While DC is known for entertaining on the big screen with massive hits like Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Shazam; DC has also steadily been releasing animated films once or even multiple times a year with consistent and dependable quality that makes every one of them worth at least one viewing, if not multiple.
The DC Universe animated original movies are comprised of a multitude of films set in different parts of the DC multiverse, including the classic DC Animated Universe by Bruce Timm, the DC Animated Movie Universe of the 2010s, and all the stuff in between.
Updated on July 15th, 2021 by Melody MacReady: The DC multiverse is vast and as a result, ten movies set within the said multiverse are just not enough to showcase. Fans all over the world have so many fan-favorites out there and IMDb’s ratings showcase that there is a multitude of highly-rated DC animated films spanning back to almost thirty years. From solo standalone films to entries of long-running universes to animated adaptations of iconic storylines from the large history of comics. The animated DC films have become a cult phenomenon with fans anticipating the releases of new films either straight-to-video or the rare time when they hit theaters.
15 Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero (1998) – 7.2
The second film that was made in Bruce Timm’s DC Animated Universe set between Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. Mr. Freeze returns to Gotham in order to use Barbara Gordon as the key for curing his terminally ill wife.
While Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero doesn’t quite reach the same level as other DCAU films, it was still a strong entry. Mr. Freeze remains as tragic as ever that it’s hard to hate him, Kevin Conroy’s Batman is great as always, and it manages to keep the tension and suspense throughout.
14 Justice League: War (2014) – 7.3
Light on story and heavy on action, Justice League: War is an entertaining but surface-level movie. The characters you know and love all have their moments to shine, but don’t expect much development or growth for them.
This movie is simply about the formation of the Justice League in response to Darkseid’s arrival on Earth. There isn’t a whole lot of story beyond that, and much of it is a bit too familiar or by the numbers to earn it a higher score. This would mark the beginning of the DC Animated Movie Universe that would last six years across a multitude of movies with several of the best scenes being highly memorable.
13 Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths (2010) – 7.3
Taking a dive into the DC multiverse, Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths earns the love it receives from the fanbase for pushing the boundaries of the DC Universe Animated original movies at this point in time and exploring alternate dimensions and evil versions of the Justice League.
The movie is bold and wastes no time covering information and backstory its audience already knows, quickly setting the plot in motion and letting fans enjoy seeing their favorite heroes fight their evil counterparts. Crisis On Two Earths is often praised for its main villain Owlman played brilliantly by James Woods.
12 Wonder Woman (2009) – 7.3
Serving as a clear inspiration for Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, that film and this animated movie are nearly identical to each other. Changing the WWI setting for present times, and making Ares a prisoner of the Amazonians for a large portion of the story, there isn’t much else that separates these two.
Many fans have been calling for the live-action DC films to borrow more from the well-received animated movies, and Patty Jenkins took that advice to heart. Keri Russell brings as much heart and soul to Wonder Woman as Gal Gadot does, creating one perfect heroine.
11 Batman: Year One (2011) – 7.4
The animated movie version of Batman: Year One is a pretty faithful adaptation of the comic. The story details Batman’s first year as the Dark Knight and dramatizes the struggles he faces during that time as he figures out the hero he wants to be.
Where Batman: Year One shines, in particular, is the dual protagonist role between Batman and Commissioner Gordon, giving Gordon just as much screentime and showing a much rougher side of the Commissioner in his quest to clean up Gotham.
10 The Death Of Superman (2018) – 7.4
The Death of Superman is an interesting movie in the collection because DC had already made Superman: Doomsday, which is an adaptation of The Death of Superman comic arc. DC essentially remade their own movie so that they could follow it up with the conclusion to the story, The Reign of the Supermen.
All in all, The Death of Superman is a superior and more faithful adaptation of the comic arc of the same name, outperforming DC’s first attempt at adapting the story with Superman: Doomsday.
9 Justice League: Doom (2012) – 7.5
In this movie, Batman’s secret plans for killing members of the Justice League, if they ever turned evil, are stolen by powerful villains and used against them. If that sounds like an awesome concept for a movie, that’s because it is.
It’s an intense and exciting plotline that sees Batman having to outsmart himself and save his companions from attacks of his own design. Justice League: Doom deserves credit for its superb usage of Martian Manhunter, a criminally underused character in this collection of movies.
8 Batman: Assault On Arkham (2014) – 7.5
Batman: Assault on Arkham is one hell of a rollercoaster ride. Don’t let the title fool you. Although Batman plays a prominent role, this is much more a Suicide Squad movie than a Batman movie. Fun fact, this movie is set within the Batman: Arkham videogame universe.
Following Deadshot, as he leads a siege into the largely populated Arkham Asylum under orders from Amanda Waller, this movie has it all: great characters, awesome action, and an exciting story with a few twists and turns. If you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor and watch it.
7 Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993) – 7.8
It all began with Mask Of The Phantasm, the first theatrically released DC animated film that sparked the many straight-to-video films seen on this list. Dealing with Batman’s origins and a new villain in the DCAU, Mask Of The Phantasm is often considered one of the greatest comic book movies ever made.
The animated film managed to push the limits of animation, adding genuinely scary elements with the Joker, violence, blood, and a dark story featuring the new villain known as the Phantasm.
6 Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker (2000) – 7.8
In 2000 came the ultimate crossover of Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond. Mark Hamill’s return to the Joker role had fans clamoring to check out this straight-to-video film. Over the years, Return Of The Joker has been praised for its shockingly dark revelations.
There is an unrated cut that can be watched on HBO Max and most fans will suggest watching that. It manages to create an intriguing story that honors both shows.
5 Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020) – 7.8
The epic finale of the DC Animated Movie Universe. Everything from the Justice League, Justice League Dark, the Bat-Family, the Titans, and even the Suicide Squad all culminates in this last hurrah. In a way, it is the animated DC equivalent to Avengers: Endgame.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War brought together all the stories and told a dark, bloody, and brutal but perfect story to end this world that fans had been following for years. It’s also one of the best great animated movies to watch after Zack Snyder’s Justice League, seeing how similar it is to the sequels he had planned.
4 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (2012)
Based on one of the most iconic comic book stories ever made, The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 tells the first half of the graphic novel almost word-for-word which many fans praise the film for. Those expecting a fun, colorful, and action-packed adventure might be surprised by the direction of this story.
It tells an alternate future where an old Bruce Wayne (played by RoboCop himself: Peter Weller) comes out of retirement when he realizes that Gotham is infested with criminals in this new dystopian society. It’s less of a typical superhero story and more akin to Watchmen, featuring darker and more realistic takes on characters.
3 Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010) – 8.1
One of the most well-received Batman animated movies, Batman: Under The Red Hood earns its high marks for its compelling and heartbreaking story about the long-lost Robin, Jason Todd, returning from the dead to haunt Batman.
One of the more well-written films in the DC Universe Animated original movies collection, this film boasts superb storytelling and excellent characterizations. While not as action-heavy as some other entries on this list, it’s still a must-watch movie for any fan of Batman or DC in general.
2 Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013) – 8.1
One of the most famous Flash stories out there, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is a thrill ride from start to finish. Similar to Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, this movie makes excellent use of alternate versions of heroes and villains.
Following Flash, as he causes a butterfly effect that warps reality after saving his mother’s life, this movie most famously includes a storyline where Bruce dies in Crime Alley instead of his parents and his father takes up the mantle of Batman.
1 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (2013) – 8.4
Splitting a story into two movies was a smart choice for one as big as this. This film deals mainly with the aftermath of Batman’s return, such as the government labeling him a wanted fugitive. The President of the United States himself sends Superman to stop Batman, leading to quite the clash of two titans.
This film is the crown jewel of the DC Universe Animated original movies. Expertly written, animated, and acted, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns rightfully sits at the top of IMDb’s rankings. It served as one of the biggest inspirations for Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
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