As the DCEU continues to struggle to find its footing among other heavy hitting movie franchises, let’s not forget there is another long running, successful DC Comics film universe. The DC Animated Movie Universe has produced 32 popular films over 11 years. They grew out of the popularity of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League. Beginning with 2007’s Superman: Doomsday the films followed various corners of the DC Comics Universe, bringing origin stories and fan favorite comic book events to life. Though most of the movies feature the original members of the Justice League, with a specific focus on the trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, the films have also helped showcase Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, the Teen Titans, Swamp Thing and John Constantine.
Many of these projects were produced and directed by the dynamic duo of Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano, while also featuring the familiar voices of Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, George Newbern, Tara Strong and Mark Hamill. In 2014, after Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox the universe’s timeline rebooted and the movies began to follow a new continuity. With that in mind, we thought it’s time to take a look at every DC Animated movie and rank them from worst to best.
32 BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE
The Killing Joke may be the most controversial story in all of Batman history. The Joker, having been defeated by the Dark Knight one too many times, decides to up the ante and attacks Barbara Gordon in her home. He shoots her, leaving her paralyzed, then proceeds to take awful photos of her. He then kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, proceeds to humiliate him in an abandoned amusement park, and forces him to look at the photos of Barbara to drive him insane. It destroyed Barbara and forced her to quit being Batgirl. Though her disability helped redefine the character, the story is still seen as a low point for fans.
There were a lot of questions from fans when DC announced it would be adapting The Killing Joke into an R rated animated movie.
Turns out their concerns were justified, as the film did nothing to improve on Barbara’s treatment in the comic. If anything, it made things worse by involving her in an ill-advised romance with Batman and at times making her seem like an incompetent crime fighter. While Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were once again great together, the story came off as an insult to the fans of Batgirl. In a franchise full of classic comic adaptations, this is one they could have left on the shelf.
31 BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN
Since she was introduced on Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, Harley Quinn has been one of DC’s most popular characters. She’s become one of Batman’s most persistent rogues, eventually transitioning into an anti-hero with her own solo series, while also starring as a prominent member of the Suicide Squad. Her merchandise sells at the same levels as the Trinity and it’s impossible to attend a convention without seeing an endless number of Harley cosplayers. Considering her headliner status, it’s no surprise she ended up in her own movie, co-starring with Batman and Nightwing.
The dynamic duo needs Harley’s help stopping Poison Ivy and Floronic Man from getting rid of humanity and making Earth entirely plant life. The film is set up to be a headlining vehicle for Harley, but unfortunately, Melissa Rauch’s voice is very distracting. She combined her high-pitched voice from The Big Bang Theory with a weird, over the top New Jersey accent, that doesn’t sound at all like the Harley we’ve come to know. We understand that every voice actor makes their own character choices, but there still has to be something recognizable for viewers. The film’s saving grace is its sense of humor and Harley’s true desire to have some semblance of a normal life.
30 BATMAN: BAD BLOOD
There is something about Damian Wayne that makes him just not that likeable. He is Bruce’s son with Talia al Ghul, and was raised by the League of Assassins. His upbringing has completely distorted his perception of right and wrong, making it difficult for Bruce to control or train him. We understand it must be confusing to have your father and grandfather be perpetually at each other’s throats, but that’s no excuse for how whiny and ungrateful he is.
At every turn he rejects Bruce’s way of doing things, despite the fact that he’s Batman and pretty much wrote the book on fighting crime.
In Batman: Bad Blood, Batman is presumed dead, then Damian is kidnapped, leading to the reveal of his origin as a clone created by Ra’s al Ghul. While it’s nice to see a Batman story that puts the focus on members of the Bat Family, the plot feels muddied with the split storylines and multiple villains. Besides there being too many bad guys, they also seemed quite weak, which is strange since Batman has one of the best rogues gallery in comics. It also didn’t help to prominently feature Damian, as his character is usually best in small does, not taking the lead. Compared to all the other Batman movies in the franchise, Bad Blood isn’t as strong as all the rest.
29 JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS AND MONSTERS
Whenever an alternate universe is explored it’s always hit or miss. Sometimes we get a fascinating world like Injustice and sometimes it’s a let down like Gods and Monsters. There have been several instances of stories revolving around a rogue Justice League that uses its powers to rule humanity, not save it, and for the most part it works to show us how honorable our Justice League is. Gods and Monsters is not one of those stories, as it doesn’t feature Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent or Diana Prince. The film does star Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, but they are different versions, so there’s a disconnect in how much we care about the characters.
In this universe, Batman is scientist Kirk Langston, a man who uses his vampirism to kill criminals. Wonder Woman is Bekka, a woman with god-like powers who is fleeing her past betrayal of her fiancee and Superman is not Kal-El, but rather Hernan Guerra, a child of Zod who was raised by undocumented immigrants and has a serious hatred for authority. It takes them some time to get there, but eventually this Justice League does evolve into heroes. Though Gods and Monsters had a interesting idea, it always felt too separate from the rest of the universe.
28 SON OF BATMAN
From the moment Grant Morrison brought him into our lives, Damian Wayne has been the source of great comic book debates. While some fans like to see Bruce attempt to navigate fatherhood while maintaining his life as Batman, others are annoyed by his immature antics and inability to learn from his mistakes. Seriously, how many times does Bruce have to tell him that they don’t kill, before it sinks in? There’s never any middle ground or compromise with Damian. It’s true this is a common trait for teenagers, most of them haven’t be trained by the League of Assassins, so the arguments don’t descend into extremely violent confrontations.
In Son of Batman, we get Damian’s full origin story, from his life with the League to discovering Batman is his father to deciding to stay in Gotham and learn to be a proper hero.
Though seeing all that he’s been through makes him slightly more sympathetic, it doesn’t do much to tamp down the overwhelmingly annoying personality quirks he’s known for. Though it’s always interesting to explore more of Bruce’s everyday life and see Batman deal with new challenges, we’ve never felt like we needed a whole movie devoted to Damian Wayne’s backstory.
27 BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT
The success of Batman Begins sparked a renewed interest in the hero. To give fans something to hold on to before The Dark Knight was released DC decided to go in a completely different direction. The company bypassed the usual animation style to tell a six-part Batman anime anthology. Each short, while connected, tells a different story of Batman’s adventures through Gotham as he continues what he started in Batman Begins.
This was only the third movie in the franchise, so it was very interesting that they chose to try something new so soon. However, as cool as the idea of a Batman anime is, it’s also the reason why this film stands apart from all the rest and fails to hold our interest. It’s a nice piece of the The Dark Knight Trilogy that adds another layer to Batman’s origin, but at the same time, it’s clear this was only made in response to the character’s big screen return. It was a quick capitalization on his box office success. On the plus side, we once again get to marvel at how perfectly Kevin Conroy brings Batman to life. That being said, it’s not a movie we feel compelled to come back to over and over.
26 SUPERMAN/SHAZAM: THE RETURN OF BLACK ADAM
Shazam is one of DC’s heroes that doesn’t get a lot of attention. He’s a young boy named Billy Batson who takes on the form of superhero Shazam when he says his name. In this outing we get to meet Billy and see his life right before he meets the wizard who will forever change his life. Shazam’s mortal enemy Black Adam has traveled back in time to kill Billy before the wizard gives him the powers of Shazam. The producers smartly use Superman to introduce him to the audience. First through Clark interviewing Billy, then as Shazam fights alongside Superman. Billy Batson is the ideal hero for every kid who wishes they could magically become bigger and stronger so that they would feel less invisible.
Though it’s a great first appearance for both characters, it’s also a run of the mill origin story.
This doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a bad movie, it just doesn’t stand out among the others. As Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and even Green Arrow continue to get more attention than all the other heroes, Shazam has faded into the background. However, with a new live action feature film scheduled to hit theaters in April 2019 he could be basking in the spotlight once again.
25 BATMAN VS ROBIN
One of the newer, more interesting additions to Batman lore, is the Court of Owls. Introduced by famed Batman writer Scott Snyder during The New 52, it revolves around the idea that a secret society of Gotham City’s citizens have been controlling things for years. They use their undead assassins called Talons to kill those who they need out of the way. Fed up with Batman saving the city, they plan an assault against him and his partners. It’s a story that impacted the entire Bat Family, particularly Dick Grayson, as he finds out he was supposed to join the Court until Bruce adopted him.
In Batman vs Robin this story is examined as a sequel to Son of Batman, meaning instead of following Nightwing as he discovers his true history and family heritage, we get yet another movie about how poor Damian Wayne can’t fit in because he was raised by the League of Assassins and doesn’t know how to stop himself from killing. We understand this is an ongoing issue for Damian, but we cannot sit through another story that rehashes these problems again. This was a perfect chance for Dick to get the spotlight and delve deeper into his and Bruce’s relationship. Unfortunately, Batman vs Robin missed the mark.
24 BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM
Movies featuring the Suicide Squad are always a little tricky as they must make the unrepentant villains into characters worth rooting for, while not watering down everything that makes them interesting. Following the success of the Batman: Arkham video game franchise, it was no surprise that DC wanted to use the universe for an animated film. In Assault on Arkham, Amanda Waller sends Task Force X into Arkham Asylum to retrieve intel from The Riddler. At the same time, Batman is frantically searching for a bomb The Joker planted somewhere in the city. This leads to all the concerned parties confronting one another in Arkham.
As expected, Waller had ulterior motives and the Squad double crosses her.
Though the idea of an Arkham Assault movie sounds great, this isn’t the best adaptation of that project. Other than the returning Kevin Conroy and CCH Pounder, this isn’t the best voice cast of the franchise and it just feels like there’s a lot happening at all times. Not to mention, the so-called twists are very predictable. It also turns Amanda Waller, The Joker and nearly everyone else into one-dimensional villains -- the movie does fans of the Suicide Squad a disservice. The live-action film, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay and even Arrow offer much better versions of the group.
23 JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS
It’s no secret that Aquaman gets very little respect in the superhero community -- the jokes about him talking to fish are endless. No one cares that he can control the ocean on a planet that is 70% water. Throne of Atlantis provides his origin and introduction to the Justice League. We meet Arthur Curry as a drunk fisherman who discovers that his affinity for sea creatures comes from his real parentage as half Atlantean. His mother Atlanna fell in love with his human father, but couldn’t leave her responsibilities as Queen. With war between Atlantis and the surface coming, she wants Arthur to be the one who brings the two sides together. He’s understandably reluctant, until he realizes the depth of his brother’s hatred for the surface.
The film actually offers a decent introduction to Atlantis and its people. It also makes Arthur far more interesting than he will be in any future appearances, with the exception of The Flashpoint Paradox. The scene where a tidal wave hits Metropolis foreshadows how powerful Atlantis would truly be if there were actually a war. It’s also worth noting that Ocean Master easily defeats the Justice League with his trident, though to be fair, they could have killed him if they wanted to. While it’s not the strongest team outing, it serves its purpose of bringing Aquaman to the team and introducing Atlantis to the universe.
22 JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR
Anyone who saw the live action Justice League movie is familiar with Parademons and how they attack. The global threat is what ultimately brings the heroes together as a team. Justice League: War touched on some of those same plot points long before there was ever a thought of creating a DCEU. In the animated film, Parademons begin attacking around the world, causing the heroes to team up in unlikely groups. Batman must work with Green Lantern and teach him that he doesn’t need to do everything himself. They then team with Superman and Wonder Woman, while The Flash meets Cyborg at S.T.A.R. Labs following his accident.
Where the film differs is that it does eventually go to Apokolips where Batman saves Superman and everyone must work together to defeat Darkseid.
Their joint efforts in saving the world leads to them being honored and the Justice League is born. Though we’ve seen several versions of the League’s origin, this one works as it showcases their individual strengths while also highlighting why they need to be open to becoming a team. It also has the benefit of a closing scene that leads directly into the introduction of Atlantis and Aquaman.
21 JUSTICE LEAGUE VS TEEN TITANS
The Titans are sometimes portrayed as a young alternative to the Justice League. Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and Blue Beetle make up the group, plus Nightwing and Robin are both members, which provides a constant link back to the League. However, the group is actually superior to their adult counterparts in a lot of ways. Having teenage characters as the lead not only adds more humor, but a different level of emotional depth. It’s also nice to see the group view themselves as more of a family than a team. For their introduction into the universe, they must fight the Justice League when they become possessed by Trigon’s demons.
While the film provides a reasonable backstory for who the Titans are, it feels like something is missing from the story. The plot focuses on the team supporting Raven as she battles her demon father Trigon when he tries to escape from Hell. The side story follows Damian Wayne/Robin as he is forced to join the others, so he can understand the importance of teamwork. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract offers a much stronger, more fascinating look into how the group operates on a daily basis. This is a surface examination with a split story that also focuses on the Justice League.
20 SUPERMAN VS THE ELITE
A common question asked about Superman is with all the power he has, why doesn’t he just kill really bad guys who keep coming back and causing more harm. Obviously, with all his strengths he could easily become judge, jury and executioner. It may be his greatest strength that he actually refrains from going too far, considering how he’s constantly faced with people’s worst instincts. In Superman vs The Elite, a group of vigilantes who use their power to injure and kill villains. There is a subplot surrounding two fictional countries who are at war and no matter what Superman does, they will not stop fighting. The Elite decides to just kill the countries’ leaders to stop the increasingly violent war. Of course, they’re completely nuts, but we do wonder why heroes keep putting supervillains in prisons that they seem to break out of whenever they want.
The film culminates with Superman fighting The Elite and making it appear like he killed them.
This scene is a cold, chilling look at what Superman could become if he ever truly snapped and let his powers run rampant. Yes, the Man of Steel does make a few cheesy statements about how violence is never the answer, but at the same time, the movie features a very fascinating premise of who really has the right answers to fighting crime.
19 SUPERMAN: UNBOUND
Within the Animated Universe, Superman’s most consistent enemies are Lex Luthor and Brainiac. In the movies and TV series, Brainiac is never really dead, he always finds a way to come back. In this particular story Superman fights a drone that he tracks back to Brainiac. Once aboard his ship, Superman discovers the bottle city of Kandor and meets his aunt and uncle Zor-El and Alura. Though he’s had a lifetime to deal with it, the destruction of Krypton is something Clark will never really be able to get closure on. Meeting other Kryptonians, especially those that he’s related to, finally gave him a chance to find some small measure of closure knowing that there were other Kryptonians still alive.
In a turn of events, Superman isn’t at his top strength because of the red sun of Kandor. This means he has to outsmart Brainiac, the smartest computer in the galaxy. Matt Bomer does a good job as a Superman who must save the world, help Kara deal with her fear of once again facing Brainiac and understand Lois’ need to make their relationship public. It’s the balance of all these aspects of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman’s life that makes this slightly more interesting than the average Man of Steel story.
18 SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY
At the end of 1992, DC decided to get some mainstream interest and publicity by coming up with the huge event “The Death of Superman.” Yes, we all knew there was no way Superman would stay dead, but the journey of how it would happen, consequences for the rest of the universe and how he would eventually come back were worth buying all the comics. To kick off its animated movie universe, DC began with its most famous story in Superman: Doomsday.
The movie starts with the unearthing of Doomsday and his fight with Superman, which despite his winning, leads to Clark’s death.
In the comic, several others show up in Metropolis claiming to be Superman, but it becomes clear that none of them are the true Man of Steel. In the movie, after Superman dies, a Lex Luthor-created clone comes back saying he’s the real hero, but his brutality and lack of humanity make it very clear, very quickly that he’s no Superman. Of course, the real Clark is revived to reclaim his mantle. Taking a familiar story and putting a new spin on it has become the hallmark of the DC Animated Universe, so Doomsday was a great set up for what was to come in the rest of the franchise.
17 GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT
Though he’s not Earth’s first Green Lantern, Hal Jordan is certainly its most well-known Green Lantern. The story of the cocky, self centered pilot being chosen as worthy of a Power Ring has become among the most popular in comics. Green Lantern: First Flight retells how Abin Sur crashed on Earth and sent his Ring to find his successor, which turned out to be Hal Jordan. He is then taken to Oa where he trains to become a member of the Green Lantern Corps. It then transitions into him figuring out that Sinestro is planning to betray the Corps.
Starting with Christopher Meloni as Hal, the film has a stellar voice cast that includes Victor Garber, Tricia Helfer, Michael Madsen, Kurtwood Smith and John Larroquette. While it’s a nice intro to the Lantern Corps and Oa, the focus is clearly on Hal, which is understandable since it’s his story. This was one of the early films that were obviously meant to provide origins for all the heroes before we fully met them as the Justice League. As a Hal Jordan movie it works ok, but there’s just something about it that makes it feel disconnected from the franchise as a whole. Perhaps, at this point, they hadn’t yet decided to make everything all connected.
16 SUPERMAN/BATMAN: APOCALYPSE
Though the title of this film suggests that it is a joint Superman and Batman story, it’s really all about Supergirl. Apocalypse follows Kara Zor-El’s arrival on Earth and struggle to control her powers and find her place on a new planet. While Kal-El had to figure out everything on his own, Kara has Clark to guide her. The first major problem they run into of course, is Batman. Bruce predictably doesn’t trust Kara or Clark’s capacity to be objective about his cousin.
Batman becomes the least of their problems when Darkseid decides he wants to use Kara to lead his Furies.
This served as a sequel to Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and featured the original animated universe voice cast of Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly and Susan Eisenberg. Anytime you get Conroy and Daly as Batman and Superman together, it adds an extra level of authenticity to the project as they are many fans’ quintessential animated versions of the characters. Introducing Kara into his life also gives Clark an added element to his story, making him immediately more interesting. It’s always hilarious to see him figure out how to interact with a teenage girl. This is a solid entry that only fails in the mixed message its name provides, as the Apokolips part of the plot isn’t really the focus.
15 GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHTS
As the defenders of the galaxy, the Green Lantern Corps are full of fascinating stories of defeating various alien species. While there have been several Green Lanterns from Earth, Hal Jordan is the most well-known and the frequent subject of DC animated features. We’ve seen Abin Sur’s death and Hal getting the ring, before eventually fighting a Yellow Battery-powered Sinestro on screen countless times. That’s what makes Green Lantern: Emerald Knights so different. Hal Jordan is the entry point into the other Lantern Corps stories. As Oa is about to be attacked, Hal inspires a young rookie with tales of great Lanterns throughout history.
Of course, avid Green Lantern readers are familiar with these characters, but for the average fan they’re a new side of the universe. Nathan Fillion once again voices Jordan with all the cocky bravado the character is known for, but also adding in the experience of a well-traveled warrior. The cast also features Kelly Hu, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Isaacs and Henry Rollins perfectly matched to each character they voice. Each story flows seamlessly into the next, while simultaneously servicing the overall plot. It shows why the Lanterns are so important and special, while also making them grounded, down to Earth figures who go through the same problems and emotions as everyone else.
14 TEEN TITANS: THE JUDAS CONTRACT
It took some time, but the Teen Titans finally got their own movie where they were the main superhero team. What’s great about this one is it jumps right in with the team meeting Starfire for the first time, then saving her. Since we already met them in Justice League vs Teen Titans, there’s no need to go through the usual introductions. Brother Blood has developed a plan to steal the powers of the Titans and absorb them into himself. He employs Deathstroke to kidnap each member, and sadly, it turns out new member Terra is a spy for Slade and betrays the team.
A hero betraying their friends is hardly a new story, but placing it among the teenage crime fighters adds a new level of drama.
What continues to make the Titans so special is that they must navigate all the usual difficulties of other heroes while also dealing with all the nonsense of going through puberty. Despite the young age of the main characters, the film features some very adult, heartbreaking moments, which makes it more memorable than some of the other well-known adaptations. The film also perfectly plays into the Titans strength of blending comedy and drama. Not every comic book project knows the exact time to lighten things up with a joke and then when to make us cry our eyes out. It’s something Teen Titans has always done extremely well, both in comics and on-screen.
13 JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM
It’s no secret that Batman has trust issues. He’s also is a little discriminatory against people with powers. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that he had contingency plans ready in case his Justice League cohorts went rogue and began using their powers for nefarious purposes. None of them are overly complicated, the brilliance is in the simplicity of him getting the others to actually use their abilities against themselves. Unfortunately, Vandal Savage has the Batcomputer hacked and steals the plans, adjusting them to be lethal. It’s very telling that his first step is to take out Batman before simultaneously attacking all the others. This says that he knows Batman is the biggest threat in the Justice League.
Naturally, Batman escapes, then with Cyborg’s help, has all the answers for how to counteract his plans. While it’s true the story doesn’t paint Bruce in the best light, it also shows that he is willing to do whatever it takes to protect the world, even if that means taking down his friends. With the original voice cast from the Justice League animated series returning, everything feels even more personal, as we have spent years getting to know these specific versions of the team. Perhaps, the one flaw in Batman’s meticulous plan is, would he really leave his contingencies easily accessed on the Batcomputer? Wouldn’t he put them in a vault someplace where only he and Alfred could find them?
12 BATMAN: YEAR ONE
After Batman Begins hit the big screen, there was more interest in how Bruce Wayne went from orphaned trust fund kid to The Dark Knight. Batman: Year One tells the story of his early successes and failures in an extremely corrupt Gotham. He actually starts without a costume, but soon realizes he needs something more to intimidate criminals. At the same time, Lieutenant Gordon has just moved to Gotham and is figuring out deep the city’s corruption really is. Though it’s a Batman movie, it also serves as an origin for Gordon. Batman goes up against the police department, mobsters and a jealous Catwoman as he establishes himself as the people’s protector.
Despite some liberties it takes with a few characters, it’s a very enjoyable Batman story.
We’re not sure we would buy future Gotham star Benjamin McKenzie as an older, more experienced Bruce Wayne, but as a hero who’s still learning the ropes, he works. The real highlight here is Bryan Cranston as Gordon, someone we wouldn’t mind seeing him play in the real world. The film’s one major flaw is it’s 64-minute run time. The movie is so short that just as viewers are really getting into the action, the credits roll and it’s over.
11 BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
For many Batman fans Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is the seminal Batman story. It follows an older Batman who gets bored with retirement and returns to his hero life. Of course, now he’s 55, so it’s not as easy as it used to be. In one of his first nights back, he saves a young girl named Carrie Kelley, and she becomes the new Robin. As he defeats Harvey Dent and The Joker for a final time, outside forces push he and Superman into one last fight. The story has been the basis for different adaptations including an animated film that was broken into two parts.
Part one covers his return and battle with new gang The Mutants and Dent. Peter Weller is great as a Batman frustrated with the one thing he can’t beat: old age. Ariel Winter shines as an eager, enthusiastic Carrie Kelley and Michael Emerson is a very creepy Joker. Whether you’re a fan of the comic or not, you can’t deny how authentic this adaptation is. Splitting it in two parts allows every aspect of the plot to breathe. Batman’s final confrontation with Superman is given the time it deserves. Nothing gets cut, because there’s plenty of time for Bruce’s entire arc. If there’s one negative, it’s Superman. This clearly isn’t the best version of the Man of Steel, but then again this is a Batman story, so it’s not like we’re supposed to really like this Superman.
10 SUICIDE SQUAD: HELL TO PAY
There’s always been something fascinating about the Suicide Squad. Though it’s only ever Bruce and Oliver who talk about what could happen if these powered beings decide to stop saving people and use their powers to take over, we know some of the other non-powered heroes must be thinking it. Amanda Waller starts Task Force X as her own private special team, as well as, an insurance policy in case the Justice League goes rogue. Of course, the missions she sends them on aren’t exactly easy or legit, hence the name. She even likes to use them for her own personal missions, that only she gains from.
In Hell to Pay, the indomitable Amanda Waller discovers she only has six months to live and sends the Squad after a “Get Out of Hell Free” card.
Knowing all the things she’s done for both selfish and noble reasons, she doesn’t doubt which way she’s headed. What works so well this time around is how unapologetically unforgiving Waller is. She blows up several team members without hesitation. It’s an aspect of her personality that ratings don’t always permit filmmakers to show. The film also mixes in the expected humor of the Suicide Squad with a spiritual understanding that all these characters have for the consequences of their choices. And the absolute highlight of the movie is definitely Christian Slater as Deadshot -- here’s hoping he becomes a regular member of the DC voice cast.
9 SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES
There’s something endlessly fascinating about the relationship between Batman and Superman. Despite their different views on how to fight crime, they seem to trust each other implicitly. Batman is the only person Superman would trust with a Kryptonite bullet, knowing he won’t hesitate to use it if Superman ever completely loses control. In Public Enemies, it’s truly them against the world as President Luthor has framed Superman for murder and placed a giant bounty on their heads. They are even forced to fight their superhero friends working for the government.
At its core Public Enemies is basically a buddy road movie set in the DC Universe -- Superman and Batman are Butch and Sundance. We all know they’re going to expose Luthor and stop the meteor hurtling toward Earth, but it’s the journey of how they get there that makes it captivating. Within this universe, we get Batman stories, Superman stories and Justice League stories, but a straightforward Superman/Batman team up is the best part of the whole experience. Also, the heroes that show up aren’t the usual characters we see all the time. It was great to see Power Girl, Captain Atom and Black Lightning get a moment in the spotlight. Plus, it never hurts to put Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly together.
8 BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT
How do you take one of the world’s most famous heroes and make his story seem new again? Set it in Victorian Gotham, against the backdrop of the search for Jack the Ripper. As the infamous serial killer continues to terrorize the poor female citizens, Bruce Wayne secretly protects the underprivileged side of town as Batman. Even in the historical time period he still manages to use his various gadgets to run across rooftops and mysteriously disappear mid-conversation.
What makes this film so genius is that all the familiar faces are there, but they’re just slightly changed to suit the timeline.
For example, Harvey Dent is described as two different people when he drinks. Alfred takes in three resourceful pickpockets named Dickie, Jason and Timmy, and Hugo Strange is the demented doctor of Arkham Asylum. It’s also nice to know that in any time period, Bruce and Selina will find their way into each other’s lives. As a matter of fact, Selina was the highlight of the movie. She was everything we love about the character, smart, independent, feisty and brave. It’s a truly fascinating, new way to see The Dark Knight. We get all our favorite Batman moments, just in a new package. It was an exciting world to see Batman in and we hope there are more visits to this Gotham City.
7 JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS
Long time comic book fans are very familiar with the multiverse. While it’s always fun to visit alternate versions of our favorite characters, it can get frustratingly confusing. Crisis on Two Earths simplified things by only focusing on two parallel realities. On a different Earth the heroes and villains are reversed, with Lex Luthor and The Jester trying to save everyone from the evil Crime Syndicate. The Syndicate includes Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring and Johnny Quick. Not full opposites of our heroes, they definitely share some familiar characteristics.
When Luthor shows up asking for help to defeat the Syndicate, the Justice League heads to this bizarro Earth, where Superman easily beats his doppelganger. Following some back and forth confrontations, political maneuvering and a weird love story, the teams are forced to reach a tense truce to save all the Earths. This may be where things go a little sideways, with a lot of sciencey talk and Owlman using his existential crisis to kill everyone everywhere. Crisis on Two Earths delivers on a lot of “what if?” fun, but it also feels like two different movies stitched together. In the end we do get the answer to who would win in a fight between Batman and Batman.
6 JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
It took awhile but the DC animated movies finally got to the mystical side of the DC Universe by introducing John Constantine, Deadman, Swamp Thing, Etrigan and Zatanna. In Justice League Dark, people are killing each other as they begin hallucinating demons everywhere. Stymied by this turn of events, Batman is convinced to seek out master of the mystical arts, John Constantine, once again played by Matt Ryan. Since he starred as the character in the titular NBC series, Ryan has become fans’ favorite version of Constantine, bringing him into the Arrowverse on Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and his own web series. He masterfully balances Constantine’s arrogance, guilt, flirty charm and reluctant hero complex. Here, he is a less cocky John, as he is forced to work with ex-girlfriend Zatanna.
As the group moves through the magical world trying to figure out what demon is responsible, each person’s strengths and weaknesses are highlighted.
Unlike some of DC’s other animated projects, this is a true ensemble piece. It is both a great love letter to fans of the Justice League Dark comics and a solid jumping on point for newcomers. Considering the questionable development state of the live action movie, this may be the best film adaptation of these characters for quite some time.
5 WONDER WOMAN
Early in its run, as the franchise was giving each major hero their own origin film, it made perfect sense that we got a Wonder Woman story. The self-titled movie focuses on Diana’s early years on Themyscira, training to become a great warrior. The Amazons, having previously defeated Ares in battle, are now tasked with guarding him from once again spreading his influence throughout humanity. Like many other Wonder Woman origins, Steve Trevor crash lands on Themyscira, leading to Diana being sent to the outside world with him. When we first meet Diana in the Justice League TV series, she has already been in the city for awhile and is settled in. It’s fascinating to see her at the beginning, still learning the ropes.
What the film does so well is establish Diana’s commitment to always doing what’s right. Yes, she makes mistakes, but her goal is always focused on the greater good. Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion are a fantastic combination and example of the chemistry between Steve and Diana. It’s also worth noting that this film doesn’t just follow Wonder Woman, it’s also an excellent introduction to the Amazons and their world. Simply put it’s just an extremely well told origin story.
4 JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX
Before its line wide relaunch dubbed The New 52, DC needed a clever way to reset its stories and characters. That came when Barry Allen decided to go back in time and stop his mother from being murdered. That one act had catastrophic results, leading to Flashpoint. In the new timeline, Thomas Wayne became a very brutal, fine with killing bad guys Batman, when his son was killed, with Martha going crazy and turning into The Joker. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are currently devastating the world with a massive war between the Amazons and Atlanteans. Europe was destroyed by Arthur’s forces, while Diana and the Amazons conquered Great Britain. Superman has been held captive by the US government his whole life, so obviously there’s no Justice League.
Though readers were skeptical about a giant reset of their favorite comics, Flashpoint was a thrilling story that saw the worst sides of our heroes take over.
It’s an emotionally tough film to get through, with heartbreaking losses at every turn, but it’s also among DC’s best as they really committed to the timeline. In the end, Barry must travel back and let his mother die, so that millions won’t. He’s also able to give Bruce a small connection to his father through a letter Thomas had given him. It’s one of those movies you watch over and over, so you can catch all the changes you may have missed during the previous viewings.
3 JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER
For the second film in its animated movie universe, DC went in a completely unexpected direction and set the film in the ‘50s. It’s a pretty straightforward origin of how the Justice League became a team. Every member is given a small portion of the story for their character to be highlighted. After years of watching them in animated TV series, it was immensely entertaining to see them in a new setting, facing new challenges. Earth is being attacked by a huge, psychic entity called The Centre. Each hero individually encounters The Centre before they all meet up in a big battle.
Seeing the film as an opportunity to make a splash, The New Frontier features an all-star voice cast that includes Kyle MacLachlan, Neil Patrick Harris, David Boreanaz, Jeremy Sisto, Miguel Ferrer, Lucy Lawless and Keith David. Having all these actors together on a superhero project makes it feel extra special, like a one time only event. The animation used matches the ‘50s time period and looks like a comic book come to life. It was a huge risk for DC to do something so different from what they normally did, but it paid off, since The New Frontier is a classic.
2 ALL-STAR SUPERMAN
Superman is indestructible. We’ve been told for years the only thing that can harm him is Kryptonite, so imagine our surprise when Grant Morrison gave us the heartbreaking and unexpected All-Star Superman. Lex Luthor manipulates an experiment with sun so that Superman, in saving the scientists, is exposed to too much solar radiation and only has a year to live. It draws the audience in on so many levels. What would you do with a year to live? Who would you tell? How do you want to go out? For Superman, the answers to those questions are saving the world and spending time with the woman he loves.
Throughout the film, we can feel that Clark never loses sight of his coming end date, but at the same time, he doesn’t let it rule him.
The brilliant Dwayne McDuffie somehow improves on Morrison’s already excellent story. In the movie, we get to understand Luthor’s real motivation for hating Superman so much. Though we’ve always known jealousy was a major factor, there’s an even deeper insecurity about his male pride. He’s threatened by Superman’s natural gifts, as well as, the fact that he uses them to help people instead of dominating them. This movie is as close to perfect as a superhero adaptation can get.
1 BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD
In the long history of Batman stories, one stands as his worst moment. The Joker kidnaps Jason Todd/Robin, and when Bruce is unable to save him in time, Joker beats Jason to death with a crowbar, (though in the movie, it’s changed to a bomb). Batman never truly recovers from the event and it informs many of his future decisions. The storyline was the result of fans not liking Jason Todd as the new Robin and choosing through a phone vote for him to be killed off. In a stroke of brilliance, Jason Todd comes back as anti-hero Red Hood. He rejoins the Bat Family and becomes very popular the second time around. Under the Red Hood follows Jason’s return to Gotham and revenge plot against Batman.
In addition to dealing with Batman’s guilt over not saving Jason, the film poses an important Batman question. Why doesn’t he just kill The Joker? Considering how often Joker escapes from Arkham, causing more death and destruction, wouldn’t the world be a better place if he just killed Joker? Batman explains to Jason that it would be too easy for him to go down that road. Once he starts killing, he’s not sure if he’d be able to stop. Of all the DC animated Batman movies it’s the best, and frankly, is better than a few of the live action adaptations.