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The 13 best DC animated movies of all time

The DC animated movies reign supreme. From the adventures of Batman to Superman, and everything in between, here are the best of the best.

Best DC animated movies: Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman

With more than 50 entries, choosing the best DC animated movies is a difficult task. Thankfully, it’s also a fun one.

That’s because, while the DCU is a bit of a mess right now, DC has been crushing it with some of the best animated movies for more than a decade now. If you’re rewatching the DC movies in order and skip them, you’re missing out. Seriously, some of these films are up there with the most amazing in the genre, and we don’t just mean animation; we mean the best superhero movies in general. Here’s our list of what we deem to be the greatest of the great.

Best DC animated movies; All Star Superman

13. All-Star Superman (2011)

Where to watch: HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus.

While it doesn’t quite live up to Grant Morrison’s seminal source material (there are too many threads that go nowhere), All-Star Superman is still a brilliant story that digs into the humanity at the core of the Man of Tomorrow’s character.

Few stories have captured the magic of Superman quite like this, and I’d be lying if there wasn’t some grim satisfaction in seeing Lex Luthor, of all people, realize far too late how he’s wasted his life in a vendetta against the Man of Steel. So, there’s a bittersweetness to the ending, as he sees the world through Superman’s eyes for one small moment.

Best DC animated movies; The Flashpoint Paradox

12. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)

Where to watch: HBO MaxAmazon Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus.

Adapting one of DC comics’ most ambitious crossovers was no small feat, but The Flashpoint Paradox actually improves on its source material. The time travel movie tells the story of The Flash, who accidentally breaks time by trying to save his mother from being murdered. (Sounds familiar to The Flash’s 2023 movie, doesn’t it?)

With time broken, Flash finds himself in a strange world where nothing is as he remembers it, and he has to set right what’s gone wrong. The Flashpoint Paradox is a more coherent and focused version of the comic story that drops all the confusing tie-ins to focus on The Flash and his adventures in this strange new dystopia.

Best DC animated movies; Wonder Woman

11. Wonder Woman (2009)

Where to watch: HBO MaxAmazon Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus.

Wonder Woman serves as an origin story for Diana Prince (aka one of the best DC characters ever) and details her first adventures with the crashed pilot, Steve Trevor. While these characters would go on to be played in the real world by Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, their animated counterparts are just as likable, if not more so.

Funny, well-cast, and surprisingly violent, there’s a lot to like about this particular incarnation of Wonder Woman; it’s just a shame they never really did anything else with this version outside of the Justice League animated films, but it serves as a blueprint for future Wonder Woman stories in live-action, and further animation too.

Best DC animated movies; Batman and Mr Freeze: SubZero

10. Batman & Mr Freeze: SubZero (1998)

Where to watch: HBO MaxAmazon Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus.

While Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is often praised as the best thing we got from Batman: The Animated Series (including everything else on this list), the dirty secret is that SubZero is up there, too. There, we said it.

Exciting and surprisingly thoughtful, the film takes everything great about The Animated Series and expands on it, including a rather operatic take on Mr Freeze. Many critics at the time the film was released actually said they wished this had been the movie Joel Schumacher made instead of Batman and Robin.

Best DC animated movies; Batman: The Long Halloween

9. Batman: The Long Halloween (2022)

Where to watch: HBO MaxAmazon Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus.

Batman: The Long Halloween might be the greatest Batman story ever told, so much so that Nolan and Reeves cited it as inspiration for their bat-blockbusters. Essentially, The Long Halloween set the tone for how all future Batman tales would be presented. And it makes sense, because this movie certainly leans into a gritter, more noir-inspired take on the Caped Crusader.

This animated version dares to be different, taking creative license with the well-worn story that’ll leave even the most comic-literate viewer astounded.

Batman vs Dracula

8. The Batman vs Dracula (2005)

Where to watch: HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video

“Try as you may, you cannot out-bat me,” says Count Dracula to Batman, in one of the most it-shouldn’t work but it does crossovers ever. And, really, that line of dialogue sums up everything you need to know about Batman vs Dracula.

The plot might focus on the vampire’s attempts to turn the city of Gotham into his thralls, with the help of Joker and The Penguin, but that’s not really what’s so fascinating here. Instead, it’s the parallels between these two dark, winged, nocturnal creatures that make the film so magnetic, as their similarities are laid bare.

Equally, the action and animation are wonderful, and there are some brilliant fight sequences between the two where their silhouettes dance in the dark. That helps to evoke an appropriately spooky (though appropriate for almost all ages) tone.

Justice League Doom

7. Justice League: Doom (2012)

Where to watch: HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video

Justice League: Doom is a standalone sequel to the brilliant Crisis on Two Earths. Though it doesn’t quite hit the same soaring heights as its predecessor, it still remains a total thrill ride from start to finish, and is pretty darn brutal (Bane beats Batman to a pulp and then buries him in his father’s empty coffin).

The highlight through the whole film, of course, is watching the assembly of the Legion of Doom (the antithesis of the Justice League, if you were wondering) plot to take down their counterparts one by one. It’s just too much fun to ignore, even when it gets dark. Sit back, and enjoy the mayhem.

Batman Gotham knight

6. Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)

Where to watch: HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video

If you’re looking for something that’s truly outside of the typical wheelhouse, Batman: Gotham Knight is the solution. It’s a single movie, yes, but comprised of six chapter-like short anthology stories. Technically, these are set within the continuity of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and we get to witness this version of Bruce between the events of The Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

That’s cool, and all, but where Gotham Knight truly shines is in the diversity of each of these dark tales. Each is penned by a different writer, and animated by a different Japanese Animation studio. So, the chances are that if you don’t enjoy one aspect of the movie at least one other part will suit your tastes.

Obviously, because this is Batman, the anthology also shines in its action, as Batman faces up against Gotham’s dirty mob, and a variety of less popular villains.

Best DC animated movies: Superman vs The Elite

5. Superman vs The Elite (2012)

Where to watch: HBO MaxAmazon Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus.

As a moral exemplar, superheroes don’t kill; everyone knows that. Well, everyone except your edgy friend and their red-hot take that ‘killing the villain would solve so many problems.’ Superman vs. The Elite examines this argument by pitting the Man of Steel against a new team of anti-heroes who aren’t afraid to get their hands bloody.

The film takes the time to examine the merits of both arguments before showing the inherent flaws in someone who kills people, saying, ‘People who kill people should be killed.’ Ultimately Superman vs. The Elite is an optimistic film about the value of human life and the importance of principles even in the face of a seemingly unstoppable challenge.

Best DC animated movies: Crisis on Two Earths

4. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

Where to watch: HBO MaxAmazon Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus.

Superhero stories have always involved evil versions of our favorite costumed crime fighters, but Crisis on Two Earths takes things a little further. Crisis on Two Earths doesn’t just give us an evil Superman and Batman. It gives us an entirely evil Justice League. (How’s that for some superhero movie villains, eh?)

A surprisingly philosophical film, Crisis on Two Earths, is ultimately about finding purpose in an infinite multiverse and realizing that no matter what you think, you do matter.

Best DC animated movies: Batman Beyond Return of the Joker

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

Where to watch: HBO MaxAmazon Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus.

DC animated movies are many things, but you wouldn’t say any of them are particularly scary. Well, except for Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, which is a harrowing watch. On paper, it’s simply a battle between Terry McGuiness’s Batman and a returned Joker, but in reality, it’s so much more than that.

Return of the Joker pushes the Clown Prince of Crime to new unhinged heights. The Joker kills with impunity, tortures children, and even figures out the Dark Knight’s biggest secret. Truly this film reminds us why The Joker is one of the best Batman villains of all time. It’s a scary watch made all the better for its cathartic ending, where the new Batman lands a blow on the Joker that Bruce never could. He laughs at him.

Best DC animated movies: Batman: Under the Red Hood

2. Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

Where to watch: HBO MaxAmazon Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus.

What Batman does is dangerous, and few films show that, like Under the Red Hood. It opens with Joker brutally murdering Robin, and things only get darker from there. Like Superman vs. The Elite, this film asks fundamental questions about its main character’s core philosophy, but it offers no easy answers.

Instead, it offers a mature, more adult take on the caped Crusader and the danger he puts people in. Fundamentally Under the Red Hood is a film about the difficult line vigilantes like Batman walk on the precipice between good and evil, and it reaffirms that ultimately, as flawed as he is, Batman won’t kill because he believes that tomorrow can be better than today.

Best DC animated movies: Batman Mask of the Phantasm

1. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Where to watch: HBO MaxAmazon Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus.

The granddaddy of all DCAU movies and one of the best movies about Batman ever made, Mask of the Phantasm is a borderline masterpiece. Loosely based on Batman: Year 3, this tense thriller tells the tragic story of Bruce Wayne’s lost love and the murderous vigilante known as the Phantasm.

Heartbreaking and exciting in equal measure, Mask of the Phantasm asks the audience to consider whether Bruce’s quest is good for him. Tragically, vengeance ultimately robs Bruce of any chance of healing, ensuring he will always be the Dark Knight.

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Now we’ve shared our thoughts on the DCAU, why not check out our guide to all the new movies coming in 2023? Or, if you’re curious as to where the DCU is going next, you can read our article explaining Chapter 1: Gods and Monsters, and can also learn about the upcoming DC movies too, with our guides to the Superman Legacy release date and the Aquaman 2 release date.