In many past instances, directors working on Batman movies wanted their productions to have an anachronistic sense to them. In other words, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher would incorporate technology, cars and fashion from a variety of eras so that you wouldn’t know in which era the story took place. Though this method wasn’t favored by successors Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder, Batman: The Animated Series and Gotham did follow suit on the small screen.
When it came to Joker, however, it didn’t go for either the anachronistic or modern options. What director Todd Phillips did do, though, was opt to shoot it as a period piece. And while it was plainly obvious that it could’ve been set in the late 1970s or early 1980s, there’s been some debate surrounding this aspect. Hey, it may not be as ambiguous as the film’s ending, but it’s nice having things cleared up.
Even though I’d already read how the flick takes place in 1981 and knew that going into the theater, it’s worth presenting the evidence that the fine folks over at ScreenRant included in a report of their own. If you likewise had a keen eye, then you’d have noticed how the theater marquee shown in the final act advertised screenings for Blow Out and Zorro, The Gay Blade, or how the Waynes passed a poster for Excalibur when ducking down that fateful alley.
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As you probably guessed by now, that trifecta of movies were released in 1981. Granted, The Mark of Zorro is the entry from that particular franchise most associated with Batman’s origin, but The Gay Blade does work just as well.
To Joker‘s credit, this does set the stage better than, say, IT: Chapter Two did. I’m just saying, if you want us to believe that those flashback sequences were set in 1989, then kids shouldn’t have been playing Mortal Kombat, which hadn’t even been released until 1992.