While it hasn’t seen quite the same levels of success as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, rival publisher DC Comics has been building its own rich world of blockbuster films over the past decade or so.
Nicknamed the DC Extended Universe, these films share a broader continuity, but don’t have quite as many links and crossovers as the MCU, nor are they as consistent with their overarching story.
Still, viewers will definitely benefit from watching the films in order, allowing them to follow as major characters are introduced and status quo shake-ups change the face of the universe.
Here are two methods of watching the DC Extended Universe movies in order – by release or chronologically.
How to watch DC movies in release order
The simplest method of watching the DC Extended Universe movies is by following the order they were released in cinemas. The story kicks off with the introduction of arguably the publisher’s most iconic hero, Superman, in 2013’s Man of Steel, followed by other comic book greats like Batman and Wonder Woman in later instalments…
1. Man of Steel (2013)
Man of Steel retells Superman’s iconic origin story for the first time in a generation, chronicling his arrival on Earth from the doomed planet Krypton and his adoption by a kind couple living in Kansas, as well as his first major test at the hands of the villainous General Zod. Henry Cavill (The Witcher), Michael Shannon (Knives Out), Russell Crowe (The Loudest Voice) and Amy Adams (Arrival) lead an all-star cast.
2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
This long-awaited sequel to Man of Steel expands the universe significantly, uniting the so-called DC Trinity and laying the groundwork for the formation of the Justice League. Following the events of Man of Steel, billionaire vigilante Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) has become convinced that Superman is a threat to the human race and strives to eliminate him. Jesse Eisenberg co-stars as arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, while Gal Gadot makes her debut as Diana Prince – also known as Wonder Woman.
3. Suicide Squad (2016)
Viola Davis takes on the role of cold and calculating strategist Amanda Waller, who assembles a team of despicable super criminals to send on suicide missions around the world. Will Smith (Bad Boys for Life) and Margot Robbie (Bombshell) shine brightest as sharpshooting assassin Deadshot and the Joker’s insane associate Harley Quinn, leading the charge against Cara Delevingne’s powerful Enchantress.
4. Wonder Woman (2017)
This prequel heads all the way back to World War I to tell Wonder Woman’s epic origin story, which had previously been hinted at in Batman v Superman. The movie depicts Diana’s childhood among her fellow Amazonians on the beautiful island of Themyscira, where US fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) suddenly crash lands. They team up and head for the frontlines, as Wonder Woman seeks out her longtime rival Ares, the God of War.
5. Justice League (2017)
DC’s premier team of super heroes unites! Justice League sees Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) team up to fight Steppenwolf, an extraterrestrial being who plans to launch a devastating assault on Earth.
6. Aquaman (2018)
Set after the events of Justice League, Aquaman focuses on Jason Momoa’s Atlantean hero, who must retrieve a legendary trident to stop his half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson), from unleashing a terrible attack on the surface world. Warrior princess Mera (Amber Heard) joins him on a globe-trotting adventure, with the vengeful Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) hot on their trail.
7. Shazam! (2019)
A lighter chapter in the DC Extended Universe, Shazam sees orphaned teen Billy Batson (Asher Angel) granted incredible powers by an ancient wizard, who entrusts him to be the champion needed to save mankind from an imminent threat. He and his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) have a great time getting to grips with the new abilities, which transform Billy into an older, stronger alter ego portrayed by Zachary Levi (Chuck). But it isn’t long before they come face-to-face with unhinged power-hungry scientist Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong)…
8. Birds of Prey (2020)
A follow-up of sorts to 2016’s Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey follows Harley Quinn after she liberates herself from the Joker’s grasp and sets off on a new path in life. When she is targeted by the psychopathic crime boss Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), she forms an alliance with fellow Gotham City badasses Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and no-nonsense cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez).
How to watch DC movies in chronological order
The order is only slightly different for those wanting to watch the films in chronological order i.e. according to the events of each film. With the exception of short scenes at the beginning and the end, Wonder Woman is set in 1918 during the First World War, placing it much earlier than every other film in the DC Extended Universe.
- Wonder Woman (1918)
- Man of Steel (2013)
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2013-2015)
- Suicide Squad (2016)
- Justice League (2017)
- Aquaman (2018)
- Shazam! (2019)
- Birds of Prey (2020)
Batman v Superman was first released in March 2016, but its story is set slightly earlier than that. The opening scene is set during the climactic events of 2013’s Man of Steel, but it then jumps forward about 18 months placing it somewhere in 2015.
Suicide Squad jumps forward another year and references the devastating aftermath of Batman v Superman’s dramatic final battle.
Aquaman and Shazam both feature flashback scenes, but for the vast majority are set in the present day, so there’s no real need to uproot them from their place later in the pack.
Where can I watch DC movies
Unfortunately, there’s no single streaming service where you can find every movie in the DC Extended Universe (well, not in the UK at least).
At the time of writing, Suicide Squad is available to stream online for those with an Amazon Prime Video subscription, while Justice League is currently on Netflix UK.
However, the majority of DC Extended Universe titles, including Batman v Superman and recent additions Aquaman, Shazam and Birds of Prey, are only available to purchase rather than to stream as part of a subscription.
DC fans in the United States should look into getting a subscription to DC Universe, the publisher’s bespoke service which houses all of their past films and television shows, as well as original productions like Titans, Harley Quinn and Swamp Thing.
Upcoming DC Extended Universe entries
The DC Universe has a packed schedule coming up, which will both add to and extend their current timeline. As the title would suggest, Wonder Woman 1984 is set in, well, 1984, meaning it will slot in chronologically between the first film and Man of Steel.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a radically re-edited version of 2017’s Justice League, meaning it will be set at the same time, but the story could be quite different – perhaps setting the whole universe on a different course. We’ll have to wait and see which is confirmed to be official canon…
The Batman is not strictly part of the same universe, taking place in a separate continuity altogether, but is included in the list below as a fellow DC Comics blockbuster.
- Wonder Woman 1984 (25th December 2020)
- The Suicide Squad (6th August 2021)
- Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
- The Batman (4th March 2022)
- The Flash (4th November 2022)
- Aquaman 2 (16th December 2022)
- Shazam 2 (2nd June 2023)
- Black Adam (TBC)