Best Order To Watch DC Animated Universe Movies
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War concludes the DCAMU after 15 films. What order should a newbie watch these DC animated universe movies?
By 2013, Marvel had already established their shared cinematic universe. It culminated in the release of The Avengers, a year prior. And soon they would be developing their TV shared universe as well.
Not near the success of the MCU, DCEU also was starting to release films with Man of Steel. That year, DC also had another card up its sleeve. It knew that they had the capability to create sophisticated animated movies for a more mature audience.
And they also knew that they had a comic book universe that was not only rich in content but also revitalized. It had already rebooted its comic book universe. They would restart their characters and their books over, creating a clean slate for everyone.
This reboot provided a lot of content for the new DC animated movie universe (DCAMU). And like the reboot, it began with the 2013 release of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Here is the sequential order to watch these movies.
1. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.
What if you woke up in a world that looked like yours, but a little off? What if the reason behind the new world is your fault?
That’s the thought behind the film Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. It’s the first in a series of films that share an animated universe. Its chief protagonist, Barry Allen, mourns the death of his mother. After a battle with his rogues, he wakes up to a world in which she is alive.
Her existence, however, is the only good thing going on in this new world.
The film does a great job establishing the tone of what this shared universe will be. Its PG-13 rating allows it to go a bit farther with the violence and language. You also get to see your favorite superheroes in different, warped farms. There’s a brutal Wonder Woman, an emaciated Superman, an even MORE aggressive Batman.
How Barry returns to the world he knows makes for a very spectacular climax and a heartbreaking choice. The film also leads to the next adventure for this new version of the Justice League.
2. Justice League: War
If Superheroes are good at anything, it's having a misunderstanding, fighting, and then become teammates. This happens a lot in Justice League: War.
The film does a great job of re-introducing the heroes we know, and establishes the new costumes and attitudes that these heroes have. Some, like Batman, the Flash, and Cyborg, don’t change much.
The others, however, experience the biggest change. Superman is younger and more aggressive. Wonder Woman is more warrior than peacekeeper. And Green Lantern Hal Jordan is a cockier than usual, with a wit that would rival Spider-man.
War adapts the first 6 issues of the Justice League of America, and the film follows the comic closely, save for a few changes. One major change is in the seventh member of the team. In the film, the seventh member is Shazam.
We get a chance to meet the comic’s seventh member later on, in the sequel to War. But before we get to him, we take a moment to take a closer look at the new world of the League’s most popular member, The Dark Knight.
3. Son of Batman
In 1987 DC published a story about Batman and Talia Al Ghul sleeping together for the first time. As a result, Talia got pregnant. In that story, Talia tells Batman that she has lost the baby after a battle. The story ends with a baby left on a doorstep.
The child not revisited until 2006, when Grant Morrison began writing BATMAN. He created Damian Wayne, a young, headstrong fighter who was as stubborn as his father.
"Son of Batman" adapts that story. It introduces Damien into the shared animated universe. Damien is a hotheaded young man who thinks highly of himself and his skills. He's brought to Batman's attention and Batman reluctantly takes the boy under his (bat) wing and trains him as the next Robin.
The movie takes a few liberties with the comic it adapted. For one, Deathstroke is the main villain of the film. Slade Wilson also has a slight origin reboot as well. And other than Dick Grayson, there is no mention of other Robins.
4. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
He is a man without purpose, mourning the death of his dad. The only thing we know for sure about him is that he's very strong and very blond.
This is how we meet Arthur Curry, the future king of Atlantis. In the Sequel to WAR, we learn a little about Arthur and why he's oblivious to his destiny.
We also learn more about the team and some subplots begin to form. Most notably, the relationship between superman and wonder woman.
But for the most part, it’s an Aquaman movie and a lot of the details in throne of Atlantis mirror what we see in the live-action Aquaman movie.
The movie also continues to earn the PG-13 rating. There are beheadings, impalements, and more than one superhero use swear words at moments of great stress. It’s a fine film that gets across the tone that DC wanted with these films. Grown-up stories for a grown-up audience.
5. Batman and Robin
Batman and Robin continue to show the relationship between Damian and Bruce. It's still a tense one. Batman is doing all he can to control his son's assassin tendencies. Robin, despite himself, is doing all he can to prove to his father that he is a reliable sidekick.
The film also adapts the first Batman storyline of the New 52 era, The Court of Owls. The Court attacks Batman on two fronts. Directly, attacking him with undead warriors called Talons, and by the Talon leader trying to lure Robin away from his dad.
The film, like the four before it, has a lot of action and a lot of blood. If you ever wanted to see Batman blow up reanimated corpses repeatedly, you are in for a treat. The voice acting is solid and the animation, especially the fight scenes, are top-notch.
The first five films are a wonderful starting point the new shared animated universe, and they provide lots of fun and exciting action. They also show how well DC does with its properties when the movies are made with care. We're starting to see that care with some of the recent live-action movies.
6. Batman: Bad Blood
The Dark Knight has always been considered a loner, a one-man army against crime. But the truth is, he's one the few characters in comics who has a legit family. From his father figure Alfred to his two sons, Dick Grayson, and Damian Wayne. One adopted, one a biological son.
But he's never truly opened to the idea of being a part of a family. His trauma from the death of his parents doesn't allow him to accept that he's part of a family now. It's a theme that was once touched on in the hilarious Lego Batman movie, and it's a theme that's touched on in Batman: Bad Blood.
During a confrontation with a group of villains, led by a large man who seems to know a lot about Batman, the caped crusader goes missing. Dick attempts to step in as Batman and tries to find Bruce Wayne, and along the way, he meets Batwoman, a vigilante inspired by Batman who was there when Batman went missing.
The film is a mashup of different DC comics storylines. The Dick Grayson-Damian Wayne dynamic comes from the first 12 issues of Batman and Robin, written by Grant Morrison, while the file adapts the first six issues of the Batwoman series, written by Greg Rucka, for its Kathy Kane subplot.
The film has a strong anime influence and it shows up in the fight scenes. It's a great exploration into the pain that the Bat-family has endured and how together, they could overcome it.
7. Justice League Vs. Teen Titans
If you haven't figured out by now, Damian Wayne thinks very highly of himself. He's a lot like his father in that way.
And like Bruce, Damian didn't have much of childhood before he became Robin, so Dick Grayson thinks it's time to remedy that.
Justice League Vs. Teen Titans tells that story and introduces us to the DCAU version of the Teen Titans. Some of the characters, you would recognize, but there are changes. For one, Starfire is no longer a young equal member of the team. She's much older and is the team leader. And while the group, including Robin, is similar in makeup to the one we are all most familiar with, they get around the fact that Cyborg is a JL member by including Blue Beetle (the younger version) into the mix.
There is a lot of growth within Robin throughout the film and it's a diversion from the more serious themes of the previous films. Any film with Beast Boy in it must be funny, you know.
8. Justice League Dark
This film touches on the Magical portion of the DC universe, introducing the characters Zatanna, John Constantine, Swamp Thing, and Deadman. A lot of the stories that were written about these characters were published under the Vertigo imprint at DC comics (where the bulk of the publisher's "Mature Readers" comics were housed) and these were some of the more sophisticated, critically acclaimed stories printed at the company.
These characters had been touched by the comic gods. Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Pat Mills, and a host of other creators. These characters brought credibility to a medium that, at the time, some thought to be only kids' stuff.
It makes sense, then, that when these characters made their animated debut, it would be in a film that had an R rating. It's much more violent than the others, and the language a bit saltier, but it's not terribly obscene. For these characters to be honest with their comic book counterparts, some salty language had to be allowed.
The film presents a mystery in which average citizens are murdering those they believe are demons. The Justice League realizes that Magic is not their forte, so Batman reaches out to a friend in that realm, who then conjures up a team of sorcerers and dead men to solve the case and save the world.
Highly entertaining, very smartly written, and the animation, once again, is top-notch.
9. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
On a (relatively) lighter note, the next entry in the shared universe shares its story and title from the Titan's most notable comic storyline, The Judas Contract, by Marv Wolfman and George Perez.
The Story involves the Titan's trying to bond as a team while also taking on the Villain Brother Blood and his cohorts. A year prior, they took on a new team member, Terra, and they are still trying to help her open up and truly be part of the family.
But Terra is not all she seems.
The interesting thing about this movie is, like before, some alterations have been made into the team dynamic. In the original story, for example, Cyborg was a member, and Robin was still Dick Grayson. In the Adaptation, Damian is Robin (though Dick is present as Nightwing) and Blue Beetle is taking Cyborg's spot on the roster.
It's quite a different take than the version of the team most people would be used to. Starfire, for sure, is portrayed a lot different than her Teen Titans Go version. A lot taller, for one, and much more. . . curvier. But if you were someone who has aged out of Teen Titans Go, this is a great way to still connect to those characters in a much more mature setting.
10. Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay
And now we return to the dark, grim, and gritty party of the DC Animated universe. The Suicide Squad was a band of villains forced to do the Government's bidding or suffer extreme consequences. Their handler, Amanda Waller, Chose the team based on the assignment. There were a couple of regulars, like Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and Bronze Tiger, but the team often rotated, in part because, as the name suggested, some of the villains didn't quite make it back.
This film is heavily influenced by the live-action film, in its tone and subject matter. The team is put on a mission to retrieve a specific card, not knowing that there are two groups of villains after it as well.
The team consists of Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Bronze Tiger, Copperhead, and Killer Frost. Also on the team, and this is where the live-action film's influence shows, is Harley Quinn. This is not the version from Batman: The Animated series. No Jester suit on her.
This is the second DC animated universe film to have an R rating, and it earns it. Lasered off limbs, bullet wounds to the head, and if you look closely, you will even catch a nip slip.
It's a very adult cartoon, much more than Justice League Dark, to be honest. But at the same time, none of the characters act out of character. While Suicide Squad was never a Vertigo title when it was published by DC Comics, its subject matter fits the R rating.
Many have said it's the best of the bunch and the writing and action are ten times better than the live-action film. And it proves that DC, unlike its competition, provides variety within its shared universe.
11. The Death of Superman.
It was one of the best-selling storylines in comic book history. It was such a shocking turn for the man of steel that mainstream news outlets were talking about it. The Death of Superman came as a shock to the public when the story premiered in 1992, and for better or worse, started a speculator boom in the ’90s that made comic books the hottest commodity.
The story itself is pretty much a non-stop fight that ends with the Man of Steel, giving his life to save Metropolis and the world. The story had been adapted for the screen once before, in the animated film Superman: Doomsday, but that one was more condensed and left out a lot of elements from the comic book. The more recent Death of Superman film fit into the shared DC animated universe better.
From the far reaches of space, an object enters the atmosphere. Inside the rock, we find a monster. As soon as it lands, it begins to destroy everything around it. The Justice League is powerless to stop it. Only the Man of Steel has the power to save the world.
The movie keeps much of the same structure as the comic. The only significant difference is the makeup of the team. In the ’90s, B and C list characters made up the Justice League. Doomsday got to deal with the heavy hitters in the adaptation. Not much changed.
With lots of bloody action and heroic moments, The Death of Superman is one of the few films in the series that will move you. Superman’s sacrifice will not have been in vain.
12. Reign of the Supermen
In this follow-up, six months have passed since the death of Superman, and right away, the four Supermen are introduced, claiming to be the rightful owner of the name. We have the man of tomorrow, the Kryptonian, the Man of Steel, and Superboy (don’t call him that). Each hero had their method in which they fight crime (Some much harsher than others), but all four do it with the best interest of the city.
Or do they?
This movie adapts the comic book story that also followed up The Death of Superman. In the comics, there was a middle part to the story, Funeral for a friend, that gave the illusion that Superman would never come back. The DCAU skips that story, and like previous films, the adaptation makes changes. But these are functional changes. The film does an excellent job of cutting the fat and focusing on Lois Lane’s despair in trying to figure out who among these new wearers of the shield is the man she loves.
13. Batman: Hush
The story behind Batman: Hush, the comic book, was a simple one. Jim Lee, arguably the most well-known comic book creator outside of comics, had joined DC after DC Comics acquired his Wildstorm comic book imprint and for a time was looking to get back into drawing monthly comics, at least for a little while. They paired him with the writer Jeph Loeb and together crafted a story that allowed Lee to illustrate many of the friends and foes in the Batman Canon. The result was a beautifully rendered mystery story that ran for twelve issues in the Batman comics.
The animated movie, Batman: Hush adapts that comic, but as always, there are some changes. One very noticeable difference is how they play up the relationship between Batman and Catwoman. If you have been reading the more recent Batman stories, you know that the writer Tom King had been building up to a marriage between the two characters, playing on the fact that they have been adversaries and lovers for over 80 years. It was a sweet change of pace to see Batman indeed in love with something or someone other than the mission. This storyline took place at the time the movie was released, so maybe the filmmakers were inspired by that story as well.
Another fun aspect of the film is the fact that you get to see a good number of Batman’s Rogues gallery in this new DC Animated Universe style. There are appearances by Bane, the Joker, Poison Ivy, and a surprise guest that you may not see coming (unless you’ve read the comics).
Batman Hush is a fun, rollicking adventure that wraps up Batman’s part in this shared universe. The end is near. But not before one last Solo film featuring everyone’s favorite warrior princess.
14. Wonder Woman: Bloodlines
Unlike her male counterparts in the Justice League, Wonder Woman doesn’t have the same robust library of animated films. With the success of the live-action Wonder Woman film, The DC animated universe set to change that.
Wonder Woman: Bloodlines does a very condensed retelling of the Wonder Woman origin story. After finding a marooned and injured Steve Trevor on paradise island, Diana of Themyscira defies her mother’s orders. She escorts him back to man’s world, electing to stay and becoming the superhero we all know and love.
The film showcases both her rogue’s gallery and her different costume variations. Not only does she sport the uniform that she’s been wearing throughout the other Justice League Films, but she also a costume modeled after her live-action wardrobe.
The theme of destiny over free will, and the relationship between mothers and daughters, looms large over the film. It’s one of the few films in the shared universe that dares to go deeper than just your standard beat-em-up. It’s a beautiful film that’s very inspiring and is an excellent end to the individual DCAU films.
15. Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
And now, the endgame.
Justice League Dark does share a lot with that particular film. It sets out to wrap up a lot of the plot threads that have been running through the DC animated universe. Mainly, it brings closure between the battle between the DC heroes and Darkseid, who bears a bit of a resemblance with a purple-faced Titan.
And the name of the movie is a bit of a trick. The main character of the film is indeed John Constantine, that bastard of a magician. Still, the film brings in practically every character from the previous 14 films together to all wrap their journey through the movie.
Also, the film is very dark, as the title hints. You will see the deaths of beloved characters. You will see characters act in ways you would never have imagined. This film closes the door on the shared DC animated universe, and it does not waste the opportunity to do things you would never see in the comics.
It’s an excellent end to a shared universe that DC wanted so badly for their live-action properties. But on the bright side, they did something that Marvel never attempted. DC provided mature entertainment, in an animated form, that didn’t talk down to the viewer and provided action, romance, horror, and best of all, heart. It was a shared universe that was not afraid to take risks.
We should commend them for that.
DCAMU: The Extras
Besides the films, DC, had produced other programs set in the shared universe. Each project helped expand the movie universe. Like a toy inside a happy meal, they are a welcome surprise to an already vast, entertaining landscape.
Nightwing and Robin
Set during the events of Justice League: Thrones of Atlantis, the short film introduces Nightwing and Robin to the DCAU. Batman Gives his sidekicks the job of capturing the Scarecrow.
There is no dialogue between Nightwing and Robin, and yet you see how their dynamic works well as a team. In a sense, the film prepares you for what's to come in Batman: Bad Blood.
Constantine: City of Demons
Constantine: City of Demons is an interesting item on the list. The two-part program connects to both the DCAU and the CW's Arrowverse. The Arrowverse is DC's TV connected universe. Its major players are Green Arrow, Supergirl, and the Flash. Constantine also had a live action show, and its lead, Matt Ryan, provides John's Voice.
DC Produced five web episodes for the CW’s online presence, the CW Seed. The plot is your basic John Constantine story. He gets into a bit of trouble with Demons. If you’re into that sort of thing, you will love it.
Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans
This film may have the flimsiest of connections to the DC animated universe. The DCAU version of the Titans appears in a sequence as the 2003 and 2013 Teen Titans travel through different worlds in a battle between the titans and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.
Yes, the movie is that bonkers. But it’s also amusing. While Teen Titans GO! have no connection to the DC Animated Universe, it’s still a fun show. It has a lot of Easter eggs and inside jokes for both comic book fans and children of the ’80s. It’s one of the silliest things on TV. I can’t recommend it enough.
Although the DC animated universe ended with Justice League Dark: The Apokolips War, Fans know a good thing doesn’t stay dead for long. No one knows what’s in store for the future of DC animated. Yet, the “Outside the box” thinking about these last three projects show that DC is willing to try new things. That gives hope to future projects. They have over 80 years of Comic Book stories to mine. I’m sure they will be okay.
I also heard that the whole “Rebirth” storyline was good. Another shared animated universe could be in DC’s future.
Can’t wait to see it.