DC Extended Universe movies ranked, worst to best

Still from the movie Justice League
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Light the bat signal and call the Martian Manhunter because it's time for our list of the DC Extended Universe movies ranked, worst to best.

The DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) road has been rocky so far and following its ups and downs has been anything but dull. Moreover, its canvas is undoubtedly wider than the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) – we’re pretty sure all the tonal and visual variances aren’t intentional though. All this makes it a very interesting series of movies to rank from worst to best (strong opinions ahead).

From Zack Snyder’s more serious take on Superman and rushed journey to assemble the Justice League – kidnapped by Warner Bros. and then rescued for a major rework by the auteur filmmaker – to the lighter tone of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, there’s plenty to love (or hate) about DC Films’ recent efforts. Furthermore, with Warner Media and Discovery now forming Warner Bros. Discovery (opens in new tab), even more changes are coming our way.

Following Batgirl’s tragic cancellation, Black Adam (opens in new tab), starring Dwayne Johnson, is next in line to push the DCEU towards a new age of superheroes that will hopefully be more cohesive in its world-building efforts. The film hits theatres worldwide on October 21, 2022, so there’s still time between now and then to read through our list of DCEU movies ranked from worst to best – you will 100% want to rewatch (or discover for the first time) more than one flick. Keep in mind, though, that Joker and this year’s The Batman aren’t part of the DCEU continuity and, therefore, aren’t included in this list.

If you’re more of a Marvel fan or want similar reads about the MCU, be sure to check out our best Marvel movies, ranked list and our guide to all the Marvel movies in order.

11. Suicide Squad

Still from the movie Suicide Squad

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: August 5, 2016
  • Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney

Suicide Squad still holds the crown of the DCEU movie with the coolest trailers (opens in new tab) by far, but sadly, that energy didn’t translate to the full movie. We got a final cut that was chopped up and reassembled to hell and back. A director’s cut added some more meat, but even that iteration of the movie feels disjointed and terribly paced. On top of all that, David Ayer’s script feels too scattered and unfocused, running with a basic premise that makes no sense for a first Suicide Squad mission and character motivations that are shaky at best.

Following all the Snyder Cut drama (and later success), Ayer has been pushing for the last two years for an “Ayer Cut” which he claims exists somewhere, but it seems like Warner Bros. simply isn’t interested in resurrecting more corpses.

10. Justice League

Still from the movie Justice League

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: November 17, 2017
  • Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa

As the result of one of Hollywood’s most non-sensical dramas regarding a big-budget production ever, Justice League – DC Films’ answer to The Avengers – plopped into theatres in fall 2017 to terrible reviews and lukewarm reactions from diehard fans.

Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad weren’t enough to build up a cohesive and interesting universe in a short amount of time, and discrepancies between Warner and Zack Snyder – who left the project after a family tragedy – led to a heavy rework (more like destruction) of the movie under Joss Whedon’s guidance. More tiresome drama ensued, and the final result feels like a Frankenstein of half-baked ideas, jarring tonal shifts, and cookie-cutter characters.

9. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Still from the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: March 25, 2016
  • Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS), the second chapter of the DCEU already exhibited worrying signs, but has slowly gained a cult following, partly thanks to a more palatable Ultimate Cut. Its biggest flaws are an overabundance of ideas that never totally gel together – it’s a Batman movie, a Man of Steel sequel, and an ambitious Justice League set-up that features Wonder Woman’s introduction and flashforwards to a grim future.

BvS is long and dense, and filled with characters that feel miserable, yet its exploration of modern mythologies and how these heroes and vigilantes affect the world they inhabit was refreshingly soulful and brave for such a massive project. Even if it ultimately missed the mark, it took big swings and strived for something different.

8. Man of Steel

Still from the movie Man of Steel

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: June 14, 2013
  • Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne

Man of Steel might be a solid unintentional Dragon Ball Z adaptation, but it’s a mid Superman flick. It’s a looker and an easy rewatch, plus Hans Zimmer’s original score is absolutely fantastic, but there aren’t nearly enough Kal-El heroics – nor genuine sense of wonder – in this reboot of the Superman mythos.

To be honest, the movie is largely fine and feels really streamlined and “clean” when compared to many modern superhero extravaganzas, but its more dramatic and emotional efforts fall flat (“Don’t save me, invincible son (opens in new tab)”). And that’s a big problem when you’re mainly trying to humanize Superman and make audiences care about those who surround him.

7. Wonder Woman

Still from the movie Wonder Woman

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: June 2, 2017
  • Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya

In this writer’s humble opinion, we’re now entering the “actually good and really watchable” part of this list, so the DCEU overall isn’t actually that bad. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman packs a punch and works quite well as a timeless adventure that also happens to be a WWI movie.

Besides paving the way for more female-led adaptations, it’s certainly not the most ground-breaking comic book flick around. Its resolution isn’t as compelling as the rest of the story, but Diana quickly became a fan favorite, and her debut ultimately expanded the DCEU’s horizons without breaking a sweat.

6. Birds of Prey

Still from the movie Birds of Prey

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: February 7, 2020
  • Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor

Cathy Yan brought a different type of energetic style to the DCEU with the mid-sized Birds of Prey right before the Covid pandemic started. Its wings were cut short, and the marketing push behind it wasn’t the best, but this rollicking urban romp found plenty of love from fans and critics alike.

It also confirmed the DCEU’s biggest casting win so far has been Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn – she shined bright even in the otherwise dull Suicide Squad, plus the entire cast delivered fun performances that weren’t constrained by tedious franchise planning.

5. Wonder Woman 1984

Still from the movie Wonder Woman 1984

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: December 25, 2020
  • Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen

The sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman didn’t resonate with as many fans nor critics as the first installment, so this pick for the fifth spot in our list may come as a surprise. We’re committed to defending it as a much-needed return to the colorful optimism of Richard Donner’s Superman and the tongue-in-cheek comedy of Batman Returns.

It’s an off-beat and sincere sequel which spends more time exploring its characters (to varying degrees of success) and discussing the world that surrounds them than delivering the standard plot-driven fun we’ve come to expect from many of these productions.

4. Shazam!

Still from the movie Shazam!

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: April 5, 2019
  • Cast: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Djimon Hounsou

Shazam! also followed the Richard Donner rulebook of superhero filmmaking while packing a fair amount of horror DNA courtesy of director David F. Sandberg. It’s endearing and super heartfelt, but scary at times too. A winning combination if you ask us.

You know how it’s going to play out, and its villain might not be the most memorable, but this zero-to-hero story had more than one trick up its sleeve and offered a genuine take on the “young boy gets superpowers” formula.

3. Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Still from the movie Zack Snyder’s Justice League_Darkseid

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: March 18, 2021
  • Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa

The most hardcore of Zack Snyder and DC Films fans moved heaven and earth since 2017’s mess of a Justice League movie dropped, campaigning both online and IRL for a massive director’s cut of the crossover that wasn’t even close to finished. Although most industry insiders reported its release – in any state – was unlikely, the launch of HBO Max created the perfect opportunity for Warner Media to grant the fans’ wishes, and the so-called “Snyder Cut” got the greenlight in an unprecedented move by a major Hollywood studio.

The $70 million (some say it was even more) spent on restoring and finishing up Zack Snyder’s original gargantuan vision – which clocks in at 242 minutes (that’s just over four hours) – paid off, with most critics and believers in the filmmaker’s untampered vision agreeing that the profoundly reworked movie delivered an epic conclusion to the DCEU’s first phase of sorts, despite biting more than it could properly chew. Those who dislike Snyder’s signature style won’t magically enjoy this one, but it’s definitely his most compelling and focused work since Watchmen.

2. The Suicide Squad

Still from the movie The Suicide Squad

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: August 5, 2021
  • Cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman

James Gunn was the second Marvel director to be invited into the DCEU following his (temporal) departure of the third Guardians of the Galaxy movie. His semi-rebooted take on the Suicide Squad IP paid off with critics and fans despite a surprisingly poor box office performance, partly explained by the simultaneous release on HBO Max.

The Suicide Squad is an eccentric and violent movie that isn’t afraid of getting its hands dirty. It’s filled with sympathetic characters defined by past traumas that didn’t make the best life choices or simply were forced into a life of being bad. Drawing inspiration from classic war films and John Ostrander’s 1980s Suicide Squad comics, James Gunn crafted a rather unique tale of camaraderie and redemption that knows when to act goofy and when to deliver unfiltered gut punches. Plus, the selection of songs kicks ass!

1. Aquaman

Still from the movie Aquaman

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Release date: December 21, 2018
  • Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

James Wan’s Aquaman is big and colorful and unabashedly comic-booky in the best possible ways. The inherently goofy elements of the character and his world are played straight, and there isn’t much of an “adaptation” happening, which is precisely why it rocks so much. An octopus playing drums? Yeah, sure.

Its unfiltered sincerity and optimism may not be for everyone, but it appears that audiences worldwide responded well to Aquaman’s call, as it grossed $1.148 billion worldwide, making it the biggest DC movie ever. Literally no one could have predicted that, but looking back at it, the movie largely feels like Avatar but underwater, so… it kinda makes sense?

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Fran Ruiz

Fran Ruiz is our resident Star Wars guy. His hunger for movies and TV series is only matched by his love for video games. He got a BA of English Studies, focusing on English Literature, from the University of Malaga, in Spain, as well as a Master's Degree in English Studies, Multilingual and Intercultural Communication. On top of writing features and other longform articles for Space.com since 2021, he is a frequent collaborator of VG247 and other gaming sites. He also serves as associate editor over at Star Wars News Net and its sister site, Movie News Net.