In 2014, Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Entertainment announced an ambitious series of movies based on DC Comics characters. The original schedule included a two-part Justice League project and at least two films a year through 2020. Things did not go according to plan, with Justice League compressing its story into one film and projects like The Flash experiencing delays. Despite projects shifting around the slate – and the critical backlash against Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League – the original 2014 master plan has been executed for the most part, with only 2018 missing a second DC-derived film. And even as features like Aquaman and Shazam! went into production, the studio never stopped trying to get new projects off the ground utilizing the comic book characters and the universe initiated by 2013’s Man of Steel. The next several years will deliver a number of projects from that original slate and some surprise sequels in the forms of Aquaman 2 and Wonder Woman 1984. We also now know that the Dark Knight will return – along with just about every Batman villain ever! – in The Batman in 2021. Plus, we finally have a date for Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam flick. And with the huge success of Joker, now the most profitable comic-book movie ever made, perhaps we will also see a slew of one-offs coming to theaters.
Nevertheless, the DC masterplan is ever in flux, and the departures of DC Entertainment co-presidents Diane Nelson and Geoff Johns may cause further changes from the original 2014 schedule, as an executive shakeup will lead to a re-examination of the films in development. The following represents everything we know about those projects and their place in the DC Films universe, as well as a few DC adaptations that will exist separate from the universe. (Want to see what the other camp has in store? Check out our breakdown of upcoming Marvel movies.) [Updated February 13, 2020]
There is a lot that is uncertain about which DC Comics characters are coming to the big screen, who’s bringing them there, and in what order — but nothing is uncertain about these first movies. They’re in production, or in pre- or post-production, and we know exactly when they will be hitting theaters.
Release Date: June 5, 2020
What We Know: Diana (Gal Gadot) returns in another tale of Wonder Woman’s past. This time, Diana’s adventures in the Cold War 1980s see her making a new friend, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig). But the jealousy of Wonder Woman that Barbara shares with her Golden Age comics counterpart will lead her to become one of Diana’s greatest foes: the Cheetah. Pedro Pascal will also bring his charms to the film as infamous DC Comics industrialist Maxwell Lord, whose status as a hero or villain depends on the story. Chris Pine also returns as Steve Trevor. Though the nature of his return has not been revealed, director Patty Jenkins promises his appearance will make “perfect sense.”
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Despite Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’s assertion that Diana went into seclusion after World War I, the sequel appears to be disregarding the plot point as director Patty Jenkins places Wonder Woman in another period adventure. Steve Trevor’s apparent return also signals a big change in continuity as his WWI death was mentioned in Justice League.
Release Date: June 25, 2021
What We Know: War for the Planet of the Apes’ Matt Reeves took over directing duties on The Batman following the departure of Ben Affleck, who intended to star, co-write, and direct. Creative differences saw his role reduced to star even as his personal problems overshadowed the ongoing question about his continued involvement. Late in January of 2019, Warner Bros. announced a release date while Affleck definitively stated he was leaving the cape and cowl behind. A new man behind the mask emerged that May when Robert Pattinson took over the role. That casting choice confirms the story will revolve around a younger Batman, but Reeves has also said the film will not be an origin redux (thankfully) and instead focus on his status as the world’s greatest detective. Across late summer and early Fall, the cast began to round out with Jeffrey Wright joining up as Commissioner Gordon, Paul Dano taking on The Riddler, and Zoe Kravitz signing on as Catwoman. In November, word broke indicating Colin Farrell would play The Penguin and Andy Serkis would be the new face of Alfred Pennyworth. Other cast members include Peter Sarsgaard as District Attorney Gil Colson, Alex Ferns as Commissioner Pete Savage, John Turturro as Falcone, and Jayme Lawson as Bella Reál. Rumors also suggest a new Two-Face will also emerge. Stacking the film with almost all of the notable Batman villains is something of a change for modern Batman movies, which generally only use two at a time – although Batman Begins featured a whopping five when you count lesser known characters like Carmine Falcone, Joe Chill, and Victor Zsasz alongside The Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul. Filming has begun in the UK and, after so many false starts, The Batman is on its way. And as proof, Warner Bros released a costume test of Pattinson in his Batman costume/armor in February.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: The project’s ties to the established film continuity are questionable. Late in 2018, rumors began to emerge that Reeves’ vision for the film set it outside the Man of Steel universe as a “standalone” story, like Joker. The studio moved quickly to quash the rumors, but it is possible the film will emerge with few ties to the shared universe.
— Rotten Tomatoes (@RottenTomatoes) February 13, 2020
James Gunn announced his 24-member cast for The Suicide Squad – who’s returning, who’s new, and what does it tell us about the upcoming film?
Posted by The Rotten Tomatoes Channel on Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Release Date: August 6, 2021
What We Know: At one time, The Accountant’s Gavin O’Connor was set to direct the Suicide Squad sequel. But in October of 2018, Warner Bros. made the startling announcement that Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn – who had temporarily departed his post as director of that series’ Volume 3 – was working on a “fresh take” on Suicide Squad, which is said to be a reboot of the concept with a partially new set of characters. When details of Gunn’s involvement first emerged, it was unclear if he would direct the film. But in January of 2019, word broke that he was in talks to helm the film, which was now called The Suicide Squad.
In March, Idris Elba emerged to replace Will Smith as Deadshot, though it was ultimately decided to set that character aside for a potential return by Smith someday. Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, and Joel Kinnaman all agreed to return as their Suicide Squad characters, while David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, and Steve Agee signed on to play new Squad members Polka-Dot Man, the Ratcatcher, and King Shark. Additionally, the film will also feature the talents of Peter Capaldi, John Cena, Taika Waititi, Storm Reid, Mayling Ng, Juan Diego Botto, Alice Braga, Pete Davidson, Joaquin Cosio, Tinashe Kajese, Julio Ruiz, Jennifer Holland, and Gunn mainstays Nathan Fillion, Sean Gunn, and Michael Rooker.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Somehow, The Suicide Squad, with its returning cast members, will be the anchor of DC’s shared film continuity – which, at this point, only really matters to Harley Quinn’s situation and some die-hard fans. Nonetheless, it is possible the film may set up some ideas for subsequent films that the Aquaman sequel and the promised Flash film could follow-up on. But considering Warner Bros.’ disinterest in the shared universe at this point, it may still end up as its own, standalone production.
Release Date: December 22, 2021
What We Know: After listening to fans when he was initially interested in Shazam!, Johnson signed on to star in a film featuring that character’s greatest nemesis, Black Adam. Jaume Collet-Serra will direct from a script by Adam Sztykiel with Rana Khalil set to play a character called Yasmin. As he has for some years, Johnson recommitted to starting production “next year” last Fall, but in November, Warner Bros. gave the film a release date — meaning a project Johnson has been involved with for over a decade will finally come to fruition.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Black Adam is the archenemy of Shazam. But he is also a fairly complicated anti-hero when dealing with anyone else. Heroic one moment and brutal the next, Adam could emerge as the powerful leader of his own country – an idea straight from the comic books.
Release Date: December 16, 2022
What We Know: Warner Bros. is looking to keep director James Wan involved in the sequel. According to reports following the first film’s stunning box office debut in December of 2018, the studio wanted Wan to develop the project while he decided whether or not to direct. David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, a co-writer on the first film, soon emerged to write the follow-up, and Warner Bros. set it for a 2022 release at the end of February last year. Presumably, any sequel storyline will feature the return of Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his thirst for revenge. We’re also going to presume a wedding between Arthur (Jason Momoa) and Mera (Amber Heard) will occur. Wan will direct the sequel after completing work on the horror film Malignant, due out later this year.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: For the moment, Arthur has the sea to himself. But there is always the possibility Diana (Gal Gadot) will reach out to him when she inevitably reassembles the League.
With its plans for a Justice League-centric film universe abandoned in favor of more standalone productions like Aquaman and Shazam!, Warner Bros.’ calendar during the first few years of the 2020s reveals a number of re-thought ideas and, to borrow a term from comics, new #1 issues. At one time, the studio planned to release as many as three films per year, a target it will hit in 2021. But it remains to be seen if the projects listed below will ramp up to maintain the pace.
Release Date: July 1, 2022
What We Know: A Flash film starring Ezra Miller as the Barry Allen featured in Justice League may eventually get made. After losing two directors – Seth Grahame-Smith and Rick Famuyiwa – and undergoing a title change from The Flash to Flashpoint and back again, the nature of the film may be as malleable as its once reported Back to the Future-esque premise. Game Night directors John Francis Daley and Joshua Goldstein were said to be hammering out a new script with production scheduled to begin in March, but Warner Bros. Pictures announced in October of 2018 another production delay to accommodate Miller’s commitments to the third Fantastic Beasts film and further script revisions. And when March came around, surprising news surfaced indicating Miller himself was writing the script alongside comic book legend and Happy! co-creator Grant Morrison to highlight the actor’s “darker” vision of the project. According to reports, Warner Bros. commissioned the script as a last ditch effort to keep Miller on board. His holding contract for the film was to expire in May, but the actor maintains he is still on board to be the big screen Barry Allen. Daley and Goldstein left the project sometime in the summer, with It helmer Andy Muschietti signing on as the project’s fifth director in July. Meanwhile, it is unclear if Kiersey Clemons, who was set to play Iris West in the film, will remain part of the project, whatever its form. But with a July 2022 release date penciled in last December and Birds of Prey writer Christina Hodson rewriting the script, it seems like the film will finally happen. That said, we’re going to leave this project in the “in development” section until cameras actually roll.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: In its Flashpoint incarnation – in which Barry’s attempt to save his mother wrecks the universe – the film would have reportedly featured Gadot as Wonder Woman and an appearance by Ben Affleck as the Batman. Other rumors also indicated the Flashpoint universe’s Batman, Thomas Wayne, would figure heavily in the story while creating an opportunity to recast Batman once Barry fixes his time traveling mistake. Now, who knows if there will even be a DC film universe for it to fit into by the time it finally emerges from development hell. But considering Miller’s appearance as Barry in The CW’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event, maybe it is better to ponder how the film will fit into the television show multiverse.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: As part of an effort to keep Aquaman’s corner of the DC film universe alive, Warner Bros. hired screenwriters Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald to write a script centered on The Trench in February of last year. As referenced in the film’s early moments, The Trench are the descendants of an Atlantean tribe who devolved into fish monsters after breaking away from the rest of the kingdoms. They can be seen attacking Arthur and Mera’s boat shortly before they make their way to the secret sea. Wan publicly discussed his adoration for the creatures and it seems the project, should it happen, will develop quickly into an offshoot of Aquaman a la the Annabelle spinoffs from Wan’s The Conjuring series. The film will reportedly take place after the first Aquaman film and lean into some horror elements, but considering the pace of development, it may end up taking place after the Aquaman sequel.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: The monsters are an established part of DC lore, but as they would be the antagonists in the proposed film, maybe some other DC characters can fill the protagonist roles. The Wonder Twins, maybe? Or perhaps the Challengers of the Unknown.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: Announced back with Cyborg in the 2014 masterplan, Green Lantern Corps continues to slowly move forward. In June of 2018, former DC Entertainment president and chief creative officer Geoff Johns took over writing and producing the project through his production company, Mad Ghost Productions. According to the company website, the film will feature both the Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan (played by Ryan Reynolds in the 2011 film), and John Stewart, the Green Lantern voiced by Phil LaMarr in various Justice League animated series. An earlier concept developed by Man of Steel’s David S. Goyer and Justin Rhodes was said to be a sort of “Lethal Weapon in space” – a description which may still hold true for Johns’ concept as he worked with Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner for a number of years. With Johns participating in a Green Lantern television series for HBO Max, the project would seem to be postponed again — though it is said to still be a priority for Warner Bros. Pictures.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Teased in a Justice League flashback, the lack of an Earthbound Green Lantern is part of the reason Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) chose the planet for conquest. But the film would presumably see the Corps correcting that mistake by revealing the brave humans involved in that organization. No doubt the fans of Jordan and Stewart – to say nothing of characters like Guy Gardner, Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz, and G’Nort, who could potentially appear in the film – will be excited to see them in an ensemble. Additionally, the film would provide a perfect platform with which to introduce DC’s space-faring characters to a larger audience. At one time, the film was slotted for a 2020 release, but with the announcement of a HBO Max Green Lantern series, it is unclear if the film will ever surface.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: The Cloverfield Paradox’s Oren Uziel is reportedly writing a script based on the Girl of Steel. Like The Flash feature film, it will presumably ignore the successful television series on The CW and tell its own version of Kara Zor-El’s first few days as a superhero on Earth. With Man of Steel star Henry Cavill’s DC future in doubt, it is unlikely that Superman will show up and help greet the cinematic Kara. The producers of the 1984 Supergirl film also tried to get then-Superman Christopher Reeve to appear in the film, but his presence was limited to a poster on a dorm room wall.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: The film will presumably be set within the DC film continuity, though the studio appears less interested in creating strong ties between its superhero movies at the moment. Instead, they are looking make director showcases with lower-profile characters – if you can call a character with their own television show “low profile.” Nevertheless, Supergirl offers the opportunity to make a Superman-style movie without his baggage or distracting notoriety.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: Ray Fisher has been set to star as Vic Stone in a 2020 Cyborg film since 2014, but no director or screenwriter has ever been announced. Many have doubted the film will ever materialize despite still being on the calendar. In September of 2018, Fisher suggested fans of the character may need to become more vocal to make the film a reality.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: As Justice League explained how Vic ended up partly metal and partly real, a further Cyborg adventure would see him adjusting to life as a robotic superhero. Or, perhaps, meeting others like him and forming a supergroup of his own. This was even rumored at one point, but the arrival of a Titans television show on the DC Universe streaming service definitely makes this less likely.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: While it is unclear if Blackhawk will be part of the DC film universe, it is a favorite comic book of director Steven Spielberg. He even tried to get a Blackhawk movie off the ground in the 1980s. The current version of the project will see him direct a film based on the golden-age Quality Comics concept later bought by DC in 1957 with The Lost World: Jurassic Park screenwriter David Koepp adapting the concept. The main character is the leader of the Blackhawks squadron, a famed air outfit of seven ace pilots during World War II. When DC incorporated them into a post-war context, they became mercenaries, battled James Bond-style supervillains, and even flirted with becoming superheroes themselves! Considering the director’s fascination with the Second World War and aviation of the period, the original Golden Age version seems like the best fit, provided the film ever gets off the ground.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: Originally intended as Joss Whedon’s writing and directing debut in the DC Extended Universe, the project is now being written by Hodson while the studio looks for a director. Presumably, the film will establish Barbara Gordon as the Batgirl of Gotham. Her relationship to the Birds of Prey will likely be established in a subsequent sequel to either film, if at all. But considering Hodson’s involvement in both films, she probably has a plan for Babs.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Considering the project comes from developments outside of the original Justice League plan, it is difficult to guess how it will fit in. Perhaps Batgirl will be set sometime in the past or see Barbara taking up the cape and cowl after the Batman appears to quit.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: According to reports, Jared Leto will star and serve as executive producer in his own solo Joker film – a deal which happens to be quite similar to Robbie’s involvement in Birds of Prey. Details are scarce, other than it will be a separate project from both the “Joker and Harley” concept and the standalone Joker. It will also spearhead a batch of films based on the characters featured in Suicide Squad, which means rumors of that Deadshot movie might be more than idle talk.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: The Leto Joker was not only featured in Suicide Squad, but is also the murderer of Batman’s second Robin, as implied in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As of Birds of Prey, his relationship with Harley is kaput, setting the two characters off in separate films series. If the “Joker and Harley” project is still happening, then it may serve as a capstone to the characters’ storylines across The Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, and Leto’s Joker. But it may also serve as a replacement for that film as Robbie’s Harley projects may preclude “Joker and Harley.” Of course, Joker’s success – and Leto’s comments about being “alienated and upset” when it was announced – may mean the end of this version of the character.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: As of February 2018, The LEGO Batman Movie’s Chris McKay was still developing a project centered on the first Robin, Dick Grayson. A final draft from screenwriter Bill Dubuque was due at the time, but there has been no movement since. Reportedly, the film has been postponed in anticipation of The Batman, which may ultimately introduce its own version of Dick Grayson.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: As established in Justice League, the Robin costume in the Batcave is not Dick Grayson’s uniform, suggesting plans for Nightwing go all the way back to the 2014 masterplan. A solo film would presumably see the character living in Bludhaven (Grayson’s adopted city in the comics) and coming to grips with becoming his own hero. McKay also plans to direct a new Dungeons & Dragons film and a feature film version of Johnny Quest, so it is hard to tell if Nightwing will happen anytime soon. Last time McKay was asked about it, he said fans will have to wait, but they should also “keep hope alive.”
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: In September of 2017, X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn met with the studio in regards to a direct Man of Steel sequel. Two years on, the return of Superman to the big screen seems like a distant possibility.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Clark (Henry Cavill) has to reestablish himself at the Daily Planet at some point, right? Meanwhile, Superman could face any number of DCU villains from Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson).
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: The Main Man, a Czarnian with various superpowers and healing factors, has always been of interest to Warner Bros. Attempts to make a Lobo movie date back to 2009 with Guy Ritchie and Brad Peyton circling the director’s chair. As of February last year, screenwriter Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman) was completing a new draft. Michael Bay was linked to the project, but it is unclear if he ever really signed on.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Lobo, like Green Lantern Corps, could introduce the cosmic elements of the DC Universe. The character’s irreverence and stark design also set him apart from the rest the DC characters audiences are familiar with. And considering the times his comic book counterpart and Superman have butted heads, he could become a worthy opponent for the Man of Steel in a subsequent film.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: A Wrinkle In Time’s Ava DuVernay will direct a film version Jack Kirby’s New Gods for Warner Bros., writing the script alongside Mr. Miracle writer Tom King. The film will allegedly center on escape artist Scott Free – aka Mr. Miracle – and his wife Barda. Both are refugees from the plant Apokolips; a miserable world under the grip of the tyrant god Darkseid. Scott was given to Darkseid as a baby by his own father to maintain a peace between Apokolips and the nearby world of New Genesis. Despite the detente, Darksied plots to control the universe and the battle of the New Gods rages on. While the project is still a ways off from casting, DuVernay thrilled fans in early January when she said she “may in fact be taking some notes” from the Twitter dream casting threads, which included names like Diego Luna for Mr. Miracle and Gina Carano for Big Barda.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: While it is unclear if DuVernay will follow up on this plot point, New Gods villain Darkseid is the central baddie at the core of all things. Justice League villain Steppenwolf is his uncle and commander of his armies. The alpha predator may even be the person Lex was referring to at the end of Batman v Superman when he told Batman “he’s coming,” and “he’s hungry.” Based on that, it seems Darkseid was always meant to make his mark upon the DC Film universe, but it remains to be seen if the Justice League will reunite to oppose him.
Thumbnail image courtesy Warner Bros.