This is not a joke: Warner Bros, is reportedly developing a sequel to Joker.
In some ways, this is not shocking. Joker was a massive hit in 2019. The film grossed more than $1 billion worldwide against a reported budget of $55 million. It was also nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won two, for Best Original Score and Best Actor. Set totally apart from the rest of DC Comics’ cinematic universe, the film proved that movies about super-villains without heroes — or any connection to broader DC movie continuity — could be major box office hits. Studios tend not to let movies like that go un-sequalized.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. has quietly begun the process of un-un-sequalizing Joker. In their list of powerful Hollywood lawyers, they include an entry for attorney Warren Dern, who counts among his clients Joker director and co-writer Todd Phillips. And in that entry it says that “Todd Phillips struck a deal to co-write the next Joker installment.”
In the past, Phillips has expressed an openness to making another Joker, provided that “it would have to have some thematic resonance” the way the first film did. Shortly after the first film’s release there were reports that Phillips was already working on Joker 2 and several other DC villain origin stories, but the filmmaker said that while he and Joaquin Phoenix “have talked about” the possibility of a Joker 2, there’s “not a contract for us to even write a sequel” and called the rumor “anticipatory at best.”
Well if THR’s sources are accurate, Phillips now has that contract to write a sequel. So next we need to see whether Phoenix can be talked into returning for another movie as the Joker. As for a storyline, there’s absolutely no information about that. Personally, I’d like to see the film take a page from reality, and focuses on a guy who dresses as the Joker and runs for government office.
Every DC Comics Movie, Ranked From Worst to Best
From Superman and the Mole Men to Zack Snyder’s Justice League, we ranked every movie based on DC comics.
37. Catwoman (2004)
Halle Berry discovers her beauty company’s new product is toxic and gets murdered by her bosses as part of the cover-up. (Beauty product jokes! Gotta love ’em!) Then cats bring her back to life as the latest in a long line of Catwomen who’ve prowled the Earth throughout history. Now Berry’s Patience Phillips fights crime (and sometimes causes it) with all of cats’ most famous abilities: She’s very agile, always lands on her feet, is the world’s greatest basketball player, gets off on stealing jewelry, whips people, makes terrible basketball puns, and loves leather. Just like a real cat. Catwoman’s director, Pitof, came from a visual effects background, so there are certainly worse-looking DC movies out there. But there has never been a more poorly edited one. (The entire cast wears the exact same clothes two days in a row, because someone clearly decided to recut the movie and turn the first day’s events into two without bothering to reshoot anything.) The combination of amusingly strange choices and gross incompetence makes Catwoman true catnip for bad movie lovers.
36. Jonah Hex (2010)
DC Comics’ Jonah Hex is just a gruff Western vigilante with a scarred face. A movie should have been a slam dunk — just put Josh Brolin in the middle of a Fistful of Dollars-esque plot and let him be a gunslinging badass. Instead, the film inexplicably gave him supernatural powers (he can talk to the dead) and absurd, cartoonish guns to match its absurd, cartoonish plot. The only reason it’s not dead last on this list is because it’s mercifully short. On the other hand, it’s only 80 minutes long because it’s been hacked to almost incomprehensible pieces. Jonah Hex is so rare and unique disaster it makes Wild Wild West look like The Searchers. And speaking of the Wild Wild West and its star…
35. Suicide Squad (2016)
If the Suicide Squad did not exist in this movie, the problem the Suicide Squad is called to solve would not exist either. The movie’s villain is a member of Suicide Squad who goes rogue, and the whole second act is about rescuing a mystery character who (actual spoiler alert) turns out to be the creator and boss of the Suicide Squad. Basically, the Suicide Squad in this movie is how Homer Simpson describes alcohol: It’s the cause of and the solution to all of the story’s problems. The movie may have been conceived by director David Ayer in a coherent way, but by the time Suicide Squad got released, it had been chopped into cinematic cole slaw. A word of caution: Don’t expect the “Extended Cut” to make the film any better. The last thing Suicide Squad needed to be was longer.
34. Steel (1997)
Shaquille O’Neal stars in this earnest but very silly adventure film based on the Superman supporting character who briefly replaced the Man of Steel in DC Comics during the mid-1990s. (Superman is totally MIA, requiring a heavy rewrite of Steel’s origin.) O’Neal certainly has the stature to play a superhero, and he looks like he’s having a great time, but the screenplay has so many self-referential winks — Shaq constantly misses basketball shots and then shrugs, Richard Roundtree jokes about how much he likes the “shaft” of Steel’s hammer — and the Steel costume itself is so terrible-looking, that Steel feels less like an actual movie than an extremely long, disastrously unfunny SNL sketch.
33. Supergirl (1984)
Before the 1980s super-well ran completely dry, the producers of the main Superman hatched this spinoff about the Man of Steel’s cousin, Kara Zor-El (Helen Slater), leaving Argo City (which, for some reason, exists in inner space that can only be reached at the bottom of a lake on Earth) to retrieve the MacGuffin that powers her home. A news report mentions Superman’s off in another galaxy, so don’t expect to see Christopher Reeve except as a poster on a dorm room wall. The only other clear sign that this is set in the same world as his Superman films is a pointless appearance by Marc McClure’s Jimmy Olsen. While Slater looks the part, Supergirl is almost completely forgettable unless you really enjoy watching Faye Dunaway act like a New Age witch. Hoo boy, is there a lot of that.
32. Green Lantern (2011)
Comic fans always get in a tizzy when an adaptation doesn’t remain faithful to its beloved source material. The best argument against faithfulness in comics adaptation is Green Lantern, which crams a ton of mythology about DC’s intergalactic cops and their magical rings into its 114-minute runtime. Arguably, though, it packs too much in. You get to see Tomar-Re and Kilowog and Abin-Sur and Sinestro, but you barely learn anything about them, and they don’t leave much screen time for Ryan Reynolds’ Hal Jordan and his life on Earth before or during his transformation into Sector 2814’s protector. Peter Sarsgaard’s quite believable as Hector Hammond, a telekinetic monster with what appears to be a giant testicle growing out of his forehead; he is however not believable as a peer of Blake Lively, who plays Carol Ferris and is 16 years younger than Sarsgaard, even though their characters supposedly grew up together.
31. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)
Slightly better than its reputation. By this point, the rights to the Superman franchise had passed to the exploitation mavens of Cannon Films, so the budget for The Quest For Peace was absurdly low — a reported $17 million compared to the $55 million spent on the original movie nearly a decade earlier — and boy, does it show. Still, Gene Hackman is in solid form as fiendish Lex Luthor, there are some fun fights, and Christopher Reeve puts everything he’s got into Superman’s battle with his most important adversary to date: The looming threat of nuclear war.
30. Justice League (2017)
Oy. Justice League should have been the grand conclusion to a series of interlocking stories. Instead, it was the moment a once-promising cinematic universe hit rock bottom. Director Zack Snyder left the project in the middle of shooting for personal reasons, Joss Whedon took over, and the result doesn’t feel like something either one of them would have made. The editing is sloppy, the tone is a mess, and the big villain is a generic CGI goober with zero personality or motivation. (Would you believe he wants to conquer the world? Because he does!) Until such time as the Snyder Cut is rightfully set free and becomes the consensus pick for the greatest motion picture of all time, Justice League shall remain among the weaker DC movies ever made.
29. Superman Returns (2006)
The sequence where Superman (Brandon Routh) saves an airplane from crashing is amongst the best scenes in any superhero movie. The rest of Superman Returns feels way too obsessed with recreating the vibe of the first two Supermans directed by Richard Donner, even though it was made decades later without any of the original cast. The attempt to resurrect a 20-year-old franchise lends the whole thing a slight wax-museum quality; it’s dutiful but a little lifeless. Plus, the most interesting element in the entire story gets dropped as a shocking twist late in the third act. If the whole film had been about that, it could have been something.
28. Batman and Robin (1997)
While it’s famous as the film that killed the ’90s Batman franchise, Batman and Robin is not without its charms. It’s almost the archtypal so-bad-it’s-good movie. Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers about 600 ice puns in 125 minutes. But who doesn’t love ice puns? Yes, Uma Thurman is ludicrously sexed up as the villainous Poison Ivy. But who doesn’t love slinking, sultry Uma Thurman? Yes, George Clooney is oddly chill as Bruce Wayne. But who doesn’t love a guy who enjoys his life as a giant rubber bat? Call it awful all you want. I never get sick of watching it. (Also, as mocked as the Schumacher era costumes and its pronounced nipples are — and, to be clear, the nipples are quite pronounced — the design of Chris O’Donnell’s Nightwing-inspired suit is one of the best in DC movie history.)
27. Batman Forever (1995)
Precariously balanced between Burton’s gothic nightmares and Batman and Robin’s gaudy monstrosity of Gotham City is Batman Forever, which amps up the previous films’ production design (Bigger fins on the Batmobile! More rubber Bat-muscles!) and performances, with Batman locked in mortal combat with Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and Riddler (Jim Carrey) — and Jones and Carrey locked in mortal thespian combat to see who can give the most over-the-top performance in the history of cinema. (Answer: Carrey.) Val Kilmer does interesting work as Batman; icier than Michael Keaton, cooler than George Clooney. You want to see more of him in this role — just not necessarily in this particular movie.
26. Joker (2019)
No amount of Oscars will convince us that this bleak origin story for Batman’s arch-nemesis is anything more than a dour Scorsese homage run amok. Yes, Joaquin Phoenix is intense and scary as sad-sack clown Arthur Fleck — but he’s been better elsewhere, and in very similar roles about mentally ill loners who turn to violence. Plus, we can think of at least two movie Jokers more interesting than this one. Thanks but no thanks.
25. Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
This decided and frustrating step down from the original Wonder Woman reunites Gal Gadot and Chris Pine’s characters in defiance of logic and the passage of time — and good thing it does, since they’re the best part about this listless sequel. It sees Diana battling evil oil magnate Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) in the 1980s. There are a few superheroic highlights, including a desert chase sequence, and an awful lot of meandering in between.
24. The Return of Swamp Thing (1989)
Hey if Swamp Thing’s made out if plants, why does he have teeth? These are the sorts of questions one ponders during this knowingly campy sequel to the Wes Craven original. Since Louis Jourdan and Dick Durock reprise their roles as Arcane and Swamp Thing, the vibe is kind of interesting — almost like what Batman and Robin would have looked like if it somehow starred Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton and they just went for it — and the movie is consistently funny. Sometimes intentionally!
23. Constantine (2005)
This stylish and dryly funny supernatural thriller doesn’t look or feel like the old Hellblazer comics or their dyspeptic anti-hero, so if that matters to you at all that’s at least a couple strikes against it right off the bat. What is here, though, is actually kind of entertaining, as is the movie’s warped sense of humor. Keanu is fine, but Constantine could have used a lot more Tilda Swinton as the archangel Gabriel.
22. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Two longtime super friends meet for the first time in the DC Extended Universe and immediately come to blows, with Ben Affleck’s Batman blaming Henry Cavill’s Superman for the destruction of Metropolis during the events of Man of Steel. He might have a point about that, but the rivalry between the Caped Crusader and the Man of Tomorrow becomes so absurdly macho in Batman v Superman that its worst moments play like self-parody. We’ll never be able to take a movie character named Martha seriously ever again.
21. Man of Steel (2013)
"The world’s too big, Ma!" young Clark Kent says. "Then make it small," she replies. Zack Snyder should have listened to Ma Kent. There’s so many World Engines, and collapsing buildings, and angry Kryptonians, that Man of Steel never seems to get a great handle on the guy with his name in the title. Maybe that’s what Snyder wanted; treating this character not as a hopeful, inspirational figure, but as an alien outsider who may be more of a threat to humanity than its savior. At the very least, it is a unique take on the character.
20. Superman III (1983)
In a climate where every superhero movie has to be a fight for the fate of the universe, with epic stakes and incredible special effects, there is something to be said for one as small and intentionally goofy as Superman III. Big chunks of this are a Tati-esque comedy that Superman occasionally passes through, like an adaptation of a particularly quirky issue of The World of Metropolis. Other parts are a quiet but pointed critique of capitalism — a system Superman has frequently battled since his earliest adventures. Plus, it’s hard to completely dismiss a movie where Superman turns evil and his first act is straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa, seemingly just to piss off a humble souvenir salesman. What a super-jerk!
19. Superman II (1980)
People (rightfully) love Terence Stamp and “Kneel before Zod!” so much that they give a pass to the rest of the movie, which is an absolute mess. Even the things that worked in the first Superman — like Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder’s screwball-comedy chemistry — feels off this time. Superman gets so obsessed with showing Lois his, uh, Fortress of Solitude that he is totally oblivious to three Kryptonian ubermensches conquering the planet! Doesn’t he have super-hearing? He’s got magic amnesia kisses, teleportation, and projectile chest emblems in this one; it feels like no super-hearing would be a weird omission. (Note: There are two cuts of the movie; neither one is particularly great.)
18. Superman and the Mole Men (1951)
The first DC Comics feature film was this trial balloon for the 1950s Adventures of Superman television show starring George Reeves as the Man of Steel. The effects are mostly atrocious — the intimidating “Mole Men” are just little people in black turtlenecks and egghead bald caps — but the story gets to the heart of Superman’s moral values (he stands up for an extremely literal little guy against mob violence) and George Reeves radiates Clark Kent’s core empathetic decency as well as anyone in history.
17. Watchmen (2009)
Zack Snyder’s recreation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ groundbreaking series is basically the comic-book movie equivalent of Gus Van Sant’s Psycho: Accurate, inert, and occasionally fascinating anyway. The highlight remains the opening credits, which imagines how the superheroes of the Watchmen universe might have altered the history of the 20th century. A lot of the rest has been rendered slightly obsolete by Damon Lindelof’s recent (and far superior) HBO series.
16. Swamp Thing (1982)
“The comic book legend lives!” the trailers screamed. Two years before A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven directed this adaptation of DC’s popular horror monster, with Ray Wise as the scientist who is transformed into a sentient pile of muck by a horrible lab accident. Craven’s ambitions obviously exceed his budget — the Swamp Thing costume is actually much more impressive in the inferior sequel — but his Swamp Thing has an appealing mix of scares, silliness, and even a little poetry about the natural world.
15. Birds of Prey (2020)
If Suicide Squad felt like Warner Bros.’ deliberate attempt to replicate the quirky fun of Guardians of the Galaxy, Birds of Prey is its stab at making DC’s Deadpool. In Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, they found their own amoral, foul-mouthed, fourth-wall-breaking antihero who learns to be a little less terrible by protecting an innocent kid with the help of a makeshift team of misfits. Harley makes a novel hero, and the movie has a fun punk-rock edge, but it would be nice if it focused a little more on its characters. The fact that so much talk and time is focused on the Joker gives the film a weird, vaguely Poochie-esque energy, where the people we’re watching are constantly talking about some dude who’s not even in the movie.
13. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
While it’s no masterpiece, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an undeniable improvement on the film’s compromised theatrical cut, with a clearer storyline and more complexly drawn characters, particularly Ray Fisher’s reluctant hero Cyborg. Four full hours is a bit of an overcompensation; the theatrical cut might have been way too short, but the director’s cut is too long. Still, the Snyder Cut ranks as the best DC movie Zack Snyder ever made, and surely the one that will define his legacy with the company.
12. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018)
Fans of meta-comedy take note: The big-screen version of the long-running Cartoon Network series about DC’s teen sidekicks might interrogate the idea of making superhero movies even more mercilessly than The LEGO Batman Movie. (It also has Will Arnett voicing the bad guy Slade.) When Robin laments the fact that every DC hero but him seems to be getting a movie (he’s not wrong!), his team heads to Hollywood, where they’re told the only way they get their own spinoff is if no other heroes exist. They do what any great caped crusaders would do in that situation: They travel back in time to prevent Superman, Batman, and the rest of the Justice League from ever donning a cape and/or cowl. Plus: Nicolas Cage as Superman! An underrated movie.
11. Batman (1966)
Released between the first and second season of the Adam West television series, 1966’s Batman plays like a greatest hits compilation of all the best stuff from that wonderful show, including West and Burt Ward as the energetic Dynamic Duo against a Murderers Row of rogues including Lee Meriwether’s Catwoman, Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, and Cesar Romero’s Joker. Detractors who mock Batman for its campy qualities seem to miss the fact that the show and film are deliberate parodies — mostly of the two 1940s Batman serials they’ve never seen. There are two types of people in this world: Those who think it’s hilarious that Batman has a bottle of Bat-Shark Repellent at the ready at all times just in case, and those who are wrong.
10. The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
This might be the Stockholm syndrome talking after I was forced to watch this film about 20 times over a span of two years by my daughter, but The LEGO Batman Movie is maybe the funniest superhero movie of all time. Will Arnett’s egomaniacal Caped Crusader learns that friends are family (I still can’t get that damn song out of my head) and also shows off his nine pack, in a spoof that simultaneously makes fun of and celebrates almost every single version of Batman throughout his long history.
9. Wonder Woman (2017)
This DC team-up combined the powers of Gal Gadot’s charismatic Princess Diana with Patty Jenkins’ muscular action sequences. Gadot’s Wonder Woman travels from her isolated island home on Themyscira to the war-ravaged trenches of World War I-era Europe while falling for a handsome spy (Chris Pine) and kicking a fair amount of ass along the way. Diana could be a tricky role — she’s innocent but strong, brave but not overly aggressive — but Gadot proved more than up to the task. Bring on Wonder Woman 1984.
8. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
It is sort of astounding to consider that the 1966 Batman and The Dark Knight Rises are about the same (fictional) person, and it speaks to the remarkable elasticity of the Batman concept. The Dark Knight Rises was the frequently thrilling, somewhat bloated conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s epic Bat-trilogy. In its attempts to outdo The Dark Knight, its reach may have exceeded its grasp. Still, if more comic-book movies aspired to something bigger than escapism, we’d all be better off.
7. Shazam (2019)
Just when it seemed like the DCEU was done, Warner Bros. rebounded with this inventive and surprising riff on comics’ original Captain Marvel (he goes by Shazam now; it’s a long story) that recasts the material as a body-swap comedy in the style of Big. Asher Angel plays orphan Billy Batson, who transforms into the mighty but clumsy form of Zachary Levi whenever he says the word “Shazam!” With solid villains, a light comic touch, and an impressive action finale full of surprising twists, Shazam might be the single best DCEU movie.
6. Batman Begins (2005)
Batman Begins was a refreshing change of pace. It stripped away all of the accumulated physical and emotional chachkies that had weighed the franchise down, returning the character to his humble origins. It gave us a new Bruce Wayne played by Christian Bale, and an unusually complex villain, played by Liam Neeson. Director Christopher Nolan would top this film a few years later; if he hadn’t, he would still get credit for making one of the best Batman movies ever.
5. Batman Returns (1992)
Somehow, Tim Burton convinced Warner Bros. to let him make a sequel to Batman that was even darker, weirder, and sadder than the first one. This time Michael Keaton does battle with two classic Gotham baddies: Danny DeVito’s scenery and sewage spewing Penguin and Michele Pfeiffer’s vinyl-clad Catwoman. The only problem with Returns is it’s the last Tim Burton Batman film and not the second of five.
4. Superman (1978)
With apologies to Marlon Brando, Glenn Ford, and people who pronounce the word ‘Krypton’ wrong, this movie would be even stronger if you cut out the first 45 minutes entirely and started it when Clark Kent first arrives in Metropolis. Even in 1978, everyone knew Superman’s origin — or at least enough to understand the rest of the movie. The thing Superman still has going for it, even as its you-will-believe-a-man-can-fly effects age, is Christopher Reeve. Very few comic book movies feature one performance as good as his Clark Kent or his Superman — and he’s doing both equally well.
3. Batman (1989)
If Tim Burton’s Batman looked like a dated mess 30 years later, it would still deserve a high position on this list just for the enormous, world-changing impact it had on Hollywood and its attitude toward comic-book movies. But Burton’s Batman holds up incredibly well. Jack Nicholson’s Joker got most of the contemporaneous acclaim, and it’s easy to see why; he’s dominates every scene he’s in. 30 years later, though, it’s Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight who sticks with me. As Bruce Wayne, he’s this believably demented weirdo. (“You wanna get nuts? Come on! Let’s get nuts!”) As Batman, his slightly stiff movements — which were the result of an unforgiving costume — make him this imposing, almost supernatural presence that amplifies the dread when he appears onscreen.
2. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Long before The LEGO Batman Movie, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm made a persuasive case that animation was the ideal medium for the Caped Crusader. Created by the team behind the classic Batman: The Animated Series, Mask of the Phantasm boiled down all the things that made that show great — beautiful designs, fluid animation, iconic voice talents — into a near-perfect 75-minute package. Now more than 25 years old, the film has aged beautifully, in part because the streamlined TAS artwork — a blend of Art Deco architecture and futuristic technology — was deliberately out-of-time even in 1993. None of the tragic love stories presented in the live-action Batman movies are better than Bruce Wayne and Andrea Beaumont’s.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight remains the standard that every Batman movie — if not every superhero movie period — gets held to. It delivered all the spectacle you could want — particularly in IMAX, a shooting format it brought to mainstream moviemaking for the first time — and plenty of moral and philosophical questions to chew over. It also gave popular culture several quotes that have already passed into the vernacular, including one (“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”) that is so good and so widely quoted it’s kind of shocking it was invented by a Batman movie in 2008.) Between Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s iconic score, and the unmitigated coolness of the Bat-pod, the film is just one Hall of Fame element after another. More than a decade later, The Dark Knight still hasn’t been surpassed.