Superhero movies are phenomenally popular with audiences. Many of them have been quite successful from a financial standpoint. In 2018 alone, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War both made more than $675 million in North America, making them two of the biggest box office hits of all time. Of course, there have also been some duds, several of them fairly notable, but the ongoing overall popularity of superhero films suggests they won't be going away anytime soon.
What have the critics had to say about them, though? There's a common misconception that critics don't like fun, escapist movies -- that they "want everything to be Citizen Kane." That's not even remotely true, especially in this day and age, where many of them were raised on Hollywood blockbusters. The stereotype persists nevertheless. Critics have, on several occasions, overwhelmingly heralded films about superheroes. That said, it's true they won't hold back if one comes along that isn't up to snuff.
Using the popular review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes and its popular "Tomatometer" as a base, we've compiled this list of the fifteen best-reviewed superhero movies and the fifteen worst-reviewed. You might be surprised by how near-unanimous the critical acclaim for some of these pictures is. A couple of them are within spitting distance of a perfect 100%. In other cases, you might be shocked by what's not here. For example, the much-ridiculed Judge Dredd, Barb Wire, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine? They're actually not among the worst-reviewed.
The critics have spoken, so let's see what they had to say.
Here are the 15 Most Rotten (And 15 Freshest) Superhero Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes.
30 Rotten - The Spirit (14%)
After co-directing the screen adaptation of his beloved work Sin City with Robert Rodriguez, comic book writer/artist Frank Miller decided to try a solo directing effort. The Spirit, based on the Will Eisner comic, opened in 2008. Rodriguez's absent was definitely felt.
The confusing plot, dull characterization, and emphasis on visual style over substance were frequently cited as flaws.
Even an all-star cast that included Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson couldn't save it. Only 14% of critics who posted reviews of The Spirit on Rotten Tomatoes rated it favorably.
29 Fresh - X-Men: Days of Future Past (90%)
Adapting the landmark graphic novel X-Men: Days of Future Past for the screen was a tough job. Maintaining the film series' continuity required altering some aspects of the story, which is a fan favorite. Aside from the issue of whether the changes would work, there was also the question of whether fans would revolt.
Everything worked out okay in this case. X-Men fans approved of the movie, as did critics, who helped it achieve a "certified fresh" score of 90%. They loved the intricate plot. In fact, Days of Future Past has the best Tomatometer rating of the entire franchise.
28 Rotten - Underdog (14%)
Underdog was an attempt to take an old cartoon show about a superhero dog and make it relevant for today's young audiences.
Rather than hand-drawn animation, the movie utilizes live actors and CGI dogs. Jason Lee and Amy Adams provide the voices of Underdog and his pal Polly. Yes, these dogs can talk. That slightly creepy quality was noted in many reviews, as were the subpar special effects.
Although Underdog is a Disney movie, it was fairly low-budget for the studio, and it shows.
Being aimed squarely at kids eight and under also prevented the film from going above 14% on Rotten Tomatoes.
27 Fresh - Captain America: Civil War (91%)
By the time of Captain America: Civil War, Marvel had firmly established a consistent success rate with its superhero movies. This film was different, though, in that it assembled a whole bunch of beloved characters and then had them fight each other. Giving everyone their due and avoiding a muddled pile-up wasn't going to be easy.
Critics were impressed by Civil War's ability to pull that off, along with its thematic depth and strong characterization. They deemed it a skillful, mature superhero film. The end result was an impressive 91% approval rating.
26 Rotten - Blankman (13%)
Blankman is a 1994 superhero comedy staring Damon Wayans as a simpleton who decides to play homemade superhero. Fashioning a costume out of his grandmother's old coat, he dubs himself Blankman and sets out to bring down a local mob boss.
The movie was a box office flop, as well as a critical punching bag.
The consensus was that the story's attempts to spoof superhero conventions just weren't funny, and they often slipped into tired slapstick. In the end, only two critics on Rotten Tomatoes had nice things to say, leading to a dismal 13% score.
25 Fresh - Guardians of the Galaxy (91%)
Writer/director James Gunn had a big challenge ahead of him when he signed on to make Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. The characters had a cult following, but were virtually unknown by the general public. Gunn's mission was to establish them as viable heroes within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Needless to say, he accomplished that mission magnificently. Critics were impressed by how Guardians worked within the MCU while still possessing its own identity, completely separate from that. The offbeat humor also won their favor. Gunn and his stars found themselves staring at a stellar 91% rating.
24 Rotten - The Crow: City of Angels (12%)
Despite the tragedy surrounding it, The Crow went on to become a solid box office hit. The franchise probably should have stopped there, given that star Brandon Lee perished in a tragic on-set accident. Hollywood being what it is, a series of uninspired sequels followed.
The Crow: City of Angels substituted Vincent Perez for Lee. Critics were quick to point out that he lacked his late predecessor's natural on-screen charisma.
Director Tim Pope failed to recapture the dark, ominous tone that gave the original its power.
City of Angels limped away with just 12% of critics pointing their thumbs up.
23 Fresh - The Avengers (92%)
It probably wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Marvel's The Avengers was one of the most-anticipated movies ever when it was released in 2012. Never before had so many big-name superheroes been onscreen together at the same time. The danger was in disappointing people, given that the expectations were so high.
This was a case where fans and critics were in total agreement. Reviews repeatedly pointed out that the film raised Marvel's cinematic game considerably, paying off the buildup that took place over several previous movies and setting up new things that looked promising.
The Avengers ended up assembling enough raves to land an impressive 92% approval rating.
22 Rotten - Steel (12%)
On the page, Steel is a very large, hulking character. There weren't many actors who were physically right for the part, so the filmmakers looked to the world of sports instead. Basketball pro Shaquille O'Neal, who stands seven feet tall, took on the job of portraying the DC superhero.
Given that he's not an actor by trade, it's no surprise critics pointed out that Steel featured some rather poor acting from Shaq.
They weren't impressed with the underdeveloped story, either. The silly look of the main character's costume was also a sticking point. Because of these issues, Steel carries an embarrassingly low 12% rating.
21 Fresh - Wonder Woman (92%)
It's fairly common knowledge among movie buffs that the DCEU has struggled with its cinematic output, especially when compared to the continual success of Marvel. In spite of that, the company absolutely knocked one out of the park with Wonder Woman. Director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot made a hall-of-fame superhero movie.
Their efforts were rewarded with a 92% score on the Tomatometer. Critics praised the portrayal of Wonder Woman, who is strong, smart, and self-reliant. Gadot's performance similarly earned huzzahs, as did the engaging story and its terrific female empowerment message.
20 Rotten - Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (12%)
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was riddled with behind-the-scenes problems. The biggest of them was a new production company taking over and giving the filmmakers a budget insufficient to deliver an epic adventure.
The film came out looking cheap.
Film critics absolutely picked up on that. They also noticed that the plot, involving Superman's attempts to rid the world of nuclear weapons, was heavy-handed and clunky.
This fourth Man of Steel effort only has a 12% approval rating. The few critics who did enjoy it seemed to do so in a "so bad, it's good" way.
19 Fresh - Thor: Ragnarok (92%)
Marvel took a huge risk with Thor: Ragnarok. The two previous Thor movies were straightforward action pictures, with a hint of humor. This one, on the other hand, was as much a flat-out buddy comedy as a superhero adventure.
The risk proved worth it. Reviewers loved the emphasis on humor, saying that it gave the film a feel all its own. In a similar vein, the comedic talents of Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo were repeatedly celebrated. Director Taika Waititi's candy-colored visuals provided another element that contributed to the 92% score.
18 Rotten - Elektra (10%)
After making a splash as a supporting character in Daredevil, an Elektra spinoff starring Jennifer Garner was quickly given the green light. In retrospect, that wasn't the smartest move, considering that Daredevil was neither a critical success nor a commercial favorite.
When Elektra hit screens, critics sharpened their knives.
Although Garner herself received praise, the poorly-written dialogue and bland plot were repeated subjects of scorn. Many reviews also pointed out that the action sequences were unimpressive, especially compared to other superhero movies.
Whereas Daredevil earned a mediocre 44% rating, Elektra could only muster 10%.
17 Fresh - Spider-Man: Homecoming (92%)
Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man trilogy was generally perceived as a huge win. When the franchise rebooted with Marc Webb in the director's chair and Andrew Garfield in the lead role, it didn't go as well. The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel nearly ground the franchise to a complete halt.
The series was rebooted once again, and this time the results were spectacular. Spider-Man: Homecoming outpaced the Webb/Garfield entries by a minimum of twenty points, nabbing a 92% approval rating.
New Spidey Tom Holland was universally heralded as a great choice for the role, and the action scenes were declared phenomenal.
16 Rotten - Batman & Robin (10%)
When people talk about the worst superhero movies ever made, Batman & Robin is almost always on the list.
Even star George Clooney has gone on the record admitting it's not very good.
Given all that, it may catch you off guard to learn it still carries a 10% approval rating.
Among the common criticisms were that Clooney was an unconvincing Batman and that Alicia Silverstone's Batgirl didn't get enough to do. Including two villains -- Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy -- diluted the plot, giving Batman & Robin a scattershot feel in the eyes of its reviewers.
15 Fresh - Spider-Man 2 (93%)
After the original Spider-Man became a smash hit in 2002, the pressure was on director Sam Raimi to top it. Two years later, he brought us Spider-Man 2, which deepened the characters and expanded upon the themes introduced the first time around.
The sequel became the highest-rated entry in the entire Spider-Man franchise, sitting pretty with a 93% score.
Critics hailed it as one of the best superhero movies ever made -- one that had all the requisite thrills while also delivering a meaningful story with something valuable to say about the nature of heroism.
14 Rotten - Supergirl (10%)
The spinoff Supergirl was released in between Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which wasn't great timing, since both of those pictures were disappointments. Then again, the movie was so bad that it really didn't matter when it came out.
Earning a lowly 10% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, Supergirl was faulted for corny special effects that failed to provide visual excitement.
Helen Slater, the unknown actress tapped for the lead role, was also criticized.
Her inexperience made it hard for her to command the screen as a superhero should.
13 Fresh - Logan (94%)
James Mangold's Logan took a very different approach to the Wolverine character. The X-Men movies, in which he previously appeared, were all fun PG-13 adventures. This film more than earned its R rating for graphic violence, and it possessed a somber story that addressed old age and infirmity.
It turns out a fresh spin was exactly what was needed. Critics loved the thematic richness and the story's subversion of superhero cliches. Hugh Jackman, in his final turn as Wolverine, won kudos for a rich, layered performance, and Dafne Keen shone in her breakout role as Laura.
Logan is 93% fresh.
12 Rotten - Fantastic Four (9%)
There was probably no way the 2015 Fantastic Four was going to get good reviews. Rumors of problems floated for months before the movie's release. Then director Josh Trank publicly declared that the studio had tampered with his cut, releasing a version he wasn't entirely on board with.
Under those circumstances, it's amazing that Fantastic Four achieved even its 9% score.
Reviews noted the choppy, uneven story and its impossible-to-miss plot holes.
Another common criticism was that the characters don't really become the Fantastic Four until the last 20 minutes of the movie.
11 Fresh - The Incredibles 2 (93%)
When Pixar first started making movies, the company implied it had no interest in cranking out sequels. That didn't stick, as Toy Story 2 and 3 and Finding Dory can attest. The thing is, though, that Pixar's sequels have been really good, unlike many phoned-in follow-ups.
That's definitely true of Incredibles 2, which 93% of critics recommended. Although many felt it wasn't quite as good as the original, the film was heralded for a strong story that explores themes of parenthood and familial responsibility. The superb animation was similarly praised.
10 Rotten - Catwoman (8%)
Michelle Pfeiffer memorably played Catwoman in Batman Returns. That meant Halle Berry had her work cut out for her when she put on the character's claws for the appropriately-titled 2004 movie Catwoman. Things did not go well.
The film received pans for its absurd story involving an evil cosmetics company executive.
It was also repeatedly pointed out that director Pitof staged the action in a clunky, often laughable way that negated any potential excitement.
Berry was mostly spared from the criticism thanks to her commitment to the role, but Catwoman still only scored 9%.
9 Fresh - Superman (94%)
Released in 1978, Superman was really the first modern superhero movie. At that time, it was believed audiences wouldn't pay to see comic book characters onscreen. This film shattered that notion.
Not only was it a hit at the box office, it was a hit with the nation's reviewers, too. Christopher Reeve was deemed a perfect fit for the Man of Steel and his alter ago Clark Kent, capably conveying the character's duel identity. The humor and action were also cheered, as was Gene Hackman's turn as Lex Luthor.
Superman ended up snagging a suitably super 94% score.
8 Rotten - Captain America (8%)
Long before Chris Evans held the famous shield, another actor played Steve Rogers. His name is Matt Salinger, and he starred in the low-budget 1990 movie Captain America, which only one critic posting to Rotten Tomatoes rated favorably, leading to an 8% score.
The vast majority of critics remarked that superhero movies are severely limited when made on the cheap.
Costumes and special effects in the picture were declared cheesy, and it was noted that the entire production lacked the necessary sense of spectacle. Reviews said it didn't even work on a campy level.
7 Fresh - The Dark Knight (94%)
Christopher Nolan announced that he was going to do big things with the Batman franchise when he made Batman Begins. It was his second chapter, The Dark Knight, that really paid off on that promise.
The 94% approval rating reflects critical praise for Nolan's vision, Christian Bale's intense turn as Batman, and of course, Heath Ledger's brilliant work as the Joker.
Interestingly, the few critics who didn't rate The Dark Knight "fresh" famously received harassment and threats from a small but noisy group of hardcore fans that wanted the movie to have a perfect 100% rating. That's obviously unrealistic. Besides, this is already the most highly-rated Batman film ever.
6 Rotten - Zoom (3%)
Zoom is like a diet version of X-Men aimed at kids. Tim Allen plays a superhero lured out of retirement to train a group of specially-abled youngsters. Chevy Chase and Courteney Cox co-star as scientists. Together, they all prepare to take on a heinous villain who's headed their way.
To say critics disliked Zoom would be an understatement.
The pitiful 3% approval rating shows that loud and clear. They cited the lame, unfunny attempts at humor, the unconvincing special effects, and the fact that the movie really is nothing more than a bargain-basement X-Men ripoff.
5 Fresh - Iron Man (94%)
Iron Man marked the official start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and what a start it was. Most people walked in thinking it would be a standalone movie, but that now-famous post-credits sequence indicated that it was merely the first piece of a much larger project the company had in store.
Reviews were overwhelmingly positive, leading to a score of 94%. Critics called the film smart and sophisticated, while additionally celebrating the top-notch action sequences. Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance as Tony Stark was repeatedly singled out as the most valuable asset.
4 Rotten - The Crow: Wicked Prayer (0%)
The Crow: Wicked Prayer is one of the rare movies to have a 0% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. We can safely assume this is not an honor the filmmakers or actors are pleased to have. Edward Furlong plays the new Crow, an ex-con who returns from beyond the grave to seek revenge against the bikers who eliminated him and his girlfriend.
Furlong's performance was universally panned, as was the one from co-star Tara Reid, who plays a devil-worshipper.
Wicked Prayer as a whole was slammed for being unintentionally funny and for lacking any sort of compelling drama.
3 Fresh - The Incredibles (97%)
The Incredibles makes a pretty strong case that there should be more animated superhero movies. The format just seems perfect for the medium.
Then again, you need to have a smart script and interesting characters. This movie had those, which helped it soar to an astonishing 97% rating.
Critics had to find new adjectives to describe their delight in Pixar's adventure. They adored the characters, as well as the way the movie put a fresh spin on superheroes by focusing on their lives as ordinary people with families and job stress. The animation was similarly celebrated.
2 Rotten - Super Capers (0%)
If you've never heard of Super Capers, don't feel bad. The low-budget superhero spoof only played in 80 theaters and made just over $30,000. It was barely a blip on the cinematic radar.
Not many critics saw the film, which is about an ordinary guy who joins a league of costumed crimefighters.
Of the seventeen who posted reviews to Rotten Tomatoes, not a single one viewed it positively, leading to a perfect -- or should we say imperfect -- 0%.
Super Capers' attempts to mock superhero conventions were declared painfully unfunny across the board.
1 Fresh - Black Panther (97%)
Black Panther is a full-fledged phenomenon. As of this writing, it has earned just under $700 million in North America alone.
Reviews for the film were rapturous. Critics loved the depth of director Ryan Coogler's storytelling, which delivered all the requisite excitement wrapped up in a compelling drama about family, friendship, and rivalry. The rich supporting characters were another much-praised element, as were the cool visual effects. Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan received love for their performances.
A mind-blowing 97% of the reviews for Black Panther are positive.
Which of these superhero movies is your favorite? Do you like any of the lowest-rated ones? Give us your thoughts in the comments.