What are the best DC animated movies? While Marvel Studios has dominated the landscape of live-action superhero movies for a long time now, the DCEU has been left flagging. Whether it’s a lack of a coherent vision from Warners or the absence of a Kevin Feige figure leading the shared universe, we don’t know.
What we do know is that the DCEU could be something really special because DC has been crushing it in the world of animated movies for more than a decade now. Seriously some of these films are up there as the best in the genre, and we don’t mean animation. We mean the whole superhero genre.
But with more than 50 DC animated movies available, it can be difficult to know which ones are best. So we at the Digital Fix dug into our collection of animated movies to bring you a comprehensive list of the ten best DC animated movies. Now we’ll be honest there are a lot of Batman movies on this list, but it’s not our fault. It’s Warners. They keep releasing them! Anyway, enjoy the list.
What are the best DC animated movies?
- All-Star Superman
- Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
- Wonder Woman
- Batman & Mr Freeze: SubZero
- Batman: The Long Halloween
- Superman vs The Elite
- Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
- Batman: Under the Red Hood
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
While it doesn’t quite live up to Grant Morrison’s seminal source material, All-Star Superman is still a brilliant story that digs into the humanity at the core of the Man of Tomorrow’s character.
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Few stories have ever 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, realise far too late how he’s wasted his life in a vendetta against the Man of Steel.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
Adapting one of DC comics’ most ambitious crossovers was no small feat, but The Flashpoint Paradox actually improves on its source material. The film tells the story of The Flash, who accidentally breaks time by trying to save his mother from being murdered.
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With time broken, the 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, more focused version of the comics’ story that drops all the confusing tie-ins to focus on The Flash and his adventures in this strange new dystopia.
Wonder Woman serves as an origin story for Diana Prince and details her first adventures with the crashed pilot, Steve Trevor. 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.
Batman & Mr Freeze: SubZero
While Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is often praised as the best movie we got from Batman: The Animated Series (including on this list), the dirty secret is that SubZero is probably better.
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Exciting and surprisingly thoughtful, the film takes everything great about Batman: The Animated Series and expands 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 rather than Batman and Robin.
Batman: The Long Halloween
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.
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This animated version dares to be different, however, taking creative license with the well-worn story that’ll leave even the most comic-literate viewer astounded.
Superman vs The Elite
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.
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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.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
Superhero stories have always involved evil versions of our favourite 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 entire evil Justice League.
A surprisingly philosophical film, Crisis on Two Earths, is ultimately about finding purpose in an infinite multiverse and realising that no matter what you think, you do matter.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
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 it’s much more than that.
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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. 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.
Batman: Under the Red Hood
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.
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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 reaffirms that ultimately, as flawed as he is, Batman won’t kill because he believes that tomorrow can be better than today.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
The granddaddy of all DC animated universe movies and a contender for the best Batman movie 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.
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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.