Top Ten DC Universe Animated Original Movies

Since 2007 there have been 10 full length releases from Bruce Timm's DC Universe Animated Original Movie line at Warner Bros. animation. (I'm discounting the Showcase short compilation, even though it included an original 22 minute short.) Originally meant to be animated adaptations of specific classic DC Comics stories, the subject matter of the films was expanded to included some original storylines (arguably loose adaptations) as well.

While they all have, for the most, part been crafted with the level of animation and storytelling that you come to expect from Bruce Timm and his team, I thought that ten releases was a good time to see how they stacked up against one another.

 

10. Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)

The only truly disappointing film in the series should have been a no-brainer: it's Hal Jordan's origin story! Perfect! Only not so much. Hal got the ring and… suddenly just was Green Lantern. On his first mission into space, Hal seemed to have no questions, no learning curve, and no problem suddenly dealing with a passel of aliens. All the fun of the super hero origin story was glossed right over.

(Listen to the Special Edition Podcast on Green Lantern: First Flight.)


 

9. Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)

The anthology that was supposed to take place between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight is like most anthologies: some of it is good and some of it is not so good.

(Listen to the Special Edition Podcast on Batman: Gotham Knight.)

 

8. Superman: Doomsday (2007)

The first film out of the gate (and still the top seller, by far) did a solid job of compressing the wide-ranging Superman vs. Doomsday fight to the death into one short, tight story. I still remember the shock of seeing a preview at WonderCon 2007 that showed blood pouring out of Superman's mouth after getting socked by Doomsday.

(Listen to the Special Edition Podcast on Superman: Doomsday.)

 

7. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)

Cheers: Original actors Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy reprising Superman and Batman. Jeers: The animation style that emulated Ed McGuinness (who drew the story that this was based on) at times made everyone look almost comically muscled.

(Listen to the Special Edition Podcast on Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.)

 

6. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)

Misleadingly titled (it should have been called Superman/Batman: Supergirl), but tons of fun. Supergirl comes to Earth for the first time all hell breaks loose when Superman, Wonder Woman, and Darkseid all struggle with each other to exert their influence of the Girl of Steel. Also, in a wonderful change of pace, Batman ends up as the comic relief.

(Listen to the Special Edition Podcast on Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.)

 

5. All-Star Superman (2011)

Never was I more nervous for one of these films. A 70 minute adaptation of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's modern day classic? Somehow Bruce Timm and company pulled off a really solid stream-lined version of the story that exemplified why Superman is so cool.

(Listen to the Special Edition Podcast on All-Star Superman.)

 

4. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

Originally meant to bridge the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons (this one explains why the Justice League got a whole lot bigger), this story of the Justice League entering the multiverse to fight their evil doppelgangers, The Crime Syndicate, features a thought-provoking existential crisis and one of the best villains in all of these films: Owlman.

(Listen to the Special Edition Podcast on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.)


 

3. Wonder Woman (2009)

One of the most ass-kicking-ist animated action adventure films in years is the one that stars the princess. A near-perfect blend of action, character development, humor, and drama. Plus: Nathan Fillion!

(Listen to the Special Edition Podcast on Wonder Woman.)

 

2. Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)

Wow! Ultra-violent and full of pathos, the story of Jason Todd's return to life includes so many shocking and memorable moments I can scarcely list them all. I never in my life thought I'd see an animated adaptation of The Joker "killing" Jason Todd but there it is in the pre-credit sequence. The emotional impact of the final scene left my jaw hanging open.

(Listen to the Special Edition Podcast on Batman: Under The Red Hood.)

 

1. Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)

A sentimental favorite to be sure. New Frontier is one of my all-time favorite comic book stories and this was a near flawless adaptation. It certainly helps that the animation style perfectly suits Darwyn Cooke's art, who came up in Bruce Timm's production unit. I still get chills every time President Kennedy's speech plays over the end of the film.

(Listen to the Special Edition Podcast on Justice League: The New Frontier.)

 

Comments

  1. TheAskanison TheAskanison says:

    I was getting ready to bitch because New Frontier deserves to be number 1 but I was sure no one would put it there. Nice job Conner.

  2. It occurs to me that I’m always bitching about how thy never release these in the Uk, yet I don’t own either Gotham Knights or Doomsday, both of which have been released over here. RECTIFIED!

  3. mikeandzod21 mikeandzod21 says:

    Superman/ Batman: Apocalypse is that high up? Huh. That would’ve been my number ten.

  4. Nice list Conor, although I think subjectively I like Public Enemies a lot more because of the animation and the voice actors involved. I just like to think it’s a continuition of the DCAU animated series and it fits nicely into it.

    I guess asking for a list of the best Showcase shorts would be a bit pointless…..Considering Jonah Hex blew all of them away with no contest. 

  5. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    In near full agreement. I’d just knock New Frontier out of the top 5. It’s fun, but I have narrative problems with it. Bump everything else up a spot, though my top two–Under the Red Hood and Wonder Woman–are head and shoulders above the rest. 

  6. cromulent cromulent says:

    Squid guy getting sucked through a little hole in space makes Green Lantern AT LEAST a #9!  And now I realize how dirty that sentence actually sounds…

  7. lifesend lifesend says:

    I’d put Crisis on Two Earths and Red Hood at the top of the list, but other than that, this list is pretty spot on.

  8. trobinson79 trobinson79 says:

    A great list, but for me, Under the Red Hood would be #1 and Wonder Woman a close #2.  New Frontier was good, but not my favorite interpretation of the superheroes. 

    Red Hood was just an emotional roller coaster and felt much longer than a 75 minute movie, which I can never complain about.  Wonder Woman just gets up there because they finally told a Wonder Woman origin story right.  It’s because of that I’m biting my teeth as we get ready for her TV re-debut soon.

  9. I like your top 5 Conor. I might have a slightly different order, but I think there is no question that those 5 are well ahead of the bottom 5. At least that line is pretty clear to me.

  10. convoy83 convoy83 says:

    I think I would only have switch 9 and 8, I enjoyed the batman on much more than superman doomsday, mostly because stylisticly is was close enough to the old cartoons but different enough it just felt jarring.

  11. MisterJ says:

    Kinda came as a surprise that there have been ten of these already.

    The most important takeaway, to me, is that there has only been one bad one (and one anthology).

  12. I imagine that Superman Doomsday is the best selling of the bunch because it was the only one that got widely released around the world (with the exception of Gotham Knights). The Blu-Rays are region free btw if anyone is thinking of importing. Got the lot from the states last summer and couldn’t be happier.

  13. MountNJ says:

    Pretty spot on. Green Lantern was TERRIBLE. However, like Connor’s sentimental reasons for putting New Frontier at #1, I would have put Wonder Woman at #1 because she is the charachter who I seem to be drawn towards over the other Big 3 and Green Lantern and the movie was able to accomplish what so few Wonder Woman comics do, get people interested and excited about Wonder Woman and give her a GREAT story.  If someone wanted to know about Wonder Woman, before I handed them any comic I would hand them that movie.

  14. MikeG MikeG says:

    Flip 9 & 10 and I pretty much agree. Gotham Knight was just awful, there was no sense of the fun found in the other movies. Sure, you’re right about them screwing up how they handled the origin story, but it was fun, had maybe the BEST voicecast of all these movies and was surprisingly bloody. I’ve at least rewatched the Green Lantern movie and will again, can’t say the same for Gatham Knight.

  15. PotatoPope PotatoPope says:

    @PaulMontgomery  I’ve gotta agree, New Frontier looks beautiful but its just a beat up the star alien movie.  Wonder Woman has to be my favorite, it handled a very tricky origin, and handled it amazingly.

  16. kennyg kennyg says:

    My order:
    1. Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)
    2. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010) – the fight scenes alone put this near the top of the heap.
    3. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009) – Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy barely edge out my #4 choice…
    4. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)
    5. All-Star Superman (2011)
    6. Wonder Woman (2009)
    7. Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)
    8. Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
    9. Superman: Doomsday (2007)
    10. Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)

  17. CaseyJustice CaseyJustice says:

    It’s so awesome to hear that so many people like the Wonder Woman movie! It’s my personal favorite as well, and one of the only Diana stories that actually left me interested and engaged with her character. The fact that it was flawlessly written and animated didn’t hurt. Also, Mal is in it. And Castle.

    Crisis and Red Hood are amazing, and while I loved New Frontier at the time, I find that I never pop it in to rewatch like I do the others.

    As for the Showcases, I may be in the minority, but The Spectre was off the fucking charts for me. Jonah Hex was alright, but I’ve never been more creeped out and straight up haunted by an animated piece, much less a short.

  18. I hated superman vs doomsday

  19. ctrosejr ctrosejr says:

    @TheNextChampion: Jonah Hex did certainly blow.

    @kennyg: Agree with your ranking completely, except that I would flip 3 & 4.

    So, with all the Wonder Woman love, why do we think it did so poorly commercially?  Can we lay it solely at the feet of bad marketing?  

  20. jmstump jmstump says:

    @PaulMontgomery  I completely agree. I’ve watched The New Frontier a couple times and I felt like the jumpiness in story really hurt the overall finished product.

    I re-watched Under The Red Hood the other day and once again was blown away by how good it was.

  21. I have only seen a handful of these. LOVED Wonder Woman and thought new Frontier was fantastic. Didn’t really care for Superman/Doomsday or Gotham Knight. I did like Crisis on Two Earths, though.

  22. FoeApple FoeApple says:

    I aprove this list!

  23. gobo gobo says:

    I’m just watching these all for the first time now, agreeing with @fuzzytypewriter and @jmstump about New Frontier, it works great as a companion piece but I think it suffers a bit standing on its own as a movie.

    Still have to watch Apocalypse and All Star before I can make a top 10

  24. JNewcomb JNewcomb says:

    I’d switch Wonder Woman and Red Hood. Other than that I agree.

  25. i like the list. I’d move some around depending on what day you ask me.

    they’re too old to meet the criteria but Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker were pretty damn great. 

  26. I’d move New Frontier to five, All-Star Superman to three, and slide Crisis on Two Earths to number one.  Over the last couple of years nearly every release has been a home run, the exceptions being Green Lantern and Public Enemies.  I really, really wish Timm would someday tackle the Marvel heroes.  Nothing Marvel has done in the animated realm can touch even the worst of DCUOAMs.

  27. Neb Neb says:

    I love the Wonder Woman feature!  I don’t think enough people saw it because it’s great.  Nice order to your list.  I still haven’t seen all of them, so I can’t commit to a top 10.

  28. Loved the short with black Adam vs marvel & supes. Adam is one bad mother-shut your mouth!

  29. player1 player1 says:

    I still need to watch 5 of these. Thanks for the reminder!

  30. TheMaestroX TheMaestroX says:

    Wow, significantly different from my list. GL had a jump at the start but otehr than that it was solid. The Sinestro character arc was superb. I’m suprised you would rate Apokolypse as anything but last. That one was horrid.
    Oh well. At the end of the day I’m glad that they are all finding an audience. I just hope the “Action over Substance” films (S/B) don’t beomce to define these and push out the ones with an actual story worth telling and some skill behind the narative (Red Hood, New Frontier, All Star Supes).

  31. mmyoung mmyoung says:

    10. SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY. Just an A-B-C story and none of the voice cast really wowed me.
    9. BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT. Well, I liked the Deadshot story…
    8. SUPERMAN/BATMAN: APOCALYPSE. I like how every time Superman and Darkseid fight in the Timmverse, they up the ante. Everything else was just okay.  Not enough Conroy.
    7. WONDER WOMAN. Fillion was the only thing about it that I loved, although I admit there was nothing about it that I hated.
    6. GREEN LANTERN. Judging from the DVD sales and Conor’s review, I guess I’m the only person who liked it this much. I just thought the action was awesome and the whole voice cast worked for me.
    5. SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES. Conroy and Daly were like family members for me by this point. “That was my best friend.”
    4. ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. Neither Dwayne McDuffie nor Christina Hendricks could do wrong for me.
    3. JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS. Even the throwaway Martian Manhunter story worked for me, and James Woods as Owlman is the best villain of the whole series of films.
    2. JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER. It’s stellar, I just didn’t have an emotional reaction to it like I did with my number 1. 
    1. BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD. That last scene is so heartbreaking, and the action choreography is just unbelievable.
     

  32. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    The worst (best?) thing about making this list is that now I really want to rewatch them all but I DON’T HAVE THE TIME!

  33. @ctrosejr: Wha!? You thought it was bad?

  34. srh1son srh1son says:

    I didn’t care for Green Lantern: First Flight or Batman: Gotham Knight at all.

    Superman: Doomsday and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies were okay, but don’t care to revisit.

    I proudly own All Star Superman, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Justice League: The New Frontier, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, and Justice Leauge: Crisis on Two Earth.

    I need to pick up Wonder Woman next time I find it on sale; it was really good too.

  35. stuclach stuclach says:

    I can’t wait until my girls are old enough to watch all of these with me.  That’s gonna be a fun weekend.

  36. ctrosejr ctrosejr says:

    @TheNextChampion: Yes, of all the shorts, it seemed to me to have the least point, other than over the top violence.  Then again, maybe it was just the violence that turned me off.

    My short (ha!) list is:
    4. Jonah Hex — too violent, no real point IMO.
    3. The Spectre — this is what a Showcase should be!  Great mood and very different from the full length movies.
    2. Green Arrow — The best characterization of Green Arrow so far in the Timmverse, which made the short for me.  Black Canary was pitch perfect too.  The fight scenes were well executed (even if the fight on the luggage conveyor went on a little too long.) 
    1. Superman/Shazam! — The story had a definite beginning, middle and end.  I came away really liking Billy and Superman.
     

  37. Flash923 Flash923 says:

    Well Conor believe it or not I agree with you 100%. Great call on the order for sure however; The Allstar Superman I still find it kinda of….. well I did not care for the book either to be honest so agree with the spot because it was a good adaptation.

    K

  38. homiegfunk03 homiegfunk03 says:

    Bump down New Frontier and move up Green Lantern and you’ve got my list.

  39. robbydzwonar robbydzwonar says:

    How many of these are there now?  I wanna see what it’s like when they can do a Top 50!!! 

  40. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    @robbydzwonar  There are 10. If they make it to 50 I’ll be shocked (but thrilled).

  41. I agree, except let’s put Under the Red Hood at the one spot

  42. captamerica101 captamerica101 (@Autobot_Hunter) says:

    i agree compleatly. if i was doing this myself i wouldn’t be able to choose the #1. i love new frontier and red hood so much. i still have yet to see all-star superman because i have no fracking time anymore!

  43. Skyfire124 Skyfire124 says:

    Reviewing the list, I find I’m really depressed that the only non-”Big Three” title, Green Lantern, did so poorly.  As I recall, the sales for the Wonder Woman title was dismally bad as well.   If Green Lantern: Emerald Knights does not sell well, then its doubtful we’ll ever see another DCAU movie thats not Superman, Batman, or Justice League.    I still want what the original concept for these movies promised us… a chance to see some of the best stories from DC’s entire run.  Show me Teen Titans’ “Judas Contract” as was originally announced.   Show me something from Waid’s or Johns’ stints on the Flash.    Show me an animated Starman series.      

    The bright side however is with the announced DC Nation block, and the Green Lantern CGI cartoon series….maybe there’s still hope?   

  44. froggulper says:

    Yeah, I know they don’t meet this list’s criteria, but Mask of the Phantasm is still the greatest DC animated movie. It’s maybe the second best Batman movie period (behind Dark Knight). Return of the Joker was incredibly good, too. I applaud DC for all the great work they’ve done in expanding their animated universe over the last decade or so, but for whatever reason I still don’t think they’ve equalled the pathos of the original B:TAS.