When you think of comic book movies, your mind would mostly likely think about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and rightfully so. For the last 10 years, the MCU has released hit after hit, seemingly leaving the DC Comics movie making sector, The DCEU, in the dust.
This would leave many to believe that DC Comics is unable to make a well-grounded, character driven, masterpiece like “Avengers: Infinity;” but, the truth is, Warner Brothers and DC Comics have been creating just that for even longer, but in a whole different medium.
Some people hear “cartoons” and think to themselves, “that’s for kids” but these movies are anything but child’s play. Warner Brother Animated has been steadily releasing groundbreaking, full-length animated movies since the release of “Superman: Doomsday” in September of 2007, a full eight months before the MCU kicked into gear with “Iron Man”.
Out of the 32 movies released since then, these are the top ten that any big time DC Comics fan should watch.
*This list is my opinion and in no way is this putting down, or overlooking any of the other 22 films, these 10 just particularly stand out to me that I have listed in release date order.
1) Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) Directed by David Bullock, written by Stan Berkowitz, based on Darwyn Cookes graphic novel. Voice talents include Kyle MacLachian (Superman), Jeremy Sisto (Batman), Lucy Lawless (Wonder Woman), Nel Patrick Harris (The Flash), David Boreanaz (Green Lantern) and Miguel Ferrer (Martian Manhunter).
This beautiful call back to the golden age of comics calls our favorite heroes to ban together to battle “The Center”, an evil being that has been dwelling in the center of the Earth since the beginning of time. The Center wants to wipe out the disease that infects the planet to which it sat silently watching for eons, the problem is, he thinks human beings are the disease.
The voice casting is astounding, with each actor slipping into their roles and really becoming the characters as the animation and style are spot on to represent the book and the decade to which the origins of these characters came to be.
2) Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009) Directed by Sam Liu, written by Stan Berkowitz, based on the graphic novel written by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness. Voice talents include Tim Daly (Superman), Kevin Conroy (Batman), Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor) and Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder (Amanda Waller).
If you are a fan of “Batman The Animated Series”, “Superman The Animated Series” or the subsequent animated “Justice League” series, this is probably the movie for you. The same talents from these classic animated series return to voice Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor and Amanda Waller, which make it feel like a 90-minute episode of pure nostalgia.
Lex Luthor is up to his usual no good ways in trying to get rid of Superman, but this time, it takes an extreme alternate route to try to get to him. Luthor is the President of the United States and attempts to make Superman obsolete by assembling his own legal squad of super powered people. The plot thickens after Luthor tries to set The Man of Steel up for murder, and it is up to his Bat-Friend to help save his Kryptonian skin and help clear his name.
3) Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) Directed by Brandon Vietti, written by Judd Winick, based on his graphic novel of the same name. Showcasing the voice talents of Brice Greenwood (Batman), Jensen Ackles (Red Hood), Neil Patrick Harris (Nightwing) and John DiMaggio (Joker).
What could possibly be one of the greatest Batman stories ever told, Under the Red Hood stands side by side with its printed representation and has a voice cast to bring its awesomeness to an 11 out of 10.
Everyone loves Mark Hamill, and his work as the Joker on Batman The Animated Series is hard to top, but DiMaggio comes up with something all his own and leaves a new mark on the Clown Prince of Crime.
The story follows the aftermath of “ A Death in the Family” where the second boy to be the wonderful side kick to Batman, Jason Todd, has died in the line of service by the crow bar wielding hand of the Joker. Being a comic book, its safe to say he does not stay dead long (because aside from Martha and Thomas Wayne, no one in Batman world every stays dead) and his new alter ego, The Red Hood, returns to Gotham to show Batman how business should be done.
4) Superman vs. The Elite (2012) Directed by Michael Chang, written by Joe Kelly based on a story appearing in Action Comics #775. Voices provided by George Newbern (Superman), Robin Atkin Downes (Manchester Black) and Pauley Perrette (Lois Lane)
This animated feature has the most unique style of any of the movies on the list. Even if it did not have a great story, it still would have ended up on the list just for that reason, luckily the story is really good, too.
A super powered group from the UK make themselves known to the world, and choose to present themselves as an alternative to Superman--an alternative unafraid to go the one place Superman will not.
By the end of the film, Superman is really able to let loose, and show us just exactly why he is the most powerful superhero on Earth, and its not because of his might, but his able to restrain.
5) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns;Parts 1&2 (2012 &2013) Directed by Jay Oliva, written by Bob Goodman, based on the graphic novel written by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. Voice talents include Peter Weller (Batman), Ariel Winter (Robin), David Selby (Commissioner Gordon), Michael Emerson (Joker) and Mark Valley (Superman)
To be frank, if you are not familiar with this Batman title, please clear your afternoon schedule and pick up a copy. The release of this story has a direct line to making Batman one of the top known heroes on the planet and is just one of the best reads you can get from any fiction ever printed.
With that being said, those are some giant metaphorical shoes to fill for an animated film. This is why the folks over at WB Animated are so smart into splitting this story into two separate films, in order to do the story justice and really deliver an extraordinary masterpiece of cinema.
Years into retirement, the Dark Knight must pull himself back into chaos to reclaim his true love, Gotham, from a mutant threat. While doing so, he invokes the wrath of the US government, and the biggest gun in the Presidents pocket, is Superman. Somewhere in between all this madness, his worst villain, The Joker, returns in the most vicious fashion to make sure there is never a dull moment for the world’s greatest detective.
6) Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013) Directed by Jay Olivia, written by Jim Krieg, based on the graphic noel “Flashpoint” by Geoff Johns & Andy Kubert. Starring Justin Chambers (The Flash), C. Thomas Howell (Professor Zoom), Kevin McKidd (Thomas Wayne/Batman), Michael B. Jordan (Cyborg), Cary Elwes (Aquaman) and Vanessa Marshall (Wonder Woman)
In the ultimate time traveling tale, Barry Allen, aka The Flash, fastest man alive, finds himself in an alternate universe, where he is no longer in connection with the speed force. On top of the lack of powers, in this new universe, no one knows Superman, The Batman is a trigger happy madman, and Wonder Woman and Aquaman are destroying modern civilization in an all out war between The Amazons and Atlantians.
Rumor is, that this storyline will be the arc the live action movie will follow, but its really just hearsay at this point. The television show on The CW already did their version of it, and it worked out pretty well. To see a live action version of this story would be all right by me.
7) Justice League: WAR (2014) Directed by Jay Olivia, written by Heath Corson, based on the new 52 comic book “Justice League: Origin” written by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. The league is voiced by Alan Tudyk (Superman), Jason O”Mara (Batman), Michelle Monaghan (Wonder Woman), Shemar Moore (Cyborg), Justin Kirk (Green Lantern), Christopher Gorham (The Flash) and Zach Callison & Sean Astin (Bill Batson & Shazam).
An animated version of the DC New 52 universe, Justice League: WAR is a good jumping on point for anyone new to the animated universe.
This is basically the ultimate origin story to the Justice League, and it details how the seven heroes had to come together to vanquish Darkseid and his army for Earth.
The live action cinematic Justice League tried a similar story line, swapping our Darkseid for Steppenwolf, but honestly this movie just does it better.
8) Justice League: Dark (2017) Directed by Jay Olivia, written by J.M DeMatteis & Ernie Altbacker, based on the comics written by Peter Milligan and Jeff Lemire & Mikel Janin. Voices include Jason O’ Mara (Batman), Matt Ryan (John Constantine), Camilla Luddington (Zatanna), Ray Chase (Etrigan), Nicholas Turturro (Deadman) and Roger Cross (Swamp Thing)
This film is definitely not for children, and even brandishes an R rating for “some disturbing violence”, but if that’s your thing, this is your movie.
This was another story line that was once rumored to be coming to the silver screen, but after the DCEU didn’t launch the way it was supposed it, it was done in animation instead.
This film follows what the more mystical, magical, and well, darker, characters the DC Universe has to offer, and is action packed throughout. Though now it seems highly unlikely, if a live action version of these characters were to ever come to the big screen, I think it would do well because of the differences this team has to the original Justice League line-up.
9) Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017) Directed by Sam Liu, written by Ernie Altbacker, based on the comics by Marv Wolfman & George Perez. Voices provided by Stuart Allan (Damian Wanyne), Jake T. Austin (Jaime Reyes), Taissa Farmiga (Raven), Brandon Soo Hoo (Beast Boy), Kari Wahlgren (Starfire), Christina Ricci (Terra) and Sean Maher (Nightwing)
Another classic comic book story arc come to life via sharp animation, The Judas Contract, is a great addition to the DC Animation family. Perosnally, I have always been a bigger TT fan than JL. Growing up, it was just cooler reading about people closer to my own age that could go on these incredible missions and do these special things.
The story is a bit different in welcoming Damian Wayne to the party as Robin, but the story of Terra being a Teen Titan plays out very similar to the original story from the 80’s, and even the cartoon network Teen Titans story arc. Added nerd bonus; Kevin Smith has a cameo!
10) The Death of Superman (2018) Co-Directed by Jake Castorena & Sam Liu, written by Peter Tomasi, based on a three-part arc written by Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern (Arcs 1-3), Jerry Ordway (Arcs 1&2), Karl Kessel (Arcs 2&3), William Messner-Loebs (Arc 2 only) and Gerard Jones (Arc 3 only). Voice cast include Rainn Wilson (Lex Luthor), Jerry O’ Connell (Superman) and Rebecca Romijn (Lois Lane).
The latest feature from the DC Animated Universe, The Death of Superman, is quite possibly their best. It took DC Comics four years to build this cohesive animated universe and it absolutely shines in this presentation of one of the most iconic superhero stories ever told.
A savage intergalactic being crash lands on Earth and starts to destroy everything and everyone in its path. Even members of the Justice League fall one after the other when standing toe to toe with this monster, until only the strongest member is left. Superman gives it his all in this movie and ends up making the ultimate sacrifice (I mean its in the name, calling “spoilers” seemed redundant) to save the ones he loves.
This film is not just a simple remake of their first animated feature, Superman: Doomsday, but rearranges the same story elements into something new for a whole new generation to grow up on.
How do you feel about this list? You think its spot on, or way off the mark? What would you have changed? Let us know in the comment section below, or find us on Facebook or Twitter @GeekGizmos.