If there was one studio consistently kicking out amazing superhero films, it would definitely be Warner Bros. They have one of the most diverse and solid track records of any studio. They made an amazing Wonder Woman film 20 years before Marvel would make a film with a leading lady. They turned Batman into a vampire the same year Fox fucked up the Fantastic Four for the fourth time. Hell, they had three superhero team-up films before Marvel’s The Avengers came around. They perfected the genre years ago and continue to create interesting, fan pleasing films.
At this point you’ve probably realized I’m talking about Warner Brothers Animation and not the studio behind such gems as Martha: The Movie and Jared Leto and Friends. Why their live-action films are such a mess is baffling to me considering right down the hall, for a fraction of the budget, one of their divisions is killing it. Just bring those folks over to make your film. It ain’t hard. But I digress.
In honor of SAW’s Superhero Month, let’s pay our respects to the studio that should have been tasked with creating DC’s live-action shared universe in the first place.
This is the 50 Greatest DC Animated Movies of All Time (not including Lego films).
50. Superman vs. the Elite (2012)
I don’t care if the script is pitch perfect or the cast is dynamite, if I don’t like the animation, I’m not going to like the movie. The character models are downright ugly in this. Superman looks like an ape and the animation isn’t doing anyone else any favors either. The only positives to be found in this film are that it at least tried to handle politics of power (whether it succeeded is up to you) and I enjoyed the character of Manchester Black. So while I applaud the effort and dug one character, it is still on the lower end of Superman films.
49. The Batman vs. Dracula (2005)
The bar from the previous movies on this list was set so low, that this is ranked higher simply because it has Peter Stormare as Dracula. That and the way the Penguin resurrects Dracula is eerily reminiscent to the old Hammer horror film Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Other than that (which isn’t much), I really didn’t dig it. I have absolutely no nostalgia for The Batman and frankly, I don’t see the appeal. It has the weakest voice cast of any Batman show and I don’t care for the character designs. It’s a pale imitation of a much better show, so stretching it out to movie length was never going to do anything for me.
48. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011)
No offense to Green Lantern fans but who the hell was this made for? This is an anthology film that focuses on different members of the Lantern Corps that only fans, and I’m talking die-hard fans, will even know, much less give a shit about. The only remarkable thing about this film is the fact that no matter how seemingly disposable the film seems, Warner Bros. Animation will still assemble a killer fucking cast of actors to bring it to life. In the leads, you have Nathan Fillion returning as Hal Jordan (the role he was born to play), Jason Isaacs as Sinestro, and Elizabeth Moss as Arisia. And the supporting cast includes inspired choices such as Henry Rollins and Rowdy Roddy Piper. The film is as forgettable as they come but if you’re a fan of the Lantern, they made a movie just for you, buddy.
47. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)
Adam West and Burt Ward return to the iconic roles of Batman and Robin, providing voices for a new animated take of the classic ’60s campy series, in which the dynamic duo must go up against a quadruple of their most iconic villains. But that right there is already a bad sign that this is beholden to the past. Having them fight the exact collection of villains as the movie (Catwoman, Joker, Penguin, and Riddler) is one of the many signs that this is just nostalgia bait. In addition to its shameless “hey, remember this?”, Its principle problem is one of tone. It’s never sure whether it’s mocking the source material or reverential of it, so it undermines both and serves neither. There are a few decent references to other incarnations of the character sprinkled around this, but it really needed to go full parody or not exist at all.
46. Batman vs. Two-Face (2017)
Look, I’m actually a huge fan of the 1960s Batman show and have had to defend it for years, but this isn’t that show. It tries very hard to be that show and I really respect the effort that went into these films but I truly believe the majority of the praise these two films (that mostly applies to Return of the Caped Crusaders) have received is due mostly to that fact that it’s hip to love Adam West again. Family Guy made him extremely popular among millennials and I believe that love is spilling over into these films. Or maybe it’s because Batman vs Two-Face is his last film, so it gets a pass. I don’t know.
But what I do know is that although they’re both filled with tons of love for the source material (there is more Easter eggs in these films than a church on Sunday) the villains sound fucking terrible. That might sound petty but when you’re trying desperately to recreate the look and feel of the old shows, your voice cast better carry that weight and they don’t. This is one of the worst Jokers committed to screen and the Penguin isn’t much better. The Riddler fares a bit better but none of them help me buy into the world. Julie Newmar as Catwoman obviously gets a pass since she was on the show but I hate to say it, she’s not that great either. It’s a sad state of affairs when William Shatner is the best actor besides West in either film. It really pains me to put these films so low on the list because I really do respect what they were trying to do but honestly, they were a chore to get through.
45. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)
Adapting the popular 1989 Elseworlds one-shot, Gotham by Gaslight takes everything you love about the caped crusader and drops it into a Victorian-era Gotham City. It’s actually pretty fun watching Batman take down the villain without the aid of his 21st century tech. Also, Batman is facing off against notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper, and that’s a concept as crazy as facing Dracula. I did find it a bit slow in parts, but the ending and twist were both really well-done. You will definitely want to check out this adaptation if you’re a fan of the original story.
44. Batman vs. Robin (2015)
It was around the time of this film’s release when the DC animation machine started churning out multiple Batman films a year. Some were actually good and some were Batman vs. Robin. I know a lot of people have a problem with the Damian Wayne version of Robin, but I don’t mind the character. I’m actually surprised Batman doesn’t have more legitimate children considering how many different love interests he’s had. I also love their dynamic. Batman chooses not to kill and Damian was raised to just kill. It puts them at odds they must work to overcome. However, the film poorly adapts The Court of Owls story from the comics and places some unnecessary tension of Batman and Robin. I think there was a chance to make a more personal father/son film instead of adapting whatever cool arc Batman was currently getting up to in the comics. The film is a miss, but it’s still better than its sequel Bad Blood (cue Taylor Swift song).
43. Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans (2019)
This was actually pretty awesome. Before DC introduces multiple Batmen in The Flash movie and Marvel does a live-action Spider-Verse, DC animation beat everyone to the punch with this film. While the initial setup is just the casts of Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! meeting and fighting each other, the end sees hundreds of alternate Teen Titans teams fighting together. It’s like Endgame, but with just the sidekicks. Probably the most impressive thing about this film is its voice cast, specifically how one actor voiced both versions of the same character. The actors are able to make them sound mostly similar, but with a few minor differences. TT Robin’s voice is more serious and deeper while the Go! Robin is a tad higher and more unsure of himself. It’s these little vocal differences that really make the film shine. Well, that and seeing both teams make fun of the other. ‘Cause let’s be honest, those Robin monologues are absolutely hilarious to watch.
42. Vixen: The Movie (2017)
Originally a short form web series, the film adds 15 minutes of never-before-seen content to creature the Arrowverse’s first feature-length film. I wasn’t really even familiar with the character of Mari McCabe / Vixen until this film, but her powers are pretty rad. This is a character that works better in animation than in live-action, especially if we’re talking live-action television. When Vixen has popped up on the other Arrowverse shows, her powers are always limited due to budget restraints. But animation allows the writers to have the full animal kingdom at their fingertips when crafting fight scenes. The story is a bit weak, but it does a good job setting up McCabe’s Vixen and integrating her within the larger Arrowverse. It’s a shame they haven’t used her (I know her grandmother was part of Legends) since this film. She’d be a valuable asset during all of those crossovers.
41. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018)
Because I’m not six years old, I have never watched Teen Titans Go! I had read enough online to know that it apparently ruined the Teen Titans and made them a bunch of cartoon idiots. So I wasn’t expecting much when I sat down to watch To the Movies. But, in a cruel twist, I ended up enjoying To the Movies a lot more than expected. I mean, yeah, I’m sure the multiple Back to the Future Easter eggs and jokes had something to do with it, but the film isn’t actually that bad. You can see the villain twist coming from a mile away, but that doesn’t necessarily ruin anything. And you have to admire DC Comics for making a film where they end up being the punching bag for almost every single joke. The Teen Titans Go! series may not be for everyone, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a DC fan that didn’t at least smile at some part of this movie. (Also, Nic Cage voices Superman.)
What are some of your favorite DC animated films? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!