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Watch ‘Justice League,’ Then Watch These Movies

We’ve assembled a super selection of movies to help you better appreciate the new DC team-up.
By  · Published on November 18th, 2017

We’ve assembled a super selection of movies to help you better appreciate the new DC team-up.

Finally, all our favorite DC Comics superheroes are united in one movie. Justice League doesn’t just bring together iconic characters like Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash, though. It also merges a variety of influences and allusions that make for another fun mix of Movies to Watch afterward. Check out this week’s eight recommendations below.

Seven Samurai (1954)

In a 2016 Yahoo Movies interview, iJustice League director Zack Snyder compared the movie to this classic samurai film by Akira Kurosawa. “It’s an intense, awesome, and gigantic undertaking,” he said, “because Bruce [Wayne] is having to go out and sort of Seven Samurai the Justice League together, which is fun.”

Of course, Seven Samurai is one of the most influential movies of all time, as the greatest and perhaps oldest cinematic story of a heroic team being assembled. The stakes here are much more localized, as a village recruits and forms the title team of samurai warriors to defeat a group of bandits terrorizing their homes.

Of course, the American Western remake, The Magnificent Seven, is also worth watching, as are war movies such as The Guns of Navarone. Another key honorable mention that isn’t a great movie but presents maybe the earliest instance of a superhero team-up is Samson and the Mighty Challenge, an Italian fantasy film that brings together mythological heroes Samson, Hercules, Maciste, and Ursus against an evil tyrant.

Superman III (1983)

TumblIf you’re a fan of DC superheroes, hopefully you already know to see Superman: The Movie and Superman II (both of which are on our list of the best superhero movies of all time). But you’ve probably avoided this less-acclaimed sequel (maybe because it was retconned out of canon by Superman Returns). Like Justice League, it’s a mediocre-to-bad yet often fun movie that still features a standout Superman. The new movie is Henry Cavill’s third outing as the Man of Steel, while Superman III was Christopher Reeve’s.

There are a number of explanations for why this movie stumbles, including its having a rather weak villain (played by Robert Vaughn) who seems like a Lex Luthor knockoff. Also many people (not me) have a problem with Richard Pryor’s ill-fitting comic relief character. But it has an evil Superman, for longer than we get one in Justice League, despite rumors, and even when his scenes are super corny (see the Tower of Pisa gag), that adds to the charm.

Although the score for Superman III is by Ken Thorne, who returns after working on Superman II, the movie does of course feature the John Williams-composed theme that is iconically linked to the title character. You can hear reference to that theme within Danny Elfman’s score for Justice League during Superman’s appearance.

The Brother from Another Planet (1984)

Joe Morton’s role in Justice League as Silas Stone, creator and father to the superhero Cyborg, may have fans recalling his part in Terminator 2: Judgment Day where he plays the man responsible for creating Skynet. But his appearance made me think more about this sci-fi cult classic from John Sayles, in which he plays the title character.

The Brother is, like Superman, a refugee from space. And he has super powers of his own, including the ability to heal himself and fix any machine. But his experiences on Earth and in the big city are a lot different from Kal-El’s, as the movie offers an allegorical look at the story of the black man in America through a fish-out-water story about an alien.

Pet Sematary (1989)

One of the biggest laughs in Justice League comes from Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), comparing the plan to resurrect Superman to this horror movie — or to the Stephen King novel it’s based on. The plot involves a cemetery in the woods specifically for pets whose owners aren’t ready to let go yet. Burying an animal — or your child or your wife — there means they’re going to come back from the dead.

The problem is, the pets and family members return as evil versions, and that’s what Barry is afraid of with the Man of Steel. Will he come back as a supervillain? Fans have wondered the same question since Supes died at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and while he does initially seem to be trouble when he comes back to life, it’s only briefly. No black suit, no full-on fight between Superman and the Justice League. No superhero equivalent of Pet Sematary.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.