One nice effect of eschewing superhero fights and CGI explosions for a less fantastical take on comic book criminal action: It’s a whole hell of a lot cheaper. That’s the big takeaway today, as Todd Phillips’ ground-level supervillain origin story Joker just became the most profitable comic book movie of all time, having now made roughly 15.3 times its initial $62.5 million budget back at the box office. That bumped it right past Jim Carrey’s The Mask, which somehow got made for a mere $23 million back in 1994, and didn’t bring in anything close to the near-billion that Phillips’ movie has scored so far with audiences.
That’s still significantly less than the nearly $3 billion that Disney’s Avengers: Endgame—still the highest-grossing movie ever—brought in earlier this year, of course, but, then, Endgame also cost $356 million to make. Joker, meanwhile, is powered mostly by Joaquin Phoenix’s performance (plus strong supporting turns from Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, and Frances Conroy), as well as our collective and well-documented desire to see sad clowns transform into angry ones. Aping the rhythms of old Scorsese movies might open our culture up to brand new and ever-more-irritating arguments about the merits of superhero film, but it’s also pretty damn cost-efficient.
This latest milestone is just the latest in Joker’s list of oh so serious accolades; the film is also currently the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever made, as well as the most successful film of De Niro’s long career. (Take that, Analyze This!)