Ola Amigos! So far, 2019 has been a great year for superhero movies with some class action fighting sequences. The DC Extended Universe decided to go with a lighter tone this time with Shazam!, which was good, but nowhere near the creativity and complexity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe offerings.
The MCU produced some iconic movies such as Captain Marvel, Spider-Man: Far From Home and Avengers: Endgame and stood alone at the top of the box office. The MCU may remain an undefeated champion in live-action films, but DC Comics have a forte of their own, the DCAU – DC Animated Universe.
DCAU is one of the best animated universes’ producing unrivalled masterpieces every year. Be it a cartoon show like Justice League and Adventures of Batman or movies like Justice League: War and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part I-II, the DCAU is a whole other level.
So, if you had a craving to watch your beloved Justice League superheroes and villains in action after watching lousy live-action attempts, we bring you the Top 15 DC Animated Movies of all time!
1. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II
This movie is a sequel to the first Dark Knight Returns and is centred around Bruce Wayne’s return as Gotham’s Caped Crusader after ten years. The film addressed one of the greatest fears of DC fans – Bruce Wayne getting old. It seems like Batman has now become a public enemy and an outlaw with authorities trying to hunt him down, and to do that Mr President asks Superman for help. The movie is about Batman living up to his ethics and ideals, making him battle his dear friend Superman. It seems Green Arrow has also fallen out of the hands of authorities and gone AWOL. There is a degree of emotional involvement with the characters and this is something that DC seems to have mastered the art of.
After the second half of the film, Batman gets injured while defeating his archnemesis, Joker. He then goes on to rally a certain group of criminals to rid Gotham of crime. All this leads to the climax of the movie – Batman v Superman. If you watched the live-action BvS and were disappointed, then with expectations that low, you have a real treat in store if you sit down to watch this.
2. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
This one has better animation than most others and a fantastic storyline. Most of the DC fans know that Barry Allen aka Flash can travel through time and at some point in the comics and the TV show as well, he went back to save his family. The thing is, time doesn’t work that way if you go back and change an event; it creates a new reality, which is not right most of the time.
Flashpoint Paradox starts with a bunch of villains led by Eobard Thawne ganging up against the Flash. After being defeated by the Flash and the rest of the Justice League members, Thawne makes sure to get in Barry’s head, resulting in him going back in time to save his mother. This creates a new world, about to be destroyed by a war between Atlantians led by Aquaman and Amazons led by Wonder Woman. Not only that, Batman is ready to kill, Superman is nowhere near to be found, Hal never got the ring and there is no speedster. This alternate world is just DOPE.
3. Batman: Under the Red Hood
If you have been watching DCEU’s failed attempts over the last few years, you’re likely disappointed with the portrayal of the caped crusader. Batman, the expert tactician and martial artist, is a role that few have managed to pull off and even fewer have mastered. The DCAU however, has taken the Batman fight sequences and the Batman storyline and pushed it to a whole new league of cool.
Under the Red Hood is about Batman’s greatest failure and it questions his moral code directly. R’as al Ghul makes the mistake of hiring the Joker to keep Batman and Robin busy for a while. Upon seeing his archnemesis, the Joker’s insanity takes over, resulting in the death of Robin, Jason Todd. Years later, an anti-hero vigilante enters Gotham under the guise of Red Hood. He is as good as Batman and is ready to cross the line. Can our caped crusader stop this new vigilante with Jason’s death haunting him? It is a must-watch!
4. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part I
While the animation of this film is very plain, it is one of the best written Batman films ever. If you have watched The Dark Knight Return Part II at the top of our list, you must have many questions. How did Batman retire? Who is Carrie Kelley? Who are ‘Sons of Batman’? This movie answers them all.
During a mission against the Joker, Jason Todd is killed and this event forces Gotham’s Dark Knight to retire from his adventures. In the present day, it has been ten years since Batman retired, and the crime rate in Gotham has risen due to a new gang of thieves called Mutants. Things start to change when Bruce saves a girl Carrie Kelley and makes her the new Robin. With Robin’s help and his tactics, Batman manages to defeat the leader of mutants resulting in a new vigilante group, ‘Sons of Batman’.
5. Justice League Doom
Finally, we get to see the entire Justice League in action in this film. We all know, Batman is one of the best tacticians and detectives out there. But how exactly do you become the best tactician? Foresight. Batman, being the only ‘normal’ founding member of the Justice League, feared his comrades becoming evil someday. It may not necessarily be their choice, but hypnotism or other unexplained supernatural events are known to have caused issues for many characters. Batman decided to make contingency plans to kill every member of the Justice League if need be and put them away from anyone’s reach.
Enter the main villain, Vandal Savage. A man who has lived since the first men walked on Earth. He steals the contingency plans and organizes the Legion of Doom which comprises all the archnemesis of our superheroes. Will our heroes be able to cheat death like always? Or will they die at the hands of Vandal Savage?
6. Batman: Assault on Arkham
Batman: Assault on Arkham is not a Batman movie in the first place. It is a Suicide Squad movie, and a million times better than the live-action adaption. Suicide Squad, official name Task Force X, is the US government’s secret task force for suicide missions. It comprises convicts with life sentences and no chances of bail or being pardoned.
Batman is trying to locate a bomb which the Joker had set up before going to Arkham Asylum, and it seems like the Riddler might know something about it. Riddler, however, has something that might affect the position of the US government’s secret agent Amanda Waller. When Batman captures Riddler and sends him to Arkham, Waller has no choice but to assemble Task Force X. This time Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Anatoly Kanyazev, Black Spider, Killer Shark, and Killer Frost are enlisted in the Task Force with Deadshot in command. The mission is to break into Arkham Asylum get to Riddler and retrieve his stick, right under the nose of the world’s greatest detective.
7. Wonder Woman
This is a classic Wonder Woman origin story. The only difference is probably Diana’s birth in the film. Hippolyta, warrior queen of Amazons, is on a war against the God of War, Ares. Upon Ares’ defeat, his mother curses him with mortality and awards the Amazons with an island far away from men’s world, Themyscira.
Years later, Hippolyta has a daughter, stronger than any other Amazon and a lot more curious. Their lives change when a US army pilot, Steve Trevor crash lands on their homeland and Ares is released from his prison in search of revenge. Diana sets off for America with Steve while Ares plans his battle.
8. Batman: Year One
This film is the closest to perfection one can hope for as a Batman origin story. It is probably one of the very few Batman films which are a lighter tone than the usual dark and ominous Batman films we are used to.
Crime is rampant on the streets of Gotham and there seems to be no hope for ordinary people. In this dark hour, a ray of hope arrives when the heir to the billion-dollar Wayne Enterprises, Bruce Wayne comes back to Gotham. Along with him arrives Lieutenant Jim Gordon. Both men have a strong sense of justice and want to do good for the city. So starts the charade of Gotham’s very own cop-vigilante tag team.
9. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
It isn’t a Justice League movie if it doesn’t have breathtaking action scenes and a classic story (excuse the live-action attempt of course!). Crisis on Two Earths is about the time when our heroes met their evil counterparts from a parallel Earth.
Lex Luthor comes to Earth-3 asking for the Justice League’s help to save his planet from the Crime Syndicate who are planning to destroy the whole world. It is a group led by Superman and Batman’s counterparts Ultraman and Owlman, known as the Crime Syndicate of America. Crisis on Two Earths will make you question the abilities of our favourite superheroes.
10. Justice League War
Justice League War is chronologically the first JL movie. It is about the origin of the Justice League itself and how America’s greatest superheroes came together to defeat Earth’s biggest threat. In terms of witty instances and animation, it might just be the best Justice League movie ever. The plot of the film is almost the same as the live-action flop, but with the addition of other Justice League members, breathtaking fighting sequences at Apokalypse, a good and worthy Barren Allen, and much much more.
The film starts with Green Lantern chasing a Batman-like being, which turned out to be a parademon in Gotham City. Batman, of course, comes to GL’s aid and the plot continues from there. Needless to say, the Bat-GL team-up is a team-up of epic proportions. While investigating the alien technology (Mother Boxes), the team expands, with Superman entering the scene, leading to a showdown between the superhero party and the tyrant new god of Apokalypse, Darkseid and his army.
11. Batman vs Robin
Batman vs Robin is more like a family fight between a dad and his son. So what makes this movie rank amongst our top 15? Well, the argument is between Batman and his son, Damian Wayne. Damian, the new Robin and son of the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, is more than just that. Damian is the grandson of Ra’s Al Ghul and son of Talia Al Ghul and thus heir to the League of Assassins. Fighting and winning are in his blood.
A tactician-detective like his dad and fierce fighter like his mom, he might be the strongest Robin ever. What he lacks is the essence of humanity that separates Batman & Robin from other assassins/villains. Being torn between a sense of duty from being Robin, and the urge to be acknowledged by his father, a confused Damian meets Talon and the House of Owls.
12. Batman: Hush
Batman: Hush is a totally different kind of Batman movie. Since it was released in 2019, the animation and character detailing are far better than the older DC Animated Movies. Batman: Hush is about a series of events happening in Gotham City at the same time. Even though the incidents happen with different supervillains, once investigated, they point to a single entity, Hush. Hush is a new supervillain who Batman knows nothing about while on the other hand, Hush knows everything about Batman including how to play with the Bat’s mind.
In the midst of this, Bruce Wayne meets Selina and Batman meets Catwoman at the same time and fall in love. YES, fellas, the lone wolf found a partner for real this time. Everything considered Hush is a good movie, although the intensity of the villains being… well… villainous could have been more considering just how many villains there are in the movie.
13. Justice League: Gods and Monsters
Gods and Monsters is a movie you should watch when you are craving for a different kind of Justice League. Justice League: Gods and Monsters is set in an alternate universe with varying versions of our trinity of superheroes – Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Once you are familiar with the original world, this one looks dope. Amanda Waller is the President, and Superman is the son of General Zod.
A series of deaths of renowned scientists have led the government to believe that the Justice League’s existence is a threat. While the trinity tries to locate the remaining scientists related to Project Fairy Play, someone is lurking behind the shadows to erase the League from existence. Will the alternate trinity uphold their sense of justice and save the world or give up in being heroes?
14. Justice League Dark
Justice League Dark is all about magic and the supernatural. It is about the time when a series of killings happened around Metropolis, Gotham and Washington DC, with victims describing a demonic creature as the perpetrator. Batman, always the rational one, is however sceptical about all this, believing there has to be something more than magic. Well, to everyone’s surprise, Batman(while being possessed by the Deadman) suggests seeing John Constatine since it’s an issue beyond science. Batman in the hope of finding Constatine meets Zatanna.
The group expands as the Deadman, John, Black Orchid and a little later Jason Blood aka Etrigan join this little mystical group. The investigation leads to the conclusion that it is an attempt by old sorcerer Destiny to use the dreamstone and conquer everything by giving people their worst nightmares.
15. Teen Titans: Judas Contract
Teen Titans are one of the most fun and strongest teams in the DC Universe. It was founded by the sidekicks of the Justice League Members, Nightwing(Batman), Speedy(Flash), Red Arrow(Green Arrow) and some others. After rescuing Starfire and having her as a new teen titan, Dick Grayson left to become the Nightwing.
Back to the present, the new team under the command of Starfire has Beast Boy, Blue Beetle, Raven and the new Robin(Damian Wayne). When Nightwing comes back to investigate an evil plan by Brother Blood, he notices a new member Terra. Terra has the power to control Earth and has been a titan for almost a year. But there is something suspicious about her. Nightwing juggles between the investigation on Brother Blood, Deathstroke targeting the Teen Titans and his progressing relationship with Starfire when a shocking truth is revealed about Brother Blood’s plans.
That’s our list of the top 15 DC animated films. Needless to say, there are many other DC animated films which are fantastic too. We just recommend that you start with these if you giving the animated universe your first shot!