Now we’ve done it. We’ve ranked all superhero movies based on American comics from 78 to numero uno. It was a huge, heroic, Herculean task, but someone had to do it. I mean we all know that the MCU is kicking the DCEU’s ass, but how badly? And is Wonder Woman’s stellar score on Rotten Tomatoes enough to propel her to the top of the list? Read on, and you’ll know.
For starters, we all know Batman v Superman sucks. But how about BvS of another sort? Like Tim Burton’s Batman versus Richard Donner’s Superman—which is better? Or if Civil War is more your thing, how about Iron Man versus Captain America: The First Avenger? Which is the greatest Batman movie of all time? Christopher Nolan’s or Burton’s? Which is the worst? Zack Snyder’s or Joel Schumacher’s? Who would win in a movie fight? Deadpool or Logan? Who has more movies in the Top 20—the MCU or the DCEU? How bad exactly is Green Lantern? And can someone please sort through the giant clusterf**k that is the X-Men franchise?
Of course, to keen-eyed movie and comics nerds, there are more superhero movies out there than are on this list, but we refined our list based on the following rules…
1. The list starts with Superman (1978). That’s the one with Christopher Reeve, in case you’re wondering. This is the moment in cinematic history when superhero movies began to matter. Wikipedia even describes it as the first modern superhero movie.
2. No TV movies. Sorry Bill Bixby, those adorable The Incredible Hulk TV movies—still the iconic Hulk, if you ask us—aren’t on this list.
3. No animated movies. That means no Big Hero 6, no Pixar’s Incredibles, and no Batgirl on Batman action in Batman: The Killing Joke.
4. Superhero movies based on comics only. We didn’t include superhero movies that exist only in movies, like Chronicle, or Darkman, or Shaquille O’Neil as Steel (shudder).
5. Superheroes only. Not all movies based on comics are superhero movies. We didn’t put V for Vendetta on this list, or The 300, even though they’re based on popular graphic novels. That also means there’s absolutely no Howard the Duck. And in case you’re wondering, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aren’t superheroes, they’re mutant ninjas. Duh.
Note: Percentage score is the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score
78. Catwoman (2004) 9%
Sometimes a movie is so bad we want to pretend it never happened. Can we all agree never to talk about Catwoman again? Oscar Award-winner Halle Berry would be grateful.
77. Batman & Robin (1997) 10%
It’s not easy to ruin the Batman franchise, but George Clooney somehow managed to do it. Of course, he’s not the only one to blame. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, and Alicia Silverstone were all guilty of bad acting. Thanks, director Schumacher for this giant turd of a movie.
76. Elektra (2005) 10%
There was a time when Jennifer Garner as the assassin named Elektra seemed to make sense, especially hot on the heels of Ben Affleck’s Daredevil. We don’t know what they were smoking.
75. Superman IV (1987) 12%
This is how to kill a successful movie franchise: make a sequel that is so terrible that no one wants to make or watch another movie from the series ever again. Superman IV had Superman versus a supercomputer. See what we did there?
74. The Crow: City of Angels (1996) 12%
Everyone said you can’t make another The Crow movie without Brandon Lee. They were right.
73. Fantastic Four (2015) 9%
A heroic attempt to update the biggest underperformer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it fails miserably. At least the previous Fantastic Four movies had Jessica Alba.
72. Supergirl (1984) 7%
This movie is about as far as you can get from 2017’s Wonder Woman both in quality and story, but what do you expect? It was the early '80s, and the only other superhero franchise around was Superman.
71. Judge Dredd (1995) 12%
It’s not so much a Judge Dredd movie as it is a Sylvester Stallone movie. That said, even if you judge the film as a Stallone movie, it’s pretty bad.
70. Jonah Hex (2010) 12%
Not even Megan Fox’s hotness could save it. It’s based on an obscure, forgotten DC comic book series, and the movie ensures that it will remain that way.
69. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012) 17%
When the first movie sucks, try and try again.
68. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) 17%
The much-loved graphic novel is adapted for the big screen, but it fails to come to life.
67. Suicide Squad (2016) 25%
Where did this movie go wrong? We don’t know where to begin. Harley Quinn was cool, and so were some of the character designs, but Jared Leto’s Joker was atrocious, and so was the rest of the movie.
66. Punisher: War Zone (2008) 27%
Like an ultra-violent B-movie from the '80s, this Punisher reboot didn’t help the franchise. Thank God the Punisher in Netflix’s Daredevil doesn’t suck.
65. The Punisher (2004) 29%
Thomas Jane starring across John Travolta sounds like an interesting proposition, but in the end, The Punisher is just a dull revenge flick. Nothing to see here, rabid Punisher fans.
64. Superman III (1983) 26%
The third Superman movie has way too much talking, and way too much Richard Pryor.
63. Green Lantern (2011) 26%
Ryan Reynolds’ first gig as a superhero lead turns into a massive train wreck and a sign of things to come for the DCEU.
62. Ghost Rider (2007) 26%
Nic Cage as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider? What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything apparently.
61. Blade: Trinity (2004) 25%
Somehow, the addition of two other vampire hunters just made the movie worse. Maybe this Ryan Reynolds guy is bad luck.
60. Spawn (1997) 18%
Todd McFarlane’s superhero from Image comics comes to life on the big screen. The results are something of a B-movie disaster, but it’s not all bad. At least the soundtrack is interesting.
59. The Fantastic Four (2005) 27%
Despite being one of the crown jewels of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Fantastic Four just never quite gets it together.
58. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) 38%
Wolverine ditches the X-Men and gets his very own movie exploring his love-hate bromance with Sabretooth. The film loses the plot completely when Deadpool shows up with swords coming out of his freaking arms—a lowpoint in superhero cinema.
57. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) 37%
FF:RotSS takes one of the fans’ favorite storylines from the comic books and royally screws everything up. Facepalm.
56. Daredevil (2003) 44%
This movie was so bad, it banished Daredevil to TV. Thank God Netflix did it some justice. You hear that, Batfleck?
55. The Green Hornet (2011) 43%
Whoever thought making a stoner movie based on the Green Hornet and starring Seth Rogen would be a good idea? Well, someone did. And so this movie exists.
54. Batman Forever (1995) 40%
Director Joel Schumacher tried to turn Burton’s dark Batman into a trippy, colorful, acid-infused series. He succeeded there, but forgot to make the movie any good. At least Jim Carrey is entertaining as the Riddler.
53. Kick-Ass 2 (2013) 31%
In the second Kick-Ass movie, the creators realized that the real star of the franchise isn’t Kick-Ass, it’s Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). The second movie focuses on her, but somehow it’s not as good as the first film.
52. The Shadow (1994) 35%
This movie, starring a young and dapper Alec Baldwin, is based on an old superhero from the 1930s, The Shadow, who had a brief revival from DC Comics in the '90s.
51. The Phantom (1996) 42%
A movie about some retro superhero from old school comic strips made by Lee Falk. Nobody cares anymore. Heck, nobody cared in 1996.
50. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) 27%
With a Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score of 63%, BvS is obviously not as bad as the critics say it is. It’s not the worst movie ever made, it’s just bad. Martha.
49. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) 58%
Bryan Singer’s X-Men trilogy comes to an end, but the last film in the series isn’t directed by him, and it’s a bit of a mess, with too many characters and Jean Grey/Phoenix destroying everything with bad CGI.
48. Constantine (2005) 46%
It never stood a chance when the filmmakers cast Keanu Reeves and moved the movie’s location to L.A., basically killing everything that made Constantine, well, Constantine. The fans had a meltdown.
47. X-Men Apocalypse (2016) 48%
Our favorite band of merry mutants joins forces with Magneto to fight an even bigger bad guy, Apocalypse.
46. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) 52%
In the second Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey faces Electro (Jamie Foxx). It’s not a bad movie, but it does make you miss Sam Raimi.
45. Man of Steel (2013) 55%
Zack Snyder made a Superman movie that was dark, depressing, and negative. Humanity hated it.
44. Blade (1998) 54%
Wesley Snipes is a bad-ass vampire killer. That sums it up pretty well. Don’t look for the meaning of life, and you’ll be fine.
43. Watchmen (2009) 65%
The graphic novel classic gets the cinematic treatment. It’s faithful to its source material to a fault, but even then, the filmmakers had to change the book’s bizarre ending, leaving no one happy.
42. Hulk (2003) 61%
Director Ang Lee tries his hand at a superhero movie with Eric Bana as his Bruce Banner. Sounds good on paper, but Hulk ultimately comes up short.
41. The Incredible Hulk (2008) 67%
Rebooted after just one movie, The Incredible Hulk franchise tries to make the audience forget the disappointing Hulk movie that came before it, only to end up being just as disappointing as the first one.
40. The Wolverine (2013) 69%
Wolverine goes to Japan, discovers some interesting stuff about himself, and fights ninjas while on top of a bullet train. Surprisingly, this turned out to be the best Wolverine movie in years.
39. Spider-Man 3 (2007) 63%
The final movie in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy tries a little bit too hard. There are more villains (Sandman! Venom!), and a dance number, but precious little humor or movie magic to go around.
38. Thor: The Dark World (2013) 66%
In Thor’s second movie, we get a better look at the home of the gods, Asgard, and—surprise!—it’s just like Star Wars. Pew pew pew! Then there’s a bunch of fights with frost giants and dark elves and it all looks great, but what’s the plot again? Who cares?!
37. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) 72%
Basically a reboot that no one wanted or asked for. This time around, Andrew Garfield is Spider-Man, and he does a good job of it. “Amazing” is a bit of a stretch, though. The movie was just okay, good even, but amazing? Not quite.
36. Superman Returns (2006) 76%
The Superman movie that time forgot. Yes, this happened. Brandon Routh was once Superman. Yes, we’d rather forget about it.
35. Thor (2011) 77%
Long-haired, hunky Thor gets banished to Midgard/Earth—sans hammer Mjolnir—to find himself.
34. Dredd (2012) 78%
What it lacks in plot and dialogue, it makes up for with style. It’s colorful and gory, and the extreme slow motion shots are a joy to watch. Most underrated superhero movie of all time.
33. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) 80%
Captain America gets the origin story that he deserves, and it’s just like him: competent, dependable, good, and a little boring.
32. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) 91%
We’ll forgive you if you can’t figure out which X-Men movie this one is exactly. They’re all a bit of a muddle. This is the one that happens in two timelines. Also, it has that scene with Quicksilver running in slow motion. Yeah, we thought that would jog your memory.
31. Iron Man 3 (2013) 79%
It’s raining Iron Man suits in the final (not final?) Iron Man movie. Also, weird glowing Extremis soldiers are making toast of everything. Despite all the action, the best part of this movie is the curveball that is the Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley).
30. X-Men (2000) 81%
The first X-Men movie featured a lot of posing, and a little action, but the characters were well-cast and it was great seeing them come to life on the big screen.
29. Batman (1989) 72%
The legendary “I’m Batman,” phrase comes from this movie, making Tim Burton’s first Batman movie something of hallowed ground. It’s campy and ridiculous, but in the best possible way.
28. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) 75%
Let’s face it, A:AOU was a bit of a mess. We loved it to pieces, but not much of it makes sense when you stop to think about it.
27. Ant-Man (2015) 81%
A superhero movie with humor and charm at its center. Michael Pena’s comedy monologue/voiceover steals the show.
26. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) 85%
The second Hellboy movie goes full Guillermo del Toro with a bizarre collection of weird and graceful creatures on display. This is a good thing.
25. Doctor Strange (2016) 90%
Everyone is miscast. Benedict Cumberbatch is an American, and Tilda Swinton is The Ancient One. Never mind, the movie is entertaining as heck, and looks great in an Inception kind of way.
24. Iron Man 2 (2010) 72%
The Iron Man movie juggernaut rumbles on in this sequel. It has its moments, but ultimately falls flat in the final act. But who cares as long as we get more IRON MAN!
23. X-Men: First Class (2011) 86%
The X-Men franchise gets rebooted and sent back to the 1960’s with hunks James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Xavier and Magneto. It mostly succeeds in sending the reboot off to a good start.
22. Logan (2017) 93%
Hugh Jackman wraps up his run as Wolverine with a shocker. Logan is a superhero movie that’s not just set apart from the canonical Marvel universe timeline, but it bears little resemblance to superhero movies as we know it. It’s more like a cowboy movie, or a samurai story like the manga classic Wolf and Cub.
21. Deadpool (2016) 84%
Profanity, nudity, extreme violence, and more extreme violence. Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Blade Trinity) makes the Merc with a Mouth into a smashing success with this unforgiving, unapologetic R-rated romp unlike any superhero movie before it.
20. Superman (1978) 93%
In the 29 years since the first Superman, superhero movies have become a dominant force in cinema. This movie, directed by Richard Donner, is where it all began.
19. Spider-Man (2002) 89%
Spidey’s origin story as told by director Sam Raimi is still a delight after all these years. It’s canon. Sorry, Spider-man: Homecoming.
18. X2: X-Men United (2003) 86%
Director Bryan Singer’s second X-Men movie is as good as it gets for the X-Men until they get rebooted.
17. Blade II (2002) 57%
What if vampires were pathetic Goth ravers fit only to be exterminated by Wesley Snipes’ half-human half-vampire superhero, Blade? You get this stylish vampire killer movie, which we like to think of as the Anti-Twilight.
16. Batman Begins (2005) 84%
The origin story for Nolan’s Batman is—you guessed it—dark as hell. This one’s got the League of Assassins, the Tumbler (Batman’s new batmobile), and Liam Neeson.
15. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) 89%
Cap’s sidekick Bucky returns in Hydra-reanimated zombie form with a metal arm capable of catching vibranium shields.
14. Kick-Ass (2010) 76%
If superheroes were real, they’d look silly, and stupid. And they’d be on YouTube. Just like in Kick-Ass, based on Mark Millar’s books.
13. Hellboy (2004) 81%
Mike Mignola’s classic comic book series is brought to life by Guillermo del Toro. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven, and the movie born of this union is sublime.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) 91%
GotG Vol. 2 does everything the first movie did better, but that’s not to say the first one isn’t great. In the first Guardians of the Galaxy, director James Gunn creates the template for a group of super-powered space goofballs, and boy, is it hilarious.
11. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) 87%
The final part of Chris Nolan’s Batman series, TDKR is a fitting end to a great trilogy. Bane (Tom Hardy) is a fascinating villain, and the Alfred-Batman dynamic is at its peak.
10. The Crow (1994) 82%
The Crow is a cinematic feat that will never be replicated. Brandon Lee brought a certain kinetic poetry to the movie’s action scenes, and the movie is dark and beautiful in a way that other dark superhero movies can only aspire to be.
9. Superman II (1980) 89%
This film is so iconic that even if you haven’t watched it, you’ll recognize it. There’s General Zod’s crew stuck in the Phantom Zone, looking like they’re trapped in a '70s album sleeve, and the cool, crystal Fortress of Solitude. Then there’s Superman giving up his super powers in the name of love. This is what great superhero movies are made of.
8. Batman Returns (1992) 81%
Before superhero movies were dark, dark, and dark, Tim Burton’s Batman was dark, dark, and… weird. Batman Returns was arguably his best one, featuring—as the slogan went—the Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin. It earned its place in cinematic history with Burton’s usual melange of dark, weird, and clever, mixed with a heavy dose of strangely appropriate over-acting.
7. Captain America: Civil War (2016) 90%
A big, dark, heavy, superhero movie about the Avengers falling apart. The band is breaking up, and, as advertised, there’s an epic beatdown between Cap and Iron Man. It’s a comics nerd’s dream come true, kind of like Batman v Superman, except this one was actually good. Burn...
6. Spider-Man 2 (2004) 94%
Just in case you’ve lost track after three reboots, you’ll remember this movie as the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movie with Doc Ock. Director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man is still the best of the bunch (barring Spider-Man: Homecoming’s recent release), and Spider-Man 2 shows you why. Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) is a relatable villain with real pathos. The film also has the best MJ love story bits if you’re into that (you know you are).
5. Wonder Woman (2017) 92%
The feeels! Wonder Woman was released with some apprehension after the DCEU’s recent bombs. It turned out to be one of 2017’s shining gems. Never mind all the woman power going on—which was great by the way—but Wonder Woman made us feel stuff every step of her journey. Finally, here was a superhero that was real, good, beautiful, relevant, and powerful.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) 81%
Ah, screw it. We’re putting Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 up here because it’s the most fun we’ve had watching people in tights… ever. It’s criminally underrated, and dismissed as the funny fat guy of the superhero barkada. But GotG Vol. 2 has lots of awesome things going for it, not least the unique color-explosion look, the tightest damn script in recent memory, the unparalleled soundtrack (recently aped by the Thor: Ragnarok trailer), and the screen magic of the cast. And they make it all look easy.
3. Iron Man (2008) 94%
The superhero movie that launched a thousand superhero movies, the first Iron Man proved that this superhero thing had the potential to take over the world. Aside from basically launching the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its dozens of loosely connected movies, Iron Man is still a great film on its own and one of the best origin movies ever made.
2. The Avengers (2012) 92%
Director Joss Whedon pulls off the unthinkable: a character-driven superhero movie. The Avengers is, in equal parts, brawny and action-packed, but also funny and smart. It somehow manages to put together an ensemble cast of superheroes, and makes you give a damn about what they go through.
1. The Dark Knight (2008) 94%
The Dark Knight isn’t just a great superhero movie, it’s a great movie. Full stop. It has everything: stellar performances, a great story, never-before-seen stunts, stunning effects, and awesome cinematography. Heath Ledger’s Joker is arguably the best Joker, and a brilliant achievement on its own. Batman still rules the cinematic superhero world, nerds. Deal with it.