It’s been ten years since Warner Bros. Animation premiered the DC animated universe with Superman Doomsday in 2007. However, years before that there were other projects that were dished out alongside critically acclaimed series like the Justice League, Emmy award-winning Batman the animated series, Young Justice (finally renewed!!) and so on.
With this year we got our first take of what’s to come in the animated verse with Justice League Dark and while DC’s movie verse or extended universe will continue to find its place with Wonder Woman in June, the animated universe has gotten off to a very strong start this year with Teen Titans : Judas Contract to follow next month.
There’s no doubt that one place…at least for now that Marvel isn’t close to DC is the animation field. Even if last year was pretty low on everything regarding DC movies really there’s still enough product in the coming years and this year to get excited for.
So, In celebrating a decade of the animated verse, here are 17 DC animated movies you should definitely see.
17. JUSTICE LEAGUE WAR (2014)
Justice League War came out as a direct adaptation of DC’s new 52 comic which launched in 2011. It featured Jason O’Mara as Batman who would then go on to be the unofficial heir to Kevin Conroy’s Batman if anything is to be made of the subsequent movies. Justin Kirk plays a brilliant Hal Jordan and Shemar Moore also stars as Cyborg.
The film does a good job of introducing the Justice League members to each other for the first time and bar Shazam and Cyborg, coincidentally the two members who have a special bond in the movie, it’s the same team from the 2001 series by DC wizard Bruce Timm unless of course you ignore the fact that it was John Stewart and not Hal Jordan in the original series.
Darkseid takes his part as the main villain along with his many parademons and in all honesty if you’re going to convince audiences that a team featuring DC’s trinity are going to face difficulties, Darkseid is your guy.
I now know better than to hope on a DCEU movie but one could only pray Zack Snyder’s JL movie is as good as this one or even better.
16. WONDER WOMAN (2009)
Wonder Woman has been a staple in DC comic history for almost around the same time as Batman and Superman have been but to date this has been her only solo outing on-screen with her movie debut starring Gal Gadot set to be released this summer. It’s impossible to understand why she’s been given such little exposure. There’s a criminal reason some might give saying it is down to her lack of villains or she’s not just as marketable but that’s not true; if anything this movie disproves that thesis. I mean it also featured a kick-ass theme song at the end by none other than DC staple Christopher Drake whom I might add is also way under appreciated despite the many works he’s done for DC.
Wonder Woman follows the origin story of Diana Prince from when she was formed from clay up until her becoming the ambassador of Themyscira. With great talents on hand from Keri Russell (The Americans) voicing the Amazonian to Nathan Fillion (Castle) as Steve Trevor it’s one of the many reasons the movie did so well and guess what? Cheetah was not the villain and only made a cameo at the end rather it was Diana’s unofficial father Ares.
Wonder Woman is the example and idea all female heroines look to and it just goes to show you that despite so little exposure she’s still the first comic book female to get her own movie some eight years after the animated version.
15. JUSTICE LEAGUE : CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS (2010)
What happens when alternate versions of the Justice league meet the heroes we’ve come to know and this alternate versions are evil. Yeah. Chaos. Superman is Ultraman, Batman becomes Owlman, The Flash is Johnny Quick (possibly based on Jesse Quick) and so on. If you remember the episode is the Justice League series titled “Justice Lords” this is basically it except now Owlman has a sick plan to destroy every life on every planet.
His scene at the end of the movie with Batman is perfection. Two great minds pitting their views against themselves whilst tossing punches and kicks around. To be honest Batman had his arse handed to him in a manner I hadn’t witnessed before but all that was forgotten once Batman gave one of the best lines any other iteration of Batman had ever given both before this movie and after.
For a movie that featured Lex Luthor and Joker as good guys be it on another earth or not, this scene with Batman stole the show.
14. ALL -STAR SUPERMAN (2011)
This for me is the best Solo Superman story I’ve watched including Henry Cavill’s Man Of Steel and all of Christopher Reeve’s outings. James Denton is the perfect Clark/Superman from an adaptation of Grant Morrison’s comic of the same name.
After Superman is affected by solar radiation due to a trap set by Lex Luthor in space as Superman tries to save a team of scientists, he is doomed for death due to overexposure of the radiation but he gains new powers in the process of course because of the sun. When he gets back to earth he realises how much little time he has left and decides to spend it doing the most important things. He writes an article on the trap by Luthor which puts him on death row and reveals his identity to Lois. He brings Lois to the fortress of solitude and grants a serum which gives her powers for 24 hours as a birthday gift.
Luthor steals the serum from the fortress via reconfiguring one of Superman’s robots. The scene at the end where Luthor’s powers begin to wane and he starts seeing atoms is one of the best in the DCAU. Then Superman begins to die with rays of sun emanating from his body, he holds Lois and tells her he loves her before flying away. SO. MUCH. FEELS. Lois doesn’t go to Superman’s burial as she believes he isn’t dead telling Jimmy “he isn’t dead he’s fixing the sun” which we see Superman doing que Christopher Drake amazing closing theme.
13. SUPERMAN VS. THE ELITE (2012)
While on the topic of Superman, it’s best we look at another strong outing of his. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why Warner Bros. are yet to deliver movies about Superman on the same level the animated versions have done.
The movie was based on Joe Kelly’s “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & The American Way?” and presents a question to the man of steel. Why keep saving criminal’s life when they’re just going to come back again to kill, steal and harm lives? Superman will not be moved though, he simply stands by the code he’s always lived by…violence is not the way.
The Elite team was led by Manchester Black and his process of taking lives from evil-doers was met with open arms from the general public who have gotten tired of having their lives torn apart by the same villains Superman supposedly dealt with. One can’t blame them though. Manchester Black and his team challenge Superman to a duel. Like a “winner becomes protector of the world kind of thing.” The duel is screened live. Superman takes the advantage and pretends to kill all the members of The Elite safe for Manchester Black who he bullies basically and later reveals to him that his team his safe. The experience of seeing Superman turn to a killer reverts everyone’s view on taking a life and brings back peace to Metropolis.
12. SON OF BATMAN (2014)
Based on Grant Morrison’s “Batman and Son” the film follows Talia al Ghul (Morena Baccarin) as she leaves a league of assassins base after the attack and assassination of her father Ra’s al Ghul (Gincarlo Esposito) by Deathstroke (Thomas Gibson) to present Bruce Wayne with his son Damian (Stuart Allen). Jason O’mara also reprises his role from Justice League War.
The movie introduces Damian to the DCAU and he gone on to star in four more movies to date including Teen Titans : Judas Contract which is due next month. The dynamics between Batman and Damian makes for good entertainment while the first interaction between Batman’s adopted son Nightwing and his real one is another highlight of the movie. Thomas Gibson’s Deathstroke was one of the weak points of the film as was the animation of the same character.
11. BATMAN BEYOND : RETURN OF THE JOKER (2000)
Set in the continuity of the series “Batman Beyond”. It follows the adventures of Terry McGinnis as he’s caught in between more than a half century year old feud between the Dark Knight and the Joker. Bruce Wayne now over 70 years of age, has long retired from the cape and cowl. To his surprise, Joker returns to crash his party. Literally. Looking fitter and younger than ever. McGinnis comes face to face with the man Bruce has spoken about more times than any other villain he faced during his time as Batman.
Batman forbids McGinnis from going after Joker because of a horrible incident that happened during his younger years where Tim Drake was a victim of Joker. Tim drake, with part of his insanity intact, kills Joker and Batman felt he cleansed him of all the Joker’s psychological damage. Turns out that the Joker was still within Tim all these years later, using his body at will.
The voice cast remained the same from the original series while Mark Hamill reprised his role as the Joker from The Batman Animated Series.
10. BATMAN : MASK OF PHANTASM (1993)
One of the many great Batman storylines over the past two decades. Mask of Phantasm as with the Batman animated series that premiered a year before this takes a neo-noir approach and is not affiliated with the series. In fact it’s a different origin story to that of Batman and the Joker. Conroy and Hamill both return while the movie introduces Andre Beaumont (Dana Delany) as Bruce Wayne’s love interest. One thing that didn’t change about Bruce’s Origin was the death of his parents as it’s when visiting his parent’s grave that he meets Andrea for the first time.
In the movie a mysterious figure has been killing crime bosses all over Gotham so Batman obviously has to stop him because there can’t be two freaks doing good for Gotham. Andrea and her father, shown in a flashback escape Gotham ten years ago because her father, involved with the mob stole money from them. He’s killed soon after. It’s now revealed that Andrea is indeed the Masked Phantom and is back killing off each mobster involved with her dad, Joker being the last of them who is the presumed trigger man responsible for killing her father.
The movie, though very good is mostly remembered for one of Mark Hamill’s best Joker laughs.
9. JUSTICE LEAGUE : DOOM (2012)
A loose adaptation on the comic “JLA:Tower of Babel” featuring Batman as the protagonist/antagonist of the plot depending on how you view his motives. Batman has set in place contingency plans detailing every JL member’s weakness should any of them turn rogue. Mirror Master sneaks into the Bat-cave and steals them, creating the Legion Of Doom in the process led by Vandal Savage.
After Batman rescues himself and the team from sudden death due to him also having plans to stop his plans, a meeting to decide whether he should continue as a member of the league is held, to which he decides to remove himself as a member because if the JL can’t see the potential for an out of control Justice League, then he doesn’t see the point of fighting by their side.
This movie is very sentimental mainly because the cast from the original Justice League series reprised their roles except for Hawkgirl and Green Lantern ( Hal Jordan was chosen instead in place of John Stewart).
8. SUPERMAN/BATMAN : APOCALYPSE (2010)
Whenever the word “Apocalypse” comes up it could only mean one thing. Darkseid. The ruthless tyrant of Apokolips features heavily here and despite the title of the movie, both characters are relegated to supporting characters to enable Supergirl a chance at the spotlight. Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy and Susan Eisenberg reprise their roles from the Justice League series.
Supergirl lands on earth and Batman (of course) learns of what she is and brings her to Clark who decides to look after her but Wonder Woman intervenes and decides it’s best to bring her to Themyscira were her skills can be properly trained. Darkseid kidnaps her feeling she can indeed lead the female furies. Batman confronts Darkseid to release her less he blow up the entire Apokolips. Darkseid agrees and she’s released to Superman. They arrive on earth and surprise surprise…Darkseid awaits them at Kent farm.
The fight that followed between the three of them is one of the best the DCAU has put together.
7. SUPERMAN/ SHAZAM! : THE RETURN OF BLACK ADAM (2010)
Another character massively underused with this being his only appearance in the DCAU so far unless you count the Injustice game, which we aren’t is Black Adam. Arnold Vosloo is magnificent as Black Adam and were it not for Dwayne Johnson being cast, he wouldn’t have been a bad choice for the slave turned anti-hero.
Just under thirty minutes, the short movie is ironically the longest in the DC showcase archives. It utilises it’s time to full effect detailing Billy Batson’s journey from orphan to one of the oldest DC heroes.
When the Shazam movie comes out in two years time, this movie won’t be a bad idea to borrow from especially in the case of pairing Henry Cavill’s Superman with whomever gets to play Shazam.
6. JUSTICE LEAGUE : FLASHPOINT PARADOX (2013)
An adaptation of the game-changing 2011 comic aptly titled “Flashpoint” written by Legendary DC chief Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert. Like the comics, it shows how quickly (no pun intended) things can change when The Flash is involved. Barry Allen decides to go back to a time before his mother was killed and everything changed forever. In the new timeline, Barry was never The Flash, Bruce Wayne was the one shot in the alley and his mother went crazy from the incident and in fact became that world’s version of Harley Quinn. Thomas Wayne because of the tragedy became Batman. There was world war between Themyscira and Atlantis and so on.
It’s one of DC’s more mature films in the animated universe mostly because of the topics being discussed and of the violent graphics showed. The question is if you had the choice to repair the damage done to you, mistakes you’ve made, lives lost; will you take it?
The CW’s Flash tried and failed to do something similar which would’ve better been left untouched. Simply because they don’t have the same depth in character as Wonder Woman, Superman or Batman they therefore can’t draw the same emotional punch The Flashpoint Paradox did.
(5). THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PART 1 (2011) & (4). PART 2 (2012)
When I remember this movie I always realise Batman V Superman was like a very poor Fan Film dedicated to Frank Miller. The real adaptation however is the one that first dropped in 2011 and then the second part in 2012. This movie emphasises exactly how to execute a comic book adaptation. It had heart, craft and most importantly a reason for the two greatest heroes to come to blows.
Peter Weller plays the grizzled Dark Knight who is well into retirement and in his fifties. It won’t be fair to say he was the best part of the movie but it’s hard not to. Michael Emerson’s Joker is not the best Joker you’d see but he was equally as terrifying and as chilling…everything we’ve come to expect from The Joker. We also see an aged Selina Kyle who now runs an escort business and also an older Lana Lang who debates for Batman’s return.
The final battle between Superman and Batman is exactly what I expected from BvS or at least Bruce’s final words to Clark. The movie was highly acclaimed and of course featured a kick-ass track from Christopher Drake.
3. BATMAN : ASSAULT ON ARKHAM (2014)
Sigh. You just wonder don’t you? You just sit down, hands in head and wonder why DC don’t follow their animated blueprints. Assault on Arkham was everything and I mean everything Suicide Squad tried and horribly failed to be. From Troy Baker voicing Joker, to the inclusion of Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale) and King Shark (John Dimaggio) amongst regulars like Harley, Deadshot and Captain Boomerang. Everything was spot on and even C.C.H Pounder returned as Amander “The Wall” Waller from the Justice League Animated Series.
The style and direction were decisive in making the movie what it was. Adult oriented was also the way to go if you have a group of some of DC’s best baddies on a mission as a “team”. The scene Batman fights all of the squad members is something I was hoping to see in last year’s movie. The interaction and confrontations between the villains was always great to watch because how real and necessary it felt.
If Mel Gibson does indeed agree to direct the Suicide Squad sequel, I’m hoping the movie distances itself from the first one, is rated R and Gibson does what David Ayer failed to and use this movie as a blueprint.
2. JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK (2017)
In August last year it was announced that Doug Liman will direct a live screen adaptation of the comic book material. Incidentally, a Justice League Dark animated movie was released in early February this year. Okay, I don’t need to explain yet again what Warner Bros. are trying to do but won’t eventually. I honestly had no expectations for this release given that last year was terrible all round for DC films except Batman : Bad Blood and Teen Titans vs. Justice League which were fairly okay. To my surprise it was a great movie and the DCAU’s best since Assault on Arkham.
Matt Ryan voiced the role of Constantine a part he played in the live action, now cancelled NBC series and also a cameo appearance on the fourth season of CW’s Arrow. Camilla Luddington who also voices Lara Croft on Tomb Raider since the 2013 reboot plays Zatanna. I must say if you had told me last year that Zatanna was more powerful than Dr.Fate I would have shut you down immediately but after this movie I don’t see why she can’t be. Etrigan excelled and Swamp thing even as little as he appeared was brilliant and Deadman showed just how crucial and vital he can be.
The Justice League are faced with a crisis that are well beyond their skill set. Magic. Something Superman knows plenty of. So Batman recruits a team even if he doesn’t, for some reason believe in it. The way this movie establishes magic and shows its importance to the Justice League, it’d be a surprise if this is the last we see of them in the DCAU.
1. BATMAN : UNDER THE RED HOOD (2010)
The movie to beat. The definitive Batman story and the perfect exhibit of why Batman is Batman and why Joker is Joker. An adaptation of Judd Winick’s “Under the Hood” and Jim Starling’s “A Death in the Family”. Another perfect example of adaptation and perfect writing and casting. Bruce Greenwood plays Batman, John Dimaggio plays Joker with Jensen Ackles voicing Jason Todd/Red Hood and Wade Williams as Black Mask.
Joker kills Jason Todd by brutally beating and killing him with a crowbar whilst setting of a bomb in the locked warehouse that the beating occurred leaving a tied up Jason with nowhere to run. Years later Jason returns via the aid of the Lazarus pit as Joker’s old identity the Red Hood albeit in a more modern fashion. He’s only request is that Batman kill the Joker simply because he killed him.
The dynamics, acting and setting makes for a perfect movie that nothing could have been done differently. The final fight between Jason and Batman is so perfect because of the emotional impact. Just perfect from the first scene to the last. Then that soundtrack from….you guessed it Christopher Drake.
Well there it is. There’s been 27 movies since 2007’s Superman : Doomsday up until 2017’s Justice League Dark. I included two movies from before that time as I feel they still fall under the animated verse.
In all let me know what you think in the comments. Which movie would you remove from this list. Which would you add? Also this list is just a list regardless of where a movie is placed.
**Fun Fact : Jay Oliva, Sam Liu & Lauren Montgomery have directed 17 of the 27 movies DC have released since 2007.