12 Underrated DC Animated Movies That Deserve A Watch

The DC Extended Universe has had a reputation for inconsistency since its inception. Films like "Wonder Woman," "The Suicide Squad," "The Batman," and "Shazam!" did a great job of bringing DC Comics' characters to the big screen. However, films like "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," "Suicide Squad," "Man of Steel," and "Wonder Woman 1984" didn't sit quite as well with fans. Warner Bros. has struggled quite a bit to create a shared cinematic universe that could compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in terms of audience reception and box office. Hopefully, now that James Gunn and Peter Safran are in charge of the newly-formed DC Studios, viewers can look forward to a brighter future for their favorite DC Comics characters in a cinematic universe that's more consistent.

It will still be some time before we get to see DC Studios firing on all cylinders. Luckily for us fans, we have the DC Animated Universe to keep us entertained. This franchise is largely due to the success of "Batman: The Animated Series," which is still beloved today for its terrific animation, reverence for the source material, stellar voice acting, and sophisticated storytelling. Most of these elements were retained with the other shows that spun out of that series, as well as the many animated films that were made in its wake. While the DCAU has produced plenty of classic movies, let's take a look at some of the best installments that may have flown under the radar.

Justice League Vs. The Fatal Five (2019)

The film opens in the far-flung future of the 31st century, a time when the world is under the protection of the noble Legion of Super-Heroes, and under constant threat from the Fatal Five. Several members of the Fatal Five are after the Legion's time sphere, and launch an assault on their headquarters, easily taking out the members on watch. However, when the Fatal Five are about to turn on the device, Star Boy makes one more attempt to stop them but is sucked into their temporal journey to the present day. The Fatal Five are trapped in a stasis field activated by Star Boy, which lands in Metropolis, as Star Boy ends up in Gotham City. Superman discovers the imprisoned Fatal Five and takes them to the headquarters of the Justice League. But, when Mister Terrific examines the trap, he accidentally sets the villains free, prompting Earth's strongest heroes to band together against their futuristic foes.

"Justice League Vs. The Fatal Five" gives fans the best of both worlds by delivering fresh new characters, but in the classic animation style of previous installments. The Fatal Five make for great antagonists with a more complex plan than the usual "world domination" scheme typified by most villains and are even strong enough to make Superman and Mister Terrific break a sweat. A standout is Jessica Cruz, making a great addition to the Justice League as the reluctant new Green Lantern.

Batman: Mystery Of The Batwoman (2003)

Batwoman has made her debut in Gotham City and is so adept at keeping her true identity a secret that even Batman, the World's Greatest Detective, is struggling to find out what it is. While she's effective at fighting crime, she takes a more ruthless approach than Batman, prompting him to keep an eye on her. Meanwhile, the Dark Knight is on a mission to put an end to the Penguin's illegal arms operation, which also has Bane employed as extra muscle. Still, Batman is plagued with the question: Who is Batwoman? Is it Kathy Duquesne, the daughter of the crime boss Carlton Duquesne, who's working with the Penguin? Or maybe it's Dr. Roxanne "Rocky" Ballantine, a Wayne Tech employee whose inventions are being used by the mysterious new heroine?

As fun as it is to watch Batman succeed at pretty much everything, it's a breath of fresh air watching him struggle with the occasional obstacle. In this, it's the riddle of who his new rival really is. There are plenty of enticing twists and turns here, and the story strikes the perfect balance between Bruce Wayne's personal love life and his superhero exploits as the Caped Crusader. In fact, both aspects crash into each other in surprising ways, resulting in a fair bit of suspense. The music is also a standout, alternating between lighthearted irony and brooding, noirish jazz.

Wonder Woman (2009)

The Amazons have lived on the hidden island of Themyscira, which was granted to them as recompense for living under the tyrannical rule of Ares. On this island, the warrior women maintain their beauty, youth, and vitality forever, but that becomes boring for Princess Diana, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta, who yearns for a life of adventure outside of Themyscira. Her wish comes true when American fighter pilot Colonel Steve Trevor crashes on their island, and she is granted the chance to escort him back to his world. While Diana marvels at life in New York City, Ares seduces one of the Amazons and uses her to escape his prison. Diana and Steve must work together to stop the God of War, who leaves a trail of destruction wherever he goes.

"Wonder Woman" is equal parts superhero action and romantic comedy. Because of the PG-13 rating, the film is able to push the boundaries of the typical comic book cartoon with the addition of stronger violence and suggestive dialogue; while it never gets to be too much, it's probably not appropriate for younger children. Still, the love story between Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor is well-handled, managing to be charming without being too sappy. The voice acting really elevates the material, with Keri Russell knocking it out of the park as the title character and Nathan Fillion doing a splendid job as her love interest.

Superman: Unbound (2013)

"Superman: Unbound" opens with Lois Lane caught in the middle of a fight between Supergirl and a group of terrorists who've kidnapped her. Luckily, Superman arrives in the nick of time to put an end to the fight and rescue Lois, who he's in a romantic relationship with. However, their romance is put on hold when it's discovered that a meteor is heading for Earth, prompting Superman to do what he does best. While he's able to stop it, he discovers that it's actually an advanced drone sent by the incredibly intelligent, yet megalomaniacal, Brainiac. Having encountered the villain before, Supergirl warns Superman that Brainiac may be planning an attack on Earth.

A villain whose biggest strength is his massive brain may not seem like much of a challenge for the Man of Steel, but the creators put Brainiac's extreme smarts to good use by having him forge plenty of worthy obstacles to keep our hero busy. The final showdown is suitably grandiose and is bolstered by a wonderful animation style that blends both traditional and CGI approaches. One of the elements of this film that makes it worth a watch is Supergirl's character growth; she starts off as immature and careless, yet gradually learns the importance of responsibility and sacrifice as she evolves into a true hero. Oh, and be sure to stick around for a post-credits scene.

The Batman Vs. Dracula (2005)

There's a cache of cash that's supposedly residing somewhere in Gotham Cemetery, and the Penguin and the Joker have teamed up to find it for themselves. While the Joker is taken out by Batman, the Penguin stumbles upon a coffin, which he mistakes for the hiding place of the loot, but is actually the body of Dracula. Soon, the Count rises and brainwashes the Penguin into being his minion, and he's off turning unlucky Gotham City citizens into his vampire army. Because a witness claimed to have seen a large bat-like creature during one of Dracula's attacks, the public starts to believe that Batman is the one wreaking bloody havoc around town.

The Dark Knight taking on the fabled creature of the night may seem like a gimmick, but the blend of gothic horror and super-heroics works surprisingly well. The voice acting is terrific, but it's Peter Stormare as the Count who really shines here, and voice actress extraordinaire Tara Strong makes a splendid Vicki Vale. While "The Batman Vs. Dracula" is complete with all of the menacing action and spooky atmosphere you'd expect given the title, this animated film isn't afraid to plant its tongue in its cheek and have some fun with the premise, such as when the Joker gets his turn to become a cackling blood-drinker.

Teen Titans: Trouble In Tokyo (2006)

The Teen Titans defeat a ninja named Saico-Tek, who they discover hails from Japan and was ordered to Jump City by someone who goes by Brushogun. Saico-Tek suddenly disappears, which prompts the team to take off to Tokyo for answers. Upon arrival, they meet the Tokyo Troopers — the local superhero team with a specialty in the occult — who claim that Brushogun is simply a myth. Since the trail led to a dead end, the Teen Titans decide to go sightseeing in Tokyo. Saico-Tek shows up again and is supposedly killed by Robin, who's then arrested by the authorities. Tokyo's mayor calls for the arrest of the other Teen Titans, but they've got their hands busy with another attack ordered by Brushogun.

"Teen Titans: Trouble In Tokyo" may be aimed at younger viewers, considering it's a follow-up to the Cartoon Network series, but it's still worth any DC fan's time. Too often, movies that are spun off from TV shows feel little more than an extended episode, filled with narrative padding to justify the feature-length runtime. Not here, however. This movie takes so much of what makes the source material work so well and builds on it. For example, Robin and Starfire's relationship is given a satisfying epilogue, while also leaving things open for more possibilities down the line. There's also no shortage of humor here, so expect plenty of hilarious character interactions and gags from the show on full display.

Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)

Set in the 1950s, "Justice League: The New Frontier" follows an ancient and mysterious being known only as "The Centre," who is determined to annihilate the human race because of its inherently violent nature. Having been on Earth for some time and unable to return to his home planet of Mars, J'onn J'onzz works as a detective for the Gotham City Police Department under the fabricated identity of John Jones. He's on the trail of a cult that worships the Centre and is joined by Batman. But it will take the combined forces of Green Lantern, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, and others — each of whom has witnessed signs of the Centre's arrival — to prevent the malevolent force that humanity now faces.

Inspired by Darwyn Cooke's six-issue limited series, "DC: The New Frontier," this animated feature creates a strong sense of nostalgia by taking everyone's favorite heroes and placing them in a simpler, more wholesome time and depicting them in their era-appropriate costumes. Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter are given the spotlight here; Hal Jordan starts off very much against violence but must use it if he's to help save the world, while J'onn J'onzz, an orphan trapped on Earth, struggles to develop his hope for the future of mankind. There's much to love here, with the only real flaw being that it's too short.

Batman Ninja (2018)

Batman is in one of his usual scuffles with a wacky villain at Arkham Asylum. This time, however, he's duking it out with the hyper-intelligent ape Gorilla Grodd, who uses his time machine to send the Dark Knight, along with his rogues gallery, to feudal Japan. In fact, Batman's greatest villains are engaged in a massive fight to see who will end up the victor with the most power in the land. But this may have serious ramifications for the course of history, so Batman teams up with Catwoman to find Gorilla Grodd's time machine and send everyone back to the present. Luckily, Batman has some help in this quest, as Alfred, Robin, and others were sucked into the past, as well.

Typical Batman stories are pretty dark; his more street-level crusades are often accompanied by a mix of film noir and gothic aesthetics. However, "Batman Ninja" is quite the stylistic departure from the usual depictions of the Dark Knight and his world, and that's just fine. It's great, actually, as we get to see Batman take on gorillas, ninjas, time machines, robots, and more, resulting in a wildly entertaining animated comic book movie. While fans of the source material may be initially put off by some of the more outré elements, it's worth a watch for its anime approach to the Batman mythology.

Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)

Well before humans ever existed, the first living race, the Guardians of the Universe, concentrated the most potent power imaginable in the Green Lantern battery, which fuels the rings of the Green Lantern Corp., to protect reality. The only weakness the Green Lantern battery has is the color yellow, so its power was contained within a single element and hidden to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. In the present day, aircraft test pilot Hal Jordan is recruited into the Green Lantern Corp. to replace Abin Sur, who was on the search for the yellow element, which had gone missing. As Hal is trained by Sinestro, he gradually begins to suspect that his senior officer may have other, more sinister plans.

Pitch-perfect voice acting boosts this stunning origin story of the emerald exemplar, featuring Christopher Meloni killing it in the title role, Michael Madsen doing a stellar job as Kilowog, and Kurtwood Smith hamming it up as Kanjar Ro. The creators of "Green Lantern: First Flight" excel with the production and creature design, giving us all kinds of unique aliens and worlds to marvel at, all of which are rendered with wonderful animation. There's plenty of action on tap, but the real highlight is the final explosive showdown between Green Lantern and Sinestro. However, even though much of the violence is fantastical in nature, it gets pretty gruesome at times and is probably best not shown to the little ones.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)

Things are looking great for Batman and Superman: Lex Luthor has been arrested with his presidency over, and the two super friends recently saved the world from a massive meteor. But the good times don't last, as a spaceship crashes into Gotham City Harbor, containing a mysterious young woman with superhuman abilities, causing a  ruckus around town. Batman and Superman arrive on the scene and soon learn that she's Kara Zor-El, Superman's long-lost cousin. Wonder Woman believes that it's best for Kara to learn how to control her powers in Themyscira with the other Amazons, which Superman reluctantly agrees to. However, the malevolent New God Darkseid has plans for Kara, and now has his sights set on Earth.

The title of this film is a tad misleading, as it's really more about Supergirl than Superman and Batman. Still, it makes for a terrific origin story for the Man of Steel's cousin, who's wonderfully voiced by Summer Glau. Kara is given a thoughtful character arc; when she first arrives on Earth, she's as confused and impulsive as an infant, carelessly lashing out with her immense powers. However, she gradually evolves into a true heroine capable of taking on a being as strong as Darkseid. Speaking of the big brute, he doesn't have a whole lot to do here (another reason why the title should be changed), but he does engage the heroes in a satisfying climactic battle, which makes up for his relatively small presence.

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015)

A nuclear submarine is mysteriously destroyed in the Atlantic Ocean, with everyone onboard killed. When the Justice League's Cyborg learns about the incident, he heads to the wreckage and finds that someone has taken the nuclear missiles it was carrying. He notifies his teammates, and Wonder Woman ascertains that it was the work of Atlanteans. Prince Orm believes humans are responsible for his father's murder and wants to declare war on them. His anger is exacerbated when Black Manta uses one of his underwater crafts to assault Atlantis, making it look like the work of humans. Aquaman and the Justice League must prevent a war between Atlantis and everyone else, while also preventing its throne from falling into the wrong hands.

Aquaman doesn't get much attention in most Justice League stories, so it's refreshing to finally see him get the spotlight. Aquaman is given a strong narrative, as he starts off as a bit of a loser, getting drunk and talking to lobsters in restaurant fish tanks, eventually growing into the king of Atlantis. While not necessarily Shakespearean, the family drama of the mythology of Atlantis helps to elevate what could've easily been a lighthearted superhero movie, replete with twists, turns, and surprise double-crosses. Still, despite the large amount of familial turmoil here, there's more than enough hard-hitting action to satisfy superhero fans, especially when the rest of the Justice League joins in the fight against Atlantis' forces.

Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (2019)

While Princess Diana is living an isolated existence on Themyscira, she saves the life of pilot Steve Trevor and decides to escort him back to the world of men, despite what the law of her land says. However, Diana believes that this world is worth fighting for, and takes on the heroic persona of Wonder Woman. Geologist Julia Kapatelis asks Diana and Steve to help her find her daughter Vanessa, who's run off with an ancient relic. Doctor Poison has some wicked scheme that requires the relic and kills Vanessa's mother Julia when they try to stop her. Vanessa blames Wonder Woman for her mother's death, and joins Doctor Poison's plan, allowing her to turn her into the villain Silver Swan.

It might not have been necessary to show the origin story of Wonder Woman yet again, which is almost as well-known to fans as Batman and Superman's origin stories. Still, it's an enjoyable and fresh enough take on a familiar tale that I'll let it pass. One of the best elements of this film is the way it's able to pack in many characters from the Wonder Woman mythology, while still giving each of them enough time in the spotlight to be more than just one-dimensional comic book characters. Actress Rosario Dawson absolutely knocks it out of the park as the voice of Wonder Woman, depicting her with equal parts strength and determination, as well as compassion and depth.