It is widely known that DC creates some of the best animated superhero movies. While the DCEU is still finding its footing among the live-action movie universes, its animated arm is thriving and beating its rivals on all points. DC boasts superior storytelling and character utilization in their animated movies.
They have created the DC Animated Universe that runs movies in continuation; the DCAU began with Justice League: War – an all-out war against Darkseid’s invasion of Earth that led to the formation of the Justice League. This is like creating the Marvel Universe with Avengers: Infinity War as their first movie.
Apart from the main animated universe, DC also produces independent stories like Batman/ Superman: Apocalypse or The Dark Knight Returns. Sure, they have had their let-downs, like the adaptation of the Injustice saga which miserably failed to live up to the comics and the game, or the Killing Joke whose comic was magnificent while the movie paled in comparison.
Among more than 45 animated movies, we have curated a list of top 10 animated movies of DC that, we believe, are worthy of their spot in Valhalla (pun intended).
Best DC Animated Movies List!
10. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
The Throne of Atlantis is often overshadowed by its earlier JL movie, ‘JL: War.’ However, this fourth installment to the DCAU is absolutely brilliant if you watch carefully and with an open mind. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis breathes freely and away from the usual Batman or Superman-centric storylines (this is mainly why the movie makes this list).
The movie begins with the crash of the nuclear submarine, USS California, with the crew dead under mysterious circumstances. The Justice League is sent to investigate and find evidence of meddling from the Atlanteans. Meanwhile, Arthur Curry, a washed-out bum who lives in a lighthouse and has the ability to talk to fishes, begins exploring his mysterious royal lineage – as the rightful heir to the throne of Atlantis.
In Atlantis, the nation under the oceans, a debate broils over declaring war on the humans, which leads to regicide and a murkily thickening plot. When Arthur gets to know about this, a question arises – will he accept his destiny to rule Atlantis. Will he be the Aquaman?
JL: Throne of Atlantis features brilliant animation that almost looks live-action. It flaunts expertly crafted action scenes that ensure Aquaman gets the spotlight. The music is gripping and pleasantly sonorous. The only problem is that the involvement of the Justice League feels unnecessary for this story (this could have been an Aquaman standalone feature).
9. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Shadowing the main Justice League is the team of their sidekicks and young superheroes – the Teen Titans. This does not, however, mean that their challengers cut them any slack (they have even gone against the main Justice League in one of the movies).
The Teen Titans have always been fan-favorites. The original Titans included Wally West (Kid Flash), Dick Grayson (Robin / Nightwing), and Garth (Aqualad) with Donna Troy (Wonder Girl) joining them later. However, this movie includes the following main Titans characters – Robin, Nightwing, Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, Blue Beetle, and Terra.
The Titans investigate the terrorist cult called Brother Blood, who have in their control a machine to absorb superpowers. To thwart the Titans, Brother Blood sends Deathstroke – a deadly mercenary, after them.
Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) is still bitter at Robin (Damien Wayne) for attempting to kill and replace him as the heir to the League of Assassins (*see Son of Batman). The Titans are well-prepared to fight off Deathstroke and foil Brother Blood. However, one among them is a double agent spying for the enemy.
The film premiered on 31st March 2017 and received a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 83%. The critics noted improvement of the Teen Titans’ arc after the Justice League v. Teen Titans and hailed its fast-paced action.
8. Batman: Assault on Arkham
Screened at the San Diego Comic Con in 2014, this Batman movie follows the aftermath of the Rock steady video game – Arkham Origins. While it declares itself as a Batman movie, the Caped Crusader is sidelined for a supporting role. This is a Suicide Squad movie, focusing on Harley Quinn and Deadshot. Kevin Conroy, who voices The Dark Knight in the Arkham video game series, returns to the mantle. The movie also contains many villains from the Batman rogue gallery list.
The Riddler, captured by Batman and deposited to the Arkham Asylum by defeating Amanda Waller’s henchmen, contains compromising secrets about Amanda Waller’s squad. This results in her assembling the Suicide Squad to break into Arkham and retrieve the thumb drive with the information.
In the squad, is Harley Quinn, the erstwhile lover of the Joker, who lies languished in the Asylum. Needless to say, the op goes wrong, and the inmates of the Arkham Asylum go scott free into the world. What follows is total mayhem.
The movie delivers on the thriller aspect quite wonderfully, with action scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Critics have loved this movie for its immoral glee and crude humor.
7. Superman: Red Son
This DC movie is based on the 2003 comic of the same name, written by the legendary Frank Millar. It received positive critiques worldwide; however, Russia has criticized the depiction of their country in the movie, even going so far to say that the movie was ‘Russophobic.’
Instead of being raised in Kansas by the Kents, the last Kryptonian lives out his childhood in the Soviet Union. Aided by the kind Svetlana, he learns to use his powers for the service of his nation. He becomes a propaganda icon under the Stalin regime, forcing the USA to commission Lex Luthor in finding a solution for tackling the Soviet Superman.
However, Superman’s meeting with Lois Lane (Lex Luthor’s wife in this version) leads him to question his country’s motives. He kills Stalin and takes over the administration of the Soviet Union, promising that he will use his powers to bring global peace. But immense obstacles lie in his way to reach his goal, the most dangerous of them all – himself.
Superman: Red Son also gives an interesting backstory to the Batman, who survives the gulag and leads the resistance against Superman’s regime. Also sharing the limelight is the Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern, who make the plot thicker and more fascinating.
6. Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
Matt Ryan’s Constantine TV series (2014) spiraled the actor into being an icon for the DC character. He returns as the voice of Constantine in this second installment of the Justice League Dark. The movie is loosely based on the comic saga – Darkseid War, but it does not include the Anti-Monitor as the second villain. As this is a movie about dark magic, the villain battling Darkseid is Trigon – an interdimensional sadistic demon, and father to Raven.
Apokolips War begins with Superman calling all Justice League members and declaring his intention to destroy Darkseid and his home world, once and for all. Fast-forward, and we see that plan has gone awry – Darkseid has enslaved most of the Justice League members, installed Batman on the Mobius Chair as his vassal, and injected Superman with liquid Kryptonite.
Darkseid has also captured and ruined Earth, leaving just a few people on the dystopian planet. In this bleak atmosphere, the battered Man of Steel and Raven enlist the help of Constantine to take the fight to Darkseid and return normalcy to the world.
Look out for Etrigan; he provides a great comedy distraction in the movie, while Constantine continues his jerk-act to perfection. You will feel sorry for Superman in this movie.
5. Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox
The Fastest Man Alive, Barry Allen, has lived up to his reputation many times in the past (or the future, if you want to see it like that). From changing the timeline multiple times, exploring parallel realities and the multiverse, to being the energy reactor powering Apokolips, the Flash has seen most of the universe compared to the rest of the League.
In the Flashpoint Paradox, Barry Allen wakes up to find he has lost his powers and, somehow, found that his mother is alive. The Batman he meets is a murdering, cold, and calculating vigilante and Cyborg is a government puppet. He realizes that this is an alternate reality, and he gets this confirmation from none other than the Reverse Flash. Barry is the one responsible for this mess, and now he must set things right.
The setting of this movie is quite gloomy, with the Amazon vs. Atlantis war brewing around the world. This is quite the change from the Flash’s usually light-hearted stories. But it is a welcoming change. The storytelling aspect is nailed right on the anvil, and the action sequences are brutal and cushion-ripping. Rotten Tomatoes features a 100% approval rating for the movie and the movie has earned more than 33 million dollars in sales.
4. Batman: The Long Halloween (Part I and II)
Over a period of time, Batman has transformed from a detective to a universe-trotting heavy hitter. The Long Halloween brings him back to his roots, and we get to see him at his investigative best. Released in 2021, this recent addition to the DC Animated Movies is a two-part movie and brings back the fan-favorite Jensen Ackles to voice the Batman.
Johnny Viti, the nephew of Gotham crime lord Carmine Falcone is murdered on Halloween. The killer leaves a jack-o-lantern behind as a calling sign. With more murders piling up on holidays, Batman is forced to seek the advice of Calendar Man, locked up in the Arkham Asylum, only to find out that the Joker has escaped, and he intends to outwit the ‘Holiday Killer.’
Every clue, Batman finds, points him towards the ultimate target of the Holiday Killer – Carmine Falcone. He also realizes that, somehow, District Attorney Harvey Dent is tied up with the murders. But before he can investigate more, Harvey Dent is attacked by acid, and his transformation into the notorious ‘Two-Face’ begins.
Rotten Tomatoes features a 100% rating for this movie. The critics received the movie warmly with praise and have noted its apt adherence to the comic, while maintaining perfect creative freedom. The Matt Reeves directed, Robert Pattinson starred ‘Batman’ movie is heavily influenced by the Long Halloween saga.
3. Batman: Under the Red Hood
In 2010, Warner Bros had released an animated movie on this storyline, starring Jensen Ackles as Batman (isn’t he just the perfect voice for Batman?). Under the Red Hood gets very personal for Batman and is one of the greatest victories for Joker.
It is commonly known that the Joker kills Jason Todd (the 2nd Robin) by smacking him with a crowbar (see Death in the Family). Batman still hasn’t recovered from that loss. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure called the Red Hood appears in Gotham and makes a deal with the drug smugglers.
He shall protect them against Batman and the Black Mask (Roman Sionis, or Ewen McGregor, if you please). There is just one condition: the smugglers won’t deal with children. As predicted, Batman clashes with the Red Hood and realizes the Hood is extremely skilled and has precise knowledge of Batman’s suit and gear.
This movie forces Batman’s past to catch up with him and confront his grief. It makes him walk the fine line between good and evil. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 100% approval rating.
2. Death of Superman
The Death of Superman has been done to stale dough by now, with the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill, or Geralt of Rivia, if you so wish) laying down his life to save the world from Doomsday in BvS: Dawn of Justice. That Snyder movie lacked the necessary emotional appeal around his death. DC Animated Universe shows you exactly how the moment should have been portrayed. Warner Bros Animation presents – Death of Superman.
After his exploits with the Justice League in several previous movies, and sharing a boiling chemistry with Wonder Woman, Clark finally finds his country roots with the feisty and ambitious Lois Lane. She doesn’t yet know that he is Superman (the time she finds out is so heart-breaking). Meanwhile, a huge meteor crashes in the ocean, with a large unknown being in a containment suit.
The investigating Atlanteans are attacked by the being, who finally manages to reach land and rampage around creating wanton destruction. Individual Justice League members try to battle the being, only managing to break his containment suit, revealing – Doomsday. Failing miserably, the League lies heavily injured. When Superman enters the fray, what follows is a colossal battle between him and Doomsday, in Metropolis. A dance to the death.
The movie showcases perfectly the emotional appeal around the blossoming love between Lois and Clark, to a point where you will tear up at the end (fortunately, it lacks any Martha moments). It will also show you how Superman is much more than his inexplicable superpowers. The man from Kansas will steal your heart.
This movie was followed by a direct sequel called the Reign of Supermen which is also worth a watch.
1. The Dark Knight Returns (Part I & II)
Logan (2017) showed us that old-age superheroes can be portrayed interestingly and engagingly. However, it was not the first movie to do that. This recipe was crafted and perfected in 2013 by The Dark Knight Returns. The only thing more interesting than seeing senile Wolverine is a geriatric Batman, and The Dark Knight Returns does not disappoint for a single second of its run-time.
Released in two parts, in 2013, from the comic of the same name by Frank Millar, The Dark Knight Returns tells you the story of a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne. Retired for more than a decade after Jason Todd’s death, Bruce Wayne has all the usual old people problems.
Due to his retirement, the Joker languishes in the Arkham Asylum, lout with loneliness and waiting for some form of return of The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent has undergone plastic surgery to reinstitute his normal face. But with his following disappearance and the rise of a terrorist faction called the Mutants, Bruce Wayne decides that he needs to make a comeback. And he does, albeit, with a bang.
The story progresses grimly, as Batman’s return is met with mixed reactions. The government decides to bring the old vigilante in, and ropes in none other than his former friend – Superman, to take him down. If you thought BvS: Dawn of Justice showed you a good Batman versus Superman battle, wait until you see this one. Batman’s determination and grit shows valiantly in this battle as he goes toe-to-toe with the Strongest Man on earth.
Well, these are the top 10 DC animated movies you must watch if you’re into DC Universe. We’re pretty sure a few of the movies might have not been mentioned on the list, but we assure you, these are the best picks according to our experience.
So, what do you think about the list? Do you have any other titles that deserve a spot on the list? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
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