Much has changed since the beginning of the DCEU. Gone is Zack Snyder’s dour aesthetic for something very different, something that varies from movie to movie. As such, the DCEU now has a colorful, all-over-the-place library of films. Here are our rankings of every DC Extended Universe movie put to screen thus far.
Note: Joker is not considered as part of the DCEU. Rather, its own entity. (Or, part of the rumored DC Black, Warner Bros.’ offshoot of DC Comics movies that will explore darker, more experimental material.)
#8: Suicide Squad (2016)
Suicide Squad‘s production schedule had a ton of studio interference, and the final product clearly shows that.
Suicide Squad had the tough job of introducing many new characters that have never been seen on screen in live-action such as Deadshot and Harley Quinn. While those two characters add a lot of fun to the mix, most of the other characters are hollow cardboard cutouts or racial stereotypes.
The story is another issue altogether as it hardly works as a cohesive unit most likely due to the extensive reshoots on the film. With horrendous editing and no sense of vision, one could make the argument that this is the worst blockbuster of the 2010s.
Honestly, Suicide Squad acts more like a music video for a subpar New Metal band than an actual movie.
*To read the site’s full review of Suicide Squad, please click here.
#7: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Considered by many to be their most anticipated film of all-time before its release, Batman V Superman was vastly underwhelming. Although the film also incurred studio interference, the vision behind the film was also a bit flawed.
The film’s run time is bloated to about two and half hours, and approximately an hour and a half of that time is spent discussing arbitrary traits of gods that you learn in your freshman-year philosophy class from a disillusioned professor that still believes he’s on the verge of writing the next great American novel.
At least Ben Affleck was pretty awesome as Batman. The warehouse scene is the best piece of Batman action that has been on the big screen, and it’ll probably stay that way for a while.
*To read the site’s full review of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, please click here.
#6: Justice League (2017)
We all know the story behind Justice League by now. Radically restructured after negative backlash to BvS, Justice League feels exactly like what it is: a Zack Snyder movie repurposed as a Joss Whedon joint. The characters look odd as they CGI-move around a digitally brightened CGI backdrop to fight a CGI villain with a CGI MacGuffin. (Seriously, the amount of obvious CGI immediately dates the movie to around 2004.) All the initial bite of Snyder’s vision — though probably misguided — is lost for some hit-or-miss quip work by Whedon. Justice League is a facsimile of a Marvel movie in that way.
Still, Justice League removed all of the baggage and pretentiousness from the previous DC Extended Universe films. It moves at an overly brisk pace that feels like a breath of fresh air. (A dark tone is perfectly fine, but when it’s continuously punishing with nothing behind it, it becomes a problem.)
He has a jello mouth as a result of a CGI removal of his mustache that he was preparing for Mission: Impossible – Fallout, but Henry Cavill as Superman is nothing short of perfect in the time he gets. The same goes for the rest of the embodiments of these fun characters. I left the theater hoping that this crew of actors gets to stick around for a few more films.
*To read the site’s full review of Justice League, please click here.
#5: Aquaman (2018)
Aquaman feels closer to an 80’s cartoon in how it strives to become the ultimate popcorn flick. James Wan is going absolutely nuts with the visuals in this film; it’s easily the most visually interesting DCEU film to date with its uses of bright, flashy colors and eye-popping settings. Like every other Wan film, the camera zooms and zips through, across, and into the action without ever feeling obnoxious or tiring. Aquaman easily contains the best group of action set pieces in the DCEU library so far.
What holds Aquaman back from becoming an overwhelming sensation from a critical perspective is its inability to break away from the typical superhero storytelling formula. It’s scared to take chances and be bold on a thematic level, to move beyond what so many other superhero films have done and create something different. All character elements are tired and uninspired.
When a movie has a Pitbull cover of a Toto song, something went wrong.
*To read the site’s full review of Aquaman, please click here.
#4: Man of Steel (2013)
Zack Snyder’s first film in the DC Extended Universe was very divisive among fans. Looking to update the Superman character from the beloved, yet somewhat campy Christopher Reeve version of Superman, Henry Cavill’s version shocked many with its grit and darkness. Many people didn’t care for the overblown ending in which General Zod and Superman demolished Metropolis, either.
However, there’s a lot to like about this film, most notably Michael Shannon’s General Zod. One of the best comic book movie villains of recent memory — a lot of it can be attributed to Shannon’s glares that feature his bulging eyes. (He’s been known to stare into people’s souls from time to time.)
As soon as that beautiful Hans Zimmer score begins, a lot of the film’s issues dissolve away and you open up to the film’s scope and epic feel, even if a lot of its thematic elements are misplaced.
*To read the site’s full review of Man of Steel, please click here.
#3: Birds of Prey (2020)
Or, Birds of Prey (and the and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Or, after it underperformed mightily in its first weekend at the box office, Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey. Whatever title you go by, this movie is pretty fun!
If there’s one thing to take away from Birds of Prey, it’s Cathy Yan’s fresh perspective on the character of Harley Quinn. Much of the conversation surrounding Birds of Prey is a lack of a male gaze to the filmmaking, and deservedly so. Gone are the lurid, sexed-up shots of Harley from Suicide Squad that slowly looked up and down her body. The difference between how David Ayer and Cathy Yan decided to present the character should be taught in film schools: presenting how small filmmaking choices can change the portrayal of a character entirely can inform a lot about the craft.
While the film is fairly messy and owes a lot to Deadpool in its structure, you don’t get much better than watching Margot Robbie, one of the most talented stars we have, behave as a hyper-stylized cartoon character for almost two hours. I could watch some of her reaction shots in Birds of Prey on an endless loop.
*To read the site’s full review of Birds of Prey, please click here.
#2: Shazam! (2019)
Shazam! is one of the more corny and goofy superhero movies to come around since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. And when you think about it, those two movies have a lot in common, especially with each having a director that was mostly known for horror injecting plenty of wackiness and horrific vibes into them. It all comes together wonderfully in Shazam!‘s third act, which is perfectly silly and frightful while emphasizing over-the-top wish fulfillment.
Zachary Levi acting like a fourteen-year-old is pure gold; he has a wonderful boyish charm that is truly the heartbeat of the movie. It even comes into play during the action as he consistently looks to run away from the evil Dr. Sivana. He’s a kid through and through, and I’m still smiling from his performance.
Although the movie doesn’t fully earn its emphasis on family and togetherness, Shazam! is breezy, fun, and completely separate from the darker times of the DCEU.
*To read the site’s full review of Shazam!, please click here.
#1: Wonder Woman (2017)
This period piece does what the previous DC Extended Universe films failed to do by telling a cohesive story without an ounce of cynicism. Wonder Women is full of heart and emotion to the point where you can’t help but admire its feats.
Although the action is merely serviceable, the best moments of Wonder Woman come from the interactions between characters, especially Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. These two are magnetic as the leads of the film, showing solid chemistry in every single moment of the film. Even when the film dips into CGI action schlock from Hell with fire and darkness covering the screen in its tiring third act, there’s always that human connection to help you stay invested.
Women-led superhero films have come a long way since Supergirl in 1984.
*To read the site’s full review of Wonder Woman, please click here.
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[…] was always a DC comics kid growing up. I couldn’t get enough of the animated shows and would read the comic books […]
I would take Suicide Squad over BvS any day of the week, as at least it doesn’t take itself too seriously and has some (though not many!) fun moments and characters. BvS is a horrible mess with little heart and a mass of unexplainable decisions that still has me screaming “why?!” at every other scene! Besides the Batman warehouse scene, I don’t remember any redeemable qualities that would put it any higher than last place on my list. Unfortunately, DC have failed consistently to transcend the genre, which Marvel seems to do on a regular basis. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for The Batman, which looks to follow in a similar character bio style of Joker
I think we’re all super excited for The Batman!!! I know I am — maybe RPatts brings some of his energy from The Lighthouse to Bruce Wayne :). I’d pay top dollar to see that!
I am excited for The Lighthouse to come to Amazon this month! Never been one for overly strange / artsy types of films, but it wasn’t at all pretentious!
Just CRAZY! :)
This is a great and totally understandable ranking. Yes, Ben Affleck’s Batman was one of the highlights about the film (plus that warehouse action scene was the bomb!) Unfortunately, this version of Lex Luthor was the weakest I’ve ever seen on the big screen. Man of Steel can be a bit exasperating but that music is what keeps me going back for more (plus Henry Cavill’s version of Superman.😉) I, however, would switch Shazam! with Wonder Woman and I’d place Wonder Woman behind Man of Steel. I don’t like Wonder Woman for reasons I don’t feel like explaining right now because that would take a thousand words of complaining. Shazam! completely shocked me in ways that I didn’t see coming and honestly it was a blast to watch.
Great post! (As always.)
Thank you so much! :) I’d like to revisit Shazam! at some point in the future (hopefully by the time this list needs a refresh after the next DCEU movie). I don’t LOVE Wonder Woman, either. In fact, I still don’t think there is a capital-G Great film in the franchise yet. It’s kind of the winner by default in a lot of ways. I hope that Birds of Prey is everything I want it to be and more!
Yes, no DCEU movie is capital-G Great but Marvel has plenty of films that fit in that category.
I think I’d agree there! :)
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As of 2019, this is how I rank the DCEU films: 8. BvS: Dawn Of Justice (theatrical). Upon revisiting the first five entries when I was prepping for Aquaman, I found this to be an utter slog to get through. Aside from Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons who gave the best performances as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Alfred Pennyworth, Superman was dower throughout (and even instantly knows when Lois was in danger, yet is oblivious when it comes to his own mother), Wonder Woman almost had no reason to be here, Doomsday was badly handled in its creation (taking the Superman IV creation route and becoming a generic monster) and Lex Luthor was far too goofy to be taken seriously.
7. Suicide Squad. I could honestly go back-and-forth on whether this or the next entry is worse, but this was part of a string of movies within the series that suffered from WB execs doing a massive course correction following BvS’s negative reception. Will Smith & Margot Robbie turn in the best performances since Deadshot and Harley Quinn get the most development out of everyone. Unfortunately, lots of Joker’s scenes were cut thus making Jared Leto’s performance look like a pretentious cameo, Slipknot was utterly pointless (“Don’t know what to do with a minor DC character? Eh, just kill ’em off.” was the mentality.), Viola Davis’ performance is somewhat undermined by Amanda Waller causing this whole disaster via lack of control over Enchantress and our main villain was out-of-place for this kind of story. Also, Hawkman’s hometown of Midway City suffers because of it (not just by the fact that he’s not here).
6. Justice League. What should have been an exciting feeling as our previously-established heroes come together to stop an otherworldly threat never reaches that moment, especially since this was the final leg of studio interference. While our heroes were mainly good in their performances (Ezra Miller as Flash being a particular standout), Steppenwolf was absolutely generic, the villain plot was a tad bland and our heroes are barely able to hold their own. Not to mention that once Superman comes back and eventually regains his mental faculties, he absolutely curb-stomps our antagonist. While not offensively bad, it’s not impressively good either. It’s just ‘OK’.
5. Man Of Steel. Never have I felt more conflicted about a film upon a revisit that I did with Zack Snyder’s attempt at modernizing Superman. Initially, there are some good stuff about the DCEU’s inaugural entry. Michael Shannon is stellar as General Zod with a motive that’s part of who is his, Superman has some nice chemistry with Lois and Henry Cavill does show some initial promise as our titular hero. However, it’s ultimately bogged down by a narrative that jumps around with hardly any time for brevity (not to mention that it’s missing important details that are vital to the story), Kevin Costner’s portrayal of Johnathan Kent is problematic due to his “Save No One, Not Even Me” mentality that he instills on his son and the oh-so-present elephant in the room of Collateral Damage without consequence. In the end, it’s a potentially-good movie that’s weighed down by some bad decisions.
4. BvS: Dawn Of Justice (Ultimate Edition). Unlike the trimmed-up, 2 1/2-hour, PG-13 version, this 3-hour R-Rated version feels like a breath of fresh air in comparison. Both Lois and Clark (especially Clark) get to do some meaty investigative reporting that helps flesh out plot details and make the overall story significantly better. However, a lot of the problems that made its theatrical counterpart suffer are still here, though I didn’t feel that Eisenberg’s portrayal was as over-the-top here as it was there. While not a perfect film, this was the sophomore outing that we should have gotten instead of the watered-down and inferior stand-in that ended up on the big screen.
3. Aquaman. With bright neon colors, bombastic action and a thrilling venture, the series began to pick up steam as Arthur must go a personal quest in order to properly establish himself as Atlantis’ true king. Jason Momoa and Amber Heard develop a genuine friendship with each other during the film as each of them display their abilities with confidence, Patrick Wilson’s portrayal of Ocean Master felt fairly solid and is up there with Zod in terms of the series’ best villains and the supporting cast properly compliments the story. The only thing that hold the movie back for me is that its plot beats felt a bit too familiar to me. Other than that, it’s a step in the right direction.
2. Shazam! It’s a superhero tale that has some of the best child acting I’ve ever seen in any project. Asher Angel handles his portrayal of Billy Batson with ease, Zachary Levi is utterly effective in bringing the child-like wonder to his portrayal of DC’s Captain Marvel (Side Note: He’ll always be DC’s Captain Marvel to me!), Jack Dylan Grazer is solid as the wide-eyed and nerd-tastic Freddie Freeman and the rest of the foster siblings (Mary, Darla, Eugene & Pedro) each get their moments to shine. Unfortunately, there are some things that prevent this from claiming the top spot. There a little wonky CGI and it takes a little time to get going. However, it’s still a fun time and proves that the series is heading in the right direction.
1. Wonder Woman. Without a doubt, the pride of the Amazons is still the queen of the DCEU. Gal Gadot proves herself as a leading lady (thus breaking past her ‘Fast & Furious’ days) with a character arc that teaches her about the complexities of good & evil in the real world. Also, Chris Pine is solid as Steve Trevor, our two leads share a wondrous relationship (professional & personal), the No Man’s Land scene is iconic, the action scenes have an energetic weight, the Amazons are all impressive in their scenes and the soundtrack makes a great use of war drums (continuing the awesomeness of “I Thought She Was With You” from BvS). Yes, the third act and our villains prevent the movie from completely sticking the landing, but it doesn’t change the fact that this film (which finally broke the live-action, theatrically-released superheroine movie jinx, by the way) was the first sign that this series was by no means unsalvagable. It’s energized, it gives us perfect brevity and it makes everything that happens throughout have meaning and purpose. Way To Go, Diana!
Also, Joker is NOT part of the DCEU. It’s intended to be separate from that series and be its own thing.
you are correct there sir! there has been MUCH wavering coming out of Warner Bros. in regards to what they want it to become, and whether it’s in the DCEU, but the DCEU is now a group of not-so-connected films, or if it’s the start of of something different altogether. I imagine it’ll change 10 different times in the next few years hahaha!
I agree that the DCEU should stick with singular tales for now and that this series is entirely movie-centered. I just hope that Warner Bros. lands on a grand universe strategy and make Crisis-esque film that helps to iron out the series’ greatest problems in order for a grander universe to unfold. You know, a soft reboot of sorts similar to “X-Men: Days Of Future Past”.
After Shazam, Aquaman, and from what we’ve seen of Birds of Prey, it looks like that, for now, they’re going to stick to fairly standalone movies and worry about connecting them at a later point. I imagine once The Flash film gets straightened out they’ll use that as the soft reboot of everything
I can’t believe that you put BvS above any movie at all. I haven’t seen Suicide Squad, though, so I my opinion isn’t fully informed. But BvS was the worst superhero movie I’ve ever seen.
Suicide Squad might be the worst thing ever put into existence 😂😂😂😂
The Academy disagrees.
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Completely agree with your list! Wonder Woman is easily the best so far but I do really like Man of Steel as well.
Hopefully they continue to be great!
I wonder hasn’t DC already came up with many other movies in their Extended Universe before as individual movies which wasn’t planned to move forward into an untied movie? Green Lantern, Superman Returns, different batman movies, Swamp thing movie, Supergirl movie?
There slate of films is always changing so we may never know! Lol
I totally agree with you about WW: best of the bunch by a long way. I personally like Dawn of Justice more than Man of Steel, but I did prefer Zod to Lex though. :)
We can definitely agree that Zod is better than Lex lol
I think #1 is a no-brainer….haha!
Lol you got that right!