Jun 19 2011

Are Marvel or DC Movies Better? A Research Survey

Summary

  • Including the older movies, the average Rotten Tomato score was 47.3% for DC and 58% for Marvel.  If we look only at movies since 2000, DC drops to 47.2% and Marvel inches up to 60%.  DC’s movies have actually gotten slightly worse since 2000.

  • Marvel has been having more critical success with more series.  Since 2000, DC’s non-Batman movies have averaged 38.7%.  Since 2000, Marvel’s movies without Spider-Man have averaged 56% and its movies without X-Men have also averaged 56%.

DC Movies

A-Grade (80+ on Rotten Tomatoes)
The Dark Knight-94%
Superman-94% *
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm-87% *
Batman Begins-85%
Superman II-83% *

 

B-Grade (60-79 on Rotten Tomatoes)
Batman Returns-77%*
Superman Returns-76%
V for Vendetta-73%
Batman-71%*
Watchmen-64%

 

C-Grade (40-59 on Rotten Tomatoes)
The Losers-47%
Constantine-46%
Batman Forever-44%*

 

D-Grade (20-39 on Rotten Tomatoes)
Green Lantern – 27%
Superman III-23% *

 

F-Grade (19 or less on Rotten Tomatoes)
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-17%
The Spirit-15%
Steel-13% *
Jonah Hex-12%
Batman and Robin-12% *
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace-11% *
Catwoman-10%
Supergirl-8% *

*–These movies came before 2000.

Marvel Movies

A-Grade (80+ on Rotten Tomatoes)
Spiderman 2-94%
Iron Man-93%
Avengers-93%
Spiderman-90%
X2: X-Men United-88%
X-Men: First Class-87%
X-Men-81%

B-Grade (60-79 on Rotten Tomatoes)
Thor-77%
Iron Man 2-73%
Incredible Hulk-66%
Spiderman 3-63%
Hulk-62%

C-Grade (40-59 on Rotten Tomatoes)
Blade II-58% *
X-Men: Last Stand-57%
Blade-55% *
Daredevil-44%

D-Grade (20-39 on Rotten Tomatoes)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine-36%
Fantastic Four-36%
The Punisher-30%
FF: Rise of the Silver Surfer-26%
Ghost Rider-26%
Blade Trinity-26% *

F-Grade (19 or less on Rotten Tomatoes)
Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance-18%
Elektra-10%

*–These movies came before 2000.

Here are some other ways to look at the data.

ALL OF THE ABOVE MOVIES (REGARDLESS OF YEAR)

DC Marvel
A-grade 22% 29%
B-grade 22% 21%
C-grade 13% 17%
D-grade 9% 25%
F-grade 35% 8%

Including the older movies, the average Rotten Tomato score was 50.3 for DC and 57.9 for Marvel.

ONLY MODERN MOVIES (SINCE 2000)

DC Marvel
A-grade 17% 30%
B-grade 25% 25%
C-grade 17% 10%
D-grade 8% 25%
F-grade 33% 10%

Excluding the older movies, the average Rotten Tomato score was 53.4% for DC and 59.5% for Marvel.  That’s closer, although Marvel movies are still a bit better on average.

Some other trends that stuck out.

  • In the modern era, Marvel is having more critical success with more series. In the modern era, DC averaged 47.2% with all movies included, but 38.7% in non-Batman movies.  Marvel averaged 59.5% with all movies included and 55.7 in non-Spiderman movies and 56.4 in movies without X-Men.  In the modern era, DC has had 3 A-grade or B-grade movies without Batman.  Over the same period, Marvel has had 9 A-grade or B-grade movies without Spider-Man and 10 without X-Men.
  • Hollywood is still as inept with female leads as it was 25 years ago. Elektra (10%) and Catwoman (10%) turned out as bad as 1984’s Supergirl (8%). The three movies starring a superheroine are the lowest-ranked superhero movies yet released. That probably can’t just be attributed to budget: Catwoman had a production budget of $100 million in 2004 and Elektra had $43 million in 2005.  According to IMDB, Supergirl’s budget was $35 million, which (if adjusted for inflation) works out to about $80 million in 2005.  Other films did much better with comparable budgets, such as X-Men ($75 million in 2000).  That said, most of the above movies had budgets between $100-200 million.

Questions? Concerns?  Other comments?  Please let me know and I may incorporate them when I update the survey with more recent releases.

DC Marvel
A-grade 25% 25%
B-grade 25% 20%
C-grade 15% 20%
D-grade 5% 30%
F-grade 30% 5%

13 responses so far

13 Responses to “Are Marvel or DC Movies Better? A Research Survey”

  1. Rebeccaon 19 Jun 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I don’t feel like critical concensus is good barometer for superhero movies: Green Lantern only scored a 25% critical rating on RT and a C on Yahoo! Movies, but it ranked around 65% user reviews on RT and around a B on Yahoo! Movies from user votes. Boxofficemojo user rankings list it as a B as well. I think success should be measured based on A) User Rankings and B) Ticket Sales. The audience votes with their feet. Rotten Tomatoes only lists 37% critical response to the Wolverine movie, 72% of their readers liked it.

  2. B. Macon 19 Jun 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I’ll think about including user reviews/polls, but I’m generally pretty skeptical of online polls. I feel that online polls of moviegoers are probably going to be misleadingly positive because the people that care enough about a movie to rank it are probably more positive about the movie than movie-viewers as a whole. For example, RT’s users gave Batman and Robin an average score of 2.6 stars out of 5.0. Rotten Tomatoes’ 12% critical rating for B&R feels a lot more intuitive to me.



    I’m interested in ticket sales–it’s obviously a major consideration in determining which series get sequels added–but I think it’s a more reliable measure of mainstream appeal than quality. If I could offer a non-movie analogy, McDonald’s sells vastly more burgers than Morton’s (an upscale steakhouse), but I don’t think there’s any defensible argument that McDonalds’ burgers are better than Mortons’.

  3. NicKennyon 26 Jun 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I liked X-men 3 and Wolverine. And Batman Begins has to be higher than 85%. That’s one of my absolute favourite movies. 🙁

  4. B. Macon 26 Jun 2011 at 6:52 pm

    I’m sort of flummoxed that the first Hulk movie got 62%. It wasn’t as aggressively awful as some of the movies on this list (such as Batman and Robin), but I’d be hard-pressed to make an argument that it was substantially better than Green Lantern (26%) or almost as good as the first Batman movie (71%) or Iron Man 2 (73%).

  5. NicKennyon 27 Jun 2011 at 11:34 am

    Iron Man 2, while not as good as Iron Man still should have been better than 73%. The first Hulk movie was awful, with a rather pointless villian. Haven’t seen the new Green Lantern movie, is it really as bad as the reviews state?

  6. B. Macon 27 Jun 2011 at 6:18 pm

    “Haven’t seen the new Green Lantern movie, is it really as bad as the reviews state?” I can only speak for myself, but I gave it 1.5 stars out of 4. However, my reviews tend to be skewed heavily by my reaction to the writing, and I think even the people that really liked this movie would admit that the script was awful. If you are a fan of summer blockbusters (i.e. mindless action) and don’t care as much about the writing, you might find it a decent film. If you liked Fantastic Four, I suspect you’d probably find it at least decent.

  7. Castilleon 27 Jun 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Speaking of the Green Lantern Movie… it shocked and surprised me when I heard they are making a sequel to it. If it got that bad in critics ratings… I don’t know. But I have a funny feeling this ‘franchise’ will fizzle out just like fantastic four

  8. B. Macon 27 Jun 2011 at 10:14 pm

    “Speaking of the Green Lantern Movie… it shocked and surprised me when I heard they are making a sequel to it.” That was planned before the first one was released. They’re still working on the sequel, but if the first movie loses much money, I suspect they will cut their losses by canceling the second film.

  9. Nayanon 07 Oct 2012 at 12:32 am

    My top 10 superhero films are (excluding animation films like incredibles):

    1. The dark knight
    2. Batman begin
    3. The dark knight rises
    4. Watchmen
    5. Iron man 1.
    6. Spiderman 2
    7. Avengers
    8. X-men first clas
    9. X men 2
    10. Wolvorine( i am surprised that this movie has such low rating)

    As you see, only top 4 are from DC and that too because of Nolan. So, for me marvel movies are better than DC.

  10. Nayanon 08 Oct 2012 at 4:43 am

    It has become a safe bet to invest money on superhero films. Among the superheroes movies of DC,only ‘Spirit’, ‘Steel’, ‘Superman 4′,’Catwoman’, ‘Supergirl’ have lost money. No marvel superhero movie has lost money. Average movies like spiderman 3, wolvorine, x-men 3 etc. have made whooping profit. Even bad movies like like batman and robin, dare devil, elektra have recovered the invested money. After 2000, only spirit and catwoman have lost money.

  11. B. McKenzieon 08 Oct 2012 at 6:09 am

    “It has become a safe bet to invest money on superhero films. Among the superheroes movies of DC,only ‘Spirit’, ‘Steel’, ‘Superman 4′,’Catwoman’, ‘Supergirl’ have lost money. No marvel superhero movie has lost money.” Hmm. Hollywood accounting is very complex and I will admit I do not understand it very well. In particular, it can be really hard for outsiders to find reliable data about how much each movie made in miscellaneous revenues (e.g. licensing, sales of broadcast rights, DVD sales) and non-production costs (e.g. marketing/promotions).

    However, based on the limited research I’ve done in this field, I think more Marvel and DC movies have lost money than just those five. For example, Green Lantern sold $219 million in tickets against a production budget of $200 million. At face value, it would appear to be a mildly profitable movie. In actuality, it was one of the largest box office flops in the history of cinema. First, studios split ticket sales with the theatres, which takes them to ~$110 million in box office revenue against a production budget of $200 million. However, the marketing/promotions budget for Green Lantern was another $100 million, so it’s $110 million in box office revenue against a total budget of at least $300 million. In miscellaneous revenue, the only data I’ve been able to find is $19 million in U.S. DVD sales. Granted, there’s still other miscellaneous revenue to be accounted for (e.g. TV broadcast rights and international DVD sales), but it is extremely unlikely that the film approached profitability.

    Some other Marvel/DC movies that were probably unprofitable:
    –Maybe The Punisher ($33 million in production costs against $53 million in ticket sales)
    –Definitely Punisher: War Zone ($35 million in production costs against $10 million in ticket sales)
    –Definitely Elektra ($65 million in production costs against $56 million in ticket sales)
    –Possibly The Hulk ($172 million in production and marketing costs against $245 million in tickets)
    –Maybe The Incredible Hulk ($137 million in just production costs against $263 million in tickets)
    –V for Vendetta ($88 million in production/marketing against $129 million in ticket sales)
    –Perhaps Constantine…

    Here’s a table of the data I was able to find, mainly from The Numbers.


  12. Nayanon 08 Oct 2012 at 6:25 am

    That means ‘Batman begins’ was not as hit as I thought. It earned around $372 million against a production budget of $150 million.

  13. B. McKenzieon 08 Oct 2012 at 6:57 am

    The marketing for BB was definitely not as sharp as the campaigns for Dark Knight or Dark Knight Rises. That said, after all the miscellaneous revenues are factored in, it’s probably more profitable than any of WB/DC’s non-Batman movies in the past ~15 years.

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