It’s no secret that both critically and commercially DC Comics is failing to measure up to its main competition Marvel on the big screen.
Marvel was the first to form an interconnected cinematic superhero universe and DC has been struggling to match that success, in both quality and quantity, ever since. The DCEU is not a flop but it’s nowhere near the juggernaut level of the MCU.
Yet even if DC isn’t winning the current war in the movie theaters, they’ve been in the movie making business for a long time. There’s a decades long history of DC producing films based on the stories and characters and doing quite well with them.
DC has had successful films long before Robert Downey Jr ever stepped on-screen as Iron Man. True, a lot of DC Comics’ cinematic history is devoted to Superman and Batman but they’re not the only cinematic heroes or even the only heroes with good movies.
Likewise, the DCEU doesn’t contain some of DC Comics’ worst reviewed films. DC Comics’ story in the cinemas goes far beyond the current superhero boom.
This is list isn’t a personal ranking of every DC movie that has ever existed. Instead it takes the ratings from Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer for each movie, which compares the amount of favorable reviews to negative ones, and ranks them accordingly.
Here are the 10 Best (And 10 Worst) DC Movies Ever Made, Ranked According To Rotten Tomatoes
20. Best: V for Vendetta – 73%
Though V for Vendetta doesn’t have any superheroes or powers, it is technically a DC Comics movie. The basis for V for Vendetta comes from the comic of the same name that was published under DC’s imprint, Vertigo.
V for Vendetta does takes some heavy inspiration for 1984, both movie and book, for its story. It still manages to be one of the more striking genre movies of the recent era.
It’s also easy to forget that V for Vendetta helped revitalize Natalie Portman’s career. The movie reminded people she is a good actress, despite what was seen in the Star Wars prequels.
19. Worst: Catwoman – 9%
If done correctly, Catwoman would be a fantastic basis for a comic book movie. Batman’s sometimes enemy, but often lover, is one of DC’s most compelling and dynamic characters.
Selina Kyle deserves a solo movie of her very own. If, for no other reason, than it would wipe away the memory of the 2004 Halle Berry movie.
Though Berry’s Catwoman is based on the comic character, it’s only the loosest sense. Berry plays a completely original character who gains feline superpowers in the most ridiculous way possible. Every that follows in the movie is an utter mess and embarrassment.
18. Best: Superman Returns – 75%
Commercially, the Bryan Singer directed and Brandon Routh starring Superman Returns was a failure. Audiences weren’t interested in the quieter, longer and much more contemplative Superman that showed up in Returns. Returns is a quasi-sequel/reboot to Christopher Reeves movies but it lacked the originals’ charm or fan adoration.
Superman Returns was such a flop that it nearly tanked Routh’s career. He went from up-and-coming movie star to an actor that was regulated to supporting roles in various TV shows and movies.
Interestingly, the reviews gathered by Rotten Tomatoes for Superman Returns aren’t nearly as negative as the audience reaction. Critics praised Superman Returns‘ “emotional complexity” and honoring of the Reeves movies.
17. Worst: Batman & Robin – 10%
Superman Returns was received so poorly by audiences that it stopped a new franchise in its tracks. Audiences and critics responded to Batman & Robin so negatively that it killed a previously successful series and almost stopped Batman movies forever. Batman & Robin is the quintessential terrible comic book movie.
Batman & Robin is an indulgence of director Joel Schumaker’s worst impulses. The costumes, colors and overall design are garish and loud. The dialogue is ridiculous.
There’s way too many villains and they’re going up against heroes who seem more interested in crappy jokes than any real heroic actions.
Critics savaged the movie upon release, with everyone being in nearly unanimous agreement that the movie was over-the-top and needlessly spectacle. The only reason it isn’t at 0% is, like Catwoman, some enjoy the movie for its camp and ridiculousness.
16. Best: Batman Returns – 81%
Between the two Tim Burton Batman movies there’s a perception that the original, 1989’s Batman, is the superior. Yet according to Rotten Tomatoes it’s the sequel Batman Returns that comes out on top. Batman Returns has enough reviews to get a certified fresh rating of 81% which is almost 10 points more than Batman‘s 71%.
Batman and Batman Returns are both looked at favorably, but critics are more enamored by Returns’ portrayal of the character. The consensus being that Batman too heavily favors Jack Nicholson’s Joker and that Batman is a bit of an afterthought in his own movie.
It might be an unpopular opinion, but the critics have it right. Batman Returns for the introduction of Catwoman, Penguin and how the movie deals with Keaton’s Batman is a more entertaining and interesting movie. Returns the perfect marriage of Burton’s sensibilities and the Batman mythos.
15. Worst: Supergirl – 10%
Marvel did beat DC to the punch in building a successful movie universe. Yet DC tried to build an interconnected franchise, long before the idea became the new hotness.
Back when Christopher Reeves’ Superman was a money-making machine for DC, a Supergirl movie was created that was eventually planned to connect with the world of the Reeves’ movies. While Superman soared though, Supergirl crashed hard.
The 1984 movie with Helen Slater just seems cheap and lazy compared to its cinematic cousin. The movie just barely clocks in at an hour and half which is shockingly short for a major movie release and that’s because there’s almost no story or plot to be had in the movie.
14. Best: Batman Begins – 84%
Batman & Robin killed Batman movies for decades. Luckily Christopher Nolan came along and revived the Caped Crusader for his Dark Knight trilogy which began, appropriately, with Batman Begins. Begins is designed as the answer to the Schumacher era of Batman.
It’s realistic, gritty, and moody. Batman Begins didn’t just resurrect Batman but gave DC and Warner Bros, some serious cash and cred that eventually led to the creation of the DCEU.
Batman Begins is undoubtedly dark but it’s not dreariness for the sake of it. Begins is smart, tense and excellently plotted. The movie is very long but it does a wonderful job of bringing Batman back and proving why the character has lasted for so long.
Granted, a few critics on Rotten Tomatoes feel that Begins is a little too slow and lacks excitement. They’re not totally off-base but Begins was the serious movie that Batman needed and deserved upon its release.
13. Worst: Jonah Hex – 12%
It was a shocking move when during the height of The Dark Knight trilogy’s popularity a Jonah Hex movie was greenlit and released. Jonah Hex got a movie before Wonder Woman, or any of the other supporting heroes in the current Justice League.
As obscure as Jonah Hex might be as a character, he still could’ve made for an excellent movie. The 2010 movie starring Josh Brolin as the title character was a dreadful effort. The movie does support a rather compelling cast, even if the wooden Megan Fox is the female lead. Yet Brolin and crew couldn’t save a stinker of a script.
The reviews for Jonah Hex agreed that the movie was leaden, dull and aimless. Hex works best as an antihero with a very specific and even controversial point of view. The movie tried to go in several different directions and did none of them well.
12. Best: The Dark Knight Rises – 87%
Of any of Nolan’s Batman movies, The Dark Knight Rises is viewed the least positively by fans. It’s an understandable position. Compared to the tight storytelling of Begins and The Dark Knight, Rises is a lot messier.
It forgoes intelligent and cerebral themes for more bombastic action. Talia al Ghul and Bane are a huge letdown as villains coming up against The Joker and Ra’s al Ghul. Ultimately though The Dark Knight Rises is a satisfying, if slightly more action-packed and illogical, capper to The Dark Knight series.
The hype surrounding The Dark Knight trilogy is probably the cause of why the critics viewed the movie so kindly. However, the consensus was that The Dark Knight Rises wasn’t perfect but solid. It could’ve been a different superhero movie, like its predecessors, but it went for the conventional. At the very least though it did the traditional story well.
11. Worst: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace – 12%
The first two movies of Christopher Reeves; stint as Superman are so beloved it can be easy to forget that the series went downhill fast. After Richard Donner completely left the franchise (he was involved a bit with Superman II) the franchise hit a huge quality dip. The downward spiral culminated in the fourth and final movie, The Quest for Peace.
Quest for Peace is the definition of a cash grab. After the poorly received Superman III, Superman was shoved off to Cannon Films. Cannon is a studio that’s responsible for some of the most infamous low-budget movies of all time and it completely shows in Quest for Peace. The movie is lazy and confused hodge-podge of ideas and political messaging.
10. Best: Superman II – 87%
Superman II is not a perfect movie and it had a very complicated production. After the success of the first Superman, plans went ahead to produce a sequel.
Almost the entire original cast of Superman: The Movie and director Richard Donner, returned for Superman II. Donner managed to complete about 75% of the movie but was taken off the project for still mysterious reasons. Richard Lester was brought on and re-shot large chunks of the movie.
The result is that Superman II is a vision of two directors and two points of view. It’s a little confusing for all that but it still manages being a solid entry in the franchise. Even if certain fans end up preferring the Richard Donner cut, which was released much later.
9. Worst: Suicide Squad – 26%
Suicide Squad is the first movie from the critically troubled DCEU to make the list but there’s good reason for it. Suicide Squad can be viewed as disposable fun, through a certain lens. It also does a very good job nailing the characters, especially Deadshot and Harley Quinn. However, Suicide Squad is a tonally confused and dreadfully edited movie.
It’s still hasn’t been confirmed but it really does appear that Suicide Squad was radically overhauled following the poor reception to Batman v. Superman. Suicide Squad is the last movie that should be light and funny, but the finished product tries hard to make its characters lovable misfits, rather than the murderers they are in reality.
Suicide Squad did incredibly well commercially but critically it floundered. The directing, plotting and tone were all heavily criticized resulting in one of the worst reviewed comic movies in recent memory.
8. Best: The Lego Batman Movie – 91%
The Lego Batman Movie has no reason to exist, let alone to be so good. It’s a spin-off of another impossibly good film, The Lego Movie, and somehow manages to be one of the best Batman movies ever.
The Lego Batman Movie is colorful, wild and wacky. Yet there’s also a real heart and soul to the animated flick. It’s the only cinematic release from the Batman franchise that truly understands the importance of the Bat Family to Bruce Wayne’s mission.
Therefore, it’s really no surprise that the director, Chris McKay, has landed the job of working on a Nightwing movie.
7. Worst: Green Lantern – 26%
Green Lantern is one of DC’s most embarrassing movie failures. It was incredibly expensive, and the plan was for it to launch its own interconnected franchise. Green Lantern was going to be the real starting point of the DCEU, not Man of Steel, but audiences and critics just weren’t interested.
The plot of Green Lantern is very thin, and the amount of CGI is totally distracting. Based on everything it could’ve been, Green Lantern came up way short but it’s not truly dreadful. Although that could just be that star Ryan Reynolds is always watchable and charismatic.
However, the critical response to Green Lantern tanked the movie. It was mercilessly mocked and written off as a waste of time (and money). A few reviewers even saw it as the death knell of the superhero boom, even though it was released at the onset.
6. Best: Wonder Woman – 92%
Wonder Woman was a long time coming and it had a lot of weight resting on its Amazonian shoulders. Wonder Woman was the first major female-led superhero movie of the current generation and the DCEU’s chance to redeem itself. Thankfully, Wonder Woman managed to do everything it needed and a little more.
The movie was a smashing critical success and an even bigger critical one. After a brief appearance in Batman v. Superman, Gal Gadot proved she was the perfect actress to bring Wonder Woman to life. The Patty Jenkins’ movie inspired hope was brimming with optimism.
Wonder Woman was proof that the DCEU was far from a failure and had life in it, if given the right direction, story and character.
5. Worst: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – 27%
Batman v. Superman doesn’t lack for ambition. It should have a higher Rotten Tomatometer rating than it earned. Yet it’s hard to deny that Batman v. Superman bit off a lot and tried to set up way more than it should’ve done in one (even very long) movie.
BvS doesn’t just introduce Batman, but almost Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, the concept of the Justice League and an apocalyptic vision of the future that may or may not be a dream sequence. Batman v. Superman is a lot. It does best to balance it all but it comes up short.
The thing that the movie was criticized most for was its tone as it took two of the most famous heroes and locked them in a dreary battle. The first appearance of Batman and Superman together in live-action lacked any joy, humor or optimism and that’s something most people just couldn’t get behind.
4. Best: Superman – 93%
The best cinematic Batman is heavily contested subject. Nearly everyone has someone they consider their Batman. When it comes to Superman though, Christopher Reeve set the gold standard in 1978 and everyone has been trying to measure up.
The first Superman movie hasn’t aged extraordinarily well. Any time Superman does anything super, it looks totally unconvincing, and the plot is more than a little cheesy.
Yet the reason why 1978’s Superman is so revered is because of the title character and the lead actor’s performance. Reeve brings Clark Kent and Superman to life in way no other actor has done on the big screen.
Upon its original release and into present day, Superman has been praised for its simplicity and respect for the wholesome of the character. Superman embraces every joyful thing about Clark and presents heartwarming movie as a result.
3. Worst: Justice League – 40%
Justice League does leave the DCEU in a better place after it’s over. Justice League does a lot of the heavy lifting in making the world feel more vibrant, hopeful and fun which suits the characters of DC Comics far better than the grimdark vision of Zack Snyder. Yet it’s a very rough road getting there.
Justice League has one of the messiest productions of the current superhero line-up and it shows. It’s obvious what sequences of the movie were done by original director Zack Snyder and what was finished by Joss Whedon. It’s not a disaster but it is way too noticable.
Critics are just as divided over the movie as Justice League seems to be with itself. While the general opinion is that Justice League is superior to BvS, Suicide Squad and Man of Steel it’s not nearly as good as it should it have been.
2. Best: The Dark Knight – 94%
The tragic death of Heath Ledger did give The Dark Knight some buzz and interest that wouldn’t have been there under normal circumstances.
Yet The Dark Knight is an excellent movie and is arguably the best thing to come out of DC, or the superhero genre, overall. The Dark Knight is magnum opus of its trilogy. It has nearly everything that Batman story should and also adds its own unique view and themes to the long-standing character.
However, it’s Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as The Joker that steals the show. Ledger is extraordinary and its testament to the direction, writing and other performances in the movie that he’s so memorable.
The Dark Knight was huge blockbuster, but the critics came out in force writing about how it was much more than a comic book movie. In their view, Dark Knight transcends the genre and was a genuinely thrilling crime drama.
1. Worst: Man of Steel – 50%
Zack Snyder’s vision of the DC Universe has been criticized since its very inception. Man of Steel is a very different take on the typical light-hearted and fun Superman.
Henry Cavill rarely smiles in the movie and it ends with a destruction porn climax that results in Superman snapping Zod’s neck. Man of Steel was a big enough success to launch the DCEU but most critics weren’t too impressed.
Snyder had a very clear vision of Superman and he executed it. The movie is more optimistic than most might think but it’s still a very gritty and dour look at hero who is usually neither. It’s deconstruction of Superman.
It’s this unconventional take that most critics took issue with in Man of Steel. The Rotten Tomatoes consensus of Man of Steel was it was generic and not nearly as clever as it hoped or believed.
What are your favorite and least favorite movies from DC Comics? Do you agree with the Rotten Tomatoes rankings? Sound off in the comments!
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