If there was one studio consistently kicking out amazing superhero films, it would definitely be Warner Bros. They have one of the most diverse and solid track records of any studio. They made an amazing Wonder Woman film 20 years before Marvel would make a film with a leading lady. They turned Batman into a vampire the same year Fox fucked up the Fantastic Four for the fourth time. Hell, they had 3 superhero team up films before the Avengers came around. They perfected the genre years ago and continue to create interesting, fan pleasing films.
At this point you’ve probably realized I’m talking about Warner Brothers Animation and not the studio behind such gems as Martha: The Movie and Jared Leto and Friends. Why their live action films are such a mess is baffling to me considering right down the hall, for a fraction of the budget, one of their divisions is fucking killing it. Just bring those motherfuckers over to make your film. It ain’t hard. But I digress.
In honor of the new release of Justice League, let’s honor the studio that should’ve been tasked with doing the job in the first place, with a comprehensive list of every DC animated film ranked from the worst to the tippity top.
This list will not include the Lego films.
21. Green Lantern: First Flight
I’ve never understood the appeal of Green Lantern. Take away the ring and there’s no difference between Hal Jordan and Clark Kent. They’re just boy scouts with super powers. Batman has pathos, Wonder Woman has one of the most interesting origin stories, Flash has personality and Martian Manhunter, well, he’s as unique as it gets. I didn’t think Green Lantern was much more than his premise, “Good guy gets magical ring” until I saw Green Lantern: First Flight.
After watching the film, I got it. I completely understood why he has such a loyal fanbase. Yes, he’s a good guy and yes he’s a boy scout but he’s almost the direct opposite of Superman. Instead of an alien coming to earth to protect it, it’s an ordinary man being thrust into the role of savior of the galaxy.
He’s like the less cheesy Flash Gordon.
It’s unfortunate that DC mainly focuses on either Batman or Justice League because if they made films this good out of their supporting players, they’d definitely get a whole new set of fans.
20. Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis
“Aquaman is lame. He talks to fish and he’s stupid and dumb.”
Now that that bullshit is out of the way, let’s hit these pros and cons.
Cons: this is part of the “New 52” universe and with it comes really fucking lame character designs (Why the fuck does everyone have sideburns?? That shit died out 40 years ago) . I really don’t like them or the animation style. It also includes Jason O’mara as Batman and his voice offends my ears for some reason
Pros: this film gave many people (myself included) a new found appreciation for aquaman. He’s the King Arthur of the seas and is quite the badass. It also brought in Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman and Sean Astin as Shazam. Two very interesting decisions that I think paid off. Even though Dawson was born to play Catwoman.
Seriously. The woman has been in multiple comic book adaptations but has never played Catwoman. That’s baffling to me. It’s as crazy as the fact that Billy Zane has never played Lex Luthor.
Or the fact that everyone in this film has fucking sideburns. I’m losing my goddamn mind.
19. Batman: Gotham Knight
Anthology films are always going to be a mixed bag. When you have multiple writers and directors all contributing to a larger narrative, you’re definitely rolling the dice on quality control and this film is no different.
Some stories are fucking terrible, some of the animation is ugly as sin, the pacing is a bit of a slog and there’s really only one stand out story in the whole damn package.
But it adds one of the absolute best ideas to the Batman mythos since Nolan had Batman be trained by Ra’s Al Ghul. Every single person that encounters Batman in this film, sees something completely different. To some, he’s a demon, to others, he’s a soldier and to a select few, he’s just a man in a mask. The idea that the myth of Batman would skew our perceptions, is a really interesting one and is easily the best part of this film.
18. Justice League: War
The beginning of the “New 52” universe that was a sort of reboot/alternate continuity to the rest of the DC films. I have no issue with anyone creating their own individual universes to pre-existing characters. I used to be a big fan of the old Marvel “What If?” comics and loved different runs on X-Men and Batman. It’s taking characters that everyone knows and loves and putting a new stamp on them. Sometimes that stamp is subtle and sometimes it’s a radically different change.
The New 52 is not exactly radically different but for fans of the “Timmverse”, it’s a bit too little, too late.
Besides the character re-designs that I will never not bitch about (although, I do dig Wonder Woman’s costume in this), there’s really not much here to complain about. The voice acting is on point, The action is great and the story gets the job done.
It’s not my Justice League but it’ll do.
17/16. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract/ Justice League vs Teen Titans
It wasn’t intentional but almost all of the New 52 are all in the same cluster. But unlike the Batman–Damien Wayne trilogy, these feel like one unit instead of feeling like extended episodes of the world’s silliest soap opera.
This is where the list turns from good to great. Starting with this one, every film on this list going forward, gets progressively better till we get to number 1. Everything before Superman/Batman: Apocalypse was ranked by how much of the film I could honestly remember. I tried to not look at trailers or read the plot synopsis beforehand. If I couldn’t remember anything, it made it pretty low on the list.
These next next handful of films are all ranked by coin flip. I think they’re all extremely good and highlight the strengths of DC’s characters and Warner Brothers Animation’s creative team.
The Judas Contract is better than every season of the Teen Titans cartoon and Arrow show combined. Not a single moment feels superfluous, no character interaction feels forced, the plot is one of the best yet and the action has stakes. These two are the best the New 52 have to offer.
15. Justice League: Dark
Now, since I just shot myself in the foot with that previous claim, let me back peddle a bit. Yes, this is part of the New 52 and yes I just said that the last two were better and yes this one is ranked higher. I understand that nothing about this ordering makes sense but my one flaw with this film should clear things up.
This shouldn’t be part of the New 52.
What I mean by that is, this shouldn’t have included Batman. There is literally no reason he’s in this film other than the fact that DC gotta DC. Just like how the Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel’s only cinematic outlier, this should exist in its own little world. Outside of the world of super men and masked vigilantes. This should only include characters that have ties to the supernatural or paranormal.
Other than Batman’s bizarre inclusion, this film nails what it sets out to do.
Side Bar: of all the films Guillermo Del Toro had to abandon, his live action Dark Justice League hurts my heart the most. You already know Doug Jones was going to play Deadman and Ron Perlman would’ve been Swamp Thing and those two things are the most perfect things that could ever exist outside of Dawson playing Catwoman or Zane playing Luthor. Seriously DC, get it together.
14. Batman and Mr. Freeze: Subzero
I truly believe, that if this went to theaters instead of being dumped straight to video, this would be as fondly remembered or have the same level of reverence that Mask of the Phantasm does. There is absolutely no reason why this film should be forgotten but it is. No one ever thinks of this film as one of the best but it should have never left the conversation in the first place.
The only negative is the fact that this is just a rehash of the phenomenal episode “hearts in Ice” from the animated series. But that’s like complaining that the Dark Knight Returns or Batman Year One are just shot for shot recreations of the books. The best movies on this list are all based on pre-existing books, so what the hell is the difference?
This should’ve went to theaters but Warner Brothers didn’t want two Batman films with similar plots playing at the movies at the same time. But I think they knew this film was better than Batman and Robin and they were afraid everyone would’ve went to see this instead.
As they should have.
13. Justice League: Gods and Monsters
This will be the most contentious ranking on this list. This film couldn’t be more controversial or polarizing if it tried and I fucking love every second of it. Superman as the son of Zod? Sold. Batman as a vampire? Double sold. Wonder Woman being a New God instead of an “old god” from Greek mythology? Jesus Christ, just take all of my goddamn money.
I love everything about this film and if I was ranking them by personal bias, this would be a hard number 2. It’s one of the only ones I continually revisit because it’s just so goddamn strong. But I understand why people wouldn’t like it. It’s a huge fucking departure from the norm but why is that a negative? These are technically only the characters in name only because it’s not Bruce Wayne as a vampire, it’s Batman. The two don’t always have to interchangeable.
Mix the shit up. Take risks. Be bold.
This film should be the example everyone uses when pitching a crazy new idea because sometimes the craziest ideas are the best.
12. DC Showcase: Animated Original Shorts
Totally forgot about this one, didn’t you?
Another anthology film but unlike Gotham Knight, this one is solid throughout. There’s not a single weak link in the bunch and every segment is so strong, it feels as though they were originally pilots to unmade shows. Some are just an action set piece while others create a distinct universe that feels lived in.
The Green Arrow one for example, is just a fight at an airport. A well choreographed fight but there’s no time to set up character or backstory. It’s just two guys shooting arrows at each other while the Spectre feels like an old 70’s revenge film that would’ve played in dirty ass grindhouse theaters. It’s my favorite in a collection of winners.
11. Justice League: Doom
Coin flip. The only reason this isn’t in the top ten, is because it lost a coin flip. That’s how competitive this list is going to get. These films are all the créme de la créme.
If I was ranking these films based solely on their plots, this would be number 1.
Batman has secretly devised stratagems to neutralize his fellow Justice League members in case any of them turned rogue. When his files are stolen however and used against his teammates, the League is forced to confront the fact that the architect of their near-destruction is in fact one of their own.
It’s pound for pound, the best plot ever created for a superhero film. Because it creates believable conflict and drama. You understand the need for a contingency plan but you also get why they feel betrayed.
Everything about this film works. The animation, the character designs, the story, the voice acting. It’s one of the only films on this list I have no issues with. The only reason it’s not higher, is because:
- It lost a coin flip
- I like 9 other films more
And I’m not 100% positive that that last one is true.