With Justice League opening this weekend, the pop-culture world will once again consumed by discussions comparing DC to Marvel, some of which will start peacefully enough and end in tears. The last few years have inspired a reinvigorated debate that has largely focused on the most recent properties of the two comics giants-turned-blockbuster machines, ignoring the close to 50 years’ worth of movies and television shows that came before.
In the spirit of friendly competition, we broke down the data for all the DC and Marvel movies, television shows, and direct-to-DVD offerings that have earned a Tomatometer score (130 total) to see where they stood in relation to each other. The results are surprising, and they offer an interesting perspective on two fairly different entities that have produced some fantastic films, guilty pleasures, and even better dance moves. But who comes out on top?
DC: 67.7% Average Tomatometer Score
Marvel: 64.1% Average Tomatometer Score
With 40 Fresh titles and an average 67.7% Tomatometer score, DC manages a narrow victory over Marvel (40 titles and 64.1%). This may come as a surprise to some, considering Marvel’s current run of Certified Fresh hits like Thor: Ragnarok, Spiderman: Homecoming, Logan, and Deadpool. However, before Marvel ever released a Fresh film (2000’s X-Men was the first), DC already had nine, and between Superman (1978) and Batman (1989), they had established what a modern comic book blockbuster would look like.
If Marvel’s films (under Sony, Fox, and Disney) have a higher Tomatometer average than DC (62% > 53%) what pushed DC to victory? The answer lies in DC’s success in the direct-to-DVD market and a more consistent level of quality in their TV offerings. Even if its big-screen efforts have earned spotty reviews, DC’s animated films on home video have been wildly successful and attracted a loyal audience. On top of that, their lowest-rated TV series is Constantine, which is still Fresh at 72%, while Marvel has to answer for Iron Fist (17%) and The Inhumans (8%).
Here are the top 10 movies, television series, and fan favorite films. If nothing else, it’s notable that neither Marvel nor DC really dominates any one category, as Marvel tends to have more entries, but DC is always at the top.
(Scores accurate as of 3pm on 11/15/17.)
DC has the highest rated trilogy, courtesy of Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman (88.3%), and the number one critic/audience rated film overall with The Dark Knight (94% Tomatometer score, 94% Audience score). DC has also released more films with female leads (Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Supergirl) than Marvel has (Elektra), though until Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman came along, none of them had scored any higher than 10% on the Tomatometer. On the television front, the DC universe (on CW and Fox) boasts an 88.6% overall average, whereas the Marvel shows (on Netflix, FX, ABC, and Hulu) sport a 75.1% average. Lastly — and this was the biggest factor — DC had 25 direct-to-DVD titles with an average Tomatometer score of 79%. All of these elements combined to make DC the grand champion, at least for now.
The competition was close, and it proves that both DC and Marvel have been creating great work for well over 50 years. The two appear to have learned from each other’s mistakes over the years, and the competition between them has created a world in which a number Academy Award-winning actors, directors, and writers are proud to say they’ve been a part of a “comic book movie.” Debates are always fun, and they help to add an extra layer of context around the pop culture we love to consume. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we live in an unprecedented era of great entertainment for comics fans — whether you’re loyal to DC or Marvel — and that’s a win for everyone.