Over the past eight years, Warner Bros. Pictures has worked to build their DC Extended Universe.
After a string of hugely successful Batman films directed by Christopher Nolan, the establishment of a new shared universe began with Man of Steel in 2013. Since then, there have been ten films introduced to add to the overall story and build towards a massive phase-ending event that may, or may not come.
At times it has looked like Warner Bros. abandoned the idea of the DCEU, but with the success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League which released on HBO Max earlier this year, fans are holding out hope for more.
The events of these films don’t take place in the order of their release. For those who plan on watching through the franchise so far, here is the best order to follow along as the story unfolds.
What order do I watch DC Movies in?
The first film in the timeline is 2017’s Wonder Woman. Introducing the princess of the Amazons to many viewers for the first time, Wonder Woman follows Diana as she fights alongside Man in the war to end all wars. Most of the film takes place in 1918, aside from a handful of scenes set in the present day. This is the perfect starting point for your DC movie marathon.
Wonder Woman 1984
Some scenes in this film take place in the past before the events of the first Wonder Woman film, but for the most part, the sequel is set in 1984 (as the name suggest). Living amongst mortals in the 80’s, Diana is working behind the scenes to collect ancient artifacts and help people incognito. The most recently filmed movie in the DCEU, Wonder Woman 1984 was a much-needed fix of superhero movies when everything else was on hold.
Man of Steel
Man of Steel was the movie that kickstarted the DCEU and arguably the best rendition of the caped hero on the big screen. The film showcases Superman’s origin story including the destruction of Krypton and his taking on the life of Clark Kent on earth. Dealing with a threat from his past, Man of Steel introduces key components and ideas that shape the trajectory of the DCEU.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman v Superman introduces the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) into the DCEU. The movie initially positions itself as an action setpiece pitting the tech millionaire Batman against the son of Krypton, Superman, but it quickly becomes apparent that they will have to team up to deal with the great threat created by Lex Luther and Doomsday. This film acts as the bridge where all the previous movies meet bring Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman together in action for the first time.
While the film takes place inside the DCEU and references the events of Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad’s narrative is mostly disconnected from the other films. The main cast of the movie consists of villains entering the big screen for the first time including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), and plenty more of the Suicide Squad members from the comics. Suicide Squad’s plot follows this group of unlikely partners that U.S. Intelligence has deemed expendable. The team is then sent on a top-secret mission being forced to battle a powerful enemy.
The theatrical cut of Justice League was the first film to bring together DC’s group of heroes from the comics. The team in the film consists of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa). During the film, the Leauge is forced to deal with the threat of Steppenwolf and the hordes of foes sent by Darkseid in his conquest to assemble mother boxes – powerful pieces .
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
After the mediocre reception to Justice League’s theatrical cut, years later, the original director assigned to the project completed his own version of the film. The Snyder cut directed by Zack Snyder is a four-hour spectacle that adds new scenes explaining the reasoning for major choices in the film as well as adding whole new plot points and characters to jazz up the action. This film isn’t technically “canon” but it could potentially be the reason we see new movies introduced to the DCEU.
After his introduction in Justice League, fans got their first standalone take on Aquaman in 2018. In this movie, we pick up months after the events of Justice League and see Aquaman return back to Atlantis to deal with a threat on his people. The film also has some flashbacks which give viewers a glimpse into the origin story of the Atlantean hero.
For the past couple of decades, DC has been notorious for the dark and serious tone of its films, however Shazam! completely threw that formula away and was well-received by fans and critics alike. This film takes place after the events of Justice League, but doesn’t rely on the previously established lore to build its characters. The film is simply an introduction and origin story to the hero of Shazam and his family.
Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey takes place around the same time as Shazam!, in the time after the events of Justice League. The film follows on most directly from Suicide Squad, picking up with Harley Quinn as the lead, putting together her own team of anti-heroes to take on the crime boss Black Mask. The mish-mash group has a lot of chemistry, and there are a lot of stylish choices from directory Cathy Yan, making this a fun addition to the DCEU.
The Suicide Squad (2021)
The most recent DC film to hit theaters, The Suicide Squad takes place in 2021, according to director James Gunn. Righting the wrongs of the first film in the universe of the same name, The Suicide Squad introduces a massive cast. of new characters and some familiar faces back into the fold to do what the Suicide Squad does: Save the world at death-defying odds.
What makes this movie one of the best in the DCEU is the fact that it embodies everything the Suicide Squad comics bring, with its quippy humor, over-the-top violence, and ridiculous antiheroes.
The future of the DCEU
While it looked for a while as though there would be no more DCEU, there are a few films scheduled that could continue to build on this established universe. The most obvious of these is the Black Adam film set for release in 2022 starring the Rock in the titular role. This movie will add to the overall story of Shazam! but right now it isn’t clear where this movie will take place on the timeline.
We also know that The Flash is in production and will star the actor Ezra Miller who appeared as the character during Justice League. Right now the scheduled release for this film is November 2022 and will adapt the Flashpoint storyline from the comics. Aquaman and Shazam! both have confirmed sequels and will continue their respective stories in the DCEU.
There have been rumors that a third Wonder Woman movie is in development. There is also speculation that we could see a standalone Cyborg film, a Green Lantern Corps film, and a Jared Leto Joker movie that would all be tied to the DCEU.