'Joker' theory may reveal a hidden Batman reference at the end of the movie

It's way more subtle than the one you're thinking of.

Warner Bros. Pictures

For a dark, twisty movie about mental illness and senseless homicide, Joker has a pretty straightforward ending. At least, that’s what we thought. But a new theory about the movie’s final scene has us rethinking the ending and wondering if there’s an even bigger Batman reference that’s been hiding in plain sight.

Warning: Joker spoilers ahead.


Warner Bros. Production

At the end of Joker, when Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) has fully transformed into the Batman supervillain in a pre-Batman Gotham City, director Todd Phillips offers one more twist. As the city riots — spurred on by Fleck’s on-air murder of a late night talk show host (Robert De Niro) — one anonymous man in a clown mask corners the Wayne family in an alley as they exit and movie theaters and … well, you know where this is going. Dead parents, sad Bruce, Batman. Tale as old as time.

Moments later, the movie jumps forward to its final scene. Arthur is in jail (presumably Arkham Asylum) and in the middle of a meeting with some sort of social worker. For a moment, he flashes back to that shot of the death of Bruce’s parents and laughs. When asked what’s so funny, he replies, “I just thought of something funny, but you wouldn’t get it.”

In the moment, you might not give it much thought, but in hindsight, this doesn’t make a ton of sense. Arthur Fleck wasn’t in that alley, so how would he know about the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne?

Arthur Fleck meets Thomas Wayne in 'Joker'

Warner Bros. Production

That’s where this theory from Reddit user u/wheresthetrigger123 comes in. They speculate that the movie’s final scene takes place years after the rest of Joker. By then Fleck is well aware of the tragedy he caused, but as the Joker, he thinks it’s hysterical. Then, u/wheresthetrigger123 takes things a step further:

What if that ending scene takes place in the future where Batman already exists and got the Joker put in Arkham but somewhere before that (or while inside Arkham) Arthur discovered that Batman is Bruce Wayne and realizes he created Batman the day he became the Joker hence why he finds it funny.

That last bit about the Joker knowing Batman’s identity is particularly intriguing. In the various retellings of his character, Joker rarely learns that Bruce Wayne is Batman. So giving Fleck that information would be a pretty huge twist that could be key to the plot of the Joker sequel Todd Phillips seems to be teasing.

Of course, it would also be a pretty huge departure from the classic character that fans know and love. But it seems pretty clear that comic book accuracy isn’t much of a concern for Phillips anyway, so why not throw in a secret Batman reference just to drive home how depraved this Joker really is?

Joker is in theaters now.

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