The fan-favorite animated series Justice League aired from 2001 to 2004, uniting popular DC Animated Universe heroes Batman and Superman with their superpowered teammates from the comics. The DC Animated Universe, or DCAU, began with the 90s classic Batman: The Animated Series, which spun off into The New Batman Adventures, Superman: The Animated Series, and Batman Beyond. For Justice League, many voice actors already beloved for their performances in those earlier shows returned, with the notable exception of George Newbern taking over the role of Superman from Tim Daly.
Throughout the show’s two seasons, the seven core heroes of Justice League—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl—save the world from the likes of Lex Luthor, The Joker, Vandal Savage, and more. The series maintains the high standard set by the shows before it, and, combined with the sequel series Justice League Unlimited, is often ranked as one of the greatest animated series of all time. While the entire show is great, these episodes demonstrate the best Justice League has to offer.
Update December 11, 2023: This article has been updated with even more great episodes of Justice League.
10 The Terror Beyond – (S2, E15-16)
Before Justice League: Unlimited greatly expanded the show’s roster of heroes, getting to see characters like Aquaman and Dr. Fate join in on the fun in Justice League is a treat. The two team up with Solomon Grundy to stop an impending cosmic threat, but not before Superman, Wonder Woman, and Hawkgirl show up and ruin their ritual. Fate reveals that the evil Old God Icthultu will soon be free from his realm, intent on destroying the earth. Aquaman and Fate want to use Grundy in a ritual to seal Icthultu away forever, but Hawkgirl suggests a different route: kill the Old God.
What Makes “The Terror Beyond” One of the Best Justice League Episodes?
“The Terror Beyond” explores the larger world of the DCAU with an exciting cosmic threat and a sincere reflection on death and memory. While it’s awesome to see the Leaguers fight alongside Fate to take on a foe like Icthultu, what really stands out is the episode’s treatment of Solomon Grundy. In the beginning of the episode, Fate restores Grundy’s memory of his life before he was resurrected as a greedy husk; with his regained humanity, all Grundy wants in return for his help is his soul. Grundy dies killing Icthultu, but he dies happy with the faith that his soul has returned and heavenly bliss awaits him on the other side. It’s a touching and profound moment for a kid’s show that makes it stand out from some of the more action-heavy fare.
9 The Savage Time (S1, E24-26)
When the Justice League (minus Batman) returns to Earth from a mission in space, they’re blinded by a flash of light before discovering that the planet is now a drastically different place. The immortal Cro-Magnon warrior Vandal Savage now rules as a dictator, having used his foreknowledge and future technology to lead Nazi Germany to victory in World War II. To fix the timeline, the team must travel back to WWII to defeat Savage with the help of period-specific heroes Steve Trevor, the Blackhawks, and Easy Company.
What Makes “The Savage Time” One of the Best Justice League Episodes?
Justice League’s first season finishes out with a bang, a three-part, time-travel adventure that not only posits what Batman would be up to in a world overtaken by Nazis but also how the world’s finest heroes could change the tide of this pivotal global conflict. Learning from earlier episodes, “The Savage Time” also smartly separates our heroes so that each one gets an equal piece of the action. Plus, the never-ending supply of disposable baddies inherent to the setting means the heroes really get to let loose, especially Superman.
8 Comfort and Joy – (S2, E23)
The only standalone episode in both seasons of Justice League, “Comfort and Joy” shows us what some of DC’s heroes do to celebrate the Christmas season. Hawkgirl and Green Lantern show each other their favorite holiday pastimes: a brutal snowball fight for John and an all-out brawl in an alien bar for Hawkgirl. The Flash wants to get the next big toy for the children of the Central City orphanage, but an encounter with the Ultra-Humanite crushes his dream. Superman brings J’onn (Martian Manhunter) home to the Kent farm, where he struggles to fully get into the holiday spirit.
What Makes “Comfort and Joy” One of the Best Justice League Episodes?
“Comfort and Joy” might be disliked by some for its lack of action, but that’s exactly what makes it so great. Nestled between “Wild Cards” and the series finale, “Starcrossed,” “Comfort and Joy” gives our heroes a breather before the bombshell to come. It’s fun to see the Justice League in situations so different from their usual battles, especially finding out that Superman still believes in Santa Claus. It also features some genuinely heartfelt moments, including Hawkgirl giving Green Lantern a Christmas kiss. The Flash segment is great for showing the Ultra-Humanite’s human side as he fixes the orphan’s broken Christmas gift. But perhaps the best part is seeing J’onn, still traumatized from the loss of his planet and species, letting go and understanding the true meaning of Christmas.
7 Only a Dream – (S2, E5-6)
After a breakout at Stryker’s Island, it’s up to the Justice League to recapture escaped villains like Firefly and Solomon Grundy. But There’s one convict that isn’t recaptured: John Dee, who has used a machine called the Materioptikon to grant him supersensory perception. The League, exhausted from a long day’s work, sleeps, unaware that the newly born Doctor Destiny can invade their dreams. The villainous telepath uses his power to turn these dreams into each Leaguer’s worst nightmare. It’s up to Batman and J’onn, the only two not asleep, to stop John Dee and keep their teammates from sinking into their nightmares permanently.
What Makes “Only a Dream” One of the Best Justice League Episodes?
While it can be fun to watch the Justice League beat up the bad guys, it’s always fascinating to see their villains take a more psychological approach. The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and Superman are each faced with individual terrors, revealing their greatest fears as well as their ability to fight through them anyway. Batman’s struggle to stay awake while Dee remains at large is tense while showing off the Caped Crusader’s impeccable detective skills. This also spawns one of Batman’s funniest moments in Justice League: ordering a triple espresso from an intimidated barista.
6 Wild Cards (S2, E21-22)
In his final appearance in the DCAU, the Joker plants bombs over the entire Las Vegas strip. The bombs are set to detonate in 22 minutes (a meta-joke about the approximate length of a half-hour episode), and so the Justice League sets out to disarm them before it’s too late. The Joker, of course, has a trick up his sleeve: the Royal Flush Gang, a team of meta-human teens prepared to stop the League and, more importantly, help their boss put on the show of the century. The Joker’s real plan isn’t to destroy the strip but rather to garner the largest viewership possible and use Royal Flush Gang member Ace’s powers to drive audiences insane.
What Makes “Wild Cards” One of the Best Justice League Episodes?
“Wild Cards” expertly balances tense, exciting action with darker themes about spectatorship and control. Mark Hamill’s Joker is, as always, a treat, though it is unfortunate that this is the character’s final appearance in the DCAU thanks to the famed bat-embargo around the release of Nolan’s Batman films. Still, it’s fun to see the Clown Prince of Crime take on the Justice League (mostly) by himself. What’s also great about “Wild Cards” is that it’s a sly crossover with another popular DC cartoon of the time, Teen Titans. Each member of the Royal Flush Gang is voiced by and modeled on a Teen Titans member: King is Robin, Queen is Raven, Jack is Beast Boy, Ten is Cyborg, and Ace is Starfire. Although crossovers and multiverses are all the rage now, this kind of crossover was the closest the show would come to bringing together DC’s greatest heroes with their teenage counterparts.
5 Legends (S1, E16-17)
Any time the DC Animated Universe does an “our show wouldn’t exist without the campy superhero shows that came before it” kind of episode, they knock it out of the park. “Beware The Gray Ghost” is one of the best episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and “Legends” is one of the best of Justice League. A battle with Lex Luthor’s latest giant robot ends in an explosion that sends Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl to a parallel universe stuck in the ’50s and protected not by the Justice League, but instead by their Golden-Age counterparts, the Justice Guild of America. In the DCAU, the Justice Guild are comic-book heroes themselves, specifically from comics that Green Lantern read as a kid. However, this alternate world is hiding a dark secret that the League must uncover if they ever hope to go home.
What Makes “Legends” One of the Best Justice League Episodes?
The Golden Age setting of “Legends” gives the episode plenty of space for goofy puns and gags that subdue the darkness beneath. After it’s revealed that everything in this alternate reality is the illusion of someone unable to let go of the past, the Guild members sacrifice themselves to send the Justice League home. But what makes this episode so special isn’t the sacrifice; it’s what the show does with it. As the episode closes, Green Lantern wonders why he feels so strongly for these people who, technically, don’t exist. But the answer is simple: real or not, these characters are what inspired the young John Stewart to become a hero. Without the Justice Guild of America, he might never have put on that ring in the first place. “Legends” shows audiences that fictional heroes matter, both to the people who created them and those they inspire far into the future.
4 Hereafter (S2, E19-20)
A group of Superman’s worst villains team up to kill the Man of Steel once and for all… and succeed. The death of Superman hits everyone across the universe hard. His funeral is one of the most emotional moments of the show; even Lex Luthor admits he’s going to miss Superman. Batman, though, can’t believe that the Kryptonian is dead; as it turns out, he was right. Superman didn’t die in the battle but was instead flung thousands of years into the future to an inhospitable Earth after Vandal Savage’s last plan ruined the planet. Savage, the only human alive thanks to his immortality, teams up with Superman to figure out a way to send the Man of Steel back to his own time.
What Makes “Hereafter” One of the Best Justice League Episodes?
There are several Justice League episodes that explore loss and grief, but perhaps none so effectively as “Hereafter.” The entire first episode is dedicated to characters grieving their lost friend and acting in his memory. It’s bold of a kid’s show to tackle such a heavy subject, and “Hereafter” proves that Justice League is up to the task. Exploring the inevitability of death and the subsequent ways people deal with it is what makes this episode especially heart-wrenching. Not to be forgotten, Superman’s story in “Hereafter” is also interesting because it shows the hero de-powered and forced to rely on his wits instead of his brute strength.
3 Injustice For All (S1, E8-9)
Just as every action has an equal but opposite reaction, so too does every superhero team have their villainous copycat. In the case of the Justice League, that dastardly team is the Injustice Gang, a group of villains gathered by Lex Luthor to defeat the heroes once and for all. On the team are the Ultra-Humanite, Cheetah, Star Sapphire, the Shade, Copperhead, Solomon Grundy, and—much to Luthor’s chagrin—the Joker. Undergirding Luthor’s fury is the revelation at the episode’s opening: thanks to continued exposure to Kryptonite and its accompanying low-level radiation, Luthor is dying of cancer.
What Makes “Injustice For All” One of the Best Justice League Episodes?
As always, Batman and Joker are standouts in “Injustice For All.” Luthor’s grip on the Injustice Gang is tenuous at best; he’s constantly having to threaten and coerce his teammates into following orders. The Joker, on the other hand, comes in as a shocking voice of reason, competently leading the villains to their biggest victory: capturing Batman. Batman also has time to shine as he uses his wits and powers of persuasion to pit the Injustice Gang against one another, ultimately leading to the Justice League’s victory. “Injustice For All” shows the first time that Lex Luthor is finally caught and convicted for his numerous crimes, something that wouldn’t be resolved until the season two episode, “A Better World.”
2 A Better World (S2, E11-12)
What happens when Superman finally snaps and decides to do in his arch-enemy, Lex Luthor? Apparently, the entire Justice League falls into a fascistic fugue, transforming the Earth into a “perfect” world ruled by force. But this isn’t our Justice League; no, this is the Justice Lords, a version of the team from an alternate Earth where Luthor murdered the Flash. And when this team of dictatorial villains discovers the reality where the Justice League rules with a more delicate hand, they decide it’s time to cross over to instill their brand of order in the Justice League’s world.
What Makes “A Better World” One of the Best Justice League Episodes?
“With great power comes great responsibility” may be Spider-Man’s mantra, but the adage is just as, if not more so, appropriate for Superman. The Man of Steel is one of the most powerful heroes in the DCU; while much of Justice League neuters his potency, “A Better World” is one of the episodes that demonstrates what can happen when Superman is truly unleashed. The episode is also just plain awesome for the battles between our heroes and their alternate selves, particularly the clash of wits and ethics between the Batmen. Perhaps most important about “A Better World,” though, are the implications it has for the series to come. Thanks to seeing a world with an unrestrained Superman, the US government greenlights Amanda Waller’s Project Cadmus, which serves as a major story arc in Justice League: Unlimited.
1 Starcrossed (S2, E24-26)
The three-part Justice League series finale, “Starcrossed,” sees Hawkgirl’s race of Thanagarian warriors forcibly occupy Earth to build a hyperspace bypass generator that will allow them to defeat the Gordanians, an enemy alien race. The problem? Activating the generator will destroy Earth. Making matters worse is the fact that Hawkgirl came to Earth years before to send back valuable intel to her home planet. Torn between her people and her new home, Hawkgirl is forced to decide where her true loyalties lie before it’s too late.
What Makes “Starcrossed” The Best Justice League Episodes?
The reveal that Hawkgirl has been a double agent for both seasons of Justice League is truly shocking the first time around, made even more powerful by the genuine hurt each Leaguer experiences at her betrayal. And none of these is more effective than the pain felt by Green Lantern, whose will-they-won’t-they relationship with Hawkgirl simmers in the background of the episodes that came before. The action is excellent, and the drama is powerful, proving yet again that this “kid’s” show can handily tread into more serious territory. As the final episode before Justice League would become Justice League: Unlimited, “Starcrossed” is a superb send-off for this iteration of the team.
Steam Justice League on Netflix and Max.