Justice League: The Top 5 Episodes

These Episodes Are in a League of Their Own

Superman: “I once thought I could protect the world by myself, but I was wrong. Working together, we saved the planet, and I believe that if we stay together as a team, we would be a force that could truly work for the ideals of peace and justice.”
The Flash: “What, like a bunch of Super Friends?
Superman: “More like a Justice League.”

Justice league, “Secret Origins” (Season 1, Episode 3)

The DC Animated Universe arrived soon before the much-more heralded MCU. Batman: the Animated Series and Superman: the Animated Series led to a show uniting DC’s greatest heroes: The Justice League.

Justice League introduced many characters to fans who had never read the comics. Hawkgirl, The Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern John Stewart went from second stringers to A-list TV stars. It also shone a light on The Flash and Wonder Woman, showing facets of their characters beyond their powers. Superman and Batman remained the same, but gained allies to interact with.

We’re celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Justice League‘s finale with a look back at its Top 5 Episodes. So which made the list? Let’s find out.

#5 The Savage Time

Focus Characters: Green Lantern, Wonder Woman

Superman:I’ve never seen an insignia like that. What country are you from?”
Blackhawk:We’re not from any one country. Andre is from France, Hendrickson’s from Holland, Olaf comes from Norway, and I’m Blackhawk, from Poland.
Superman:All countries occupied by the Axis authorities.”
Blackhawk:We Blackhawks bow to no authority until our homelands are free again.”
Andre:Vive la Liberte!

“The Savage Time” (Season 1, Episode 24)

Synopsis: Returning from a deep space mission, The Justice League returns to an Earth ruled by fascists. They discover that immortal conqueror Vandal Savage has changed history and conquered the world by helping The Axis win World War II. The League must travel back in time and restore history.

Why This Episode: The Savage Time was the season one finale and first three-part episode. The League is overwhelmed from the beginning. Things worsen with their arrival during World War II. High stakes and villains as monstrous as Nazis force the Justice League to save the future by temporarily abandoning their code against killing.

This episode is a love letter to DC’s WWII-era heroes. Wonder Woman spies with love interest Steve Trevor. Green Lantern’s ring runs out of power, so he relies on his Marine training and joins up with Sgt. Rock’s company. The Blackhawk squadron get air support from Hawkgirl and Superman. 

Vandal Savage is a highlight, coming across as a charming and sinister leader. He is a better tactician than Hitler, bolstering the Axis forces with futuristic weaponry, including gigantic “War Wheels” and a fleet of jet bombers.

Fun Fact: While working with the altered timeline’s Batman to reach the time machine, the League briefly visits the Batcave. Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, and Cassandra Cain get an unmasked blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo.

#4 Wild Cards

Focus Characters: Batman, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern

Joker: “Whew! Is it just me or is there something going on between those two? Will Green Lantern ever admit to his feelings? Will Hawkgirl ever stop sublimating her passions with that big honkin’ mace? Will true love conquer all? [raises his detonator] Not on my show!”

“Wild Cards” (Season 2, Episode 21)

Synopsis: The Joker has planted bombs throughout Las Vegas and hijacked a TV broadcast. He roasts the Justice League as they try to defuse the explosives while fighting Joker’s minions, The Royal Flush Gang. 

Why This Episode: Wild Cards shows that brute strength isn’t the only way to fight the Justice League. Joker’s jibes and mad tricks keep the heroes guessing as they race against time.

The Royal Flush Gang are Joker’s enforcers, a group of superpowered teenagers experimented on by the government until they could go toe-to-toe with The Justice League. King is pyrokinetic, Queen manipulates metal, Jack is elastic, and Ten is super strong. Ace remains by Joker’s side, silently staring at the camera while in a dissociative state.

Hawkgirl and Green Lantern have grown close over many episodes and Lantern wants more from their relationship, but Hawkgirl is reluctant to commit. The romantic drama ruins their teamwork as they attempt to defuse the bombs.

Fun Fact: The Royal Flush Gang were voiced by the actors of a concurrent Teen Titans series, making this episode a pseudo-crossover. Robin is King, Raven is Queen, Beast Boy is Jack, Cyborg is Ten, and Starfire is Ace.

#3 Justice League: Only a Dream

Focus Characters: Batman, Martian Manhunter

Green Lantern: “Look, whatever he is, he’s sure not in the same league as Grundy and the others. He’s a nobody.”
Batman: “Ever read The Odyssey? After Odysseus was caught by the cyclops, he told it his name was “Nobody”. So when he poked its eye out and its friends asked who did it, all the cyclops could say was “nobody.”
Green Lantern: “Point taken.”

“Only a Dream” (Season 2, Episode 5)

Synopsis: Small-time crook John Dee volunteers for a lab test that goes awry and gives him the ability to manipulate dreams. He becomes Doctor Destiny and traps the Justice League in nightmares. Martian Manhunter enters their dreams to save them, leaving an exhausted Batman to stop Doctor Destiny in the real world.

Why This Episode: Only a Dream features the League at their weakest. Most of them are asleep, forced to grapple with their deepest fears, such as Superman losing control or Green Lantern being alienated from humanity. In the real world, Batman is exhausted from multiple all-nighters and struggling to stay awake.

Doctor Destiny is like a toned-down Freddy Krueger. He delights in torturing the League, taunting a semi-unconscious Batman, and becomes the first villain in the show to kill someone. He’s omnipotent in The Dreaming, forcing heart attacks as victims are literally scared to death.

#2 Legends

Focus Characters: Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, Flash

Green Lantern: “I know it sounds corny, but those comics taught me what it meant to be a hero. Without them… well, maybe I wouldn’t have this ring today.

“Legends” (Season 1, Episode 18)

Synopsis: Several Leaguers are blasted by an experimental weapon and hurled into another world where they meet The Justice Guild of America, the heroes of Green Lantern’s favorite comic. The League assists the Guild in stopping a crime wave while working on a multiverse portal. In between fights, they discover that something is very wrong in this world… 

Why This Episode?: Legends is a throwback to The Silver Age of Comics. The Justice Guild members are idealistic, Mom-and-apple-pie types while the villains are relatively harmless thieves with quirky gimmicks. Outdated norms creep into the plot, including a female hero pulling Hawkgirl aside to help make cookies while the men talk and The Streak calling African American Green Lantern a credit to his people.

The Justice Guild’s world resembles an idealized 1950s, but there are cracks beneath the veneer. An ice cream truck repeats its route endlessly, but never stops. Every library book is blank. And anytime something out of place happens, there’s another attack. The episode slowly shifts from Super Friends to WandaVision.

Fun Fact: The Justice Guild was meant to be the Justice Society of America, but DC disagreed with the team’s characterization. While legally distinct, the Guild are still recognizable as Flash (Jay Garrick), Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Wildcat, Black Canary, and The Atom.

#1 Justice League: A Better World

Focus Characters: Batman, Superman

Batman: “They’re as strong as we are and just as smart, but they’re willing to kill.”
Superman: “What are you saying – that we have to be willing to kill too? I won’t cross that line.”
Batman: “How else can we stop them?
Superman: “You’re the smart one. You figure it out.”
Batman: “We can’t do it. Not unless we cross some kind of line.

“A Better World” (Season 2, Episode 12)

Synopsis: An alternate Justice League assassinates President Lex Luthor. Rebranding themselves The Justice Lords, they conquer America and turn it into a police state. Lord Batman discovers a multiverse portal and another world where they didn’t take over. They lure the League to their world, sparking a interdimensional war.

Why This Episode: A Better World plays with mirror universe tropes. Instead of being a clear-cut evil universe, the Justice Lords are what would happen if the League took over and started enforcing their truth, their justice, and their way. Like the Knights Templar, the Lords genuinely think that they’re the heroes, or at least a necessary evil.

The alternate Earth is a utopia on the surface. No litter, no villains, and what little crime exists is easily crushed. Then the show peels back the mask. Lobotomized villains, SWAT arresting people for misdemeanors, and the all-powerful Justice Lords ready to come down on dissenters like the Sword of Damocles. The Justice League must take extreme measures to defeat their deadly counterparts. 

Both Batmen star in this episode. League Batman is confronted with a safe Gotham, where his parent’s murder would be unthinkable, but at costs he’s unwilling to pay. Lord Batman also wavers; his alternate self knowing exactly what buttons to push to make him doubt their regime.

Fun Fact: A Better World was originally planned to be set on Earth-3 and feature The Crime Syndicate of America. The rough draft eventually became “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

What is your favorite episode of Justice League? Did we miss yours? Tell us in the comments.

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