DC Comics' cinematic universe is in full swing with the release of Justice League. It might not be as financially and critically successful as Marvel's cinematic universe but the DCEU currently has a full slate of projects in various stages of development.
DC Comics and parent company Warner Bros. are working hard to capitalize on the big superhero boom. However, the pair have been churning out movies based on their iconic character long before Man of Steel ever hit theaters.
While most of DC’s previous silver-screen offerings have revolved around just Superman and Batman, the two titans haven’t been the sole focus. There have been plenty of movies, live-action and animated, that were pursued but ended up on the cutting room floor at DC, cancelled before they could ever see the light of day.
It's almost impossible, not to mention, unfair to judge a potential (and now cancelled) movie based on rumors of its production and development, even if tangible bits like a script have been released. Making a movie is an involved and complicated process, which happens to involve more than a bit of luck.
Still, by and large, DC Comics appeared to make the right decisions when calling it quits on the entries on this list. Some of the movies gathered here might worth a revival or stand as wasted potential, but most were clearly cancelled for a (very good) reason.
Here are the 15 Cancelled DC Movies We’ll Never Get To See.
15 Green Lantern 2 (and More)
It’s no secret that 2011's Green Lantern was a crushing disappointment for DC. While the movie is not without fans, it greatly under-performed and put a lot of plans on halt.
Green Lantern was not only meant to set up a sequel, as made obvious by its post credits sequence with Mark Strong's Sinestro putting on a yellow power ring, but launch a whole inter-connected universe.
Green Lantern, not Man of Steel, was meant to be the first step in a larger MCU-esque plan. Yet, because the movie tanked commercially and critically, everything about its future was completely cancelled and it was made into a (pathetic) standalone movie.
This very well might’ve been for the best. Green Lantern wasn’t the best foot for DC to put forward with their cinematic universe and being free of Hal Jordan allowed Reynolds to eventually return to Deadpool. Still, the problems with the first movie could’ve been ironed out in a second film and beyond.
14 Batman Beyond
DC and Warner Bros. have never been shy about making movies with Batman in the starring role, whether in live-action or animated form. It’s very rare however that the man under the cowl isn't Bruce Wayne. Yet back in the early 00’s, DC nearly moved ahead with a live-action Batman Beyond adaptation which would’ve seen Terry McGinnis as the (future) caped crusader.
Based on the animated series of the same name, Batman Beyond was an effort to revive the Bat name after the disaster that was Batman & Robin. The animated series' co-creators were attached to help to bring the movie to life and a director was even brought on board. Eventually though everything fell apart and Batman Begins became the Bats for the new millennium.
Rumors still do persist that the DCEU will revive the project, in some form but there are no solid plans ... yet.
13 Batman vs Superman - The Other One
Obviously, Batman v Superman exists, it's the movie that arguably launched the DCEU, even more than Man of Steel. However, DC nearly had a very different title fight that predated Man of Steel and even Marvel’s Iron Man, way back in 2003. While Batman v Superman was taken to task for being a dark and depressing slog, what was formed for the first (cancelled) version was much, much worse.
Penned by Akiva Goldsman, the man responsible for I Am Legend, Cinderella Man and Batman & Robin, the movie saw introduced older, retired and deeply depressed. Bruce Wayne. Batman's entire supporting cast was dead which includes, everyone to Dick Grayson to Alfred. Superman, meanwhile, was going through a messy divorce with Lois Lane. Neither hero was happy, in the slightest.
The movie wasn’t just about two middle-aged white men being in a funk. Similar to BvS, Lex Luthor manipulated the title fight and coaxed Batman out of retirement. While the movie lacked a ”Save Martha!” twist or death of Superman, it’s hard to argue that fans weren’t saved by never seeing it.
12 Green Lantern Starring ... Jack Black?!
Green Lantern might not be a comedian but there’s plenty of humorous elements of the character, especially when considering Hal Jordan in the role. Therefore, despite the movie surrounding him, the very funny Ryan Reynolds was perfectly casted in his 2011 movie. However, DC nearly went with a much more comedic bent with Green Lantern back in 2004 as they were planning a movie with Jack Black, not Reynolds, in the starring role.
It’s unknown whether this take on Green Lantern would’ve been any good or not, but it would’ve certainly been different. Though Black wasn’t involved in more than an acting capacity, the movie was reportedly everything would expect from a Jack Black-led movie.
There were musical numbers, a gigantic version of Pokémon's Pikachu as a third act threat and the title character, an original creation for the movie, wore a fanny pack. The movie turned nearly all the Green Lantern mythology upside down but, somehow, Sinestro was still the villain. Still all the changes made it deem too risky and too bizarre to move forward into anything real.
11 Tim Burton's Catwoman Spin-Off
Batman Returns might not be as beloved or acclaimed as Tim Burton’s first take on the caped crusader. However, the movie did offer what many (rightfully) consider to be the definitive live-action of Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman with Michelle Pfeiffer. Burton reportedly knew what he had in Pfeiffer too and tried to set up the actress for her own solo movie but it, sadly, fell apart.
Burton wanted to use his third Batman movie, which eventually became Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, to set the sage for Selina's own adventures. Yet when Burton exited the project and franchise altogether, the idea was abandoned … until Warner Bros. revived and twisted the entire idea with the infamous Halle Berry movie.
It turns out that Burton exiting Batman, ended up having deeper and more dramatic consequences than two underwhelming follow-ups. It robbed the world of more Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.
Hawkman is, easily, one of the most confusing heroes in DC's line-up. The character is full of contradicting backstories, powers and motivations. Yet DC nearly moved ahead with a movie with the confusing hero at the center back in 2011, putting him ahead of other more popular characters like Wonder Woman, Aquaman and The Flash.
The logline for the movie was nearly as complicated as the character itself being described, as “Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code meets Ghost.” This makes slightly more sense when it’s considered that Carter Hall AKA Hawkman has usually been depicted as a constantly reincarnated hero that dates back to Ancient Egypt.
Still, unsurprisingly, the movie never moved past the development stage. Carter Hall’s only live-action appearances amount to two very underwhelming television roles on Legends of Tomorrow and Smallville. Some things work better on the page than the screen and, for now, Hawkman seems to be one of them.
9 Justice League: Worlds Collide
The adored cartoon, Justice League Unlimited was cancelled before its time but there very nearly was more stories told in its universe. An animated movie called Justice League: Worlds Collide was being planned back around the time of Justice League Unlimited season 1.
The animated feature was designed to bridge the gap between spin-off Justice League Unlimited and original series Justice League. Justice League: Worlds Collide was going to take place in the time gap between the two series and see the heroes face off against their alternate earth evil versions, The Crime Syndicate. The plans, however, never materialized into a full-length movie.
The Justice League Unlimited version story was canned but the project did eventually become another animated film. Justice League: Worlds Collide morphed into the standalone, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths in 2010. Crisis on Two Earths still saw a version of the Justice League face off against the Crime Syndicate but the voice cast (and continuity) was completely different from JLU.
8 Superman: Flyby
Superman has seen two cinematic reboots since the iconic Christopher Reeve days. The first was the panned Superman Returns with Brandon Routh in the lead role and the other was, of course, Man of Steel which introduced Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent. Yet there was another Superman movie being developed that predates both versions, Superman: Flyby.
Flyby was written by J.J. Abrams the same man who, for better or worse, resurrected both the Star Trek and Star Wars cinematic franchises. However, Abrams’ Superman script predates both of those revivals by quite a bit being crafted in the early '00s. Flyby took several liberties with the Superman mythos.
For example, Krypton rather than being destroyed still existed and there was a heavy emphasis on Clark Kent trying to hide his powers with Martha and Jon Kent being afraid that their adopted son would (inadvertently) kill them. Flyby was a much darker and more alien take on Superman than usual.
Maybe most interesting thing about the movie isn't the plot but the near casting. Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill both auditioned for the role in Superman: Flyby, filming screen tests. However, since the movie didn’t move forward beyond early development, it wouldn’t be until their respective movies that either actor got to play the title role.
7 The Wachowski's Plastic Man
Plastic Man is, to put it quite plainly, a weirdo. Plastic Man is not only DC’s only stretchable hero, Ralph Dibny as The Elongated Man also exists, he’s such an undeniable and unrepentant goof that he sticks out. It’s only natural then that when news of Plastic Man movie started to circulate back in 2008, two of Hollywood’s most bizarre filmmakers were attached, The Wachowski siblings.
It’s unclear what stage of development the Plastic Man solo movie got to before being cancelled. Still back in 2008, rumors circulated that the Wacowski siblings, who are responsible for The Matrix and Jupiter Ascending, were interested in bringing Plastic Man to live-action.
Perhaps the strangest thing of all wasn't the Wachowski's wanting to get into a superhero franchise. It was that they wanted actor Kenau Reeves for the lead role. Although Kenau has history with the Wachowski’s, he’s not exactly renown for having a wide range of facial expressions as an actor, which is pretty important for the incredibly malleable hero.
6 Batman Triumphant (or Unchained)
It’s gone by a couple different names, but Warner Bros. was planning on creating a direct sequel to Batman & Robin. When Batman & Robin flopped, and flopped hard, that quickly ended. Still the movie had progressed beyond the vague concept of it hypothetically existed and to the surprise of no one, it sounds absolutely insane.
Batman Triumphant (or Unchained) was meant to be Harley Quinn’s cinematic introduction as the character was proving to be a huge success in Batman: The Animated Series and comics. Yet rather than be The Joker’s girlfriend, this Harley would be his daughter.
Harley would be joined in her villainous pursuits by the Scarecrow. (In true Schumaker fashion, rapper Coolio was the frontrunner for the role.) In additon, a big plot point of the movie would see Batman locked up in Arkham Aslyum and put on trial.
Director Joel Schumaker envisioned the movie as his apology for Batman & Robin and wanted it to be a much darker and more mature take on the caped crusader. Yet no one was interested and the movie was quietly cancelled.
5 Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max
It might not be the most faithful adaption of the character but thanks to The CW’s Arrow, fans have tons of Green Arrow live-action stories to experience.
However, Oliver Queen nearly made the jump to cinemas years before Arrow hit the air. Green Arrow: Escape for Super Max was being developed back in 2008 and 2007. Although it never made it past the development or scripting stages, plenty of details have since emerged about the story.
Despite the title, the movie would’ve been very light on Green Arrow. Instead it was much of an Oliver Queen piece with the character being stripped of his mantle and mask, being thrown into jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Inside the prison, and out, Oliver would come under attack from a variety of different villains.
With Matt Damon being courted to star, Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max was intended to emulate a Jason Bourne film set in the DC Universe. Yet for a variety of different reasons, including that it was "before its time," the movie was not meant to be and instead Oliver Queen got his own TV series, not a movie.
4 Batman: Year One
There’s been a wealth of cinematic Batman origin stories but there was very nearly another one. Before Batman Begins hit theaters and began Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, director Darren Aronofksy was working on adapting the graphic novel Batman: Year One into a film, with the comic’s writer, Frank Miller.
Batman Begins took notes and inspiration from Batman: Year One when it eventually came to fruition. Still the cancelled movie stands, very much, as its own beast. A beast that was shockingly dark and aggressive.
Batman: Year One was a very violent and depressing take on Bruce Wayne. The character was a homeless, sadistic torturer who gets his superhero name because of the bat-like brand he left on victims after punching them with a signet ring. Bruce isn't alone in being a huge bummer, Commissioner Gordon is introduced on the edge of suicide and Catwoman was a dominatrix prostitute who happily beat up her clients.
Batman: Year One was, in fact, deemed too intense and that resulted in it getting cancelled to make the way for Nolan’s dark but relatively toned down Batman Begins.
3 Justice League Mortal
Justice League Mortal is one of the more recent examples of a cancelled DC Comics film. Still it has quickly grown in mystery and interest. Back around the time that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight’s trilogy was playing out George Miller, director of Mad Max: Fury Road, was crafting his own take on the Justice League. This would've put DC well ahead of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and The Avengers.
Justice League Mortal made it through quite a lot of hurdles. The cast was mostly set, the plot was coming together and even some of the costumes were created.
The movie would've been similar in tone and look to Fury Road, although Mortal predates the making of that movie by nearly a decade. Mortal would open one the death of Justice League member and tell the rest of the story through flashbacks.
Due to a combination of factors, mainly budget concerns and the writers’ strike of 2007 and 2008, the movie was canned, leaving Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon's Justice League to be the team's live-action cinema debut. Only time will really tell if that is better for everyone involved.
2 Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman
Joss Whedon is now a member of the DCEU, being the co-director on Justice League and developing his own Batgirl solo movie. This time at Warner Bros. is a bit of homecoming for the famous filmmaker because before Whedone went to work at Marvel, he was working on a script for a solo Wonder Woman, which has since leaked online.
Whedon’s Wonder Woman was meant to be a standalone project as it was crafted before a time that anyone was thinking about interconnected movie universes. Unlike the movie that Jenkins directed, Whedon’s Wonder Woman was set in present day and had a much aggressive form of Amazons. At one point, Diana fights her mother to keep her from killing Steve Trevor. This is just the start of the differences too.
Rather than the relatively simple plot of the DCEU’s Wonder Woman, Whedon’s version was all over the place with multiple villains and an inconsistently moral and aggressive Diana. The script became very unpopular with Warner Bros. and they decided to scrap the project entirely, rather than trying to rework it.
1 Superman Lives
Superman Lives might very well be the most famous (or infamous) cancelled movie in DC’s history. When Tim Burton’s Batman blew up in popularity and revived the dark knight from his cinematic slumber, Warner Bros. wanted to similarly reboot the man of steel. This is where Superman Lives entered its torturous production before being eventually cancelled.
Superman Lives had a long and hellish life in the development process being passed from creative team to creative team. Tim Burton, Kevin Smith and, most famously, Nicolas Cage were all attached to the project at one point. While it started off as relatively simple adaptation of the Death of Superman story arc, things quickly moved out into crazy town.
Some of the concepts that were toyed with the movie, included a gigantic spider creature that Superman would be forced to fight, villains Lex Luthor and Brainiac morphing into one evil entity and a robotic suit saving Superman’s life. If it had been made Superman Lives likely would’ve been one of the most insane superhero movies ever. So, perhaps, it's fortunate for everyone’s sanity that it was deemed too ambitious and costly to produce.
Are there any famous or infamous cancelled DC Comics movies that we missed? Sound off in the comments below!
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