The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is a series of superhero films distributed by Warner Bros. and based on characters that appear in American comic books published by DC Comics.
The shared universe, much like the original DC Universe in comic books and the television programs, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters.
Whether you’re newly diving into the world of DC movies or you’re a longtime fan who wants to binge-watch the entire series in order, here’s the best watch order for the DC movies. For the context of this list, we’ve chosen chronological order based on the in-unvierse timeline.
Wonder Woman (2017)
The first film to watch in the DCEU is Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. The story follows Diana (Gal Gadot), an Amazonian princess who discovers her true identity and destiny after meeting American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). She then sets out on a journey to stop World War I from happening.
The main story takes place from 1914 to 1918, which is the time period of World War I. However, there are also flashbacks to Diana’s childhood on Themyscira.
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
The sequel follows Diana working in the Smithsonian Museum and her encounter with the Dreamstone, which allows her to resurrect her deceased lover Steve Trevor. The film also introduces Barbara Minerva and Maxwell “Max Lord” Lorenzano, who steal the Dreamstone for their own selfish desires.
Wonder Woman 1984 explores the struggle between heroism and honesty when faced with difficult choices. Diana is tempted to use the Dreamstone to keep Steve Trevor alive, but she knows it’s not right. She must choose what’s best for the world, even if it means sacrificing her own happiness.
Related: The Best Perks for Batman in MultiVersus
Man of Steel (2013)
The DCEU film that started it all, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel introduces Superman (Henry Cavill) as he tries to find his place in the world. Itlso sets up the conflict between him and General Zod (Michael Shannon). The cast includes Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, and Diane Lane as Martha Kent.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world’s greatest superheroes — Batman and Superman — go head-to-head in the ultimate showdown of good versus evil. Behind the scenes, BvS is where Warner Bros. took immediate action course-correcting their slate of films into a universe. If the movie feels muddled as a result, that’s because it is.
It’s a clash of the titans, as Batman (Ben Affleck), the world’s greatest detective, and Superman (Henry Cavill), the powerful alien from Krypton, come together for the first time on the big screen. But while they share a common goal—stopping Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and his diabolical plans—they have very different methods of achieving it. And as the two clash, the planet is caught in the middle.
Suicide Squad (2016)
In Suicide Squad, a secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous criminals in the world to take on dangerous missions in exchange for reduced sentences. The team is then sent on a mission to track down and stop a powerful magical being called Enchantress.
It’s set in the aftermath of Superman’s death, which is why it comes after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice since it helps to understand the context of Suicide Squad.
Related: All Superman TV shows, Ranked
Justice League (2017) / Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Justice League follows a team of superheroes as they come together to stop Steppenwolf from conquering Earth. It features an ensemble cast including Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, and Ray Fisher. The setting shows the heroes working together for the first time and provides context for their individual stories.
With more behind-the-scenes drama brewing, director Zack Snyder was forced to step away from production due to a personal tragedy. Marvel’s Avengers director Joss Whedon stepped in to finish, and the end result is a weird Frankenstein mess. Erasing Henry Cavill’s mustache still gives us chills.
With the dawn of streaming services and persistent fan outcry, Warner Bros. eventually cleared Snyder to finish his version of Justice League. In 2021, Zack Snyder’s Justice League released on HBO Max as a 4-hour cut that scrubbed Whedon’s interference clean and preserved Snyder’s original vision. It’s epic in scale, and arguably so long due to the absurd amount of slo-mo.
Aquaman is a visual spectacle, with stunning visuals of the undersea world and some amazing action sequences. It’s also a great origin story for Aquaman, telling the tale of how he came to be the King of Atlantis.
Shazam! follows Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a streetwise 14-year-old who can transform into the adult superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi) by saying his name. While it lacks the high stakes of some of the other DC movies, Shazam! is a fun and lighthearted romp that’s perfect for introducing younger viewers to the world of superheroes.
Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)
Birds of Prey showcases Harley Quinn’s emancipation from the Joker and cements her place as one of DC’s most badass characters. It provides a good introduction to Harley and the other main characters.
The Suicide Squad (2021)
The Suicide Squad is a standalone sequel to the 2016 film and features the same format of enlisting a team of supervillains to complete a dangerous mission for the government. This time, it’s taking down Starro, an alien conqueror. The Suicide Squad is directed and written by James Gunn, who is known for his work on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films, and will lead the entire rebirth of DC’s future films.
The best way to watch The Suicide Squad is after you’ve seen all of the other DC movies. That way, you can appreciate all of the Easter eggs and references.
Related: How to Watch the DC Animated Movie Universe in Order
Black Adam (2022)
Black Adam focuses on the anti-hero of the same name, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The character is a former slave who was given superpowers by the wizard Shazam. There’s an interesting cameo in the mid-credits scene that DC fans should definitely watch out for.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is the sequel to Zachary Levi’s adventures as Billy Batson. In this film, Billy continues to struggles with growing up. Except this time, turning 18 means potentially losing a family he’s finally called his own. The Shazamily are still newbie superheroes and are still learning how to work together as a team. When a trio of ancient gods arrive in Boston in search of magic that’s tied to Billy, the Shazamily must join together to save the world from annihilation.
The followup to 2019’s Shazam! came and went like a pebble thrown into a lake. Meaning, Shazam! Fury of the Gods failed to make a splash with audiences. As James Gunn inches closer toward resetting the DC Universe, fans weren’t interested in showing up to a movie that no longer connects to the larger picture.
It won’t be long until The Flash officially resets the current DC timeline in June 2023.
- This article was updated on March 30th, 2023