After first trying to start a shared DC Comics cinematic universe with 2011's Green Lantern, the relative lack of success for that film led Warner Bros. to scratch its original plans and then try again with 2013's Man of Steel. That film did well enough that DC finally officially established its shared universe in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Warner Bros. quickly expanded the DCEU with Suicide Squad in 2016 and then Wonder Woman and Justice League in 2017. In just a matter of two years, the DCEU went from a single film to a large, dynamic universe of heroes and villains.
One of the things that has always separated DC Comics from Marvel has been the sheer power levels of its characters. The most popular Marvel heroes are characters like Spider-Man and Wolverine, certainly strong characters in their own right, but nowhere near the levels of DC's top level heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman. With all of that might running around in the DCEU, we thought it would be interesting to take our best shot at ranking the various characters in the DCEU from weakest to strongest, with the weakest character still being stronger than any other normal human in the DCEU, like a Rick Flag, a Deadshot, a Joker or a Lex Luthor.
20 HARLEY QUINN
A tricky aspect of judging a few of these characters is that some of them only appear in a single film, so it is a bit difficult to get a great bead on just how strong a given character is when you don't have much to compare them against. This leads to one of the trickiest characters to judge -- Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad -- because it is not even truly evident if Harley Quinn has super powers at all.
In the DC Comics Universe, when Harley Quinn was transformed into her current self (with the pale skin and all), the same chemical combination also gave her super powers in terms of enhanced speed, strength and agility. That appears to be the case in the DCEU, as well, when we see Harley Quinn fall into the chemicals in her brief origin recap within Suicide Squad. However, it is never made explicit, so it might just be that she is simply a very well-trained and acrobatic fighter. In that case, she would be back in the "just normal humans" level. We think, though, that it is likely she is supposed to have some sort of enhanced abilities, hence her just cracking the bottom of the list.
When it comes to power levels, few comic book characters are as enigmatic as Batman. He is technically "just" a normal human being, whose superpower is that he is "super rich." The issue with that is that if he is just a normal human being, he would be pointless to include in these films, so obviously the comics and movies go out of their way to show just how tough Batman can be as an opponent.
Naturally, since he has a lot of money, that wealth goes into the development of things like special armor that helps level the playing field between Batman and naturally superpowered characters like Superman. It is worth noting, though, that Batman does not seem to use armored enhancements that often in the DCEU. It really was just that one fight against Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not only that, but since Batman is also meant to be older and in the twilight of his superhero career, he was shown to be surprisingly weak in Justice League often. So even though we respect Batman's ability to pull victories out of seemingly thin air, if we are ranking strength levels, he has to be just above the really normal characters like Rick Flag.
Remember how we noted that it was difficult gauging Harley Quinn's power levels from her sole film appearance? Well, take that uncertainty and triple it, and that's how unclear we are at the power levels of Deathstroke, who has literally only appeared in a single post-credits scene so far in the DCEU. However, we think that that one scene possibly does tell us a little bit about Deathstroke's power level, or at least enough to have him ranked higher than Batman.
You see, in the comic books, Deathstroke's deal is that he is sort of like the Captain America of the DC Universe, in the sense that he underwent experiments in the military that tapped into the human body's hidden potential. This was done, in part, by him being given access to the unused part of his brain, which doesn't necessarily make any sense, but it sounds cool, right? In any event, he has enhanced abilities, making him slightly stronger than even a peak human like Batman. In addition, Deathstroke's presence in the post-credits scene is likely tied to him being the main villain in Batman's next film, and it doesn't make sense for Batman's main villain to be weaker than him. Where is the challenge in that? So, we think that Deathstroke is slightly ahead of Batman on the strength rankings.
A downside of ranking a list in terms of who is the "strongest," is that a character who is otherwise quite powerful might not be too high on the list if his/her abilities are only expressed through a superpower that does not have to do with strength. That is why Flash is relatively low on the list. Could speed lend itself to some form of super strength? Of course! We see it all the time on the Flash TV series.
However, in the DCEU films, so far, the Flash is presented as someone who is still new to this whole thing, so much of his battle strategy involves undertaking attacks that do not involve him having to be strong or a skilled fighter. The most powerful attack that we see from him is when he creates vortexes due to his super speed that toss his opponents around like they are rag dolls. That said, since he does have the capacity for using his speed powers in such a way that it could be like super-strength, we will still rank him higher than all the other "non-super strength" characters. It's a close call, though.
16 KILLER CROC
With Killer Croc, we have a much better idea of his power levels. In Suicide Squad, it is clear that Croc is a lot more than a guy with a terrible skin disorder. He clearly has super-strength and a limited sense of invulnerability. His tough skin can be shot and stabbed without incident. He survives the film, but it comes close when he detonates a large explosion that he is at the ground zero of after he swam a package of explosives underwater for an impressive stretch. This also showed his ability to hold his breath for a long time -- or perhaps actually breathe underwater?
Of course, Croc opens the film in prison, so it is clear that he was defeated at some point. The most likely culprit is Batman, since Killer Croc is a regular member of Batman's Rogues Gallery. Therefore, it is hard for us to rank him that much higher than a character like Batman, even if Batman's strength might come in a different area. It is very likely that it is an instance where Croc's strength puts him above Batman, but Batman is so much smarter and better at fighting than him that he is able to knock him out with a gas attack or superior fisticuffs. After all, the bigger they are...
We will see a lot more of Mera in the upcoming Aquaman film, but just what we saw of her in Justice League shows that she is a formidable opponent. Her biggest superpower is her ability to create constructs out of water, sort of like a Green Lantern ring, only with water. That opens up the question, then, of how do you define physical strength? What we mean is, if she creates a giant fist out of water and punches you, that would make her pretty darn strong, right? But does that count as physical strength for her? It probably does, but she is in a tough spot on the list where even with that advantage, she has nowhere to rise on the list.
Even without her water constructs, she is still very strong just by virtue of being an Atlantean. We could probably include "generic Atlantean" for a spot on the list, but since we barely saw any other Atlanteans in action, we decided to leave them off of the rankings as a general class. Maybe after Aquaman is released. For now, we would imagine Atlanteans in general would be slightly less strong than Mera, due to her hard water construct advantage.
14 EL DIABLO
At the start of Suicide Squad, you never would have guessed that El Diablo would end up ranked as high as he does on this list. In the early goings, all he really seemed to have going for him were his pyrokinetic powers. Those were certainly powerful in their own right, but they nominally do not have anything to do with super strength. However, we see that El Diablo is holding something back when he uses his powers. He is more than just fire. He hints at it in the film, noting, "See, when I get mad, I lose control. You know, I just... I don't know what I do... till it's done."
As it turned out, at a key point in the film, El Diablo has to lose control and his flame powers take hold of him and create a sort of flaming creature that has super-strength. He is able to hold Incubus down for a while. However, it is worth noting that he can only hold Incubus temporarily. His hold was breaking. Luckily, that gave the rest of the team enough time to set a package of explosives beneath where El Diablo was fighting Incubus and the explosion killed them both.
One of the major twists in Suicide Squad is the fact that the main villain in the movie just happens to be a member of their own team. Amanda Waller had been using the Enchantress for a while for missions before the witch managed to trick Waller and go rogue. This led to the formation of the full supervillain version of the Squad to go take her down, and, of course, eliminate the evidence of Waller's involvement in the operation.
It is difficult to gauge strength levels for a being whose main weapon is her magical spells, as she rarely gets close enough to people to see how strong she really is. She is weaker than her brother Incubus, but that still leaves her at a high level of strength. She was able to toy with the rest of the Squad, knocking them around at will. She also showed a great deal of near-invulnerability, as Deadshot's bullets and Harley Quinn's bat did nothing to her. Katana's magic sword did have some effect on her. Ultimately, though, her defeat came through magical means, not physical ones. Had the fight remained a physical one, Enchantress likely would have defeated the combined might of the Suicide Squad.
This a tricky entry, because it is clear that there are Amazons who are stronger than each other, but the difference seems to be rather gradual, so rather than list multiple Amazon warriors all back-to-back-to-back-to-back on the list, we are just going to give them a joint entry. The Amazons hold a strange place in the DCEU, in that they are clearly superhuman in their strength ability, but due to them being constantly compared to even stronger beings, they always look a bit less than they really are.
For instance, in Wonder Woman, Diana, a demigoddess, is out of their class, so it hides just how strong they are in the film. More importantly, they do an amazing job against the Parademon invaders in Justice League, but Steppenwolf is in a whole other class, so he made them look seemingly weak in comparison to his powers, which is unfortunate, because their abilities, which were gifts from the gods, are remarkable. Their battle against the German troops in Wonder Woman was a better measure of just how impressive they are as a fighting force. It will also be interesting when Aquaman comes out to see just how strong the Atlanteans are in general. Perhaps they have similar strength as the Amazons?
11 GREEN LANTERN
This entry goes back to the question of whether you credit Mera's hard water powers towards her having physical strength. Generally speaking, Green Lanterns are known for their strength as it is enhanced by their power rings instead of just their own bodies. Green Lanterns, though, gain even more physical strength from their rings than Mera does from her constructs, hence Green Lantern landing higher on the list.
The Green Lantern that we saw in the actual Justice League, thus introducing the Green Lantern Corps into the DCEU following 2011's ill-fated Green Lantern, was Yalan Gur. He actually was the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, Earth's sector, at the time of Steppenwolf's ancient invasion of Earth, so that makes perfect sense, timeline wise. Gur was an alien who broke from the Green Lantern Corps and at one point was the reason for the original weakness of wood in their rings. His ring later turned into the green meteor that gave Alan Scott his own Green Lantern ring. We only see Gur in the movie briefly in the flashback battle, but they later released some concept art for the character. Gur might have had some above human strength on his own, but most of his strength would be from the ring.
In Justice League, the key to Steppenwolf's attempts to terraform Earth into a version of Apokolips revolved around the three Mother Boxes that were left on Earth from Steppenwolf's previous invasion. The Mother Box is the technology of the New Gods and so it is more powerful than even Steppenwolf himself. Therefore, it is not surprising that when Dr. Silas Stone used the Mother Box on his injured son, Victor, to help heal him, it turned him into a powerful technological being known as Cyborg.
Throughout the movie, Cyborg's power levels change as his technology advances. It is possible that whatever Cyborg's strength level is at the end of Justice League, it might be even higher now. At the moment, though, he seems to be firmly planted as fourth on the Justice League in strength. We can see this from how different he and Aquaman fared against Steppenwolf. Cyborg was easily dismissed by Steppenwolf while Aquaman hung with the villain for a little bit longer. Cyborg was still strong enough to help Superman separate the Mother Boxes at the end of the film, although the effect of the separation ended up messing him up a good deal more than it did Superman.
One of the mysteries of the DCEU that will presumably be resolved in Aquaman is what, exactly, are the origins of Aquaman's powers. We know that he is the son of an Atlantean and a human, but it would be nice to have some confirmation that he was born like some sort of mutant. Otherwise, it seems strange that breeding with a less powerful being like a human would somehow result in a child who is significantly stronger than other Atlanteans. During Steppenwolf's invasion of Atlantis to retrieve the Mother Box they were guarding, the other Atlanteans were barely any resistance to him, but Aquaman really did slow him down.
Later, during the battle against Steppenwolf, Aquaman even succeeded in sending the invader flying from a blow. Therefore, Aquaman clearly has some tremendous strength, so it will be interesting to find out how that happened just from being born an Atlantean/human hybrid. Another sign of Aquaman's great strength is when he briefly even puts up a fight against Superman when Superman returns from the dead. One of the most fun examples of Aquaman's strength in Justice League is his jumping ability, which he uses to great effect in the battle with the Parademons at the end of the film -- he jumps from the top of the Batmobile into the sky to take on a bunch of Parademons.
When you start talking about underdeveloped characters, it is hard to get less developed than Incubus. He was one of the main villains in Suicide Squad despite barely being referenced on any cast lists after the film came out and being completely hidden from cast lists before the film was released. We know that he is the brother of Enchantress and that the two siblings were once worshiped as gods on Earth. However, it is confusing as to how the ancient Incas were able to capture them back in the day if they were so powerful. It just gets kind of hand waved away.
In any event, where Enchantress' abilities were more of the magical variety, Incubus' skills were physical. He was a lot stronger than his sister and it looked like he was going to use his brute strength to tear the Suicide Squad apart. Luckily for the team of villains, one of their less villainous members, El Diablo, revealed a super-strong fire version of himself that held Incubus down long enough for the explosives team to blow him up. Before he died, though, he was about to overpower El Diablo, showing how strong he was.
The problem with judging the power levels of Ares is that he is more of a cerebral villain than a physical one. His goal was to spread war on Earth and he did so by insinuating himself into the political workings of the "world of man" over the centuries and always slyly working against the pursuit of peace and instead pushing mankind to be more and more warlike. Along the way, he also helped them develop greater and greater weapons of mass destruction.
Not only that, but Ares' powers are also driven by violence. At his just standard level, he is quite powerful , as we saw at the end of Wonder Woman, when he let his human disguise be covered up by his actual god-like abilities and he gave Wonder Woman a dramatic fight. The issue, though, is that like the Hulk, he could become even stronger when he is powered by high levels of violence. This was clear in the flashback battle in Justice League, where he was nearly a match for Steppenwolf due to his power increase as a result of the "war of the gods." We will split the baby and have him slightly lower on the list than he would be if he was just powered by a "god war."
6 WONDER WOMAN
Despite there only being a handful of films so far in the DCEU, we have seen enough of Wonder Woman so far that we can pretty easily place her on the list. Part of this comes from the fact that she is so often compared to other characters in the film, thus giving us a perfect sense of where she ranks. The first example comes from her training with the Amazons. We have a sense of how strong the Amazons are, so when Wonder Woman takes her power dampeners off and goes at the rest of the Amazons, it is like a giant sparring with babies.
Later in her film, she also managed to overcome Ares. It is important to note that Ares was not at full strength, and, in fact, Wonder Woman's capacity for love likely specifically led to his violence-driven power being weakened, but it was still an impressive victory nonetheless. However, in Justice League, while she fared better against Steppenwolf than her comrades, she was clearly overmatched by his strength, providing a definitive sense of where she ranks in this category compared to that villain. The same goes for when Superman returns and goes insane. She hung with the Man of Steel better than others, but still not that well.
If a villain is expected to be the main bad guy against the Justice League, he is naturally going to have to be strong enough for it to be a real test, and Steppenwolf certainly lives up to that level. In the flashback sequence where we see how the Earth was able to defeat him in the past, it took a shocking level of cooperation between the Atlanteans, the Amazons, the Greek Gods and a Green Lantern to take Steppewnolf down in the past. Even as that took place, he still managed to kill the Green Lantern, Yalan Gur, in the battle.
In the present day, he is able to take on not just Wonder Woman, but Wonder Woman teamed up with Aquaman. They were the two most powerful members of the Justice League at the time, and he was able to defeat them both by himself. The scary thing about this is the idea that he is probably much less powerful than his lord, since he was here as a sort of advance guard ahead of the real powerful member of his family, his nephew Darkseid. However, since Darkseid did not appear in Justice League, we can't really count him as part of the DCEU just yet.
4 ZOD AND THE KRYPTONIANS
Like with the Amazons, it does not make sense to list each member of General Zod's Kryptonian army separately, as they are all presumably roughly at the same strength level of each other, with Zod perhaps slightly ahead of them all. Since they are Kryptonian, when they came to Earth, they had the same powers as Superman, which means that they were some of the most powerful beings on the planet. They were practically invulnerable and had staggering amounts of strength, which is shown by the sheer number of buildings that get destroyed in Metropolis during their attempt to terraform Earth to turn it into a new Krypton for them.
In the end, though, Zod was physically overpowered by Superman, so we have to rank Superman higher than all of them. A lot of this might have to do with their relative inexperience at having superpowers unlike Superman, who had been on Earth for practically his whole life, so he knew how to use his abilities more. Since they are also powered by the Earth's sun, it is also possible that Superman just absorbed more solar radiation that makes him slightly stronger than them. Whatever the reason, they are all not quite up to Superman's power levels.
Superman is from Krypton, which means that when he is near a red class M main-sequence star, like Krypton's son, Rao, he is a normal person, just like any human. When he is near a yellow G-type main-sequence star, like Earth's sun, however, he gains tremendous abilities that make him practically the strongest person on the planet. We first see just how strong he is when he was able to take on an entire group of Kryptonians in Man of Steel and not only not be killed by them, but hold them at bay until he can trap them within a singularity that the United States military helped to create. Along the way, he also killed General Zod.
Later, in Justice League, after he was resurrected following the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman is initially out of his mind and he attacked the Justice League and the powerful heroes had no hope of containing him. They had to use the love of his life, Lois Lane, to break through to him. Superman then teamed up with the heroes to defeat Steppenwolf and really, at times it appeared as though Superman could have done everything by himself, as he easily outclassed Steppenwolf in battle.
Now, you might be wondering, "Wait, if Superman is so darn strong, then why did the Justice League need to bring him back from the dead in the first place?" That is because Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice saw the Man of Steel challenged by something that not even he could defeat on his own. That "something" turned out to be a creature known as Doomsday. Doomsday was a result of Lex Luthor using an ancient ritual to bring General Zod back to life, but only as a mutated creature with more power than any Kryptonian ever had.
Doomsday was far too strong for just Superman to handle. Luckily, Superman had just discovered that he and Batman both had mothers named Martha, which made them instant best friends. So, Superman had the Dark Knight on his side, along with Wonder Woman, who had been retired for nearly a hundred years before being pulled out of retirement to take on the mighty Doomsday. In the end, even the three heroes fighting together were not enough to defeat Doomsday, so Superman had to use a kryptonite spear to kill him. Tragically, he could not get away from the spear himself, so he died alongside Doomsday.
It seems almost unfair to talk about Zeus here when we have established how powerful Doomsday is, since we did not really get the chance to see Zeus in action that much in the DCEU. However, what we did see showed that he was so strong that he was almost on a whole other plane of existence. For instance, remember how we talked about how Ares was super-charged from the "War of the gods" battle against Steppenwolf? That powered Ares up so much that he was able to kill all the other gods of Olympus. Even with that, Zeus was able to overpower him and force Ares to escape to Earth and live as a human to avoid Zeus' wrath.
In addition, when you look at how strong Wonder Woman is and you realize that most of that comes from the fact that Zeus is her father, it gets you to understand just how powerful he is to begin with, to give his daughter just a portion of his powers and see her become one of the most powerful beings on the planet. The only reason that Zeus died himself was that he sacrificed himself to create Themyscira, to protect his last living daughter, Wonder Woman, from Ares.