DC Universe, which launched in the US in mid-September 2018, is the newest subscription streaming service from a major Hollywood studio, in this case, Warner Bros. It happens to own DC Comics, the comic book publishing home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and many more famous superhero characters.
Warner Bros has released a ton of TV shows, both live-action and animated, based on its DC Comics properties over the past several decades, not to mention a bunch of live-action and animated feature films. Now the studio is trying to bring as much of its DC Comics content as it can for DC Universe. For $7.99 a month or $77.99 a year (with a free seven-day trial) you can not only check out a large selection of DC Comics movies and TV shows but also read and download thousands of digital DC Comics. The service even has its own community forum and its own store, where you can purchase merchandise that is only available if you subscribe to DC Universe.
Thankfully, fans of DC Comics have quite a few movies and TV shows to stream for their money, and we are going to pick our favorites from the new streaming service. Keep in mind that, like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, the current list of movies and TV series on DC Universe will likely change on a regular basis.
Superman – The Movie (1978)
Long before the current superhero boom in movies and TV, film fans were treated to Superman – The Movie. Even though the film is nearly 40 years old, it still stands the test as one of the best superhero movies ever made. An unknown actor, the late Christopher Reeve, took on the role of not only the alien from Krypton that’s also known as the Man of Steel but also of his alter ego Clark Kent. His performance made you believe that not only a man could fly, but that the simple act of wearing glasses was enough to make anyone believe that Superman and Clark were two different people.
Superman – The Movie also gave us great performances from the late Margot Kidder as reporter Lois Lane, who made us also believe that she and Superman were made for each other. And who can forget Gene Hackman? His portrayal of the evil Lex Luthor remains a highlight, as we see him try to pull off the ultimate real estate scam, which Superman has to stop.
DC Universe also has all of Christopher Reeve’s other films as the Man of Steel, including 1981’s Superman II, which features him dealing with the three Kryptonian criminals who come to Earth to wreak havoc, including General “Kneel before” Zod.
11 years after Superman – The Movie was released, DC Comics fans finally got to see another major character make it onto the big screen in a more serious manner. Decades after the campy Batman TV show (and quickly made film spin-off) starring Adam West went off the air, actor Michael Keaton and director Tim Burton gave us a version of the Caped Crusader that was much closer in spirit to the dark vigilante in the comics.
Like the first Superman movie, Batman is almost upstaged by his villain. Jack Nicholson was the perfect choice at the time to play the Joker, and his performance as the Clown Prince of Crime was suitably mad and funny. Another highlight of the movie is its art and production design. Gotham City doesn’t look like any city on the planet in Burton’s films, something which Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, as good as they are, never really accomplished.
You can watch Batman on DC Universe from now until the end of September, along with Burton and Keaton’s other film Batman Returns. You can also watch the two Batman movies directed by Joel Schumacher on DC Universe until September 30; Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.
The Dark Knight (2008)
In 2005, Memento director Christopher Nolan released Batman Begins, an origin story for the character that was even closer to what the comic book version of the character was like than Burton’s films. However, Nolan surpassed Batman Begins in 2008 with the release of The Dark Knight. Bringing back Christian Bale as Batman, we got to see a truly serious look at this character and how his presence affects Gotham City and everyone in it.
However, this film would not be nearly as compelling if it didn’t have the performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. Ledger’s version of the classic Batman villain is of a pure force of nature, who always seems to be one step ahead of Batman and the police, as he tries to show, in his own way, how anyone could turn into someone like him. Also giving an excellent performance is Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, the district attorney who runs into the Joker’s plans and is forever changed into Two-Face. Both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are currently available on DC Universe.
Wonder Woman (1975-1979)
While it took 2015’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to finally bring a live-action Wonder Woman to the big screen, we were treated in the past to a great TV show that also featured our favorite Amazonian warrior. The show, which started out set in World War II and later went into the present day of the 70s, was a bit campy at times. But there’s no denying that Lynda Carter’s performance as Wonder Woman was a delight to watch every week. She may be super strong, fast and can jump really high, but she only used those talents as a last resort, as she only wanted to keep the peace.
By the way, you can check out another Wonder Woman TV project on DC Universe. It’s the almost forgotten 1974 pilot movie, starring Kathy Lee Crosby, that took a ton of liberties with the original source material. It never got past the pilot stage.
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997)
Superman as a rom-com? Believe it or not, that was basically the premise of this TV show, which was a huge hit in the 1990s. While it still featured Superman saving the day from supervillains, the show centered on the relationship between him and his long-time love Lois Lane. Indeed, actors Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher played their roles, not as stiff newspaper reporters, but as sexy “will they or won’t they?” partners.
Indeed, the show finally got Clark to not only reveal his secret Superman identity to Lois, but he asked her to marry him (which also happened in the Superman comics around the same time). The show remains one of the most different takes on the superhero genre for TV.
Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
What’s the best depiction of Batman in movies and TV? Many people would argue that the title should go to Batman: The Animated Series. The Fox animated series introduced us to an old-fashioned art style that still worked within the world of Batman. It also introduced us to Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman, a role he would continue to play for decades in other animated projects, as well as video games.
The series had a number of memorable episodes, along with excellent voice performances from people like Mark Hammil, who some think offers the best Joker portrayal ever. Let’s not forget that this show was the first to introduce Harley Quinn, the Joker’s insane partner that has become one of the most popular DC Comics characters ever.
By the way, this show spawned a number of spin-offs set in the same animated setting that are also available via DC Universe, including Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited and the futuristic Batman Beyond.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Part One and Two (2012-2013)
In 1986, writer-artist Frank Miller released Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The four-part comic book mini-series depicted Batman as an older crimefighter coming out of retirement after 10 years to fight the good fight in Gotham. It was a major hit and helped to boost the character’s popularity ahead of the Tim Burton Batman live-action film that was released three years later. However, the original mini-series had never been adapted to any kind of movie until Warner Bros. Animation released this direct-to-video production.
Peter Weller, who portrayed another pop culture crime fighter in Robocop, takes on the voice role of the older Batman and Bruce Wayne in these two films. Part One sees Batman return to Gotham to fight Two-Face and the Mutant gang, alongside his new female Robin. Part Two has Batman in his last fight with the Joker, voiced by the excellent Michael Emerson, and then finally going toe-to-toe with Superman, in a battle that influenced much of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Another animated adaptation of a Frank Miller Batman comic book story, Batman: Year One, is also available to stream via DC Universe.
Upcoming original DC Universe TV shows
Later this year, DC Universe will begin streaming original series that, for the moment at least, will be exclusive to the service. It begins on October 12 with the debut of Titans. This 10-part live action series is based loosely on the 1980’s The New Teen Titans comic book series from writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pezez. It focuses on four young superheroes, led by Dick Grayson as Robin, who is ready to leave the shadow of being the sidekick of Batman behind. If you have seen the trailer for Titans, you know Robin says two words that spell out, in no uncertain terms, how he feels about his former mentor.
In 2019, DC Universe will expand to include even more original series, including live-action shows based on Doom Patrol, Stargirl and Swamp Thing. The service will also show a Harley Quinn animated series, and will also present an all-new season of the cult hit animated show, Young Justice.
Top DC Universe movies and TV shows – Conclusion
Once again, these are our picks for the best current TV shows and movies you can stream on DC Universe. We will update this post as new shows are added and older ones drop off. In the meantime, what do you think of our picks?