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Every DC Comics movie, ranked by Popverse

Its a meta DC crossover with Batman vs. Superman vs. Wonder Woman vs. Catwoman vs. Steel vs.... everyone!

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Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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There have been… a lot of live-action movies based on characters from the comic book DC Universe across the past six decades. (Well, almost; the Adam West live-action movie is just two years away from its 60th anniversary, shockingly.) Batman has begun, to use the parlance of the Christopher Nolan trilogy, no less than five separate times during that time, and we’ve seen multiple Supermen in that time, as well. (But only one Wonder Woman.) With 39 live-action movies to choose from in the history of the DC cinematic universes, you might wonder which ones are worth watching. Thankfully, this is a ranking of the best DC live-action movies.

Let’s put some of this into a clear context: we’re looking at live-action movies intended for theatrical release, and featuring characters that appear in DC’s comic book shared universe. That means we’re not including Teen Titans Go! to the Movies or League of Super-Pets (both animated), V For Vendetta or The Losers (not in the shared universe), or 1951’s Superman and the Mole Men, which was really a pilot for the Adventures of Superman TV show that made it into theaters. What we are including, though, is everything from Adam West’s 1966 Batman to 2023’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, including the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, the Tim Burton Batverse, and more.

Also! This is a subjective ranking, which is a polite way of saying, “I get it; you’re going to get upset that The Dark Knight isn’t ranked higher.” Thankfully, you can use the comments to share your rankings, instead.

With all of that out the way, it’s time to put the DC movies in their place. Literally.

DC Movies: Ranked Worst to Best

Steel (1997)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

As one of the breakout stars of the early ‘90s ‘Reign of the Supermen’ comic book storyline, John Henry Irons deserved the big screen spotlight as much as any other DC hero — unfortunately, this curiously cheap-looking vehicle for Shaquille O’Neal did no-one involved any favors, whether they were fictional or real.

The Return of Swamp Thing (1989)

Return of the Swamp Thing
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Leaning into comedy far harder than the movie it was ostensibly a sequel to, The Return of the Swamp Thing falters through its desperate need to be liked and the simple fact that, well, it’s just not that funny. Somewhere, Alan Moore… well, this is likely one of the movies related to his work that he likely doesn’t care about one way or another, actually.

Supergirl (1984)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Somewhere inside this 1984 spin-off from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies is an enjoyable film, helped by both Helen Slater’s sincerity and Faye Dunaway’s insatiable hunger for the scenery. Unfortunately, it’s buried under some really very bad special effects and poor choices.

Catwoman (2004)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s certainly an arch appreciation to be had of this accidentally camp masterpiece — in many ways, a great double bill with Supergirl — but it’s one that has to wrestle with the lack of charisma displayed by Halle Berry as the movie’s titular burglar.

Black Adam (2022)

Black Adam
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The movie that promised to change the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe arguably did so by demonstrating how much the DCEU could resemble a bland TV movie with somewhat superior special effects. (At least Dr. Fate looked cool.)

Swamp Thing (1982)

Swamp Thing
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s something to be said for the way in which this 1982 schlock arguably has a lot in common with the pulpy nature of the original Swamp Thing comic book, but it’s one of the few things you can say in favor of the movie…

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023)

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Playing out like four separate fever dreams happening simultaneously, The Lost Kingdom feels as if someone is switching channels in front of you against your will, leaving you to wonder if this might be a true cinematic singularity.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

As earnest as Superman movies have managed yet, The Quest for Peace stumbles to come up with an actual story to accompany its well-meaning message, which is clearly a heartfelt one for Christopher Reeve in his final appearance as the Man of Steel.

Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman and Robin
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

If there was a way to take Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy out of this movie and place her — and George Clooney’s much-derided, unfairly so in my opinion, Batman — into something that has more of the weird, off-kilter energy she brought to proceedings, cinema would be a healthier thing. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a mess.

Jonah Hex (2010)

Jonah Hex
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Perpetually file under “It’s better than you think it is, but not that much better,” this western almost manages to succeed entirely based on Josh Brolin committing to the bit far harder than he probably should have.

Batman Forever (1995)

Batman Forever
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

People will complain about Val Kilmer’s Batman, and I can see why, but… Jim Carrey’s Riddler is very, very watchable indeed, even if he arguably is more Joker than Riddler in many ways. I’m not quite sure what Tommy-Lee Jones is up to for most of the movie, but he looks like he’s having fun, at least.

Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

To call this movie uneven would be a compliment, but it’s hard to stay too mad at anything that brought the world Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang. We’ll just… pretend that the Jared Leto Joker thing never actually happened, right…?

Green Lantern (2011)

Green Lantern
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

If ever any DC movie desperately wanted to be part of the MCU, it’s Green Lantern, a film that is clearly so focused on what it’ll do three movies down the line that it kind of forgets to work in its own right. Think of it as ‘Iron Man, if Iron Man didn’t really succeed.’

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Is the second Shazam! movie a good movie? Not particularly. Does it have a plot that makes a great deal of sense? Not exactly. But does it realize that Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu are almost enough to keep you watching through their very presence, and let the two overact their hearts out? Yes, yes, it does — and we’re all very grateful.

Constantine (2005)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

There are fine arguments to be made about the way in which this movie drops so much of the comic book Constantine to be worthy of the name, but the truth of the matter is, if you can overlook that, there’s a fun potboiler-y early 21st century horror movie to be found here.

Watchmen (2009)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The first of many Zack Snyder movies on this list doesn’t quite understand that a successful adaptation of something as full as Watchmen needs to… well, adapt a lot more than simply faithfully reproduce certain elements and hope for the best. Nonetheless, the opening titles are so good to almost earn this placement alone.

Justice League (2017)

Justice League
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The theatrical version of Justice League — yes, we’ll get to Zack Snyder’s re-edit later — barely ekes out its goodwill by finally bringing the iconic characters together on the big screen for the first time, despite what are clearly some shortcuts and reworking after the fact. I still love the post-credit tag, as throwaway as it is, but the rest of the movie… not so much.

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Another very uneven entry that has its highs — Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord is a lot of fun — and its… well, they’re not even “lows” as much as ‘what actually happened here’s: the mechanics to bring back Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is so ridiculous they actually call it out in the movie, after all.

Superman Returns (2006)

Superman Returns
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Less of a movie in its own right than a cover version of the original Superman: The Movie, Superman Returns is a love letter to a subject that it plainly doesn’t understand, as evidenced by its central question, “What if Superman was a deadbeat dad?” Brandon Routh deserved better.

Superman III (1983)

Superman III
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Richard Pryor’s Gus is at once a character entirely in keeping with the Superman movie series to this point — please see Lex Luthor’s flunkies in that first installment — and one that breaks the reality of the series by showing everyone else up to be humorless and kind of square... but try to imagine the movie without him.

Shazam! (2019)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Against all odds, it turns out that Zachary Levi was the perfect actor to bring C.C. Beck’s Big Red Cheese to life — although it helps that he’s in a movie that’s filled with such heart and goodwill that even Mr. Mind would find it hard to be too cynical in response.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Yes, it’s over-stuffed, yes it’s melodramatic and features a near-psychopathic Batman and a denouement that makes no real sense if you stop to think about it for even a second, but… there’s something thrillingly superheroic about quite how ridiculous and operatic this movie ends up being. The 1990s comic book boom made celluloid.

Aquaman (2018)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Again, this is an overblown mess of a movie, but in the best way: much is talked about the octopus drumming, but the entire movie is suffused with a sense of “Yeah, it’s cool, why not?” that, honestly, feels so much more cool than Aquaman had ever been before.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy falls apart under the weight of its own pretentions and intent, but there’s a lot of fun to be found in both Tom Hardy’s Bane and Anne Hathaway’s delightful, should’ve-gotten-a-spinoff Selina Kyle.

Joker (2019)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Joker appeals to two types of people: Those who’ve never seen 1982’s The King of Comedy starring Robert DeNiro, and those who have, but also like the weird metatextual appeal of a Joker movie that just rips that movie off wholesale, entirely shamelessly. (I’m in the latter group, if you’re wondering.)

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

For all the sturm-und-drang that characterizes so much of Zack Snyder’s filmography, the strength of Man of Steel is found in the stillness and beauty of much of the cinematography, which elevates a feature that — in another director’s hands — could have fallen into the same sunken mess that its screenplay did.

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s a strange hunger at the core of Batman Begins, as Christopher Nolan attempts to use the Dark Knight to establish his own voice, and succeeds — a reminder of a time when superhero movies could be used to advance a director’s own vision, as opposed to that of a studio’s cross-universe needs.

The Batman (2022)

The Batman
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

In what had by this point become a tradition, Batman finds himself upstaged by Catwoman in this reboot for the franchise — but when Zoe Kravitz is the Catwoman in question, it’s hard to believe anyone else could’ve fared better… especially given Robert Pattinson’s weirdly magnetic anti-charisma as the Caped Crusader.

Batman (1989)

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Jack Nicholson’s Joker is a distraction from what makes this movie so enjoyable, as Michael Keaton manages to key in on the tension implicit in Tim Burton’s take on Batman and his world. Everything is simultaneously overblown and understated, and Keaton’s whispering man dressed as a bat exemplifies that in every frame. Even if he can’t move his head.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Zack Snyder's Justice League
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

It has to be said, the rumors were true: Zack Snyder’ Justice League isn’t just a significantly different movie from the version released in theaters, but a substantially better one, with more depth and, it has to be said, a far more satisfying conclusion that lets all of the team shine. Imagine a world where this had made it to theaters…

The Flash (2023)

The Flash
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Less a superhero movie than a time-travel tragicomedy, The Flash deserved better than it got in almost every respect — although it’s very difficult to look past the real-life behavior of its star (playing two of the main roles onscreen for the majority of the movie!) in order to get there, admittedly. There’s a very sweet, very funny movie at the center of The Flash, for those who’re willing to get there.

Blue Beetle (2023)

Blue Beetle
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Upgraded from what was intended to be a streaming-only release, Blue Beetle proved to be the little superhero movie that could: charming, funny, and anchored by great lead performances. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the bad guys feel a little too generic, but… surely that’s something that could be fixed in a sequel, right? Right?

Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Filled with smart choices — setting the movie in the past, away from the rest of the emerging DCU was one of the best decisions made in relation to this whole thing — Gal Gadot’s first solo outing as Diana still feels like an achievement as much as a movie. If only things had stayed this good…!

Superman: The Movie (1978)

Superman: The Movie
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Given the rudimentary state of special effects at the time, this movie having the tagline “You’ll believe you man could fly” might seem like a joke — except that, by the time the movie is over, you will believe… in the power of Superman as an inspirational hero, if nothing else. To this day, one of the best superhero movies ever made.

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Almost literally a movie of two halves, The Dark Knight sings when the late Heath Ledger is onscreen, and suffers when he’s absent. The Two-Face material pales in comparison, but how could it not? (I remain unconvinced by Christian Bale’s Batman, but he was never the draw of any of these movies, let’s be real.)

Birds of Prey (2020)

Birds of Prey
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Apparently a divisive movie, Birds of Prey is a joy because of how unapologetic it is about what it’s doing — just like Harley Quinn, who anchors the whole enterprise. It’s a messy, funny romp of a movie, and one that accepts the twisted reality of the genre as a baseline and makes it stranger from there. In a just world, we’d be on the third sequel by now.

Batman (1966)

Image credit: 20th Century Fox

The original superhero movie, and in many ways still the best, the 1966 Batman is gloriously, un-self-consciously silly, but never dumb; it’s a comedy that runs with the source material and heads for the hills, but wants to make sure that you’re following and having a great time in the process. I maintain that this movie has the best on-screen Riddler, for what it’s worth.

Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Returns
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Never mind the good guy: in Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and Danny DeVito’s Penguin, Batman Returns provides two all-time great supervillain roles, and allows them to get away with the ultimate crime: stealing the movie every single time they show up onscreen. Why can’t today’s bad guys be this fun?

Superman II (1980)

Superman II
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Talking of great bad guys, has any Superman movie ever had better villains than the Phantom Zone criminal trio that show up in Superman II? Terrence Stamp’s Zod is a joy to behold in every single scene, especially because he seems to come from a slightly creepier reality from everyone else in the movie…

The Suicide Squad (2021)

The Suicide Squad
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Yeah, that’s right: James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is the best DC movie. I wholeheartedly believe that, despite the lack of any truly big name characters; what makes it so perfectly DC is how willingly it embraces the off-kilter and silly, how readily it swerves between expectations and going far off the reservation, and more than either of those, how happily and completely it ends up wearing its sentimental heart on its sleeve. Sure, I could’ve made the case for its DC-ness based on using Starro as the big threat — I mean, come on — but, really, it’s a movie that demonstrated how much Gunn understands the core DNA of DC’s superhero output… and why the future DCU of big and small screens is in very good hands indeed.

Admit it; this has made you want to rewatch all of the DCEU movies; thankfully, we have a guide to help you with that, as well as a timeline of how it all holds together. Or maybe it’s just the Batman movies you want to revisit, but we’re here for that, as well. That said, perhaps you’re more interested in upcoming superhero movies, or the future of all of DC’s on-screen properties. Whatever you want, we’re here to help.