One of the most celebrated cinema couples – DC and Warner Bros – brought to our attention the most amazing comic book-based animation movies ever. They mastered the skill of bringing superhero adventures to life, and they’re continuing to provide the best entertainment for all audiences.
DC animated movies are so good that they have a lot of cinematic adaptations. Yet, unlike the surreal and expanded universes of Marvel Studios, DC’s straight-to-video animations celebrate the actual heroes as they were presented by their comic books.
In short, DC animated movies are not Sci-Fi mash-ups, but they tell the standalone story just as it is. That’s why they’re worth to watch.
Ready for some good DC animated movies? Here is our list of the best DC animation movies you should watch:
Superman/Shazam: The Return Of Black Adam
Shazam, for instance, is a neglected DC character. This is the superhero alter ego of a boy named Billy Watson.
Billy becomes Shazam each time he says his name, all before he meets a wizard that can change his life forever. The mortal enemy of our hero is Black Adam. He returns from the past to haunt and kill Billy before he obtains his Shazam powers, and Billy has to fight him over and over again.
Producers made the smart move of introducing Superman to the audience – Clark interviews Billy, and then fights next to him and helps him defeat Black Adam. The movie targets young dreamers who wish to have Billy’s magical powers and to feel better accepted.
Justice League: The New Frontier
Although DC Comics began entertaining us in the early 1930s, Justice League animated movies appeared only in 1960. The masterpiece The New Frontier treats a post-WWII tale where all leading heroes join strengths to defeat the evil about to destroy Earth.
Many of today’s favorite DC heroes were actually introduced with New Frontier, and so was the concept of godly creatures working hand-by-hand with strong humans for a good cause.
Green Lantern: First Flight
The reason why we all love DC animated movies (or their comic books) is the inherent weirdness of their characters, or maybe how that weirdness is fully embraced.
Green Lantern is a good example of such animated DC movies – a unique comic figure in the role of a space cop Hal Jordan who owns a magic green ring that makes his wishes come true.
And yet, Green Lantern Jordan shoots laser blasts and decides to travel through space. Meanwhile, he discovers and confronts a dangerous conspiracy within the Green Lantern Corps.
The only weakness of Green Lanterns is the color yellow.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
We all appreciate a good Batman-Superman story, as these are our two most beloved animation heroes. Superman would only entrust his Kryptonite bullet to Batman, as he’s the only person that’d actually use it if Superman loses control.
In the Public Enemies movie, the two heroes join forces to deal with a government conspiracy – Superman was framed for murder by President Luthor, and Batman is the only hero from the crowd that helps him solve this problem.
Who could be a more serious enemy than the head of the state? The ultimate fight will cause Superman and Batman to face their other superhero friends, and to do the impossible to clean their names. With plenty of thrilling moments and explosive action, this movie guarantees some serious fun!
All-Star Superman was produced by Grant Morrison, and belongs to the category of finest comics ever. All along, we were made to believe that the only thing that can destroy Superman is Kryptonite (basically, Superman was indestructible to us!), but Grant Morison changed it all with his unconventional All-Star Superman.
We were shocked at the very beginning of the movie – Superman got overdosed with solar radiation, and we got to watch the last year of his life. Yet, the protagonist remained hopeful and optimistic, and we enjoyed that together with the producer’s artistic mastery.
As expected, Superman did the best he could to help people in different ways, as he knew he wasn’t going to be around for long.
Batman: Under the Red Hood
We’re all haunted by a mistake from the past, and Batman is no exception. In his case, he regrets not being able to prevent Jason Todd’s death, his beloved second Robin who fell into Joker’s hands. The question that confuses us here is – What prevents Batman from killing the Joker?
The Joker doesn’t stay in Arkham for long, and each time he gets out he causes destructions and death. Batman, however, doesn’t want to take this road – he is afraid that if he kills the Joker, he won’t stop killing.
This is without a doubt one of the best DC animated movies, and a remarkable Batman story. The crime drama takes multiple hard-boiled and mystical turns, and takes our breath away ‘til the very end.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
In Crisis on Two Earths, DC animation films discussed multiverse for the very first time. Causal viewers were all head over heels, experienced what’d happen if all Justice League heroes had evil counterparts trying to destroy Earth. Bad, nonetheless, is not the only answer to this question.
Batman’s doppelganger is Owl-Man (James Wood), and his character is simply brought to perfection in this movie. The fight is intense until the very end, making us wonder who could possibly win this battle.
This animated movie doesn’t only tell us who Wonder Woman is, but also explains many of the things that happened before and after she got this title. It explains in a very masterful way what enigmatic origin actually means, and makes us like Princess Diana with or without her wonder woman features.
As Princess Diana ventured the male world, she was still a naive and well-tempered lady. Yet, she had just enough skills to turn into layered hero Wonder Woman, an exciting storyline with top-notch pacing that kept us motionless in front of our screens. For a superhero tale, Wonder Woman has a pretty realistic and faithful origin development, and treats an evergreen topic – justice.
Justice League: War
Here’s one of the newest additions of the Justice League saga – the readapted 52 story of Justice League: Origin. Here, we can enjoy a completely reinvented and DC-untypical universe set and the New 52 canon’s confines.
We may like or dislike the characters in New 52, but that doesn’t make War any less compelling, fun, or visually spectacular. It is still amazing to see how superheroes team up as one wouldn’t expect them to, as when Batman and Green Lantern or Superman and Wonder Woman learn to work together.
Justice League Dark
At a certain point, DC animated movies decided to explore the mystical side of their Universe, and the decision was a total success!
They introduced us to Swamp Thing, John Constantine, Zatanna, Etrigan, and Deadman – the dark heroes that hallucinate of demons and kill each other. Batman is once again supposed to take the lead – he looks for John Constantine, the master of these mystical arts, and asks for his help.
In Justice League Dark, we have the unique opportunity to enjoy superhero action blended with horror, and produced with the animation finesse only DC Films can provide. Better yet, it showed us that every comic book we love can easily become a dark tale – it only takes some imagination!
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Teen Titans also got their own animated movie to tell the story of their superhero team. The Judas Contract updates this storyline in a modern way, introducing the betrayal of their favorite fan.
You may discover differences between the cartoon continuity and the comic book, but the story will still impress you – the Teen Titans have become more mature, and producers have discovered the right dark sides of their story to create this movie.
Superman vs The Elite
This time, Superman fights vigilantes who kill and injure villains with their powers. The subplot takes place in two imaginary enemy countries, and Superman tries really hard to stop this never-ending war.
Consequently, the Elite go after the leaders of these countries to stop the senseless violence – it may sound a bit nutty, but so does the imprisonment of super-power villains who can get out without any problem.
As Man of Steel cuts loose, the Elite discover that Superman is not willing to hurt people, and that’s what is holding him back. For the audience, this is a fact writers of such stories often leave aside – Superman is not only a superhero, but also a lovely human being.
Teen Titans Vs. Justice League
Being a sidekick in a DC animation movie is not the best role you can have, as it is in the case of Robin and Batman. And yet, sidekicks manage to earn the acknowledgment and respect of Earth’s most powerful being, as they prove to be able to oppose any force.
This theory is first tested in Teen Titans vs. Justice League, where leaders don’t have their weapons anymore, and can only rely on their protégés to save the world. The movie has a lot of similarities with the Judas Contract, and you should watch both of them to feel the full impact.
Son of Batman
Grant Morrison’s latest creation Damian Wayne has raised many controversial comic book debates ever since it joined the DC animated universe – some of us can’t understand how Batman’s sons don’t have his maturity and ability to do better than him, while others simply enjoy watching Bruce in a role of a caring father with a hidden identity.
Along the way, Bruce deals with serious fatherhood challenges such as teaching his sons not to kill criminals, which is a unique screen transition from Batman’s well-known past to his intriguing future. The movie has three parts, and all of them feature animal-human hybrids that add up interest to the story.
Batman vs. Robin
For those who didn’t watch it, Batman vs. Robin is kind of a sequel to the Sons of Batman trilogy – we don’t get to watch Nightwing dealing with his family heritage, but we still deal with Damian Wayne who continues killing because he was raised by the League of Assassins.
It is disputable whether DC needed another movie on this story, and it is actually very good that the villains take over: Watching them challenging Batman over the fate of Damian’s soul is one of the best DC animation moments ever!
Batman: Assault on Arkham
Even though Batman has been mentioned in the title, this is not a Batman movie. The Dark Knight opens up the setting, but he has only a supportive role. The throne this time belongs to the Suicide Squad – a group of brave villains on a suicide mission.
Amanda Waller sent our favorite characters Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn, King Shark, KG Beast, Black Spider, and Killer Frost on duty in Arkham Asylum, where they’re supposed to fool Riddler into providing them information. As long as they manage to defeat Batman!
Here’s another misleading title: Superman and Batman won’t be working together this time, and they’re both in the shadow of a new character and Clark’s cousin Super Girl. As Kara Zor-El arrives on Earth, she tries to settle in and to control her amazing powers. Clark shows her around, and suggest she should live among Amazons to gain self-control.
And it’d all be fine, if it wasn’t for Darkside to kidnap Super Girl and to try to misuse her powers. The movie guarantees an exhilarating plot and exciting action, but the original comic art (Michael Turner) is often considered too sexual for the story behind it.
Justice League: Doom
We are all familiar with Batman’s trust issues, in particular the discrimination against people with unusual powers. This explains why he always had a contingency plan to use the Justice League’s powers nefariously, in case the cohort went rogue.
Doom teaches us to expect the unexpected, and takes us on an action-packed journey which also showcases sorrow and regrets. We empathize with Batman as his loved ones are in danger, and that danger is actually caused by his own mean plans.
The movie also brings us the classic villains such as mastermind Vandal Savage, but also his less-known fellows Star Saphire, Bane, and Metallo.
All things together, there’s little chance you won’t enjoy this faced-paced and stellar thriller. The recipe of success has all the right ingredients: a compelling and riveting storyline, well-executed and crisp-clear animation, and the best possible voice performance.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Vol 1 & 2
For those who think the opposite, there is only one The Dark Knight Returns animated movie. What the title here tells us is that the story has two parts, and these parts are brought together on screen for the first time.
Regardless of it, we must agree that this is DC’s best attempt so far to stay true to the Dark Knight story, and to adapt it to viewers’ expectations. The Dark Knight here is older and about to retire, but before he does, he meets his cruelest enemies – the Mutants.
The struggle is obvious – Batman is no longer physically fit for the task, and he needs to train a whole new Robin to help him (Carrie Kelly). To the pleasure of viewers, however, Mutants and gangsters end up regretting messing with Batman, just the way we, faithful fans, would like it to be.
All in all, this movie confirmed that Batman is still a symbol of power, and no one can take this from him!
Batman: Year One
While watching this movie, one may even think it does not belong to the DC animation series. Unlike all action-packed Batman pieces we got used to, Year One offers a slow-paced and grounded development of events, just the way Frank Miller described it.
The screenwriter answered the most intriguing question of the Batman fans’ community – How did Batman come to be? How was it possible for an orphaned trust fund boy to turn into the Dark Knight?
Year One follows Bruce’s growing up in corrupt and vicious Gotham, and the situations that inspired him to pursue justice at all costs. At the time, Bruce had few encounters with criminals already, and decided to wear a mask in order to intimidate them.
Year One also introduces us to another important character in the story – Lieutenant Gordon who’d just moved to the city and is terrified by what’s going on there. He needs to stand against his entire police department, the mobsters, and the Catwoman how’s jealous of him.
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
Throne of Atlantis deals mainly with Aquaman’s origin, a neglected character in the superhero community who talks to fish, and is often mocked because of it. What the Justice League fails to realize is that Aquaman can control the oceans, or what forms in fact 70% of the Earth. Throne of Atlantis explains to us where he comes from, and how he becomes a respected member of the Justice League.
When LexCorps accidentally unleash a murderous creature, Doomsday, Superman meets his greatest challenge as a champion. Based on the “The Death of Superman” storyline that appeared in DC Comics’ publications in the 1990s.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
If you’re a Flash fan too, you must agree it felt good to see your favorite hero headlining a movie of his one. Flashpoint Paradox is perhaps the darkest DC animation film ever, so creepy that even Scarlet Speedster’s charm can’t shine through.
The storyline is very involving: Barry Allen travels through time to prevent his mother’s death, but his attempt results in destroying the DC Universe as we knew it ‘til now. This means that Bruce Wayne will be murdered in front of his father, and that he’ll never become Batman.
The Flash won’t get his powers, and the rest of the superhero crew will absolutely transform the Earth. Wonder Woman, for instance, conquers Great Brittan, while Aquaman drowns most of the old continent. Meanwhile, the US government imprisons Superman forever, and the Justice League simply doesn’t exist.
Even if you watch this movie for the 10th time, you’ll still spot changes you missed before. What a visual delight!
BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT
Gotham by Gaslight came to a very important conclusion: As old and explored Batman’s story could seem, there is always a way to shed new light over it! If you’re into new animated movies, you shouldn’t miss this masterpiece.
This time, we’ll be traveling to Victorian Gotham, and our enemy will be infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper. To stop the terrors he’s causing, Bruce Wayne goes undercover in the unprivileged part of Gotham, and behaves in a way we never really expected.
Of course, the movie doesn’t deprive us of our favorite Dark Knight features, but the new package he comes in is truly fascinating. Regardless of the conditions, Batman blends easily into this exciting world, and we can’t wait to see how Gotham will be recreated in the future!
Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay
Since we’re talking of new DC animated movies, we shouldn’t miss Suicide Squad – the piece that never stopped fascinating us. The thin line between these powered creatures saving people or taking over the world creates a superb tension, both for other DC heroes and for the audience.
Hell to Pay has another great squad mission to present us – Amanda Waller’s last chance to save her soul by obtaining a ‘getting out of hell’ card. The turn of events will leave you speechless!
Batman: Gotham Knight
Here comes another highly unusual Batman animation. Gotham Knight contributed Christopher Nolan’s movies the same way Animatrix did with the Matrix trilogy.
This time, the best Japanese directors and American writers joined forces to complete the story between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The result of their work are six amazing short movies that embrace Batman’s entire life and the mysteries around him.
Batman: The Killing Joke
The Killing Joke is often referred to as the story that made Batman what he is today and perhaps one of the best animated Batman movies ever. It took multiple recreations in over 40 years to come up with a piece as marvelous as this – a brutal and controversial story where the Joker manages to prove that one bad day is enough for everyone to go crazy.
Batman: Bad Blood
Batman fans settled (somehow) for the Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin movies, and for the idea of Batman not having the end he deserves. The third part of this story (Bad Blood), however, crossed the line.
We’re not saying that nothing interesting takes place in this movie, but the turn of events is so fast that we can hardly keep track of it. We lose Bruce Wayne at the very beginning of the movie, and we don’t even get to mourn him in the 75 minutes of exhausting plots waiting for us.
The best part of the top DC movie comes somewhere along the end – The Bat family fights together, and Damien finally takes over. This is also where we get to see Batwoman (Kate Kane) in an animation for the first time, and she looks exactly as we remember her from the original comics.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
The anthology sequence of Green Lanterns combines multiple short stories, and each of them treats a different Green Lantern Corps member.
Since there was no way to create a story on every character, filmmakers focused on the favorite protagonists, and ensured fans will enjoy every minute of watching. Note – even if you watched all animated DC movies, you may find these stories confusing.
Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker
Welcome to the story of the new Batman Terry McGinnis! This is also his first encounter with the atrocities inflicted upon Batman for more than 35 years, which results in this movie being too grim and dark for children to watch. Another big return is one of the Clown Prince of Crime (Mark Hamil), just as good as he used to be before.
Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm
Last but not least, there is the very best Batman movie: Mask of the Phantasm.
In this DC animation film, you will find all Batman features that you like – the beautiful animations, the involving voices, and the origin story of Bruce Wayne presented in a whole new and fresh light. Odds are great this will be the best Batman performance you’ve ever seen!
Ending thoughts on the best DC animated movies
We hope that our list of best DC movies invoked some good memories of the time spent exploring the DC animated movie universe. We, the same as all fans of the best superhero cartoon movies are looking forward to enriching this collection, and we promise to keep you posted on upcoming DC animated movies! Meanwhile – have fun!
If you enjoyed reading this article about the best DC animated movies, you should read these as well:
- 48 Of The Best Short Animated Films (Oscar winners included)
- 34 Of The Best Motion Graphics Studios And Their Work
- Kinetic Typography: Best 47 Videos
- The Best Animated Movies For Adults
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