The DC Extended Universe has only just begun. With 31 adaptations under its belt, DC Comics is preparing to welcome Suicide Squad to its highly-successful film canon. The question remains: what is the best live-action movie made under the DC masthead? Though characters like Green Lantern, Jonah Hex, and even the Swamp Thing have had their shot on the big screen, DC feels most at home when Batman and Superman are in the lead. Who can blame them? From Michael Keaton to Ben Affleck, and Christopher Reeve to Henry Cavill, Batman and Superman have generated billions of dollars for DC Comics and their long-time studio home, Warner Bros. From film to film, however, the quality ranges as greatly as their final box office returns.
While we’re expecting David Ayer’s Suicide Squad to easily slide into our top 10, this is our current ranking for Every DC Live-Action Movie, Ranked From Worst to Best:
In a world of hyper-sexualized movies, Catwoman is a capital offender. Directed by Pitof (that’s correct, just one name), this 2004 DC Comics abomination doesn’t just incorporate Halle Berry’s beauty, it bets the entire ranch on it. Even when Catwoman orders a White Russian sans ice, Kahlua, and vodka (because felines like milk, get it?), she sips from the glass like she’s in a Roman bacchanal. And we’re not even talking about Catwoman’s suit. Indeed, even calling it that is a true misnomer. There are employees in S&M clubs more modestly dressed than Berry’s Catwoman, and while the male audience may have hesitated to complain, they had no problem laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of everything she represented.
No wonder, then, that Catwoman clawed its way through the Razzie Awards and practically swept the ceremony, taking home the awards for Worst Director, Worst Actress, Worst Screenplay, and of course, Worst Movie. At least Halle handled it all with good humor.
30. The Return of Swamp Thing
If you’re still staring at the picture above, we don’t blame you. If you’ve never heard of Return of the Swamp Thing, we’ll sympathize with you. And if you never intend on seeing the movie, we won’t judge you. Based on the Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson character, Return of the Swamp Thing is a sequel to the story of Doctor Alec Holland, who by the weird science of Anton Arcane, gets turned into a marshy monster. The followup film to Swamp Thing is a complete farce, centering on the evil experiments of Arcane as he seeks eternal life. His stepdaughter, Abby (Heather Locklear), tracks him down and discovers that he has created a hybrid species known as Un-Men, the unfortunate result of breeding humans with bog creatures.
Though Arcane seeks to test his serums on his stepdaughter, the mossy Swamp Thing returns to save the day and get back at the man who made him. While reviews were generally unfavorable for this absurdly campy film, Roger Ebert still gave it “Two Thumbs Up.” As you’ll see in a moment, he liked the original film even more.
There can only be one man of steel, but Shaq tried his best to become number two. Though Steel finds its roots in DC Comics, the director of the film, Kenneth Johnson, removed the character’s cape, eliminated his ties to Superman, and reinvented the character in a more modern and urban setting. The central conceit, where the villain, Nathaniel Burke (Judd Nelson), armed local criminals in a reverse-Tony Stark fashion, had promise. Unfortunately, the movie was ultimately crushed by its B-movie script and wooden acting from a particularly tall member of the cast. Shaq gave Hollywood a go in the 1990’s, but his on-camera skills were ultimately no more consistent than his free throws.
Despite Johnson’s attempt at updating the character, he may have been better off adhering to the superhero’s comic roots. Indeed, Steel proved such a significant box office failure that no DC character returned to the big-screen for seven years.
28. Superman and the Mole-Men
Time may have not been favorable to this 1951 depiction of Superman, but the George Reeves-led movie deserves our respect. After all, it was the first feature-length movie based on any character in the DC Comics pantheon. Long before Christopher Reeve and Henry Cavill wore the red cape, Superman and the Mole-Men was home to the iconic narration: “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!” You know the rest.
In this black-and-white classic, Superman is at the height of his diplomacy. When Clark Kent and Lois Lane visit the small town of Silsby to view the deepest oil well in the world, an unsightly group of humanoids have emerged through the drill site and overtaken the area. The locals have their pitchforks in hand, ready for war, but Kal-El comes to the rescue. Superman and the Mole-Men runs less than an hour, and though it’s low on our list, it’s worth checking out to see how far the character has come.
27. Jonah Hex
Despite the convoluted plot and the ham-fisted writing, perhaps the most shocking element of Jonah Hex is its TV-length run time. Clocking in at a paltry 81 minutes, the post-Civil War DC Comics adaptation truly feels like a half-finished product. Like the eponymous character with his grossly-exaggerated deformity, the movie feels more forced than fun. Josh Brolin did solid work in the lead role (though he admitted massive reshoots crippled the movie), and the supporting cast of John Malkovich, Michael Shannon, and Michael Fassbender should have all but but guaranteed cinematic greatness. Beyond being a fascinating character set in a beguiling and lawless time, Jonah Hex has the power to bring the dead back to life. With vengeance always on his mind, Hex hunts the men who wounded him and murdered his family. Alas, these fine ingredients made for a lackluster final dish and a missed opportunity. Perhaps it’s time for a reboot.
26. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Audience responses to movies are incredibly subjective. Some people love them, others hate them. It’s what keeps the entertainment world fresh. And then there’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Not only has this movie been excoriated by the greater public, but Christopher Reeve himself turned his back on the film. To put the final nail in the coffin, Superman IV literally bankrupted the studio that funded it. Cannon Films initially told Reeve they had a $36 million budget, when in actuality, they only had 50% of that in the bank. As a result, the visual effects were so appallingly bad that they made Superman and the Mole-Men look like virtual reality. Upon seeing the film, the Washington Post parodied the “faster than a speeding bullet” slogan by calling it, “more sluggish than a funeral barge — cheaper than a sale at K-Mart!” This movie is so bad that it could go to toe-to-toe with Catwoman and possibly win.
25. Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing is definitely superior to the sequel it inspired. And like the sequel, it blends heavy helpings of camp with equal doses of horror. The secret sauce? Wes Craven, who sat in the director’s chair and helped elevate Swamp Thing from a derivative creature feature to something reasonably enjoyable. Just two years prior to filming his smash hit A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven used Swamp Thing to prove he had commercial traction with audiences. While the movie may not quite be a household name, it helped Craven establish his career and drove writer Alan Moore to reboot the comic series once more.
As with The Return of Swamp Thing, Roger Ebert could hardly contain his appreciation for the original: “Swamp Thing had already won my heart before its moment of greatness, but when that moment came, I knew I’d discovered another one of those movies that fell somewhere between buried treasures and guilty pleasures.” To each his own.
In the months leading up to the production of Supergirl, Christopher Reeve agreed to do a cameo in the film. His star power would surely have lifted the film from its spin-off concept and broadened the DC Comics universe. Somewhere along the way, however, Reeve smelled disaster and backed out of the project. This was a key move, considering Supergirl nosedived into ignominy the moment it was released. Despite a cast that included English thespian Peter O’Toole and Oscar winner Faye Dunaway, Supergirl moved away from the more serious tone the first two Superman movies adopted, instead opting for unabashed cheesiness.
There are interesting concepts in Supergirl, along with moments that almost work, but the movie collapses under its own self-awareness. It almost feels as if the cast and crew intended to mock the more direct and morally upright virtues in Superman, forgetting audiences buy tickets for escapism, not sarcasm.
23. Batman & Robin
While he has formally apologized for Batman & Robin, George Clooney owes a great deal to director Joel Schumacher’s movie. For all of Clooney’s accolades and charm, Batman & Robin has become one of his most disarming and enduring jokes over the past twenty years of his career. That said, this 1997 adaptation of the Caped Crusader is a bona fide cinematic disaster. While Schumacher clearly has an acquired taste for the crime fighter, Batman & Robin plays like a parody of itself, like one of those live Batman performances at Six Flags. Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is egregiously overplayed, Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) could not be less convincing, and the patently demeaning “suit-up” sequence proves this movie was in the wrong hands. That’s without mentioning the ice skates on Batman and Robin’s suits, the fact that Batman actually held a hockey stick, or the creepy relationship between Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone) and Alfred (Michael Gough).
22. Superman III
Superman III, or that time the Man of Steel drunkenly flicked cashews at a shelf of liquor bottles. Indeed, Superman III indicated that the well of compelling ideas for Kal-El had finally run dry. That’s probably why Richard Pryor was tossed into the mix by director Richard Lester, who hoped the outrageous comedian might distract audiences from the glaringly bad plot and trite dialogue.
Though the movie left much to be desired, it was still considerably better than Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. When the megalomaniac millionaire, Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn), creates a supercomputer that becomes fully self-aware (think HAL 9000), it turns his sister into a creepy cyborg. Picture Heath Ledger’s nurse outfit on a robot mannequin, with silver eyes and no mercy. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of and, though a far cry from the villainy of Lex Luthor, it helped give Superman a worthy foe.
21. Red 2
Based on the comic book series of the same name, Red 2 is the sequel to Red, the Golden Globe-nominated 2010 movie. Writers Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner published the initial series under the DC Comics imprint, Homage, and when they translated the story to the big screen, they won the ultimate cast. Bruce Willis leads the “Retired, Extremely Dangerous” (Red) crew that includes John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, and Catherine Zeta Jones. It’s kind of like Jason Bourne meets the AARP, with the retired hired-guns on the lam from shady government officials (Neal McDonough and his heavily armed SWAT team).
Though the movie lacks the effortless fun of the original, Red 2 still managed to recoup its budget, make a profit, and encourage the studio to green-light production on Red 3. At its best, Red 2 is smash-mouth filmmaking, where death is meaningless, life is loose, and guns are plenty. Sometimes, that’s exactly what people want to see.
20. Green Lantern
Had Green Lantern descended into theaters in the mid 2000’s, it might have been more successful. Unfortunately, the big screen debut of Hal Jordan kicked off in the middle of Christopher Nolan’s Batman box office run. After The Dark Knight, audiences were primed for gritty and realistic dramas, not the sort of quasi-animated features that Green Lantern ultimately became. Director Martin Campbell (who adroitly rebooted James Bond with Casino Royale) did his best with the source material, along with Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s solid performances, but the movie’s tone didn’t gel with the times.
While frustratingly reliant on CGI, Green Lantern still managed to pack in a few memorable moments, like Hal Jordan’s reveal of his identity to his girlfriend. As always, Reynolds brings his signature sense of humor to the role, but unfortunately, his swagger is bogged down by the rest of the movie’s absurdist and goofy tone.
Long before Zack Snyder Watchmen, and more recently Batman V Superman, with his signature aesthetic, director Francis Lawrence brought his ominous vision to Constantine. Indeed, Lawrence’s concept of Hell in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles rival those harrowing shots of Snyder’s burning Metropolis. Based on Vertigo’s Hellblazer, Constantine put Keanu Reeves in the title role of the suicidal and terminally-ill detective of the supernatural. Constantine is a deserving multi-hyphenate, but unfortunately, his big screen debut doesn’t quite live up to the standards writer Alan Moore etched onto the page.
Reeves is right at home, however, turning in a Neo-like performance with an added dose of cynicism. After all, Constantine is seeking atonement for his attempted suicide as a child. The lead character’s emotional needs are strong, the LA-noir vibe is evident, and the eternal themes of Heaven vs. Hell are compelling, but the final execution falls short. The movie underwhelmed at the domestic box office, but international audiences propelled Constantine to a reasonable total haul.
18. Batman Forever
When they lined up to make Batman Forever, Warner Bros. and Joel Schumacher did not expect to be making a hit. While they had Robin Williams assigned to play The Riddler and Michael Keaton on deck to reprise the title role, the filmmakers were concerned that Batman malaise had set in following Tim Burton’s dark Batman Returns. After Williams and Keaton backed out of the project, Schumacher scrambled to add Jim Carrey as the Riddler and Val Kilmer as the Caped Crusader. The key pieces converged, and somehow, Batman Forever broke box office records when it opened to over $50 million in 1995, on track to a global total of $336 million. Unfortunately, these unexpectedly high numbers would give Schumacher carte blanche in making Batman & Robin, the technicolor dreamcoat version of the Dark Knight.
The sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, however, and Batman Forever flamboyantly trotted out the campier tone and Wagnerian theatricality that would define Schumacher’s tenure at Warner Bros.
17. The Losers
Though it borrows a fair amount of its inspiration from The A-Team, The Losers steals with panache. The film is based off the comic book series by Andy Diggle and his illustrator, Jock, who adapted their story from an earlier comic of the same name. The basic premise pits a group of angsty mercenaries against a totalitarian CIA, one of the most time-tested and reliable concepts in film. While the results may do little to reinvent the genre, The Losers tells its tale with chutzpah, thanks to the entertaining performances of its talented cast. Jeffrey Dean Morgan affirms his leading man potential and Idris Elba proves his dramatic worth, but it’s Chris Evans in the role of Jensen who surprises the most. Hot off his role in two lackluster Fantastic Four films, Evans proves he’s more than your average all-American beefcake. Thanks to his comic timing and devil-may-care attitude, he drives home some of the best scenes in the movie.
In the writer’s room for House of Cards, showrunner Beau Willimon revealed that his team often starts meetings by asking, “what do we want to see our characters do this season?” They then throw their best concepts on a whiteboard. For Red, surely German-born director Robert Schwentke thought, “The world needs to see Helen Mirren wield a sub machine gun.” Thanks to a hefty budget and top-tier talent, Dame Helen Mirren not only fired off some automatic rounds, she joined John Malkovich behind a hefty turret.
Red has a lot going for it. In addition to some pulpy action sequences and amusing performances from the cast, the adult romance between Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker grounds the film in its own stylized reality. Sure, the actors are better than the script, but they don’t really seem to care. Red is a quick and fun ride that has become a reliable franchise in the DC Comics lineup.
15. Batman: The Movie
Adam West doesn’t get enough credit. During the deluge of hate that was Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, we longed for the anodyne days of Adam West’s Batman, who used Shark repellent Bat Spray, entered the Bat Cave via fireman’s pole, and ran through fish markets holding a bomb above his head. This was the Batman of the 1960’s, when the tongue was placed firmly in cheek. Unlike Supergirl, which always seemed to be sardonically winking at the camera, Batman: The Movie confidently maintains its ridiculous tone and, as a result, reaps greater comedic rewards.
Beyond Adam West’s deadpan Bruce Wayne, Batman: The Movie delivered some highly entertaining performances including Cesar Romero’s iconic Joker and Lee Meriwether’s sultry Catwoman. Though Chris Nolan’s darker take on the Caped Crusader may best suit the character, Batman: The Movie is a welcome alternative.
14. Superman Returns
Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns is a prime example of the disparity between critical praise and audience appreciation. Indeed, though his “homage” sequel to the Christopher Reeve series earned positive reviews from pundits, fans balked at the movie’s inadequate action scenes. Superman Returns played out like a softcore superhero film, light on pulse-pounding fights and spectacle, heavy on the interpersonal drama. Singer himself admitted, “Perhaps [it was made for] more of a female audience. It wasn’t what it needed to be, I guess.” The film was further hindered by its ambitious run time that clocked in at over two and a half hours. Most reboots don’t even require that much time, and barring his several year jaunt away from earth, Superman Returns essentially picked up where Superman II left off. While Kevin Spacey brought his A-game to Lex Luthor, Brandon Routh unfortunately failed to emerge as a deserving heir to Christopher Reeve’s Kryptonian throne.
13. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition)
Opinions on Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice are like favorite superheroes. Everyone has one. Though safely placed near the middle of this list, Zack Snyder’s most recent directorial effort left audiences split in a civil war more intense than anything onscreen in Captain America‘s most recent adventure. As the BvS Tomatometer plummeted like the 1929 Stock Market, fans cried out for the deposition of Snyder. They treated the man like he was a modern Robespierre, leader of the “grim and gray” DCEU Reign of Terror.
For all of the Internet-fueled dissent, however, most viewers seem to agree that the Ultimate Edition elevated the movie above its theatrical cut counterpart. It was the movie Zack Snyder needed, but not what Warner Bros. thought we deserved. Fans also welcomed Ben Affleck’s Batman, who truly embodied the role and brought a particularly grizzled demeanor to Bruce Wayne. By the time Justice League rolls around, the hysterics surrounding BvS will hopefully be long gone.
12. Man of Steel
After Superman Returns failed to stimulate enough public interest, Warner Bros. had some serious thinking to do. If a new Superman movie wasn’t in production by 2011, creator Jerry Siegel could have sued the studio for lost profits. Enter Zack Snyder and Man of Steel,under the watchful eye of executive producer Christopher Nolan. As with Batman Begins, this Superman story went back to the basics and gave Kal-El more dramatic weight than ever before. From seeing his birth on the ill-fated planet of Krypton to watching him struggle with his true identity in Smallville, Man of Steel embraced the potential real-life consequences of being an almost invincible alien living on Earth. Though many critics assailed the film for losing the lighter side of the Christopher Reeve films, Zack Snyder’s approach to Superman helped pave the way for the DC Extended Universe. Though the movie may have overstayed its welcome with some overlong action sequences, it succeeded in reinventing the Superman narrative for a new generation.
If any movie could embody the enduring critical divide over Zack Snyder, it would be Watchmen. While some reviewers like Roger Ebert and Richard Corliss venerated the film and awarded it their top ratings, others eviscerated the movie, calling it overstuffed and obscure. The disagreements have died down since the movie was released in 2009 and a general consensus seems to have developed: Zack Snyder successfully adapted the least adaptable graphic novel of all time. For over twenty years, Watchmen sat in development hell, with countless directors and actors getting attached to the project and then leaving. Thanks to Snyder, however, the movie received a largely faithful and unapologetic big-screen treatment that incorporated all of the violence and sexual content that made Alan Moore’s story so satisfying. Somehow, Snyder adapted the controversial Watchmen without a movie star, a safe PG-13 rating, or a story watered down for general audiences. It remains a herculean feat by the longtime DC director.
10. The Dark Knight Rises
Following up The Dark Knight was a truly unenviable task. By all accounts, Christopher Nolan himself hesitated at the thought, knowing that his 2008 effort would long stand as the best Batman movie ever made. Though his 2012 sequel had many high points, The Dark Knight Rises seldom held a candle to the moral complexity of its predecessor. The philosophical exploration of justice, murder, and sacrifice was abandoned for the oldest trick in the book: the ticking time-bomb thriller. All of the character and world building in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight was abandoned for a frustratingly simple story with countless plot holes.
After that pulse-pounding conclusion to The Dark Knight, the beginning of Rises essentially retconned itself by showing a semi-retired Bruce Wayne with no cartilage and even less self-esteem. Tom Hardy breathed life into Bane and Anne Hathaway course corrected Halle Berry’s take on Catwoman, but The Dark Knight Rises resorted to old habits without building on its remarkable cinematic foundation. With all that being said, The Dark Knight Rises was Nolan’s weakest entry in the trilogy, but it’s still better than most comic book movies on the market.
9. V for Vendetta
If there was ever any doubt, Alan Moore is truly the king of the graphic novel. With V for Vendetta, Moore spun a fascinating dystopian yarn that the Wachowskis expertly adapted for James McTeigue’s 2006 film. With Guy Fawkes’ famed Gunpowder Plot haunting the story, V for Vendetta explores a futuristic society crippled by fascist oppression. Homosexuals, immigrants, and political dissidents are imprisoned and mistreated while the police state increases its power. The masked vigilante “V” (Hugo Weaving) seeks to undermine the state’s growing control through calculated acts of violent retribution. Though Alan Moore strongly denied any involvement with the adaptation due to his belief that the movie diverged from his graphic novel’s original themes, V for Vendetta remains a highlight of the DC Comics film canon and one of the best scripts the Wachowskis have created. Its truly explosive ending presents one of the most thrilling scenes of urban destruction in recent memory.
8. Road to Perdition
Sam Mendes’ beautiful but emotionally hollow adaptation of the eponymous graphic novel explores the corrosive nature of violence. Road to Perdition follows the plight of Michael Sullivan Sr. (Tom Hanks), who seeks redemption for his misdeeds in the Irish mob under boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). Though he believes himself bound for hell, Michael strives to protect the soul of his innocent son (Tyler Hoechlin). Set in Chicago during the Great Depression, Road to Perdition is a cold movie that conveys its bleak message with sparing conversation. The last twenty minutes alone play out with only six lines of dialogue, a deliberate choice by Mendes and his cinematographer, Conrad Hall (who won the Academy Award for his haunting photography). Hanks and Newman deliver legendary performances, especially during their piano duet, and the supporting cast of Daniel Craig and Jude Law add colorful dynamics to the plot. If those elements aren’t attractive enough, know that Thomas Newman’s score is one for the ages.
7. A History of Violence
David Cronenberg allegedly signed on to direct A History of Violence without knowing the story was based on a graphic novel. For a filmmaker of his caliber, that admission may be the strongest endorsement of Josh Olson’s script and John Wagner’s original story (published by DC imprint Paradox Press in 1997). Though it may be called A History of Violence, the movie examines our most primitive drives through following the quiet life of Tom McKenna (Viggo Mortensen). Tom leads a seemingly normal life out in the country, working at his local diner without a disturbance until he brutally kills two men asking for trouble in his shop. While the local press and Tom’s own son are awed by his heroism, he avoids any celebrity and prefers to live under the radar. However, things aren’t as they seem and when Carl Fogerty (Ed Harris) comes to town, the true identity of Tom McKenna comes into question. A History of Violence is one of the best graphic novel adaptations of all time.
6. Batman Returns
This was the Batman movie Tim Burton initially wanted to make. Having acquired more creative control than he exerted on the 1989 Batman, Burton refined his nightmarish style of filmmaking and retrofitted it to Gotham. Though many people have complained that Batman Returns was unrelentingly dark, Burton’s doubling down on the tone laid the groundwork for the movies Christopher Nolan would ultimately helm. When Bob Kane created the world’s greatest detective in 1939, the character was patently chthonic, mildly depressed, and stuck in the relentless pursuit of justice. Batman Returns approached the original strip’s thematic threshold and then went further, adding extra violence while commissioning The Penguin (Danny DeVito) to overtake Gotham and beat back Batman. Thanks to Michelle Pfeiffer’s scorching performance as Catwoman and Christopher Walken’s memorable Max Schreck, Batman Returns remains a solid entry in the Batman canon and yet another twisted adventure from the mind of Tim Burton.
5. Superman II
While the Richard Donner cut is compelling in its own right, Superman II ultimately belongs to director Richard Lester. Though the 1980 Superman sequel was lovingly shared by both directors (Donner shot much of the film before being fired by the producers), Lester helped craft an entertaining and lighthearted follow-up to the original film. Donner’s action sequences remain unparalleled, but Lester’s vision effectively captured the romance between Superman and Lois Lane, finding the heart in each of their scenes. Superman II explores Clark Kent’s bifurcated identity to great effect, and Christopher Reeve is at the top of his game, demonstrating that he’s as funny and disarming as he is heroic. Had Richard Donner been allowed to complete what he started, Superman II might have become a more serious film. In the hands of Richard Lester, however, it continues the tradition of the original film while finding new ways to surprise us.
4. Batman Begins
After Batman & Robin sent Warner Bros. back to the drawing board, a handful of directors and scripts were jockeying for attention. Even Darren Aronofsky was in the running to take up the mantle, but the studio rewarded Christopher Nolan with the honor of directing the Batman origin story, Batman Begins. At the time, Christian Bale was relatively unknown to the public despite having starred in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun as a child and American Psycho in 2000. Something clicked with Nolan and Bale, however, and the pair successfully put Batman back on the map. By jettisoning Schumacher’s campy tone, Batman Begins embraced a more serious reality. Bruce Wayne wasn’t just a cocky millionaire, he was a brooding and deeply damaged orphan. Batman wasn’t just a crime-fighting persona, it was the culmination of Wayne’s attempt to face his deep-seated fears. Batman Begins gutted our memory of the Schumacher movies and gave us a Batman and a universe that demanded our fullest attention.
Though far from the solemn tone in Man of Steel, Richard Donner’s Superman succeeded by taking its central character seriously while maintaining a sense of humor. While Zack Snyder’s films have echoed much of the original feature’s religious imagery, Superman unequivocally used Biblical stories and Christ-like themes to fully define its hero. Led by the perfectly-cast Christopher Reeve and written by The Godfather scribe, Mario Puzo, the 1978 Superman became the first truly great superhero film to grace the silver screen. At the time, it was the most expensive film ever made (thanks in part to Marlon Brando’s absurd asking price), but it cashed in on every dollar spent by delivering state of the art special effects along with its exciting story. Though Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor may be a tad histrionic and certain campy moments might undercut the movie’s integrity, Superman remains a fun-loving thrill ride that helped define the genre.
When Michael Keaton won the role of Batman, the fanboy world was apoplectic. Over 50,000 letters arrived in the Warner Bros. mail room calling for his immediate removal from Tim Burton’s film. As we have come to see over the last ten years, most superhero casting decisions prove far better than fans initially expect. Indeed, the 1989 Batman turned Mr. Mom’s Michael Keaton into a husky-voiced crime fighter that defied audience’s expectations. While The Dark Knight may have eclipsed the overall appeal of Batman, Keaton’s onscreen rivalry with his archenemy, The Joker (Jack Nicholson), was truly ahead of the times. Nicholson delivered a thoroughly unhinged performance as the clown prince of crime, stealing thunder from Keaton on a consistent basis. On a larger scale, Batman changed the way blockbuster movies are marketed. Its $400 million box office haul set a high-water mark for Warner Bros., who were understandably disappointed when Batman Returns hardly achieved more than half that profit.
1. The Dark Knight
While he honed his craft on Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan perfected the narrative with its sequel. Not only is The Dark Knight the best entry in the DC Comics film canon, it stands as the greatest comic book adaptation of all time and the most compelling superhero story ever set to film. In addition to note-perfect direction from Nolan and truly captivating photography from Wally Pfister, The Dark Knight sports what well may be remembered as the definitive portrayal of The Joker. Heath Ledger poured himself into the role and created a hypnotic hurricane surrounding the Joker. While The Dark Knight may technically be Batman’s movie, it’s fueled by the Joker’s madness. Thanks to Hans Zimmer’s impeccable score and an enveloping crime-drama script by both Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight plays out like Michael Mann’s Heat with a cape. This is the #1 DC Comics film by a country mile.
There you have it! What are your top five movies from DC Comics? Tell us in the comments below!