DC has always excelled at putting its characters in television shows. Though their animation lineup is exceptional, their live action TV has not always been – which makes a ranked list of all DC TV shows interesting to make.
Excluding animation, we’ve compiled a list of all DC TV shows ranked from worst to best. All of these shows are based on DC Comics intellectual property, despite not actually resembling the character they’re based on. Read on below!
22. Human Target (1992)
Low ratings and bad reception make for a bad TV show. This show was unrelated to the later attempt to adapt the same character, and we’re grateful for that.
21. Legends of Tomorrow (2016 – Present)
What started out as an interesting premise, taking C-list characters and giving them their own show, turned into a D-list show. Instead of giving characters any additional depth or real world stakes, it doubled down on the campiness in a bad, bad way. Skip this.
20. Swamp Thing: The Series (1990 – 1993)
Despite the show’s popularity, it was critically panned. The camp value of the show was completely unintentional, and it shows in later viewings. Plus – that costume? Yuck, and not just because of the swampiness.
19. Constantine (2014 – 2015)
The Constantine that ended up on broadcast television is not the one that fans grew to love in comics. If you’re not going to do a comic book character justice, don’t put him on television. It was nice to see Matt Ryan show up in an episode of Arrow after Constantine ended, but that was more an Easter egg for fans than anything else.
18. Shazam! (1974 – 1976)
Even though Shazam was owned by Whiz Comics at the time, we’re still including the series. It was popular with fans and ran for several seasons, but they weren’t subtle with the moral lessons at the end. Bit of a buzzkill, really.
17. Superboy (1988 – 1992)
This series was popular amongst fans but ended with a sad finale and a legal battle. Fortunately, from its ashes grew another show…
16. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993 – 1997)
…which conflicted with the continuity that Superboy had set. Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher’s performances are iconic, and the show does a great job of turning Lois Lane from a romantic interest into an actual character. It’s not perfect, but it’s a predecessor of other superheroines that came afterward.
15. Human Target (2010 – 2011)
The second adaptation of this property lasted two seasons and was… just okay. It was an action serial and nothing more. Derp da derp.
14. Adventures of Superman (1952 – 1958)
The first television series to feature Superman was at first in black-and-white, and then later moved to color once it was syndicated. It’s an important piece of history, but not the best show to rewatch. They re-cast Lois Lane and focus Superman’s battles on local gangsters.
13. Arrow (2010 – Present)
After the season two finale, Arrow catapulted downhill. Instead of providing its characters with meaningful arcs, it focused on half-baked melodrama and poorly constructed political drama (which especially doesn’t work because Arrow is not a brainy show). If the show decides to focus on what it’s good at, it could become must watch TV again. For now, its place on this list is for creating the DCTV universe on The CW.
12. The Flash (1990 – 1991)
Though the show gets point for having a theme song by Danny Elfman, this show is just okay. The producers of The Flash (2014 – Present) did a great job tying this series into its own, so it has more relevance in today’s superhero-infused culture.
11. Gotham (2014 – Present)
It’s no secret that I, personally, do not like this show. The concept is silly and did not work – but it’s come into its own with some crazy character twists. It’s still not a “great” TV show, but it’s great escapism from day-to-day life.
10. Lucifer (2016 – Present)
Don’t judge this show by its logline. Even though it’s about the devil running a nightclub and then working with the LAPD, it’s a fun ride. Don’t take it too seriously, and you’ll enjoy the viewing experience.
9. Birds of Prey (2002 – 2003)
This cult series had a lot of interesting components that never really came together. Featuring Oracle, Huntress, the Black Canary, and Harley Quinn (before she was cool), this series showed that DC was a forerunner for female-led series in the modern day.
8. Powerless (2017 – Present)
This show seems made for comic book fans, with a cast that includes Alan Tudyk and Danny Pudi – how could it go wrong? Simple – by not having enough viewers. Despite its charming cast, the comedy hasn’t been strong enough to pull in the audience it needs to survive. There’s potential for this show to be great, but it needs to shape up fast for it to be so.
7. Supergirl (2015 – Present)
It’s not a cult classic yet, but it has the potential to be with a few more seasons. Supergirl has balanced levity, drama, and classic comic book weirdness in a unique and delightful way, meaning that this show has a bright future.
6. Wonder Woman (1975 – 1979)
There’s a reason Lynda Carter is a pop culture icon. Though the show’s name and supporting cast changed when it moved from ABC to CBS, the heart and action remained the same. It’s a key piece of DC history, and an important rewatch before you go see Wonder Woman in theaters. (You’re going to see it, right?
5. Smallville (2001 – 2010)
There’s a reason this show ran for nine years. It reinvented the classic Superman mythos in an exciting way while still staying true to Superman’s core. Plus, you have to acknowledge Michael Rosenbaum’s performance as Lex Luthor, which is the greatest live action adaptation of the character.
4. The Flash (2014 – Present)
In the dark, melodramatic world that currently is DC’s film and TV universe – The Flash is a goofy bright spot that outshines its counterparts. Of all The CW’s current DC offerings, this is the one you should sit down to watch every week. (Especially since what happens on The Flash has ramifications on the other series.)
3. iZombie (2015 – Present)
Surprised to see this so high on the list? It just goes to show that a) DC does comedy well and b) not every comic book adaptation has to be a super serious look at superheroism. We’d love to see more shows like iZombie on TV today.
2. Preacher (2016 – Present)
This is the DC TV show that fans deserve. Preacher leans into its dark weirdness (hello, Arseface!) in a way no other show on television does – and it has a stellar cast that does the concept justice. Shoutout to Dominic Cooper, who plays the titular Preacher, and Ruth Negga (who fans may recognize from Agents of SHIELD).
1. Batman (1966 – 1968)
Duh nuhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuh duh nuhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuh BATMAN!
Of course this is number one. This series is legendary and has shaped pop culture in a multitude of ways. It’s great to rewatch today for a dose of nostalgia, as well as to see how far comic book adaptations have come in the past few decades.