As we go through the best of the best episodes of the DC Animated Universe, but we must not forget the influence and placement of the films that connected with the series. These films introduced new characters and new situations for our heroes, while adding to the mythos of these characters and exploring deeper into their back stories to show us different sides of the DC heroes and villains. We won’t be looking at episodes from the various series and retitled for a DVD release such as The Batman/Superman Movie from the Worlds’ Finest episodes of Superman The Animated Series or Starcrossed the Movie from Justice League. We will only be covering the animated films that were told separately from the series they comes from. And while we would also like to include the film Superman: Brainiac Attacks, the creators of the film did state that while it follows the same animation style as Superman The Animated Series, it is not connected.
Batman and Harley Quinn (2017)
Taking place within The New Batman Adventures. When the Floronic Man and Poison Ivy team up to break into an A.R.G.U.S. facility and steal information on the creation of Swamp Thing, Batman must enlist the help of Harley Quinn before Ivy replicates Swamp Things data and turns everyone into plants. Nightwing joins Batman and locates Harley, who has decided to give up her life as a criminal and try to live as a normal citizen. Nightwing is able to convince her to put on the red and black spandex to help them in stopping Ivy and not assist the Floronic Man in his evil plan. While it had been years since we had been given anything related to the DCAU, it was a pleasure stepping back into that world once again. Kevin Conroy reprises his role once again as Batman, along with Loren Lester as Nightwing who has voiced Dick Grayson since his Robin days in Batman The Animated Series. The interesting casting choice for the movie though, was picking Melissa Rauch as Harley Quinn. The legendary Arleen Sorkin has voiced Quinn in the original series and came back one more time for the game Batman: Arkham Asylum, but has since to come back after the games release. Rauch is most known for her role in the series The Big Bang Theory, she brings a new sound to the Cupid of Crime that pays homage to Sorkins iteration while also giving it her own little twist. While revisiting this world again was a blast, the film lacks the specific tone we have come to expect from the original series. Giving it more raunchy humor and situations that really did nothing for the film, and instead just took us out of the feel of being back in the beloved animated series.
Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero (1998)
Set in Batman The Animated Series and serving as a sequel to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Since his last confrontation with Batman in the episode Deep Freeze, Victor Fries has been living in the arctic with his wife Nora who still remains asleep and cryogenically-encased. As he continues his mission to save his wife’s life, he returns to Gotham to see the keep of his old colleague Dr. Gregory Belson. Belson explains to Victor that she would need an organ transplant but since her blood type is so rare, there are no suitable donors that match hers. Further investigating reveals that a living perfect match resides in Gotham City with Barbra Gordon, provoking Victor to locate and kidnap the girl. Now Batman and Robin must find Barbra before Mr. Freeze preforms an organ transplant surgery, dead or alive. A worthy follow up to its predecessor, Subzero was unfortunately released direct to video rather than a theatrical release. However, since the rebirth of Mr. Freeze by the series creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, the idea of recreating his origin story by making him a sympathetic and understood character was only further expanded on for this film. The entire voice cast from the animated series returns (aside from Barbra), giving this film much more authenticity to its source martial. The film was also so well received by critics, that it was considered the highest rated direct-to-video Batman film until it was beaten by Batman: Under the Red Hood. With a reputation like that, this film stands to be one of the fundamentals for Batman fans, and one of the most influential to where DC and Warner Animation is today.
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003)
Originally making her first appearance in 1956 Detective Comics #233, Batwoman was later re imagined in 2006 52 #7 and #11, while this film offers a new and unique take on Batwoman. Unlike the other two films before it, this one takes place within the last season in The New Batman Adventures. When Batman and Robin come across Batwoman destroying a convoy full of weapons that have been ordered by Rupert Thorne and the Penguin, Batman now must unravel the identity of this mysterious Batwoman and stop the weapons manufacturing in Gotham. Furthermore, Penguin and Thorpe higher gangster Carlton Duquesne to provide protection. But when he turns up unsuccessful, they attempt to muscle him out with the strength of Bane. Another solid follow up to the previous two animated Batman films, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman was the last film set in the animated series until 2017’s Batman and Harley Quinn. Something the writers of these films do so well is the way they create misdirection with their big reveal towards the end. This movie follows that trend by introducing multiple characters Kathy Duquesne, Dr. Roxanne “Rocky” Ballantine and Sonia Alcana as all logical suspects to the identity of the Batwoman. When you might think its Kathy, Rocky does something making her look suspicious, then Sonia says something that makes her also seem that she might be the Batwoman. Keeping the audiences on their toes and working alongside Batman as he uncovers the mystery of who is the Batwoman.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Probably the most well-regarded and underrated animated films ever made, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm has since grown a massive following and has been referred too as one of the best Batman films, even holding up with films like Batman (1989) and The Dark Knight. This film takes place both before and during Batman The Animated Series, telling a compelling origin story about Bruce Waynes ascension into Batman. However, the films doesn’t explore his parent’s death at Crime Alley, but everything that comes after that. Bruce is trying to cope with his parent’s death, and attempting to discover how he can do them justice. He begins his path down becoming Batman until he meets Andrea Beaumont who shows him the love and compassion that can prevent him from continuing his crusade of pain. Just as Bruce thinks he can finally be happy, it is all taken from him when Andrea leaves him, setting Bruce on the path to become the Dark Knight. At the same time this story is being told, so is the present day iteration of Batman running into a new foe who has been hunting down criminals and crime bosses known as the Phantasm. Just when you think the story couldn’t get any more interesting, the Joker plays his cards and adds a twist you won’t see coming. Not only is the film drawn and animated in the same style as the original series and is followed by the return of the original cast, but it also serves as one of the most unique variations of a Batman story put to screen. The film was rightfully released in theaters and despite its age, still holds up today.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
If you thought Mask of the Phantasm was underrated, you probably haven’t even heard of this film. Once again we applaud the creators writing when it comes to misdirection of the identity of a character. Following the series Batman Beyond and adding closure to The New Batman Adventures, Terry McGinnis is still the Batman of Neo Gotham and is assisted by an old Bruce Wayne who acts as a bit of an Oracle for Terry. When Terry stops the Jokerz Gang from high jacking rare technological components, it puts the gang on Batmans radar of what they might be working on. The question is finally answered when the Joker makes his appearance in Gotham once again. After the shocking revelation, Bruce forces Terry to give up the cowl. However, things get worse when Joker makes his way into the Batcave and attacks Bruce. When Bruce is found intoxicated with Jokers laughing gas, Terry nurtures him back to health and Barbra explains to him the reason why the Joker they saw couldn’t be the real one. Telling the tragic story of the night Robin (Tim Drake) was captured by the real Joker and mutated into a child-like version of the Clown Prince of Crime, eventually leading Tim conflicted with the choice of shooting Batman but instead turns the gun on Joker and killing him. Now aware of the true story, once Bruce is well again he and Terry can work together once more to uncover the revival of the Joker and bring a stop to his madness. One aspect of this film many overlook, is the films dark and mature nature. While both its animated series and Batman The Animated Series were always much more mature than what was intended for a children’s show, this film took things to another level. Making the payoff one of the most emotional and intriguing films on this list.
Justice League vs. The Fatal Five (2019)
Taking place after Justice League Unlimited, we are finally given a tie-in animated film that isn’t a Batman title. While this isn’t the Legion of Superheroes first appearance in the DCAU, this might just be one of their best. In the future, the villainous group the Fatal Five travel to the present day to rescue the incarcerated Emerald Empress. However, they are followed into the present by Star Boy. Unfortunately, Star Boy requires medication to retain his memory and control his powers. So when he makes his way into the present, he is forced into Arkham Asylum under the belief he is insane. Meanwhile, the story tells the origin of Jessica Cruz who has recently been dubbed the newest Green Lantern but struggles to find the will to be one due to the anxiety she faces. Despite her resistance though, she continues to be encouraged by Wonder Woman to accept her calling and join the Justice League. Elsewhere, Star Boy begins to regain his memory and continues his mission of stopping the Fatal Five with the assistance of Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Mr. Terrific, Miss Martian and Jessica Cruz. While this film may lack in story, it makes up in characters development. Using mental illness as the main antagonist of the film, we watch as Star Boy and Jessica learn to cope with the struggles they are given and learn how to be the heroes they are meant to be. And instead of giving the limelight to the trinity of DC, they are well utilized in the growth of the lesser known characters. Also, the incorporation of Miss. Martian is a unique change to the League as she tries to live up to her uncle the Martian Manhunter.
Since there are only six films in the DCAU continuity, instead of picking the best. We just decided to cover all of them. Since in one way or another, they have all had some influence or special place in the wide universe. However, we are just about done with covering the basis of the DC Animated Universe. Taking a look at each series and picking out the ten best episodes from each one. Before we release the final one with the 10 Best Batman Beyond Episodes, take a look at our other ten best from the other series.