The Flash sped into theaters this week, folks, after years and years and years and years of anticipation. Seriously, wasn’t this thing announced back in 2015? Anyways, I took a gander at the Andy Muschietti-directed pic and must now decide where it ranks in the pantheon of the DC Extended Universe. Let’s dive in and look back on all of the DCEU movies.
14.) Justice League (2017)
What happens when you try to course-correct a film in the middle of production? Take a look at the monstrosity that is Joss Whedon’s Justice League, a bizarre mishmash of Zack Snyder‘s sensibilities and Whedon’s TV brand of humor that fails to offer anything for anyone. At least it gave rise to some of the goofiest special effects in modern history with Henry Cavill’s much-publicized mustache.
13.) Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Almost as bad as Justice League is Patty Jenkins’ campy sequel, which pits Wonder Woman against — wait for it — Pedro Pascal’s ridiculous Max Lord, who inherits his powers via a wishing stone that nearly brings about the end of the world. Yeah, it’s as dumb as it sounds. Jenkins removes everything that made Wonder Woman such a badass in the 2017 original and instead takes her cues from that terrible 1970s Lynda Carter TV show. The results are something akin to Superman III — a goofy superhero movie that bites off more than it can chew. Oh, and Chris Pine returns, for reasons, while Kristen Wiig gets lost in the shuffle as Cheetah. Steer clear of this turd.
12.) Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)
Ten years ago, audiences might have fallen prey to Shazam! Fury of the Gods. After so many disappointing superhero movies, however, audiences and the industry itself have both changed. That’s not to say Shazam 2 is terrible — it’s just painfully dull. The film doesn’t do anything to advance its hero or the DCEU at large.
11.) Black Adam (2022)
Likewise, Black Adam isn’t an awful movie. In fact, thanks to a fine supporting cast that includes Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Shahi, Quintessa Swindell, and Aldis Hodge, and a handful of intense action sequences, this Marvel-sized adventure almost passes for entertainment. Unfortunately, the filmmakers aren’t sure what to do with their titular character, played with robust determination by Dwayne Johnson, and fail to assemble the troubled production into a cohesive whole, making it one of the lesser DCEU movies.
10.) Suicide Squad (2016)
There are moments in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad that pop. Jared Leto’s Joker and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn are fun to watch, while Will Smith’s Deadshot is appropriately badass. Unfortunately, the production was a mess, featuring a clunky plot that makes little sense. What should have been a small-scale, Sicario-like thriller with a group of murderers turns into a pale imitation of Guardians of the Galaxy. Maybe the fabled Ayer Cut is better?
9.) Shazam! (2019)
The original Shazam! is far too goofy for my liking, but it’s still an earnest, free-spirited superhero flick with enough positives to make it worth your while. Sure, Zachary Levi goes too far with the wide-eyed child schtick — so much so that his performance clashes with Asher Angel’s somber take on the same character — but Mark Strong makes a formidable villain and director David F. Sandberg keeps the film moving at a nice pace. Purely for youngsters.
8.) Birds of Prey (2020)
There’s a lot to admire about Birds of Prey, notably Margot Robbie’s playful performance as Harley Quinn and Ewan McGregor’s flamboyant turn as Black Mask, not to mention a solid supporting cast. Unfortunately, director Cathy Yan’s choppy direction and Christina Hodson’s uneven script give our colorful band of misfits nothing to do. The decision to turn Harley into an antihero doesn’t quite gel, and the entire production looks like something ripped straight from The CW. Still, there are worse ways to spend your afternoon.
7.) Aquaman (2018)
Jason Momoa alone makes Aquaman worth watching. His endless charisma carries this bloated production past the finish line, even as questionable CGI and an uneven tone threaten to sink it completely. Director James Wan occasionally catches fire in a handful of well-executed action sequences, but by the time a massive underwater battle kicks off — replete with shark-riding mermen — this goofy Thor rip-off will leave you questioning how it managed to swim past the billion-dollar mark.
6.) The Flash (2023)
The Flash is one of those movies you enjoy on a scene-by-scene basis but eventually hate the more you think about it. Andy Muschietti has an eye for action and spectacle, but as proven by his two It films, he struggles to maintain a consistent tone. The Flash is loud, energetic, annoying, fun, and headache-inducing in equal measure. Moments of inspiration occasionally surface — Michael Keaton is solid as Batman but isn’t given much to do, while Sasha Calle nearly steals the show as Supergirl.
Some of the action pops and star Ezra Miller goes for broke with a pair of performances that bring out their best and worst tendencies as an actor, and it’s cool to see Ben Affleck get a little more screen time following the Justice League debacle. On further review, however, The Flash is hollow, too obnoxious for its own good, and far too busy ripping off Marvel than charting its own unique course through the multiverse.
5.) The Suicide Squad (2021)
James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is a solid film put together by a visionary with an ear for dialogue and an eye for action. He also loves shock humor. Oh sure, your initial viewing will produce audible gasps and chuckles, but after enduring the shock and awe, you’re left with a meandering, inconsequential piece of entertainment. I appreciate the cast, most notably Idris Elba and Margot Robbie. While I had a blast when the film released in 2021, I haven’t had a desire to go back and watch it again.
4.) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Flawed but ultimately entertaining, Zack Snyder’s incredibly divisive Batman v Superman is the film that blew the DCEU to pieces — and you can take that in a positive or negative manner, depending on your point of view. I appreciate its ambitious, no nonsense approach to Batman and Superman and adore the action on display — namely the opening Metropolis sequence, Batman’s warehouse fight, and the Doomsday showdown. I admit the first half is a slog and far too dark and one-note for anyone but the most devoted fans to enjoy, but I’ll take ambition over routine any day. Batman v Superman dares to shoot for the stars, and while its somber tone may put off those in search of simple-minded superhero fun, when it hits, it hits big.
3.) Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman might have gone down as one of the greatest superhero films ever made if not for a disjointed third act that nearly undoes all the goodwill established in its first hour or so. Drawing inspiration from Richard Donner’s Superman movies, director Patty Jenkins infuses this rip-roaring adventure with plenty of heart and soul, aided indelibly by Gal Gadot and Chris Pine’s incredible chemistry, and conjures one of the most thrilling superhero sequences ever put on screen as Wonder Woman storms across No Man’s Land. Sadly, the film succumbs to a lackluster finale that proves villains matter in these movies, too.
2.) Man of Steel (2013)
I have already written a lengthy piece expressing my love for Man of Steel, so I won’t repeat myself here. Suffice it to say, Zack Snyder’s superhero spectacle hits all the right beats and delivers the type of action I’ve always wanted to see. Henry Cavill shines as Superman, and the performances of Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, and Kevin Costner add gravitas to General Zod, Jor-El, and Jonathan Kent, respectively. While the film does have a few missteps (such as the peculiar tornado scene), when Man of Steel takes flight, it soars to greater heights than all other Superman flicks.
1.) Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Despite its needless four-hour runtime, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the ultimate superhero movie and a worthy payoff to Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Wonder Woman. The action is truly awesome, the performances are strong, and the approach makes these spandex-wearing gods feel larger-than-life. I genuinely believe that audiences would have gone crazy for Justice League if it had been released in theaters as two parts. It represents the best of Snyder’s incredible cinematic style.
Like The Dark Knight, I often find myself revisiting Zack Snyder’s Justice League, eagerly searching for details or Easter eggs I missed in previous viewings. This is an epic through and through, crafted by a filmmaker who knows his stuff. While other films may feel like products designed to cater to the masses, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a piece of cinematic art made with passion by individuals who respect and appreciate these comic book heroes. I highly doubt we will ever see another superhero film like it.