Poor DC Extended Universe! You would think that the company which essentially invented comic book superheroes with Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1 would make them the best purveyors of cinematic meta-human goodness. But Warner Bros. has had trouble living up to the wildly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe series of films that has been efficiently rolling out crowd pleasers since
Where outings like Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers score major points for their moments of comic relief, the DCEU has so far been received as way too grim by audiences. But it doesn’t have to be that way - and for a long time, it wasn’t!
After all, feature films based on DC comics go all the way back to 1951, back when The Fantastic Four wasn’t even a glint in Marvel’s eyes yet. There’s a deep bank of these DC movies, with plenty of very funny moments to choose from. Luckily, Wonder Woman seems like a huge step in a more light-hearted direction for the DCEU.
Here are 15 Times DC Movies Were Actually Hilarious.
15 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Lex Luthor, Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne Meet
This little bit of gag was featured in the official trailer of Batman v Superman, but let’s face it – this film is widely panned as having almost no humor in it. There’s even been speculation that DC has mandated that none of its new movies are to have humor in them (since disproven by Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman). It only makes sense that the trailer would pick the best gag in the entire movie for the marketing campaign.
Lex Luthor remarking on Clark Kent’s strong grip and telling Bruce Wayne his R&D “is up to all sorts of no good” is a great nod to the mythology of all three characters for those in the know. Unfortunately, Jesse Eisenberg’s hilarious meta-foreshadowing of DC’s flagship characters didn’t carry through into the rest of the film.
14 Suicide Squad: Harley Quinn Meets Katana (“Is that the scent of death?”)
What could be funnier than getting a whole bunch of criminals together to do good deeds? Well, a lot of things apparently. While Suicide Squad was met with great hope for a gut-busting good time, the overall vibe was less than fans had hoped for. But Margot Robie’s turn as the maniacal Harley Quinn delivered the goods, breaking up an oftentimes messy script with a breath of funny air. She gets most of the films’ best lines, including her scene introducing herself to the rest of the villains-turned-heroes.
Meeting with her murderous peer, the deadly ninja assassin Katana, Quinn asks her colleague admiringly, “Love your perfume. What is that, the scent of death?” It’s a great twisting around of tired gender stereotypes, basically announcing girls can be badass killers, and hilarious too. Fortunately, DCEU got the memo – looks like a Harley movie is on the way.
13 Superman III: Richard Pryor in a Pink Tablecloth Cape
The Christopher Reeve era of Superman movies started off good, but was hit with critical kryptonite after the fan-favorite second entry. Superman III is pretty lame, with more goofiness than you can shake a stick at.
The great comic Richard Pryor co-stars as a bumbling small-time computer crook named Gus Gorman. Ditching the winning formula of the previous films, the focus was on the legendary comedian, but the filmmakers just didn’t use him right.
One scene stands out, though: when he excitedly describes an encounter with Superman by donning a pink tablecloth and wearing it as a cape. Pryor runs through the scene the same way he performed characters from his stand-up performances. As he taps into his comedy routine roots, the audience can almost hear his famous “Mudbone” character being channeled.
Fighting through the silly concept, Pryor labors to add some flair to the film, and this time it works.
12 Jonah Hex: Killed by the Bell
There are so many shoot-em-up scenes in DC’s western outing, you would think there wouldn’t be room for chuckles, but Jonah Hex delivers one kill that will be ringing in your ears for a long time.
Coming to collect a bounty, Hex is double-crossed by a posse looking to deliver his corpse instead. Bursting into gunfire in explosive fashion, the sharpshooting hero takes on a whole ghost town full of cowboy baddies. It’s a cleverly choreographed scene with quick and smart action edits.
The funny moment comes when one of the final assassins he faces hides in a bell tower. Using the giant chimer to shield himself from our scarred hero’s barrage of bullets, the sniper seems unreachable. Hex figures a workaround when he shoots the bell itself, ringing the massive metal like a super-gong, smoking the bad guy from behind his cover and giving our hero a clear shot.
11 Batman & Robin: Mr. Freeze Watching Cold Miser
A lot of things changed after Tim Burton’s milestone run of Batman movies. For one thing, he left as director. Michael Keaton also flew the bat-coop from the series. And new director Joel Schumacher went from dark to goofy, much to audience disappointment.
The last film from Schumacher run, however, had some gem supervillain moments by way of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of Mr. Freeze. He has loads of icy one-liners in the movie, but the biggest belly laugh is when he dances to the classic Christmas special, The Year Without a Santa Clause.
Forcing his shivering minions to sing the “Cold Miser” number from the kids’ movie is a special kind of torture which chills childhood nostalgia to the bone. Well done, Arnie!
10 Swamp Thing: “Only When I Laugh”
Master of Horror Wes Craven – famous for creating A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Scream film series – took a shot at DC’s supernatural plant-man way back in 1982. Made on a low budget and lacking modern CGI effects, Swamp Thing nevertheless was a great experiment. It’s a bit of a goofy '80s sci-fi movie- the kind which helps inform modern works like Netflix’s Stranger Things.
It does have some really good moments, including one “laugh-till-you-cry” sequence in the swamp. Alice Cable, meeting the mutated Alex Holland as Swamp Thing for the first time, notices his arm missing, ripped off in a daring escape. She asks the silent question, “Does it hurt?” The cliché response, “Only when I laugh,” prompts the characters to whoop it up until the tragedy of the moment pushes out some tears.
It’s a balancing act that gets pulled off, providing a deeper laugh than your average throwaway line.
9 Batman Begins: Bruce Tells Everybody at the Party That They Suck
The Christopher Nolan reboot of the Batman franchise started off with a well-crafted tale driven by Christian Bale’s performance as the Caped Crusader. Delivering character, darkness and action, Batman Begins was a surprising and refreshing superhero movie that helped launch the whole DCEU.
Amidst all the gritty crime fighting, the movie gives us some good laughs on the way. One moment is when Bruce Wayne is confronted in his own home by the supposedly dead Ra’s al Ghul during a huge socialite party for his birthday. Knowing that his wealthy guests are in danger, he thinks fast to empty the room.
Bruce basically tells the whole room that they’re a bunch of butt-kissing, freeloading phonies and kicks them all out. It’s totally uncomfortable and a great send-up of hoity-toity elitist culture. Bruce playing the part of a drunken boor not only serves the story; it makes a wee bit of a subversive statement on class.
8 The Dark Knight: Joker Walking Away from the Exploding Hospital in a Nurse Uniform
Just about everybody loves the late Heath Ledger’s performance of Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker. His standout line, “Why so serious?” was such a game changer, it made it into the Urban Dictionary. It also almost presaged the DCEU’s current woes with humor in their films way back in 2005. Back then, the filmmakers knew better than to miss their chances with the Clown Prince of Crime.
Topping the many hilarious moments is the scene where The Joker, dressed in drag as a nurse, causally walks out of a hospital full of patients as he detonates the explosives he planted there (the production actually blew up a real building for the scene). His smeared makeup juxtaposed against his Florence Nightingale get-up and totally nonchalant look on his face is funny enough, but contrasted to the multiple murders he just committed at the press of a button, this scene is about as darkly comedic as superhero movies can get!
7 V for Vendetta: The Comedy Routine
Alan Moore’s unforgettable graphic novel about a totalitarian future for the United Kingdom isn’t really full of yucks. The whole brutal murderous police state vibe of V for Vendetta just doesn’t play well with a gag reel. If anything, the titular revenge-seeking anti-hero is simply loaded with heady philosophy and rigid discipline in meting out the punishment.
But it’s because he’s such a stiff that this one scene works. A fascist government-friendly TV host runs a satire of V. It’s a perverse moment where the audience is laughing at a foppish version of the Guy Fawkes’ mask-wearing protagonist, making him look ridiculous.
Just as jarring is watching home viewers laugh at the one man trying to overthrow their oppressors, totally falling for a classic Bread & Circuses distraction. It’s a nervous kind of laughing; the type we could use more of in superhero films.
6 Batman Returns: Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle Realize Each Other’s Secret Identities
You know that moment when you - the superhero - and your dance partner - the master thief - both realize your secret-identity flirting has spilled over from last night’s costumed coquetting. Don’t you just hate that? Having squared off earlier in the movie, good guy and bad gal unwittingly meet up as their alter egos, sparking up that same animal chemistry.
Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer brilliantly play the scene when Bruce and Selina realize they’re really Batman and Catwoman. The money line comes from the lady: “Oh my god. Does this mean we have to start fighting?” The film expertly captured the tension of the moment and the laugh was the perfect release.
There’s all sorts of dysfunctional relationships out there, but the very long and shifting on-again, off-again romance between the Cat and the Bat has been going on in the comics, cartoons, TV and movies for a long, long time, bringing new meaning to the term “It’s complicated!”
5 Watchmen: Rorschach Disposes of a Man with a Toilet
Believe it or not, the creepy guy who plays Rorschach in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen was once a teen heartthrob. But now he’s playing much darker, including Freddy Krueger and even a Dark Shadows character. Jackie Earle Haley's turn as the conspiracy-minded extremist from Alan Moore’s seminal 1986 comic series is a standout in the film.
Compelling as he is as a Rorschach, you don’t necessarily think of this ill-mannered killer as “funny.” There’s one scene, however, where one cannot help but laugh.
For an expert fighter who knows thousands of ways to end a human life, this moment may add up to 1001. During a prison riot where our hero is on the wrong side of the bars, an old crime boss enemy shows up with some goons to settle the score. Not to spoil all the kills, but one of the henchmen gets into his cell and Rorschach judo-moves him into cracking his skull on the edge of the commode’s seat, adding insult to injury by using electrified toilet water to finish him off.
“Never disposed of sewage with a toilet before,” he says blithely. And one dark chuckle flushes its way into cinematic history.
4 Green Lantern: Hotwheels Helicopter Hijinks
Everybody loves to hate the Green Lantern movie. For some reason, DCEU just couldn’t pull it off. Was it too ridiculous? Was it too boring? Was the on-screen romance turned real-world marriage too much to take? Those are all possible.
One choice the filmmakers made was pure awesomeness, though, but movie-goers just might not have been ready for it. During a party scene, an approaching helicopter spins out of control and starts to crash. How does GL save the day? Why, by willing a Hotwheels car and track with his ring, of course! It’s a moment of pure Silver Age comic book fun.
Setting the chopper on a “car” and creating the track so it can ride out the energy of the crash, this is exactly the type of move that readers of the comics saw when he appeared in the 1959 reboot of the Golden Age character. Maybe 21st century audiences just aren’t into that kind of goofiness anymore.
3 Superman II: Lex Luthor Is Relieved Superman Has His Powers Back
This one is the crown jewel of the Christopher Reeve Superman era. It’s got tough Kryptonian supervillains, it’s got a major crossroads for Clark Kent, and it’s got a lot of great humor in it. It also has the impeccable performance of Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor.
Hackman’s Lex is a double-dealing greed head who manipulates people into fulfilling his dreams of owning real estate – as in he wants to rule Australia. So he makes a deal with General Zod and his murderous colleagues to defeat Superman. Of course, once he’s no longer of any use to them, Zod orders his oafish lackey Non to kill Luthor. At that moment, Superman shows up to save his old enemy from an untimely end.
Lex’s expression of relief is priceless: “Superman, thank god.” Zod looks at him incredulously. Luthor realizes his mistake, changes his expression, points at our hero and exclaims, “I mean – get him!” It’s perfect comic timing from one of the great actors of his generation, providing the perfect light-hearted springboard for the epic super-battle that immediately follows.
2 Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman Sees Steve Trevor Naked
Just as her character does in the movie, DCEU gives fans hope with the debut of Wonder Woman. It’s really got everything we want in a superhero movie. Heart, character, action, and plenty of laughs. And in one very uncomfortable scene, it’s even got a welcome reversal of gender roles as the man in the movie is vulnerable to the woman rather than the other way around.
Recovering from the stress of the battle on Themyscira, Steve Trevor is taking a bath. Of course, the naïve Diana sees no issue walking in on him when he’s naked as a jaybird and asking him some uncomfortable questions about his anatomy. After more than few uncomfortable exchanges, including the possibility that Trevor is overstating his manhood, the audience is left rolling in the aisles at the mortification of this war-weary soldier caught with his junk out.
Possibly more horrifying than fictitious nudity is the behind-the-scenes fact that actor Chris Pine was not really naked for the scene but actually wearing red Speedos. Hopefully, those set photos will never be released.
1 Batman (1966): Batman Avoids Ditching a Bomb on a Bunch of Ducks
Thank you, Adam West for creating the funniest and funnest Batman ever (may you rest in peace, old chum). The '60s TV show was pure camp, loaded up with over-the-top villains, hilarious overacting and possibly the weirdest death-traps ever caught on film.
Made as a follow-up to the first season of the show, the Batman movie teamed up the caped crusader’s four toughest villains against him. Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman all came aboard to cross swords with the Dynamic Duo. There are so many dopey scenes in the movie that it’s almost a full-blown comedy. But one scene takes the bat-cake.
Our villains have left a cartoonish, over-sized bowling ball-shaped bomb complete with long-burning fuse to blow up a dock. Batman spots it and tries to dispose of it, only to be thwarted at every turn by innocent bystanders – tourists, a lady with a baby carriage, and even a Salvation Army band.
Just when Batman’s found a good place to throw it into the ocean, he finds a bunch of wading ducks in his way. Ever the good Samaritan, he spares those poor aquatic waterfowl as well, lamenting, “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” The whole scene is unforgettable hilarity.
What DC movie scenes cracked you up the most? Let us know in the comments!