With several new DC movies coming out this year, including: Matt Reeves’s “The Batman”, “The Flash” (starring Ezra Miller, with Michael Keaton returning as Batman), “Black Adam” (starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”, and “Batgirl” (plus James Gunn’s “Peacemaker” on HBO Max and an upcoming “Green Lantern Corps” series), as well as next year’s “Shazam: Fury of the Gods”, I thought I’d take a look back and *try* to rank my favorite DC movies so far…
15. SUPERMAN II: The Donner Cut (1980/2006)
“Kneel before Zod!” – General Zod of Krypton
Directed by: Richard Donner, Richard Lester
Starring: Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent / Superman, Terrance Stamp as General Zod, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor
While the Superman sequels are notorious for their significant drop in quality, for me, growing up in the 90’s, the original version of Superman II was always a fun popcorn movie that I would frequently rent on VHS from the local Blockbuster. In the same way Richard Donner’s “Superman: The Movie” really formed the template for superhero origin stories, this one was the first major superhero sequel that established several tropes of the genre for years to come: The hero loses his powers? Check. Dramatic subplot where the hero must grapple with his love life and secret identity? Yup. Multiple villains at once? You betcha.
“The Donner Cut” of Superman II takes everything good about this one and elevates it. It’s a far more serious and emotional sequel that manages to eliminate some of the cheesier aspects of the theatrical cut. It really makes you wonder what Richard Donner’s original Superman saga would have looked like if the producers hadn’t replaced him with Richard Lester and allowed him to continue his story.
It’s not without it’s faults of course (that time traveling ending still feels like a cop out in the Donner Cut), but Superman II boasts one of the most iconic portrayals of a supervillain with Terrance Stamp’s General Zod – who was first teased in the opening of the first one, before Krypton went supernova. Zod escapes from the Phantom Zone with his two Kryptonian underlings: Ursa and Non – who immediately set about conquering “Planet Houston”. The stakes couldn’t be higher, with Superman outmatched by three ruthless opponents all with the same powers as him!
If you’re going to revisit this one, definitely watch the Donner Cut, because it’s a pretty vast improvement over the theatrical version and feels more like a worthy continuation of the original Christopher Reeve classic.
14. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
“I’ve played this stinking city like a harp from hell!” – Oswald Cobblepot
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Michelle Pfeifer as Selina Kyle / Catwoman, and Danny DeVito as Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin
Much like the Superman sequels, the original run of Batman movies had a gradual drop in quality with each subsequent film. Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” is a solid Burton movie, but it’s a bizarre Batman movie. At the time, this was by far the darkest comic book movie ever made, and it’s really quite surprising that it wasn’t Rated R, despite it having Happy Meal toys at Mc Donald’s.
There’s a lot of great things about this one: Michelle Pfeifer is purrrfect as Catwoman (sorry, not sorry), Michael Keaton continues to be great as Batman, and Danny DeVito gives it his all for a really strange take on The Penguin. We also get an upgraded Bat-suit and the return of what might still be the best Batmobile to date!
All that said, the movie does make some baffling choices. While I like the plot regarding The Penguin’s attempt to become Mayor of Gotham City, not much else about his evil plans make much sense. It’s style over substance, but it totally works in that department. And it leaves us with a dark, tragic ending and a tease of Catwoman’s return that was unfortunately never properly paid off, since the producers decided to scrap their original plans for a third Batman film with Billie Dee Williams as Two-Face – which might be the biggest missed opportunity in the franchise.
13. JOKER (2019)
“I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a fucking comedy.” – Arthur Fleck
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, Robert Di Nero as Murray Franklin, Zazie Beetz, and Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne.
Speaking of weird dark movies, let’s talk about Todd Phillips’s “Joker”. This movie is not for everyone. Seriously – it’s a disturbing art house picture about a mentally unstable man who becomes a remorseless serial killer, so yeah, not everyone’s cup of tea. That said, I think this movie is brilliant.
Joaquin Phoenix is phenomenal in this role. Even though Arthur Fleck starts out as a sympathetic character, we slowly lose our respect for him as he continues to make every wrong choice possible. Sure the system fails him every step of the way, but he ultimately makes things far far worse. And Phillips’s use of imagery and color is superb. Things start out gloomy and bleak, but everything begins to brighten up as things get thematically darker. There’s that great shot at the beginning where Arthur is trudging up a massive staircase, which is later juxtaposed by the ending where he’s manically dancing down them as The Joker.
There’s a lot going on with this movie and I could write a whole essay about how it’s a commentary on the dangers of political movements based around a figure who wants to tear everything down (plenty of French Revolution metaphors going on here), but like all art it’s subjective. To me, it’s a cautionary tale about a world devoid of empathy. And while it might not be the most re-watchable movie on this list, I think it’s an important movie in that it’s a conversation starter about extremely relevant topics to what’s going on in the world today, regarding mental health, poverty, and extremist movements.
12. SHAZAM! (2019)
“Say my name!” – Shazam (the wizard)
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Starring: Zachary Levi as “Shazam”, Asher Angel as Billy Batson, Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, Djimon Hounsou as The Wizard (Shazam), and Mark Strong as Dr. Sivana.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from “Joker”, we have “Shazam!” (Oddly enough, these two polar opposites came out the same year!)
“Shazam!” is a fun, family friendly, popcorn movie – pure and simple. And it’s one of the best versions of that. It’s charming, hilarious, and chock full of heart in the best way. Heavily inspired by Geoff Johns ‘New 52’ reinvention of the character, it retains the spirit of the old school comics, but updating it for a new generation. There’s tons of great Easter Eggs throughout, but it’s still a very focused, character driven story about Billie Batson, his new foster family, and the villainous (but sympathetic) Dr. Sivana.
After several gritty entries in the DCEU, “Shazam!” was the first one to really embrace the campy fun of the comics and it totally paid off. It might not be the deepest movie on the list, but it still had some very moving emotional beats throughout.
And I’m just as excited for next year’s sequel, “Shazam: Fury of the Gods”!
11. BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” – Bruce Wayne
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne (Batman), Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Foxx, Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane (The Scarecrow), and Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul!?
“Batman Begins” is an awesome movie about a man seeking vengeance for the death of his parents, who trains as a ninja, travels the world, and builds a high-tech arsenal to save his city from crime and corruption – that also happens to be a Batman movie. In some ways, this might be the best adaptation of the grittier Batman comics to date, except for the fact that he doesn’t actually become Batman until halfway through the movie.
Christopher Nolan’s gritty reboot, starring Christian Bale, was a godsend after the previous series went off the rails with ‘Batman & Robin’, that brought Batman back to his roots with an extremely realistic take on the character. While this is a really great film, with excellent character development, and masterfully built tension, it does drag a bit at times.
That said, the last third of this movie is incredible. The pay off here with Batman facing off against The Scarecrow *and* Ra’s Al Ghul to save the Narrows, is awesome. The scene where Ra’s Al Ghul reveals himself to Bruce is chilling, and then he burns Wayne Manor down?! Genius.
There’s a lot to love about this one, and it was pretty high on my Top 10 up until very recently…
10. Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN: The Movie (1978)
“You were great in your day, Superman. But it just stands to reason, when it came time to cash in your chips, this old… diseased… maniac would be your banker.” – Lex Luthor
Directed by: Richard Donner
Starring: Christopher Reeve as Superman / Clark Kent, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Glenn Ford as Pa Kent, Jackie Cooper as Perry White, and Terence Stamp as General Zod.
Much like how 1938’s Action Comics #1 (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) is often considered the father of all superhero comics, 1978’s “Superman: The Movie” is really the prototype for all superhero origin movies to follow. In fact, Christopher Nolan admitted to using the same basic structure for “Batman Begins” and even Kevin Fiege uses this movie as an example of what the MCU films should be striving for tonally.
It might not be as grounded as more recent iterations, the pacing really takes it’s sweet time, and the special effects are dated as hell, but this movie also has an undeniable charm in it’s earnest telling of this modern American mythology.
From the destruction of Krypton to a young Clark Kent in Smallville, Kansas to Superman saving Lois Lane in Metropolis, it’s all here and it didn’t take ten seasons of a CW teen drama to get there.
There’s also tons of great heroic moments for the Man of Steel to contend with. The third act of this movie is still spectacular: Superman briskly walks through a hail of bullets, flames, sub-zero temperatures, and a steel door to confront Lex Luthor in his secret lair. Lex (who in this version is obsessed with overly complicated real estate schemes for some reason) reveals his evil plan to trigger the San Andreas fault with a stolen nuclear warhead, but the brilliant part is that he’s fired off two nukes at the same time, heading in the opposite direction, before tricking Superman and nearly killing him with a chunk of Kryptonite. Perhaps my favorite moment though is this really emotional beat where Superman wasn’t fast enough to save Lois, so he rages out and decides to break the temporal prime directive to set things right.
9. MAN OF STEEL (2013)
“You will give the people of Earth, an ideal to strive towards.” – Jor-El
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon as General Zod, Russell Crowe as Jor-El (Clark’s “Space Dad”), Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent (Clark’s “Ghost Dad”), Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Harry Lennix as General Swanwick, Christopher Meloni as Colonel Hardy, Richard Schiff as Dr. Emil Hamilton, Antje Traue as Faora, and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White.
I wrote extensively about “Man of Steel” in my three part Zack Snyder trilogy review series, but I’ll just say that even though it’s missing some of the charm and whimsey of that original Superman movie, it’s still the Superman movie I’ve always wanted. It’s a modernized take on the character that really puts the action into “Action Comics” and gives us not just one, but three or four of the best superhero fight scenes in movie history. It’s basically a reworked version of the first half of ‘Superman: The Movie’ and the end of ‘Superman II’ with modern effects, a massive budget, and slightly less cheese.
The entire cast is great: Amy Adams makes an awesome Lois Lane (who is decidedly not a damsel in distress for most of the movie for once), Laurence Fishburne as Perry White was an inspired choice, Russel Crowe is easily the best on screen Jor-El, Michael Shannon threatens to steal the show with his intense performance as General Zod, and I’d argue that Henry Cavill is the best Kal-El to date (fight me), it’s just shame that he’s been so completely underutilized throughout the DCEU to date. And while the DCEU had a bit of a rocky start (with the divisiveness of BvS, Ayer’s ‘Suicide Squad’, and Joss Whedon’s ‘Justice League’), you can’t deny that this was a solid first movie for the franchise.
Say what you will about Zack Snyder, but his visual style is unparalleled. Even his worst movies look like a comic book come to life. Sure, it’s not without it’s faults, and you could argue all day about some of the moral questions and philosophical underpinnings of the work, but “Man of Steel” absolutely deserves a spot on the Top 10.
8. V FOR VENDETTA (2005)
“Beneath this mask there is an idea. And ideas are bulletproof.” – V
Directed by: James McTeigue (produced by the Wachowskis, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore)
Starring: Natalie Portman as Evie, Hugo Weaving as “V”
Based on Alan Moore’s groundbreaking Vertigo graphic novel, ‘V For Vendetta’ is a ‘1984’ inspired take on a dark future where the UK has been taken over by a fascist government that rose to power through a conspiracy of fear tactics and biological warfare. A mysterious ‘terrorist’ (freedom fighter?) calling himself “V” appears out of the shadows, in a Guy Fawkes mask, and begins taking out key members of the party. His plan is to blow up Parliament on the 5th of November in hopes of uniting England against their corrupt totalitarian government.
‘V For Vendetta’ is a great adaption, that in many ways actually transcends the original book. It retains the essence and story beats of the comic, but manages to update the source material from the 1980’s Reagan era politics to a post-911 sensibility. It challenges us to really reexamine our preconceived notions about government and our place in it. And while it’s a complex, multi-layered story, it’s also just a really badass story about a supervillain who’s actually the good guy.
The movie is shown primarily from Natalie Portman’s point of view as she comes to see V’s perspective. Natalie Portman is incredible as we see Evie’s transformation throughout the movie, while Hugo Weaving delivers the best performance of his career – with his face hidden the entire time!
There’s a lot of great visual moments throughout this one, often set to deep introspective character monologues, in between some pretty intense moments. The Wachowski’s priduced this movie following their Matrix trilogy, and I’d argue that it’s their strongest movie since the first Matrix.
I watch it almost every 5th of November.
7. WATCHMEN: Director’s Cut (2009)
“Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.” – Rorschach
Directed by: Zack Snyder (based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore)
Starring: Patrick Wilson as Night Owl, Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, Billy Crudup as Doctor Manhattan, Malin Åkerman as Silk Spectre, Mathew Goode as Ozymandius, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian.
Like ‘V for Vendetta’, “Watchmen” is also based on an Alan Moore graphic novel, except this one’s not only a more faithful adaption of the source material, it’s probably the single most faithful adaptation of a comic book, to the point where nearly every panel is recreated in live action with Zack Snyder’s cinematic flair. In fact, the only major change to the story is a controversial moment at the end, which some have argued works better for the movie version.
This is an impressive movie, especially if you’re familiar with the comic, which for the longest time was considered un-adaptable. Although it’s not as revolutionary as the HBO Watchmen mini-series, it’s still a very thought provoking look at an alternative history where superheroes caused the Cold War to spiral out of control.
For the uninitiated, Watchmen is basically a murder mystery revolving around a group of borderline villains masquerading as heroes. It’s a deconstruction of the typical superhero mythos and an interesting commentary on the doomsday clock and the nature of power and corruption.
We get some of the most haunting philosophical questions, paired with a mind-bending non-linear plot, matched with some of the craziest visuals ever put to film. The entire movie is perfectly cast and it had one of the best soundtracks ever compiled, including Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and Jimi Hendrix!
As with any Zack Snyder movie, you have to watch the director’s cut of Watchmen to really appreciate it, yes it’s 4 hours, but the dude makes long movies, and the theatrical cut just feels incomplete in comparison.
6. James Gunn’s THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)
“We’re all going to die.” – Bloodsport
“I hope so…” – Polka Dot Man
Directed by: James Gunn
Starring: Idris Elba as Bloodsport, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, John Cena as ‘Peacemaker’, Daniela Melchior as ‘Ratcatcher II’, David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, Nathan Fillion as TDK, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, and Sylvester Stallone as King Shark!
James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” (not to be confused with the previous ‘Suicide Squad’) is awesome. The movie really leans into the whole concept of what Task Force-X is supposed to be: D-List Supervillains being forced to go on suicide missions to reluctantly “save the world”. As with any James Gunn movie, it’s got a gory body count interspersed with rapid fire comedy and a kick ass soundtrack. It’s really just a Rated-R Guardians of the Galaxy movie set in the DC universe, and it totally works.
Idris Elba (as Bloodsport) continues to prove that he would make an awesome James Bond, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (returning from ‘Birds of Prey’) threatens to steal the show, and King Shark is amazing, but every character is given a chance to shine. This movie made me feel for Polka Dot Man! Gunn makes you care about all the throwaway characters who get killed off in the first 10 minutes, and even gives Starro (the kaiju-sized alien starfish) emotional depth.
The Suicide Squad really lives up to it’s namesake this time around, and the movie absolutely delivers in every sense.
5. Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989)
“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” – The Joker
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Jack Nicholson as The Joker!
Tim Burton’s classic, “Batman” proved that comic book movies could be taken seriously. It might be a far cry from Nolan’s ultra realistic take with his Dark Knight trilogy, but Batman ’89 was the first on screen Batman since the campy antics of the 60’s Adam West series.
The movie definitely takes some liberties with the characters – Batman has no qualms with killing criminals, and The Joker shot Bruce’s parents, but it also gave us one of the most iconic Batmobiles from any medium, one of Jack Nicholson’s best performances of his amazing career, and a Gotham City that almost felt like a character itself. And of course, Michael Keaton is arguably the best Batman to date. And don’t even get me started on Danny Elfman’s iconic music.
Unlike so many of the other Batman movies since, this one gives us an awesome, no nonsense, straight forward good versus evil story about the Caped Crusader taking on the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s biggest strength and fault (like I said about ‘Returns’) is that it’s style over substance, but it absolutely holds up as one of the best 80’s action movies and still one of the most iconic superhero movies ever made.
4. AQUAMAN (2018)
“Loathsomeness Waits And Dreams In The Deep, And Decay Spreads Over The Tottering Cities Of Men.” – Black Manta
Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Jason Mamoa as Arthur Curry / The Aquaman, Amber Heard as Mera, Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, Julie Andrews as the Kraken(?!), and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta!
When Jason Mamoa was first cast as Aquaman, it really turned a lot of heads, but honestly I think it was the smartest choice they could have made. Not only did the Justice League line-up need a bit more diversity in their ranks, Mamoa was a great choice for the part – he’s a total badass which subverts all the Super Friends jokes about Aquaman just being there to talk to fish, and having Polynesian heritage, really feels appropriate for an island hopping superhero.
Heavily inspired by Geoff Johns Aquaman run in the comics, the story revolves a lot around Arthur Curry’s struggle as a man of two worlds – the land and the sea, his estranged father and his long lost mother. He ultimately embraces his destiny as the leader of Atlantis and claims the old king’s trident from a menacing kraken (voiced by Marry Poppins, ya’ll!) We also get a great origin story for Aquaman’s arch nemesis, Black Manta, brought to life by the extremely talented Yahya Abdul-Mateen the second – a high-tech pirate who blames Aquaman for the death of his father.
James Wan really outdid himself with this one, “Aquaman” is a gorgeous movie, which is further enhanced by an incredible otherworldly soundtrack by Rupert Gregson-Williams. It all feels like a mythological odyssey – a high-adrenaline journey through a fantasy realm under the sea. The visual effects are stunning, the action is vibrant, and the characters have a lot of depth. There is an insane amount of world building with the different cultures / species of Atlantis, and all their technology. It’s a movie I can just put on whenever and get sucked right back in.
It’s just an awesome blockbuster movie. Hopefully “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” can live up to it’s legacy.
3. Zack Snyder’s JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017/2021)
“I’m Not Broken. And I’m Not Alone.” – Cyborg
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as Barry Allen / The Flash, Ray Fisher as Victor Stone aka ‘Cyborg’, Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf, Joe Morton as Dr. Silas Stone, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Amber Heard as Mera, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Jared Leto as The Joker, and Ray Porter as Darkseid!?
This is another movie that I spent a lot of time breaking down for my 3-Part DC Snyder Trilogy Review, so I’ll try and keep this one relatively short. This follow-up to “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was initially put on hold when Zack Snyder was forced to step away from the project after a family tragedy. Because WB couldn’t wait, they handed the project over to Joss Whedon who then completely frankensteined the movie for the 2017 theatrical cut (not unlike Richard Lester’s cut of Superman II). Looking back, after watching this version, the theatrical cut was unsurprisingly a huge flop, because it nerfed everything awesome about this movie and changed out serious character defining moments for cheap jokes and one liners that feel even more hollow after you realize what it was originally intended to be!
“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (which finally released on HBO Max in 2021) is vastly superior to what we got in theaters back in 2017. Whedon’s theatrical cut is now practically unwatchable compared to this one, because it fixed basically every complaint I had with the other version – Justice League went from having some of the worst special effects in modern superhero movies to some of the absolute best sequences in any movie.
Like the Watchmen Director’s Cut, this is another 4 hour long superhero movie (that’s not an exaggeration), but the nice thing is this one’s split up into chapters, which makes it feel more like binging a really expensive mini-series. It’s also oddly formatted for Imax screens, because that’s the way it was filmed, but the cool thing is it really emphasizes all the vertical action throughout the movie. I can’t say it enough, this version is better in every way, to the point that it barely even resembles the same movie – tonally, visually, key plot points, and even the dialogue is all very different.
Every member of the Justice League gets time to shine: Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg, and Superman. They each have their own character arcs, motivations, and backstories, but Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is absolutely the heart of this movie. We get an epic montage where he’s first learning how to use his abilities and there’s this awesome moment where he helps out this single mother who’s being evicted from her home. If that doesn’t pull on your heart strings, I don’t know what will.
Barry Allen’s “The Flash” is a significant improvement in this cut as well, and ends up being the one who really saves the day at the last second – when he’s able to break the light barrier and reverse time! The main villain of the movie, Steppenwolf is far more imposing and we even get a few scenes with the real big bad of the DC universe: Darkseid!
Although it takes a little while for the story to get going (there’s a lot of groundwork to cover), the pay off is well worth it, and it sets up a potential sequel in a really interesting way with a look at what could either be a dark alternate future or a parallel Earth, ravaged by Apokolips. I guess we’ll have to see what’s in store for the future (or the past?) of the DCEU when Ezra Miller returns as “The Flash” later this year!
2. Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
“The Night Is Darkest Right Before The Dawn. And I Promise You, The Dawn Is Coming.” – Harvey Dent / Two-Face
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Heath Ledger as The Joker, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent / Two-Face, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Caine as Alfred, and Gary Oldman as Gordon.
It goes without saying that Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is one of the best comic book movies ever made. It builds off of everything that was great about “Batman Begins” and in a lot of ways elevated the genre as a whole. Christian Bale continues to be great as Batman *and* Bruce Wayne, along with the rest of the returning cast, but Heath Ledger’s turn as The Joker wasn’t just Oscar worthy, it’s flat out legendary.
“The Dark Knight” takes a lot of inspiration from comics like “The Long Halloween” and “The Joker’s Five Way Revenge” – just as Batman and Gordon are making headway in their war against the mob, an agent of chaos steps into the picture, calling himself ‘The Joker’. Batman must confront his own inner demons and is forced to choose between the love of his life and the future of Gotham. We also get the rise and fall of Harvey Dent and his downward spiral into becoming Two-Face!
Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy gave WB the confidence to pursue the DCEU, because it raised the bar for comic book movies and solidified the legacy of these larger than life superheroes as more than just a pop culture phenomenon, these are our modern American myths and legends.
“The Dark Knight” is an intense action movie with an amazing soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, tons of impressive practical effects, some of the best dialogue in the franchise’s history, and one of the most epic chase sequences ever created. It’ll be interesting to see how Matt Reeves’s “The Batman” stacks up. Regardless, this one’s a masterpiece of cinema, but it’s still just a step below my all time favorite DC movie so far…
1. WONDER WOMAN (2017)
“I can save today, you can save the world.” – Steve Trevor
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Connie Neilsen as Hippolyta, and David Thewlis as Ares
Princess Diana of Themyscira, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and Zeus, was an amazon warrior who left her home on an escort mission to return an American fighter pilot, Steve Trevor, back to ‘man’s world’ where she uncovers the evil machinations of Ares – the God of War!
To me, Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman, the same way Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man. She is always fantastic, regardless of the movie she’s in (yes, even Joss Whedon’s ‘Justice League’), but Patty Jenkins’s first “Wonder Woman” film is phenomenal. Like with James Wan’s Aquaman, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, this is the DCEU at it’s best. It’s another visually stunning movie with tons of intricate world building, interesting characters, incredible effects, and a stellar cast. Rupert Gregson-Williams (who also did the soundtrack for Aquaman) hit it out of the park with this one, building off of that amazing cello theme first created by Tina Guo for Wonder Woman’s appearance in ‘Batman v Superman’.
“Wonder Woman” isn’t just an awesome superhero movie, it isn’t just an interesting take on a WWI era period piece, it’s an important movie, laden with symbolism and metaphors that are just as relevant today as they were when Dr. William Moulton Marston and his wife first created the character back in 1941. She’s a character who stands for truth, equality, and courage against seemingly hopeless odds – all of which resonates thematically throughout this movie. The ‘No Man’s Land’ sequence alone is worth the price of admission, but every frame of this movie is a work of art.
Considering how many Batman and Superman movies we’ve had over the years, this one was way overdue, and thankfully it finally broke the curse of notoriously terrible solo female superhero movies (i.e. Catwoman, Elektra, Supergirl, etc). Wonder Woman raised the bar and really paved the way for Captain Marvel and Black Widow. But all that aside, it’s just a great movie.
While Patty Jenkins’s sequel, “WW1984” was a drastic tonal shift (and a major disappointment for some), I’m still extremely excited to see what’s in store for Wonder Woman’s further adventures!
I also want to give a quick shout out to a few movies that just barely didn’t make the cut: “Birds of Prey” (2020) and “Wonder Woman 1984” (2020), which are both underrated movies in their own right (in my opinion), but didn’t quite make the list. And by next year, I’ll probably have a completely different list once again.
Next time, I’ll have to do a rundown of what I think are the worst DC movies (so far), but until then check out the Comic Zombie podcast and our upcoming “Batman season” of Podcasters Assemble for more nerdy goodness!
What’s your Top 15? Feel free to argue with me in the comments below!
“THE BATMAN” debuts in theaters on March 4th, 2022!