Characters like Thor, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, and Batman have come to dominate the annual cinema calendar. Marvel now releases about three movies a year, on top of the films based on its characters that come from other studios like 20th Century Fox and Sony. And there are a whole slate of films based on DC Comics released every year.
Amid the barrage of superhero titles out there, Quartz analyzed Rotten Tomatoes data to see which movies stood the test of time. We looked at the titles that scored highest on the site’s Tomatometer, which measures the share of critics who reviewed each movie positively.
The 20 best superhero movies, ranked by Rotten Tomatoes
|The Dark Knight (2008)||94||94|
|Iron Man (2008)||94||91|
|Spider-Man 2 (2004)||93||81|
|Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)||92||91|
|Wonder Woman (2017)||92||89|
|Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)||92||88|
|Thor: Ragnarok (2017)||92||88|
|Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)||91||92|
|X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)||91||91|
|Captain America: Civil War (2016)||91||89|
|Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)||89||92|
|Doctor Strange (2016)||89||86|
|The Dark Knight Rises (2012)||87||90|
|Superman II (1981)||87||75|
|X-Men: First Class (2011)||86||87|
|X2: X-Men United (2003)||86||85|
|Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)||86||71|
Data: Rotten Tomatoes, as of Nov. 30, 2017.
Looking at this list, one thing is for certain: the classics reign. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, the first Iron Man film, the 1978 Superman, and Sam Raimi’s second Spider-Man movie are on top, despite the plethora of newcomers that could have dethroned them.
Superhero movies do seem to be getting better, though. The R-rated Logan, which earned Oscar attention this year for elevating the genre, ranks right up there with those beloved films. As do three other 2017 releases: the zeitgeist-hitting Wonder Woman; Spider-Man: Homecoming, the web-slinger’s entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi’s cosmic close to the Thunder God’s trilogy.
Indeed, six of the 10 highest-grossing movies released in North America this year starred superheroes.
Audiences and critics are mostly on the same page when it comes to these movies. The list didn’t change dramatically when ranked by the share of viewers on Rotten Tomatoes who enjoyed watching the films—though the rest of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and certain fan favorites like Tim Miller’s Deadpool and the dark 1994 movie The Crow, about a man who rises from his grave to take revenge, rose up the list.
But if you really want a good superhero movie, turn to an animated feature.
We deliberately didn’t include them, but doing so means the list would be led by two films. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, based on the Frank Miller graphic novel, has a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes (though only off of five reviews that have been submitted since the movie was released in 2012). And Pixar’s The Incredibles is rated higher than any of the live-action movies above. These are the ones to look for:
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012) – 100%
- The Incredibles (2004) – 97%
- The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) – 91%
- Big Hero 6 (2014) – 89%
- Wonder Woman (2009) – 88%