1993)
Unemployed and angry Johnny Fletcher embarks on odyssey across London one night, taking out his rage on everyone he meets.
If you enjoyed the nihilistic and dark elements of Joker, then Naked is a film that you might want to check out. Incredibly dark and at times a very intense watch, director Mike Leigh’s Naked is also the character study of a man who finds himself walking on the darker side of life.
David Thewlis plays Johnny who is at times a sinister and morbid man who often resorts to violence in order to deal with people. This is not unlike Arthur Fleck, who ends up resorting to violence to deal with those around him who he feels have wronged him. This is also another film which is anchored by a brilliant central performance and also throws up the battle audiences have of disgust versus empathy for characters that we should by all rights hate, but for some reason we find ourselves empathising with them.
Trivia: The script for Naked was only twenty-five pages long and was mostly created using improvisation during an eleven week rehearsal period.
10. Network (1976)
When veteran anchor-man Howard Beale is forced to retire from his twenty-five-year position, he launches into an angry rant and announces that he is going to commit suicide on his final programme. When his angry rant causes a massive upsurge in ratings, television bosses decide to develop even more outrageous methods of programming.
Joker raises an interesting discussion on media and the role it plays in our lives and our minds. The Joker as a character is helped in his rise to notoriety by the media’s obsession with his crimes and the Joker is able to spark a movement with the help of the exposure the news gives him.
Network is a film that looks even more deeply at this issue and how an on-air incident sparks events that spiral out of control. There is certainly a parallel with the scene in Joker where Arthur’s appearance on The Murray Franklin Show causes a spiral of events that lead to a revolution.
Trivia: Network won three of the four acting awards at the Academy Awards, which only one other film has ever achieved. Peter Finch died before the awards took place and was the first performer to win a posthumous award. Beatrice Straight won Best Supporting Actress for only five minutes and two seconds of screen time.