How does Aquaman compare to the rest of the DCEU? Find out in our ranking of all the DC Extended Universe movies so far, from 2013 to 2018!
The DCEU kicked off with 2013's Man of Steel, with this year's Aquaman is the sixth installment in the blockbuster franchise. It's fair to say a lot has changed in that time. The early DCEU was heavily influenced by auteur director Zack Snyder, but as the franchise continued Warner Bros. began to move away from Snyder's plans. Where DC had started off with major and well-known heroes like Superman and Batman, they're now celebrating heroes who've never been seen before on the big screen; last year's Wonder Woman was a gigantic success, and box office tracking for Aquaman is positive. Stylistically, there's a marked contrast between these first films and the recent blockbuster successes, largely because the studio pivoted in response to disappointing critical and popular response. That makes it very interesting to compare and contrast these six different movies.
So how would we rank the DCEU movies to date? Here, we'll run through every film in this franchise so far, ranking them from worst to best. Every movie will be critically assessed, with strengths and weaknesses carefully examined to justify its placement.
6. Justice League
When Warner Bros. first announced Justice League, they intended it to be the triumphant culmination of everything the DCEU had been working towards since 2013. Unfortunately, it all went badly wrong; director Zack Snyder left partway through production, with Joss Whedon taking over and conducting a massive amount of additional photography. The result is a Frankenstein's Monster of a film that's true to neither Snyder nor Whedon, and fails to complete the plotlines seeded in previous movies. Henry Cavill's CGI-replaced mustache is infamous, but the whole movie suffers from the enforced changes.
Whereas previous DCEU movies Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were essentially social parables told through the lens of a superhero film, Justice League plays it straight - and as a result, feels very much lacking when compared to its predecessors. It's telling that, over a year after Justice League's release, the only conversation about it is still about whether or not the legendary Snyder Cut still exists. Viewers were utterly disappointed by the blockbuster, and still like to imagine there's a version out there that is actually good.
5. Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice
The second film in Zack Snyder's loose trilogy of DC movies, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice marks the point at which the DCEU truly became divisive. Batman v Superman was scorned by critics, but is viewed as a cult classic by fans of Snyder's cinematographic style. The difference in opinions is best exemplified by the film's scores on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes; it has a Critic Score of just 27 percent against an Audience Score of 63 percent.
Few would deny that Batman v Superman has problems, though; incredibly, it even fails to deliver on the promised battle between DC's two iconic heroes. The fight is set up, but ends with remarkable speed and in a way that frankly feels as though it comes out of the left-field (Martha remains infamous). It then pivots into an entirely different movie, one that makes the bold but questionable decision to kill Superman.
It's possible to be too critical of Batman v Superman, though. Its greatest strength is undeniably the remarkable depth of imagery and symbolism woven into the film by Snyder, with Superman portrayed as a complex and conflicted Christ-figure set against a contemporary backdrop. The introduction of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is one of the high points, with Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer creating an iconic and unforgettable score for the scene.
Related: In Defence of Batman v Superman
4. Suicide Squad
Before Justice League, Suicide Squad was another DCEU film fundamentally altered once production had wrapped. In early 2016, Warner Bros. grew concerned that the tone of David Ayer's film didn't match with the inspired marketing campaign, with the disappointing box office performance of Batman v Superman reportedly leading them to change strategy. In the end, the final theatrical cut was essentially two different versions - one from the director, one a trailer house - stitched together during post-production and feeling more than a little unfinished. The introductory sequence presents the team's backstory in a series of flashbacks, interspersed with the kind of fun graphics that featured in the trailers. Unfortunately, and rather jarringly, those graphics are then ditched completely for the rest of Suicide Squad. To give a sense of just how disjointed this movie really is, there are no less than two scenes in a row in which Viola Davis' Amanda Waller explains why the world needs Suicide Squad and just what the team is supposed to be about.
As choppily edited as Suicide Squad may be, it has some inspired casting. The real stars are Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn and Davis' aforementioned Waller, both of whom inhabit their roles perfectly. Indeed, it's telling that Warner Bros. has moved Harley Quinn to the forefront of their plans for the future, with the troubled antihero leading Birds of Prey.
Page 2 of 2: The Top Three Films In The DCEU
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020