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 Chris Pine will be returning, and that the Dark Knight will return, in some form, in The Batman in 2021.
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.)
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: April 5, 2019
What We Know: Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a disadvantaged boy with an amazing secret. By saying the magic word “Shazam,” he becomes Earth’s Mightiest Mortal. Blessed with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury, Billy transforms into a super-powered adult (Zachary Levi) despite still being a young boy underneath. And just as he starts to understand his powers and responsibilities, Sivana (Mark Strong) reveals the harm a failed version of Shazam can do with just a modicum of the power.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Shazam! represents the first planned breakaway from the look and feel of the earlier Justice League-related projects, but does take part “in the heart” of the DCEU. Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) took a great deal of inspiration from classic comics featuring the character when he was known as Captain Marvel, meaning the project will be consciously lighter and potentially funnier than the earlier films in the Justice League cycle.
Release Date: October 4, 2019
What We Know: Though not a part of the DC film continuity, Todd Phillips’ standalone Joker will offer the fullest exploration of the character’s origin yet put on film. Warner Bros. gave the project – which stars Joaquin Phoenix as Joker’s newest alter ego, Arthur Fleck – the green light in early July. Production began in the fall with Zazie Beetz and Robert De Niro joining the cast. Beetz is set to play a single mom who becomes involved with the proto-Joker. De Niro plays Murray Franklin, a talk show host allegedly tied to Fleck’s ascendancy as the Clown Prince of Crime. GLOW’s Marc Maron will also appear as a member of Murray’s staff while Frances Conroy will reportedly play the Joker’s mother. Brett Cullen and Douglas Hodge will take on the roles of Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth, tying Fleck’s transformation to the Gotham City milieu.
Release Date: February 7, 2020
What We Know: Margot Robbie will star in and produce a Birds of Prey film to be directed by Dead Pigs’ Cathy Yan from a script by Christina Hodson, which will see Robbie’s Harley Quinn take an active role in the superhero team. Traditionally, Barbara Gordon (as Oracle) oversees a field team comprised of Black Canary and the Huntress. Since Barbara has never been established in the current film universe (more on that later) – and will presumably be absent here – Harley may actually end up forming the team to face off against crime lord Roman Sionis – a.k.a. Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). In late September, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead were cast as Black Canary and Huntress, respectively. Other characters set for the film include another version of Batgirl, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), and beloved Gotham City Police detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez). Chris Messina will also appear occasional Gotham menace Victor Zsasz. In January, Robbie unleashed a short teaser of the cast at a costume test, revealing the film will have less of a superhero costume look than many expected.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: As one of the best features of Suicide Squad, Robbie has a certain cachet to develop her own corner of the DC film universe. Of course, Robbie and Harley are set to appear in a surprising number of DC projects, including a film directly tied to the character’s relationship with the Joker (to be directed and written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa). But as Birds of Prey will likely be the first to arrive in theaters, it will dictate her place in the universe going forward. And considering the subtitle Robbie revealed last Fall, the film may confront the Joker’s status in Harley’s life more directly than previously thought.
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 bring her into confrontation with the Cheetah (Kristen Wiig), whose plans for Wonder Woman – and the world – will no doubt go beyond the mere jealousy her Golden Age comics counterpart often felt. 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.
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. And it seems their ambitious plan to release three films per year has been scaled back to two – at least through 2021, anyway – as seen from the updated release schedule and the other projects said to be in development.
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, and even that was in doubt on any given day. In August of 2018, Affleck’s personal problems overshadowed the ongoing question about his continued involvement. One subsequent rumor suggested Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s Oscar Isaac may be in talks to join the film, which led many to speculate he may be Affleck’s replacement. Late in January, Warner Bros. announced a release date while Affleck definitively stated he was leaving the cape and cowl behind.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: The project’s ties to the established film continuity are questionable. Late last year, rumors began to emerge that Reeves’ vision for the film set it outside the Man of Steel universe as a “standalone” story, like Todd Phillips’ Joker with Joaquin Phoenix. The studio moved quickly to quash the rumors, but The Batman will reportedly see a younger Batman taking on a case worthy of his detective skills – which means it could still be a prequel to the established DCEU or end up as separate as Joker.
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 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, 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. Additionally, rumors indicated the film would include Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Ratcatcher, Polka-Dot Man, Peacekeeper, and King Shark among the task force, with Viola Davis reportedly returning as their ruthless minder, Amanda Waller.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: As far as we can tell, it doesn’t. The Suicide Squad is being treated as a completely separate work from Suicide Squad. At the same time, a certain level of connectivity between the current crop of DC films may be maintained, if for no other reason than for Gunn to joke about the rushed world-building before he arrived on the scene.
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, the studio wanted Wan to develop the project while deciding 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. 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. Of course, it is still unclear if Wan will direct, but he will produce in any event.
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.
Release Date: 2021 (provisionally)
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 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 expires in May, after which the studio may be looking for a new Flash. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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: July 24, 2020 (provisionally)
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.
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. The film was provisionally slotted for a 2020 release, but this seems less likely with each passing day.
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 have ever been announced. Many have doubted the film will ever materialize despite still being on the calendar. In September, 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! It is unclear which version Spielberg and Koepp will adapt, but considering the director’s fascination with the Second World War and aviation of the period, the original Golden Age version seems the likely focus.
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 is writing 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. Considering Affleck’s ambiguous participation of late, any and all Batfamily projects may have to wait on him.
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. His relationship with Harley will likely be a topic of discussion in Birds of Prey, and that film will presumably set up the reason why they are headed into separate film series. If the “Joker and Harley” project is still happening, then it may serve as a capstone to the characters’ storylines across Suicide Squad 2, 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.”
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.
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. One year later, word of Cavill’s possible departure suggests a Man of Steel sequel is very far away.
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), should the latter’s film occur first.
Release Date: TBD
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. Adam Sztykiel was reportedly hired to write the script, but little official word has emerged since 2017. According to recent comments from Johnson, the film is set to begin production sometime next year. The film still lacks a director or screenwriter, but Johnson has been known to conjure up productions out of nothing. In July, Johnson said the script is “coming along” amidst the retooling of DC’s film universe plan.
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: TBD
What We Know: The Raid series’ Gareth Evans was in talks to write and direct a feature film based on Deathstroke, but no official announcement was ever made. Joe Manganiello, originally set to play the character in Affleck’s version of The Batman, said over the summer that plans are still “in the works” to bring the character back in some form, but could not confirm if the Evans version of the film is still in development. In October, Evans stated he would be working on a television show in the U.K. through 2020, after which he plans to make “a bunch of films in Wales.” He did not mention Deathstroke.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: As teased at the end of Justice League, Deathstroke is a player in the darker parts of the DC film universe and has already been recruited for Lex’s Injustice Gang. Whether or not the film will continue that plot remains to be seen.
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 the past February, 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. with a script from Kario Salem. 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.
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.