Every DCEU Movie Ranked

Justice League

by Ben Travis |
Updated on

After Marvel Studios succeeded in pulling off its Marvel Cinematic Universe on the big screen, it didn’t take long for other franchises to follow suit – and in 2013, Warner Bros swiftly kicked off its DCEU, or DC Extended Universe. Where the other comics giant had to make do with some of its lesser-known characters (who quickly became household names in their own right), DC’s ranks boasted major names like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – though it’s fair to say that their latest cinematic incarnations for the most part took time to find their footing.

Now that the long-awaited Zack Snyder’s Justice League is finally out in the world, Team Empire got together to rank all 10 DC films in the Extended Universe so far, from Man Of Steel right up to Wonder Woman 1984 – and yes, the Snyder Cut is ranked in its own right here too. Among the more traditional superhero tales and multi-character mash-ups, you’ll also find crime capers, sub-aquatic adventures, and family comedies in a franchise of – let’s be honest – rather variable quality. But there are gems in there too, and notable takes on some of the most famous comic book characters ever created. Read on for our ordered list, from worst of the worst to best of the best.

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Every DCEU Movie Ranked

10. Justice League1 of 10

10) Justice League (2017)

After the lacklustre response to Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, it was clear that audiences weren't necessarily on board with Zack Snyder's dour take on the DC Universe – but beyond the family tragedy that led to Snyder departing the Justice League movie, the studio's clear desire to retool the nascent DCEU with an injection of Joss Whedon didn't work for, well, anybody. The theatrical cut of Justice League is an unholy hodgepodge of two diametrically opposed filmmakers, one that rushes to introduce the likes of Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg into the mix, while also depicting the original assembling (sorry) of the DC super-group, as well as establishing a globe-shattering threat in the form of, er, Steppenwolf. Frankly, little of it works – the baddie (really just foreplay for the forthcoming Darkseid) is underwhelming, the whole thing feels inconsequential and incoherent, and there's some notoriously bad lip CGI on Henry Cavill, forced to return for reshoots while sporting his ferocious facial fuzz from Mission: Impossible – Fallout. That the first cinematic grouping of these iconic characters fell this short is, well, an injustice.Read the Empire review

9) Suicide Squad2 of 10

9) Suicide Squad (2016)

The trailers all made it look so promising. And yet, when Warner Bros stepped in to make David Ayer's film more like those trailers – with a jukebox soundtrack, hyperactive editing, and a pop video aesthetic – it came out as a jumbled mess. In its released form, Suicide Squad barely hangs together by a thread – the villainous squad's mission is nonsensical, Jared Leto's cringe-worthy Joker sinks without a trace, and it has all the structure of a scrambled egg. There have been plenty of calls to #ReleaseTheAyerCut (and it would be interesting to see the darker vision he had in mind), but Suicide Squad's problems run deeper than its editing hatchet-job – it plays in uncomfortable racial stereotypes and bubbles with misogyny too, an added ugliness among the visual murk of its dire Enchantress-led GCI climax. Still, at least it gave us Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn – much better served in her own tale down the line.Read the Empire review

8) Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice3 of 10

8) Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)

First things first, yes, the Ultimate Edition is an improvement. Among its issues, the theatrical version of Zack Snyder's superpowered clash of the titans featured confusing, inadequate plotting that never made its titular conflict stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. With 30 minutes of added footage, the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice clarifies Lex Luthor's (admittedly still terrible) plan and motivations, and adds extra context to Bats and Supes' beef. But the film still sinks under Snyder's relentlessly grim vision of a Kal-El responsible for mass-murder, a Bruce Wayne whose no-kill rule has seemingly gone out the window, and doubles down on Man Of Steel's uncomfortably-city-razing finale with another rubble-bound smack-a-thon. If Snyder's vision is a taste that some have acquired over time, there's still no getting around the fact that the central pair's conflict is a mere case of confusion rather than a legitimate ideological bout. Plus, Jesse Eisenberg's sub-Zuckerberg Lex is supremely irritating, and would be the worst thing in the film if not for the Martha of all revelations in the final reel. Thank god Wonder Woman rocks up to show the lads how it's done.Read the Empire review

7) Man Of Steel4 of 10

7) Man Of Steel (2013)

From the off, Zack Snyder's Superman origin story sought to do for the blue-eyed boy scout what Christopher Nolan did with Batman Begins, telling a grounded, character-focused take on a comic book icon – it even has Nolan as a prominent producer, co-writing with David S. Goyer. If Man Of Steel suffers by comparison to the Dark Knight Trilogy, it still admirable in its bold attempt to reinvent Superman for a new generation. The opening Krypton sequences are impressively batshit (Russell Crowe rides a space-dragon!), but the gritty Earth scenes lack real depth and deviate from the central tenets of Kal-El's story – when Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent chastises his young son for saving lives and potentially revealing his powers to the public in the process, it's a gloomy step too far. Still, Henry Cavill is a solid Supes, and Hans Zimmer's score is real stunner – it's just a shame about its numbingly destructive final reel (complete with sky-high bodycount) and controversial neck-snapping climax.Read the Empire review

6) Wonder Woman 19845 of 10

6) Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Where Wonder Woman's first big-screen solo outing pitched Diana Prince head-first into the darkness of World War I, Patty Jenkins' sequel instead went dayglo – fast-forwarding to the mid-'80s to battle capitalist excess and greed incarnate. Tonally, it's a different beast entirely – retaining the optimism and inherent goodness of its central heroine, but opting for a more fantastical tale involving a magic wish-granting rock, with international consequences (or, ultimate lack thereof). Wonder Woman 1984's unashamedly outlandish plot proved divisive, but there's a cheesy charm to Pedro Pascal's smarmy villain Maxwell Lord, Kristen Wiig is endearing as Barbara Minerva (before the Digital Fur Technology kicks in), and the chemistry between Gal Gadot's Diana and Chris Pine's Steve Trevor still sparkles. That said, the method of Steve's return does raise eyebrows, and a jaunt to the Middle-East is replete with stereotypes best left in the '80s. Read the Empire review

5) Shazam!6 of 10

5) Shazam! (2019)

Laughs were never on the agenda in the early days of the DCEU. But with Shazam! (don't forget the exclamation mark), director David F. Sandberg cooked up the franchise's first comedy – a story of Big-like wish fulfilment that sees Asher Angel's foster kid Billy Batson granted the power to become an adult action-figure-looking superhero by saying the titular magic word. It's a refreshing romp with an Amblin-esque tone at times, mashing up elements of The Goonies and Ghostbusters with a superhero twist, and Zachary Levi is perfectly cast as Shazam, getting to unleash his inner man-child. While the sequences of Billy testing out his new powers are a total hoot, eventually the film's final act becomes another monster-brawling fight – but along the way there's some real heart and humour, which the DCEU had long been lacking.Read the Empire review

4) Zack Snyderu2019s Justice League7 of 10

4) Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

The fan rally for Warner Bros to unleash the full original vision of Zack Snyder's Justice League created its own cabal of internet villains – but those who campaigned more respectfully for its release have been vindicated. The 'Snyder Cut', as it's also known, is a significant improvement on the theatrical mess of 2017. At an unnecessary four hours, it's a grand statement of a superhero epic, one that finally reconciles Snyder's vision of the DC heroes as all-out gods with a sense of excitement as opposed to monolithic stoicism. It's an unwieldy behemoth – one that makes time for extended Icelandic singing and the slow-mo rescue of a hotdog – but one that luxuriates in its extended running time to deliver a film far more worthy of its A-list team-up. Steppenwolf is genuinely imposing, Cyborg and The Flash get much more introductory screentime, and the final showdown is considerably more effective. Not all of it works, and Snyder sticks to his non-traditional incarnations of Batman and Superman, but his version of the film is inarguably better.Read the Empire review

3) Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn)8 of 10

3) Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) (2020)

Move over, Mr. J – Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn fared much better in her own adventure. If Birds Of Prey is nominally a team-up movie, it's really Robbie's show, the film delving into Quinn's warped perspective for a tale told in full Harley-vision. Cathy Yan's crime comedy might be scattershot, but it fits neatly with its main character – a colourful, crazy, cartoonish caper with a punky edge, taking in a lost diamond, a teenage runaway, and Ewan McGregor's vicious but campy crime lord Roman Sionis. If it fires off in all directions like Quinn's glitter-filled blunderbuss (deployed in the film's standout, coked-up evidence room brawl) Birds Of Prey boasts a genuine sense of playful identity. It's just that, among the Harley parade, the other Birds Of Prey themselves barely get a look in – Huntress, Black Canary, and Renee Montoya uniting far too late in the running time. Still, in its best moments, BoP is a bop.Read the Empire review

2) Aquaman9 of 10

2) Aquaman (2018)

You get the sense that James Wan wasn't sure exactly how many Aquaman movies he'd get to make – so instead of saving stuff for potential sequels, he put as much as possible in his first outing. Across its 150-minute runtime, Aquaman plays out like several films in one – a bonkers undersea epic that goes from Avatar to Indiana Jones to Mamma Mia! to sea-creature-feature in a matter of minutes. The full effect might be exhausting, but it is – crucially – fun too, with vibrant action sequences both on land (a one-shot city chase) and beneath the waves (a massive battle with people riding sharks). Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry has more personality than his bland characterisation in Justice League, and the film is unapologetic about its high fantasy (or, submarine fantasy) leanings, exploring the warring factions of the seven seas, having Julie Andrews voice a kraken, and eventually sticking Aquaman in a version of that orange suit. More H2-woah than H2-woe.Read the Empire review

1) Wonder Woman10 of 10

1) Wonder Woman (2017)

Bringing hope is what Wonder Woman does – and after a succession of bleak, bludgeoning blockbusters in the DCEU, Patty Jenkins' film turned up to save the day. While Gal Gadot stole the show in Batman v Superman's final reel, her own adventure showed a more human side to the Amazonian warrior-god. Wonder Woman's greatest strength is its relative simplicity – it's a fairly old-fashioned movie, a fish-out-of-water adventure that sees Diana Prince grow up on a secluded mythical island before heading out into the wider world when she realises a major conflict (World War I) is unfolding. The pairing of Diana with Chris Pine's pilot Steve Trevor is dynamite, the two displaying serious chemistry as they fall for each other – and the exemplary No Man's Land sequence remains an absolute DCEU highlight. The final 20 minutes might be a CG-sludgefest (reportedly studio-mandated) but for the most part Wonder Woman is a radiant, revolutionary superhero story.Read the Empire review

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