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The 20 Best DC Animated Movies and Where to Watch Them

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Warner Brothers/DC Comics

Since superhero movies didn’t dominate the box office this summer like they normally do, now feels like a great time to delve into the backlog of all the great superhero films already available out there on various streaming platforms. Forget live-action superhero movies, though; I’m talking about the classic DC animated films. Long before producer Kevin Feige willed the Marvel Cinematic Universe into existence, storytellers like Bruce Timm and Dwayne McDuffie came together to build what became a cohesive animated universe for DC Comic fans. Now, years later, the DC animated catalog contains numerous movies, television shows, and even a few cohesive timelines! 

Whether it’s a Batman or Wonder Woman-dominated adventure you’re looking for, DC has you covered when it comes to their animated filmography. Even niche characters like Swamp Thing and Constantine pop up in a few films, proving that the DC animated universe has something for every kind of superhero fan imaginable. Strap on your utility belt and charge your Green Lantern rings because it’s time to explore the 20 Best DC Animated Movies!

20. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011)

Released the same year as the live-action Green Lantern film, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is a collection of stories focusing on different members of the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps. Earth-based Green Lantern Hal Jordan appears throughout much of the film, but lesser-known characters like Kilowog and Mogo also get a chance to show off what makes them such unique and powerful figures in the Corps’ fight against evil. With a Green Lantern series coming to HBO Max soon, Emerald is the perfect film for DC fans who need a quick refresher or introduction to the DC Universe’s intergalactic peacekeepers.

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19. Superman: Red Son (2020)

Based on the Elseworlds story written by Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar, Superman: Red Son follows what would happen if a young Kal-El landed in the Soviet Union rather than Smallville when he first appeared on Earth. Rather than fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, the Man of Steel operates under Josef Stalin (also known as the man of steel) in what he believes is an attempt to spread peace and prosperity among his comrades. Superman may be the lead character, but twisted versions of characters like Batman and Wonder Woman also make appearances, making this an accessible reimagining of the DC Universe perfect for hardcore and casual fans alike.

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX

18. Wonder Woman (2009)

Loosely based on writer-artist George Perez’s Gods and Mortals story arc, Wonder Woman is a fantastic origin story that delves into numerous facets of the Amazonian Princess mythos. From her childhood on Themyscira to her mother’s interactions with Zeus and Aries, Wonder Woman is a comprehensive and entertaining overlook at everything that makes Princess Diana such a complex and unique superhero. An action-packed story that sees Diana leave her home for the first time to help protect the “World of Man,” Wonder Woman is a must-watch for anyone who needs a reminder on exactly why the heroine is part of DC’s trinity of legendary superheroes.  

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17. Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018)

When Amanda Waller has a dangerous mission that the world isn’t allowed to know about, she turns to the Suicide Squad, a collection of expendable villains who will have a few years removed from their sentences in exchange for getting the job done. Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay sees iconic villains like Harley Quinn and Captain Boomerang come together to retrieve a mysterious, mythical item for Waller that has connections to both Dr. Fate and Vandal Savage. It’s worth mentioning that the entertaining and action-packed Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is the last script legendary writer Alan Burnett- who worked on everything from Batman: The Animated Series to Justice League Unlimited- turned in before retiring. 

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16. The Death of Superman/Reign of the Supermen (2018, 2019)

The death and subsequent return of Superman is likely the most quintessential DC event comic from the 1990s. In Sam Liu and Jake Castorena’s adaptation of The Death of Superman and the Reign of the Supermen era that saw a number of Superman-themed heroes emerge on the Metropolis scene to become the city’s new protector, viewers see Superman go toe-to-toe with the destructive monster known as Doomsday and watch the world mourn as they come to terms with a devastating loss. An action-packed and emotional duo of films, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen is required viewing for any diehard fans of the Last Son of Krypton.  

WATCH BOTH NOW ON HBO MAX

15. Batman: Year One (2011)

An adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's four-issue story that reframed The Caped Crusader's first days on the job, Batman: Year One is an entertaining and emotional film that doesn't hold back from showing how clunky Bruce Wayne's early crime-fighting attempts were. Part of what distinguishes this film from the numerous other Batman films on this list- Warner Brothers has long known just how big of a cash cow Batman is for them- is that a young James Gordon who just moved to Gotham and is getting used to the city as a cop shares the protagonist role with an introspective Bruce Wayne. Through these two characters’ eyes, fans are exposed to an entertaining story that focuses on mob crime and the extremes people are willing to go to protect their homes or loved ones. 

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14. Justice League: Doom (2012)

Loosely based on Mark Waid’s iconic Justice League story ‘Tower of Babel,’ Justice League: Doom sees the Justice League come together to stop the assembled might of a Vandal Savage-led Legion of Doom. Making matters even more complicated and deadly is the fact that the Legion of Doom is using personalized contingency plans stolen from the Batcomputer that show how to take down each member of the Justice League.  While the film is technically a sequel to the Crisis on Two Earths, writer Dwayne McDuffie did a wonderful job making this an entertaining standalone story that is accessible for both return and new viewers alike. 

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX

13. Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox (2013)

Similar to how the comic event it is based on ended in a reboot of DC Comics, Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox kick-started a brand new, cohesive animated universe that saw 15 animated films come together to form a new, accessible timeline. Flashpoint Paradox is an extremely personal story that sees The Flash suddenly wake up in a distorted world that is completely unrecognizable to him. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are locked in a deadly war that threatens to engulf the world in chaos, but Nora Allen, Barry Allen’s mother who died when he was a young boy, is alive here. Stranded without his powers, Barry has to figure out how to set the world back together again in this adaptation that is ultimately more entertaining and better-paced than the comic it is based on. 

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12. The Dark Knight Returns, Pts. 1 and 2 (2012,2013)

Even after executive producing Batman: The Animated Series for years, Bruce Timm still had another major Batman story he wanted to adapt: Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Set in the same continuity as Batman: Year One, the two-part story sees a middle-aged Bruce Wayne redon the Batcowl for the first time in a decade to save the city from a group of mutant thugs. A violent story that sees Bruce push himself to his limits, The Dark Knight Returns imbues Batman with a mythic, larger-than-life quality that cuts right to the core of just what makes him such an iconic character. 

WATCH BOTH NOW ON HBO MAX

11. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)

Superman and Batman might be two of the most popular superheroes in the world, but when Lex Luthor is President of the United States, the two legendary heroes become public enemies number one. As the two heroes focus on trying to stop a meteor from destroying the Earth, they also have to outmaneuver groups of supervillains and heroes hired by President Luthor, who is still driven by his desire to destroy Superman rather than help people with his newfound power. An interesting and action-packed adventure, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies does a wonderful job at allowing the iconic heroes to distinguish themselves while also showing why their dueling personalities make them such a good team. 

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX

10. Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015)

Bruce Timm has adapted a lot of DC stories throughout his storied career at Warner Brothers animation, but in 2015 he released Justice League: Gods and Monsters an original Elseworlds story that introduces audiences to twisted versions of DC’s finest heroes. Accessible and challenging to the entire concept of god-like superheroes in general, Justice League: Gods and Monsters is the perfect DC animated film to show to someone who is a fan of TV series like The Boys and Invincible.  

WATCH NOW ON AMAZON PRIME

9. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017)

The Teen Titans are one of the most iconic superhero teams in all comics, and Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s The Judas Contract storyline from 1984 is likely the team’s foundational story. In this upgraded 2017 adaptation, the Teen Titans accidentally bite off more than they can chew when it is revealed new team member Terra has a mysterious connection to the team’s biggest rival: Deathstroke. This version of the story is distinct from the original, thanks to the inclusion of characters like Damian Wayne and Blue Beetle, but Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is still an entertaining film that captures the spirit and emotional consequences of its source material. 

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX

8. Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020)

The final film in the DC animated universe launched by Flashpoint Paradox in 2013, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, is a brutal goodbye to the DC Universe that pushes everyone’s favorite superheroes beyond their limits. The story is primarily set two years after Darkseid, the ruler of Apokolips, finally succeeds in his attempt to take over Earth as the remaining DC heroes struggle to regain some control over their home planet. Released shortly after Avengers: Endgame, Apokolips War is a bolder, more violent conclusion to a cinematic universe than Marvel’s live-action counterpart.   

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX

7. Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

Everyone thinks of Batman as a successful hero, but in Batman: Under the Red Hood, the character’s biggest personal failure comes back to haunt him. A mysterious antihero has established himself in Gotham City, hunting down drug dealers and calling out the city’s biggest crime lords. He’s calling himself the Red Hood: a name that has a strong connection to both Batman and the Joker’s past. If you are a fan of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and stories that dig deep into the dark secrets in our favorite heroes’ closets, then Batman: Under the Red Hood is a must-watch!

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6. All-Star Superman (2011)

Based on Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's 12 issue limited series, All-Star Superman sees the last Son of Krypton push himself to both his physical and emotional limits to save the Earth one last time. A wonderful film that sees the titular hero poisoned by an overdose of solar radiation thanks to Lex Luthor, Superman is slowly dying and only has so much time left to spend with his loved ones and protect the planet. As Clark Kent reflects on his life and finally opens up with Lois Lane about his double life, he is called into action to face one of the toughest foes in the entire DC Universe: Solaris, the Tyrant Red Sun. 

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX

5. The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

Batman works in all kinds of settings and tones. Serious, dark, noir storytelling and colorful, comedic adventures are equally suited for the Caped Crusader. For fans who appreciate the second kind of Bat stories, Chris McKay’s The Lego Batman Movie is a must-watch that digs deep into the idea of loneliness central to the Batman mythos. With a stellar voice cast featuring Will Arnett as Batman and Michael Cera as Dick Grayson, the first Robin, The Lego Batman Movie is a hilarious movie that is full of DC easter eggs and heart as Batman slowly realizes he might need to be less moody and start letting people into his life more.

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX

4. Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)

An adaptation of Darwyn Cooke’s seminal limited series, Justice League: The New Frontier is set right after the Korean War and is a cohesive reimagining of the earliest days of the Silver Age in the DC Universe. As the U.S. enters what President Kennedy describes as a “New Frontier,” superheroes like The Flash and Martian Manhunter slowly make their presence known to the world and make themselves available at times of great need. The film slowly descends into the best kind of science-fiction influenced madness, with the Justice League coming together with the U.S. military to fight an army of dinosaurs in the air battle to end all air battles.

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3. Teen Titans Go! To The Movies (2018)

A spin-off movie for a spin-off television series, Teen Titans GoI To the Movies is one of the most unique and silliest superhero films ever released in theaters. Jealous that so many other superheroes are cashing in and starring in movies, the Teen Titans head west with dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Some Titans fans don't appreciate the goofier version of these typically moody characters, but if you love to laugh and be entertained by superhero shenanigans then Teen Titans Go! To The Movies should be on your radar.  

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2. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)

Thanks to the success of Batman: The Animated Series, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett were given the opportunity to create an extension of the Batman mythos with Batman Beyond, a television series set in Gotham’s future that saw an older, grizzled Bruce Wayne pass the Bat-mantle to a young man named Terry McGinnis. The series’ 52 episodes made references to the Clown Prince of Crime, but he never made a full appearance in the Batman Beyond universe until the 2000 movie Return of the Joker. A dark and twisted movie that shows just how personally destructive the Joker has been in Bruce’s life, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is one of the best Batman stories ever told and is a must-watch for anyone who considers themselves a fan of dramatic superhero movies.

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1. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

The DC animated movie that laid the groundwork for all of the sprawling films to come is also the best of the bunch: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. As Bruce Wayne finds himself emotionally distracted by the sudden reemergence of his one-time fiance Andrea Beaumont, Batman has to deal with a new deadly assassin targeting crime bosses throughout the city and the Joker after the criminals desperately turn to him for help. Kevin Conroy always does a wonderful job bringing Batman to life, but his voice acting here is especially powerful as we see a series of flashbacks showing the different emotional setbacks Bruce undergoes on way to becoming the vigilante audiences know and love. 

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