How Scary & Violent Is DC’s Joker Movie?

Joker Movie Violence Joaquin Phoenix

DC’s Joker movie has divided critics and audiences, based primarily on how its violence could potentially transfer to the real world, so just how scary and violent is Joker? Directed by Todd Phillips, the psychological thriller does indeed include numerous disturbing visuals, and goes all in with its cinematic influences, most notably Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. 

Set in early ‘80s Gotham, Joker tells the origin story of Arthur Fleck. Portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, the character takes on a new persona after multiple personal setbacks. When Joker’s trailer released, it sparked discussions about how the inherent violence could affect vulnerable moviegoers, especially in America where mass shootings continue to be a major problem. As a standalone film, Joker has received mostly positive reviews, and won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. 

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Related: Why Joker Is Facing Backlash Despite The Great Reviews

The MPAA has given Joker an R rating (meaning nobody under 17 can see unsupervised) for "strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images," while the BBFC has given it a 15 rating (meaning nobody under 15 will be admitted) for “strong bloody violence, language.” But what does all that really mean? Here are the spoiler-free basics for Joker.

How Terrifying Is Joker?

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Dark and disturbing, Joker is full of psychological terror. The storyline explores Arthur’s mental illness, and how outsiders can be pushed to extremes. Incidentally, the sad clown premise becomes significantly exaggerated; a blend of Scorsese characters like Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) and Rupert Pupkin (The King of Comedy). The true horror is rooted in Joker’s realism, and how it parallels troubling news headlines about emotionally-unstable individuals in modern culture. In Joker, Arthur is beaten up and ultimately seeks vengeance, which is the primary cause of concern for skeptics. But that same concept applies to every violent film that preceded Joker, of course.  

How Violent Is Joker?

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Joker is quite violent. Beyond the physical confrontations, there’s gun violence and an incredibly graphic scene involving blades. Even though many moviegoers may be familiar with on-screen shootings and stabbings in R-rated movies, the psychological aspect of Joker makes the violence even more disturbing. Beyond the visual gore, there’s the suggestion that even worse things are happening - lots and lots of blood.

The Rest Of Joker’s R Rating: Swearing And Nudity

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Joker includes approximately 30 to 40 uses of the word “f**k,” along with the words “s**t,” “pr*ck,” and “a**hole.” If viewers can accept the film’s violence, the language most likely won’t be an issue. Joker does include brief nudity, as Arthur’s journal has pictures of nude models.  

More: How Theaters Have Reacted To Joker's Controversy

Key Release Dates
  • Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
  • Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
  • The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
  • The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
  • DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
  • Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022
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