Final 'Joker' Trailer Shows the Very Moment Joaquin Phoenix Becomes Joker

Arthur Fleck is having a bad day, and a bad life. Watch the moment he turns his frown upside down.

The mystique of Joker in DC’s Batman comics is that you never really know where he came from. His true identity has never been revealed, at least not in mainstream canon; the acclaimed Alan Moore story The Killing Joke is actually meant to be one interpretation, not the definitive one.

But the final trailer for DC’s stand-alone Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Todd Phillips, reveals exactly the moment that sets the soon-to-be Clown Prince of Crime down a path of madness: He was mocked by Robert De Niro.

On Wednesday, Warner Bros. released the final trailer for Joker, a crime film that details the origins of Batman’s most famous nemesis. Set in a 1980s-esque Gotham City (notice elements like old cars, square televisions, and lack of cell phones), the film tells one interpretation of the Joker’s origins: A failing comedian, Arthur Fleck, is pushed around one too many times before he “snaps” into the feared crime boss known as the Joker.

Joker will be released on October 4.

The final straw, it seems, is Arthur, while attending to his mother in the hospital, gets his first big break and brush with fame before he is resoundingly mocked by a late-nite TV host, Murray Franklin (played by De Niro).

Cut to a close up of Arthur’s face, boiling with rage. Thus, the Joker is born.

The rest of the trailer, packed with new footage, shows a decaying Gotham City that is spiraling out of control. As the Joker, Arthur inspires a class revolution against Gotham’s greedy one-percent, which even leads to a face-to-face confrontation with none other than Thomas Wayne (played by Brett Cullen). Reads one sign carried by a frustrated citizen: “We are all clowns.”

There are even shots of Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur painting his face white, likely the moment he becomes Joker in his final form.

In his transformation into the Joker, Arthur will charismatically inspire a weary Gotham City into action against the wealthy. This is seen in people wearing clown masks and publicly clashing with police and harassing the rich. “For my whole life, I didn’t know even if I really existed,” Phoenix’s Arthur cryptically says via voice over, “But I do. People are starting to notice.”

Later, when he’s invited by Murray to do a set, Arthur asks for a small favor. “When you bring me out, can you introduce me as Joker?” (Yeah, it’s cheesy, but it’s nowhere near Han Solo trailer levels of, “Name?”)

Joker Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix's "Arthur Fleck" paints himself white before licking the brush. It's just a little bit of madness that will go a long way to becoming the feared "Joker" of Gotham City.

The film, which also stars Frances Conroy, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2, Atlanta) as a single mother and love interest for Arthur, is not connected to the existing DC film franchise. Rather, it’s set in its own grounded continuity that doesn’t yet (and maybe never will) have a world of superheroes. The film eschews virtually all of the superhero tropes, existing more as a crime drama than a superhero origin story.

But Batman will appear in the film, kind of. Child actor Dante Pereira-Olson will play a very young Bruce Wayne, who in adulthood grows up to become Batman. Because of the huge age difference, that means this continuity will see a prime, healthy Batman beat up a decrepit old man. No wonder Joker is mad.


Joker will be released in theaters on October 4.

Media via Warner Bros. Pictures