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The Batman franchise has some of the most iconic characters, lines, writing, directing, and acting ever brought to the screen. That goes for both live-action and animated.
The most iconic of all Batman characters (besides the titular Batman) is the villain, Joker. Despite being a killer clown who loves a good laugh, he also is an insightful anarchist who constantly draws attention to issues of mental health and the insanity of the rules-based system everyone in Gotham pretends to follow.
No one is more guilty of this, in Joker’s mind than Batman himself. Whether Joker is talking to Batman, one of his many victims or cronies, or just making off-handed comments to himself, he can actually get surprisingly deep.
He provides some deep insights into the dark side of humanity that really make you think.
He says some pretty zany stuff, but he also says some deep meaningful joker quotes that make sense.
Here are the top 13 deep Joker quotes from his best appearances on the screen. I’ve also included some clips and context for each quote to explain the moment before and the meaning behind these deep quotes. Enjoy!
1. “See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.”
From: The Dark Knight
One of the best deep Joker quotes is the insight he shares with Batman during the interrogation scene in the Dark Knight. To put the quote in context, Batman and Lt. Gordon have just staged an epic mousetrap in order to capture Joker using Harvey Dent as bait.
However, once they bring Joker into custody, they realize that Harvey Dent hasn’t come home. In fact, it turns out Joker might be the one holding all the cards after all.
However, Batman can’t help but get to the bottom of this mad clown now that he has him face to face, so he asks why Joker wanted to kill him. Joker has this to say:
The Joker: I don’t, I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You… you… complete me.
Batman: You’re garbage who kills for money.
The Joker: Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.
Here’s the scene for you to check out yourself:
2. “Faced with the inescapable fact that human existence is mad, random, and pointless, one in eight of them crack up and go stark slavering buggo! Who can blame them? In a world as psychotic as this…any other response would be crazy!”
From: Batman: The Killing Joke
One of the most iconic Batman franchise storylines of all time, The Killing Joke is both a comic written by Alan Moore and an animated film of the same name.
The animated film is actually an adaptation of the comic book and features Mark Hamill’s supposed final performance as the voice of The Joker due to the strain it puts on his voice.
Because of the brilliant writing by Alan Moore, some of the best deep lines from Joker actually come from the comic book version and aren’t featured in the film adaptation. However, this quote is brilliant and cuts to the root of Joker’s psychology, which is why it’s one of the best deep quotes.
See, in both the comic and the film, Joker has Lt. Gordon kidnapped and tied up in a carnival of horrors, and he’s trying to drive him insane. The idea is that he is trying to make an argument for why an average man would go insane. In a way, he’s arguing against reason with reason, which is an interesting argument. You’ll have to watch or read the story yourself to find out if it works!
Here’s a clip someone posted of the full monologue:
Ladies and Gentlemen! You’ve read about it in the papers! Now witness, before your very eyes, that most rare and tragic of nature’s mistakes! I give you: the average man. Physically unremarkable, it instead possesses a deformed set of values. Notice the hideously bloated sense of humanity’s importance. Also note the club-footed social conscience and the withered optimism. It’s certainly not for the squeamish, is it? Most repulsive of all, are its frail and useless notions of order and sanity. If too much weight is placed upon them… they snap. How does it live, I hear you ask? How does this poor pathetic specimen survive in today’s harsh and irrational environment? I’m afraid the sad answer is, “Not very well.” Faced with the inescapable fact that human existence is mad, random, and pointless, one in eight of them crack up and go stark slavering buggo! Who can blame them? In a world as psychotic as this… any other response would be crazy!“
3. You don’t listen, do you? You just ask the same questions every week. ‘How’s your job?’ ‘Are you having any negative thoughts?’ All I have are negative thoughts.”
The 2019 adaptation of Joker’s origin story is a controversial film, as it was both loved and hated by audiences pretty much down the middle.
However, everyone who saw the film can agree that Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck, an aspiring comedian struggling with his mental health who becomes the Joker, was outstanding.
This quote is from a scene where Arthur is talking to his social worker right before she reveals that the city will stop funding the program. However, to Arthur, it seems as if she’s never listened to him or been able to help him at all. So he says this:
Arthur Fleck: “You don’t listen, do you? I don’t think you ever really listened to me. You just ask the same questions every week. “How’s your job? Are you having any negative thoughts?” All I have are negative thoughts. But you don’t listen. Anyway, I said, for my whole life, I didn’t know if I even really existed. But I do, and people are starting to notice.”
Social Worker: “They cut our funding. They’re closing down our offices next week. The city’s cut funding across the board, social services is part of that. This is the last time we’ll be meeting.”
Arthur Fleck: “Okay.”
Social Worker: “They don’t give a shit about people like you, Arthur. And they really don’t give a shit about people like me either.”
Arthur Fleck: “…What am I supposed to do about my medication now? Who do I talk to?”
Social Worker: “I’m sorry, Arthur.”
With the way that mental healthcare is still treated in the United States, this quote is too real. Here’s the scene:
4. “I’m not exactly sure what happened. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another. If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!”
From: Batman: The Killing Joke
This one is from The Killing Joke again. When Batman comes to rescue Gordon and Barbara, he faces down Joker and his minions in Joker’s twisted carnival.
While Joker has been trying to drive Gordon insane, as soon as Batman shows up, his goal changes. Now he wants Batman to admit that he’s crazy too. He tries to guess what it could have been that pushed Batman over the edge:
Joker: “I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are? Girlfriend killed by the mob, maybe? Brother carved up by some mugger? Something like that, I know. Because something like that happened to me.”
Batman enters the room as if he’ll finally understand what made Joker what he is today… and then Joker hits him (literally) over the head with this:
The Joker: I’m not exactly sure what happened. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another. If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! My point is I went CRAZY! And I’m smart enough to admit it! Why can’t you?
As Joker says this, he’s essentially making the argument that his entire persona and worldview are rooted in trauma.
And because the reality of the trauma is so uncomfortable and maddening, he decides it’s not worth remembering it right, so he makes up different variations of what happened in order to control the trauma.
His form of dealing with the unfairness of what happened to him is to lessen its power over him through his madness.
Joker also believes that admitting everything is crazy and nothing matters are the only reasonable way to live.
He’s smart because he’s mastered his past trauma by admitting that nothing happens for a reason and the world is insane. Pretending that he’s not crazy, as he accuses Batman of doing, would be idiotic and stupid, or put another way, crazy! He continues:
Joker: By clinging to reality, you’re denying the reality of the situation. I mean, do you ever think about how close we’ve come to world war 3 over a flock of geese on a computer screen? Silly goose, it’s all a joke everything we valued or struggled for… It’s Monstrous… Why can’t you see the funny side? Why aren’t you laughing?”
Joker has a point here. So many of the systems we’ve put into place to guide us or things we value as important or meaningful in life either have arbitrary reasons for their existence (like they’ve always been here so that means they’re good) or no reason at all. So in Joker’s point of view, the reason is actually unreasonable.
To get Batman’s response, you’ll have to watch the end of the clip below!
5. “Comedy is subjective, Murray. Isn’t that what they say? All of you, the system that knows so much, you decide what’s right or wrong. The same way that you decide what’s funny or not.”
When Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker finally accomplishes his dream of going on the Murray late-night show as a comedian, he realizes he’s been invited to be made fun of.
So instead of being the brunt of the joke, he turns the interview on its head. He dresses in full clown make-up, and after he admits to the heinous crimes he admitted, he begins interviewing the late-night host Murray.
Arthur Fleck: “I’ve got nothing left to lose. Nothing can hurt me anymore. My life is nothing but comedy.”
Murray Franklin: “Well, let me get this straight, you think that killing those guys is funny?
Arthur Fleck: “I do. And I’m tired of pretending it’s not. Comedy is subjective, Murray, isn’t that what they say? All of you, the system that knows so much: you decide what’s right or wrong the same way you decide what’s funny or not.”
Arthur, aka Joker, has a point. Why does “civilized” society get to decide what is and isn’t funny? Or decide what’s right and what’s not? It’s a dark line of thinking, but it hits deep to the core of what many people often feel – that the rules society claims to follow don’t apply to them, or don’t treat them fairly.
Check out the clip here:
6. “Madness is the emergency exit. You can just step outside, and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away forever.”
When Joker first introduces Lt. Gordon to his carnival of horror, he delivers a fantastic monologue that explains his point of view on madness and memory.
One-part soliloquy, one part warning, and 100% horrifyingly genius, the Joker delivers this monologue as an argument making a case for his point of view right as he’s loading Gordon into his carnival of horrors. Read the monologue then check out Mark Hamill’s amazing delivery of it in the clip below.
Joker: “Yes, memory’s so treacherous. One moment, you’re lost in a carnival of delight: childhood aromas, the flashing neon of puberty, all that sentimental candy floss. The next, it takes you somewhere you don’t want to be. Somewhere dark and cold, filled with the damp, ambiguous shapes of things you’d rather forget. Memories can be vile, repulsive little brutes. Like children, no? But can we live without them? Memories are what our reason is based upon. If we can’t face them, we deny reason itself! Although, why not? We aren’t contractually tied down to rationality. There is no sanity clause. So when you find yourself locked down in an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember: There’s always madness. You can just step outside and close the door, and all those dreadful things that happened, you can lock them away. Madness… is an emergency exit.”
7. “All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”
Joker’s argument throughout the entire Killing Joke storyline is that what turned him “crazy” could turn anyone crazy, which he tries to prove with his carnival of horrors. He wants to reduce Lt. Gordon to his basest level, to quite literally driving him insane with his own one bad day.
The thing about this quote is that many people can relate to it. That’s where the idea of “snapping” comes from – you’ve had all you can stand, and because you haven’t taken care of yourself, you snap.
This can of course mean different things for different people, but it essentially boils down to a mental breakdown. This could be when someone collapses down into tears, yells out in frustration, or at worst, hurts themselves or others in some way.
At its most intense, you quite literally lose your mind because you can no longer cope with reality, which is what Joker says has happened to him.
Only he’s above the rest of the world because he admits that he’s crazy, while others like Batman still pretend and play the game to act as if they are normal.
Here’s the full monologue text from the comic version of The Killing Joke:
As the Youtube User Shadow Sonata says in the comments: “Makes you wonder if the Joker is actually insane, or if he sees reality too closely for what it is.”
8. “The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”
The interesting thing about this deep quote from Joker is that it’s actually written in his diary and not said out loud.
As you can see here, Murray writes this down as one of his “jokes” that he plans to perform at the comedy club. Although the quote isn’t exactly a joke – it’s actually quite true.
Like many people who struggle with mental illness know, you’re often expected to pretend as if nothing is wrong in order to fit into society.
If you don’t pretend to be happy and “fine”, people will look at you funny, treat you differently, or most often, distance themselves from you as if the illness is in fact your fault.
The truth is, we all have varying degrees of mental health that need to be tended to, so it’s unfair to hold everyone to a standard of toxic happiness or complacency.
For people who do struggle with their mental health, they want nothing more than to feel normal and fit in, but that’s not where they are at right now – which is why this line cuts so deep.
9. “Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos.”
From: The Dark Knight
This line is from when Joker visits Harvey Dent in the hospital after he more or less burns off half his face. Although, in Joker’s words, he didn’t really do it – rather, it was a chance outcome that happened as a consequence of the chaos Joker unleashed.
Joker then goes on to explain his actions to Harvey in the following exchange:
The Joker: “I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know… You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!”
The Joker then hands Harvey Dent a revolver and points it at his own head.
The Joker: Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!
The funny thing about that quote is – it’s spot on! According to Joker’s logic, he’s exactly right – horrifying things happen every day and no one bats an eye because it’s part of a system that consistently churns out horrific outcomes.
It’s only when the system churns out a random, chaotic outcome that people freak out because it’s not “according to plan.”
So when Joker says he’s an agent of chaos, he’s making the argument to Harvey Dent that chaos is actually fairer than a system of order that produces horrors but pretends like it’s fair. In fact, chaos is fairer because it can impact anyone, at any time, randomly, and without reason.
This argument works on “Two-Face” who has been broken spiritually. Check out the scene here:
10. “Everybody just yells and screams at each other. Nobody’s civil anymore. Nobody thinks what it’s like to be the other guy.”
Arthur delivers this deep quote in the middle of his conversation with Murray. It’s his monologue that tries to explain his point of view.
As you can tell from a lot of these quotes, they are deep and insightful because Joker is trying to connect with the listener to help them understand him.
In his mind, he’s not insane – he’s the only rational person in the room.
Of course, to Arthur, the system is broken and it’s insane to think that the victims of the system won’t turn on it, and in his words “werewolf and go wild.” It’s a childish argument, but as you see throughout the film, Arthur is quite childlike and innocent in his own way.
Joker: “Have you seen what it’s like out there, Murray? Do you ever actually leave the studio? Everybody just yells and screams at each other. Nobody’s civil anymore. Nobody thinks what it’s like to be the other guy. You think men like Thomas Wayne ever think what it’s like to be someone like me? To be somebody but themselves? They don’t. They think that we’ll just sit there and take it, like good little boys! That we won’t werewolf and go wild!”
Joaquin Phoenix won an Academy Award for this performance and watching this scene, it’s easy to see why. Since we link to it two other times in the article, you’ll have to click the link up above or down below to watch it in context.
11. “Madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push.”
From: The Dark Knight
This quote is from Joker’s monologue towards the end of The Dark Knight. In it, Joker is captured by Batman, and it seems like his plans are all foiled.
But Joker has an ace up his sleeve – he’s actually converted Harvey Dent, Gotham’s white knight, to his point of view – that chaos is the only fair system of order in the universe.
The way that he points out his thinking is very reminiscent of the madness monologue from The Killing Joke and could even be inspired by it, though I don’t know if writers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan ever admitted that.
Here’s the quote, and you watch the whole scene in the clip below:
Batman: “This city just showed you that it’s full of people ready to believe in good.”
The Joker: “Until their spirit breaks completely. Until they get a good look at the real Harvey Dent, and all the heroic things he’s done. You didn’t think I’d risk losing the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fistfight with you? No. You need an ace in the hole. Mine’s Harvey.”
Batman: “What did you do?”
The Joker: “I took Gotham’s white knight and I brought him down to our level. It wasn’t hard. You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push!”
While Joker fails to break Gordon in The Killing Joke, he succeeds to break Dent in The Dark Knight. In a way, the story rewards Joker’s heroes journey by giving him exactly what he wants – a victory over Batman. He might not be able to break Batman or the city of Gotham, but by breaking Dent, he still wins in his own twisted way – at least, that’s what he has to laugh himself to sleep in the prison cell!
Check out the full clip here:
12. “What do you get when you cross a mentally-ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? I’ll tell you what you get. You get what you fucking deserve!”
At the end of the Murray interview in Joker, after Arthur has come clean about murdering the bros on the train, Murray has had just about all he can stand of the clown.
What started as a strange encounter became a fascinating dissection of a madman.
However, it quickly dissolves into uncomfortable territory, and so Murray tries to wrap up the interview, which leads into this exchange between him and Arthur:
Arthur Fleck: How ’bout another joke, Murray?
Murray Franklin: No, I think we’ve had enough of your jokes.
Arthur Fleck: What do you get…
Murray Franklin: I don’t think so.
Arthur Fleck: …when you cross…
Murray Franklin: I think we’re done here now, thank you.
Arthur Fleck: …a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?
Murray Franklin: Call the police, Gene, call the police.
Arthur Fleck: I’ll tell you what you get! You get what you fuckin’ deserve!
And then the Joker shoots Murray in the head and kills him instantly.
The reason this is such a deep line, despite the violence, is that Arthur’s not wrong – society has abandoned him and people like him, and so in a way, they do get what they deserve when that same society of angry and disillusioned people decide to turn on the elites of Gotham and the streets dissolve into anarchy.
However, Joker is of course twisted and wrong to take his anger and frustration out in violent bursts of murderous rage.
Two things can be true at once – society has abandoned Joker and therefore has reaped what it sows. But Joker also uses that as justification to conduct acts of evil, which is wrong.
Man, the Joker really says some deep and meaningful stuff, huh?! Who knew the guy had it in him…
All these insightful and strangely deep quotes cut to the core of what makes Joker such a compelling villain – he is both horrifyingly hard to predict as well as insightful in his madness.
They say a broken clock is right twice a day; well, a crazy clown isn’t quite so crazy when you dig in deep enough.
13. “No, I don’t keep count. But you do. And I love you for it.”
One of the darkest moments in Batman history is the storyline behind The Dark Knights Returns. This storyline features an old and decrepit Batman coming back to Gotham to save the city from a mutant gang, and he inevitably has to show down with not only Joker but even Superman!
But before Batman has to fight Superman himself, he faces off against Joker for one last duel.
Batman: No more! All the people I’ve murdered…
He uppercuts Joker
Batman: …by letting you live.
Joker: I never kept count.
Batman: I did!
Joker: I know. And I love you for it.
The truth is, Joker needs Batman to feel alive. To believe what Joker believes and not have batman would make his life meaningless.
But Batman has a purpose. He has a perpetual, endless, twisted game to play, with a partner who will always play it.
And that’s what makes this quote so deep – Joker does truly need batman to live. So when Batman finally breaks (and breaks Joker’s neck) Joker’s life is literally over. So he basks in the glory of finally breaking Batman and then twists his neck to off himself.
I told you it was dark!
Check out the scene below. Fair warning, it’s about as dark and bloody as Batman ever gets!
Grant Harvey is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his own feature-length screenplays and television pilots, Grant uses his passion and experience in film and videography to help others learn the tools, strategies, and equipment needed to create high-quality videos as a filmmaker of any skill level.