There has never really been a better time to be a fan of DC Comics. For the comics themselves, the recent Rebirth event has helped to fix most of the errors of the previous New 52 run and created several captivating new comics and stories.
At the same time, the Arrowverse on CW regularly brings live-action DC television to fans four nights a week, and these series have remained streaming favorites through platforms such as Netflix.
Finally, there’s the growing DC Extended Universe of movies, which is building on the critical and commercial success of Wonder Woman and heading toward an explosive debut for the Justice League movie.
In fact, the DCEU movies are so popular that many fans don’t realize just how many other DC movies are out there. DC has produced feature films of its characters since 1951, and there is a vast array of live-action and animated movies out there that all but the most hardcore fans have never seen.
Fortunately, we’ve narrowed things down and brought you a curated list of the absolute best of these overlooked and forgotten gems.
You won’t need special X-ray vision to read it, either: just keep scrolling for our 15 DC Movies You’ve Never Seen (That Are Actually Amazing)!
15. Swamp Thing
Looking back, it was pretty easy for the Swamp Thing movie to fall through the cracks. It came out in 1982, after Superman made us all believe a man could fly but well before Tim Burton reinvented Batman. And if you were looking at its theatrical poster (the one where the monster man is carrying a damsel in distress, like something out of King Kong), you’d be forgiven for dismissing the movie as weird schlock.
However, the movie is surprisingly good. While it shares a lot of those weird old monster movie tropes (it is a movie about a mutated man fighting evil scientists, after all), it explores some heady concepts about both the nature of immortality and the nature of humanity.
In fact, it even won over legendary film critic Roger Ebert, whose review of this Wes Craven movie (known back then primarily for The Last House on the Left, as this was two years before Nightmare On Elm Street) paraphrased its main character. Or, as Ebert put it, “There’s beauty in this movie, if you know where to look for it.”
To say Constantine is divisive is a true understatement. For fans of the DC comics, the movie turned many of them off for a simple reason: John Constantine, played by Keanu Reeves, is clearly an American instead of the kind of Englishman that fans of the comics and Arrowverse would be more familiar with.
Movie critics, too, were divided, with many praising Keanu Reeves (the LA Times praised Reeves’ “Zen blankness and serenity”), and many others hating him (Roger Ebert called Reeves’ performance “deliberately morose” and the film itself one of his most hated).
However, the movie is undeniably worth seeing. Once you get over the lack of an English accent, Keanu Reeves’ deadpan smartass routine is both charming and amusing. Tilda Swinton turns in a hauntingly great performance as Gabriel, an angel who may not be on the side of angels. And the movie features an amazing confrontation between Constantine and Lucifer that channels both the humanity of the filmmakers and the substance of one of the best moments from the Hellblazer comics.
13. The Losers
The Losers is another DC comics movie that flew under the radar for many comics fans. It was based on the Vertigo title of the same name, and it features a black ops team who was betrayed and fake their deaths in order to get revenge against the man who tried to have them killed.
The movie has a heavy focus on action and explosions, and it might be easy to dismiss the movie as a brainless action fantasy. What makes this movie stand out from your average action adventure, though, is the completely star-studded cast.
The team is led by Clay, played by Watchmen and Batman v Superman alumnus Jeffery Dean Morgan. Aisha is played by Zoe Saldana, who also plays both Star Trek‘s Uhura and Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Gamora. William Roque is played by Idris Elba, a veteran of everything from The Wire to Prometheus to The Dark Tower. Last but not least, Jake is played by the amazing Chris Evans, starring in the movie only one year before he set the world on fire as Captain America.
12. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
Somewhere along the way, the meaning of “director’s cut” has changed significantly. Most of the time, it just means a handful of scenes have been added, or maybe an extended scene here or there. However, the Richard Donner cut of Superman II is a true director’s cut.
Donner had shot the majority of the movie when creative differences between himself and Warner Bros. (he wanted more control over the movie, and the studio refused to budge) led to him being replaced as the director of his own film.
After literally decades of fan demand, Warner Bros. eventually allowed Donner to release his original vision of the movie. True to his word, the movie was significantly different: the movie has a different opening and a different ending. Deleted scenes, such as those featuring Marlon Brando as Superman’s biological father Kal-El, have been restored, and many familiar scenes now feature alternate takes and dynamic new camera angles. In truth, it’s almost an entirely new film, and one that was beloved by almost everyone who saw it.
11. V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta is another movie that has managed to divide comics fans. On one hand, it features some dramatic departures from the classic Alan Moore comic it was based on, including making the titular character much more sympathetic. On the other hand, the movie was beloved by Rogert Ebert and either won or was nominated for twenty-one major awards, while simultaneously managing to anger religious, conservative, and even anarchist audiences.
So, why should you watch this movie? It’s written by the Wachowskis, who bring some of their inventive action genius from The Matrix into this movie. The movie has an amazing cast, including Hugo Weaving as V, Natalie Portman as Evey Hammond, John Hurt as Adam Sutler, and Stephen Fry as Gordon Deitrich.
All in all, it’s a captivating story about the common man rising up against fascism, and watching this film will help you understand why the Guy Fawkes mask V wears has become such a powerful symbol used by groups such as Anonymous.
10. Superman and the Mole Men
If there is one movie on this list that few have seen, it’s Superman and the Mole Men. This movie was made way back in 1951 as an independent film, and lives up to its title. The movie features Clark and Lois investigating an oil drill that is drilling deeper into the Earth than we have ever gone… which unleashes the previously-hidden world of the mole men to the surface of our planet. What follows is a surprisingly human drama that is definitely worth watching (assuming you can track down a copy).
First, the movie is worth watching because it holds the distinction of being the very first feature film based on a DC comics property. And it has some iconic performances, including that of George Reeves as Superman – a man who would also captivate audiences for seven years starring in The Adventures of Superman television show.
Best of all is that this movie captures the heart of a good Superman story: instead of trying to fight these mysterious mole men, Superman helps to find common ground and even heal one of them that was wounded by humans. Without this great film, we may have never had more live-action DC movies!
9. Road to Perdition
Understandably, most people who think about DC Comics movies are thinking about costumes, capes, and colorful villains. Road to Perdition is nothing like that, which is one of the reasons most DC fans have overlooked it. However, it was based on a graphic novel from a DC Comics imprint and tells a compelling story about fathers and sons that is set in the vintage era of gangsters such as Al Capone. Overall, this movie has a lot to recommend it.
First off is the tone and setting. We don’t get many DC movies set in the ’30s, and even fewer that are crime films instead of more traditional superheroic romps. And the cast is quite significant, with Tom Hanks playing Micahel Sullivan, Sr., Jude Law playing Harlen Maguire, Daniel Craig playing Connor Rooney, and Stanley Tucci playing Frank Nitti. If that’s not enough, cinema legend Paul Newman makes his final film appearance in this movie as John Rooney.
8. A History of Violence
In addition to being a great movie based on a comic (that few have seen, and even fewer realize is based on a comic), A History of Violence is a great movie in and of itself. The movie’s writer, Josh Olson, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), and collectively, the movie and its creators and actors have won or been nominated for forty-one major awards. The movie’s plot concerns a man who is trying to live a quiet life with his family being slowly dragged back into his violent past.
Like many movies on this list, it is awesome in large part due to the cast. This includes Viggo Mortenson (everybody’s favorite Ranger from Middle-Earth), Ed Harris (most recently seen as the mysterious Man in Black in Westworld), and William Hurt (also known as resident Hulk-hater General Ross in the MCU).
The film is directed by legendary director David Cronenburg, who previously brought us genre thrillers such as Scanners and The Fly. Ultimately, this movie is thoughtful, provocative, and genuinely moving.
7. Justice League Dark
The Justice League has had no shortage of animated adaptations, such as the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons and the bevy of Justice League direct to video movies. This movie, however, presents something else entirely.
Based on the comic of the same name, Justice League Dark follows what happens when the Justice League confronts a magical threat that they aren’t equipped to handle. Reluctantly, a skeptical Batman is forced to assemble a team of magic-savvy members (including Constantine, Zatanna, Etrigan, and Deadman) to confront this new threat.
The premise is simple enough, but it’s really awesome for comics fans to see these characters that are often reduced to the margins of the DC universe taking center stage. It also offers a darker tone that still makes sense: whereas many fans balked at the DCEU portrayal of Superman as a grim and gritty character, it makes a lot of sense for a team with John Constantine to have more of that tone.
Finally, this movie offers a sneak peek of what the eventual live-action Justice League Dark movie will be like.
6. Justice League: Gods and Monsters
As mentioned before, there is such a preponderance of Justice League episodes and animated movies (and, of course, the upcoming live-action movie) that it takes a lot for such a movie to stand out. Justice League: Gods and Monsters manages to do so by drawing on the rich DC storytelling tradition of showing us a tale from a different version of Earth.
In this particular universe, a very different Justice League are actually brutal enforcers distrusted by the world, especially when a number of prominent scientists mysteriously die in ways that link them to the League.
First off, the premise is very engaging: Batman is actually Kirk Langstrom, better known to fans as Man-Bat. Superman is actually the son of General Zod, and Wonder Woman is Bekka, better known as one of the New Gods.
For DC Comics fans, this movie is a complete treat, placing the spotlight on less familiar characters while casting some of the most familiar characters in strange new roles. It also has a compelling arc for our main characters, who are dramatically different by the end of the movie.
5. Wonder Woman (animated)
It goes without saying that the live-action Wonder Woman movie was absolutely wonderful. It served as a breath of fresh air amid a series of dour and gritty DCEU films and quickly situated Wonder Woman as the glue holding the DCEU together, much like Iron Man does for the MCU.
However, long before Gal Gadot showed us all what a powerful force Wonder Woman is, there was the 2009 animated Wonder Woman movie. Everything about this movie— from its creative team to its voice actors— is absolutely pitch perfect.
First, it was produced by Bruce Timm, one of the creative masterminds behind Batman: The Animated Series. One of the writers was Gail Simone, the genius comic book writer who has helped to redefine strong female superheroes through titles like Batgirl, Birds of Prey, and Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman herself is portrayed by award-winning veteran actress Keri Russell, while love interest Steve Trevor is voiced by everyone’s favorite rebellious captain, Nathan Fillion. All of these people and more come together to tell us a brand new tale of Wonder Woman fighting against the malevolent Ares, and every single action scene manages to be beautiful and savage at the same time.
4. DC Showcase
In a list of DC feature films, DC Showcase is something of a cheat. Rather than being a feature-length film unto itself, it is instead a collection of short DC films. These stories involve characters that don’t often get their own spotlight, including The Spectre, Jonah Hex, and Shazam. Furthermore, while each movie in this showcase has the same director, they all feel completely distinct, making each story refreshing.
As an example, the short focusing on The Spectre is an homage to 1970s grindhouse movies, right down to the filter used to give everything on screen a scratchy film quality. Between that, the film noir plot, and its homage to vintage horror movies, this short is unforgettable.
DC Showcase also gives us a Jonah Hex short that embodies the classic western with a gruff story that may finally wash away the live-action Jonah Hex from your brain.
3. Batman: Assault on Arkham
Let’s just get our cards on the table: the Batman: Assault on Arkham animated movie is the film that Suicide Squad should have been. And despite his prominent place in the title, this is very much a Suicide Squad movie.
While the live-action Suicide Squad movie was lambasted for throwing an underpowered group of villains against super-powered threats that were way above their weight class, Assault on Arkham gives the team a more appropriate mission. The Riddler, once an operative for the Squad, has secret information he hopes to expose to the world, and after Batman returns him to Arkham, the Squad is sent in there to retrieve it at all costs.
There’s a lot this movie does right, including its choice of Squad members. We get fan favorites like Harley Quinn and Deadshot but add in some fun additions such as Killer Frost and King Shark. They end up fighting much more grounded threats, such as those posed by Riddler and The Joker (who is used much better in this movie than in Suicide Squad). Throw in super-stealthy Batman, and you’ve got one of the strongest DC films to date!
2. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
In the pantheon of live-action DC movies, there have been fewer disappointments bigger than Green Lantern. Despite starring the charming Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, the movie had a plodding script and underwritten villains and it ended up being a hot CGI mess.
Fortunately, those looking for a good Green Lantern movie have an alternative in the form of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. This movie is actually a collection of Green Lantern tales, and each well-written story draws you even more into the world of power rings and green spandex.
This movie has a lot to recommend it. For instance, two of the animated stories are based on comics written by the amazing Watchmen scribe Alan Moore, and they help to shine a spotlight on Abin Sur (the predecessor of our hero Hal Jordan) and Mogo (the Green Lantern who also happens to be a planet). Other tales offer rich history of the Lanterns, including tales of the First Lantern and everybody’s favorite gruff alien, Kilowog.
1. Justice League: The New Frontier
Of all the animated movies on this list, Justice League: The New Frontier is the most direct adaptation of an existing graphic novel. That graphic novel was created by the late, great Darwyn Cooke and it had a simple premise: what would the heroes of the Justice League have been doing if they all debuted in the 1950s and 1960s? The movie follows the events of the graphic novel relatively closely, which means that we get to see a brand new side to our old favorite characters.
For instance, we see Hal Jordan as a Korean war vet still dealing with what he has seen and done. Martian Manhunter, fearful of America’s extreme xenophobia, is doing his best to blend in as a cop. Batman is a frightening urban legend with his hands full battling a cult, while Wonder Woman struggles with balancing justice and freedom when she comes to man’s world. And, of course, Superman represents the best hope to stop an alien threat to all life on Earth.
The movie has an ambitious cast of characters and tells a story spanning years, showing how the League comes together at the same time as the entire country.
Any obscure DC favorites that we missed? Be sure to sound off in the comments!
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