Movie Reviews

10 DC Movie Characters With The Best Development Of All Time

Summary

  • Character development drives the evolution of many DC movie figures, with their growth and depth providing the backbone to many releases.
  • From Rick Flag to Harley Quinn, characters go from unimpressive to inspirational figures, adding layers to their stories.
  • In the DCEU, character arcs like Batman, Aquaman, and The Flash exhibit significant personal growth and self-discovery.

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The movies following the heroes and villains of the DC Universe bring many characters from the comics to life, and some of them have seen some truly brilliant development over their respective appearances. Throughout the timeline of DC movies, there have been many adaptations of DC Comics characters and stories. Bringing iconic heroes and villains to life on the big screen is no small feat, and often requires careful planning and delicate storytelling.

Character development is a key part of building any compelling story, particularly where a long-term franchise is involved. The nature of superhero stories often gives way to sequels and broader universes, such as with the movies of the DCEU, and therefore giving characters a chance to grow and develop as individuals often comes into play. Thankfully, there have been many occasions where DC movies have achieved that growth brilliantly, leading to many examples of great character development across its history.

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10 Rick Flag Went From Uninspiring To A Lovable Leader

Introduced in: Suicide Squad (2016)

As he first appears in 2016’s Suicide Squad, Rick Flag is a pretty unimpressive character. The handler for Task Force X, Flag’s job is to lead the team of villains by any means necessary to stop Enchantress from destroying humanity. Throughout the movie, he’s the least interesting member of the team, and acts more as a babysitter than a hero, antihero, or even villain.

For the sequel, 2021’s The Suicide Squad, Flag’s personality was beefed out considerably. Having learned from his previous experience with Task Force X that even villains can be heroes, Flag has softened around the edges, and over the course of the movie builds more of a bond with his team. This sees Flag go from an uninteresting figure to a genuinely inspiring leader over the course of his time in the DCEU, with his ending coming in The Suicide Squad.

9 Billy Batson Underwent Massive Personal Growth

Introduced in: Shazam! (2019)

Billy Batson’s status among the heroes of the DC Universe is unique, as he’s quite literally a child. Transformed though he may be into the magical hero Shazam, Billy still retains his youthful outlook. As such, he’s perhaps one of the heroes with the most growth and development needed out of every character in the DCEU. Thankfully, his character arc was able to give him just that.

Billy Batson goes from being something of a lone wolf in the earliest part of his DCEU story to eventually embracing his adopted family. In fact, his siblings join him in the cast of Shazam! Fury of the Gods as fellow heroes after he shares his magical powers with them, further showcasing his growth. Watching Billy grow from a lonely young boy into a young adult capable of carrying the responsibility of his powers is perhaps the DCEU’s most rewarding character arc.

8 Robert Pattinson’s Batman Grew To Embrace His Hero Status

Introduced in: The Batman (2022)

Not all great character development happens across many years and movies, but sometimes across the span of a single story. The Batman introduces Robert Pattinson’s Batman as a relatively fresh figure, entering just his second year as Gotham City’s foremost crimefighter and detective. As such, he’s not far into his personal journey, and the beginning of the movie sees him act as little more than a vigilante hoping to strike fear into the hearts of criminals.

Over the span of The Batman’s story, however, Pattinson’s Dark Knight learns many things about Gotham and his role within the city’s hierarchy of power. Part of this self-discovery includes acknowledging the importance of Batman as a symbol of hope for Gotham’s citizens, rather than simply fear. By the time the movie’s ending comes around, Batman has chosen to embrace his newfound role as a hero, demonstrating the development he has undergone.

7 Jim Gordon’s Dark Knight Trilogy Saw Him Become More Hardened And Cynical

Introduced in: Batman Begins (2005)

As one of Batman’s most prominent supporting characters, Commissioner James Gordon has often played a role in the hero’s stories. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy took Jim Gordon’s character and utilized his importance, making him a key part of Gotham’s police force and one of the few law enforcement officers that Batman genuinely respects. Introduced early in Batman Begins as the policeman who offers compassion to a young and traumatized Bruce Wayne, Gordon’s journey is one of the trilogy’s most understated.

Though Gordon starts out as a particularly idealistic figure, his development over the course of the franchise sees him become more hardened to the harshness of life in Gotham. Though he becomes increasingly weathered to the evils of the city, Gordon retains his compassion, setting him apart from many of his colleagues. As such, Gordon’s development makes him one of the trilogy’s most interesting supporting characters, as his personal growth only amplifies his best qualities.

6 Superman’s DCEU Story Saw Him Become A Well-Rounded Hero

Introduced in: Man of Steel (2013)

Superman is often a difficult hero to get just right, as his laundry list of abilities makes him seem infallible. However, the Man of Tomorrow isn’t without his flaws, and telling a good Superman story requires balancing them against his heroic and hopeful nature. 2013’s Man of Steel introduced a new version of Kal-El played by Henry Cavill, and he cut a particularly brooding figure as the Last Son of Krypton.

Going from the slightly tortured hero of Man of Steel into the events of Batman v Superman and then on to Justice League, Superman’s DCEU arc sees him undergo significant development. He grows from a hero unwilling to announce himself to the world to eventually coming to accept the adoration and ire of humanity, embracing his role as one of the world’s most powerful beings. Superman’s character development sees him undergo a staggering amount of growth in the DCEU, and it’s something that often flies under the radar about the franchise’s Man of Steel.

5 The Flash Grew Up Across His DCEU Appearances

Introduced in: Justice League (2017)

Though the Flash was introduced gradually to the DCEU with two cameos before his full debut, Barry Allen was by far the Justice League’s youngest hero. With an air of innocence and idealism about him, the Flash is introduced as a hopeful and excitable hero who looks up to his team members. The Flash’s enthusiastic approach to his hero work set him apart from many other DCEU characters, but his later adventures help him to understand the weight of his responsibility.

2023’s The Flash gives Barry a huge amount of character development, with the hero embarking on a journey of self-improvement across time and the Multiverse. After his attempts to fix his past affect his present, Barry is faced with devastating knowledge that ultimately leads to self-acceptance. As such, Barry Allen is forced to grow up as a hero as part of his DCEU arc, short-lived though it may have been.

4 Ben Affleck’s Batman Arc Saw Him Rediscover His Heroic Potential

Introduced in: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

When measuring the development of a character, it’s important to examine where their story begins. In terms of Ben Affleck’s Batman in the DCEU, he began life in the franchise as an established vigilante who has lost his sense of mercy. Content to simply kill the criminals plaguing his city, the DCEU’s Batman made use of questionable tactics that pit him against the more idealistic Superman.

After meeting Superman and forming the Justice League, Affleck’s Batman begins to rediscover his hero potential. Not only does he assume a natural leadership role within the superhero team, but he softens considerably, acting as a mentor to the Flash and building a bond with the younger hero. Considering where the DCEU’s Batman was when Affleck first appeared in the role, his character development stands out as some of the franchise’s most significant.

3 Aquaman Went From A Heroic Nomad To A King

Introduced in: Justice League (2017)

Aquaman’s DCEU introduction comes in Justice League, where he joins the ranks of the franchise’s heroes to battle Steppenwolf and protect the Earth. It’s only afterward that the franchise fully explores his backstory, examining his origins and establishing him as a lone hero. Aquaman’s childhood away from his fellow Atlanteans is a key part of his story, and his nomadic nature is a major aspect of his characterization in the DCEU.

Over the course of his two-film arc, Aquaman becomes a much more traditionally heroic and responsible figure. After visiting his underwater homeland, Arthur Curry eventually assumes his rightful place on the throne of Atlantis, later leading the kingdom in the sequel. By the ending of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, Aquaman has become the best possible version of himself, having embraced all the things he was missing at the beginning of his franchise arc and marking his excellent development within the franchise.

2 The Dark Knight Trilogy’s Bruce Wayne Continued To Grow As A Hero

Introduced in: Batman Begins (2005)

There are perhaps no heroes in the history of DC movies to have undergone such massive and well-written on-screen development as Christian Bale’s Batman. Introduced as a young man in Batman Begins, his story starts with the gradual development of his Batman persona, which he later refines. The Dark Knight shows him coming to better understand the role Batman plays within Gotham City, and the ways in which he can help save the city. The Dark Knight Rises sees Batman learn to leave his life of crime-fighting behind, inspiring hope in Gotham before retiring.

The character arc is not only hugely significant, but also impressively executed. Bale’s journey as both Batman and Bruce Wayne is easily followed across the trilogy, as well as being packed with nuance by Bale’s performance and Nolan’s writing. It’s one of the most rewarding and layered pieces of character development in the history of DC movies, and it honors one of the most iconic heroes in all of pop culture.

1 Harley Quinn’s Character Development Was The DCEU’s Best

Introduced in: Suicide Squad (2016)

The DCEU’s best piece of character development isn’t given to one of its heroes, but rather to a figure who is traditionally a villain. Harley Quinn is first introduced to the franchise in Suicide Squad, in which her relationship with the Joker is established. Subsequent movies see Harley break free of the hold Joker has on her, discovering her own identity as an anti-hero rather than a straight-up villain.

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn embarks upon a huge journey of self-discovery across her DCEU appearances, and it sees her undergo a deceptively powerful development arc. Harley walking away from Joker’s toxicity to become her own independent character works both narratively and symbolically, making it an especially poignant piece of storytelling. Harley Quinn’s character arc remains one of the greatest aspects of the franchise, and will likely remain one of the most rewarding arcs in the history of the DC Universe.

  • Suicide Squad Poster Joker and Task Force X

    Suicide Squad

    Director
    David Ayer

    Release Date
    August 5, 2016

    Runtime
    123 minutes

  • Shazam Movie Poster Zachary Levi

    Shazam!

    Director
    David F. Sandberg

    Release Date
    April 5, 2019

    Runtime
    138 minutes

  • The Batman Poster

    The Batman

    Release Date
    March 4, 2022

    Runtime
    176 minutes

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