DC’s Highest-Grossing Films: Lessons for a New DC Universe.

Discover key lessons from DC’s top-grossing movies that could reshape James Gunn and Peter Safran’s revitalized DC Universe. Explore the success stories and strategic insights.

DC’s Highest-Grossing Films: A Blueprint for Success in the New DC Universe

James Gunn and Peter Safran have embarked on a mission to breathe new life into DC Studios, taking the helm as co-CEOs in November 2022. Their task: rejuvenate the DC Universe after a period of turmoil and a string of underwhelming releases. As they reset the franchise and move forward with fresh projects like “Waller” and “Superman: Legacy,” there are vital lessons to be learned from DC’s highest-grossing films that could shape the future of this iconic cinematic universe.

Lesson 1: Don’t Rush Major Crossovers

Example: “Justice League”

Justice League 1 1 1

In 2017, “Justice League” became the first major crossover event in the DCEU. Despite grossing over $657 million, the film faced mixed reviews due to its rushed storytelling and underdeveloped characters. Gunn and Safran should prioritize character development before diving into major crossovers to create a more satisfying viewer experience.

Lesson 2: Skip Origin Stories When Appropriate

Example: “Man of Steel”

Man of Steel 1

“Man of Steel” (2013) demonstrated that sometimes, origin stories aren’t necessary. By skipping Superman’s origin and diving right into the action, the film achieved global box office success with $668 million. This approach allows the audience to engage more quickly with the storyline, a tactic to be adopted in projects like “Superman: Legacy.”

Lesson 3: Explore Lesser-Known Characters

Example: “Suicide Squad”

DC's Highest-Grossing Films - Suicide Squad

“Suicide Squad” (2016) may have garnered mixed reviews, but it raked in an impressive $746 million. One of its strengths was the use of lesser-known characters, such as Harley Quinn. Gunn and Safran should emphasize smaller-scale characters to diversify the DC Universe’s storytelling and introduce fresh perspectives.

Lesson 4: Prioritize Directors’ Visions

Example: “The Batman”

DC's Highest-Grossing Films - the Batman
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“The Batman” (2022) was a major success, grossing $770 million. Its triumph was attributed to director Matt Reeves’ creative freedom, which led to a unique take on the Dark Knight. Gunn and Safran should continue to prioritize directors’ visions for a more diverse and engaging DC Universe.

Lesson 5: Standalone Stories Before Crossovers

Example: “Wonder Woman”

Wonder Women 1

“Wonder Woman” (2017) achieved great success by telling a standalone story set in World War I, separate from other DC narratives. Gunn and Safran should develop characters individually before weaving them into crossover films, ensuring each project feels like a self-contained, compelling story.

Lesson 6: Strong Villains Are Essential

Example: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

Superman vs Batman

Despite its box office success of $873 million, “Batman v Superman” (2016) faced criticism for its weak villains. Gunn and Safran must prioritize creating compelling antagonists to avoid the pitfalls of underdeveloped villains seen in the past.

Lesson 7: Keep It Realistic

Example: “The Dark Knight”

The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy, especially “The Dark Knight” (2008), demonstrated the value of a realistic approach. A grounded narrative can make a superhero film more relatable and intense. Gunn and Safran should aim for a realistic tone in their projects.

Lesson 8: Comic Accuracy Isn’t Always Necessary

Example: “Joker”


“Joker” (2019) strayed from traditional comic accuracy but became a massive success, grossing over $1 billion. This film proved that deviation from comic source material can result in compelling storytelling. Gunn and Safran shouldn’t be afraid to explore unique interpretations of DC characters.

Lesson 9: Success Breeds Success

Example: “The Dark Knight Rises”

The Dark Knight Arises DC

“The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) outperformed its predecessor at the box office, emphasizing the loyalty of an engaged audience. Gunn and Safran must deliver consistently strong stories to retain viewers’ loyalty and ensure the continued success of the DC Universe.

Lesson 10: Fun Projects Are Valuable

Example: “Aquaman”

The Aquaman

“Aquaman” (2018) surprised many by becoming DC’s highest-grossing live-action film, grossing over $1.1 billion. Its fun, adventurous tone resonated with audiences, demonstrating the importance of lighthearted projects. Gunn and Safran’s promise of a more fun-filled DC Universe could lead to repeated successes.

As James Gunn and Peter Safran steer the DC Universe into uncharted waters, these lessons from DC’s highest-grossing films serve as a roadmap for building a stronger, more cohesive cinematic universe as their first DCU film Blue Beetle which is the first superhero of the DC universe did not perform well on box office. By embracing these insights, the duo aims to write a new chapter in the DC Universe’s history, captivating audiences with fresh narratives, iconic characters, and memorable cinematic experiences.

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