Deathstroke debuted in New Teen Titans in 1980, and ever since then, he’s made a habit of striking fear into the hearts of heroes.
Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke the Terminator, was introduced as a hired gun with his own brand of honor. He wasn’t even finishing out his own contract during his first story arc, but one taken on by his son.
Over time, he’s been a mercenary, an assassin on a quest for vengeance, a pirate, and even a government agent. The comics have in turn fleshed out his backstory and plopped him into new universes to explore it all over again. Those same ideas translated to other mediums as well.
Versions of Deathstroke have since appeared in cartoons, movies, television shows, and video games, though not all of them have lived up to the comic book hype. Comic book fans love Deathstroke because he can mow down heroes without a second thought, but he also knows when to put a vendetta on pause to come come back for more. His plans are always personal. His plans are always nearly flawless. That hasn’t always been the case outside of the page.
We’ve gathered the many variations of the villain to provide you with Every Adaptation of Deathstroke, Ranked Worst To Best. What you won’t find is the newest version of the character with Joe Manganiello bringing him to the big screen for the DC Extended Universe. Why? Because we haven’t seen just what he can do yet.
15 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
With the popularity of Deathstroke in the comics, a lot of DC properties on the screen wanted to use the character. Some, like Lois & Clark in the 90s, did very little to stay true to him though.
When Dean Cain was Superman, he ran into an assassin codenamed Deathstroke played by Antonio Sabato Jr. This version of the character had both eyes, didn’t sport any orange, and had a superpower! He was a far cry from the comic book character people knew.
Deathstroke killed his targets, not with sharpshooting or other weapons-based skills, but by inducing heart attacks. He could actually manipulate the iron in people’s blood thanks to some magnetic abilities. The abilities came from a lab accident.
Needless to say, he ranks last because he’s Deathstroke in name only.
14 Justice League Vs. Bizarro League
Part of the Lego DC Comics Superheroes series of movies, Deathstroke features only briefly in Justice League vs. Bizarro League, which is part of the reason this version of him ranks so low.
The movie introduces the Bizarro versions of the Justice League, which is where the bulk of the story takes place, but in the first half of the story, Deathstroke appears as part of another villain’s plan. He’s one of the villains, along with Penguin and Captain Cold, who are controlled by Gorilla Grodd.
Deathstroke spends his time in the movie doing Grodd’s dirty work and stealing bananas. He’s also captured by Plastic Man once the control is halted, so he doesn’t make much of an impression outside of being a recognizable villain.
13 Young Justice
Deathstroke has been a hired gun and a supervillain out on his own, but for Young Justice, he appeared in six episodes as little more than a lackey for a larger group of villains.
Deathstroke retained many of his fighting skills from his comic book history, able to hold his own even against the many telepathic and telekinetic abilities of Miss Martian, but his time on the series was spent attempting to claw his way to the top.
Even when he was warned by the villain that held his place as a guard for the Light before him, Deathstroke said he aimed for a “seat at the table.”
In his six episodes, audiences never saw Deathstroke get that seat he wanted. Instead, he was taken out as a threat by Aqualad and Miss Martian impersonated him. Maybe we’ll see more of him in the eventual season three.
12 Justice League: Gotham City Breakout
Another in the Lego DC Superheroes movie series, the bulk of Justice League: Gotham City Breakout actually involves Robin teaching members of the League how to deal with Batman’s rogues after an escape from Arkham. Deathstroke is part of a very different story.
Deathstroke appears as a disgruntled former student of the same martial arts master as Batman. The two studied under Madame Mantis, but Deathstroke quit when she wouldn’t teach him the “forbidden move.” Batman, Batgirl, and Nightwing encounter him while on a trip to visit Madame Mantis for Batman’s birthday.
Of course, Deathstroke isn’t the real villain of the Bat-family’s story as they end up facing off against Bane with his help. Again, Deathstroke seemed to be an after thought for the Lego films, only brought in because he was a recognizable villain.
11 Son of Batman
The animated film Son of Batman started to bring Deathstroke in the right direction. He was a formidable opponent and even a member of the League of Assassins!
Deathstroke takes his leadership role here as he stages a coup, toppling Ra’s al Ghul from the top of the League and executing him. In this version of the character’s story, it’s Batman sidekick Damien Wayne who stabs Deathstroke through the eye, but that doesn’t keep him down.
Deathstroke’s plan involves kidnapping Talia al Ghul and splicing the genes of League members to give them other abilities. This version of Deathstroke wants power, and he comes close to getting it.
Ultimately, it’s Damien who gets to defeat Deathstroke, though he does return in another animated movie in the same continuity.
10 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
DC’s animated world took on the idea of the multiverse by introducing audiences to a whole new version of Deathstroke in another continuity. This one never became an assassin at all.
Instead, Slade Wilson, with his military background, went into politics. He became the president of the United States, though he wasn’t exactly willing to go up against powerful villains, not wanting to put his family in danger. He became willing to take a stand when he was personally affected - his daughter was almost murdered.
In this version, Slade not only aligns himself with the Justice League, but goes up against the Crime Syndicate and charges into battle. It’s Slade who leads the military on the offensive, not content to stay back as a policymaker or strategist.
It’s one adaptation where we get to see him as a good guy.
9 Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom
Deathstroke doesn’t feature a lot in this particular Lego DC Comics Superheroes movie, but what he’s there for is just so Deathstroke that he can’t be at the bottom of the list.
Lex Luthor, Sinestro, and Black Manta decide to form their own team, dubbing it the Legion of Doom. Rather than just call in favors from other villains, they attempt to audition recruits.
They make their recruits run an obstacle course, but Deathstroke is too good for an obstacle course. Instead of running it, he just destroys it. It seems right for the villain who can usually shoot or cut his way out of anything.
While Sinestro and Black Manta see the forward thinking from Deathstroke and want him to lead, Lex Luthor disqualifies him, making his time in the movie short, but memorable.
A more militaristic take on the comic book villain, Smallville didn’t make Slade Wilson a masked super villain, but instead, a high ranking general.
Slade wasn’t one of the good guys just because he was in uniform though. Instead, he was suspected of war crimes and was a supporter of the Vigilante Registration Act when he was introduced in the show’s tenth season. That put him directly at odds with the main characters.
He does eventually lose an eye and wind up with his trademark eye patch. He also aligns himself with Darkseid, kills one of the heroes, and ends up sealed in the Phantom Zone by Clark Kent, so he was certainly living up to the comic book hype during his short time on the show.
7 Batman: Arkham
It’s not just movies and TV that feature adaptations of Deathstroke. The Batman: Arkham series of video games puts their own spin on the Batman franchise instead of being rooted in one particular movie or comic.
In the case of the Arkham games, players are given snapshots at periods in Deathstroke’s life just as they are Batman’s. He’s a fierce opponent of Batman’s in the early days of his vigilantism, and even a playable character. Multiple games feature Deathstroke as a hitman hired to kill Batman, but he also moves up in the world.
By Arkham Knight, it’s Deathstroke who replaces the title character as the one leading the militia against Batman. He’s Scarecrow’s right-hand man, and even uses a tank to go up against the hero. Though he’s caught in the end, this is a Deathstroke who knows how to use his strengths to his advantage.
6 Beware The Batman
Beware The Batman only lasted one season, but Deathstroke was a major player in its final batch of episodes. His origin story was slightly altered to make his pursuit of Batman more personal.
Sade Wilson did have a military background, but he also had background working for the CIA under the tutelage of Alfred Pennyworth.
It was Alfred who cost Slade his job (twice, in fact), and Slade set out for revenge. He assumed a new identity in Gotham and used it to learn how the city worked and to make himself a presence in Bruce Wayne’s life.
Deathstroke set out to defeat Alfred’s new “son” in Bruce Wayne, and he came very close. Not only was he able to rig the Batcave with explosives, kidnap Alfred, and nearly defeat Batman, but he knew all about his secret identity.
In the end, his memory was altered, saving Bruce’s secret.
5 Injustice: Gods Among Us
The Injustice video game had a prequel comic book series that fleshed out a whole new world - one where Superman and his Regime were the bad guys. That didn’t exactly make Deathstroke a hero, but he came pretty close.
In this version of the DC universe, Deathstroke begins the story as a retired assassin. After all, with the Regime in charge, there’s nothing for him to do. Recruited by Lex Luthor and Batman to help them get doppelgangers from another world to help them defeat Superman, Deathstroke is caught in the act and tortured by Cyborg and Raven.
Eventually, Deathstroke joins the Insurgency and uses his skills to fight back. In the end, he’s able to become an assassin again, hunting down members of the Regime who survive the big fight.
4 Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
Inspired by one of the best known comic book events, heroes and villains find themselves in completely new roles when Flash changes the timeline. Deathstroke isn’t a former military assassin here. Instead, he’s a sort of pirate.
This timeline features a world at war as the Atlanteans and Amazons have come into conflict, started as a result of an affair between Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Deathstroke’s time in the movie is spent as Captain of The Ravager while he tracks Aquaman’s secret weapon.
When his ship is taken over by Atlantean forces, Deathstrokes holds his own. He’s able to fight back much longer than the average man, but he’s no match for optic blasts from Black Manta. At least he goes out like a hero.
3 Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Another adaptation of one particular comic book storyline, The Judas Contract occurs after Son of Batman in the animated continuity. The story provides a fairly faithful adaptation of one of the arcs that made fans love Deathstroke.
Deathstroke is again a hired gun in this story, recruited by Brother Blood to deliver the Teen Titans. Of course, Deathstroke probably would have done the job for free to get back at Damien for taking his eye and defeating him.
Deathstroke plants Terra in the group, a girl he rescued from a violent homelife, and uses her to get information. It allows him to target the team in very specific ways - like finding Beast Boy at a convention and Blue Beetle at a soup kitchen.
Eventually, his zeal for getting back at the Titans causes him to cut Terra loose, and her to turn on him, bringing about some poetic justice.
Narrowly missing the top spot is the live-action version of Deathstroke fans know from Arrow and its sister series.
Manu Bennett brought Slade Wilson to life in a series of flashbacks in the first season of Arrow. It’s Slade who taught Oliver Queen how to become a superhero. It was also Slade who was driven insane by a fancy drug that saved his life and gave him super strength, turning him into a villain named Deathstroke.
Cured and redeemed since then, he also become a counselor of sorts for Oliver Queen. He’s still got deadly skills, but he recognizes the importance of being more than a tough guy in a mask, making him one of the most fleshed out versions of the character.
Audiences also got a glimpse of his son in one Legends of Tomorrow possible timeline as he carried out the legacy of his father in 2046.
1 Teen Titans
He might not have been allowed the name Deathstroke in the animated series, but Slade, voiced by Ron Perlman, is far and away many fans’ favorite adaptation of the character for the screen.
Teen Titans, because it was aimed at kids, used Slade Wilson and no codename involving the word “death,” though he still sported his signature costume. Here, he wasn’t a straight-up assassin, but instead a criminal mastermind who terrorized the Teen Titans as a recurring villain.
Slade got other villains to do his dirty work for him, keeping himself out of harm’s way, and even had a spy in the ranks of the Titans.
That is, until his former protege Terra killed him and he returned to the series working for Trigon, a demon and Raven’s father. Eventually, he betrayed Trigon as the demon set out to conquer Earth and helped his former enemies take him down.
When it comes to ranking Deathstrokes, how did we do? Were we way off the mark? Let us know which adaptation of Deathstroke deserves the top spot in the comments!
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