The characters from the DC Comics have inspired some of the greatest achievements in comic book filmmaking, as well as a few notorious disasters. Superman: The Movie essentially created the modern comic book genre, and The Dark Knight’s seismic cultural impact cannot be overstated.
- The 10 Best ‘Futurama’ Characters, Ranked by Intelligence
- The 10 Best Kens From the Animated Barbie Movies, Ranked by Likability
- The 10 Creepiest Roles Played by Famous Actors, According to Reddit
- ‘Star Wars’: The 15 Best Performances in the Saga, Ranked
- Guillermo del Toro’s 10 Favorite Movies, Ranked
However, notorious failures like Steel, Batman & Robin, Jonah Hex, and Suicide Squad did not respect the original source material that they were based on. There are quite a few DC movies that have not received the credit that they deserve, with these being the most underrated.
‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ (2017)
Will Arnett’s depiction of Batman debuted in 2014’s The LEGO Movie and inspired the first spin-off in the animated franchise. The LEGO Batman Movie isn’t just a fun animated movie for kids but a surprisingly nuanced deconstruction of Batman’s loneliness and his complex relationship with the Joker (Zack Galifianakis). The terrific voice cast includes Michael Cera as what may be the best cinematic depiction of Robin.
The film is packed with more than enough Easter Eggs for fans of the franchise and pays tribute to nearly every different adaptation of the character in cinema.
‘The Suicide Squad’ (2021)
While 2016’s Suicide Squad was a product of studio interference that went terribly awry, James Gunn stepped in to helm a sequel that essentially reverted all the mistakes that had been made. The Suicide Squad made the clever (and surprisingly hilarious) decision to kill off nearly all the characters from its predecessor within the opening sequence before introducing a great new hero in Idris Elba’s Bloodsport.
Unfortunately, the film did not inspire significant audience turnout in theaters, as it was among the Warner Brothers films released in 2022 that was simultaneously available on HBO Max.
Adam West’s depiction of Batman was always intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and it’s odd to see some refer to the 1966 film as “campy” when it completely nailed the tone it was going for. 1966’s Batman: The Movie is a hilarious comic romp that showcases why West’s depiction of the character had been so popular in the 1960s.
West’s chemistry with Burt Ward’s Robin is simply hilarious, as are all of Batman’s terrific catchphrases. “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” is a line you simply can’t replicate.
‘Superman Returns’ (2006)
2006’s Superman Returns was a more mature depiction of the character that utilized the timeline of the Christopher Reeve era (although it made the smart decision to ignore the events of Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace entirely) to continue Superman’s story.
This legacy sequel examined what the world would look like without the Man of Steel. Brandon Routh doesn’t deserve the hate directed towards him, and it’s a shame that he wasn’t given the opportunity to star in more films as Clark Kent.
‘Batman Forever’ (1995)
Batman Forever is often associated with its follow-up, Batman & Robin, because both films were directed by Joel Schumacher. While Batman & Robin was a complete farce that failed to capture the same comedic tone as West’s version of the character, Batman Forever embraced the weirder world of the DC universe in a way that didn’t feel insulting.
Val Kilmer brought the appropriate gravitas to the role of Bruce Wayne, and Chris O’Donnell’s turn at Robin certainly had potential. Jim Carrey’s scenery-chewing performance as The Riddler is reason enough to rewatch the film.
Keanu Reeves was hot off the success of The Matrix trilogy when he took on the role of one of DC’s most iconic anti-heroes. Reeves may not have been blond like the character of John Constantine was in the comics, but he nailed every other aspect that made him so cool.
Francis Lawrence did a great job at capturing the darker tone of the original source material and delving into the world of half-angels and half-demons, but Constantine didn’t inspire the franchise that it should have. Hopefully, the supposed sequel series will become a reality on HBO Max.
Shazam! was the perfect change of pace for the DCEU after the darker tone of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel soiled many moviegoers on the franchise’s future. Shazam! was a film made for families that wasn’t afraid to poke fun at superhero movie clichés.
Director David F. Sandberg essentially created the superhero movie equivalent of Big; Shazam! explores the adventures of the runaway teenager Billy Batson (Austin Abrams), who is transformed into a superpower (Zachary Levi). Levi gives a terrific performance as a child within an adult’s body.
‘Road to Perdition’ (2002)
Road to Perdition isn’t always referred to as a “DC film,” but it was based on a graphic novel of the same name under DC’s Vertigo brand. The film focuses on the lifelong gangster Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) and his desire to escape the criminal lifestyle and provide a better future for his son.
It’s the darkest role of Hanks’ career, and director Sam Mendes managed to craft a poignant father-son story within the dark world of the mafia. Paul Newman’s performance as the main antagonist earned him the final Academy Award nomination of this year before he died in 2008.
While many of Bruce Willis‘ recent films missed the mark for the most part (albeit these tragic circumstances were beyond his control), Red was a creative high point for him that utilized one of DC’s more obscure comic book runs as inspiration.
Red stars Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich as a team of former CIA assassins called out of retirement to resume their old work when a government conspiracy threatens to eliminate them. It’s The Expendables, but with a lot more humor and charm: it’s unfortunate that the film only inspired one sequel, which didn’t necessarily live up to expectations.
‘Birds of Prey’ (2020)
Birds of Prey suffered from the most unfortunate timing imaginable. The film was released theatrically only one month before the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered movie theaters globally. Birds of Prey took Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and let her run wild in a wildly comedic, R-Rated adventure in the vein of the Deadpool film.
While 2016’s Suicide Squad objectified the character, director Cathy Yan allowed Robbie to be a total girl boss and (literally) narrate her own origin story. It was an excellent outing for the character that signals towards good things to come.
KEEP READING: We Want To See More of ‘Birds of Prey’ in the DCU