The DC Movies to Watch Before ‘The Flash’

Here’s your homework before the multiverse-bending film


“The Flash” races into theaters this weekend, and it’s a lot of movie.

The superhero film promises to be a landmark in the genre by not only being something of a send-off for the “DC Extended Universe” of films but also serving as a reboot that makes way for the new “DC Universe” of films and TV shows. As if that wasn’t enough, “The Flash” is also bringing back some long-time fan favorites and providing a unique revisionist spin on the entire DC universe as we know it by bringing back Michael Keaton as Batman and retelling the events of “Man of Steel”.

After Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) travels back in time to prevent the death of his mother, the world he ends up in is unrecognizable from his own, and he’s forced to save it when a dangerous threat unexpectedly appears.  It can seem like a daunting task to be prepared to see worlds collide in “The Flash”, but fear not — below we’ve assembled a list of the movies to watch before “The Flash” so you’re primed and ready for maximum enjoyment (and understanding).

“Batman” (1989)

Warner Bros.

Directed by Tim Burton, this is the film that started it all and introduced audiences to Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Taking a darker approach to the source material, “Batman” follows billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne as he uses his vigilante alter ego to go up against ruthless crime boss Jack Naiper (Jack Nicholson). After a fateful encounter at a chemical plant, Naiper is transformed into The Joker and begins terrorizing Gotham City with an untraceable poison used in cosmetic items. When a violent final showdown leaves The Joker dead, Bruce Wayne vows to continue to protect Gotham City as The Dark Knight.

Keaton reprised the role of Batman for the 1992 sequel “Batman Returns” but famously left the series leading him to be replaced by various actors throughout the years until the series was rebooted in 2005 with “Batman Begins”.

Now in “The Flash,” he returns to don the cape and cowl once again when Barry Allen alters the DC universe.

“Batman” is available to stream on Max.

“Man of Steel” (2013)

henry-cavill-man-of-steel superman
Warner Bros.

The film that kickstarted Zack Snyder’s DC Extended Universe and reintroduced Superman, “Man of Steel” retells the origins of Kal-El (Henry Cavill). When the planet Krypton is dying, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends his son Kal-El to Earth so that he may survive and live a life of greatness. Kal-El is raised as Clark Kent and soon realizes he’s not like other people as he possesses various superpowers such as flight and heat vision. Soon after his discovery, another Kryptonian named General Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives on Earth looking for Kal-El and threatening to destroy the planet. Realizing the world needs a hero, Clark Kent becomes Superman and sets out to stop Zod at any cost.

When Barry Allen alters the universe in “The Flash,” he discovers he’s in a world without Superman. Instead, he finds Supergirl (Sasha Calle) and it’s up to them to save the world from an invading General Zod. With Michael Shannon returning to his “Man of Steel” role, fans would benefit from watching that film before this revisionist take.

“Man of Steel” is available to stream on Max.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (2021)

Warner Bros.

“Justice League” introduced audiences to Ezra Miller’s Flash, which saw Barry Allen team up with the world’s most iconic superheroes. After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), the world is left unprotected from any future threats. When Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) finds evidence of an impending alien threat, he sets out to form a team of the world’s most powerful heroes to protect it. Along the way, he recruits Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and The Flash (Ezra Miller). When the team realizes that they might not be enough to stop Steppenwolf from retrieving the Mother Boxes, ancient alien artifacts with the power to destroy Earth, they set out a plan to resurrect Superman and save the world as the Justice League.

In 2021, an alternate version of “Justice League” was released that aligned with director Zack Snyder’s original vision (which was jettisoned in favor of a new version, at least partially overseen by Joss Whedon). This behemoth four-hour version of “Justice League” is more tonally similar to the previous film “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and goes far more in-depth about Steppenwolf, the Mother Boxes, and the larger threat of Darkseid impending over Earth. In addition to all of this, “Zack Synder’s Justice League” features an extended sequence introducing Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) and the powers he possesses as The Flash. The film also goes more in-depth with the relationship Flash forms with other members of the Justice League including Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck).

Though it has an extreme runtime “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is ultimately one of the most fulfilling movies in the DC Extended Universe. Fans eager to see The Flash before his solo movie would do best to watch this version of “Justice League” in preparation of what’s to come, even though Snyder’s cut sets up plenty that will never get paid off.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is available to stream on Max.