The Justice League are the most feared superheroes in the DC Universe. Comprising of every kind of hero in terms of power attributes will get you this reputation, and it takes only special circumstances to have the Justice League be beaten.
However, they have been brought down quite a few times, and the circumstances behind these defeats were truly epic in proportion. Since most of these lists have comic book stories that are hard to find, we’ve placed heavy emphasis on the animated and live-action Justice League offerings so you can go out and watch these greatest Justice League defeats and how they overcame them. There are some comic book moments mentioned too, in case you feel adventurous to go on the hunt for these issues.
10 The Justice Lords
What would happen if the Justice League usurped authority and became the authority themselves? We would get the Justice Lords. In this story, the death of Flash prompted the Justice League to initiate a totalitarian regime in the world - that is, the alternate world they belonged to.
The Justice Lords then traveled to the main universe, where they tricked the Justice League we know to enter the alternate reality, and proceeded to stomp them in one swift attack. The League had no answer to the Justice Lords’ electricity-based attack, and were then all imprisoned at the Lords’ base, with the bad guys entering the main universe to take over. It took cutting a deal with Lex Luthor for the Justice League to have a shot at beating the Justice Lords.
9 Blackest Night
In this story, numerous deceased superheroes were brought life in a living nightmare, as the revived heroes came back as zombies. The Black Lanterns took over the world with its undead members looking to assimilate others into becoming Black Lanterns as well.
The Black Lantern rings corrupted whoever came in contact with them, and left only the Green Lanterns and the Flash to outrun this corruption. It goes without saying that the Justice League wasn’t there anymore, and the responsibility of saving the world fell onto the heroes that still remained in small numbers.
8 Brainiac/Lex Luthor's Emergence
This storyline was stretched out through the entirety of the second season of Justice League Unlimited, where Luthor ran for president and initiated a conflict between the government and Superman over the latter’s supposed thirst for power. In the end, Brainiac was revealed to have been inhabiting Luthor, and they merged together to fight the League.
It actually didn’t turn out to be much of a fight, though, since the merged Luthor and Brainiac were far too powerful for the League’s members to take on. Before they knew it, every member was held in the antagonists’ clutches. Fortunately, that was the moment Flash tapped into the speed force, although the League’s defeat earlier on uncharacteristically swift.
7 Tower Of Babel
Batman’s contingency plans against his fellow members came back to haunt him in more ways than one, as his records detailing the weaknesses of all the superheroes fell in the hands of Ra’s al Ghul. The supervillain proceeded to totally shatter the Justice League by attacking their weak points.
This included the Martian Manhunter being burst into flames, Superman being overwhelmed by Red Kryptonite that overheated his senses, Green Lantern becoming blind, Aquaman left dehydrated, Wonder Woman trapped in a virtual reality, and the Flash suffering from constant seizures. A complete defeat of this magnitude was unprecedented; all through the plans made by one of their own.
6 Dystopian Future
A world without Superman would be a very unprotected place for sure. Superman is a symbol for hope, a constant good that never wavers; this was why his disappearance at the hands of Toyman left the world in tatters.
Superman was actually transported 30,000 years in the future, where he found out Vandal Savage had managed to capitalize on the “death” of Superman to take over the world. The Justice League’s end began with Batman’s murder by Deadshot, before everything toppled over. In the distant future, only Vandal Savage remained, cursed to wander the Earth he was responsible for killing the planet. Not even the Justice League could protect it. Fortunately, Superman time-traveled back to stop the younger Savage.
5 Emperor Joker
Mister Mxyzptlk is a character with reality-warping powers to such a degree that he can make the DC Universe look like something of a cartoon. Such powers are usually safely tucked away due to the character’s gullibility, but these were abused when the Joker managed to fool Mister Mxyzptlk into handing him his powers.
Now having powers that could end the universe, Joker dubbed himself as the emperor and obliterated everything for his pleasure. It was only Superman who was left from the League, as the Joker saw to it that the members were cartoonishly put away with no chance of fighting back. It was an astonishing work in a comic book, as we saw generally serious characters made to look like helpless fools.
4 Against Superman
By this point in the Justice League film Superman hadn’t been initiated into the team yet, making it a Justice League vs Superman contest. What we saw was the team getting their butts handed to them as Superman pulled no punches.
The disoriented Man of Steel perceived the superheroes as a threat, and reacted with extreme hostility. He would catch the Flash in the act when the speedster tried to apprehend him; Superman would also make short work of both Aquaman and Cyborg, before beating Wonder Woman in a show of strength. The exclamation point in this beatdown was when Superman picked Batman up and threw him away like yesterday’s trash.
3 Polluted Timeline
Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the Batman were sent in a time travel adventure where the antagonist ended up polluting the timestream so badly that the Justice League was wiped out in the future. Even the remaining members of the League in the future like Batman Beyond and Warhawk met their ends in this continuity.
Making matters worse was that the timeline being mangled also erased several heroes from existence, such as Wonder Woman who disappeared right in front of their eyes. It was a highly confusing story, and time had to be reversed completely in order to avoid making the bad future a permanent setting.
2 Final Crisis
In all of Darkseid’s stories, he is in pursuit of the Anti-life equation, a weapon that would enable him to control everything in the universe with no problems. Since the impact of this would be huge, DC has barely ever pulled the trigger on this plot; they finally did in “Final Crisis”.
Here, Darkseid succeeded in using the Anti-Life Equation and rendered all of Earth’s technology useless. He was overpowered to such an extent that no other being was left other than Superman. The Man of Steel then needed to use the wish-granting futuristic contraption called the Miracle Machine in order to wish all the deceased heroes (and by extension the Justice League) back into existence.
1 Secret Society And Personal Conflicts
Gorilla Grodd was responsible for orchestrating events in such a way that the Justice League weren’t cohesive as a unit, resulting in a highly embarrassing loss. This loss was more the League’s own fault than anything else, as chinks in their armor were present due to a lack of team mentality.
In the fight itself, every member was handily defeated thanks to Grodd’s tactics where the Secret Society targeted the League’s weak sides; Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl were locked in personal one-upmanship; Batman was sour with Superman for interfering in his fights; and Green Lantern was too busy bossing everyone around. The result was a convincing defeat, the consequence of which saw the League disband temporarily with each member walking away.