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Ranking the Films of the DC Extended Universe

The DC Extended Universe has been quite the roller coaster. Launched after the success Marvel showed with their shared universe, DC and Warner Bros. sought to both mimic that and differentiate themselves. The end result was a far darker and more series take on superheroes. However, the reception proved far more divisive. A few titles have really captured the imagination of audiences and critics (including one just this week), but a fair amount of others have divided, at best. Then, there are the disasters, which are far more interesting to read about than watch. In honor of The Suicide Squad hitting HBO Max and theaters today, I’ll be ranking the films in the DC Extended Universe.

Below, you’ll see how I rank the DCEU. I recently gave the Marvel Cinematic Universe the same treatment (here), but today isn’t about the MCU. This is DC’s time to shine. The movies run the gamut here, with two awful flicks, but also at least one masterpiece. Mostly, it seems like when the filmmakers here are less concerned with advancing mythology and IP, they get to craft something more successful. In fact, now that things have turned from just being Zack Snyder‘s playground, the road ahead looks fairly bright…

Here now is my ranking of the DC Extended Universe:

11. Suicide Squad

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Even though I don’t blame David Ayer for this dreck, Suicide Squad is still easily the worst of the DCEU so far, and likely ever. Boring, washed out, and often incoherent, it’s everything that’s wrong with this sort of comic book flick. The Suicide Squad rightly does the opposite, with spectacular results. Frankly, when it comes to this awful mess, the less said about it, the better.

10. Justice League

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

What a wasted opportunity. Sure, real life tragedy and studio interference contributed to this being a bad movie, but that’s a trend during this phase of the DCEU. WB no longer had full confidence in Zack Snyder, but hiring Joss Whedon led to poor decision after poor decision. Nothing really works, leading to epic amounts of disappointment. My review of the Snyder Cut actually spoke a bit about Justice League:

For those wondering, I was fairly indifferent to Justice League. I personally preferred the flawed yet ambitious take that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Frankly, Man of Steel remains the best of the Snyder lot. So, this does slot in as a middle of the road DC superhero movie (clearly above Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman 1984, as well as a bit above Aquaman, but below the above mentioned flicks, alongside Shazam and Wonder Woman). That’s just me. Your mileage may vary.

9. Wonder Woman 1984

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

A huge disappointment (as detailed here) that damn near sullies Wonder Woman. This sequel is charmless and never once captures your imagination. It’s a waste of Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins. My pan of a review includes this bit:

Wonder Woman 1984 probably would not seem as disappointing if it weren’t for how strong Wonder Woman was. That solo adventure/origin story for the iconic hero hit at the perfect moment. The sequel, on the other hand, just feels like another tentpole project for a studio. The heart is harder to find, and as such, but core of what makes this character so appealing is somewhat lost. Plus, the plot is fairly silly, barely making any sense. The relative realism of the first one, set in World War I, is decidedly lost.

8. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Full of ideas but a total mess, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was our first real sign that the DC Extended Universe was not going to be like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rushed and ambitious, it’s immensely frustrating. More decisions don’t work than work, but there’s a vision here that has to be respected, even if you don’t really enjoy it. The Ultimate Cut, a proto-Snyder Cut, helps somewhat, but it does leave something still to be desired.

7. Aquaman

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

This silly and stylish adventure gets by on the charisma of Jason Momoa. The underwater sequences are mostly excellent, though that’s unfortunately not all of the movie. Momoa and James Wan make this more fun than not, so we’ve officially entered the realm of at least decently good DCEU fare with Aquaman.

6. Birds of Prey

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

More Harley Quinn is rarely a bad thing. While there are some flaws in Birds of Prey, watching Margot Robbie go wild is a fair amount of fun. It runs out of steam and stops charming you at a certain point, but at its heights, it’s a tease of what wild R-rated DC can do. This week features that formula perfected, but this hint at it is enjoyable enough to get a thumbs up from me.

5. Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Few films, let alone DC films, have been as debated as this one (including my take here). There isn’t much more to say about Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but seeing Snyder’s vision release is truly an historic event. Not everything works, but a bad movie somehow becomes a good one here. My review explains like so:

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is still a shaggy dog, but it’s one with a coherent vision at its core. That really does count for something. The movie takes far too long to get where its going, almost trying to be individual short films for most of its heroes, but it does build to something effective. Plus, improved CGI, as well as a better tone, help make this a surprisingly smooth ride, bumps and all.

4. Man of Steel

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

I like this one more than most, though hindsight points out some warning signs for the DCEU. Man of Steel was a new kind of Superman, and I appreciate that. As a one-off take on Kal-El, it would have been even more interesting, as opposed to establishing the mood of most DC projects. Remove that starting point for the DC Extended Universe and you have an even better blockbuster movie.

3. Wonder Woman

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Even if I don’t go wild over it like most, this is still a very good flick. By not being overly concerned with the larger DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman can stand tall. The No Man’s Land sequence reigns supreme as the DCEU’s best individual scene, without much question. It was groundbreaking successful, and damn good. What more can you really ask for here?

2. Shazam!

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Fun goes a long way with me, which Shazam! has in abundance. By not taking any of it that seriously, this superhero riff on Big differentiates itself in a big way. Up until the film next up on the list, it was the most fun I had with the DCEU. Can you tell that a value that feeling while watching comic book fare?

1. The Suicide Squad

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Not just the best of the DCEU, this is an instant comic book movie classic. I raved about it here, but it truly is something special. James Gunn doesn’t just hit a home run…it’s a grand slam. My rave review included the following paragraph:

The Suicide Squad, for what it’s doing, is perfect. For as much as Suicide Squad was a misfire, this hits the bullseye. Not only is it absurdly violent and absolutely hilarious, it beats with the heart of a work that truly cares about its characters. I loved every second of it. Gunn’s choices all pay off, even the ones that seem like long-shots (and especially some of them, even). Ambition, confidence, and just a bit of insanity come together to form a masterpiece. When a giant silly thing is phenomenal, as well as a sentient rat (not to mention a man-eating shark) capturing your imagination, you know you’re in for a one of a kind experience.

How do you rank the DC Extended Universe? Let us know!

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Written by Joey Magidson

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