Now that Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse are out of the way, all eyes are on Suicide Squad. It might not have been the most high profile blockbuster entering the summer, but it’s generating more buzz than anything else at this point.
As a completely new type of comic book movie, Suicide Squad has the potential to be a unique experience for most audiences. There are some characters we’ve seen in previous generations of DC movies, some returning DCEU characters, and some DCEU connective tissue, but many of the characters and locations getting the spotlight have never seen this kind of prominence on the big screen. Even the concept of the movie - a superhero movie without heroes - is something new to the genre.
Most comic book movies get compared to each other. Whether it’s the larger comparisons of DC to Marvel, or the comparisons between installments of the same brand. When Captain America: Civil War came out, many people contrasted it against previous Avengers installments, and Batman V Superman was understandably compared to the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. While the same will be true for Suicide Squad, most early looks at the movie suggest the comparisons will be a little broader.
In addition to other comic book movies, the tone and premise of Suicide Squad hearkens back to a lot of movies that weren’t inspired by comics. If you’re interested in preparing for Suicide Squad by checking out movies that served as inspiration, or just films with similar concepts, look no father. Here’s 16 Movies You Need to Watch Before Suicide Squad.
16 Man of Steel
As the first movie of the DCEU, Man of Steel introduces mankind to the Superman (Henry Cavill). Starting with his birth on Krypton, the movie tells the story of how Kal-El discovers his powers, learns of his heritage, and defends the world against invasion from General Zod (Michael Shannon). Introducing Superman into this grounded universe shows just how much his arrival challenges the truths humanity had previously accepted, and establishes the suspicion the people of Earth feel when his power is revealed, especially since his introduction coincides with the destruction of much of Metropolis.
The US Government was clearly made uncomfortable by Superman’s presence at the end of Man of Steel, and General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) isn’t sure if he can trust him. That attitude likely doesn’t stop with him. The early Suicide Squad trailers even reference the necessity for having some sort of a deterrence to a threat like the potential threat of Superman, and while it’s doubtful that the whole of the Suicide Squad could hold a candle to the power of the Man of Steel, it makes sense that the Government would feel the need to assemble a team with special abilities.
15 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice [Ultimate Edition]
Government officials weren’t the only ones suspicious of Superman’s arrival. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) witnessed the lethal potential of the Kryptonians first hand, and vowed that he would bring an end to the perceived alien threat that is Kal-El. Stealing kryptonite from Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), Batman takes the fight to Superman, seeking to destroy him. But before Batman is able to see his plan through to its fatal conclusion, he discovers an unexpected common ground with his enemy and teams up with the Man of Steel to thwart Luthor’s master plan, at the cost of Superman’s life.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice brings a lot to the table, and builds very well upon what Man of Steel started. In addition to Superman’s arrival, we now see even more extraordinary people coming out of the shadows. Batman has been operating in Gotham for years, but we also have Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa), who have left mankind behind, as well as Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), who have only recently gained their abilities.
It would stand to reason that there are even more extra-ordinary people, as shown by Lex Luthor’s metahuman thesis, and it’s not likely all of them are good. In fact, some are so bad that Amanda Waller “put them in a hole and threw away the hole.” Batman V Superman is a great lead-in to Suicide Squad, especially the Ultimate Edition where it’s revealed that Lex Luthor will be transferred to Arkham in Gotham.
14 Guardians of the Galaxy
When Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) comes into the possession of an ancient orb, he finds himself and his band of outlaws pursued across the galaxy by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and his army.
It may sound absurd in hindsight, but Guardians of the Galaxy was originally considered a major gamble by Marvel Studios. It didn’t have any major recognizable characters, it was fairly removed from the rest of the action in the MCU, and the use of music, colors, sci-fi setting, and focus on anti-heroes just seemed very tonally different from where most other CBMs were at the time. Needless to say, GotG was a runaway hit, and remains near the top of many people’s favorite MCU films.
On one hand, comparing Suicide Squad to Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t fair, because the films are truly very different animals. Even so, they both occupy a sort of off the wall palate cleanser spot in their respective shared universes. Suicide Squad also has one of the most recognizable characters in the history of comics with the joker, but the movie’s colorful ad campaign and unique music tastes will no doubt get compared by many come August.
13 The Expendables
The Expendables brings together all the greatest action movie actors to form a super-group of mercenaries with massive muscles. When Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) hires Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of mercenaries to take out a South American dictator, Barney accepts. Upon arriving and meeting their local contact, Sandra (Giselle Itié), they run into an ambush, only to find an ex-CIA agent is backing the dictator. Aborting the mission, Barney goes back to the United States to regroup and bring the full brunt of his team of Expendables down to save Sandra.
Presenting another group of anti-heroes, the Expandables is a testosterone-fueled action romp of typical 80’s action movie fare. While Suicide Squad is more than likely aiming to to deliver its story with a little more nuance, the nature of the squad is sort of like an expendable group of DC villains, all the way down to the team name.
12 The Dark Knight
When a new criminal calling himself the Joker (Heath Ledger) comes to Gotham and begins playing games with Batman (Christian Bale) and the Gotham City Police Department, the Caped Crusader finds himself convicted over what it truly means to be a hero.
The Dark Knight is considered by most fans to be the best Batman movie ever, if not the best comic book movie ever. With a crown jewel of Heath Ledger’s joker performance, it will be some time before another film will be able to unseat Christopher Nolan’s penultimate Batman episode.
Due to the unfortunate death of Heath Ledger after his bout as one of the most show stealing performances in comic book movie history, many fans cried foul when it was announced that Joker would be back on the big screen again so soon. Finding out he would be played by Jared Leto, and seeing images of the new look - tattoos and all - didn’t do much to ease their fears.
Nonetheless, news of Leto’s commitment to the role, and peaks at his character through multiple trailers have assuaged many fans’ fears as they have begun to warm up to this new version. Even so, all eyes will be on Leto, and nearly every review will be comparing him to Ledger’s Joker.
11 Batman (1989)
Batman covers the early days of the Dark Knight (Michael Keaton) as his presence is discovered in the city of Gotham, and covers his first encounter with a Supervillain - The Joker (Jack Nicholson).
As one of the first superhero blockbusters, Batman helped pave the way for what the genre is today. Batman was also one of the first live action CBMs go give an air of seriousness to the property, showing that comic-books aren't exclusively silly. Michael Keaton’s Batman/Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson’s Joker are both iconic characters, and still regularly pop up in conversations about superhero casting.
While most people prefer Ledger’s Joker, Nicholson’s portrayal still serves as a benchmark for character performances. For every Ledger comparison Leto gets, Nicholson’s name won’t be far behind. Few characters in the history of film have been portrayed by such a talented succession of actors, with one of the closest sources of competition being Batman - who’s also going to be in Suicide Squad.
10 The Dirty Dozen
In preparation for the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the United States Army wants to mount a an attack on a chateau full of Nazi officers in German occupied France. Due to the high reward, but low chance of survival, the Major in charge of the mission is assigned 12 hardened convicts to train for the mission - promising them full pardons if they successfully complete their objectives and survive to tell the tale.
Sound familiar? It should. The Dirty Dozen is one of Suicide Squad creator John Ostrander’s main influences when he started writing Suicide Squad comics. Director David Ayer has made the same comparison with the movie, saying that Suicide Squad is “a Dirty Dozen with supervillains.”
While the Suicide Squad team might not be comprised of 12 characters, and there’s not a clown or human crocodile in Dozen, the clear inspiration and homage to the classic WWII film make it a must see for anyone waiting to see Suicide Squad.
9 Oceans 11
Immediately after his release from prison, Daniel Ocean (George Clooney) seeks out revenge against a Vegas casino owner that stole his wife, Tess (Julia Roberts). Recruiting a team of master thieves comprised mostly of old friends, Danny plans one of the most difficult heists in history.
Oceans 11 is a great ensemble movie that keeps you rooting for the villains every minute. The Vegas setting and star studded cast also make for one of the best ensemble movies that sets the bar for the genre.
Sure, everyone is clean cut, and the 12 man team is a little bigger, but it still has a lot in common with Suicide Squad. Both movies focus on anti-heroes, and both movies feature great ensemble performances. David Ayer is really talented when it comes to getting good performances from his ensembles, so hopefully he’s able to achieve something similar to what Steven Soderbergh did with Oceans 11.
In the waning days of World War II, an American tank crew is sent on a potentially one-way mission to protect a critical supply depot from an unknown number of German infantry. Lead by the seasoned Don 'Wardaddy' Collier (Brad Pitt), the crew’s uncompromising pursuit of the Nazis is an exemplary tale of heroism.
Fury is a great example of the kind of authenticity David Ayer brings to his movies, and the quality of performance he gets out of his cast. Fury is a truly brutal film, yet it actually is able to leverage that brutality to make a coherent statement about humanity.
With such a strong cast for Suicide Squad, and news about the ways many cast members prepared for their roles (especially Jared Leto), and stories about Ayer having the actors fight off screen for “bonding” - similar to a tactic he used during the filming of Fury - Suicide Squad has the potential to be a breakout film.
7 Con Air
After serving 7 years in a federal prison for involuntary manslaughter, Cameron Poe (Nicholas Cage), a heavily decorated Army Ranger, is finally eligible for parole. He just has to go through one more prisoner transfer before he can see his family again. Unfortunately, that transfer is in the form of a plane full of some of the most hardened criminals in the world. Hardened criminals that hijack a prison plane.
Sure, the Joker and Killer Croc aren’t in Con Air, but Steve Buscemi’s Garland 'The Marietta Mangler' Greene and Ving Rhames’s Diamond Dog would probably fill those roles if this movie took place in the DCEU. Suicide Squad is going to feature both Belle Reve Penitentiary and Arkham Asylum, meaning we’re about to see some of the baddest of the bad criminals and prisoners of the DC universe. The only question now is how long it takes for Nicholas Cage to accept a role as a DC character...
6 The Rock
When a renegade Army General takes over Alcatraz, holding tourists hostage and threatening to unleash chemical weapons on San Francisco, the FBI turns to chemist Stanley Goodspeed (Nicholas Cage), and the notorious criminal John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery) to sneak into Alcatraz and render the weapons inert.
Largely considered one of Michael Bay’s best movies, The Rock is a furious piece of action set pieces and fast paced editing with excellent interplay between Cage and Connery. While Bay is definitely a far more bombastic director than David Ayer, The Rock is one of the rare examples where he actually shows a little restraint (but not much).
The Rock doesn’t present us with a large cast or team the size of Suicide Squad’s, but Sean Connery sure does qualify as one of the worst heroes ever, and would make a fitting addition to Amanda Waller’s Task Force X.
5 Fast and Furious 6
After the events of Fast 5, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), and their “family” of criminals/anti-heroes are living large, but their record won’t allow them back into the United States. Former rival, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), tracks them down to offer them a deal: help stop the mercenary crew Hobbs has been tracking, and they’ll all get full pardons.
While the Fast and Furious series has transformed into a far cry from the original movie David Ayer wrote in 2001, it would seem fairly fortuitous that the franchise would find itself telling a story not that dissimilar from Suicide Squad: wanted criminals are offered a dangerous opportunity to commute their sentence.
Ayer has already proven himself an aficionado with his grasp of the criminal world, and his inspirations for much of Suicide Squad - especially the Joker’s influences - seem to hearken back to that world. In telling a story without heroes, not many directors are better equipped than Ayer.
4 The Usual Suspects
Who is Keyser Soze? The Usual Suspects is a classic ensemble crime movie that tells the story of a group of criminals that meet at a police lineup. As told by Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) through flashbacks, The Usual Suspects is a classic whodunnit about a group of people who all owe favors to the same man - Keyser Soze.
Written by Christopher McQuarrie, The Usual Suspects is a unique criminal ensemble movie full of characters with distinct personality. The mysterious story unfolds, appropriately giving each character his moment, showing that ensemble films don’t have to be good at the expense of individual character moments.
Likewise, Suicide Squad is full of unique fan favorite characters, and audiences are going to want to see each character shine through. Fortunately, most trailers and marketing for Suicide Squad are putting a big emphasis on the characters and performances, so hopefully that translates well to the finished product.
3 Training Day
Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) has worked his way up through the ranks of the LAPD to become a narcotics officer. His first day on the job is supposed to be a training session with veteran officer Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), but he soon learns that he’s in for more than he signed up for. Alonzo is anything but a clean cop, and Jake finds himself wrapped up in circumstances no good cop would want anything to do with.
Training Day marked David Ayer’s first crime drama screenplay, and showed just how strong of a grasp he has for that world. Full of shady characters, including an Oscar winning performance from Denzel Washington, Training Day is a great depiction of corruption and the criminal underbelly.
With Suidide Squad, Ayer gets to work with more Oscar worthy actors, including a previous winner, Jared Leto (playing a character that previously won Heath Ledger an Oscar), and deals very much with corrupt governmental forces and a dark criminal underbelly. Any fans of Ayer’s work with Training Day should be thrilled to see similar elements in Suicide Squad’s synopsis.
2 Inglorious Basterds
Inglorious Basterds tells the story of a group of Jewish American soldiers, led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), that have formed a task force specifically designed to kill Nazi officers during World War II. When word of a large gathering of German officers reaches the ears of the bastards, they are only to willing and eager to show up. Rumors that Hitler himself will be in attendance is only icing on the cake.
As yet another anti-hero ensemble film, Basterds is the touchstone for films about a violent team on a suicidal mission. While Suicide Squad’s PG-13 rating all but guarantees that it won’t see the same violence and brutality as Inglorious Basterds, the Batman V Superman theatrical cut shows just how much mileage a movie can get with a PG-13 rating.
1 Batman: Assault on Arkham
When Amanda Waller needs to retrieve the Riddler from Arkham Asylum, she assembles Task Force X, the Suicide Squad, to get the job done. While most criminals are doing their best to get out and stay out of Arkham, the Suicide Squad needs to get in, get Riddler, and get out. But when they get tangled up with Batman and Joker, the mission becomes a little more than they bargained for.
Batman: Assault on Arkham is a great primer for anyone not well versed in Suicide Squad. With a squad that is very similar to the one seen the the movie, Assault on Arkham does a great job of setting up Amanda Waller and the concept of Task Force X as well as the main characters on the squad. Due to the timing, many people have even speculated that Assault on Arkham was made in order to gauge fan interest in a live action Suicide Squad (so it was obviously successful).
Do you see any of your favorites on this list? Do you think Suicide will be more like a typical comic-book movie, or something else entirely? Let us hear about it in the comments!