The Top Ten DC Animated movies

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Since 2007, DC and Warner Bros. have been cranking out comic book movies on a regular rotation. Direct to DVD animated flicks which are surprisingly not shite. Hell, most of them are even better than live-action blockbuster films which have budgets that are dozens of times larger than the ones used in making magical 2D drawing of men in tights punching one another.

There’ve been more than two dozen of films in the DC Animated library, films that have focused on everyone from Batman to Aquaman. Here’s ten of the really good ones.

Batman: Under the Red Hood

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Batman goes through Robins like our president goes through finance ministers lately. It’s not easy being a sidekick to the world’s greatest detective, and it’s a job which usually ends with somebody taking a crowbar to the head. There’s consequences that you have to account for when you work for the dark knight, as nothing ever goes to plan.

And that’s a theme that runs throughout Under this DC film, as the Batman has to contend with a new player in Gotham, a gang war and even a killer robot as the Joker starts a new reign of terror. Brilliantly voiced and with an action sequence near the end that puts most Batman movies to shame, Under the Red Hood is essential viewing on any DC Animated list.

The Dark Knight Returns

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I’m cheating slightly here, but there’s no way that I’m able to view this adaptation of Frank Miller’s landmark 1986 mini-series as two halves. Released in two parts, The Dark Knight Returns is the most faithful adaptation in the entire DC Animated library. It’s an older Batman, worn down and fed up with an endless war on crime that never ended. And then one night, one random encounter with the ugliness of Gotham City reawakens a slumbering demon.

This is the Batman that criminals fear. Not a gadget-heavy caped crusader, but a terrifying beast that is more than happy to break you both physically and mentally. One of the grittiest Batman films around, TDKR makes the various fight scenes absolutely brutal affairs of broken bones and ripped sinew, whether it be a Mutant gang leader or even the Man of Steel himself.

All of this, drawn in a style that perfectly imitates the art of Miller and Klaus Janson. In a year where Christopher Nolan released the final chapter to his own big budget Batman trilogy, it was an animated masterpiece that proved itself to be the best dark knight of the year.

Superman Vs. The Elite

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A lot of people regard Superman as a corny hero. A symbol of a more innocent age where truth and justice were ideals worth striving for. Ideals that don;t exactly hold up in a more cynical world. But what’s actually so bad about fighting for a better tomorrow? That’s the idea behind Superman vs The Elite, where Superman’s morality is questioned when a newer, edgier group of vigilantes show up and start enforcing a more lethal brand of justice.

In a world that is ready to push Superman away for a more easily gratifying sense of instant justice, the man of steel questions whether or not his dream of a better tomorrow is even possible. It’s a scary thought, but nowhere near as terrifying as the idea of a Superman who doesn’t live by a moral code, thanks to an unforgettable showdown in the third act that plays out like a WWE Extreme Rules match.

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Justice League: Gods and Monsters

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Clark Kent. Bruce Wayne. Diana of Themyscira. All recognisable names of the greatest trinity of heroes around. But what if Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were the names of completely different heroes instead? Heroes like a refugee from New Genesis, a medical experiment gone horribly wrong and General Zod’s DNA managing to supplant that of the House of El.

That makes for a darker trinity, but also a more interesting collective of heroes that the world doesn’t trust completely. And that’s where Gods and Monsters works best, because the greatest superpowers of that universe find themselves embroiled in a global conspiracy designed to remove them from the equation.  It’s a great plot, punctuated by DC’s trademark polished action. And easy to watch without finding yourself drowning in an ocean of references that go completely over your head.

All Star Superman

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Superman’s powerful enough, right? I mean the guy could bench Metropolis for a morning workout, before punching a scheduled army of killer robots into outer space. He’s also nigh-invulnerable, an unstoppable force of justice who never gives up. But what happens when Superman finds himself pushed too far, and left with only a year to live? You get a silver-age adventure where the last son of Krypton makes the most of the time that he has left.

Adapting Grant Morrison’s and Frank Quietely’s landmark series to a single film is one hell of a tall order, a Herculean feat that leaves out a considerable amount of content along the way. But what is there, is truly special. There’s a jail cell interview with Lex Luthor that runs into difficulties, a titanic tussle with two Kryptonian survivors that cracks the moon, an arm-wrestling match between gods and the greatest love story ever told.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s the final moments between Lois Lane and Clark Kent that leave my internal ocular-fluids malfunctioning every time. As fantastic as it is to see Superman fly into space to battle Solus the Tyrant Sun, it’s moments like that that prove just how super Clark Kent really is, and why Superman is the greatest of all comic book heroes.

Batman: Assault on Arkham

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While Batman and Superman may sell DVDs, there’s still plenty of space for other characters to take the spotlight. The Suicide Squad finally got their chance last year, and it was something different to the usual DC animated movie fare. It’s by no means the best film in the entire library, but it certainly is a slice of cheesy fun that kicks into overdrive near the end.

Riskier, gorier and filled with memorable moments voiced by a cast of capable veterans (Jennifer Hale will always be the best Killer Frost), Assault on Arkham is the kind of movie that knew how to make the most of a comic book universe that was otherwise constrained to video game consoles. That, and watching Batman punch King Shark’s groin into submission with electric knuckle-dusters, never gets old.

Justice League: The New Frontier

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Comic books are usually divided by certain eras. The Golden age of the 1920s that lasted through World War Two and into the 1950s, the Silver Age that saw the medium undergo a renaissance and a Bronze Age that gave rise to grittier heroes and disastrously EXTREME makeovers. But it’s that gap between the golden and silver ages that is fascinating, a period in time when heroes evolved to become something more than just men dressed in tights who spent nights dishing out punches and one-liners.

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Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier is a mammoth celebration of this, a huge mini-series that focuses on changing attitudes and roles within the superhuman community. Adapting it entirely was next to impossible, but DC tackled it anyway. And what resulted, was a final hurrah to an age of comic books that rode off into the sunset many decades ago.

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

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Sure, there was a Green Lantern film previously, but First Flight was very much a by-the-books origin story that was decent at best. Emerald Knights was a far better pseudo-sequel, made to cash in on the release of DC’s massive box office flop film of the same name. A collection of short stories that charted the tales of the first lanterns, the adventures of new recruits and how one relentless mercenary finally relented, Emerald Knights had no fear. In blackest night or brightest day, the Green Lanterns were kicking ass in this quirky collection of short stories.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

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DC has a habit of regularly rebooting itself, like an errant PC that needs a fresh restart. The most recent of these universal reboots came out of the aftermath of the Flashpoint Paradox, that saw the Flash rewrite continuity entirely. It led to a New 52 which may have been hit or miss over the last couple of years, but the story that created it was solid popcorn-munching action all the way. When Earth’s greatest heroes find their origins drastically rewritten, it’s up to the Flash to set things right. If he can ever run fast enough to do so, that is.

Superman: Doomsday

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The first DC Animated film since Warner Bros. Animation kicked off their brand of superheroic direct-to-DVD flicks, isn’t the best out of the lot. But it’s actually still a damn good movie on its own. It’s an animated film that wasn’t scared to draw blood, condensing months and months of comics into one coherent storyline that set the bar. It’s Superman versus an unstoppable Kryptonian killing machine in a battle that should have been used to show Man of Steel that the last son of Krypton can actually hold his own without levelling most of Metropolis.

Death is only half of the equation however, as the reappearance of Superman and his newer, more lethal approach to crime has people wondering just what is really happening. All this, and Lex Luthor’s latest machinations in the background of a plot to finally triumph over the man of steel. Not the greatest Superman story ever told, but a damn fine entry point into an entire library of quality entertainment.

BONUS! Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

batman

Sure, it was made in 1993, but here’s what you need to know: Forget Batman Begins. THIS is the definitive origin story of the dark knight.

Last Updated: February 18, 2016

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia’s M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

  • Commander Admiral Chief

    Oooooh nice, I missed a few!

    Assault on Arkham was really enjoyable!

  • Commander Admiral Chief

    Green Lantern became Deadpool!

    • Marcus

      Wait… What?

      • Commander Admiral Chief

        Oopsie….spoiler alert……

        • Marcus

          OHHHH!!!! Right, the fucking actor. Jesus I hater being the slow kid in class.

          • Commander Admiral Chief

            LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL

    • justlikemo

      cos theres a shortage of actors these days!

  • Jonah Cash

    Really enjoyed Justice League: Gods & Monsters. DSTV put some of these on quite regularly… Justice League: War is recorded and just waiting for me to watch it.

    • Marcus

      I’m sorry, you still like Destiny, I cannot take your word for it…

      • Hammersteyn

        oof

      • Jonah Cash

        I haven’t played Destiny in months and haven’t even finished the missions for the Taken King yet… I have moved on to playing more Fifa again and playing quite a bit of Titanfall. Waiting on The Division to drop, will be my next fix 🙂

  • The Sten

    I quite liked Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

    • Marcus

      No you did not!

      • The director’s cut of that film was aces. Much better than the tripe that Warner Bros edited into a kid-friendly abomination.

        • Commander Admiral Chief

          There was a toned down version? LOL I dodged a bullet there

        • The Sten

          I have no idea which one i watched…

          I was 12 at the time so most of my opinions back then were probably bullshit. But i remember i enjoyed it a lot

      • The Sten

    • Commander Admiral Chief

      Agreed. Batman Beyond has a special place in my inner geek

    • Captain JJ and his ensigns

      It was excellent.

  • Hammersteyn

    Crisis Earth is another one everyone should see

    • Marcus

      Spoiler much???

      • Hammersteyn

        The movie is six years old…

        • Marcus

          That’s no excuse to rape.

          • Hammersteyn

            O_o

          • Commander Admiral Chief

            O____O

          • Hammersteyn
          • Marcus

            What? Six years old and rape don’t mix?

          • Hammersteyn

            rape doesn’t mix at all

          • Marcus

            R r rr rr r r r ra aa rarararararar pap pa pap pa pap papapeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwww……………… Drop the rape! WHBABABABBABABA!!!! RAPEPEPEPEPEPPE!!!!

            It mixes… Great song there!

            (Also, I should stop drinking at work)

          • Hammersteyn

            XD

          • Marcus

        • Captain JJ and his ensigns

          An old movie is a new movie to someone who hasn’t watched it yet.

          • Hammersteyn

            …..Rocky wins in Rocky 2.

          • Captain JJ and his ensigns

            You monster!

  • Original Heretic

    Superman vs Elites sounds awesome. A bit like the Kingdom Come story arc. Is it based on that?

    • Hammersteyn

      Dunno, but it was a pretty good movie.

    • It’s based on Action Comics #775 “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?”. I don’t think WB has a big enough budget to tackle Kingdom Come.

      • Original Heretic

        Ah ok, thanks.

        Sounds like I gotta watch this then. I don’t know the story at all.

  • Captain JJ and his ensigns

    Awesome list. I’ve been waiting for this
    BUT
    take away Doomsday – I found it mediocre
    and Batman Year One is possibly one of the greatest animated movies for me ever. And no Return of the Joker? That one was just plain disturbing.
    The rest. Awesome 😀

  • Captain JJ and his ensigns

    Loved Dark Knight Returns.

    But seriously.
    YEAR ONE.

  • Captain JJ and his ensigns

    Let’s be honest Darryn, we need a Batman-only list. There are more than enough movies to fill a top ten.
    Come on
    You know you want to

    ps. put Year One in.

    • Numbers 1-9:Batman Mask of the Phantasm
      Number 10: The Dark Knight Returns
      Number 11: Batman Year One

  • Jan Prins

    Assault on Arkham. YUP.

  • Wheres Batman vs Superman: Apocalypse

    • In a bin, where it belongs.

  • Gustav Minnie

    The Dark Knight Returns hands down the best of the lot.

  • Lardus-For the Chimichangas!

    I saw quite a few of those! Heck, TDKR and Doomsday are in my DVD collection!

  • Pandabrander

    Thanks for this. Watched ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ after seeing it mentioned on these forums a little while back. Great stuff.

  • Kikmi

    Agreed on pretty much all accounts.

  • David White

    Excellent list! This is the only one so far where they actually included First Flight which is among best work. After all you can’t beat TDKR as one of the all time best same as WW. But Mask of the Phantasm is the one that started it all.

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