For more than ten years now, DC Comics has been bringing several of its iconic storylines from page to screen with animated films while also creating original stories. The DC Animated Universe franchise has been delivering film after film centered on various heroes whether it’s the Justice League, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, or Teen Titans. Some of them have been connected to one another while some were standalone. Currently, there is a connected universe of film while every once in a while we do get a movie that is in its own continuity. Several of these films have been executed with grace while some have been misses.
With there being so many of them, each film has had its respective reception by fans and critics. However, there are several of them that have been overlooked while some of these films have gotten way too much attention. With that said, these are the five DCAU films that are way underrated as well as five ones that are overrated.
10 Overrated: Superman Vs the Elite
In 2012, fans were given another Superman film that adapted the massive “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, & the American Way?” storyline. Titled Superman Vs. the Elite, the story tackles the Man of Steel (George Newbern) having to deal with the group known as the Elite with Manchester Black (Robin Atkin Downes) and others butting heads with the hero. It’s definitely one of the more gruesome Superman stories that have been brought to life from the comics to media. What is a massive distraction with this film is its animation style that, despite a big story, doesn’t fit. That is also a comment on how the storyline was drawn in the comics.
9 Underrated: Justice League: The New Frontier
One of the earliest films that DCAU delivered was Justice League: The New Frontier based on the comic of the same name. Released in 2008, the film follows the iconic DC team in their Golden Age versions with the story being set in the 1950s. In the storyline, the Justice League takes on this evil entity known as the Centre.
Given that it was released over ten years ago, it doesn’t get the attention it should be getting. From its animation style that gave viewers something different from other versions of the Justice League to the brilliant cast that was put together, The New Frontier doesn’t get the recognition that it truly deserves.
8 Overrated: Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
In 2009, Green Lantern: First Flight came out as it focused on Hal Jordan (Christopher Meloni) becoming the iconic hero. Rather than continue from this story, a second Green Lantern film was released in 2011 titled Green Lantern: Emerald Knights with Nathan Fillion voicing the character. While his casting as Hal became one of the best voice castings of all time, it doesn’t help the problems the film faces. The movie focuses on telling the stories of other Lanterns which is a big problem. Once you follow flashback after flashback, it becomes insanely easy losing interest in the movie as you’re watching it. It was an odd choice for a Green Lantern film rather than do a sequel to First Flight.
7 Underrated: Batman: Year One
The Dark Knight has, without a doubt, had the most animated films out of any DC hero thus far. One of them was Batman: Year One, an adaptation of Frank Miller’s iconic book of the same name, as we follow the Caped Crusader’s beginning as Gotham’s hero. Released in 2011, fans got to see the book get beautifully brought to life with another stellar cast of actors being selected to voice these characters.
It’s probably this film that inspired a lot of fans to want Bryan Cranston to actually play James Gordon in a live-action Batman film. It also marked as Ben McKenzie’s first entry into the Batman universe before taking on the role of a young Gordon in FOX’s Gotham. This is one of the better Batman films that we got in the DCAU and one that gets overlooked easily.
6 Overrated: Batman: Assault on Arkham
Initially, it was a big deal when it was revealed in 2013 at San Diego Comic-Con that a Batman film set in the world of the Arkham games was happening. Given the massive success of those games, who wouldn’t want to see a film follow that universe? In the summer of 2014, Batman: Assault on Arkham was released featuring Kevin Conroy back as the Dark Knight and the collection of several big villains. But this was more of a Suicide Squad film in disguise rather than be a proper Batman: Arkham film. It becomes a big problem when Batman is in a supporting role in his own film.
5 Underrated: Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Superman and Batman had two phenomenal team-up films in the DCAU’s early years. Following the incredible Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, a standalone sequel titled Superman/Batman: Apocalypse came out in 2010. Adapting “The Supergirl from Krypton” comic arc, we follow the World’s Finest as Clark’s cousin Kara a.k.a. Supergirl enters the Man of Steel’s life.
Whenever you get Conroy and Tim Daly back together as these two characters, it’s always a blast. Unlike Public Enemies, Apocalypse didn’t have the same kind of following. Some weren’t thrilled that it was more of a Supergirl story than a World’s Finest one with others criticizing not getting the same animation style as in Public Enemies.
4 Overrated: Batman: Hush
One of the DCAU films we got this year was another Batman film in the form of Batman: Hush, based on Jeph Loeb’s comic of the same name. Set in the ongoing universe, the Caped Crusader (Jason O’Mara) has to deal with a new mysterious villain that seems to know all of Bruce’s secrets. However, the film does one massive change from the book by changing the identity of Hush all together. Rather than have Thomas Elliot be the man underneath the bandages, just like in the comics, the Riddler adapts the mantle. For anyone who never read the book probably doesn’t care/know that this was a big change when seeing this film. It takes away the impact that the comic had with the Hush character because of how connected it becomes for Bruce.
3 Underrated: Wonder Woman
The fourth film to be released from the DCAU was in 2009 when DC’s most iconic heroine got her own film: Wonder Woman. Keri Russell voices Diana Prince whose origin story is told of how she became the icon that she is today. With the great animation that was done to the stellar cast that it had, it’s frustrating how this film has been forgotten ten years later. It’s more bothersome how a sequel never got to happen as it was rare to get any Wonder Woman led projects at that time.
2 Overrated: Justice League: War
Following Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the DCAU took a similar direction to what DC had done in the comics. They were committing to an ongoing universe of films known as DC Animated Movie Universe. Because of that, Justice League: War was an adaptation of Geoff Johns’ Justice League: Origin story that re-introduces the Justice League as they work together for the first time in this continuity. Despite appreciating the effort, this doesn’t hold up to the original DCAU films. The animation is mostly solid but doesn’t pop in the same as some of the other big films had. The cast for the main heroes was almost a mixed bag with some fitting their roles while others didn’t.
1 Underrated: Superman: Unbound
One of the better Superman animated films that sort of came and went was Superman: Unbound. Adapting Geoff Johns’ “Superman: Brainiac” arc, the film follows the Last Son (Matt Bomer) and Daughter (Molly Quinn) of Krypton as they take on the villainous Brainiac (John Noble.) This would be the last time we got a Superman film from DCAU until they did the two-part adaptation of The Death of Superman and The Reign of Supermen from 2018-2019. The cast for this film along with the powerful animation style and story makes us wonder why this film isn’t appreciated more.