Action Comics #1 (1938) was published almost 80 years ago. And along with it came one of, if not the most prominent superheroes of all time – Superman. So, it seems only fitting that the Last Son of Krypton would kick off the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) with Man of Steel (2013).
Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Clark Kent and Kal-El brought both a realistic physicality and emotional depth to the Golden Age character. And with the new Kryptonian’s success, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) solidified the burgeoning DCEU. Suicide Squad (2016) followed a year later, with Wonder Woman (2017) enjoying mammoth box office numbers this last summer.
With just four films, dozens upon dozens of DC characters have already emerged with varying degrees of success. Some of the heroes and villains have really grown on the fans, while others have made audiences question the sanity of filmmakers and executives.
So, with that in mind, here are the 10 Best (And 10 Worst) Characters In The DCEU.
20 BEST: Harley Quinn
It can be argued that the only redeeming thing about Suicide Squad, outside of cameos by Batman and the Flash, was the inclusion of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in the film. Robbie's charisma and charm led Harley Quinn to become the breakout character of the movie.
Robbie was able to capture the craziness Harley exudes in the comic books, even if she didn’t exactly look the part. But filmmaker David Ayers doesn’t completely dis the mythology, as he pays homage to her original costume on a couple of occasions, most notably in the flashback sequence of Quinn and Joker.
She is even implicated in the murder of Robin, during her bio sequence. This is an intriguing notion, but Harley Quinn hadn’t even been created when Jason Todd was murdered by the Joker in A Death in the Family (1988-1989).
19 WORST: The Joker
Even Academy Award winner Jared Leto couldn’t save the Suicide Squad’s ludicrous interpretation of the Joker. There was so many wrongs committed by David Ayer’s supervillain team-up flick, but the Clown Prince of Crime was the festering blemish on the movie’s face.
Granted, following up Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) was going to be a challenge for any filmmaker, but Ayer’s picture depicted Mr. J as more of a streetwise thug than a criminal mastermind. Leto is a stellar performer, but his ridiculously shrill laugh didn’t help matters either.
Indeed, the Joker was more bark than bite. While the Clown Prince left a bitter taste in most fans' mouths, the good news is Leto can right the ship. Since he is rumored to be reprising his role in a number of announced DCEU projects, Leto and filmmakers better roll up their sleeves.
18 BEST: Faora-Ul and General Zod
Michael Shannon’s General Zod brought a brutal threat to the emerging DCEU, as the Man of Steel’s first adversary. Zod was a well-written opponent who never saw himself as the bad guy. Rather, Zod was willing to do anything necessary to preserve the future of his Kryptonian people. “And every action I take, no matter how violent or how cruel, are for the greater good of my people.”
Zod was the perfect mix of misguided duty and might, which could have held up against Superman all on his own, but instead fans were also treated to Faora-Ul (Antje Traue). Antje’s performance as Faora was so powerful that she actually rivaled Zod on screen.
Superman was more than a little concerned when he battled her one-on-one in the Smallville I-Hop. And afterward, when Kal-El final gained the upper hand, Faora never backed down: “You will not win. For every human you save, we will kill a million more.”
Stack Zod and Faora up against Doomsday and Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and there’s no question which diabolical duo was better. “Kneel before Zod!”
17 WORST: The Enchantress
Cara Delevingne’s acting skills are often overshadowed by her breathtaking beauty, but the young ingenue has only had a handful of performances in some very forgettable films (Paper Towns, Kids in Love, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets). Unfortunately, the actress didn’t do her reputation any favors with her portrayal of the Enchantress in 2016’s mediocre Suicide Squad.
Serving as the Suicide Squad’s primary adversary was a bit of a misnomer when early trailers for the film were released. The initial consensus was that the Joker might be that guy, since June Moone was sometimes portrayed as the anti-hero/outlaw hero in DC Comic books.
It made sense to feature Enchantress as the big baddie, since she was touted as the most powerful metahuman by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). In the film, Waller said of the Enchantress, “I saved the best for last.” Most fans would wholeheartedly disagree.
16 BEST: The Flash
Ezra Miller’s casting as Barry Allen/Flash was a stroke of genius, and a magnificent feather in the DCEU’s hat. No disrespect to actor Grant Gustin, who does a wonderful job in the television version of The Flash (2014-2017), but Miller is the perfect thespian to pull off the Scarlet Speedster’s quirkiness, humor and cockiness.
In the comic books, and other media, the Flash has a proclivity for pounding his enemies into submission while reminding them all that he’s the fastest man alive. And his obsession with time travel has already touched the DCEU in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Casual fans of superhero films seemed quite confused by what was perceived as a vision of Bruce Wayne, but turned out to be the Flash traveling through time to warn Batman about something terrible on the horizon. Fear not, because the Flash has much more to do in not only this fall’s Justice League, but the recently announced Flashpoint (2020).
15 WORST: Doomsday
It’s just sad when a big-budget Hollywood film can’t properly adapt an iconic supervillain for the Silver Screen. And Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s Doomsday was more of an eyesore than anything else.
Yes, it was obvious in Man of Steel that the whole artificial population scheme would eventually lead to the creation of Doomsday. Every hardcore Superman fan saw that coming. But did anyone really think that Lex Luthor would be the creature’s daddy? What – really? So, the so-called Doomsday lumbers through Metropolis eradicating everything with these bizarre energy bursts and pouring out heat vision.
Did Zack Snyder read the origin story of Doomsday in the comics? That’s a rhetorical question, of course. And how did Batman survive? Better yet, why didn’t he just give his Kryptonite grenade launcher to Diana or Clark at the beginning of the battle?
More questions than answers came from Doomsday’s debut, and it’s a shame the DCEU wasted the talents of such a powerful baddie.
14 BEST: Hippolyta and Antiope
Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) of Themyscria and Antiope (Robin Wright) are two extremely formidable Amazons that endear themselves to audiences in Wonder Woman. Diana’s mother Hippolyta is as beautiful as she is powerful, while aunt Antiope takes on the task of training the young princess (Lilly Aspell).
Their worlds are turned upside down though when Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) plane crashes in the waters outlying Themyscira. Diana rescues the fighter pilot, but is unaware of the German soldiers pursuing him.
The Amazons protect their lands, but as the battle comes to a close on their beaches, Antiope sacrifices her life to save Diana. And while Antiope was a fan favorite, she was taken from the DCEU too soon.
Fortunately, even though Hippolyta warned Diana that she couldn’t return to Themyscira, it seems the arrival of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) in Justice League could indeed reunite mother and daughter. That is if Zack Snyder doesn’t plan on killing off the queen.
13 WORST: Ares
The god known as Ares is one of Wonder Woman’s most deadly adversaries, but he doesn’t actually show up in Wonder Woman until the final act of the story. Rather, the powerful deity hides in plain sight as Sir Patrick (David Thewlis) until Diana Prince finally faces off against him at the climax. And that’s just the start of Ares’ problems.
Hearing Hippolyta’s story of how Zeus sent mankind a weapon known as the “Godkiller,” Diana proceeds to take the sword she thinks can kill the mighty Ares. However, she is unaware that she herself is the weapon that can destroy Ares.
After Steve Trevor sacrifices his life to save the world, Wonder Woman’s rage awakens the full scope of her incredible powers. Ares and Diana battle, but the CGI used for the evil god comes off much like the battle with Doomsday in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It leaves audiences thinking: haven’t we seen this before?
12 BEST: Pa and Ma Kent
Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent are two of the more likeable supporting characters in the DCEU. In Man of Steel, they raise young Clark Kent (Dylan Sprayberry) with the idea of fitting into the human race.
Sadly, Jonathan doesn’t get the opportunity to see Superman take flight, because he dies prematurely when a tornado hits Kansas. Clark (Henry Cavill) could have saved him, but instead Jonathan insists on the youth protecting his secret.
Both of the elder Kents are wonderful additions to the DCEU, but Martha is given little to do in the follow-up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Martha offers Superman sage advice in one of her few scenes.
In her one big sequence, Martha is kidnapped by Lex Luthor in order to force the Man of Steel to battle the Dark Knight to save her life.
11 WORST: Perry White
What a waste of both a character and an A-List actor. Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) is introduced as the Editor-and-Chief or the Daily Planet, and a supporting character in the DCEU, during Man of Steel. But he has little to do other than order Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and the other reporters around.
Unfortunately, this is a recurring theme in all of the Superman movies: casting great actors and giving them nothing to play. Jackie Cooper took on the role for four pictures beginning with Superman: The Movie (1978), while Frank Langella ran the Daily Planet in Superman Returns (2006).
The failing of Perry White in the DCEU isn’t Fishburne’s fault. All of these talented thespians are relegated to sitting in the background of their respective films as passive observers in Superman’s vibrant world. And Fishburne is no exception.
10 BEST: Alfred Pennyworth
Jeremy Irons’ casting as Alfred Pennyworth was such a bonus for the DCEU. Fans might have been a little reticent when it came to Irons essentially replacing Sir Michael Caine’s version of Al in The Dark Knight Trilogy, but Ben Affleck’s Alfred has really bolstered the supporting casts in the new DC Universe.
Rather than giving Alfred the simple chore of maintaining Wayne Manor and the Batcave, Pennyworth served to keep Bruce Wayne’s jilted morality in check. Bruce was convinced that killing Superman was his only alternative to saving the world, but Alfred fought to remind Bruce that the Man of Steel wasn’t their enemy.
It will be interesting to see how big a role Alfred plays in the upcoming Justice League film. Fans have already gotten flashes of Mr. Pennyworth gazing upon a mysterious stranger who shows up in the trailer. This is almost certainly Superman. But whoever it is, Alfred says, “Now, let’s hope you’re not too late.”
Hopefully, Al continues to show up in these new DCEU films, as he is a fine addition to the universe.
9 WORST: Mercy Graves
Only Jimmy Olsen (Michael Cassidy) is disrespected more than Mercedes “Mercy” Graves (Tao Okamoto) in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both are fan favorites in the Superman mythology, but neither will factor into the DCEU. At least Mercy got some screen time, and her name was said. Poor Jimmy got his head blown off without confirmation of who he really was until the credits.
Mercy made her debut as Lex Luthor’s personal assistant and bodyguard, which fans never see in the film, during Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000). But in Batman v Superman her big scene comes when she spots Bruce Wayne messing around near Lex’s computer server.
Now, despite finding Bruce in a highly-restricted area, Mercy simply engages in some semi-friendly banter with Wayne rather than kicking his butt out of the room. Wait – what? Mercy from both the show and comics would have come at him hard for being in there.
The only thing more surprising is when Lex lets her die in the explosion at the Capitol. What a waste of a great character.
8 BEST: Steve Trevor and Team
One of the real surprises of Wonder Woman was Chris Pine’s portrayal of Diana Prince’s love interest Steve Trevor. Now, while Trevor is clearly not Wonder Woman’s equal, he is a grounding figure for the Amazon Princess of Themyscria.
Even more enjoyable was the ragtag team Trevor assembled to aid Wonder Woman on her journey to battle the Germans and eventually Ares. The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock), Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) were utterly the most unlikely of heroes, but their presence added a real heart to the film.
Now, most of the team itself escaped unscathed from the clutches of death. However, despite rumors of his return in Wonder Woman 2, Steve Trevor perished at the end of Wonder Woman. Perhaps, the Flash (Ezra Miller) and Diana form a close friendship in Justice League. And maybe Barry Allen takes to time traveling in order to reunite Prince and Trevor.
7 WORST: Dr. Poison and Ludendorff
Did Wonder Woman even need Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) and Ludendorff (Danny Huston)? If there were ever two supporting characters wasted in a DCEU film, it’s this pair of baddies.
Dr. Maru does little more than serve as a weapons specialist for the misguided Ludendorff, who is blatantly passed off as the prime suspect for being Ares during the course of the movie. But it’s obvious he isn’t, because the director Patty Jenkins is trying too hard to sell him as Ares to audiences.
Jenkins did a lot of things right with Wonder Woman, but the villains were a real sore spot. Ares, Dr. Poison, and Ludendorff all take a backseat to Diana Prince, which is a bit of enigma considering the old adage: heroes are only as good as their villains.
6 BEST: Wonder Woman
Trailers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice spoiled the surprise of a certain superhero making her debut in the DCEU to help the Dark Knight (Ben Affleck) and Man of Steel battle the Kryptonian destroyer - Doomsday.
Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) inclusion was one of the high points of the 2016 film. Diana Prince’s popularity quickly soared with fans. And it was only a matter of time before the Amazonian took her rightful place in a standalone movie thanks to Gadot’s acting prowess, action chops, and stunning good looks.
Wonder Woman was the No. 1 movie this last summer domestically, with $407 million. In fact, only Beauty in the Beast (2017) outranks Wonder Woman as the top-grossing film of the year in domestic box office with $504 million. Worldwide, the Princess of Themyscira brought in over $800 million.
5 WORST: The KG Beast
Casual fans had no idea that the main muscle Lex Luthor utilized in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a very famous villain in the Dark Knight’s mythology. But hardcore Batman fanatics were left cringing when they saw the name Anatoli Knyazev pop up on the Batcave computer.
Also known as the KGBeast, Knyazev was a brutal baddie whose skills matched, if not surpassed, Batman’s abilities. However, with all due respect to actor Callan Mulvey, the KGBeast was grossly misrepresented by director Zack Snyder.
Originally appearing in the four-issue story Ten Nights of the Beast (1988), published in Batman comics, the KGBeast was a relentless monster that could rival even Bane in terms of ruthlessness and power.
In the final frames of their confrontation, Batman corners the Beast. The monster challenges Bruce to a battle to the death, but even Batman knows his limitations. Rather than engaging Knyazev, Batman seals the Beast inside the underground room – burying him alive.
4 BEST: Batman
Ben Affleck is is a true credit to the DCEU. Yes, many fans grumbled and groaned when Affleck was hired as the heir apparent to Christian Bale’s Dark Knight, but Affleck stepped into the role with a commitment that truly paid off.
Affleck’s acting chops, which are often underrated, are on full display in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as he plays the cynical superhero. It’s also obvious he brought his A-game to the table via his workout regimen to drastically alter his body and build bulk to give an honest portrayal of Batman's physicality.
It’s time to get on board with Affleck’s Bat, since he is going to be around for Justice League and beyond. Rumors swirled that he was going to be replaced, but Affleck quashed all of that at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Affleck is the Batman, and quite possibly the best ever.
3 WORST: Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) would have been an utter failure on the part of filmmaker Zack Snyder regardless of the actor who tried to tackle the role. The script set up Luthor as a prancing prick who was unworthy of being a DC supervillain.
From the first moment audiences set eyes on Luthor, he is obnoxiously draining a three-pointer in a basketball game like an NBA sharpshooter. Rather than just smuggling the Kryptonite into Metropolis, Luthor wastes his time trying to get an import license from Senator Finch (Holly Hunter). Really?
At least the screenwriters David Goyer and Chris Terrio allowed Luthor to be intelligent enough to figure out the secret identities of both Superman and Batman. Also, a lot was made of Luthor’s long, red locks in the film, but technically the filmmakers got that part right. During the comic books that focus on the Death of Superman (1992-1993) storyline, Lex’s cloned body has long red hair.
2 BEST: Superman
Henry Cavill is Superman. Christopher Reeve will always be identified with the role of the Man of Steel, but Cavill has made the character his own for a new generation of comic book fans. An excellent actor, Cavill also went above and beyond sculpting his body to exude the characteristics of a superhero.
Cavill is wonderful in Man of Steel, as he tries to find his way in the world, while falling in love with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and battling General Zod (Michael Shannon). Despite some of the negativity surrounding Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Cavill still shines alongside co-star Ben Affleck.
Fans are obviously anxious to see what role Cavill’s Superman will play in Justice League, but don’t be surprised when he shows up at the last minute to save the day with the rest of his superfriends.
Just for the record, in the comic books Superman loses his powers after seemingly dying at the hands of Doomsday. He returns in a black suit and aids the other Supermen (Steel, Eradicator and Superboy) and Green Lantern against Mongul and Cyborg Superman.
1 WORST: The Suicide Squad
Once you subtract Harley Quinn from the mix, the Suicide Squad is the biggest waste of space in the DC history of films since Batman & Robin (1997). And at least that film, had high-profile worthwhile Batman villains in place. In Suicide Squad, fans are treated to a B-List of Detective Comic’s characters like Deadshot (Will Smith), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).
Just because filmmakers put the Joker in a film, and hire a larger-than-life star like Will Smith, doesn’t equate to good movie making. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sets out to assemble an elite team comprised of supervillains when she would have been better served just assembling a dozen of the Batman rogues.
Despite the horrible assembly of mediocre characters, Suicide Squad still rocked the box office with a worldwide total of $745 million, which makes it the third-highest grossing DCEU film behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($873 million) and Wonder Woman ($807 million).
Which DCEU characters are your favorites and which missed the mark? Sound off in the comments!