Whenever a new superhero movie comes out, the one question I’m asked more than any other by my friends who aren’t as deep in this world as I am, is “what do I need to know or have watched already in order to understand this one?” In the case of most Marvel Cinematic Universe flicks, it can offer a variety of answers, while with most DC movies, the answer is usually almost nothing, by virtue of their relatively loose continuity. And with Black Adam hitting theaters, a DC movie about a relatively obscure character, featuring other heroes and villains similarly making their big screen debuts in front of their largest audiences ever, folks are once again asking what DC movies they need to see before watching this one.
At the risk of basically completely screwing myself over and having you all bounce right out of this article, I am pleased to report that Black Adam is a completely self contained movie, that tells you more or less everything you need to know about these characters and the world they inhabit. HOWEVER! If you want go give yourself a deeper appreciation of the movie and the cool DCEU Easter eggs and stories it alludes to, there are definitely a few other DC movies you should check out, and one I’d basically consider a must-watch. So, here we go…the official “you might enjoy Black Adam more if you watch these DC movies/if you liked Black Adam, go watch these DC movies next” list!
Is it essential to understand Black Adam? Not exactly, but it’s a really good movie, and these characters have a ton of history together.
If it’s not essential, then why should you watch it? Well, believe it or not, Black Adam came out of the pages of classic Shazam comics in the 1940s. The character was originally conceived as a more traditional villain, and it doesn’t take a genius to note the similarities between their costumes. The origin story for Black Adam in the distant past that we see in his movie is part of the backstory of how young Billy Batson is granted his powers in Shazam!. Plus, like I said, Shazam! is just a terrifically fun superhero romp, and it’s a nice counterpoint to the badass violence and grimmer tone on display in Black Adam.
The Suicide Squad
Is it essential to understand Black Adam? Nope, but it wouldn’t hurt.
If it’s not essential, then why should you watch it? As you’ve seen in the trailers, Viola Davis is in Black Adam as Amanda Waller, the director of ARGUS, a government organization that enlists various superhumans to help combat threats. You can certainly get that in context from the movie, but Waller’s pet project is Task Force X, better known as the Suicide Squad. And while the 2016 movie is best left forgotten, James Gunn’s 2021 The Suicide Squad is an absolute blast, a wonderful look at a corner of the DCEU even weirder than the one on display in Black Adam, and it gives you a taste for just how far reaching (and shady) Waller’s activities are. Anyway, not enough people watched this when it came out, so you totally should now.
OK, look, this next one is very much optional, so don’t get mad at me.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Is it essential to understand Black Adam? Absolutely not.
If it’s not essential, then why should you watch it? To be perfectly honest…maybe you shouldn’t? I admit this one is a stretch, especially considering that, well, let’s just say your mileage may vary depending on both your appetite for four hour superhero epics and your tolerance for Zack Snyder’s unique directorial style. Hell, I’m not even the biggest fan of this. But if you want a movie packed with a variety of heroes and villains that captures the full scope of the DCEU’s (oft-misguided) ambition, then you’ve gotta watch a Justice League movie. And given the choice between this version and the theatrical, go with the director’s cut on HBO Max known as Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
As a bonus, the hi-tech mercenary gangsters who menace everyone in Black Adam technically have their roots in the alien baddies of Zack Snyder’s Justice League (and we have a theory about that right here). A tenuous connection, sure, but like I said, if you want the full picture of the DCEU, Black Adam and these three films sure give you the full range of it.
Black Adam is now playing in theaters.