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How to Watch the DCU Movies in Chronological Order

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The DC Extended Universe was set to rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but its track record hasn’t been quite as successful. As time went on, the films started becoming more standalone and only contained smaller references to the wider universe and story. This was made even more clear when Joker and The Batman shed off all their DCU connections and began telling their own stories.

Despite that, there is still a lot to enjoy in the collection of films that began with 2013’s Man of Steel. Fans can obviously watch the films in the order that they were released, but there were a few entries that take place before some of the films that came before them. If you want to watch the DC films in chronological order, this guide was made specifically for you.

While Joker and The Batman may have veered off course, the DCU has continued on with films like Shazam 2 and Black Adam. If you wish to catch up on the DCU movies before the new DCU universe arrives in full, we’ve listed all of the films in chronological order and release order below, and we will leave the choice of how you watch them entirely up to you!

Jump to:

How many DCU movies are there?

There are currently 13 movies in the DCU if you count both Suicide Squad films. There are plenty of upcoming DCU movies to look forward to as well now that James Gunn has released his roadmap for chapter one of the new DCU movies, titled Gods and Monsters.

The DCU Movies in (Chronological) Order

1. Wonder Woman (2017)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Despite being the fourth installment of the DCU, 2017’s Wonder Woman takes place earliest in the timeline. This film marks the second appearance of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and follows her introduction in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Primarily a period piece set during the first World War, the film introduces audiences and Diana to US pilot Steve Trevor after he crashes on Themyscira, the hidden island of the Amazons. Soon after, German soldiers invade Themyscira, and certain other events that follow lead Diana and Steve to leave the island and travel to London.

Read our review of Wonder Woman.

2. Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

As with Wonder Woman, its 2018 sequel is a period piece, this time primarily set in the year 1984. The events of this film bring Wonder Woman to face off against Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) and Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal). Wonder Woman 1984 takes place before all other DCU films besides the original, and doesn’t feature too many tie-ins to other characters or movies.

Read our review of Wonder Woman 1984.

3. Man of Steel (2013)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Man of Steel is the movie that kicked off the DCU and introduced the world to Henry Cavill’s Superman. The film begins by showing audiences the destruction of Kal-El’s home planet of Krypton before depicting Earth in roughly the year 2013. Clark Kent grows up and becomes the legendary Superman (spoilers, in case you hadn’t heard by now), and is accompanied by some familiar faces along the way, including Lois Lane (Amy Adams), General Zod (Michael Shannon), Martha Kent (Diane Lane), Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), and more.

Read our review of Man of Steel.

4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Very loosely based on a pivotal fight in the classic DC comic The Dark Knight Returns, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice takes place eighteen months after the events of Man of Steel, and tells the story of how Batman (Ben Affleck) reacts to the idea of an alien as powerful as Superman having free reign.

This film marks the first time Batman and Superman have starred in a live-action film together, and it also introduced audiences to modern film versions of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons), and more.

DC fans were also treated to a live-action version of the Superman villain Doomsday as well as a tease of DC Comics’ ultimate baddie, Darkseid.

Read our review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

5. Suicide Squad (2016)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

The first of the Suicide Squad films takes place about a year after Batman v Superman and even features a quick cameo by Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight. Unlike the classic superheroes featured in that film, however, Suicide Squad stars a group of imprisoned criminals and supervillains who are recruited by government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to join what is officially known as Task Force X. The group is tasked with completing a seemingly impossible mission in exchange for a reduction of their prison sentences. However, if they stray from the mission, nanite bombs implanted into their necks will explode.

A divisive film, Suicide Squad nonetheless features an all-star cast. Will Smith stars as Deadshot, Margot Robbie gets her debut performance as Harley Quinn, and certain other recurring characters get their first bit of screen time, including Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney). Oh, and this is the film that introduced the world to Jared Leto’s take on Joker.

Read our review of Suicide Squad.

6. Justice League (2017)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Justice League takes place about one year after the events of Suicide Squad and stars the returning cast of Batman v Superman. The film deals with the fallout of the death of Superman, and also features Steppenwolf and his parademons as the main villains. J.K. Simmons also makes his first appearance as Commissioner James Gordon.

Mostly shot by Zack Snyder, Justice League was finished by Joss Whedon after Snyder exited the project due to personal tragedy.

Read our review of Justice League.

7. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

While many thought it would never happen, Zack Snyder’s Justice League finally saw its much-requested release in 2021. It is mostly the same overarching story, meaning it is set in the same place in the timeline. However, there are many differences between the two cuts of the film, including the return of Jared Leto’s Joker, a more prominent role for Darkseid, and the introduction of Martian Manhunter.

Read our review of Zack Snyder's Justice League.

8. Aquaman (2018)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Jason Momoa’s first solo DC film came in the form of 2018’s Aquaman. The film is set about a year after Justice League, but it takes a bit of time to dive deep into Aquaman’s origin story. Alongside the story of Aquaman’s rise to power and his attempt to protect Atlantis, the movie also introduced Mera (Amber Heard), Vulko (Willem Dafoe), King Orm (Patrick Wilson), Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), and classic Aquaman nemesis Black Manta (Yahya Abdul Mateen II).

Read our review of Aquaman.

9. Shazam! (2019)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

2019’s Shazam! introduced audiences to orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a teenager who is chosen by an ancient wizard named Shazam to be his new champion. With the powers he’s granted, Batson transforms into an adult superhero also named Shazam (Zachary Levi), and has to face off against obsessive scientist Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who is intent on claiming Shazam’s power for his own.

Shazam! is mostly a standalone story, and only includes a few references to other DCU characters and moments.

Read our review of Shazam!

10. Birds of Prey (2020)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is set about four years after the events of Suicide Squad and picks up after the Joker and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) break up. As Quinn recovers from the split, she crosses paths with crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) and his unhinged right-hand-man Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina).

As she struggles against Sionis and attempts to save a young pickpocket named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), Quinn is joined by disgraced cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), the vigilante known as the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Dinah Lance, also known as the Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett).

Despite being a loose sequel to Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey is another example of a DCU film that is mostly disconnected from other films in the franchise, but this is where it would fit into the timeline.

Read our review of Birds of Prey.

11. Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

Shazam! Fury of the Gods has arrived in theaters, but where exactly does it fit in the DCEU timeline? We know that the first Shazam film takes place around late 2018 and it has been confirmed that Shazam 2 takes place 2 years later. That would mean the movie takes place sometime between late 2020 and early 2021.

It is unclear if Zachary Levi's child-like super hero will continue on in the DCU, but it's possible that James Gunn will decide to keep him. In the meantime, check out our guide on where to watch Shazam 2.

Read our Shazam 2 review.

12. The Suicide Squad (2021)

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Also a sequel to Suicide Squad, The Suicide Squad was directed by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), and is a new take on Task Force X. While it does include some returning characters, such as Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, Rick Flag, and Captain Boomerang, the story is centered largely around the mercenary Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and fellow teammate Peacemaker (John Cena).

As has been the trend in these later films, The Suicide Squad is very much separate from the DCU’s main story that was being built up in the earlier years, but there are a few nods to the wider world, including of all things a giant, mind-controlling starfish from space named Starro the Conqueror, who was once the first villain the orignal comic book Justice League ever fought!

A huge success, The Suicide Squad is the first film in the franchise to spawn a streaming show in the MCU style, an offbeat miniseries featuring the return of Peacemaker.

Read our review of The Suicide Squad.

13. Black Adam (2022)

Black Adam was meant to usher in a new era of DCU movies, but with many lackluster reviews it didn't end up getting too far. Now that James Gunn has taken over direction of the universe, Dwayne Johnsons isn't likely to be one we'll see again.

As for the timeline of this movie, Black Adam is set after the events of Justice League and The Suicide Squad. This can be seen from the comic books, merchandise, and references from other movies. There's also the Black Adam post credits scene that features Superman alive that gives away it's placement on the timeline.

Read our Black Adam review.

14. The Flash (2023)

The Flash is the next release in the DCU, and timeline-wise is set sometime after the events of Justice League (2017). In the beginning, at least. Centering on Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), the film follows Barry as uses his newfound super powers of speed to go back in time and change a devastating moment from his past. But changing the past has consequences, and Barry will have to find a way to set things (and time) right.

The Flash releases in theaters everywhere on June 16, 2023: see where to watch The Flash and read our The Flash review.

DCU Movies in Order of Release Date

  • Man of Steel (2013)
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
  • Suicide Squad (2016)
  • Wonder Woman (2017)
  • Justice League (2017)
  • Aquaman (2018)
  • Shazam! (2019)
  • Birds of Prey (2020)
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
  • Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
  • The Suicide Squad (2021)
  • Black Adam (2022)
  • Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)
  • The Flash (2023)
  • Blue Beetle (2023)
  • Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023)

Upcoming DCU Movies

For those interested in knowing what DCU movies are coming out next, we've got you covered. Below, you can find a list of all DC movies coming out:

There you have it! You may also want to check out Marvel Movies in Order and X-Men Movies in Order next.

This piece was originally published in March 2023 and was recently updated to incorporate the latest DC release, The Flash on June 14th, 2023.


Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Twitch.

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