Every DC Cinematic Universe Explained

Every DC Cinematic Universe Explained

In addition to the DCEU, DC currently has at least three other different live-action cinematic universes. After the end of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, DC had hopes for Man of Steel to be the beginning of a similar trilogy, only that it would be for Superman. However, due to the impact of Marvel’s The Avengers and the MCU as a whole, Man of Steel instead became the first entry in a DC shared universe. Almost ten years later, the DCEU is no longer the only DC franchise on the big screen.

Initially, Warner Bros. tried to follow a strict chronology and have the DCEU follow the steps of the MCU, meaning that all the DC movies following Man of Steel would connect with each other. For example, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was essentially a Man of Steel sequel plus Batman; Suicide Squad featured Batman and Flash, and Justice League was supposed to bring all of those setups together. However, after poor box office results, behind-the-scenes controversies, and creators with ideas outside of the DCEU, the studio became open to other continuities.


Related: Every Canceled DCEU Movie & What Happened

Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League, while it is a DCEU movie, contradicts both the theatrical cut of the film and other DCEU movies – and thus, it has to be classified in its own universe should the sequels ever happen. In addition to that, Matt Reeves’s The Batman has just rebooted the Dark Knight, with a sequel and spin-offs already confirmed. Last, there is also the Joker movie universe, which is now officially continuing with Joker 2: Folie à Deux. From the DCEU to Joker, here is a breakdown of every DC live-action movie universe.


Henry Cavill's Superman and the DCEU Opening Sequence

The DCEU officially started with Man of Steel, followed by the also Zack Snyder-directed Batman v Superman. 2016 also saw David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, a movie that introduced, among other characters, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Jared Leto’s Joker. The following DCEU film was Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman in 2017, a movie that helped restore the audience’s faith in the franchise after the poor reviews of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. However, Justice League, a movie that had to be as big as The Avengers in terms of scale and box office, went through extensive behind the scene issues – including the departure of director Zack Snyder after a family tragedy, extensive rewrites, and reshoots by another creative team, as well as accusations by Cyborg actor Ray Fisher of a toxic work environment during the reshoots. In the end, Justice League became one of DC’s most underwhelming endeavors, which cast doubt on the future of the DCEU.

Still, the franchise regained momentum with James Wan’s Aquaman, which claimed more than a billion dollars at the box office to become DC’s highest-grossing movie of all time. The following DCEU movie was Shazam!, a film that referenced other DCEU heroes and had a Superman cameo at the end. Harley Quinn’s spinoff Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman 1984, and The Suicide Squad were then all released during different times of the pandemic, and none of them were granted a regular box office run. The DCEU will continue in 2022 continue with Black Adam and Shazam! Fury of the Gods. In 2023, the DCEU will see Aquaman and the Lost Kingdon, The Flash, Blue Beetle, and most likely Batgirl. The HBO Max show Peacemaker is also part of the DCEU, and there is currently a Green Lantern Corps show also being produced on the platform. How the Green Lantern show will connect to the DCEU is a mystery – and the same goes for J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Justice League Dark show on HBO Max.

The Snyderverse

Darksied Zack Snyder's Justice League

The Snyderverse, more than a term used by those who want to see director Zack Snyder continuing with his Justice League sequels, can be used to describe a slightly different version of the DCEU timeline. The Snyder Cut of Justice League not only adds two more hours to the theatrical cut in an overall very different movie, but it also adds several storylines that were cut from the final product. In addition, Zack Snyder’s Justice League contradicts elements from other DCEU movies, which places the film in its own timeline. For example, unlike the theatrical cut, Cyborg’s father, Silas Stone, dies in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The Snyder Cut also reveals that Mera’s father, King Nereus, is dead, but the character is seen in Aquaman. Another example is how Zack Snyder’s Justice League ends with Superman wearing the black suit, which was supposed to continue through the sequels, but Superman is then seen in Shazam wearing the blue costume. In addition to Justice League, Snyder had originally planned two more sequels, Justice League Part 2 and Justice League Part 3.

Related: Black Adam Is Repeating An Early DCEU Problem

The Batman’s Universe

Robert Pattinson Batman Stands in the Batcave

As Ben Affleck had decided not to direct his Batman movie and was close to leaving the role, Matt Reeves was tasked with the mission of once again rebooting the Dark Knight. Unlike Joker, which initially was viewed as a one-off story, The Batman was clearly meant to be the start of a new Batman franchise, essentially confirming that the DCEU was no longer the studio’s only priority. Instead of the more fantastical universe of the DCEU and the Justice League, The Batman placed the Caped Crusader back in a realistic world. Batman’s detective side was now front and center, and Matt Reeves had the opportunity to reimagine not only the hero but also characters like Catwoman, Penguin, the Riddler, and even the Joker. The Batman 2 is already confirmed, with director Matt Reeves and Batman actor Robert Pattinson set to return. There is also a spin-off series, The Penguin, happening on HBO Max, as well as an Arkham Asylum show in development.

Joker’s Universe

joker 2 story updates support the first movie's shocking ending theory

Had Joker remained as a standalone movie as many expected, then the world created by Todd Phillips would not necessarily represent another cinematic universe. However, audiences will get a chance to see more of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker in Joker 2. Todd Phillips is returning as the director, and the movie is set to feature its own version of Harley Quinn. Instead of Margot Robbie, who plays Harley Quinn in the DCEU, it is Lady Gaga who is being considered to portray Harley Quinn in Joker 2. Other DC characters that have appeared in the Joker universe are Thomas and Martha Wayne, Alfred, and a young version of Bruce Wayne.

Next: What If Kevin Feige Had Left Marvel For DC During Phase 2?

Black Adam (2022)Release date: Oct 21, 2022
Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2022)Release date: Dec 21, 2022
DC League of Super-Pets (2022)Release date: Jul 29, 2022
Batgirl (2022)Release date: Jun 21, 2022
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023)Release date: Mar 17, 2023
The Flash (2023)Release date: Jun 23, 2023
Blue Beetle (2023)Release date: Aug 18, 2023

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Marcelo Leite is a senior writer for Screen Rant with years of experience in creative and academic writing. Although his chosen field was structure engineering, there is nothing he likes better than writing about the things he loves.

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