Beginning with 2013’s Man of Steel, the DC Extended Universe has had a tumultuous 10-year run. While some of its films were tremendous success stories, some didn’t fare so well, and others have gone down as some of the worst superhero movies ever made.
- 12. Shazam! Fury of the Gods ($65,500,000)
- 11. Wonder Woman 1984 ($166,602,006)
- 10. The Suicide Squad ($168,717,425)
- 9. Birds of Prey ($205,322,941)
- 8. Shazam! ($366,080,049)
- 7. Black Adam ($392,952,111)
- 6. Justice League ($657,926,987)
- 5. Man of Steel ($668,045,518)
- 4. Suicide Squad ($746,846,894)
- 3. Wonder Woman ($822,854,286)
- 2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($873,637,528)
- 1. Aquaman-$1,148,528,393
All this has given the franchise a mixed reputation and has made some audiences eager to see how James Gunn will reboot everything with his new DC Universe. As the DCEU nears its end, now is a good time to rank the most popular movies in this cinematic universe in terms of box-office gross.
Note: All box-office figures are based on the worldwide gross for each film as of March 20, 2023.
12. Shazam! Fury of the Gods ($65,500,000)
Though the film has only just been released in theaters, Shazam! Fury of the Gods has already performed below expectations in its opening weekend. Even with a bigger cast, a bigger story, and a surprise cameo from Wonder Woman, the sequel failed to live up to its predecessor to some audiences. Nevertheless, Fury of the Gods has still satisfied many fans with its heartfelt narrative, electrifying action, and lighthearted humor.
11. Wonder Woman 1984 ($166,602,006)
After the success of Wonder Woman’s first movie, it seemed like the sequel couldn’t lose. After all, Patty Jenkins returned as director, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine shared the screen yet again, and the story featured a fun and nostalgic story set in the ’80s.
Unfortunately, Wonder Woman 1984 failed to make back its $200 million budget due to mixed reviews, a limited theatrical run caused by the pandemic, and a simultaneous release on HBO Max. The movie came out at the worst possible time, but the hatred for its ambitious but overindulgent plot proves there can be too much of a good thing.
10. The Suicide Squad ($168,717,425)
After the spectacular failure of 2016’s Suicide Squad, the franchise was in desperate need of a fresh start, and writer/director James Gunn seemed like the one who would save the squad. Despite getting rave reviews from fans and critics alike, The Suicide Squad bombed at the box office due to its same-day streaming release, the pandemic, and the less-than-favorable reception of the preceding film.
Even so, the movie has set the foundation for much of Gunn’s new DC Universe with spinoffs like Peacemaker, Waller, and possibly, Creature Commandos.
9. Birds of Prey ($205,322,941)
Overall, director Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey was met with positive reviews for the cast’s outstanding performances, the simultaneously dark and comedic story, and its many stunning action sequences. But even though Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was widely popular with fans, the profits that her film made weren’t as large as one would think.
While Birds of Prey certainly isn’t a flop, it still failed to break even at the box office (COVID is partially to blame), and the film has fallen under the radar since its release.
8. Shazam! ($366,080,049)
David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! came as a delightful surprise, having premiered with glowing reviews and become one of the DCEU’s most beloved films. But since Shazam was still a relatively unknown hero and the DCEU was still trying to regain its credibility, the movie grossed around $361 million.
While this pales in comparison to many other superhero blockbusters, this relatively low-budget film was still a critical and commercial success.
7. Black Adam ($392,952,111)
Fans waited years for Dwayne Johnson to suit up as Black Adam in this film. But even with the Rock leading this super-antihero blockbuster and the Justice Society fighting alongside him, the movie failed to shake up the DCEU in the way many had hoped.
Due to its ballooning budget and divisive reviews, Black Adam became just another comic book movie that bombed in theaters. And the fact that Henry Cavill won’t continue his run as Superman only makes this film’s ending more disappointing.
6. Justice League ($657,926,987)
Though the DCEU had a tough run with its previous batch of films, there were still high hopes that it would succeed with Justice League, especially when Warner Bros. brought in The Avengers director Joss Whedon for reshoots. Even with its massive box-office gross, Justice League failed to break even due to its $300 million budget, with many critics and fans blasting the movie’s uneven writing, unrealistic CGI, and cringey attempts at humor.
The film’s theatrical cut is now considered one of the worst films in the DCEU, costing the studio $60 million and resulting in a four-year campaign to release Zack Snyder’s Justice League. At this point, the film is now known as a worst-case example of what happens when a studio hijacks a director’s vision for their film.
5. Man of Steel ($668,045,518)
Since Superman is one of the greatest figures in pop culture, the hype surrounding Man of Steel was through the roof, especially with more and more superhero movies being made at the time. The film made bank in theaters, but Zack Snyder’s dark take on the blue Boy scout didn’t sit well with some audiences.
Many people specifically took issue with Henry Cavill’s brooding Superman, how Pa Kent’s death was executed, and how the titular hero snapped Zod’s neck. Nevertheless, Man of Steel is still considered one of the better films in the DCEU.
4. Suicide Squad ($746,846,894)
Suicide Squad had a lot of excitement building up to its premiere thanks to its killer marketing campaign (“killer” meaning that it both made and broke the movie). Since the studio was reeling from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s negative reception, it overhauled David Ayer’s darker cut of the film to make it as appealing as its “Bohemian Rhapsody” trailer.
Despite being a box-office smash, everyone’s hopes for Suicide Squad quickly died upon release. Due to the studio’s rushed changes, audiences were treated to an incoherent narrative with messy editing, cringe-inducing dialogue, underdeveloped characters, and unfinished CGI. Also, Jared Leto’s presence as the Joker was drastically cut down, rendering him an off-putting, but underutilized villain that some people loathe to this day.
3. Wonder Woman ($822,854,286)
There were plenty of doubts surrounding this film before its release. The DCEU had suffered two disappointing films in a row beforehand, a director who hadn’t made a movie in over 10 years had led the production, and Hollywood still held a large prejudice toward female directors and female-led superhero movies.
Fortunately, Wonder Woman proved all the naysayers wrong in almost every way, and the movie has since set a new standard for comic book movies and how women are depicted in them.
2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($873,637,528)
Since this was the first time Batman and Superman faced each other in a Hollywood blockbuster, everyone’s excitement couldn’t have been higher. And yet, despite it grossing $873 million at the box office, the film wasn’t as successful as people had hoped, as it has been at the receiving end of some pretty scathing reviews.
Many people took to the internet to voice their frustrations about the film, specifically its dark tone, plot, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, and the infamous “Save Martha” scene. Fortunately, the film found new life with its arguably better “Ultimate Edition” and the #ReleasetheSnyderCut movement, which has made it a cult classic among fans.
Horror director James Wan dipped his toes into the superhero genre and made quite a splash with Aquaman. Basically The Lord of the Rings set underwater, this film had enough humor, heart, and high-octane action to satisfy moviegoers looking for a fun time.
The movie certainly has its flaws, but that didn’t stop waves of audiences from pouring into theaters to enjoy it. All in all, it proved to pretty much everyone that Aquaman wasn’t a joke after all.