The DC Universe has never run out of great stories to tell be it on the silver screen, on television, or through graphic novels. The multiverse is already very vast. But it only takes creative and intelligent minds to pick out a story that could turn into a blockbuster hit or commercial success.
DC Comic fans are especially very critical when it comes to comicbook-to-screen adaptations. While it’s always a thrill to watch the live-action ones, nothing beats animated films because they give a sense of melancholy and wonder to see graphic art on paper translated to the screen.
As such, the DC Universe has always captured the audience with its animated movies compared to the hit-or-miss releases from the big-budget films under the DC Extended Universe. Long before Kevin Feige introduced the Marvel Cinematic Universe, storytellers like Dwayne McDuffie and Bruce Timm have already built a cohesive collection of DC Animated classics, which kicked off with Superman: Doomsday in 2007.
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Now years later that collection only continues to grow with the introduction of new characters and the expansion of the background stories of the old ones. There have been 41 feature films and ten shorts released so far and many more planned for the coming years.
Picking out the best among the rest now becomes a challenge especially for those who do not really want to majorly focus on the Justice League, but also get a crash course on getting to know the lesser-known yet intriguing characters in the multiverse. Thus, to save you the trouble we have compiled 20 of the best DC animated movies to date.
- Superman: Doomsday (2007)
- Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
- The Death of Superman (2018)
- Wonder Woman (2009)
- Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
- Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
- Batman: Year One (2011)
- All-Star Superman (2011)
- Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (2012) & 2 (2013)
- Suicide Squad: Hell to Play (2018)
- Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths (2010)
- Constantine City Of Demons: The Movie (2018)
- Justice League: Doom (2012)
- Justice League Dark (2017)
- Justice League: Gods And Monsters (2015)
- Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020)
Superman: Doomsday (2007)
For posterity, we will include this adaptation of the 1990s The Death of Superman as it kicked off the DC original animated movie line. The story tells of the death and return of the Man of Steel after his battle with Doomsday, a murderous creature accidentally unleashed by Clark Kent’s bestfriend-turned-nemesis Lex Luther.
The story slightly swayed from the original comicbook storyline which very much displeased DC fans. Doomsday was turned into a cameo character and the “death scene” seemed rushed, which was the point of the story from the start. Nevertheless, it packs action for a DC animated movie debut.
Directors: Lauren Montgomery, Bruce Timm, Brandon Vietti—Screenplay: Duane Capizzi—Cast: Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters, John DiMaggio, Tom Kenny, Swoosie Kurtz, Kevin Smith—Run Time: 1h 15m
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
Barry Allen creates a butterfly effect after he prevents his mother’s death and ultimately finds himself in an alternate timeline in this movie adaptation of the Flashpoint graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert. He teams up with the Justice League to restore the timeline and help him return to his original world.
Wonder Woman, Batman, Cyborg, Superman, Aquaman, Captain Atom, and the Green Lantern are featured in supporting roles. Where there are alternate versions of the heroes there are also villains. But the focus is on the speedster himself as the events that unfold challenge his resolve, deconstruct his personality, and show viewers the dangers of the different worlds through his eyes.
This film famously includes an alternate storyline for Bruce Wayne, in which he dies in Crime Alley, not his parents, and his father eventually becomes Batman.
Director: Jay Oliva—Screenplay: James Krieg —Cast: Justin Chambers, C. Thomas Howell, Michael B. Jordan, Kevin McKidd, Steve Blum, Sam Daly, Dana Delany, Nathan Fillion, Cary Elwes, Vanessa Marshall, Lex Lang, Danny Jacobs, Danny Huston, Jennifer Hale, Grey Griffin, Kevin Conroy—Run Time: 1h 15m
The Death of Superman (2018)
The DC Universe decided to correct its decade-old mistake with a more accurate storyline adaptation of the 1990s classic comic book of the same name. This time writer Peter Tomasi and directors Sam Liu and Jake stuck closely to the source material.
The film even included the Justice League heroes on the Metropolis scene and Doomsday becomes a valuable character. It has more punch and more emotional heft as the world mourns the devastating loss of the Man of Steel following his battle with his insurmountable foe. The story also did a great job of setting it up for a sequel.
Director: Sam Liu and Jake Castorena—Screenplay: Peter Tomasi—Cast: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijin, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Matt Lanter, Shemar Moore, Christopher Gorham, Jason O’Mara, Jennifer Hale, Nyambi Nyambi —Run Time: 1h 21m
Wonder Woman (2009)
Wonder Woman’s history is rooted in Greek mythology. As such, this DC animated movie features some of the familiar deities including Hera, Hades, Ares, Artemis, Zeus, and Persephone. This was the inspiration behind the DCEU Gal Gadot-led Wonder Woman, although the live-action version mostly focused on the god of war Ares.
The story kicks off when US Air Force pilot Steve Trevor crashes his plane on the hidden island of Themyscira where Diana Prince and her fellow Amazon warriors live. His arrival prompts the princess to leave her home for the first time and venture to the human world in search of Ares. She believes that he is responsible for the destruction happening on earth and vows to stop him.
Wonder Woman is a force to be reckoned with not only because of her strength but also for her humanity. She has great emotional depths and relates to people well making her a more relatable superhero.
Director: Lauren Montgomery—Screenplay: Gail Simone, Michael Jelenic—Cast: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Rosario Dawson, Marg Helgenberger, Oliver Platt, Virginia Madsen, John DiMaggio, Vicki Lewis, David McCallum—Run Time: 1h 14m
Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
This movie adaptation of Darwyn Cooke’s 2004 DC: The New Frontier was the second film in the original DC animated movies line. It was a commercial hit as it stuck close to the source material instead of replacing it. It complemented the story and the characters featured in the graphic novel. Although it’s understandable that not everything on paper gets emulated on screen, this one was still able to interpret the fun entertainment and action told through the pages.
This tale of the DC Universe in the 1950s follows test pilot Hal Jordan, who later becomes known as the Green Lantern, and the Martian Manhunter. Along with members of the Justice League, they must work together to defeat an unknown entity that has decided to wipe out mankind.
Director: David Bullock—Screenplay: Stan Berkowitz, —Cast: David Boreanaz, Miguel Ferrer, Neil Patrick Harris, John Heard, Lucy Lawless, Kyle MacLachlan, Lex Lang, Phil Morris, Kyra Sedgwick, Brooke Shields, Jeremy Sisto—Run Time: 1h 15m
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
Brains and brawns join forces in this action-packed DC animated movie that brands these two legendary superheroes as public enemy’s number one. That’s according to Lex Luthor who becomes the U.S. President and is driven by his desire to destroy Superman. He uses the threat of an oncoming kryptonite meteor attacking earth to frame Kal-El.
When you have Batman and Superman as the focus of the story, then expect endless action. This film is basically one big, long fight scene after another with DC’s villains including Gorilla Grodd all lining up for a chance to defeat the duo. It is loud, intense, big, and a hugely entertaining production coming from DC and Warner Bros.
Director: Sam Liu—Screenplay: Stan Berkowitz —Cast: Clancy Brown, Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Xander Berkeley, Corey Burton, Allison Mack, Ricardo Chavira, CCH Pounder, LeVar Burton, Brian George, Jennifer Hale, John C. McGinley, Rachel MacFarlane, Alan Oppenheimer—Run Time: 1h 07
Batman: Year One (2011)
This DC animated movie adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s graphic novel details Bruce Wayne’s first year as the caped crusader. The live-action Batman Begins is heavily inspired by this story, which tells of the Dark Knight’s return to a dark, corrupt, and crime-ridden Gotham City.
There he meets a not-yet commissioner James Gordon, a lieutenant, who has been tasked by his crooked superiors to Batman. But both men develop an understanding over their shared goal of eradicating the city with evildoers from top to bottom.
This film stayed faithful to the source and reproduced whole scenes from the novel shot for shot, like watching pictures come to life. The animation is even commendable with its smooth and seamless transitions and the studio owes that to Korean studio “Moi Animation” famous for their work on Avatar: The Last Airbender and Young Justice, to name a few.
Director: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery—Screenplay: Tab Murphy —Cast: Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku, Katee Sackhoff, Robin Atkin Downes, Jon Polito, Alex Rocco, Jeff Bennett—Run Time: 1h 04m
All-Star Superman (2011)
Superman takes on Lex Luthor in this faithful adaptation of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s graphic novel. While Batman: Year One was dark, this is brightly hued and does not rely so much on the action to build momentum. Instead, it is emotionally gripping as the story focuses on a terminally ill Superman who uses his last remaining strength to save mankind.
An overdose of solar radiation is slowly killing him. He must make use of his remaining days to spend time with his loved ones while protecting the earth from Lex Luthor’s evil plans. He must also face off with one of the toughest villains in the DC multiverse—Solaris, the Tyrant Red Sun. To balance out the emotional heft, there are also fun elements added, such as silly action sequences of a superpowered Lois Lane beating up dinosaur people invading Metropolis.
Director: Sam Liu—Screenplay: Dwayne McDuffie—Cast: James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony LaPaglia, Ed Asner, Steve Blum, John DiMaggio—Run Time: 1h 16m
Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)
There is no shortage of Batman stories to tell and this one is the most revered of them all. Its success can be owed to the stellar voice actors who gave the storytelling its phenomenal depth. John DiMaggio is captivating as the Joker with his sinister voice and laugh. His take on the DC villain is clearly different from Mark Hamill’s, as such, he can easily switch from smart to insane, to being hilarious and manic in seconds.
As for the theme, this is a dark and unflinching retelling of the return of the second Robin, Jason Todd. He returns from the grave to exact his revenge on Joker, who murdered him years before the story begins. He comes back as a criminal vigilante masquerading as Red Hood, an all-too-familiar name for Bruce Wayne, who suspects it to be his long-lost surrogate son.
This is a heartbreaking story about Batman’s regret at his failure to save Robin at the last minute. The Red Hood’s appearance ultimately reopens old wounds and long-buried memories.
Director: Brandon Vietti—Screenplay: Judd Winick—Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs, Wade Williams, Gary Cole, Bruce Timm, Jim Piddock—Run Time: 1h 15m
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (2012) & 2 (2013)
Set in the same arc as Batman: Year One, this two-part DC animated movie sees a middle-aged Bruce Wayne returning as the dark vigilante for the first time in a decade to rid Gotham City of a new breed of criminals. But much has changed and this time he is a wanted man by the government. He is now a dangerous fugitive. The U.S. president has to send Superman to stop him, which leads to a clash between the two superheroes.
This movie was the inspiration behind Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but the live-action version failed in its interpretation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel. Even the fight sequences between the two heroes pale in comparison to the animated one. Batman pushes himself to his limits as he battles someone who is clearly younger and more powerful than him.
Director: Jay Olivia—Screenplay: Bob Goodman—Cast: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Wade Williams, Paget Brewster, Michael Emerson—Run Time: 2h 32m
Suicide Squad: Hell to Play (2018)
Sam Liu crafts another action-packed DC animated movie that features a ragtag group of criminals working for the government. Task Force X head Amanda Waller, battling a terminal illness, sends the team on a dangerous mission unknown to the world to retrieve a mystical object that has ties to both Vandal Savage and Dr. Fate. They risk their lives to complete the mission as it would mean years removed from their prison sentences.
This movie is straightforward in its goal, but the various characters involved in the mission are what makes it an entertaining mess. It features iconic DC villains/antiheroes Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, Killer Frost, and more.
Director: Sam Liu—Screenplay: Alan Burnett—Cast: Christian Slater, Vanessa Williams, Billy Brown, Liam McIntyre, Tara Strong, David Boat, Gideon Emery, Kristin Bauer van Straten—Run Time: 1h 26m
Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths (2010)
Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery team up to push the boundaries of the DC Universe Animated original movies and explore the multiverse. This epic DC animated movie adaptation sees different versions of DC’s superheroes and villains.
In this story, Lex Luthor ends up teaming with the Justice League. But this is a good version of Superman’s archenemy, who comes from a parallel world to help the heroes defeat their evil counterparts, called The Crime Syndicate.
The real star is Batman’s genius counterpart Owlman, voiced by James Woods. After finding out the existence of the multiverse he decides that the best thing to do is destroy them all.
Director: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery—Screenplay: Dwayne McDuffie—Cast: William Baldwin, Mark Harmon, Chris Noth, Gina Torres, James Woods, Josh Keaton, Vanessa Marshall, Nolan North, Bruce Timm, Brian Bloom—Run Time: 1h 15m
Constantine City Of Demons: The Movie (2018)
Matt Ryan won over fans with his close-to-the-books portrayal of John Constantine in the series over at NBC. But with the show lasting only one season, fans were left bummed. Fortunately, he reprised the role in appearances in Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow. But before that, he returned to voice the character in Doug Murphy’s DC animated movie that is very much as dark as its TV counterpart.
This is definitely not for kids as it reeks of bloody violence, disturbing images, and sexual content, much like Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay. Of course, when it comes to Constantine, there is always bound to be chaos and people suffering in the wake of whatever occult mission he accomplishes.
In this film, demons rise out of hell and invade earth as he sets out to face nefarious entities in his quest to save Chas Chandler’s daughter Trish from a demonically induced coma. But he needs all the help that he can get, especially when he is up against the powerful demon Beroul. In comes to his aid the Queen of Angels, the brutal Aztec God, Mictlantecuhtli, and the mysterious Nightmare Nurse.
Director: Doug Murphy—Screenplay: J.M. DeMatteis—Cast: Matt Ryan, Laura Bailey, Robin Atkin Downes, Rachel Kimsey, Jim Meskimen, Kevin Michael Richardson, Damian O’Hare—Run Time: 1h 30m
Justice League: Doom (2012)
This sequel to Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths sees Batman needing to outsmart himself and save his allies from deadly plans of his own design. Loosely based on Mark Waid’s JLA: Tower Of Babel, Bruce Wayne faces a dilemma after immortal villain Vandal Savage raids his Bat Cave and steals sensitive information about the Justice League.
The immortal villain learns of the strengths and weaknesses of the members. Worst, he gets hold of Batman’s plans in killing his companions if ever they turn evil. Soon thereafter, the heroes face death traps executed according to the Dark Knight’s machinations. Batman is left to defend his actions to his allies and find a way out of the chaos he himself started.
Director: Lauren Montgomery—Screenplay: Dwayne McDuffie —Cast: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rosenbaum, Carl Lumbly, Bumper Robinson, Carlos Alazraqui, Claudia Black, Phil Morris, Grey Griffin, Olivia d’AboAlexis Denisof—Run Time: 1h 15m
Justice League Dark (2017)
This brought the world of magic into the DC animated universe with the addition of other characters including Deadman, Constantine, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, and Etrigan. Not to miss out on the fun, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are also featured in some scenes but not much on those that deal with the occult. After all, this is what the movie is about—the dark side of justice.
The film is an introduction to the more gothic teams of the DC multiverse. It follows a group of supernatural heroes who join forces to take on the occult and supernatural threats, something that the founding members of the Justice League are unable to handle themselves.
Director: Jay Olivia—Screenplay: J.M. DeMatteis, Ernie Altbacker —Cast: Matt Ryan, Camilla Luddington, Jason O’Mara, JB Blanc, Ray Chase, Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina, Jerry O’Connell—Run Time: 1h 15m
Justice League: Gods And Monsters (2015)
One of the most original reimaginings of the DC lore, this film sets our famous superheroes in alternate realities. Wonder Woman gets Bird Barda’s treatment as she is Bekka, the daughter of Himon who stages an uprising against the tyrannical rule of Darkseid. Batman is the Man-Bat Dr. Kirk Langstrom, a doctor who transforms himself into a vampire to outlive a cancer diagnosis.
Then there’s Superman, who is the son of Zod but raised on earth by migrant Mexican parents who live in harsh conditions. The hardships he experienced brought leads him to a troubling relationship with the government. These twisted versions of DC’s popular superheroes totally deviate from their true origins, which makes for an interesting watch on film.
Director: Sam Liu—Screenplay: Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm—Cast: Benjamin Bratt, Michael C. Hall, Tamara Taylor, Paget Brewster, C. Thomas Howell, Jason Isaacs, Dee Bradley Baker, Josh Keaton, Yuri Lowenthal —Run Time: 1h 16m
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020)
This DC version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers: Endgame brings an end to the DC animated movie universe. It brings the Justice League, the Suicide Squad, the Teen Titans, and other supernatural heroes in the DC multiverse, together to face off one common foe—Darkseid.
The story opens two years after the villain’s successful attack on Apokolips and he ultimately takes rule over Earth. The remaining heroes struggle to gain control over their home planet. They must regroup and devise a new strategy to defeat the intergalactic tyrant.
Director: Matt Peters, Christina Sotta—Screenplay: Mairghread Scott—Cast: Roger Cross, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Gorham, Camilla Luddington, Shemar Moore, Jerry O’Connell, Matt Ryan, Jason O’Mara, John DiMaggio, Tony Todd, Hyden Walch, Rainn Wilson, Rebecca Romijn, Liam McIntyre —Run Time: 1h 30m