Movies & TV Shows

Joker’s DC Movie Future Explained: Everything We Know

DC’s movie universe has had three different Jokers so far, so what’s next for the Clown Prince of Crime? DC’s movie universe, unofficially titled DCEU, began in 2013 with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, and even though it was received with mixed reactions, it was a big box office success, making way for more movies based on DC Comics characters. Superman and Batman crossed paths on the big screen three years later in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which introduced Ben Affleck as the new Dark Knight.

Warner Bros. decided to bring lesser-known characters to the big screen as part of the DCEU, and so David Ayer’s Suicide Squad came to be, which debuted Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) alongside the DCEU’s Joker, played by Jared Leto. Robbie’s Harley Quinn was loved by fans, but Leto’s heavily tattooed Joker didn’t experience the warm reception the studio hoped for. Following the disappointing results of Suicide Squad and other DCEU projects (especially Justice League), Warner Bros. decided to make some changes. In October 2019 came Todd Phillips’ Joker, which even though it’s unrelated to the DCEU, is counted as part of DC’s movie universe (separate from the rest). Joker featured Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who becomes the Joker after being constantly mistreated and shunned by society for his mental illness. This culminates in him shooting the host of a TV talk show live on-air- an act of chaos to comment on the state of the world, harkening back to Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.


Related: Is Joaquin Phoenix The Best Joker? We Compare Arthur To All Previous Versions

In 2022, Matt Reeves’ The Batman was released. While it didn’t make the theatrical cut, a deleted scene with a new Joker portrayed by Barry Keoghan was released on YouTube. Little has been seen of Keoghan’s Joker, but his mangled appearance and deranged mannerisms already set him apart from Leto and Phoenix. Sandwiched between these two new Jokers, Leto’s Joker reappeared in the 2021 extended cut of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. With Joker sequel Joker: Folie à Deux confirmed, Jared Leto’s future in the DCEU unknown, and Barry Keoghan poised to take the mantle in a possible The Batman sequel, what’s next for the Clown Prince of Crime in DC’s movie universe?

Joaquin Phoenix Joker Will Return In Joker: Folie à Deux

Joaquin Phoenix Joker Murray Franklin Dressing Room

A Joker sequel following Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker interpretation is in the works. In December 2019, it was reported that a sequel to Phillips’ Joker was in development, with Joaquin Phoenix reprising his role. This was quickly shut down as other reports emerged, stating there were no deals nor negotiations between Warner, Phillips, and Phoenix, with Phillips later saying he hadn’t even talked to Phoenix about it. However, in 2022, Todd Phillips revealed via Instagram that a sequel titled Joker: Folie à Deux is in the works. Details beyond this are scarce, save that Phillips is once again pairing up with Scott Silver, who co-wrote Joker. Joaquin Phoenix has been pictured reading a copy of the script, so it can also be safely assumed he’s reprising the role of Arthur Fleck.

Joker was never intended to have a sequel. Phillips has always been clear about this. However, the U-turn at the request of the studio isn’t a huge surprise in the context of Joker’s performance. Joker was an astounding critical and commercial success, breaking various box office records and becoming the highest grossing R-rated movie ever. Although it also drew a lot of controversies, Joker was praised for its tone, cinematography, musical score, and Phoenix’s performance.

Joker received multiple awards and nominations, with Phoenix winning the Academy Award, BAFTA, SAG, and Golden Globe awards (among many others) for Best Actor. With all that in mind, not pursuing a sequel would feel like a missed opportunity, especially in the age of cinematic universes, soft reboots, and limited tie-in series, when audiences are more receptive than ever to stories told across multiple entries. With Joker: Folie à Deux confirmed audiences and critics alike will finally get the sequel so many always felt Joker deserved.

Jared Leto Is Seemingly Done As The DCEU’s Joker


Jared Leto’s Joker made a big impression since the first photos of the character were released, as some fans felt the tattoos were out of character, but they ultimately gave him the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, his performance wasn’t well-received either, as many found it to be too exaggerated and his role to be irrelevant, despite the trailers teasing he would be a major antagonist. Leto’s on-set behavior during Suicide Squad didn’t exactly endear him to Warner, as he was so into his “method acting” approach that the final product turned out to be silly and nonsensical. There was reportedly no relation between all he did and went through in order to prepare for the role and what was shown on screen, and the studio reportedly wasn’t thrilled with his efforts.

Related: The Truth Behind Jared Leto’s Controversial Joker

Leto was supposedly promised a solo Joker movie, and when Phillips’ project was in development, he allegedly tried to block it, which surely didn’t help Warner’s impression of him. While the Joker was mentioned in Birds of Prey, as Harley Quinn’s relationship with him is now (finally) over, Leto wasn’t part of Birds of Prey, and the movie instead relied on animation to tell the story of their relationship, footage from Suicide Squad for flashbacks, and a body double (thanks to indie rocker Johnny Goth). In addition to that, James Gunn has shared that the Joker isn’t included in his Suicide Squad movie, so Leto’s version won’t be back in any of the confirmed DCEU projects so far.

However, Leto’s Joker did make an appearance in the 2021 extended cut of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The additional scene was a dream sequence featuring Batman conversing with the Joker in an apocalyptic future. Leto’s Joker was notably different from Suicide Squad here. His hair was long and matted, and the divisive tattoos were absent. This iteration of Leto’s Joker was marginally better-received by fans online, but it might have been too little, too late. With Leto now being part of Sony’s Marvel Universe in Morbius, the controversy generated by his Joker in Suicide Squad, and a soured reputation with a studio that now has two alternate, well-liked Jokers to choose from, it’s unlikely Leto will reprise his role in another movie from the DCEU.

Joker Could Be Recast In The DCEU

Barry Keoghan as Joker in The Batman and Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in Joker

If Warner Bros. decides to let go of Leto but not the Joker for the main DCEU, then it would have to recast the role. The DCEU has gone through significant changes since Leto was cast, including a major redirection back to Batman’s dark, Burton-esque roots with Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Robert Pattinson’s new Caped Crusader has his own new Joker too – a grotesque, gnarled rendition brought to life by Barry Keoghan. Nothing has been seen of him outside of a 5 minute deleted scene on YouTube, but he’s already generated a large amount of praise.

The future of the DCEU is, in general, unclear. With Ben Affleck reportedly being finished with Batman, it would be hard to continue DCEU Batman stories, especially those with Leto’s Joker. While The Batman and Joker are standalone and unlinked to the DCEU, both could potentially be starting points for a new cinematic franchise based on DC comics, or even just Batman, if Warner Bros. wanted to cut their losses and start the DCEU from scratch.

Related: Batman ‘Failsafe’ Trailer Hints At Three Jokers In DC Canon

Todd Phillips has hinted at Arthur Fleck not being the final Joker, so it’s possible that Joker: Folie à Deux could introduce the “real” one, possibly someone inspired by the actions of Arthur, and they would obviously need to find an actor to play the part. It could even be Keoghan’s Joker from The Batman. Retcanoning both movies together would be easy – even a post-credits scene of a young, disfigured boy with a grotesque grin watching Arthur Fleck shoot a talkshow host live on TV would be enough. There are ways the Joker can still be included in the DCEU without needing Jared Leto, and it’s only a matter of Warner Bros. deciding what it wants.

When Joker Could Appear Next

The Joker’s next confirmed outing is Joker: Folie à Deux, with Phoenix continuing Arthur’s path as the Joker or introducing/inspiring the real one. A release date hasn’t been confirmed, as the project is still in the early stages, but a script has been completed. The Batman was received well by audiences and at the box office, and its sequel was announced in May 2022. After Keoghan’s deleted scene was deliberately made public, having gone all the way through post-production and clearly intended for inclusion until the last moment, there’s speculation that The Batman 2 will include more of Keoghan’s Joker.

While Warner Bros. has a slew of DCEU projects on the horizon, none are overtly linked to the canon established in Justice League and Suicide Squad are likely to include the Joker. He’s one of DC’s most popular characters, but there’s little reason to shoehorn him into projects for heroes and villains he only encounters in crossover events in the comics, such as Black Adam or The Flash. The Batgirl movie is releasing in 2022, and this is the only outlier that might contain a surprise Joker appearance. Michael Keaton is confirmed to be reprising the role of Batman for the first time since Batman Returns. It’s a long shot, but Keaton does open the door for the slim chance of a Jack Nicholson Joker cameo in Batgirl, even if it’s just for a flashback sequence.

What Folie à Deux Means And Implies About The Joker 2 Story

Folie à deux is a French term referring to a shared psychological illness between two people – usually, individuals who have an intense connection. There have been many documented cases throughout history, and even a cursory glance at some of them reveals straight away why this is an appropriate title for a Joker sequel. Notable instances of folie à deux include Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, whose shared delusions based on the internet horror character Slenderman tragically ended with the death of a classmate at their hands. In the 1920s, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, the latter of whom was a genius with an IQ rivaling Einstein, made headlines after their shared fascination with detective fiction became another homicidal case of folie à deux, one which cut short the life of 14-year-old Bobby Franks.

Related: The Batman’s New Riddler Origin Makes His Joker Team-Up A Disaster

Cases of folie à deux normally develop when two delusional people, usually who perceive themselves as outcasts, find one another and nurture each other’s unstable tendencies. There are several ways this concept could pertain to Arthur Fleck. It could be that Fleck himself finds a kindred spirit, or it could be in reference to new Jokers Fleck inspired with his highly televised actions during the previous movie’s climax. Other Batman mediums have experimented with the concept of multiple simultaneous Jokers, or the Joker identity being passed on rather than belonging to a single man. Batman TV prequel Gotham famously teased Cameron Monaghan’s Jerome as the future Joker in that universe, only to have his previously sane twin brother, Jeremiah, become the real Joker after Jerome’s death. Aside from the twin brother element, all of these options could conceivably work with Arthur Fleck’s Joker in Joker: Folie à Deux.

Barry Keoghan Is Matt Reeves’ Joker In The Batman

Barry Keoghan as Joker in The Batman

As mentioned, Joaquin Phoenix isn’t the only Joker audiences can look forward to seeing over the coming years. Matt Reeve’s The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne, has already teased the Joker of that universe. In the deleted scene, Pattinson’s Batman visits Keoghan’s Joker at Arkham Asylum to get Joker’s take on the Riddler. Joker does exactly what you expect Joker would do- psychoanalyses Batman to fill the Dark Knight with self-doubt, then mocks him relentlessly. Keoghan’s prosthetic makeup Joker grin can also be seen through a door slit in The Batman’s post-credits scene, where he extends an offer of friendship to the recently-incarcerated Riddler.

Matt Reeves has since revealed a few details about Keoghan’s Joker, like that his ghoulish grin comes from a hideous venereal disease, rather than make-up, a vat of acid, or a Rolodex of explanations for facial scars. Since he’s incarcerated during the events of The Batman, it’s also known he was one of the first villains Pattinson’s Caped Crusader faced. It’s not known if Joker will be the main antagonist in The Batman 2, but it’s likely he’ll at least make another cameo appearance. Joker is considered by many to be Batman’s main adversary, and he’s an almost guaranteed box office pull. If Reeves plans for The Batman to be a trilogy, there’s every chance he’s building up to Joker for the climax.

It looks like Warner Bros. currently has two Jokers to play with, in two distinct universes, neither of which is connected to the shared DCEU continuity they’re trying to build. While both Joker: Folie à Deux and The Batman 2 are both still billed as projects in standalone franchises, that doesn’t mean they can’t be retconned together, or brought into the DCEU. At one point Andrew Garfield and Toby Maguire’s Spider-Men weren’t part of the MCU, then Spider-Man: No Way Home happened. Joker: Folie à Deux has a title literally meaning shared delusion or psychopathy. If Warner Bros. wants the DCEU to rival Disney’s MCU dominance, stealth-turning Joker into a The Batman prequel franchise by Fleck passing on the Joker mantle to Keoghan’s unnamed Clown Prince of Crime would be a strong start.

Next: Joker Theory: Bruce Wayne Becomes A VILLAIN, Not Batman

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