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Best DC Universe Animated Films

Did your favorite DC animated feature make the cut?

Now that the first season of The Walking Dead is over, I have a hole left in my soul that needs to be filled. I’ve loved being able to tune in every week and see one of my favorite comics come to life. Now that’s over. So to move on with my life, while also filling the void left by The Walking Dead I’ve shifted my gaze towards the DC Universe animated movies. Some of the most influential DC stories have been given the film treatment so people like me can stop worrying about that little thing called reading. It’s also topical considering the animated version of All-Star Superman just received its release date. So without further ado, below you can find my picks for the five best DC Universe animated films. Enjoy!

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Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 

Mask of the Phantasm is the granddaddy of the DCU animated feature films. It’s also often regarded as the best Batman movie ever made. Due to the success of the first season of Batman: The Animated Series, Warner Bros. asked the team behind the hit television series to create a full-length animated feature in just a short eight months. This is what we got. That right there shows the creative prowess of the team behind Batman: The Animated Series.

Some of the absolute highlights of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm are when the forward moving plot takes a breather to instead rewind the clock on Bruce’s unique career path. Specifically, Bruce’s failed first attempt at crime-fighting without an iconic persona, as well as the first time Bruce dons the cape and cowl in front of a frightened Alfred stand out as two of the film’s best moments.

When it comes to DC Universe animated films, it does not get much better than this.
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Justice League: The New Frontier 

I might be a little biased here, as DC: The New Frontier is one of my absolute favorite comic book stories. I’ve bought the issues, the trades and the Absolute edition. And as you can probably guess, I’ve bought the direct-to-DVD film adaptation, renamed Justice League: The New Frontier. Of all the adaptations I’ve picked here, Justice League: The New Frontier stays the truest to the comic book source material. Darwyn Cooke’s original story of the formation of the Justice League of America is just too damn good to mess with . The only things lost in translation are the political undertones of the original graphic novel. It’s not a huge loss, especially considering the filmmakers tip their hats to the issues of civil rights, atomic testing and the red scare, acting as nice easter eggs for fans of the comic.

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Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Original Uncut Version) 

You know what still blows my mind: hardcore Batman fans accepting the premise to Batman Beyond. We usually hate sharp-left change to our status quo, yet, somehow Batman Beyond is a concept we all love . But if you do need explanation as to why the Batman Beyond idea is so solid, look no further than Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. The film is a perfect example of what makes Batman Beyond fundamentally great: a seamless evolution of the Batman mythos while simultaneously calling back to the continuity of old. Return of the Joker, in its uncut state, is also one of the most violent animated Batman stories you’re likely to find. This comes from the year 2000, when the Batman Beyond cartoon was still aimed at children, and shortly followed the shooting massacre at Columbine. When you break it down, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is an edgy film that paved the way for the current wave of PG-13 rated DC Universe animated features.

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Batman: Under the Red Hood 

There’s a pattern forming here; Batman has the best animated movies. But what’s shocking about Batman: Under the Red Hood is that I really don’t like the comic which this film is based upon. I’m not much of a Judd Winick fan. However, for this animated feature Winick re-approached his original story and cut out all the fluff, unnecessary cameos, and comic book-y cliches, leaving us with a stellar examination of life, death, rebirth and vengeance. Black Mask might come off as a caricature of Scarface, and the Joker voice may take some getting use to. It's the final confrontation in Under the Red Hood that delivers the emotional punch needed, making us actually care about Jason Todd’s vigilante mission and his reasons for donning the Red Hood costume. When push comes to shove, this animated movie is actually better than the original comic it’s based off of.

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Wonder Woman 

Of all the DCU animated movies left, Wonder Woman reigns supreme. Now don’t take that as a back-handed compliment; it’s just that Wonder Woman isn’t nearly as impressive as the above mentioned films. However, the first-rate voice cast, well-crafted character work, epic plot, and multitude of sexual innuendo jokes make Wonder Woman an enjoyable DC Universe animated film. We can all agree that we’ll all be dead and buried by the time a live-action Wonder Woman film is made. This Wonder Woman animated film is the best we got. Thankfully, the best we got is pretty damn good.

That about does it for my picks for the best DC Universe animated feature films. And even though I only highlighted five total here, in actuality most of these films can be considered pretty solid. So what do YOU think? Did I leave out one of your favorite DCUA films? Let me know my folly in the comments below.