WarnerMedia has finally launched its HBO Max streaming platform. As crowded as the streaming arena has become in recent years, HBO Max definitely has some huge exclusives to bring to bear, from classic series like South Park and Friends to upcoming exclusives like Dune: Sisterhood and a Perry Mason reboot. WarnerMedia even managed to include all eight Harry Potter movies at launch, something we weren’t expecting to see until 2025.
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DC is easily one of the biggest focal points of HBO Max. The service already features classic DC movies like 1989’s Batman, 2019’s Joker and the majority of the DCEU, and fans can also look forward to new live-action series like a Greg Berlanti-produced Green Lantern series and JJ Abrams’ Justice league Dark, along with the debut of the infamous Snyder Cut. That said, HBO Max is currently full of holes on the DC front. With many beloved DC movies and shows missing and only one Arrowverse series represented, HBO Max is far from a comprehensive resource for DC content. Then there’s the ongoing question of whether HBO Max and fellow streaming platform DC Universe are meant to coexist.
Read on for a breakdown of what we know about the HBO Max/DC Universe relationship, and for a look at all the major DC movies and series you won’t find on HBO Max right now.
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HBO Max vs DC Universe: What’s the Difference?
The long-term future of DC Universe has been uncertain ever since HBO Max was announced in 2019. Does WarnerMedia really need a separate streaming service specifically for DC content? The news that Doom Patrol: Season 2 will debut simultaneously on both services only further cast doubt on DC Universe’s future.
However, all signs point to WarnerMedia maintaining both services for the foreseeable future. Doom Patrol may be available on both, but no other DC Universe-exclusive series has made that jump. HBO Max content chief Kevin Reilly indicated to Business Insider that Doom Patrol is a unique case – a series with crossover appeal that can also benefit from having both services cooperate in terms of the production budget.
Reilly also spoke about how the services are meant to coexist, saying, “There have been extensive discussions around DCU because DC is such a valuable entity to us and the depth of fandom is so important. So we really want to figure out how we walk this line for fans where we have a deep fan engagement, which is why DCU was designed, and a broader fan engagement.”
In essence, DC Universe is envisioned as more of a boutique service for hardcore fans, whereas HBO Max is meant to have broader appeal. That makes sense, though it still seems bizarre to have so much of the DC library divvied up between the two services. Both services have a lot of DC content, but apart from Doom Patrol there’s not a lot of overlap between them. The result is that neither service on its own really qualifies as the catch-all, comprehensive DC resource fans may be looking for.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies are widely regarded as some of the best superhero movies ever made, and you’d think they’d be a top priority for HBO Max. Unfortunately, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are all absent from the service. The movies have had a tendency to appear and disappear from DC Universe at random, so we’re hopeful they will eventually show up on HBO Max once Warners irons out whatever rights issues might be to blame.
Christopher Reeve’s Superman
HBO Max is missing another big gun in the form of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. None of the four Reeve Superman movies are available on the service, despite being previously advertised as launch titles. The Brandon Routh-starring Superman Returns is also absent. But hey, at least 1984’s Supergirl is there. Yay…
Currently, 1978’s Superman: The Movie is still available on DC Universe, though none of the sequels are included. We’d guess WarnerMedia is still ironing out the streaming rights and all these movies will appear on HBO Max in the near future.
Man of Steel and Birds of Prey
While most of the DCEU is available to stream on HBO Max (Batman v Superman, Justice League, Wonder Woman, etc.), neither the first DCEU movie nor the most recent are included. We’re not surprised to find that Birds of Prey is missing. That movie only recently became available on Digital HD and Blu-ray, and WB is likely waiting until sales taper off before adding the film to HBO Max.
But as for 2013’s Man of Steel, we’re a little more surprised to see that one missing. We can only assume this is another case of WarnerMedia needing to get the streaming rights in order before Man of Steel can join the rest of its siblings on HBO Max.
DC Universe Exclusives
As mentioned, while Doom Patrol is currently available on both DC Universe and HBO Max, the same doesn’t hold true for any other DC Universe-exclusive series. Don’t expect to find Titans, Young Justice, Swamp Thing or Harley Quinn on HBO Max. In the case of Swamp Thing and the recently launched Stargirl, DC Universe has actually partnered with The CW rather than HBO Max. Maybe these shows will migrate to HBO Max eventually, but perhaps not until WarnerMedia decides to consolidate the two services into one.
Batman: The Animated Series
If you were hoping to break in your new HBO Max subscription by binging Batman: The Animated Series, you’ll need to come up with backup plan. Neither BTAS nor its various spinoffs (Batman Beyond, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited) are available on HBO Max. The 2000 movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is the only piece of this universe to make the cut. You’ll need to head over to DC Universe instead if you want to frolic in the classic DC Animated Universe.
DC Animated Movies
The DC Universe Original Movies line is still going strong after more than a decade, with the recent Justice League Dark: Apokolips War capping off a 15-movie saga and Superman: Man of Tomorrow due for release in Summer 2020. However, don’t expect to find most of those direct-to-video movies on HBO Max. The service currently includes a handful of these titles (The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2, Wonder Woman, Batman vs. Robin) but most can only be found on DC Universe.
Other DC Animation
Batman: The Animated Series may be the biggest omission when it comes to classic DC cartoons, but it’s hardly the only one. HBO Max has a handful of titles like Beware the Batman and Teen Titans. but this is another case where the library is defined more by what isn’t there. Don’t expect older animated series like Super Friends or The New Adventures of Batman or more recent favorites like Justice League Action, Green Lantern: The Animated Series or The Batman. And even though HBO Max features the 2003 Teen Titans series and the movie Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, the actual Teen Titans Go! series is absent. Once again, DC Universe is your outlet for these shows.
The Classic Arrowverse
Having the entirety of the Arrowverse under one streaming umbrella would sure be nice, but it’s probably not going to happen for several years. HBO Max currently includes Batwoman: Season 1, but no other Arrowverse shows. That’s because those rights are locked up with Netflix for now. HBO Max will continue to add new Arrowverse shows like Superman & Lois and Green Arrow and the Canaries (assuming that one gets a series order), but don’t expect older shows like Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl to appear anytime soon. Annoyingly, that also means you can’t stream the full Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover unless you’re subscribed to both Netflix and HBO Max.
HBO Max, like DC Universe, is missing another big gun in the form of Smallville. This is a similar case to that of the Arrowverse. Hulu currently holds the streaming rights for all ten seasons of Smalllville, meaning it’ll probably be years until Smallville appears on either WarnerMedia service.
If you were hoping for a hefty dose of Adam West’s Batman and Burt Ward’s Robin on HBO Max, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The 1966 Batman series isn’t to be found on the service, nor any other streaming service, for that matter. Batman ’66 is only available to purchase through storefronts like Vudu, iTunes, etc. It was only fairly recently that WB ironed out the rights to distribute the series at all, so we imagine there are still roadblocks to getting Batman ’66 up on HBO Max. Even DC Universe only features the 1979 spinoff Legends of the Superheroes.
Other DC Shows
The holes in HBO Max’s DC TV library run even deeper than Smallville, Batman ’66 and the Arrowverse. Plenty of classic DC shows that are available on DC Universe (Superboy, Adventures of Superman, Shazam!) aren’t on HBO Max. Newer shows like Gotham, Pennyworth, and Krypton are also nowhere to be found. Krypton’s first season is on DC Universe, but for the most part these shows seem to be locked up with other companies. For example, Gotham is streaming on Hulu and Pennyworth is exclusive to EPIX.
For more on the HBO Max launch, find out how to sign up for the service and check out our breakdown of the differences between HBo Max, HBO Go and HBO Now.