(Photo by Niko Tavernise / © Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)

20 Movies To Watch If You Loved Joker

Joker: The highest-grossing R-rated movie ever at over $1 billion in worldwide box office, and also the most nominated movie at the 2020 Oscars. Not bad for a comic-book flick from the man who gave us three Hangovers. If you’re looking for more movies like Joker, the obvious place to start would be its direct influences: The Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese psychotic joints, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. Throw in ’90s Cape Fear for a full triumvirate.

As you’re undoubtedly aware, Joker was not universally beloved by critics as far as Joaquin Phoenix vigilantism flicks go (though those who loved it, loved it). For that, turn to Lynne Ramsay’s Certified Fresh You Were Never Really Here, where Phoenix plays a fearless hired gun who tracks down missing girls at any cost. And if you like your lawless justice even grubbier, go with the Charles Bronson action classic Death Wish, or the churning slow burn of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs.

Beyond Scorsese, Joker director Todd Phillips has cited post-Vietnam War ’70s cinema in general as an influence, and that decade had no shortage of man-against-the-system stories. Look upon One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network for proof.

Network also serves (and so does Dog Day honestly) as an indictment of media, a major and pervasive presence in Joker. Nightcrawler, Natural Born Killers, and Christine (not the one about the scary car) are the ones to watch if that’s where your interest in Joker lies.

Or if you’re just interested in seeing psychotic breakdowns, or breakdowns of psychosis, the medium of movies have long been a playground for the disturbed. American Psycho, Entertainment, and One Hour Photo go for the jugular, while The Vanishing, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and Man Bites Dog truly try to get under your skin with their clinical explorations of madness.

Of course, Joker is still a story torn from the pages of DC Comics and in that vein we recommend checking out Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. It’s got Mark Hamill reprising his signature villain role, animated at his most intensely violent. (Ah, if only The Killing Joke adaptation were good!)

And as for our suggestion of UHF, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s foray into film spoofery… Imagine a world where Arthur Fleck actually achieved success in his professional ambitions. What would that look like? We think it’d be a little zany, a little weird, a little something like what the clown prince of music offers in his 1989 cult classic.

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 48988%
Critics Consensus: Natural Born Killers explodes off the screen with style, but its satire is too blunt to offer any fresh insight into celebrity or crime -- pummeling the audience with depravity until the effect becomes deadening.
Synopsis: Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are two young, attractive serial killers who become tabloid-TV darlings, thanks to a sensationalistic press... [More]
Directed By: Oliver Stone

#19

UHF (1989)
61%

#19
Adjusted Score: 61148%
Critics Consensus: UHF is bizarre, freewheeling, and spotty, though its anarchic spirit cannot be denied.
Synopsis: After losing yet another job, George (Weird Al Yankovic) wonders if there is any career that can handle his outrageous... [More]
Directed By: Jay Levey

#18

Death Wish (1974)
63%

#18
Adjusted Score: 65405%
Critics Consensus: Death Wish is undeniably exploitation fare -- and also undeniably effective.
Synopsis: Once a mild-mannered liberal, New York City architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) snaps when intruders break into his home, murdering... [More]
Directed By: Michael Winner

#17

American Psycho (2000)
69%

#17
Adjusted Score: 74423%
Critics Consensus: If it falls short of the deadly satire of Bret Easton Ellis's novel, American Psycho still finds its own blend of horror and humor, thanks in part to a fittingly creepy performance by Christian Bale.
Synopsis: In New York City in 1987, a handsome, young urban professional, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), lives a second life as... [More]
Directed By: Mary Harron

#16

Man Bites Dog (1992)
74%

#16
Adjusted Score: 73850%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The activities of rampaging, indiscriminate serial killer Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde) are recorded by a willingly complicit documentary team, who eventually... [More]

#15

Cape Fear (1991)
74%

#15
Adjusted Score: 77637%
Critics Consensus: Smart and stylish, Cape Fear is a gleefully mainstream shocker from Martin Scorsese, with a terrifying Robert De Niro peformance.
Synopsis: When attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) knowingly withholds evidence that would acquit violent sex offender Max Cady (Robert De Niro)... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#14

One Hour Photo (2002)
81%

#14
Adjusted Score: 87851%
Critics Consensus: Robin Williams is very effective in this creepy, well-shot thriller.
Synopsis: Casual shoppers stocking up at the local SavMart may not pay much attention to the man at the photo counter.... [More]
Directed By: Mark Romanek

#13

Entertainment (2015)
82%

#13
Adjusted Score: 83756%
Critics Consensus: As brilliantly and uncomfortably confrontational as its protagonist, Entertainment is a boundary-blurring exercise in cinematic misanthropy that more than lives up to its title.
Synopsis: An abrasive stand-up comic (Gregg Turkington) hits the road to perform a series of shows at seedy venues.... [More]
Directed By: Rick Alverson

#12

Straw Dogs (1971)
81%

#12
Adjusted Score: 85018%
Critics Consensus: A violent, provocative meditation on manhood, Straw Dogs is viscerally impactful -- and decidedly not for the squeamish.
Synopsis: David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman), a mild-mannered academic from the United States, marries Amy (Susan George), an Englishwoman. In order to... [More]
Directed By: Sam Peckinpah

#11
Adjusted Score: 90021%
Critics Consensus: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is an effective, chilling profile of a killer that is sure to shock and disturb.
Synopsis: Henry (Michael Rooker) is released from prison following his mother's murder. He supplements his job as an exterminator with a... [More]
Directed By: John McNaughton

#10

Christine (2016)
88%

#10
Adjusted Score: 97360%
Critics Consensus: Rising on the strength of Rebecca Hall's gripping performance, Christine offers an empathetic look at its subject's public career and painful private life.
Synopsis: In Sarasota, Fla., circa 1974, an ambitious, 29-year-old reporter is relentlessly motivated to succeed. She knows she has talent, but... [More]
Directed By: Antonio Campos

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 94395%
Critics Consensus: Largely misunderstood upon its release, The King of Comedy today looks eerily prescient, and features a fine performance by Robert DeNiro as a strangely sympathetic psychopath.
Synopsis: Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) is a failure in life but a celebrity in his own mind, hosting an imaginary... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#8
Adjusted Score: 106722%
Critics Consensus: Bracingly elevated by a typically committed lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here confirms writer-director Lynne Ramsay as one of modern cinema's most unique -- and uncompromising -- voices.
Synopsis: A contract killer uncovers a conspiracy while trying to save a kidnapped teen from a life of prostitution.... [More]
Directed By: Lynne Ramsay

#7
Adjusted Score: 47117%
Critics Consensus: This feature length entry in the Batman Beyond mythos sends off the Mark Hamill-voiced Joker in thrilling fashion, hitting the same caped crusading peaks of the original series.
Synopsis: In the Gotham City of the future, an older Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) trains a college student, Terry McGinnis (Will... [More]
Directed By: Curt Geda

#6

Network (1976)
92%

#6
Adjusted Score: 98067%
Critics Consensus: Driven by populist fury and elevated by strong direction, powerful acting, and an intelligent script, Network's searing satire of ratings-driven news remains sadly relevant more than four decades later.
Synopsis: In this lauded satire, veteran news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) discovers that he's being put out to pasture, and... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#5
Adjusted Score: 103827%
Critics Consensus: Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher are worthy adversaries in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, with Miloš Forman's more grounded and morally ambiguous approach to Ken Kesey's surrealistic novel yielding a film of outsized power.
Synopsis: When Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) gets transferred for evaluation from a prison farm to a mental institution, he assumes... [More]
Directed By: Milos Forman

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 100142%
Critics Consensus: Framed by great work from director Sidney Lumet and fueled by a gripping performance from Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon offers a finely detailed snapshot of people in crisis with tension-soaked drama shaded in black humor.
Synopsis: When inexperienced criminal Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) leads a bank robbery in Brooklyn, things quickly go wrong, and a hostage... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#3

Nightcrawler (2014)
95%

#3
Adjusted Score: 106283%
Critics Consensus: Restless, visually sleek, and powered by a lithe star performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler offers dark, thought-provoking thrills.
Synopsis: Los Angeles denizen Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) survives by scavenging and petty theft. He stumbles into a new career as... [More]
Directed By: Dan Gilroy

#2

Taxi Driver (1976)
96%

#2
Adjusted Score: 104427%
Critics Consensus: A must-see film for movie lovers, this Martin Scorsese masterpiece is as hard-hitting as it is compelling, with Robert De Niro at his best.
Synopsis: Suffering from insomnia, disturbed loner Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) takes a job as a New York City cabbie, haunting... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#1

The Vanishing (1988)
98%

#1
Adjusted Score: 98350%
Critics Consensus: A clinical, maddening descent into the mind of a serial killer and a slowly unraveling hero, culminating with one of the scariest endings of all time.
Synopsis: Rex (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia (Johanna Ter Steege) are enjoying a biking holiday in France when, stopping at a gas... [More]
Directed By: George Sluizer

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