Here’s a list of every canonical movie in the rebranded DC Universe (along with the one DCU TV show) in chronological order and by release date.
While Marvel currently holds the crown for the king of comic book movies, DC isn't far behind, with several highly-anticipated upcoming movies. 2023 is set to be a big year for the studio as they will release four different films in their franchise known as the DC Universe or DCU for short. While certainly more hit or miss in terms of love from viewers, the DCU still has a loyal fanbase.
Updated November 3rd, 2022: This article has been updated following the release of Black Adam and to reflect the new franchise name, the DCU.
Like the MCU, the DCU oftentimes jumps around the timeline in relation to when each film takes place. The DCU isn't nearly as expansive as the MCU currently is, meaning it is much less of an undertaking to get caught up. There are also many DC films and shows which are non-canonical and don't actually exist in this universe (for now), so it should be noted that the only titles here are those which are considered canon; for instance, the DC films Joker and The Batman do not exist in the official DCU. Neither does any DC TV show, with one exception — Peacemaker. Even if it is a TV series, it is considered canon in the DCU (and created by the current head of the DCU, James Gunn, meaning that it will likely be more important than ever).
While there is the release order to choose from, there is also the decision to watch the movies in chronological order to see how this universe develops. If you are among those purists, we have compiled a simple list showing where each entry in the DCU lies, while guiding you through the story.
Or if you'd like, you can see them listed by release date and watch the DCU that way.
While the character made her big-screen debut in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the origin story for Wonder Woman is told in her 2017 solo film. This movie predates most of the DCU's events by quite a lot. A bulk of the Wonder Woman movie takes place in 1918, while Man of Steel, the first DCU film released, takes place primarily in 2013. Long before Krypton is destroyed or Thomas and Martha Wayne are even born, Diana Prince makes her mark on history and learns what it means to be a hero.
The film introduces the island of Themyscira. On it, Amazonian warriors were created by Zeus and eventually left to form their own society away from man's world. An Allied fighter pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) washes up on the shores of Themyscira after his plane goes down. Diana finds Steve, who she falls in love with, eventually joining him and the rest of the Allied forces during World War I.
Diana learns several lessons that every hero must learn, including sacrifice. Steve eventually sacrifices himself for the greater good, devastating the young heroine. Throughout the movie, Diana proves why she is one of the most iconic action movie heroines. This film shows the first time a metahuman made themselves known in the DCU. It may have taken a while, but it would be far from the last.
Set 66 years after the first film, Wonder Woman 1984 still has a bit to go before the further events of the DCU. As the title suggests, the film takes place in 1984. Diana is living among the humans, protecting them in secret as Wonder Woman. By day, she is an employee at the Smithsonian Institute, as she was in Justice League. Diana soon discovers a stone that supposedly grants someone one wish. Diana wishes for Steve to return, while her colleague Barbara wishes to be more like Diana. This inadvertently gives Barbara the powers of Wonder Woman. Steve also returns, but with consequences.
Diana's life force is being drained, meaning she is losing her powers. Soon, an oil tycoon named Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) comes across the stone, and it is up to Diana to stop him from draining the planet's life force. Because the timeline still has a ways to go before anything happens, there are no references to other DCU titles save for Wonder Woman. The movie serves as a slight retcon of the line in Batman V Superman that established that Wonder Woman walked away from man's world after World War 1, where here it is shown she was still operating just in secret.
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First to be released, but third, on the timeline, Man of Steel showcases the introduction of Superman to the world. While mostly taking place in 2013, the beginning portions of the film showcase the final days of Krypton. Jor-El places his son Kal in a pod and sets it off toward Earth, while he and the rest of the Kryptonians perish as their planet is destroyed. Years later, Kal-El (now named Clark Kent) learns that he has abilities that other kids his age do not. As an adult, he hides from the world before realizing that he is destined for greater things.
Just as Clark is learning who he is, survivors of Krypton arrive at Earth in search of the son of Jor-El. General Zod and his followers seek vengeance on Jor-El, and they intend to do so by taking out Kal-El and turning Earth into the new Krypton. Clark, now officially Superman, does not take these threats lightly. After a brutal and destructive battle, Superman eventually comes out on top, and Earth sees the face of a new hero. Superman's arrival is treated as a grand cosmic shift for the franchise, as this is the moment the era of heroes begins in the public eye. Many are glad Earth has a savior to protect them, while others see him as a threat. In fact, Bruce Wayne decides he needs to go, and fans still aren't sure if he was right or wrong.
Batman vs Superman takes place roughly a year after the events of Man of Steel. The film does open with a flashback to the night Thomas and Martha Wayne were killed and has a brief scene that takes place during the battle in Metropolis from the previous film. In it, the citizens of Metropolis are rushing to evacuate the city as super-beings are destroying everything around them. Among those scrambling for survival is Bruce Wayne, who stares down the Man of Steel as he holds a newly orphaned girl.
Bruce Wayne has retired as Batman, but this new threat reignites the fire within him. In the present day, Batman is much more vengeful than he has ever been, brutalizing and even killing his opponents. His vicious sense of justice puts him on a crash course with Superman, which is exactly what Batman wants. While the two heroes duke it out, Lex Luthor has unleashed an even greater threat, Doomsday. Wonder Woman eventually joins the fun, and the three heroes join forces, taking out Luthor and his Kryptonian monster.
The fight ends with Superman sacrificing his life as Batman and Wonder Woman helplessly watch. This sacrifice gives Bruce his humanity back and inspires him to start a team of super-beings to ensure no more otherworldly threats arrive. The film is hotly debated by fans, although one could argue that Ben Affleck got Batman right in it.
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Fitting in the timeline about a year after Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad shows the creation of Task Force X. Amanda Waller has put together a group of super-criminals to take out a seemingly impossible threat. In Waller's eyes, If they die, then there is no great loss, as they are criminals. There are a few flashbacks that take place sometime before Man of Steel showing Batman in action and many villain origin stories, but these are brief segments. Superman's death is referenced and is the major kick-off for the Suicide Squad being assembled, meaning this movie fits right after BVS.
This David Ayer version of Suicide Squad introduces the fan-favorite Harley Quinn performance by Margot Robbie. It also features Jared Leto's Joker; this version of the Joker has varied fan reception, depending on who is asked. This movie is a more lighthearted film in the DCU, which was welcomed after the last film ended with the death of Superman. Will Smith is featured as Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot and is joined by Captain Boomerang, El Diablo, Killer Croc, Slipknot, and Katana. The team is led by Colonel Rick Flag, and their mission is to stop Enchantress from taking over the world. Their mission is somewhat successful, and an after-credits scene shows Bruce Wayne talking to Waller about another superhuman team he has in mind, and threatens her to shut down Task Force X.
There are famously two versions of Justice League, although they both take place at the same time. The theatrically released cut released in 2017 takes place two years after Batman vs Superman and the death of Superman. His death triggers the Mother Boxes, and Steppenwolf arrives with his Parademon army to retrieve them. Having been inspired by Superman's selfless act, Batman and Wonder Woman assemble a team of meta-humans to take out this new threat.
Fan reception of this film was less than stellar, as most of the plot was cut and re-shot after Zack Snyder left post-production. Regardless of which version of the film you watch, they both take place in the year 2017 after BVS and Suicide Squad. The film's main villain is Steppenwolf, who has simply a henchman in the original cut of the film for the bigger bad Darkseid. The League revives Superman with a Mother Box, only to have him attack them. When Superman comes through, he practically single-handedly takes out Steppenwolf and saves the world. The Justice League has now formed.
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The Snyder Cut of Justice League released in 2021 is the alternate version and is usually preferred over the theatrical version, as is the case with many movies with different director's cuts. Because of this, Zack Snyder's much longer film is canon to many fans.
Like the theatrical cut, this film takes place two years after Batman Vs Superman. An ancient evil named Darkseid returns to Earth after thousands of years. Originally, it took an army of super-beings to take him out. After Superman dies, Darkseid seizes the opportunity to finish what he started 3,000 years prior. Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince assemble a team of meta-humans to take him on. They recruit Cyborg, Aquaman, and The Flash to save the planet from becoming a new Apokolips, the homeworld of Darkseid.
Darkseid is seeking three Mother Boxes, which were separated when he was defeated the first time. The Justice League quickly learns they are no match, and attempts to use the boxes to resurrect Superman. They are successful, although he has lost his inhibitions and fights the team. He eventually comes through, and the seven united heroes prevent Darkseid and his army from taking over the planet. Bruce Wayne receives a vision, however. In it, Darkseid arrives in the future and turns Superman against the planet he loves. Batman and a group of survivors, including Joker and Deathstroke, are left to find a way to save the planet. This final bit might not be canon but is a possible hint at what could happen.
Roughly a year after Justice League, Arthur Curry has learned to co-exist with the land dwellers. Some of his fellow Atlantians disagree with his sentiment, however. In fact, Orm, the ruler of Atlantis and Arthur's half-brother, looks to unite the four kingdoms of Atlantis and attack the surface world. In order to prevent a full-scale war and save both the human and Atlantic world, he must retrieve the Trident of Atlan and take the throne of Atlantis.
Things are made worse when Orm stages an attack with the help of a human named David, and the four kingdoms agree to unite. David is given Atlantian armor and becomes Black Manta. Black Manta goes after Aquaman and nearly kills him. Eventually, Aquaman is successful and takes his rightful place as King of Atlantis. As king, he vows to protect not only the people of the ocean but humans as well. Aquaman was a surprisingly massive success, raking in over $1 billion worldwide, and its upcoming sequel titled Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is set for release in December 2023.
Taking place around Christmas 2018, Shazam! is next in the DCU timeline. The film follows Billy Batson, a young boy who becomes the recipient of remarkable powers. When he says the magic word, he becomes a fully grown superhero. While not mentioned in the film for obvious reasons, this superhero's name is actually Captain Marvel in the comics. This film mostly stands on its own but what is interesting is by Shazam! the various heroes of the Justice League are so well known to the public they have merchandise (which is in fact real-world merchandise of the characters).
There are a handful of references to other DCU films, such as a Batarang and Superman actually appearing at the end. Even though Superman isn't played by Henry Cavill and doesn't show his face, this is clearly the same Superman that has appeared in past DCU films. The movie takes on a more comedic tone and has been praised as one of the better films in the DCU canon. A sequel titled Shazam! Fury of the Gods is set for release on March 17, 2023.
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After the failure of the theatrical cut of Justice League, the DCU seemed to veer off course by quite a bit and tried to find itself and what it wanted to be. There are enough references in Birds of Prey to connect it to Suicide Squad, including a picture reference to Captain Boomerang. Four years after Suicide Squad, Joker breaks up with Harley, leaving her to fend for herself. Through a series of mishaps, Harley is put in the crosshairs of crime lord Roman Sianois aka Black Mask. She joins Black Canary, Rene Montoya, Cassandra Cain, and The Huntress in order to take him out.
The film continues an ongoing trend in the DCU, following in the footsteps of Suicide Squad and Shazam! by leaning more into comedy territory as opposed to straight action. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) introduces plenty of new characters to the franchise and enriches the world of Gotham City by showing how vast the criminal element is in the city that not even Batman can keep up with everything.
While the placement of 2021's The Suicide Squad in the DCU is a point of debate, there is enough here to confirm it. The film takes place in 2021 and shows Amanda Waller still running Task Force X and takes place after Birds of Prey as Harley is back in custody and her friendship with Captain Boomerang has grown. This time, she assembles a team of expendable criminals to storm the island nation of Corto Maltese and prevent Project Starfish from falling into the wrong hands.
Outside of Harley Quinn, Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, and Waller appearing, there is little to no connection to the first movie but the very nature of the Squad means that membership will rotate. Its major DC connections seem to be Bloodsport having shot Superman with a Kryptonite bullet. The main team consists of Harley Quinn, Rick Flag, King Shark, Peacemaker, Rat Catcher 2, Polka Dot Man, and Bloodsport. The Suicide Squad is much more raunchy and unorthodox than the first movie, and nearly everyone prefers it. The film is frequently praised for being one of James Gunn's best.
Currently, the one and only television show that takes place in the DCU is Peacemaker. Peacemaker picks up five months after The Suicide Squad and shows the titular hero joining a secret task force to stop an alien invasion all while the man who will kill peace begins to question if he is a hero and if he can be better than what he imagines himself.
Peacemaker takes place in the DCU but shows a much more mundane look at the universe, instead of big vast cities the series takes place mainly in small towns, and elaborate super bases are replaced with hotels and old run-down buildings. The character of Peacemaker makes plenty of raunchy jokes about the various superheroes of the DCU. Yet while this show seemed so disconnected from the rest of the franchise, the final episode featured the Justice League showing up in silhouette. While Superman and Wonder Woman were not shown, Jason Momoa's Aquaman and Ezra Miller's The Flash did show up for a quick cameo. The series also featured a quick visual easter egg to Intergang in the fictional country of Kahndaq setting up the next DCU project, Black Adam.
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The latest addition to the DCU Black Adam was hyped up as the film that would drastically alter the DCU. While the quality of the film is debatable and how much was actually changed, there is no doubt that Black Adam does introduce a lot of new elements to the franchise and also shows how much the universe has grown since Superman's arrival in Man of Steel.
Black Adam's prologue takes place in 2600 B.C. so long before any DCU film proper but also after Darkseid's invasion for the Anti-Life equation, the sinking of Atlantis and the Amazons leaving for Themyscira. The majority of the film takes place in the present day and can be assumed to take place in 2022. Black Adam features the introduction of the Justice Society which is working with Amanda Waller. Waller has a new Task Force X prison in the Arctic to hold supervillains. Superman also appears at the end to talk to Black Adam, showing the Justice League is still active. By the time Black Adam ends, a new superpowered individual walking around indicating big seismic changes for the franchise moving forward.
If you aren't as interested in watching every DCU movie in chronological order, but would rather watch them in order of their release dates, then look no further. We've listed them below for simplicity.
Donnie is a freelance entertainment writer with a passion for film. Horror is his specialty, but he loves any genre. In his spare time, he enjoys writing, reading, gaming, and watching movies.