Despite the fact that the DC Extended Universe of films had a less smooth beginning than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is a timeline of events that take place in a number of DC Comics movies that have been released over the previous seven years.
Of course, Man of Steel, the gritty reimagining of Superman directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan, was the first to arrive in theatres. It was meant to be the first in a connected series of movies.
The plan was to build up to a two-part Justice League event, all of which would have been directed by Snyder, but for a variety of reasons, this particular concept was never realized. The DC movies do follow a chronological chronology, notably for a run of about five films. There are some intriguing crossovers and cameos since events from one film are referred to and expanded upon in others.
Thus, if you’re unsure about how to view the DC films chronologically, we can help. We’ve listed how to watch every DC movie in chronological order below, followed by information on how to watch them in order of release.
For the purposes of this list, we’re only including motion pictures that fall under the category of “DC Extended Universe,” that is, only films that were explicitly intended to be connected by characters and events.
Due to the fact that the universes of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Tim Burton’s Batman, and Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern do not overlap with those of these Snyder-directed films, those films are not included on this list.
DC Movies in Chronological Order of Events
By a significant margin, the events of Wonder Woman occur before those of all the other DC movies. Themyscira is a hidden island where all of the Amazon women warriors live. The movie jumps back to illustrate how Zeus created them.
The majority of the action occurs in 1918, when Chris Pine’s character, US pilot Captain Steve Trevor, comes into Themyscira while engaged in combat in World War I. Following Steve to London, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) goes on to fight alongside the Allies in World War I, leaving her mark on history. Bookending the film are “present day” sequences that happen after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The sequel Wonder Woman 1984 primarily takes place in the year 1984, with the exception of a prologue set during Diana Prince’s childhood. However, the Patty Jenkins-directed sequel largely stands on its own, so don’t hold your breath for many DCEU tie-ins.
Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder, is the movie that started it all. It primarily takes place in the present day (roughly 2013), although the prologue of the movie depicts the destruction of Kal-home El’s planet Krypton.
After that, we see scenes of Clark Kent growing up in Kansas as a child and teenager, and then we cut to the “present day,” when he’s somewhere in his twenties, or roughly 20 years after Krypton was destroyed.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice kind of spans the timeline spectrum. There are flashbacks to Bruce Wayne’s early years when his parents were murdered in 1981, flashbacks to illustrate the conclusion of Man of Steel from Bruce Wayne’s point of view, and there are flashforwards to a devastated Earth that has been overtaken by villain Darkseid (those “Knightmare” scenes).
Though the majority of the tale takes place around 18 months after the events of Man of Steel, Ben Affleck’s Batman is now very tough and harbors animosity toward Superman.
The events of Suicide Squad occur around a year after Batman v Superman, as the death of Superman is alluded to throughout the picture and we even get a cameo of Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne meeting with Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who has now assumed a stronger authoritative position among the superheroes.
But there are also flashbacks from before Man of Steel when Batman was hunting down the Joker (Jared Leto) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).
The majority of Justice League takes place about two years after Batman v Superman and one year after Suicide Squad, but we also get a significant flashback sequence to thousands of years in the past, when the evil Steppenwolf attempted to take over Earth but was thwarted by an alliance between Amazons, Atlanteans, humans, and Olympian Gods.
Although not canon, the four-hour epic Justice League by Zack Snyder is a more full and engaging version of the film’s theatrical cut. The timeline also lines up perfectly with this.
As we witness Jason Momoa’s eponymous character, Aquaman, defend his own country, the stand-alone film about him takes place mostly a few months after the events of the Justice League. Flashback scenes, however, depict Aquaman’s 1985 origin tale.
The majority of Shazam!, a stand-alone movie, takes place over Christmas in 2018, but it opens with a flashback to 1974 to explore the history of its antagonist Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong).
Four years or so after the events of Suicide Squad, this standalone Harley Quinn film is set. The DCEU became increasingly disjointed after Batman v Superman and Justice League, to the point where Birds of Prey only makes a very small number of allusions to Harley Quinn’s actions in Suicide Squad.
The events of the James Gunn-directed DC film The Suicide Squad occur an unspecified amount of time after those of the first Suicide Squad movie and, presumably, after those of Birds of Prey, but the interconnectedness of the DC universe plays no part in the story at all.
We do know that Harley Quinn has ended up back in jail, which is why she is involved in Task Force X’s most recent mission, and that Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is an expert at carrying out “Suicide Squad” missions.
A youthful Batman in the second year of his vigilante career is the center of Matt Reeves’ Batman, which is set apart from the regular DCEU movies.
Reeves gives Batman a darker, more atmospheric Gotham by casting Robert Pattinson in the title character and featuring familiar Batman foes like the Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman in addition to his pals Jim Gordon and Alfred. If the movie sells well, Batman spin-offs and sequels are anticipated.