Ranking The DC Films, From Worst to 'Wonder Woman'*

From 'Catwoman' to 'Batman,' DC's film slate has had quite the rocky road.

DC movies
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DC movies

When it comes to superhero movies, Marvel and its Cinematic Universe has been something to gawk at. With 15 films under its interconnected belt, Marvel’s been able to drop a range of movies from mid to marvelous in an eight-year span. Those are far from the first Marvel movies, though; Blade was seen as its true boon back in a decade before Iron Man flew into the scene, and they were dropping terrible Punisher film adaptations as far back as 1989 (word to Dolph Lundgren). While DC might have been a bit late to the Cinematic Universe party, the DC Extended Universe received its first success in the form of Wonder Woman, which has murdered all expectations for DC films while sweeping up millions at the box office. Sadly, they’d been in the movie business proper since the late 1970s.

DC’s seen some amazing successes; Michael Keaton’s first Batman flick was a behemoth for kids at the cinema, and before him, there was Christopher Reeve becoming Superman. Sadly, as bad as Marvel’s entire movie track record could get at times, DC might have had it worse. In looking back at the 20 films that you can consider proper DC superhero films, they’ve shit the bed on a number of occasions.

Today, in the spirit of seeing how far DC has come cinematically, here’s the definitive ranking of DC Comics’ superhero films, from worst to Wonder Woman*.

*OK, so we all know that Wonder Woman isn’t No. 1, but that HED is too fire not to use.

22. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Director: Sidney J. Furie
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder

I’m old enough to remember when this movie came out and my fondest childhood memories are of how trash it was. Sure, Superman’s quest to end nuclear threats from the world is noble and reflective of the cold war era of the times, but the film’s plot, special effects, and characters are laughable. The big bad here is Nuclear Man, a blonde clone of Superman born from an atomic explosion in space and is armed with radioactive claws that look like Lee Press On Nails. Since Nuclear Man basically falls into a coma without sunlight, our hero decides to trap him in an elevator and place it on the dark side of the moon as a way to defeat this WWF reject. I can’t make this stuff up or waste any more precious brain cells recalling details of this train wreck. Getting the final slot on a list of ranked DC movies is no easy task given the comic brand’s abundance of bad theatrical projects over the years, but Superman IV: The Quest for Peace lands here in a single bound faster than a speeding kryptonite bullet. —Anslem Samuel Rocque 

21. Green Lantern (2011)
Green Lantern

Director: Martin Campbell 
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard

Let’s be real: The Green Lantern is a B-level comic book character at best. He’s basically a guy with a silly name and an even sillier power; a magic ring that can manifest anything he can think of. Too bad no one involved in the making of the film could think of a better script. Ryan Reynolds, who plays Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, gives an earnest performance that shows his potential to captivate audiences with his charm and quick wit but that’s the only bright spot in this cheesy production, which centers on the premise of will power vs. fear. The fact that all of the costumes here are created using CGI explains why this film cost $200 million to make, but the resulting animated look was more Roger Rabbit than Steve Rogers. Thankfully, Reynolds bounced back with 2016’s Deadpool, but the Green Lantern was so bad it could have meant lights out on the star’s comic book movie career forever. —Anslem Samuel Rocque  


20. Catwoman (2004)

Director: Pitof
Starring: Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Benjamin Bratt 

Casting an Oscar-winning actress of color in a film based on an iconic comic book character sounds like a great idea on paper. Not only is it a win for diversity, but it also has the potential of opening the door for more female-led superhero films. In practice, however, Catwoman was an utter disaster. Halle Berry overacted her way through 104 excruciating minutes of a forgettable script that followed the evolution of Patience Phillips from a meek graphic designer to a confident, leather-clad sex kitten. Look no further than the bizarre one-on-one basketball scene between Patience and Benjamin Bratt’s Tom Lone to see why the only Catwoman we acknowledge is Pfeiffer (and Eartha Kitt #RIP). —Anslem Samuel Rocque   


19. Steel (1997)
Steel 1997

Director: Kenneth Johnson
Starring: Shaquille O’Neal, Judd Nelson, Annabeth Gish

If you can imagine Robocop as Black, over 7-feet tall, and carrying a giant sledgehammer then you have a pretty good idea who Steel is. He may not be one of DC’s most notable heroes, but music veteran Quincy Jones was a fan of the character and bankrolled a theatrical adaptation, starring Shaquille O’Neal as John Henry Irons (aka Steel). In addition to Judd Nelson and Annabeth Gish, the cast also included Richard “Shaft” Roundtree and Hill Harper rockin’ an eye patch. Oh, and wait… isn’t that Brandy’s brother? Why, yes that is Ray J. Needless to say, cheesy one-liners and melodrama abound as Shaq clunks across the screen in a suit of armor. —Anslem Samuel Rocque

18. Superman III (1983)
Superman III

Director: Richard Lester
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Margot Kidder 

As a Richard Pryor fan, it has to be said: the last thing a Superman movie needed was Richard fucking Pryor. While not the worst Superman film, Superman III was pretty close. It’s sad, considering how epic the second Superman movie was, but with no Lois Lane, no Lex Luthor, and a whole mess of campy, bumbling Richard Pryor moments surrounding by a limp story, this flick falls flat on its face. What’s wild is it’s STILL not the worst Superman film, which took some work.—khal


17. Supergirl (1984)

Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Starring: Helen Slater, Faye Dunaway, Peter O'Toole

Despite holding down a reputation as one of the OG superhero swings studios began to take in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Supergirl gives the unmistakable impression of a product, rather than a film of its own. Heavily tracing the conventions first established with Christopher Reeve’s classic (if inconsistent) Superman films, Supergirl still can’t help but take shots at its own genuine optimism, preferring to play the action with a wink, rather than risk its high-flying hero look silly. The problem? No one quite seems to know what bits of the movie deserve a little clowning and which need their cape-billowing enthusiasm to keep the action afloat. For all its high-flying pursuits (including a gloriously hammy Faye Dunaway), Supergirl just never manages to get off the ground. – Aubrey Page


16. Suicide Squad (2016)
Suicide Squad

Director: David Ayer 
Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie 

Trying to cohesively introduce nine main characters in one film is no easy task; just look at writer/director David Ayer’s Suicide Squad for proof. Don't let the trailer or the Oscar win for Best Makeup and Hairstyling fool you, everything you’ve heard about the antihero mashup is true: Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is the best thing you’ll see on the screen, there’s not enough Joker, and the script is choppy AF. After giving succinct backstories on a handful of the Squad, the movie inexplicably leapfrogs to their first mission and randomly drops off new additions to the team without much context of who they are and why we should care. One member dies soon after everyone meets him and another immediately turns heel and becomes the central antagonist. Despite having a runtime over two hours long, the film feels rushed and incomplete. It’s like someone spilled a deck of cards with DC characters faces on it and the filmmaker just picked up a couple at random and ran with it. —Anslem Samuel Rocque 


15. Justice league (2017)
Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot

Zack Snyder's final DCEU film had a cloud of doubt hanging over it. It was the first time that DC's heroes would form like Voltron The Avengers on-screen to save the world...again. What ended up happening is moviegoers were given another dark, brooding DC film, for good or ill. For a series that has some of the oldest comic book characters on the planet, you couldn't help but feel like this was DC chasing after the success of Marvel without doing the proper foundation-building beforehand. Heroes like Aquaman and The Flash kept viewers intrigued for some of the ideas DC has down the pipeline, but CGI'd Supermustaches and the thought that this film (which Snyder left after a family emergency only to have Joss Whedon finish it up in post) left a lot of it's meat on the cutting room for turned into a major disappointment for critics and stans alike. —khal

14. Batman & Robin (1997)
Batman & Robin

Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: George Clooney, Uma Thurman, Chris O'Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, Arnold Schwartznegger

Oh man, shouldn’t mega babe and newly minted billionaire George Clooney be a great Batman? In 1997, his life practically oozed all things Bruce Wayne realness—but with Joel Schumacher’s disastrous Batman & Robin (now infamous for “bat-nipples”)—Clooney became a one and done in the batsuit. It’s campy, over the top and overly crammed with characters (from Chris O’Donnell’s earnest Robin to Uma Thurman’s slinky Poison Ivy). While it’s widely accepted as one of the worst movies of all time, at least it’s interesting, and as Schumacher recently said in an interview with GQ, “I never thought it was an important moment in gay cinema, but hey, I’ll take it.” I mean it’s certainly the gayest Batman film out—and that’s pretty great, even if it's pretty bad. —Kerensa Cadenas


13. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Batman V Superman

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams

$250 million, and this is what we get? Worth it possibly just for the deluge of Sad Affleck memes the movie’s trash reviews spawned, Batman v Superman remains one of the most embarrassing and high profile cinematic failures of recent years. Already flirting with possible classic status thanks to the movie’s epic title alone, the second film in Zack Snyder’s DCEU did little else but squander the promise of its title, as it sloppily ticked off one DC Comics’ most iconic storylines (the Death of Superman) in the process. Poorly paced and nearly incoherently edited, Batman v Superman concludes with one of the more boring “CG go smash” final sequences on this list. Luckily, the film’s cast keeps even the most inexplicable plot decisions from seeming too outlandish: Ben Affleck makes for intriguing new take on the dark knight, Henry Cavill remains a serviceable Superman, and Gal Gadot makes her Wonder Woman debut to sparkling effect. (I’ll let you decide on your own about Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor.) All in all, Batman v Superman is one super mess – and one that’s got me seriously concerned about Justice League. – Aubrey Page


12. Superman Returns (2006)
Superman Returns (2006)

Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey

Honestly, I sort of forgot that this existed. Aesthetically, it’s all there in Brandon Routh’s chiseled jaw, Kate Bosworth’s mousy hair and Bryan Singer’s superhero directing expertise. I’m not quite sure what makes a superhero movie worse—it being a total fucking mess or totally fucking boring. And Superman Returns falls in the latter category. It tells the story of Superman returning back to earth after a long absence, finding that everything he left behind (including Lois Lane) has dramatically changed. So, the story like isn’t that much of a disaster, but if you cast two people who lack charisma on their own (Routh and Bosworth), how are they even supposed to have chemistry with each other let alone as two iconic characters. So that leaves it all in the hands of Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, who as always is entertaining, but a Superman movie isn’t a Superman movie without a mildly competent Superman. Take a nap on this one.—Kerensa Cadenas

11. Man of Steel (2013)
Man of Steel

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon

Coming seven years after the head-scratching Superman Returns, this do-over reboot gives the franchise a much-needed makeover. The classic origin story remains the same but instead of Clark Kent being nothing more than a straight-laced choirboy, Henry Cavill adds another layer to the character. Following the death of his adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, a guilt-ridden Clark embarks on a nomadic journey that ultimately gives him a slightly harder edge—complete with a badass beard. The reluctant superhero is forced to step into the spotlight when General Zod, a military purist from Krypton, threatens to declare war on the entire planet. Superman and Zod face off in an epic battle that leaves Metropolis in ruins and ends in an anti-climatic if not uncharacteristic neck snapping that rubbed some fans the wrong way. It’s not that Man of Steel is a bad movie; it’s just not that memorable. —Anslem Samuel Rocque 

10. Batman Forever (1995)
Batman Forever (1995)

Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey 

Schumacher’s tenure over the Batman franchise almost fatally ruined the superhero movie genre, sure. But it’s cliche and basic to a. be derisive of them completely and b. lump the subsequent Batman & Robin’s failures in with Schumacher’s first game at bat. Batman Forever is goofy, yes, but admittedly: it’s fun as fuck, dog. As tag-team villains The Riddler and Two-Face, Jim Carrey and a delightfully hammy Tommy Lee Jones split the scenery up 50/50 and chew it like a pack of Bubblicious. Chris O’Donnell’s revenge subplot as Robin is genuinely compelling to give the film some balance that B&R would go on to lack—where Batman: the Animated Series was inspired by Burton’s films, Forever in turn feels like a homage to the homage. It’s got pathos but also not afraid to wear the Saturday-morning cartoon of it all on its sleeve in a respectable way. Two-Face storms a gala at one point with goons and tommy guns only to have Batman leap in from the skylight. Riddler, incognito as a panicked civilian, turns to his fellow rogue and says “Your entrance was good—his was better.” Add in Nicole Kidman as the most alluring and intelligent Batman film love interest second only to Vicki Vale and there is absolutely nothing to hate about this movie. —Frazier Tharpe

9. aquaman (2018)

Director: James Wan
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe

Being the second-dopest DCEU film of the modern era isn't so bad, right? James Wan (the Australian writer/director/producer who brought us horror franchises like SawInsidious, and The Conjuring) helmed this long-awaited dive into the depths of DC's aquatic escape known as Atlantis to bring us Jason Momoa's Aquaman. Set some time after the events of Justice League, this film had to do a lot: it had to make a dude who talks to fish believable as a hero, tell this person's origin story, AND help establish him as a true force in the DCEU all in two hours. Well, the film clocks in at 143 minutes, but somewhere in there is a very fun, very mid superhero film. Highlights include the opening sequence, with Aquaman doing battle with David Kane (who will soon become the Black Manta, portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) inside of a submarine. There's a boatload of CGI'd hair, some insane water-enabled firepower, and a third act which features a Kraken-esque create wreaking havoc on all kinds of aquatic soldiers. It's a fun ride, with some truly intense moments (you have to see this in IMAX for that scene with the Trenches alone), but is lacking something overall to take it above what Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins, and company did with Wonder Woman. —khal

8. Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman

Director: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright

To say Wonder Woman is the best film of the DCEU is to do a disservice to Patty Jenkins’ stunning superhero debut. So far and away superior to the DCEU’s testosterone-fueled exercises in drudgery, Wonder Woman takes the tenants of Christopher Reeve’s effervescent and unflaggingly heroic Superman to a new level of optimistic badassery. Featuring a gorgeous first act that unfolds on the lush, Amazonian utopia of Themyscira and later set against a surprisingly emotionally devastating WWI backdrop, Wonder Woman carefully mixes the superhero standards with touches of the war genre and some refreshingly candid romance to create a superhero film that feels both like a throwback to classics of yesteryear and something entirely fresh. Gal Gadot is the reason for much of the film’s radiance—a dazzling screen presence who manages to imbue Wonder Woman with equal parts otherworldly toughness and heroic soft-heartedness—with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor offering the perfect street-wise foil to her altruistic naivete. Sure, the film’s final third is a bit of a drag as things all culminate in a decidedly dull CGI battle, but Wonder Woman’s first two hours are so breathlessly super, it feels wrong to ask for anything more. – Aubrey Page

7. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Dark Knight Rises

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway 

Topping the Dark Knight was an impossible feat not even the great Chris Nolan could conquer. And yet even with that caveat, DKR gets a lot of hate, most of it deserving. I get it—TDK was basically a Michael Mann film with expensive gadgets and clown paint. To shift from that to an enemy who literally takes over an entire city and banishes Bruce Wayne to a random pit in the desert with Movie MacGuffin No 1 (an untraceable nuclear bomb!) at his disposal is jarring. Still, a disappointing effort from Nolan is like a disappointing album from Jay Z—to call it bad, per se is just being dramatic. Even far from the top of his game, the end result is still a comepelling watch and I challenge you to show me a Marvel movie with a fight scene as visceral and engrossing as Bane breaking Bruce’s back. Hardy’s voice effect may be goofy but he succeeds in following Heath’s Jaws-like, where-will-he-pop-up-next and what-will-he-do menace. And who would have ever thought Anne Hathaway’s annoying ass would steal the film with a perfect cocktail of Kitt and Pfeiffer and a believable badass in her own right. (I’m the only one who would watch a dolo Hathaway Catwoman film? Word? Aight.) The plot holes are so glaring they’re hilarious (HOW DID BRUCE GET FROM THE PIT IN ANYWHERE, THIRD WORLD BACK INTO GOTHAM, B?) but in the end this movie still concludes Bruce’s 3-film arc and Nolan’s ultimate treatise on the Batman mythos beautifully. Stop complaining. —Frazier Tharpe

6. Superman (1978)

Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman 

No matter how Superman has aged—from it's bonkers, dated special effects (there are Spencer Pratt level amounts of crystals) to how earnest it seems in comparison to today's ~edgy~ superhero films, it will always stand the test of time. That's partly due to it's insane cast—70s scream queen babe Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, Marlon Brando as Jor-El and bonafide legend Christopher Reeve as Superman. Reeve's magnetic performance as the bespectacled babe made him the blueprint for all Superman performances since. Let's just say that no one has quite ever made it to his level yet.—Kerensa Cadenas

5. Batman Returns (1992)
Batman Returns (1992)

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer 

God, Tim Burton really used the box office coup of Batman ‘89 to fully fucking unleash his freak flag in the sequel. Like everything from the Peak Burton era, the lived-in weird world he builds in Returns is simply wonderful[ly bizarre]. And profoundly sad. Burton, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito, render the well-worn tales of Catwoman and Penguin to the most tragic depictions possible—with Batman in the middle and no plotline of his own, under the very reasonable assumption that he’s just inherently sad anyway and can relate. Throw in the always reliable Christopher Walken as a billionaire tycoon for some pure, feelings-free evil and what you have is quietly the most engrossing Batman film second only to Dark Knight, mayyyybe Batman ‘89 depending on the day. —Frazier Tharpe

4. Batman Begins (2005)
Batman Begins

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson

It’s easy to joke on Christopher Nolan for being kinda (pretty?) pretentious. But Nolan singlehandedly rebooted the Batman franchise to critical acclaim. Starring Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne—Batman Begins explores his origins as the hero of Gotham. Nolan’s take was dark and cinematic as he showed Bruce Wayne going through training with Henri Ducard and eventual path to protecting Gotham (and love interest Rachel Dawes, played by a kinda miscast Katie Holmes) from the Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul. Nolan effortlessly channeled Bruce Wayne’s darkness, alongside a great performance from Bale. And thus a new franchise was born. —Kerensa Cadenas

3. Batman (1989)

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger 

If it wasn’t for Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, Tim Burton’s Batman would be the illest Batman ever. It shouldn’t have worked: Hollywood wasn’t ready for Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader in a film featuring hella new Prince songs. Throw Jack Nicholson playing himself with a wide smile and white facepaint and you have one of the most magnificently manic superhero films committed to celluloid. Nicholson found the perfect insanity in his Joker performance, being able to cut the comedy on a dime to unleash the sinister intentions underneath. It’s got a style all its own, and is truly as amazing as Tim Burton’s first dark foray into the world of Batman would be.—khal

2. Superman II (1980)
Superman II

Director: Richard Lester
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty

There’s something about that second film in a superhero/action trilogy, right? Call it Empire Strikes Back syndrome, but something about the need to level up and not suffer from sophomore jinx turns into something epic like 1980’s Superman II, which finds Christopher Reeve donning the cape once more, this time taking on General Zod and his goons. It wasn’t because Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor wasn’t enough; trust, he did his thing, but it made sense to go bigger and more destructive in the sequel. Not too many films can pull off the showdown between Zod, Ursa and Non against Superman in the middle of Metropolis. It can delve into cheese at times, and might feel dated compared to what films can do currently, but most of the DC film catalog lacks the heart that Superman II does.—khal

1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Dark Knight

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart

There’s no denying that for the foreseeable future Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy will stand as the best of the rest. The director’s cohesive telling of a singular story across three films, superb visual execution, and in-depth character development are second to none. Nolan’s reimagined version of Gotham and the Dark Knight—as well as his “wonderful toys” and famed Batmobile—created a theatrical experience that was not only entertaining and reflective of modern times, but also acknowledged and respected by Hollywood.

The linchpin of the series was undoubtedly The Dark Knight, which earned eight nominations at the 2009 Academy Awards and ultimately took home two Oscars. One of which was earned posthumously by Heath Ledger, whose haunting portrayal of The Joker is the stuff of legend. From his spastic ticks and lip smacking to his unexplained backstory and facial scars, Ledger’s version of the iconic villain was redefined for an entire generation in a way that made Jack Nicholson’s classic 1989 performance, which had long been regarded as the definitive silver screen Joker, pale in comparison. Nolan’s films, The Dark Knight in particular, have proven to be the crème de la crème of what DC has to offer. There is no debating this. —Anslem Samuel Rocque      

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