In 1966, Batman: The Movie “Powed! and Zapped!” its way into theaters with a thrilling tale of adventure featuring Batman and Robin preventing a gang of supervillains from dehydrating the world. The 77% Tomatometer-rated movie marked the first time fans could see a feature-length film showcasing one of their Detective Comics (DC) heroes on the big screen – and it must’ve been a trip watching Batman foil a man-eating shark with a convenient can of Shark Repellent Bat-Spray.
Some 53 years and 34 theatrically released live-action and animated movies featuring DC characters later, the DC universe has seen its fair share of Fresh (Watchmen, Batman Returns, Superman), Rotten (Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, Catwoman), and should-be-Fresh (Constantine) movies (yes, we really like Constantine around these parts). These films trace the evolution from the tongue-in-cheek Batman: The Movie to today’s DC Extended Universe (DCEU), which recently featured Jason Momoa battling gigantic CGI sharks (without the aid of shark repellent spray) in the blockbuster hit Aquaman.
With Shazam! opening this week – and sitting Certified Fresh at 92% – we decided to do a deep dive into the 35 theatrically released movies featuring DC characters in hopes of discovering super Tomatometer statistics to share with you. And we think we succeeded! Sit back, order a Batman-approved Lobster Thermidor (or some drive-thru) and enjoy these Tomatometer-related stats about your favorite movies featuring DC characters.
Note: All Tomatometer scores/averages are accurate as of March 31, 2019.
After Batman: The Movie gave the DC cinematic world a Fresh start in 1966, DC fans had to wait 12 years until the Richard Donner-directed Superman was released in 1978 for the next cinematic effort from their favorite comic-book company. This superhero film was a massive success due to its big action set pieces, inspired casting (Marlon Brando!), and square-jawed earnestness of leading man Christopher Reeve – it is at 94% on the Tomatometer. A sequel was green-lit faster than a speeding bullet, and in 1980 the 85% Tomatometer-rated Superman II set a high bar for all superhero sequels that followed.
In 1982, Swamp Thing proved DC didn’t need Superman or Batman to be successful (it’s at 66%). Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream) directed the film, successfully juggling a silly plot, rubber monsters, and a low budget to produce a moderate hit.
The number is low, but, things are looking up as three of the five movies with 90%-plus scores have been released since 2017. Wonder Woman (93%), The Lego Batman Movie (90%), and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (91%) have made up for lost time. Also, it’s looking like Shazam! has a chance of joining the elite ranks if it can hold onto its 92% Certified Fresh Tomatometer score. We bet Superman: The Movie and The Dark Knight, both at 94%, aren’t feeling so lonely anymore.
We’re glad director Christopher Nolan took the Dark Knight trilogy ‘so serious’-ly, because it’s the gold standard of comic book franchises with an 88.3% Tomatometer average and 94% Audience Score. Not only do Batman Begins (84%), The Dark Knight (94%), and The Dark Knight Rises (87%) form the highest Tomatometer- and Audience-rated DC franchise, they make up the highest-rated comic-book–based movie trilogy ever.
We’re 100% certain that Superman would smoosh Batman in a street fight. However, in a Tomatometer battle, Batman’s 64.3% Fresh average is much higher than Superman’s Rotten 48.2% average. Superman lost the battle because five of the 10 movies he’s featured in, including Superman III (24%) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (12%), have Rotten scores, whereas only six of Batman’s 16 films have Rotten scores. It’s not all bad news for Superman though, because 1997’s Batman & Robin has a 10% Tomatometer score, which makes it the lowest Tomatometer-rated Batman or Superman film.
Between 2005 and 2009, DC-based films went dark with the R-rated Constantine (46%), V for Vendetta (73%), and Watchmen (64%) hitting the big screen. These visually impressive films swung for the fences and brought in A-list talent like Natalie Portman, Tilda Swinton, Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, and Patrick Wilson to fill the shoes of iconic DC characters. We’re still bummed about the Rotten score for Constantine, though: it’s a visually stunning film featuring Keanu Reeves flicking off Satan and kicking CGI demon crabs – what’s not to love?
The bad news is the Tomatometer average is a Rotten 56%. The good news is, the Tomatometer is trending upwards with recent movies like Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and The Lego Batman Movie all being Fresh. Also, with Shazam!, Joker (2019), Birds of Prey (2020), Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), and the rebooted Suicide Squad (2021) on the horizon, we’re thinking the average could be Fresh in a couple years!
The Tomatometer average for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (83%), Batman: The Killing Joke (39%), The Lego Batman Movie (90%), and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (91%) is an excellent 76.75%. The only Rotten movie here is the R-rated Batman: The Killing Joke, which was shown as an event in 1,300 theaters in 2016. The controversial movie went to some super dark places with the Kevin Conroy-voiced Batman, and left people wishing they’d just watched the excellent Batman: Mask of the Phantasm again.
You may be thinking that a 46.25% Tomatometer average is bad. Yes, it’s still Rotten. However, the 93% Tomatometer score for Wonder Woman provided some balance to the DC world as it evened out the Fresh to Rotten scales for female-led DC films. Now V for Vendetta (73%) isn’t the only female-led Fresh film holding up the Tomatometer average for the Rotten Supergirl (10%) and Catwoman (9%).
Joker’s appearances in Batman: The Movie (77%), Batman (71%), The Dark Knight (94%), Batman: The Killing Joke (39%), Suicide Squad (27%), and The Lego Batman Movie (90%) have led to a Fresh 67.6% Tomatometer average. We’re excited to see what Joaquin Phoenix can do with the character when he takes his place front and center in Todd Phillips’ Joker, which will be released in October.
The 26% Tomatometer-rated Green Lantern was slammed by audiences and critics when it released in 2011. However, since then, Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool), Angela Bassett (Black Panther), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), and Temuera Morrison (Aquaman) went on to Fresh superhero movies that have an average 82.4% Tomatometer score. This trend is continuing again with Mark Strong, who is back in the DC universe as the villainous Sivana in the Certified Fresh Shazam!. We’re hoping Blake Lively, Tim Robbins, and Peter Sarsgaard have the same luck when they appear in another superhero movie.
Catwoman and its 9% Tomatometer score didn’t help the overall average, but, Batman Returns (80%), The Dark Knight Rises (87%), Batman: The Movie (77%), and The Lego Batman Movie (90%) prove the Catwoman character is Fresh four times out of five. Also, we think Michelle Pfeiffer should’ve received an Academy Award nomination for her amazing performance in Batman Returns. Pfeiffer crushed the dual roles of Selina Kyle/Catwoman and we totally understand why director Tim Burton gave her a lot of screen time.
The 23 movies featuring a member of the DC trinity (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) have a Fresh 63.8% average, and the three highest Tomatometer-rated DC movies are The Dark Knight (94%), Wonder Woman (93%), and Superman (94%). The 63.8% percentage isn’t super Fresh, but when compared to the 41% average of the 12 movies they don’t appear in, it’s proof DC films are better when they’re in them.
We hope you enjoyed the DC Tomatometer data! Tell us about your favorite DC movies in the comments.