The DC Superhero Movies That Actually Rival Marvel

While it goes without saying that Marvel is the superior superhero outlet in terms of cinematic success, DC has released a handful of movies that give the MCU a run for its money. While the Justice League is no competition for The Avengers, a few standalone DC comic book tales have been spun into enjoyable and critically praised films.

Wonder Woman
Lynda Carter at ‘Wonder Woman’ Premiere | Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

While Batman vs. Superman was an utter disaster, this list will step away from the widespread tendency to tear DC to shreds, and instead, highlight the DC movies that remind viewers of why they fell in love with DC in the first place (despite being let down quite frequently).

‘Watchmen’ (2009)

Coming in at three hours and 35 minutes long, Watchmen struggled to maintain viewers’ attention for the entirety of its span; however, despite an indisputably drawn-out narrative, the film is a gritty and aesthetically striking adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel.

Watchmen takes place in an alternate reality in 1985. In this reality, costumed superheroes are a part of everyday life. Masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to kill and discredit all superheroes (past and present) when one of his former comrades is murdered. While this description seems simple enough, the film suffers from a convoluted plot trajectory, and, anyone not already familiar with the material, may struggle to understand this film in its entirety.

While Watchmen is indeed flawed, it boasts a 64% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, implying that its ingenuity and entertaining nature, as well as its commitment to creating a loyal adaptation, outweighs the film’s negative qualities. Watchmen was very different for its time and relied on a group of superheroes – most of whom possessed no special powers – as the driving force behind the film.

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012)

If DC continued to have the success it had with The Dark Knight series, the franchise would have maintained its reputation. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

The follow-up film to The Dark Knight, starring Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and Tom Hardy as Bayne, features an impressive ensemble and a captivating narrative with quite the surprising, yet inevitable, twist at the end.

The film is well executed on all major fronts – cinematic and screenplay excellence defined this film, as it proved to be quite the grand finish to Christopher Nolan’s Batman series. Tackling the concepts of good and evil – and our innate tendency to believe that such a black and white dichotomy exists – The Dark Knight Rises travels beyond the boundaries that the genre, often retains.

‘Wonder Woman’ (2017)

DC is more grateful for Wonder Woman than any of us could even imagine, as the film marked one of DC’s first major wins in a very long time. Gal Gadot provides a charismatic and captivating performance in the title role and the film –thrilling, yet cut with sincerity, beauty, and bravery – reminds audiences why classic DC heroes will forever hold their place in contemporary culture.

Wonder Woman is an uplifting and high-spirited film that placed a woman in the title role. And, it did so before Marvel got around to doing the same, which also qualified this movie for a few brownie points!

‘Shazam’ (2019)

With Shazam! and Wonder Woman, DC may just be here to reclaim a little respect from devoted Marvel fans who think DC can’t compete. Shazam!, the latest installment in DC’s extended universe, is comedic, heartfelt, and action-packed.

With Zachary Levi in the title role – starring as a teenage boy suddenly granted superpowers – the movie soars. Shazam!, while keeping things on the lighter side, provides a fresh perspective, and steps away from the darkness that has typified several DC movies.

Honorable Mentions

The Dark Knight

Batman Begins