The best DC Animated Universe watch orders

Batman: The Killing Joke

DC Comics has struggled to match its great comic book rival in movie theaters for a while, but it’s a different story when it comes to animation. The DC Animated Universe gives the Marvel Cinematic Universe a run for its money. 

For years, DC has prioritized high-quality animated movies based on its heroes and villains, starting with features that spun from the popular cartoon Batman: The Animated Series in the early 1990s. Their modern animations began in earnest in 2007, a year before the hugely successful MCU began. The old rivalry galvanized DC’s animated output, outperforming the live-action features in establishing a compelling shared universe. DC produces a regular calendar of three or four animated movies each year, mixing shared continuity movies with more experimental standalone adaptations. 

There are several approaches to watching the more than fifty DC animated movies released so far. Up to a certain point, there isn’t a strict running order — except for storylines split between two features (like The Dark Knight Returns), watching movies that share thematic links out of order won’t be too contradictory. That changes when you get to 2013’s The Flashpoint Paradox. Living up to its name’s reputation, Flashpoint established the DC Animated Movie Universe (DCAMU), a new continuity that most of the following animated films have followed.

There are various ways to catch the movies, but unusually for DC, there’s no need for a crisis. We’ve worked out several running orders so you can pick the one that suits you. If you’d like to jump in chronologically, including the correct order of DCAMU entries, jump to the final list.

Here are the best ways to watch DC Animated Movies.

DC Animated Universe (DCAU)

Image via Warner Bros. Picutres

This is where it all began, branching from classic animated series of the 1990s and 2000s, like Batman the Animated Series and Justice League. A strength of the medium is that the DCAU can continue to release the odd throwback to these classic eras. The most recent was in 2019.

  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm — continuing Batman: The Animated Series
  • Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero — continuing Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker — continuing Batman Beyond
  • Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman — continuing The New Batman Adventures
  • Batman and Harley Quinn — continuing Batman: The Animated Series
  • Justice League vs. the Fatal Five — continuing Justice League
  • Catwoman: Hunted — concurrent to Young Justice

Standalones movies

Superman: Red Son
Image via Warner Bros. Picutres

This is where the modern era of DC animated movies started. Doomsday was a quick adaptation of the Death of Superman storyline, distinct from previous animated continuity. Eleven years later, it was the first movie to be superseded as a new adaptation of the fatal showdown joined the DCAMU continuity. 

These standalone films can be watched in any order. They pick up specific influences, ideas, and high-profile comic storylines and run in their own direction. Some, especially adaptations of well-regarded stories, have proven to be more successful than others. 

  • Superman: Doomsday 
  • Justice League: The New Frontier
  • Wonder Woman
  • Green Lantern: First Flight
  • Batman: Under the Red Hood
  • All-Star Superman
  • Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
  • Superman vs. The Elite 
  • Superman: Unbound
  • Justice League: Gods and Monsters
  • Batman: The Killing Joke
  • Batman: Gotham by Gaslight
  • Superman: Red Son
  • Batman: Soul of the Dragon

Other Continuities

Image via Warner Bros. Picutres

As story arcs and concepts have taken off in other media, the DCAU has been able to respond, supplementing superheroic adventures on film and in video games. 

  • Batman: Gotham Knight – based on the Dark Knight trilogy
  • Batman: Assault on Arkham — based on the Arkham Asylum series
  • Injustice — based on the Injustice: Gods Among Us series

Superman/Batman

Superman_Batman_Public_Enemies
Image via Warner Bros. Picutres

This subsection picks up from the recurring comic title, and the two adaptations benefit from being watched in sequence. 

  • Superman/Batman: Public Enemies 
  • Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Crisis on Two Earths / Doom

Justice_League_Doom
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Two more related movies worth watching in this order for full effect.

  • Crisis on Two Earths
  • Justice League: Doom

Year One / Dark Knight Returns

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

A specific continuity that adapts the legendary comic storylines of Frank Miller — from Batman’s first year to a dystopian future. 

  • Batman: Year One
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part One
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part Two

Tomorrowverse

Batman-The-Long-Halloween
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Building on the Millerverse continuity, the Tomorrowverse pulls together animated movies that concentrate on the formative years of its heroes.

  • Superman: Man of Tomorrow
  • Justice Society: World War II
  • Batman: The Long Halloween – Part One
  • Batman: The Long Halloween – Part Two

DC Animated Movie Universe (DCAMU)

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

This is where strict continuity becomes essential, The Flashpoint Paradox kickstarted a new continuity for animated features — realizing the benefits of a shared universe.

  • Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
  • Justice League: War
  • Son of Batman
  • Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
  • Batman vs. Robin
  • Batman: Bad Blood
  • Justice League vs. Teen Titans
  • Justice League Dark
  • Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
  • Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay
  • The Death of Superman
  • Constantine: City of Demons
  • Reign of the Supermen
  • Batman: Hush
  • Wonder Woman: Bloodlines
  • Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

In release order

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

If you’d prefer to tackle the whole set, it’s not a bad idea to watch all the DC animated movies in release order. This adds variety, some nice breaks to classic (and some underpowered) adaptations, and lets you enjoy the DCAMU in the order intended.

  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
  • Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998)
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
  • Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003)
  • Superman: Doomsday (2007) — inspired by The Death of Superman
  • Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) — inspired by DC: The New Frontier
  • Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) — inspired by the Dark Knight trilogy
  • Wonder Woman (2009) — inspired by Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals
  • Green Lantern: First Flight (2009) 
  • Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009) — inspired by Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
  • Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010) — inspired by Crisis on Earth-Three! and JLA: Earth 2
  • Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) — inspired by Batman: Under the Hood
  • Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010) — inspired by Superman/Batman: The Supergirl from Krypton
  • All-Star Superman (2011) — inspired by All-Star Superman
  • Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011) — inspired by assorted Green Lantern story arcs/one-shots
  • Batman: Year One (2011) — inspired by Batman: Year One
  • Justice League: Doom (2012) — inspired by JLA: Tower of Babel
  • Superman vs. The Elite (2012) — inspired by What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part One (2012) — inspired by The Dark Knight Returns
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part Two (2013) — inspired by The Dark Knight Returns
  • Superman: Unbound (2013) — inspired by Superman: Brainiac
  • Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013) — inspired by Flashpoint
  • Justice League: War (2014) — inspired by Justice League: Origin
  • Son of Batman (2014) — inspired by Batman: Batman and Son
  • Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014) — inspired by Arkhan Asylum
  • Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015) — inspired by Throne of Atlantis
  • Batman vs. Robin (2015) — inspired by Batman: Night of the Owls
  • Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015) 
  • Batman: Bad Blood (2016) 
  • Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016) 
  • Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) — inspired by Batman: The Killing Joke
  • Justice League Dark (2017)
  • Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017) — inspired by Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
  • Batman and Harley Quinn (2017)
  • Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018) — inspired by Gotham by Gaslight
  • Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018)
  • The Death of Superman (2018) — inspired by The Death of Superman
  • Constantine: City of Demons (2018) — inspired by Hellblazer: All His Engines
  • Reign of the Supermen (2019) — inspired by Reign of the Supermen!
  • Justice League vs. the Fatal Five (2019)
  • Batman: Hush (2019) — inspired by Batman: Hush
  • Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (2019)
  • Superman: Red Son (2020) — inspired by Superman: Red Son
  • Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020) — inspired by Darkseid War, Final Crisis, and Futures End
  • Superman: Man of Tomorrow (2020) — inspired by Superman: Birthright and Superman: American Alien
  • Batman: Soul of the Dragon (2021)
  • Justice Society: World War II (2021)
  • Batman: The Long Halloween – Part One (2021) — inspired by Batman: The Long Halloween
  • Batman: The Long Halloween – Part Two (2021) — inspired by Batman: The Long Halloween
  • Injustice (2021) — inspired by Gods Among Us
  • Catwoman: Hunted (2022) 

Upcoming releases

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Green Lantern: Beware My Power (2022)
  • Battle of the Super Sons (2022)
  • Untitled Milestone Media project (TBA)

DC’s animated output isn’t slowing down, with diverse movies expected in the next year. In Battle of the Super Sons, the franchise will welcome its first CGI animated film. Rumor has it that an adaptation of one of DC’s most ambitious stories is also being planned — a multi-part interpretation of the original DC crisis: Crisis on Infinite Earths.