Zack Snyder may be the most polarizing Hollywood filmmaker of our time. Only he could be blamed for Warner Bros.’s unusual decision to allow him to re-release his own version of a tentpole hero movie after years of public protest. His films are grandiose, theatrical, and visually stunning. His visual aesthetic is outstanding, always exhibiting his divine talent to depict gods squabbling on film. Though his critical and box office reaction has been mixed, there is no disputing that he is a brilliant example of an age marked by huge superhero excess.
From his brilliant directorial debut to the contentious Justice League film that bears his name, we evaluate every Snyder film from worst to finest. And, for the purpose of comparison, we’ve included both the official theatrical version of Justice League and the Snyder Cut.
#1 Dawn of the Dead
Snyder’s debut film is still his greatest work. His version of George Romero’s 1978 blockbuster is darker and more horrifying than the original. It was enough to make you wish he’d stayed with horror rather than jumping right into comic book movies. The good news is that if his impending Netflix zombie blockbuster is anything like his Dawn of the Dead version, it might usher in a thrilling new age in the genre. While his Dawn of the Dead lacks the original’s profound social critique (or Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, which was released two years previously), it thoroughly gets the tone, suspense, comedy, and general appeal of a zombie film.
#2 Man of Steel
In retrospect, Man of Steel isn’t as awful as it’s been remembered to be. Snyder’s first Superman movie is sometimes thrown in with the other DC universe flops, but there’s a lot to like about it. The visual design is excellent, as it was in Dawn of Justice, and Henry Cavill is the most flawless Superman since Christopher Reeve. Snyder took tremendous swings, both physically and metaphorically. With almost every scenario, he’s attempting to hit a home run. Even if not all of them worked out, this is a stunning achievement of the 2010s superhero gold rush.
#3 Zack Snyder’s Justice League
It’s difficult to believe that the Snyder Cut ever happened. You have to give him credit for seeing this through and delivering his dream of the movie to his millions of admirers. And, perhaps more significantly, Snyder earns applause for proving Warner Bros. and Joss Whedon incorrect by creating a movie that is far superior to the one that was released in theaters. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is not without flaws. It’s too lengthy, it’s overblown, the exposition drags, and there are far too many origin stories and unsolved links. However, as a whole, it’s a solid superhero film with moments of pure brilliance—the majority of which were not included in the initial release. Consider the greatly enlarged opening sequence in Themyscira, or the fully redesigned climactic fight, which lasts over an hour and a half. This movie is Snyder through and through—it exemplifies his drive to go large and amuse. Several characters that were unfairly deleted (or weakened) in the original cut finally get their justice. Snyder omitted that dreadful random Russian family from the last fight. I recommend watching it in segments to keep your sanity intact over the course of four hours. But certainly, see Zack Snyder’s Justice League; it’s well worth your time.
#4 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Snyder gets credit for attempting to distinguish the DC cinematic universe from the immensely successful Marvel formula visually and philosophically. Dawn of Justice is a grind, but there are moments of pure action genius, like the great desert combat sequence, which exemplifies what Snyder does best. It’s a prime example of Snyder throwing all he has into his films in order to make them larger, louder, and more badass. That’s the deal about Snyder: he never, ever gives up on his movies.
Snyder’s breakout success prompted a whole generation of guys to quote Leonidas in the gym. For what it lacks in any true depth, 300 more than makes up with truly breathtaking action. Snyder’s visual aesthetic was characterized by this movie, which brought Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s comics to life like stunning, violent, and moving artwork. However, it is hard to see this now without being aware of the story’s intrinsic dictatorships, discrimination, and other problematic components.
Though Watchmen is not Snyder’s worst movie, it is unquestionably his most underwhelming. His version of the finest comic book narrative of all time appears to have only a cursory grasp of its original material. In 2 hours and 47 minutes, Snyder’s Watchmen barely justifies its own existence—a faithful adaptation on paper but fails to capture any of Alan Moore’s comics’ humanity, depth, or rebellious spirit. Snyder, on the other hand, beautifully brings to life the famous iconography of Dave Gibbons’ artwork. The opening sequence, set to Bob Dylan’s “Times They Are a-Changin,” is superb, seamless worldbuilding in film.
#7 Army of the Dead
Army of the Dead is an intriguing addition to Snyder’s portfolio because it is by far the one movie that is entirely his vision. Other movies are adaptations, and Sucker Punch was trimmed by the studio, but Netflix allowed Snyder complete freedom to craft his narrative about a heist gang attempting to steal $200 million from a zombie-infested Las Vegas. And the outcome reveals a lot about Snyder’s methodology, which is that he’s always chasing the flashy element while never writing a storyline that makes sense.
#8 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
A film that is only recognized by Matt Damon’s role on 30 Rock.
#9 Justice League
At this time, we know that Snyder is not to blame for Justice League’s absolute failure. In fact, it’s debatable whether it’s even fair to put the first Justice League in a list of Snyder-directed movies. But we’re keeping it on this list for reference to the Snyder Version of the movie, which Warner Bros. finally published after years of fan outcry over the theatrical version of the movie.
#10 Sucker Punch
Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch was a critical and commercial flop, having been branded as “oppressive, sexist, and offensive.” Sucker Punch is perhaps best forgotten among Snyder’s bigger and better comic book adaptations, but it’s worth mentioning that it has a few strong performances, notably one from Oscar Isaac, whose charming and unsettling character may be considered as a prelude to his Ex Machina tech bro antagonist.