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the cast of Justice League (2017): The Flash, Superman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Aquaman Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

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DC comic book movies you shouldn’t miss on HBO Max

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HBO Max isn’t just about HBO. It’s about Warner Bros. Pictures doing its best to muscle into the spotlight alongside Disney Plus, a service that boasts the robust cinematic catalog of two classic Hollywood studios as well as the new hotness of the modern blockbuster. And where Warner Bros. goes, so goes the cinematic DC Universe.

That means that a decent backlog of superhero movies, TV, and cartoons are going to be available on HBO Max, from Aquaman and Wonder Woman to Suicide Squad and Justice League. But those are the obvious ones.

Here’s every DC Comics show and movie that should be on HBO Max, and which ones you should tackle first.

Which DC movies and shows are on HBO Max?

HBO Max helpfully groups all of its DC Comics content together on one page. Here’s the full list.

Live action movies

Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern 2011 Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Supergirl (1984)
  • Batman (1989)
  • Batman Forever (1995)
  • Batman Returns (1992)
  • Steel (1997)
  • Batman & Robin (1997)
  • Catwoman (2004)
  • Jonah Hex (2010)
  • Green Lantern (2011)
  • Suicide Squad (2016)
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
  • Justice League (2017)
  • Wonder Woman (2017)
  • Aquaman (2017)
  • Shazam! (2019)
  • Joker (2019)

Animated movies

The Joker raises a glass in the Killing Joke animated movie Image: Warner Bros. Animation
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
  • Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
  • Wonder Woman (2009)
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (2012)
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (2013)
  • Lego: Batman the Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite (2013)
  • Batman vs. Robin (2015)
  • Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)
  • DC Superhero Girls: Hero of the Year (2016)
  • Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017)
  • DC Superhero Girls: Intergalactic Games (2017)
  • DC Superhero Girls: Legends of Atlantis (2018)
  • Teen Titans Go! to the Movies (2018)

Television series

doctor manhattan picks a blue mask off the ground in hbo’s watchmen HBO
  • Teen Titans (2003)
  • Beware the Batman (2013)
  • Batwoman (2019)
  • Doom Patrol (2019)
  • Watchmen (2019)

The Snyder Cut and what’s not on HBO Max at launch

Any Superman solo movies, whether Donner or Snyder, and all of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (in contrast with HBO’s own announcements). Many nostalgic DC television offerings — available on Warner Bros.’ other DC Comics streaming service, DC Universe — are missing, like Super Friends, or the ‘60s Batman and ‘70s Wonder Woman series. Also conspicuously absent are the DC Animated Universe shows — including Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond.

Viewers with a real taste for the full breadth of DC Comics adaptations, and, of course, digital back issues of DC Comics, won’t be deleting their DC Universe apps any time soon. So far only one DC Universe original, Doom Patrol, has made the jump to HBO Max, leaving Titans and the surprisingly good Harley Quinn cartoon as platform exclusives.

Also, Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League will not hit the service until next year.

The most underrated DC Comics movies and shows on HBO Max

Even if it’s not a complete list of DC Comics adaptations, it’s a long one. And there are a lot of obvious hits on it! HBO Max subscribers may be tempted to dive straight into last year’s conversation-defining Watchmen series, pull up Teen Titans for some nostalgia, or hit play on the classic Batman (1989).

But there are real underrated hits on HBO Max as well, and they’re very much worth checking out.

Doom Patrol

Elastigirl, Negative Man, Robotman, and Crazy Jane stand abreast on a trash-strewn city street in Doom Patrol. Photo: Bob Mahoney/Warner Bros.

There are adaptations of obscure comic book characters, and then there’s Doom Patrol, a TV series based on the most absurd, high-concept superhero team in the DC Universe. Until now, it was available only on DC Comics’ subscription-based streaming-and-digital-comics platform, but after its first season, HBO stepped in to fund Doom Patrol season 2, and port the original season over to HBO Max.

Smart move, because Doom Patrol was best superhero show of 2019 that nobody watched.

In a nutshell, the Doom Patrol is a group of superheroes whose tragically gained powers leave them ostracized from normal society. But instead of dimming the wildness of Doom Patrol for a larger audience, the series presents the characters largely intact, filling the show with messages delivered via donkey fart, mental subway systems, and megalomaniacal talking cockroaches, all displayed with a modest but expertly wielded special effects budget.

Starring an improbable cast that includes Timothy Dalton, Alan Tudyk, Brendan Fraser, and Matt Bomer, Doom Patrol’s weirdness is anchored in an unvarying series of incredible performances, each tied to captivating characters. And now, finally, everybody can watch it.

Aquaman

Jason Momoa is surrounded by sharks and other sea life, as Aquaman, on a poster for Aquaman. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

A strange but true fact: Aquaman is the highest grossing DC Comics-based film ever. It’s also unbelievably fun, which is to say, it clearly believes in being fun. The tone of the special effects-laden epic is something like an American-made Chinese fantasy blockbuster, where concepts like “a kingdom of crab people” or “a tentacled kaiju voiced by Julie Andrews” or “an island where dinosaurs still exist” are introduced, used, and discarded like colors on a magician’s endless scarf.

If you missed this one the first time, because it seemed silly — and was, after all, about Aquaman, the guy who talks to fish — give this candy colored treat a try.

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

The Joker, his face heavily in shadow, sits, revealing a joker card in his hand, in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Image: Warner Bros. Animation

On the other end of the tonal spectrum is Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, absolutely the darkest installment of the DC Animated Universe ever made. Set in the timeline of Batman Beyond, the creators behind the futuristic teenage Batman series finally fired a massive Chekov’s gun: Whatever happened to the Joker?

While the movie can’t hold a candle to the DCAU’s other feature-length film, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, it contains a quintessential meditation on the Joker and his relationship to the Bat-family. And make no mistake: It never loses itself in cynicism, but it is dark.

Originally released hard on the heels of the Columbine High School massacre, Warner Bros. ordered the film significantly edited — materially changing the movie’s climax — only releasing the original cut two years later. So even if you thought you saw it at release, it might be worth another look.

Shazam!

shazam and freddy in shazam Steve Wilkie/Warner Bros. Pictures

We could all use a little more levity, and Shazam! is one of the most heartwarming superhero flicks to hit screens in our modern era. In this era of CGI for kids, the live-action blockbuster that’s actually for all-ages is a dying breed, but director David F. Sandberg does great work with DC Comics’ most kid-friendly superhero.

Shazam! boasts a wonderful story, great comedy — a few spooks, to be fair — and expert acting to keep its high-flying, lightning-throwing, bad-guy-punching hijinks in the air. It’s delightful.

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