Joker Movie Ending Explained: What Was Fake and What Was Real

By Pierre Chanliau Posted:
Joaquin Phoenix Joker in cop car

Throughout Todd Phillips' Joker, Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur was revealed to be an unreliable narrator, but how much of Arthur's story and the ending was real?

Rumors about the plot of Joker: Folie à Deux suggest that the sequel will be from the perspective of Lady Gaga's Harley Quinn and that she will perceive her relationship with Arthur as a romantic musical, continuing the use of an unreliable narrator.

The Joker has been tied to this narrative device for decades, beginning with Alan Moore's Batman: The Killing Joke, in which the clown famously said, "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another...If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!" Similarly, Arthur appeared to imagine multiple facets of his life in Joker, especially toward the end.

The Ending of Joker Explained

Shortly after killing Robert De Niro's Murray Franklin on live television in Joker's ending sequence, Arthur is arrested by the police, but as the chaos in Gotham swells from his actions, a stolen ambulance collides with his police car and renders him unconscious.

Joker, Arthur Fleck, Rioters, Ending

Rioters pull Arthur from the wreckage in a Christ-like manner and proceed to cheer for Arthur as the face of their movement. However, it is more than possible that this moment was another hallucination of Arthur's desire for validation and adulation.

Joker, Arthur Fleck, Live! With Murray Franklin, Audience

The same validation and adulation he craved earlier in the movie when he imagined himself as an audience member of Franklin's late-night show who applauded for him. So, for all the audience knows, Arthur was still concussed in the police car as the riot raged and one lone clown-masked rioter killed the Waynes.

Joker, Arthur Fleck, Arkham Asylum, Ending

Immediately after that scene of self-aggrandization, Arthur is suddenly in another therapy session that directly parallels the one he had with his social worker at the beginning of the movie, only he is in Arkham Asylum now. 

Joker, Bruce Wayne, Crime Ally, Batman, Ending

His laughing prompts the Arkham psychiatrist to ask, "What's so funny?" Arthur responds, "Just thinking of a joke," and cuts to Bruce Wayne standing in the same ally his parents were killed scenes earlier. He doesn't tell her the joke since "[She] wouldn't get it."

Perhaps a joke exclusively meant for the audience since, due to his actions, he indirectly and unintentionally helped send Bruce down the path to becoming Batman, the Joker's eventual archenemy.

Joker, Arthur Fleck, Arkham Asylum, Ending

After Arthur begins to sing Frank Sinatra's "That's Life" to himself, the final scene shows him slowly walking down a hallway in Arkham, the sun shining through the window like a doorway to a brighter tomorrow. All the while, Arthur leaves a trail of blood behind him, presumably from the psychiatrist, but perhaps an unsubtle metaphor for the blood he's left in his path.

Whether it is meant to be taken as another hallucination conjured by Arthur to express his desire to escape or an actual escape attempt is left up to interpretation, but what matters is that Arthur is still trapped in Arkham. 

How Will This Ending Affect Joker 2?

While it is true that Arthur was an unreliable narrator, that does not mean the entirety or even most of Joker did not happen.

According to numerous behind-the-scene photos for the sequel, Arthur was still introduced as Joker on Murray Franklin's show and still has a public following protesting for his release.

So, it would appear that most of what happened in Joker happened. 

Arthur still murdered those three Wayne Enterprise employees, which sparked the clown-inspired riots, which led to him shooting Murray Franklin for all to see, and all while he's now a patient at Arkham.

How Harley will factor into the story is still unknown outside rumors, but like Arthur, she also creates a persona, seemingly as a way to support Arthur in court. 

Joker: Folie à Deux is set to open in theaters on October 24.

- In This Article: Joker: Folie a Deux
Release Date
October 04, 2024
Zazie Beetz
- About The Author: Pierre Chanliau
Pierre Chanliau began as a news & feature writer for The Direct at the site's launch in 2020. As a longtime reader of superhero comic books, Pierre's knowledge of Marvel and DC is extensive, informing his reporting and editorial pieces regarding the MCU and DCU.