DC Extended Universe Movies, Ranked: The DC Extended Universe is perhaps the only franchise that can compare to Marvel, not just in Hollywood but across global film industries. Disney has created such a monstrous cash cow in Marvel’s shape that hopes of Hollywood hinge on its success. The DCEU, however, is notably different from Marvel. It employs a different storytelling approach and has starker narrative elements. The characters are like the netherworld twins of their Marvel counterparts. And more importantly, the movies amount to more than just commercial chest-thumping heroics. This article, however, is not about a comparison of the two.
While we are at DC vs. MCU films, do read on Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Phase 4: What Went Wrong (and Right)?
Warner Bros. started the franchise in 2013 after Green Lantern’s disaster at the box office almost shelved the entire project. But in hindsight, one can be glad they stuck to creating the extended universe. The franchise, as a whole, is now 12 films strong, and the thirteenth, Shazam! Fury of the Gods was released on 17th March ’23. Overall, the results have been mixed critically and commercially, but the DC Extended Universe is still Marvel’s number one nemesis. We have made this list as a ranking of all movies in the DC Extended Universe. It includes all the films except the one that was released recently. Hope you have fun reading this one!
12. Justice League (2017)
Every contra call on Snyder’s uncut version is why the original Justice League did not work. The two films are completely different in substance and style. The reason behind that is apparent. The 2017 version is a studio film and cuts out the passionate take of the filmmaker on the saga in the comics. Steppenwolf’s one-dimensional portrayal is the starkest individual change seen in the uncut version. His characterization and that of others like Flash and Cyborg befuddled everyone. It just did not make sense looking at the film. Justice League came across as confused and reeking of studio meddling that completely derailed the project. Thankfully we had the Snyder uncut release to salvage some pride for WB!
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11. Aquaman (2018)
We all knew a bit too much about Aquaman by the time Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial ended late last year. The actress has been replaced in the upcoming Aquaman. But that does not make any difference for fans who truly hate the character. Let’s be honest; there are characters in every franchise you’d rather not have. Some examples are ant-Man and Hawk Eye from Avengers, Peeta Mallerk from Hunger Games, and Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. Aquaman is that to the DCEU.
The 2018 movie, directed by James Wan, felt like several different people directed it. The tonal inconsistencies in forging action sequences and handling drama were too glaring to miss. Moreover, characters getting interrupted by explosions and unnecessary pans of the camera to aggrandize a moment were the most annoying creative choices in the film. Jason Momoa looked the part, and his rendition of Arthur Curry was impressionable.
However, one could not care too much for the sappy special effects, especially underwater. They diminished the film’s appeal and made the thing a little unconvincing. To quote Raj Koothrapali from Big Bang Theory, “I don’t want to be Aquaman. He sucks; he sucks underwater. He sucks fish pee.”
Also, Read – Every James Wan Film, Ranked
10. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a polarizing film that attempts to blend two of the most iconic superheroes in a single movie. Directed by Zack Snyder and starring Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman, the film presents a dark and gritty version of the DC Universe that is starkly different from its Marvel counterpart.
Its plot revolves around the escalating conflict between Batman and Superman, which culminates in a climactic battle that threatens to destroy the city. Along the way, the movie introduces several key characters from the DC Universe, including Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, and Doomsday.
Despite its ambitious scope and grandiose scale, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice falters in several key areas. The pacing of the film is uneven, with long stretches of exposition and slow-moving plot development that make the film feel bloated and overstuffed. The characterization of the two main heroes is also questionable, with Batman being portrayed as a brutal and ruthless vigilante, while Superman is often portrayed as brooding and conflicted.
One cannot find too many faults in the performances. Ben Affleck as Batman seemed really believable with Affleck’s beefed-up body and detached personality. He brings a sense of gravitas and intensity to the role that is reminiscent of Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns. Gal Gadot’s introduction as Wonder Woman is also a highlight, bringing a much-needed sense of energy and excitement to the film’s climactic battle.
9. Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Wonder Woman 1984 is a sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman and follows Diana Prince as she battles a new villain and grapples with the consequences of her choices. We move past the introductions swiftly to get on with the plot. Of course, there are mixed feelings about the substance happening the way it does. Pedro pascal’s Maxwell Lord is relatable. However, the character depiction is turned into a convoluted mess. While the movie has some impressive action sequences and solid performances from its cast, it is hampered by a bloated storyline, inconsistent pacing, and some questionable creative choices.
The sequel is bogged down by a convoluted storyline that feels unnecessarily long and meandering. The pacing is also inconsistent, with the movie alternating between moments of frenetic action and long stretches of exposition and character development.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Wonder Woman 1984 is the handling of its characters and themes. The film’s message about the dangers of greed and the importance of truth and honesty is heavy-handed and sometimes comes across as simplistic. Additionally, the treatment of certain characters, particularly Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah, feels rushed and underdeveloped, with their motivations and actions at times feeling muddled. You can read our review of Wonder Woman 1984, which says the movie falls way short of its predecessor.
8. Suicide Squad (2016)
There is a telling reason behind revamping David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. And when you see the movie, it is quite apparent. Despite having the more conventional tone of the two, the 2016 film lacked the personality of the comics. It was an attempt to “Marvel-wash” the project and make it formulaic. The film follows a group of imprisoned supervillains who are recruited by a government agency to undertake a dangerous mission in exchange for reduced sentences. The mission involves stopping a powerful entity known as the Enchantress from destroying the world.
While Suicide Squad had a lot of potential with its unique premise and talented cast, it fell short of meeting expectations. Obviously, the film suffers from several glaring plot holes and a disjointed plot that fails to give enough development to its numerous characters, leaving them feeling one-dimensional and underutilized. There seems to be confusion in creative choices and how to extract the most from the film’s action scenes. More often than not, the action-packed scenes interspersed with long exposition and dialogue periods seem unfit. They just do not go well together.
The Enchantress is one of the biggest disappointments. Her representation falls flat, with her motives and character not being well-defined, making it difficult for the audience to connect with her as a formidable antagonist. Additionally, Jared Leto’s portrayal of the Joker, which was heavily marketed leading up to the film’s release, is disappointing and feels like a caricature of the iconic character.
Despite its flaws, Suicide Squad does have its moments of entertainment. The film’s action sequences are visually stunning, and some of the characters, such as Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie), provide entertaining performances that add a bit of levity to the otherwise dark and serious plot. While it may be enjoyable for fans of the genre looking for mindless entertainment, it falls short of the high standards set by other superhero films in recent years.
7. Black Adam (2022)
Black Adam was DC’s first follow-up after Gunn’s Suicide Squad, and expectations were high. DC finally seemed to be ushering in an evolution of superhero movies. The focus beyond touching the fans of the franchise to making contemporary political statements was truly unique. But Black Adam gives up that differentiated part to fall back into the comforts of cliches and conventions. In Dwayne Johnson, the studio had the perfect actor to play the rather untalked antihero. Teth-Adam is a unique character without the regular good-guy vibes. Johnson’s likable persona should have been the defining instinct of the makers to marry Adam’s darkness.
But the project did not fully capitalize on that possibility. Even though, unlike most DC films, Black Adam embraces the formulaic approach made to win over modern audiences, it seemed wafer thin on paper. However, there is no shortage of entertainment in storytelling, something that must be credited to director Jaume Collet-Serra. Johnson is accomplished as Adam, and one does want to see him again after watching the film.
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6. Birds of Prey (2020)
Margot Robbie’s channeling of Quinn has become nearly iconic. Her crazy, chaotic mental energy made Quinn an instant fan favorite. Birds of Prey was Quinn’s experimental standalone adventure that turned out mostly positively. Barring a few negatives, like overzealously setting up the story for isolated set pieces and the inconsistent use of the comics, Birds of Prey stood up the litmus test with flying colors.
Overall, the movie is an entertaining and fast-paced adventure that showcases Harley Quinn’s signature brand of chaos and humor. Margot Robbie delivers an outstanding performance, fully embodying the character’s manic energy and irreverence. One of the film’s standout features is its visual style, with vibrant and colorful set pieces that perfectly match the frenetic tone of the movie. The action sequences are well-choreographed and exciting. The film’s soundtrack is a standout, featuring a mix of popular songs and original music.
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5. Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman is an exhilarating and visually stunning superhero film that succeeds in both honoring its source material and standing on its own as a powerful and inspiring story. Directed by Patty Jenkins, the film tells the origin story of Diana Prince (played by Gal Gadot), an Amazonian warrior who leaves her secluded island to stop the god of war, Ares, from spreading destruction during World War I.
Gadot delivers a fantastic performance as the titular character, imbuing her with both physical strength and emotional depth. She is a beacon of hope and determination in a world that is ravaged by war and cynicism. Chris Pine also shines as a charming and resourceful American spy, Steve Trevor. He helps Diana navigate the complexities of the human world.
The action scenes are masterfully choreographed and filmed with a thrilling and immersive quality that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The film also boasts a strong supporting cast, including Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, and Danny Huston.
Beyond its thrilling action and impressive visuals, Wonder Woman is also a film with a powerful message about the importance of compassion, courage, and selflessness. It is a feminist film that celebrates the strength and resilience of women without ever feeling preachy or heavy-handed.
Wonder Woman is a triumph of superhero filmmaking, combining thrilling action, stunning visuals, and a powerful message about hope and heroism. Eventually, it is a film that will leave you inspired and energized and one that stands as one of the best superhero movies of all time.
4. Man of Steel (2013)
Man of Steel was Henry Cavill’s first stint as Superman. Although he looked the part, many doubted if he could actually encapsulate the character’s complicated personality reflected in his tumultuous life journey. The franchise was being rebooted completely, and Cavill’s selection had to pay off. It definitely did, as Man of Steel launched the DCEU experiment with a bang.
The chemistry between the characters is palpable, and the emotional moments in the movie are genuinely affecting. Michael Shannon as Zod and Amy Adams as Lois Lane add a lot of bite to the cast. They are aptly cast, especially Adams, who lends Lane emotional vulnerability and makes her more than just a sidekick. Fans of the franchise have often singled out the depiction of Superman as too brooding and introspective. But Snyder’s choice plays to Cavill’s strength. Because of him, Snyder can make Man of Steel dark and serious, lacking the more lighthearted moments found in other superhero films.
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Overall, Man of Steel is an excellent film that successfully updates the Superman mythology for a modern audience. The action sequences are thrilling, and the visual effects are top-notch. Henry Cavill delivers an impressive performance as Clark Kent/Superman, bringing both strength and vulnerability to the role. He is really believable as the superhero, which is the first requisite for comic book fans.
3. Shazam! (2019)
Shazam and Adam’s storylines emanate from the same source material. The two can be viewed as a nemesis, but their cinematic adaptations are contrasting. Shazam! Did everything right that Black Adam did not. David Sandberg chose not to follow the visual palette of the DC universe. He incorporated romcom-like energy in the storytelling that really lightened up the mood whilst not losing the inherent darkness in the source material. This combination explosively brought the character to life. Its sequel is as good if early reviews are to be believed.
The story follows a young boy recently placed in foster care and searching for his mother. When he is granted the power to turn into an adult superhero (played by Zachary Levi), he uses his newfound abilities to have fun and fight crime. The movie is known for its blend of humor and heart and its ability to capture the joy and wish fulfillment that is inherent in the superhero genre.
Zachary Levi is excellent as the adult version of Billy/Shazam, bringing both humor and sincerity to the role. One of the standout features of the film is its sense of humor, which is both playful and self-aware. The movie is not afraid to poke fun at the superhero genre and has several memorable comedic moments that are sure to delight audiences.
At the same time, however, Shazam! also has a strong emotional core, with themes of family, friendship, and acceptance woven throughout the story. The movie is surprisingly poignant at times and does an excellent job of balancing the comedic and dramatic elements of the story. The tone is more lighthearted and family-friendly than some viewers may prefer, which could be a turn-off for those who prefer darker, grittier superhero films.
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2. The Suicide Squad (2021)
James Gunn’s iteration of Suicide Squad is one of the funniest movies in the DC lineup. One cannot simply go past that creative choice by not seeing it as a tactic to warm up the viewers using Marvel’s golden formula. The wickedly funnier tone and dialogue are visible. Gunn’s writing and characterization of the story lean toward a lighter vein. In fact, his specific use of Blackguard and Savant to that effect was genius. It immediately set the tone with the first landing scene on the beach, and from there on in, the cast, led by Margot Robbie, was allowed to show the way. Furthermore, The Suicide Squad boasts stellar technical visualizations as well. Special effects, CG, and even the stunts were executed brilliantly.
One thing that Gunn does not shy away from is representing violence in its raw, authentic shape from the source material while bringing his comic sensibilities to be self-deprecating. Gunn channels its brazen carelessness in a wildly entertaining fashion. Without much of a reference point for the story, each character flourishes in unique and dark ways in bringing out their respective emotional baggage. It feels like they are real comic book characters that amount to something.
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1. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
There was euphoria among DC fans and general moviegoers when it was revealed that Snyder’s uncut version would be released. The controversy took the majority of the focus as the director and the studio was embroiled in a tug-of-war. However, that was only until the release of the four-hour-odd-long version that stunned everyone. It was instantly lauded as a cinematic marvel and a true ode to comic books. Every character was seen in a new light. Snyder’s point of view was brutally cut out of the theatrical distribution, blurring his vision and tone.
The original Justice League never seemed cohesive. There were random moments in each of the characters’ arches that did not fully represent them authentically. Perhaps Steppenwolf’s transformation was the most exceptional outcome among all the beneficiaries. His enhanced screen time and genuine emotion completely turned around the dynamic of the battle between evil and good. In fact, it was the first time that we wanted to see a villain’s standalone movie to explore his origins after Thanos. Cyborg, Wonder Woman, and Flash were the biggest winners in Snyder’s version.
In his structure, the JL team actually came out to be comparable to Marvel’s Avengers. Their chemistry and the constant push and pull conjured up the Marvel magic that has titillated us for many years. One can appreciate Snyder’s understanding of the comics, which is why his version of the grand & glorious Justice League is our pick as the best film in the DCEU yet.
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Now that we have ranked every movie from DC Extended universe, it’s important to talk about the order in which one should watch the film for a better grasp of the interconnected narrative.
In What Order to Watch DC Extended Universe Movies
One of the most brilliant things about the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is that they are all interconnected, meaning that events from one story can have an impact on another. The plots of each of the films are tied up together. To follow the chain of events, you should watch these stories in the order in which their events occur.
The place you begin is the 2017 Wonder Woman. It is the oldest film in the universe in terms of the chronology of plots, taking place during World War I in 1918. As the name suggests, the next one is the sequel to the 2017 film, Wonder Woman 1984, set in the year 1984.
Post the pair, it is pretty much straightforward for the rest of the lineup. You can start with Man of Steel, which tells the story of Superman’s origins, and then move on to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which sees Batman and Superman face off. The next movie is Suicide Squad, where a group of villains is recruited by the government for a dangerous mission. The events of these movies culminate in Justice League, where Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and others team up to save the world. In our reckoning, skip the studio version and go for Snyder’s uncut version instead.
Following Justice League, there are standalone stories featuring other characters, including Aquaman, Shazam!, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), and The Suicide Squad. These movies can be watched in any order, as they are not directly connected to the main storyline of the DCEU. However, they still take place within the same universe and can provide additional context and depth to the world of DC superheroes.