Whether it’s Superman flying faster than the speed of light or Batman hopping into his Batmobile, DC Comics has given us some of the most iconic superheroes of all-time. They popularized the idea of a live-action transition from the comics with George Reeves starring Adventures of Superman in the ’50s and the Adam West starring Batman TV show in the ’60s. While Marvel Comics has caught up to our favorite caped heroes and surpassed them in terms of yearly output, we still anxiously await a glimpse into Gotham or Metropolis whenever one is given and hope to be wowed when DC’s fast-approaching play to catch up to Marvel (again, in terms of output and also the variety of characters on the big screen) rolls into theaters.
While we wait, let’s check out these classic DC comics movies that are available to stream.
Batman: The Movie (Amazon)
Before the Christopher Nolan’s gritty Dark Knight and way before Joel Schumacher’s bat nipples, there was the original and cartoon-like Batman played by Adam West. The most tongue-in-check and lighthearted of all the Batmen, DC Comics paved the way for audiences to see Batman on the big screen with this film and its mid-air shark attacks.
Director Richard Donner brings the son of Krypton to audiences worldwide with this smash hit. With iconic performances from Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman, this movie popularized the idea of what a superhero movie should be and took Superman to new heights.
Superman II (Amazon)
Even though the sequel was filmed concurrently with the first Superman film, director Richard Donner was fired after filming 75 percent of the movie and replaced by Richard Lester. Despite the drama surrounding the movie, Superman II still charmed critics and showed Superman’s first on-screen face off with Zod.
Swamp Thing (iTunes)
Horror legend Wes Craven follows the story of Alec Holland, a scientist who transforms into the creature, Swamp Thing. The movie was favored by critics, no doubt due to the direction of Craven and the tongue-in-check nature of the movie.
Superman III (Amazon)
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… Richard Pryor? Unable to repeat the success of the first two movies, the third Superman relies on camp and gags that did not please critics or fans.
As an attempted spin-off of the original Superman movies, Supergirl does not quite fly. With a measly seven percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the only awards that this movie was nominated for were two Razzie awards.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Amazon)
A movie that some would call one of the worst comic book movies ever made, Superman IV marked a disappointing end for the Christopher Reeve era of Superman. After the failure of the fourth movie, the Superman series took a long hiatus until 2006’s Superman Returns.
The Return of the Swamp Thing (Amazon)
The Swamp Thing returns, but this time with Heather Locklear as a vegetarian who falls in love with the Swamp Thing. Critics did not fall in love with this sequel that presently stands with a 33 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Batman makes his triumphant return to the big screen with Michael Keaton as our caped crusader. The wildly successful movie by Tim Burton shows a darker side to Batman as he faces off against Jack Nicholson’s Joker.
Batman Returns (Amazon)
Tim Burton’s last Batman film took The Dark Knight more into the Burton-inspired Gotham City while tasking Batman with a battle against Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and Danny DeVito’s Penguin. The movie was a bit goofier than its predecessor, but it still was a great success for the bat.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Amazon)
The only animated DC movie released theatrically, Mask of the Phantasm brought the team who brought you Batman: The Animated Series to the big screen. With Kevin Conroy voicing Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker, this movie gives you everything you need if you’re a Bat-fan.
Batman Forever (Amazon)
Following Tim Burton’s exit, director Joel Schumacher injected a bit of camp into the Batman franchise while also bringing Val Kilmer aboard to play Bruce Wayne/Batman and allowing Jim Carrey to run wild as The Riddler. There’s also a great Seal song, “Kiss From A Rose,” on the soundtrack. How good is this movie? I just mentioned the soundtrack… but in all seriousness, Carrey is kind of great and this film generally gets lumped in with its sequel, even though it wasn’t nearly as toy commercial-y.
Batman & Robin (Amazon)
With bat nipples, ice puns, and homoeroticism to spare, Batman & Robin is a movie spectacle that demands to be seen firsthand. Batman and Robin (along with Batgirl) fight against Mr. Freeze in a pretty cool performance by Arnold Schwarzenegger (THE ICE PUNS ARE INFECTIOUS!) After this movie came out, the Batman movie franchise had to take a break from this caped crusader.
In a way, Warner Bros didn’t have anything to lose. The Batman franchise was making money and they had a character that was somewhat obscure despite his presence in the Reign of Supermen arc following The Death of Superman in the comics. They also had, standing right in front of them, a personable mega-star athlete who might blossom into a multi-platform star in the form of Shaquille O’Neal. The pairing made sense, even if the big guy couldn’t act. Unfortunately, the result was disappointing, but you take that shot.
Even Halle Berry’s star power could not save Catwoman. However, Halle Berry was still able to have a sense of humor about this tragic movie as she accepted her Worst Actress Razzie in person.
Batman Begins (Amazon)
Before Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale got their hands on Batman, the famous superhero was considered a joke, thanks to Batman & Robin. That all changed when Nolan showed how dark and realistic the hero could be and brought him back to the tone put forth by the likes of Frank Miller in Batman: Year One.
Superman Returns (Amazon)
In an attempt to revive the Superman franchise, director Bryan Singer took a break from his beloved X-Men to create Superman Returns. While it was a financial success, it’s still considered a failure and concerned many fans with its repetitive plot, as well as Superman and Lois Lane’s super-child.
The Dark Knight (Amazon)
If there’s a movie that captures the caped crusader in almost perfect form, it’s The Dark Knight. Batman faces off against his most iconic nemesis, The Joker, played by the unforgettable Heath Ledger. Very few superhero movies can compare to the critical and commercial success of this film.
Bringing Alan Moore’s legendary graphic novel to life, Watchmen showed off the darker side of superheroes with the help of director Zack Snyder, who, despite a few omissions, seemed as though he was very focused on doing justice to the source material. The movie, which disappointed at the box office, should still count as a win for its director and producers, being that the source material had long been thought of as un-filmable.
Jonah Hex (Amazon)
Joining Steel and Catwoman in the easily forgettable DC movie pile, this period piece features Josh Brolin as disfigured gunslinger Jonah Hex. Despite a cast that included John Malkovich and Michael Fassbender, the movie flopped hard.
Green Lantern (Amazon)
Starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, Green Lantern marks the first time that anyone had brought the Green Lantern Corp to the big screen. However, few were thrilled with this version of the legendary superhero, and Warner Bros. will one day take another swing with a reboot.
The Dark Knight Rises (Amazon)
Rises finishes off the Christopher Nolan’s Batman series by pitting the Dark Knight against the powerful, but partly inaudible villain, Bane. While the ending divided fans, Nolan still came out on top with a franchise that dramatically changed the way audiences and critics view superhero movies.
Man of Steel (Amazon)
Though it was unknown at the time, Director Zack Snyder became the architect of the new DC Cinematic Universe when he took on Man of Steel. Taking inspiration from the gritty realism of The Dark Knight series, Superman faces off against another superhuman, General Zod, ending with a scene that is controversial to some fans, but possibly necessary for what will follow.