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Western Animation / Batman: The Killing Joke

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There were these two guys in a — wait, you've heard that one before, haven't you?

Batman: The Killing Joke is a 2016 animated movie in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, based on the famous comic of the same name, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland.

The Joker believes that life is nothing but a sick joke and all it takes is one bad day to make someone as bad as himself—and to prove this, he has targeted Commissioner Gordon, while at the same time, Batman wonders if there will ever be an end to their feud. What follows is a twisted night as Batman wonders if the only way his feud with the Joker will end is with one killing the other.

Voice actors include Batman: The Animated Series co-stars Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Tara Strong reprising their respective roles as Batman, The Joker, and Barbara Gordon. Other voice actors include Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) as Commissioner Gordon. The film was written by well-known comic writer Brian Azzarello. See the trailer here, receiving a one-time feature in theaters before being released to buy digitally on July 26, and on Blu-ray/DVD August 2, 2016.

Tropes in the film:

  • Actionized Adaptation: The film added an Action Prologue and several action sequences not in the original comic to pad out the runtime, as the original story was only 45 pages long.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film has a 30-minute prologue that deals heavily with Batgirl and a bit of time before she was crippled and became Oracle. The film also expands upon Batman's search for the Joker, showing him fully interact with criminals and prostitutes. Joker's circus troupe is also shown more and does more than in the comics, where they all fled at the sight of the Batmobile. The film also expands on Joker's mind games, adding in a Kangaroo Court scene where Joker asks Gordon to judge an unnamed person who brutalizes his fellow man and shows no care for the law. Gordon, thinking the person in question is Joker, says to throw the book at them, only to find out the accused is Batman.
  • Adaptational Badass: The Joker's circus troupe is shown actually fighting with Batman before he confronts the Joker, a contrast to the comic where their reaction to the mere sight of the Batmobile was Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: One of the pictures of the Joker shown on the Bat Computer depicts Harley Quinn, when the source material predated Harley's work of origin, Batman: The Animated Series, by four years, and she wouldn't be integrated into the comics universe until 1999.
  • Adaptational Jerkass:
    • Batgirl isn't perfect, but she's usually a good person with a fairly even head on her shoulders who looks out for others. That's not the case here; in this, she's considerably more hot-headed, impulsive, stupid, selfish, and reckless.
    • Batman has sex with Batgirl. Most versions of Batman would never, owing to his avoidance of sex apart from a few characters, and the fact that Batgirl is a younger protege and the daughter of one of his closest allies. He also throws one of Joker's midget goons into the pit of spikes, almost certainly killing the guy and meaning he doesn't hold Thou Shalt Not Kill as sacred as his other counterparts.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Barbara Gordon suffers from this thanks to massive Chickification. The film's version of our main heroine became Batman's sidekick because she wanted to earn his love and respect over performing good deeds for the sake of justice. However, in her few battle sequences she nearly loses to Paris Franz, a Big Bad Wannabe who's not even considered a genuine threat.
  • All-Encompassing Mantle: Batman, as always. In Joker's flashback, he looks even more demonic than usual.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Batgirl passes over dating nice guys in favor of her mentor Batman.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Paris Franz is obsessed with Batgirl to the point where he tries to come onto her every time they meet, Joker routinely hires prostitutes, Batman sleeps with his protege, and while chasing Batman in her motorcycle, Batgirl notices a trucker was gawking at her (reminding her of Paris, which motivates her to find him on her own). The only major male characters who don't sexualize Barbara are her father and her Gay Best Friend.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Every female featured in the film is showcased lusting after someone or openly admitting sexual relations with their lovers.
    • Batgirl's motivations in the film revolve around her infatuation for Batman.
    • Joker's wife admits that she stays with him because he's "good in the sack."
    • Justified for the sex workers since it's part of the job.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: The Joker's base of operations is naturally an amusement park.
  • Asshole Victim: The two thugs who hired the man who would become Joker to be the Red Hood and threatened to kill him when he tried to back out are shot to death. If Joker's backstory is true.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Barbara's gay best friend asks her if her crush, "yoga guy", is "only human, right?". Barbara stays silent, thinking about Batman.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: During a fight, Barbara asks Batman about being pushed to the edge, of which she asks him of what. Batman replies "the abyss where all hope dies". There's a Beat between both of them before he tells her she's off the case.
  • Badass Bookworm: Barbara, being a librarian who knows martial arts.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: Joker taunts Gordon to "throw the book" at someone who "has no regard for the law", "who treats people like meat", "a man who has no problem brutalizing his fellow man to get his way", and who "breaks the laws you are sworn to uphold, a monster who ignores everything you stand for". Gordon gives in, throwing the provided book, "The Law", at the Joker... only for a Batman cutout to pop up and take the hit instead.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Paris aspires to be the kingpin of his uncle's racket, as well as Batgirl's own personal Catwoman.
  • Black Comedy: What else is to be expected from The Joker? Special mention to his Hurricane of Puns just after paralyzing Barbara.
  • Blame Game:
    • While beating Paris, Batgirl yells at him for "ruin[ing] everything" in regards to her relationship with Bruce.
    • One of the two gangsters pin the attempted robbery on the man who'll become the Joker for screwing it up.
  • Blasphemous Boast: As in Batman Begins, Batman's response to someone he's interrogating saying "I swear to God" is "Swear to me."
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Trios of sex workers, twice. The first trio hired by Franz to provide entertainment (particularly the redhead), then a different trio questioned by Batman when searching for Joker.
  • Book Ends: During the final act, the room where Joker is wanting Batman to laugh looks awfully similar to his former home with his pregnant wife.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The two gangsters who hired the Joker to pose as the Red Hood die getting shot by security guards at Ace Chemicals.
  • Bowdlerize: Although the film keeps the violence of the original story intact, Barbara's nipples aren't visible in the funhouse photographs (they were in the book), nor is Commissioner Gordon's penis.
  • Brawn Hilda: The fat lady at the carnival.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The film starts out with Barbara flat out stating the audience wasn't expecting the film to start with her story first.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: The trope is name-dropped by the composers when talking about "The Looney Song" and its role in the story.
  • The Cameo: Two-Face appears at Arkham Asylum trying to reach for his coin, which fell outside his cell.
  • Carnival of Killers: The Joker conveniently finds some Ax-Crazy Circus freaks who'll help him get revenge on Batman.
  • Chickification: Batgirl goes from a no-nonsense, spunky Action Girl proudly fighting by Batman's side into an angsty, Bratty Teenage Daughter who's smitten with her mentor and afraid of fights out of fear of losing herself within less than 30 minutes.
  • Collateral Angst: Despite the Adaptation Expansion prologue, Barbara's role in the main plot remains the same: to be shot, stripped down and possibly raped by the Joker, and to induce angst in Jim Gordon.
  • Composite Character: Batgirl's motivations of chasing after Batman romantically are modeled after the original Batwoman, Kathy Kane. And her disobedience and attitude towards Batman seemed to be based off of Jason Todd, the second Robin. The only things she really has in common with Barbara Gordon in the comics and most versions are her name and her costume.
  • Continuity Porn: Batman's computer screen showcases all of the Joker's most famous storylines, images, and mythology gags at once.
  • Creator Thumbprint: The adaptation is written by Brian Azzarello and the prologue generally features a lot of the stuff from his comics, a really gritty seediness in its underworld setting, and over-the-top sexualized villain in the form of Paris Franz, and the Interplay of Sex and Violence. Likewise one throwaway line later in the film, where one bad guy says that the underworld finds Batman scary but Joker terrifying owes more to Azzarello's comic, Joker than the Moore original. It also shows Joker as sexually active and committing rape, with this film establishing him as a frequenter of call girls (also a choice line left certain viewers with the impression that he may have raped Barbara in the film itself), whereas Joker in the comics, even with Harley Quinn at his side, has largely been interpreted as being completely uninterested in sex to the point of being asexual.
  • Creepy Circus Music: "I Go Looney," the Joker's written Villain Song from the original graphic novel about succumbing to madness in times of stress, is imagined here as a deranged carnival-ish tune, with a bit of a vaudeville showtune aesthetic as well. This is quite fitting for a Monster Clown singing about insanity to a man being forced through a carnival dark ride.
  • Darker and Edgier: It is the first "R"-rated movie in the line. As can be seen from the trailers, the color scheme mimics the re-release, which has next to no color in flashbacks, Batman's chest emblem lacks the yellow oval and when the Joker has his first laugh, he cries blood instead of tears.note 
  • Death by Adaptation: Among the photos Bruce has on the Batcomputer once Joker escaped is a bloodied Jason Todd, based on one of the covers to A Death in the Family. The comic version of TKJ happened before the events of ADitF, as the Joker's actions in the latter storyline are motivated by the GCPD clamping down on his assets after what he did to Barbara and Jim, and Barbara is even in a wheelchair at Jason's funeral.
  • Death by Origin Story: Jeannie, the Joker's wife, dies in his origin story.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The first 30 minutes focus on Batgirl but Batman —and the Joker— are the real protagonists. If you don't know the source material you might fall for it.
  • Did Not Get The Guy: Batgirl tries (and fails) to win over her mentor/crush Batman in the film adaptation.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Perry Francesco ("Paris Franz"), the nephew of mob boss Don Francesco, is the villain for the first 30 minutes before Joker arrives.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Frustrated over Batman avoiding her since they had sex, Barbara karate throws a man for telling his needy girlfriend "he needs space".
  • Disney Villain Death: Batman actually pushes one of Joker's goons down into a spike pit.
  • Domestic Abuse: In Joker's flashback, a pre-Joker goes into this when his wife said "oh" after telling her no one laughed at his stand-up jokes, thinking she sees him as a failure. Then he starts breaking down and apologizing for venting his frustration on her while she's pregnant; she forgives him.
  • The Dreaded: Batman tries to use his status as this in Gotham's criminal underworld to get a mobster to talk, but it turns out Joker out-Dreadeds him, and the guy refuses to talk.
  • Easily Forgiven: Batman forgives the Joker for all that he's done and asks if he can be reformed. Predictably, the Joker utterly refuses to repent.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Batman enters a gambling den to find out where the Joker is, he gets the following reply.
    Boss: If I knew anything, I'd tell ya. Honest. People in my uh... let's call it "line of work"-
    Batman: Criminals.
    Boss: Yeah. We may be scared of you, but we're terrified of him.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Averted. The Joker's brand of comedy is quite sophisticated.
  • The Evil Prince: Paris, being the heir to a criminal empire. Also, a Evil Nephew to his uncle, Don Francesco.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: Joker, courtesy of Mark Hamill.
  • False Friend: The two thugs trying to hire the young Joker into working with them pass themselves off as trustworthy confidants.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • The elderly and overweight Jim Gordon is stripped naked by Joker's mooks.
    • A close-up of Barbara Gordon's top unbuttoning after she is shot by The Joker and he sexually assaults and possibly rapes her.
  • Fiery Redhead: The redhead Barbara is considerably more hot-heated in this than most of her adaptations.
  • Filler Villain: Paris serves as this, as his role is to give Batgirl a personal enemy and then be discarded.
  • Foe Romance Subtext:
    • Normal for Batman-Joker but in this case, Batman seems to have this for Joker. When he comes to Arkham Asylum, he tells Commissioner Gordon that he's there "because he needs to be there" (a line not there in the original), furthermore the fact that Batman has to be cajoled into a sexual encounter with Batgirl and then barely sees her after that, and he admits to Joker he's been thinking about him, makes the finale where Batman tries to reach out to Joker and then laughs with him, even more weird and strange than the original did.
    • Pretty much Paris Franz's obsession for Batgirl is almost a reflection of Joker's obsession for Batman.
  • Forbidden Fruit: A major contributor to Paris Franz's fixation on Batgirl.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who's read the original comic knows how the story is going to play out.
  • The Freakshow: The Joker's crew includes a two-headed woman, a Brawn Hilda, an incredibly hairy man that looks like an orangutan, some dwarves, etc.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The Joker went from a poor, washed-up comedian to a member of a crime game and then to the most feared criminal in all of Gotham!
  • Gainax Ending: After the climatic showdown between the Joker and Batman, resulting in the two of them laughing together, the film chooses to end on Barbara becoming Oracle. We never see the cops coming into the carnival or if the Joker is even captured or not.
  • Gay Best Friend: Barbara's college friend Reese at the library.
  • Hate Sink: Paris Franz; a sexist, backstabbing mobster. It's telling that the Joker is portrayed as more sympathetic than he is.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: As always, it foreshadows a Relationship Upgrade.
    Franz: Batgirl. I am impressed. Where's your overbearing boyfriend?
    Batgirl: He's not my boyfriend.
  • Heroic Wannabe: Batgirl wants to be on par with Batman's skills, but the Dark Knight frequently reminds her that working as a superhero is gruesome work that can destroy the person you once were. She decides that he was right and gives up her mantle after fighting crime becomes too much for her to handle.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: The salesman trying to sell the circus figures that an Obviously Evil Monster Clown is a trustworthy consumer who wants to truly bring joy to children.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Joker immediately after paralyzing Barbara, rattling off quip after quip about her newfound physical disability.
  • Informed Flaw: Batgirl criticizes Batman about not taking her seriously, ignoring the fact that she came dangerously close to being killed and his concerns aren't completely unwarranted.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Not directly, but one of the henchmen who shows up with The Joker at the Gordons' apartment, looks a lot like a younger Mark Hamill.
  • It Doesn't Mean Anything: Barbara argues this after having sex with Batman, saying they can just go back to the way things were. Batman disagrees.
  • I've Come Too Far: As in the comic, after Batman offers the Joker help in being rehabilitated, he decides that it's far too late for him to be saved.
  • Joker Jury: Commissioner Gordon is brought into a room designed to look like a courtroom. The jury box is filled with kangaroo statues while the Joker acts as prosecutor.
  • Kangaroo Court: Not just a figurative one but literally too, as Joker's courtroom includes a jury of kangaroos; either giant dolls or actual stuffed kangaroos, it's hard to tell.
  • Karma Houdini: Before she gets shot, Barbara faces no legal trouble for beating up an innocent guy in broad daylight simply to blow off steam.
  • Killed Offscreen:
    • Paris' uncle is found dead in his office.
    • Jeannie dies off-screen and we only hear the police officers tell this to the Joker to confirm it.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • Batgirl gives Batman a disbelieving look when he tells her Paris Franz's name. Batman, as usual, stoically tells her that he's not kidding.
    • Additionally, Barbara's narration in the beginning lampshades that we weren't expecting the movie to begin with a different story.
  • Law of Disproportionate Response: In one scene, Barbara beats up a guy who's telling his needy girlfriend to give him some space, just to blow off some steam.
  • Literal Metaphor:
    • When the Joker has Gordon brought to a mock trial and offers him the chance to pass judgement, Gordon says he would "throw the book" at the Joker. He's then given a literal book with "LAW" on the cover to throw.
    • The court also includes literal "kangaroos".
  • Male Gaze: Batgirl's outfit leaves very little to the imagination. Her sex scene with Batman also has a close-up of her hips straddling his, along with a shot of her stripping down just as the camera pans skyward.
  • Meaningful Echo: When the Joker invades his apartment and shoots Barbara, Jim picks up a pair of scissors in an attempt to stab him, prompting the Joker to taunt him over how that was "not by-the-book." Jim uses it later as an (indirect) Shut Up, Hannibal!.
  • Mind Rape: Jim Gordon enters the Joker's "haunted house ride" fighting for his life, but comes out a broken man.
  • Monster Clown: The Joker. This is most evident in his Nightmare Face moments.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Barbara Gordon is subjected to several Male Gaze shots of her curves, both in and out of costume.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Joker keeps the corpse of the carnival salesman as a sign decoration for anyone entering his base.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Barbara's reaction word for word the morning after having sex with Batman.
    Barbara Gordon: (looking in her bathroom mirror) Barbara Kathleen Gordon, what the hell have you done?
  • Mythology Gag:
    Thug: I swear to God, man! He ain't been around!
    Batman: Swear to me.
    Thug: You! I swear to you!
    • In this film and nowhere else, Barbara Gordon is given the middle name "Kathleen", which is often shortened to "Kathy" or "Kate".
    • The midgets dressed up like Batman resemble Bat-Mite.
  • Narcissist: Paris is described as such by Batman, and his belief that Batgirl has a thing for him shows that the description isn't wrong.
  • Nightmare Face: The Joker features some truly horrific facial expressions. To the point where it becomes a Running Gag.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The Joker purchases an amusement park because it's falling apart.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Batgirl gives one to Perry Francesco in the prologue.
  • No Name Given: Even in the flashbacks, the man who would become the Joker is never referred to by his real name. His wife only refers to him by the usual affectionate nicknames that spouses use: "darling," "honey," "dear," etc. But at no time is even his first name uttered.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Batman denies that he is making up Paris Franz's name. (On the other hand Paris is. His real name is Parry Francesco; "Paris Franz" is an alias.)
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: After hearing Batman's offer of rehabilitation despite all he had done, Joker refused, believing that it was far too late. Joker's regretful, solemn tone indicated that he had a brief yet terrible moment of sane clarity, making him actually regret his horrific crimes and decide that redemption was not possible for someone like him.
    Joker: I'm sorry but... no. No. It's far too late for that.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The little people in Joker's gang are the penultimate mooks who give Batman a serious struggle.
  • Plot Twist: When Batman arrives at the amusement park and sees what appears to be the Joker slumped in his throne and not moving. You'd expect it to just be a mannequin with maybe a bomb strapped to it. What you get is a disguised carnival freak that attacks Batman.
  • Posthumous Character: The two thugs in Joker's flashbacks have been long dead since he became Gotham's greatest villain. Unfortunately, his late wife Jeannie died before his transformation too.
  • Punny Name: "Paris Franz". (An alias for Perry Francesco.)
  • Rape Discretion Shot: After shooting Barbara, the Joker unbuttons her blouse in a predatory manner just before the scene ends. She is later found by the police in a "state of undress."
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Batman scolds Batgirl for thinking being a vigilante is all fun-and-games since she hasn't "fallen into the abyss". Though Batgirl thinks he's being ungrateful until she has beaten Paris nearly to death.
    Batman: You let him play you. He thinks he knows you, like there's some kind of relationship going on. He led you like a lapdog.
    Batgirl: Bull, I knew what I was doing. I was on the hunt, same as you.
    Batman: No, you were trying to prove something. You let your ego cloud your judgment. You should've listened to me.
    Batgirl: I thought we were partners.
    Batman: We are. But we're not equals, not even close.
    Batgirl: You sanctimonious, self-righteous—!
    Batman: You're not in it like I am, Barbara. It's still a game for you, it's still a thrill. You haven't been taken to the edge yet.
    Batgirl: The edge of what?
    Batman: The abyss, the place where you don't care anymore. Where all hope dies. (silence) We're done here. You're off the case.
  • Scenery Censor: During the Mind Rape of Commissioner Gordon, the Joker has him stripped naked and has his goons put a dog collar and leash on him. There always seems to be something covering his crotch, though.
  • Setting Update: From the 1980s to the 2010s.
  • Sex God: Batgirl says that Batman is "fantastic", while in the flashbacks, Jeannie tells her husband, the future Joker, that he's "good in the sack".
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: The camera pans away to a gargoyle when Bruce and Barbara start having sex.
  • Shameful Strip: Joker does this to both Barbara and Jim Gordon.
    • Joker strips Barbara right after shooting her and takes several photos of her, naked and bloodied and later shows the pictures to Jim in an effort to break him. We never see the act itself, as the scene cuts away when Joker starts unbuttoning her top.
    • Joker's minion's strip Gordon of all his clothes after he's kidnapped, and they collar him and force him to parade around the carnival in the nude, seemingly just to degrade him.
  • Shipper on Deck: Barbara's gay best friend tells her in the library not to give on pursuing "yoga guy" (unaware that she is Batgirl and that her "yoga guy" love interest is really Batman).
  • Shoulders-Up Nudity: The pictures of the naked Barbara that Joker splashes over the screen never display her breasts or genitals, showing her only from the shoulders up and from the legs down.
  • Signs of Disrepair: Batman stands next to a building with a neon sign that reads GOTHAM STORAGE. The malfunctioning lights on the sign make it read "GOTHAMS RAGE" or "Gotham's Rage".
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Paris Franz is never featured in any of the promotional trailers at all despite being a minor villain in the movie.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Batman and Batgirl get into an emotional argument about how he treats her. Then Batgirl assaults him physically. She lands on top of him, after which they start to make out.
  • Smug Snake: Paris believes himself to be a whole lot more competent than he actually is. He only barely escapes with his life after robbing his uncle.
  • The Sociopath: Paris Franz is described by Batman as "a nasty mix of narcissist and sociopath" and he shows it in his creepy and unhealthy obsession with Batgirl.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: According to the credits, the mobster Batman talks to is Sal Maroni, who died in The Long Halloween, which took place long before the events of The Killing Joke. Then again, The Long Halloween wasn't published until years after The Killing Joke.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The fact that it's the Joker doing the flashing back throws many of the events of his past into question.
  • Villainous Breakdown: You can hear the Joker's voice straining in confusion and frustration when he cries out "Why aren't you laughing?!"
  • Villainous Cheekbones: The villainous gangster Paris has very prominent cheekbones.
  • Villainous Crush: Paris Franz gained a massive interest in Batgirl after she almost arrested him while he was overseeing one of his criminal operations.
  • Villain Song: During the climax Joker pulls out one to finish breaking Gordon's mind complete with the images of a shot Barbara.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Joker is revealed to be this. Throughout the entire film we're treated to flashbacks of what he remembers as his personal life, which involves his life slowly falling apart and ends with his Start of Darkness.
  • Writer on Board: Bruce Timm pushing the Bruce and Barbara ship. See Running the Asylum.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Killing Joke


"It's Far Too Late For That"

Batman offers the Joker a chance to turn his life around only for the Joker to solemnly say that it is far too late.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / RedemptionRejection

Media sources: