With DC’s latest film, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, now streaming on HBO Max in the United States and on Sky Cinema/Now TV in the UK, I thought it would be the perfect time to share my personal ranking of all ten DC Extended Universe titles including Zack Snyder’s brand new four hour superhero film.

This is a franchise that has definitely improved over the years, and beside some minor setbacks, it is reasonably respectable to think that a few of these are some of the best superhero flicks to date.

10) Justice League (2017)

Dir: Zack Snyder & Joss Whedon

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons and Connie Nielsen

Runtime: 120 mins

Justice League was one of the most anticipated films of all time prior to release; it was the first time we had ever seen all of our favourite superheroes all on the big screen! At first, it is understandable to believe that the film did a serviceable job at meeting expectations but on repeated viewings and hearing all the behind the scenes drama, the film has only gotten worse knowing that Zack Snyder’s Justice League exists. Is it a terrible film by any means? Definitely not, and it could be argued that most of the hate surrounding the film is uncalled for. After Zack Snyder stepped down from the project, Joss Whedon (known for the first two Avengers movies) came in to finish the film and the visions that each director had for the film truly don’t come together and create a messy bore of a film. The introductions of Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash all feel rushed and underdeveloped which leads to no real emotional arcs for the characters.

But, Justice League is filled with multiple great action sequences that are great to watch. There is a scene in a bank towards the beginning of the film involving Wonder Woman which is one of the best scenes in the entire DC Extended Universe! The movie features great sequences but everything else crumbles to pieces leaving this a huge disappointment.

 

 

9) Suicide Squad (2016)

Dir: David Ayer

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Jai Courtney and David Harbour

Runtime: 123 mins

This is not the first ranking of the DC Universe to admit that Suicide Squad is a messy film. The script is lacking a clear and original narrative, characters feel underdeveloped and the antagonists throughout the film do not have a clear motive for what they want to achieve. But, I do think that the film is a fun watch. The film moves at a breakneck pace which never feels boring (but at times feels rushed) and each member of the Suicide Squad does have a chance to shine. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Will Smith’s Deadshot are the standouts in the movie because they are the most layered characters but everyone else feels severely underdeveloped unfortunately.

 

 

8) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition) (2016)

Dir: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Laurence Fishburne and Callan Mulvey

Runtime: 182 mins

Similar to Justice League, fans around the world were extremely excited to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Seeing the film on opening night back in 2016 was fantastic but the film felt like it needed to be a lot longer due to crucial plot points not being fully resolved by the end of the film. However, when the film hit home media later that year, there was an extended cut of the film (known as the ‘Ultimate Edition’) which had an extra thirty minutes that really helped to create the great superhero epic that many had wanted to see in the cinema upon release. Ben Affleck provides a great new reincarnation as Batman and it would be fantastic to see more of his interpretation of the character in the future.

 

 

7) Shazam! (2019)

Dir: David F. Sandberg

Cast: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Faithe Herman, Meagan Good, Michelle Borth, Ian Chen and Jovan Armand

Runtime: 132 mins

Who doesn’t love Shazam!? The film is probably the biggest surprise of 2019 and is one of the year’s best comic book movies. Zachary Levi is fantastic as our title-named superhero, Shazam. He is able to play the character perfectly and balances the humour with the standard superhero we have come to expect from a film like this. It is wonderful to watch how Levi is able to play this character that seems like a famous caped-hero in Philadelphia but he is actually just a fourteen year old boy trapped in this adult’s body whilst experimenting with all these “gifts” that the superhero, Shazam, has. However, the critique that comes to mind with Shazam! is the balance within its humour; it can go from light-hearted superhero fun we have come to expect from a film like this to demons biting people’s heads off or strip club humour which feels really unbalanced. But, nonetheless, I really enjoy Shazam!; it is a simple Big (1988)-like story that is injected with energy and one of the most fun films from the last ten years.

 

 

6) Wonder Woman (2017)

Dir: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, Ewen Bremmer, Lucy Davis and Lilly Aspell

Runtime: 141 mins

Prior to seeing Patty Jenkins’ first feature film in the DC Extended Universe, fans were very sceptical about how this character would translate to the screen. For a character that swings a magic lasso and flies an invisible jet, it was potentially hard for some to see how a character like Wonder Woman would work on the big screen. That being said, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is absolutely wonderful! While the film is set in the height of World War 1, the movie is able to tell a grounded story about Gods, war and mankind which has resonated with a lot of people. After being introduced in Batman v Superman, Gal Gadot truly comes to the forefront and gives a career-defining performance. The third act of the movie was slightly underwhelming since it tried to be a much more quiet and talky scene instead of giving us a massive final showdown but this is when Gal Gadot shows how great an actress she truly is. Chris Pine also gets some great moments and the way his and Diana’s (Gadot) arc come together in the third act is truly fantastic.

If you have not seen Wonder Woman already, you are truly missing out on one of the best blockbuster comic-book movies from the last five years.

 

 

5) Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Dir: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons and Connie Nielsen

Runtime: 242 mins

After Joss Whedon came in to reshoot a large portion of the 2017 Justice League movie, it came clear what was Snyder’s vision for the film and how it differed between what Whedon wanted. This led to fans rallying on social media for over three years with the hashtag “#ReleasetheSnyderCut” to see Snyder’s full cut of the film. It had been teased multiple times from both Snyder himself and the cast, and now it is finally here; a four hour long Justice League movie. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is thoroughly enjoyable, it was a delight to see Zack’s true vision finally getting to see the light of day. The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman finally get the character development they truly deserved and the villain, Steppenwolf, is a much bigger threat.

However, with the film being four hours long, it could have easily been half an hour, maybe even an hour shorter to stop the movie dragging in certain scenes and the epilogue could have been cut entirely since it felt rather unnecessary. But, overall, there is a level of satisfaction with Zack Snyder’s true vision for the Justice League, now available to watch from the comfort of our homes.

 

 

4) Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)

Dir: Cathy Yan

Cast: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco and Ali Wong

Runtime: 109 mins

Not many films make are bursting with this amount of energy from beginning to end yet Birds of Prey is one of the most lively comic-book movies to date. Being one of the shorter movies in the DC Extended Universe, the film has no fat and gets into the story really quickly. You understand what our villain, Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), wants and who he is after making Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and the other members of the Birds of Prey come together to stop the threat. After watching Cathy Yan’s superhero flick multiple times, each time you watch the film, the better it seems to get.

The film is so visually vibrant and the soundtrack keeps a lively and upbeat feeling from beginning to end. The action sequences are some of the best in the entire franchise and Ewan McGregor’s antagonist is brilliant. If you love fast-paced, upbeat comic book movies, then watch Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)!

 

 

3) Aquaman (2018)

Dir: James Wan

Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, Ludi Lin and Michael Beach

Runtime: 143 mins

James Wan has always been a director that film fans have associated with the horror genre; he has been responsible for the franchises of: The Conjuring, Saw and Insidious. So, when the director took a step back to direct the superhero blockbuster, Aquaman, many knew that James Wan would create something for fans to enjoy and he certainly did. Aquaman is dumb, silly and great all at once. The film undeniably is filled with comedy that always get you to laugh while having massive action sequences that look beautiful. Jason Momoa perfectly embodies the character of Arthur Curry (aka Aquaman) and the journey his character must go on throughout the film fits the source material and the final forty minutes of the film is one of the best sequences in any superhero movie to date!

Wan also implements a great scene which uses his horror techniques from his past films and it is used in such a creative way that is encaptivating. With the director being brought back to make the sequel, it is hard to wait to see what James Wan has in store next.

 

 

2) Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Dir: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lilly Aspell, Amr Waked, Kristoffer Polaha and Lucian Perez

Runtime: 151 mins

You probably won’t see many people rank Patty Jenkins’ second superhero movie above its predecessor but this article sets out to show adoration for Wonder Woman 1984. Set during the 1980s, the story allows this world to be a lot more technologically advanced, meaning the world has changed and with Chris Pine’s character, Steve Trevor returning, you get some scenes that show him being the man out of touch with reality unlike Diana in the first film.  The main villain of the film, Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord, also has a great arc and the way his morals change in the film feel earned; he starts off as a businessman who can’t get his company off the ground, to having the power to have all his wishes come true. Jenkins’ writing is great and Pascal’s character is one that resonates and encourages empathy towards his character. Fans of this franchise cannot wait to see where the third film in this trilogy will go and this is easily the DCEU film that does not deserve most of the hate it gets.

 

 

1) Man of Steel (2013)

Dir: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Kevin Costner, Richard Schiff and Christopher Meloni

Runtime: 143 mins

The first entry into DC’s franchise is still yet to be beaten. It is the Superman movie that many fans have grown up with and watched countless times. Zack Snyder crafted a big blockbuster that delivers jaw dropping action, one of the most beautifully celebrated scores to date from Hans Zimmer and the best version of Superman to be seen on the big screen. Henry Cavill provides an intimate yet striking performance as the Man of Steel himself. Michael Shannon’s General Zod feels like a true threat to the hero and mankind, which really raises the stakes, and you can truly feel the tension between the protagonist and antagonist. The film is perfectly paced, creates a new layer to a character we have seen on-screen many times before and since its release, has remained one of the general favourite superhero film of all time.

 

By Charlie McGivern

Charlie McGivern is a Manchester, UK based writer, film and television critic who likes to watch movies and write about them for Filmhounds.

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