The DC Animated Movie Universe Timeline Explained
2013 was a momentous year for DC Comics, as a brand-new connected universe launched. No, I’m not talking the DC Extended Universe (although that obviously was, and continues to be, a big deal). In this instance, I’m referring to the DC Animated Movie Universe, which hailed from Warner Bros Animation and DC Entertainment’s DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, and was inspired by the New 52 reboot that unfolded within the comic book pages just two years prior.
Earlier this year, the DC Animated Movie Universe officially came to an end, and while it remains to be seen if DC will launch a new shared continuity within its home video line, there’s unquestionably a lot to absorb within this 15-movie saga. So what stories made up the DC Animated Movie Universe, and which ones are the most necessary to watch to follow along with its overarching narrative? That’s what we’re here to lay out.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
Just like the original Flashpoint storyline, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox sees Barry Allen, a.k.a. The Flash, waking up in a drastically different version of his world, which he later learns was created when he went back in time to prevent his mother from being murdered. Ironically, although The Flashpoint Paradox is the first movie in the DC Animated Movie Universe, the starring heroes are already well established at the beginning. However, Barry racing back to stop his earlier self from fracturing time results in the creation of the New 52-like reality. As such, this movie is definitely worth watching if you’re curious about how this particular continuity came to be, and no spoilers here, but let’s just say Barry creating the Flashpoint reality ends up factoring into the conclusion of this film series.
Justice League: War
While Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox ushered in the DC Animated Movie Universe, Justice League: War serves the first chronological movie within the New 52 reality, making it a truly necessary watch. Based of the Justice League story arc that kicked off the New 52 in the comics, Justice League: War follows Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Cyborg and Shazam all teaming up together for the first time to repel Darkseid’s invasion of Earth. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that they emerge victorious, but that won’t be the last they see of Darkseid.
Son Of Batman
Considering his popularity, it’s hardly surprising that Batman received the most attention out of all the superheroes featured in the DC Animated Movie Universe. In his first solo movie, Son of Batman, Bruce Wayne discovers he has a son named Talia, whose mother is Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, leader of the League of Assassins. When Ra’s is killed during a coup led by Deathstroke, Talia requests that Bruce watch over Damian, who is far more reckless than Bruce anticipated. Not only is Son of Batman worth watching if you’re interested in Batman’s “solo” exploits in this continuity, but it also sets Damian Wayne up as a key character going forward.
Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis
Although Aquaman was a founding member of the Justice League in the New 52 comic continuity, he was nowhere to be seen in Justice League: War. Instead, his DC Animated Movie Universe debut was saved for Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, which followed him joining forces with the Justice League when his half-brother Orm, a.k.a. Ocean Master, declares war on the surface world, as he blames humanity for his father dying during Darkseid’s invasion. Unfortunately, Aquaman isn’t really a major player in the DCAMU going forward, but if you like the character and the original Throne of Atlantis storyline, the movie is definitely worth checking out.
Batman Vs. Robin
Partially inspired by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo’s Batman: The Court of Owls, another early storyline from DC’s New 52 comics continuity, Batman vs. Robin follows Bruce and Damian Wayne still struggling through their new crimefighting dynamic as they clash against the Court of Owls, a secret society that’s pulled Gotham City’s strings for centuries. Complicating matters further is Talon, an assassin who works for the Court, attempting to sway Damian to join the group, as the boy has become frustrated with his father’s moral code. Assuming you’re following along with the Batman corner of the DC Animated Movie Universe, Batman vs. Robin should not be skipped over.
Batman: Bad Blood
Thus far in Batman’s corner of the DC Animated Movie Universe, we’ve watched the Caped Crusader fight alongside Robin and Nightwing. Batman: Bad Blood expands the Batman Family in a big way. After Bruce Wayne goes missing while fighting a group of villains, including a new baddie called Heretic, Robin and Nightwing (who temporarily disguises himself as Batman so Gotham City isn’t aware of the Caped Crusader’s absence) join forces with Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, and Luke Fox, a.k.a. Batwing, and bring down this nefarious group, which is being led by Talia al Ghul. This is the biggest the Batman Family ever gets in the DCAMU, and keep watching until the very end for a cameo from one of its most famous members.
Justice League Vs. Teen Titans
The Teen Titans have existed for almost as long as the Justice League, so it’s only natural that the DC Animated Movie Universe brought them in. Due to Damian Wayne’s reckless actions during a battle between the Justice League and Legion of Doom that ends with Weather Wizard briefly being possessed by a demonic corrupter controlled by Trigon, Damian is sent to join the Teen Titans, which in the present day consists of Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and Blue Beetle. However, as the movie’s title clearly indicates, Justice League vs. Teen Titans sees the younger superhero group having to battle their older counterparts when Trigon’s entities possess them, all in an attempt to capture Raven, his daughter, and lay waste to the world. Not only is it a good idea to watch Justice League vs. Teen Titans before Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, but the events of this movie later play into the conclusion of the DCAMU.
Justice League Dark
While the Justice League and Teen Titans are primarily made up of more conventional superheroes, the Justice League Dark is comprised of magical and supernatural characters who protect reality from mystical threats. As such, the team’s DC Animated Movie Universe movie sees John Constantine, Zatanna, Etrigan the Demon, Black Orchid, Swamp Thing and Deadman teaming up with Batman after a strange force starts making normal citizens commit murder because they see their victims as demonic creatures. Justice League Dark is a largely standalone tale, but Constantine, Etrigan and Zatanna return to play key roles in the sequel, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Years before the DC Animated Movie Universe was a thing, an adaptation of the classic Teen Titans story The Judas Contract was intended to follow Superman: Doomsday and Justice League: The New Frontier, but it was scrapped. However, this new version eventually rose from the ashes and follows the basic framework of the original source material, i.e. the Earth-manipulating Terra joining the team, but actually working for Deathstroke. But there are also plenty of differences in this version, such as the inclusion of Brother Blood and even filmmaker Kevin Smith as himself. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract isn’t the most integral DCAMU movie, but it’s still an enjoyable watch.
Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay
Here we have another largely standalone entry in the DC Animated Movie Universe, with Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay following Task Force X members like Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Killer Frost and Bronze Tiger being sent by Amanda Waller to retrieve the mystical “Get Out of Hell Free” card. However, those who watched Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox will want to watch this movie, as the main villain ends up being Eobard Thawne, a.k.a. Reverse-Flash, who is still running around despite having been shot in the Flashpoint timeline. Thawne’s presence serves as a pleasant reminder of how this continuity came into existence.
The Death Of Superman
DC kicked off its Original Animated Movie line in 2007 with Superman: Doomsday, but The Death of Superman and its sequel was intended to be a more faithful adaptation of the original storyline, similar to what was done with The Dark Knight Returns earlier in the decade. Just like in the comics, the story follows Superman and his allies fighting the living weapon known as Doomsday, and obviously how things end for the Man of Steel is no secret. But Superman dying is just one half of the overall tale, which brings us to the second half…
Reign Of The Supermen
Just like what happened on the printed page, Superman’s demise paves the way for four other individuals to fill his shoes, albeit not without controversy: Superboy, Steel, Cyborg Superman and The Eradicator. While Superboy and Steel are fighting to protect the innocent, and Eradicator turning out to be a Kryptonian hologram designed to keep Superman safe as he’s slowly resurrected, Cyborg Superman, originally a human astronaut known as Hank Henshaw, falls squarely into the villain category. I won’t spoil how Reign of the Supermen specifically ends, but in the final minutes, it sets up what’s to come in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. So in case it wasn’t clear already, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen are two of the most critical DCAMU movies to watch.
We’ve now come to the final standalone Batman movie in the DC Animated Movie Universe. Just like in the original storyline, Batman: Hush follows the sinister Hush, who somehow knows all of Batman’s secrets and hires/blackmails several of the Caped Crusader’s greatest enemies into taking part in his nefarious scheme. Superman is even mind controlled for a bit into attacking his fellow Justice Leaguer! It should be noted that there is a major twist in Batman: Hush regarding Hush himself that those who’ve read Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s original story might find controversial. That said, if you’ve followed along with all the Batman-related DCAMU movies up to this point, you might as well stick around for one last bout of Dark Knight-centric action as this animated saga starts winding down.
Wonder Woman: Bloodlines
The penultimate entry of the DC Animated Movie Universe finally puts the spotlight on Wonder Woman, who up until this point had only led one other animated movie. Wonder Woman: Bloodlines kicks off by showing viewers how she met Steve Trevor and came to man’s world to protect humanity approximately half a decade earlier, and the present day storyline follows her battling Doctor Cyber, Doctor Poison, Cheetah, Giganta and Silver Swan, who have come together to form Villainy Inc. The events of Wonder Woman: Bloodlines don’t factor into the final chapter of the DCAMU, but if you like what you’ve seen of Wonder Woman in this film series, you should check it out.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
And now we reach the end of our DC Animated Movie Universe journey, which sees the heroes reaching their lowest point yet. The Justice League travels to Apokolips to defeat Darkseid once and for all, but its attack fails, with the heroes all being either killed or enslaved. From there, Darkseid and his armies conquer Earth, but two years later, a resistance starts to form. That’s about all I can reveal without delving into heavy spoilers, but suffice it to say that Justice League Dark: Apokolips War concludes the DCAMU with the same type of intensity and legacy that Avengers: Endgame did for the MCU’s Infinity Saga.
And there we have it, folks: 15 movies across seven years made up the DC Animated Movie Universe. DC is continuing to churn out direct-to-video animated features, with Superman: Man of Tomorrow having followed Justice League Dark: Apokolips War a few months later, and next year’s animated fare including Batman: Soul of the Dragon, Justice Society: World War II and the two-part Batman: The Long Halloween adaptation. However, should a new animated shared universe rise from the ashes of the DCAMU, it’ll be interesting to see how it compares to its predecessor and whether there will be any direct ties, akin to how the DC Rebirth relaunch was connected to the New 52.