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3/9/2023 • 5 min read
While some movie franchises have confusing timelines that weave in and out of release order and might even disregard some movies (we're looking at you, HALLOWEEN!) there's good news for those who want to watch the DC Comics movies in order. The release order is really the best way to go. Watch the DC movies in the order in which they were released and you get the maximum impact from character introductions and plot twists.
Here's the ideal DC movie viewing order.
This is the starting point. Zack Snyder's singular version of Superman sets the tone for everything else that follows over the next decade, even when the DC movies veer far from this opening chapter.
Superman and Batman are the cornerstones of DC Comics, but even so it was a surprise to see the second chapter of the DCEU go straight to a years-in-the-making battle between the titans — and even more surprising to see Superman put in the ground, at least temporarily.
With no Superman, the world turned to a different set of peacemakers. Maybe that word should be in quotes as the anti-heroes in this funny, violent team-up aren't very interested in peace. But everyone was interested in Harley Quinn after this movie opened, and that helped shape DC's future.
The best argument for watching the DC movies in release order rather than chronological story order. If you watch chronologically, then the two solo Wonder Woman movies fall well before everything else. The character benefits from a little bit of buildup thanks to BATMAN V SUPERMAN.
We're not going to weigh in on which version of JUSTICE LEAGUE you watch — the theatrical or the Snyder Cut — but the title occupies the same space regardless. Obviously you can watch both, but despite the vast differences between the two versions both fulfill the same story purpose within the greater DCEU.
About halfway through the DCEU things pivot to mostly solo movies. While there are two team films, they don't follow a long build-up in the way that Marvel's Avengers movies tend to. Regardless, AQUAMAN is one of the best DC movies — it gives Jason Momoa room to flex and director James Wan gets to play on a massive scale.
With the first two movies out of the gate, the DCEU earned the reputation for embracing a darker outlook than rival Marvel. SHAZAM! is a different story — it's a relatively sunny and light-hearted look at young superheroes, even when the movie's young hero has to deal with huge issues.
This Harley Quinn-focused movie ties up a few loose ends from SUICIDE SQUAD and explores the DCEU version of Gotham City in a way that no other movie in the series gets to do.
This movie is as close as the DCEU gets to a standalone story, as the events of WW84 do not dramatically tie into the larger story. It's just a fun Wonder Woman movie, and that's more than enough.
This is where it becomes apparent that Amanda Waller might be the glue that holds the second half of the DCEU story cycle together. And while there is some reason to wonder what the DC movie landscape will look like as James Gunn and Peter Safran's movies come out, we know that Viola Davis will continue to play Waller — so a full reboot isn't on the horizon.
While Black Adam is fundamentally related to Shazam, this is mostly a solo movie that details Black Adam's history while setting up his standing in the modern world. There is a post-credit, scene, however, to tie the movie and character to the larger DCEU — but whether we'll see that play out in the new DCEU or not is uncertain.
These movies aren't in the main DCEU continuity — or we don't yet know how they fit in.
Tim Burton's two Batman movies starring Michael Keaton were never part of the DCEU, but they are now! Keaton returns as Batman in THE FLASH, which ties these movies into the larger storyline. Since we haven't seen THE FLASH yet we don't know how important these will be to the story.
Both JOKER and THE BATMAN are set aside from the mainstay DCEU, but they're both great movies. We don't want to leave them out just because they don't play directly into the larger story. Both movies will be followed by sequels in the next couple years, and in both cases those sequels will be explicitly labeled as "Elseworlds" stories, to make clear that they are not part of the larger DC story.
These movies are part of the DCEU, and we expect the release order viewing pattern will be best even when you factor them in. We'll circle back after each is released.
Like the original movie, this SHAZAM! sequel seems to be more or less a standalone tale. We're curious to see whether or not Shazam gets to fly towards a movie like THE FLASH.
We knew there would be repercussions in THE FLASH as Barry Allen mucks about with timelines in order to save his mother from being killed. James Gunn has explictly said that the movie "resets the entire DC Universe." How? We'll know more soon.
This is the most mysterious movie in DC's lineup this year. Is it mostly a standalone story, or does it connect to the larger DCEU? We'll find out late in the summer.
The final movie in the Zack Snyder DCEU era also "leads directly into our next few projects," James Gunn said in January.
We don't actually recommend this viewing order, because it takes away some of the effect of the first Wonder Woman movie. But if you do want to watch in chronological story order, here's the way to go:
Wonder WomanWonder Woman 1984Man of SteelBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeSuicide SquadJustice LeagueAquamanShazam!Birds of PreyThe Suicide SquadBlack Adam
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
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