Complete Comic Book Movie Rankings

During my weekly visit to my local comic book shop this past Wednesday, the conversation turned to "X-Men: First Class" and its place among the Marvel comics movies. I mentioned that I'd created a formula to rank all of them, and that according to the formula, it was 4th, though personally I might have it a little lower.

The question was then raised if I could use the same spreadsheet to rank the DC comics movies, and I didn't see why not. From there, I realized if I was going to go through all the work of ranking the comic book movies from Marvel and DC, then why not just do all of them.

So, using the lists of comic book movies from Box Office Mojo and Wikipedia as a starting point, I identified 91 movies that fit my criteria -- prior to this weekend's release of "Green Lantern". The two basic requirements were that the movie had to be based on a comic book or graphic novel, not a comic strip, and that it had to be released in theaters in the United States and have trackable box office data. If there's a movie you think should be included on the list but isn't, please let me know. (Just to cut off any questions on it in advance, I know the concept of "Alien vs Predator" was a comic book before it was a movie, but I'm counting that, and its sequel, as a movie based on two separate movie franchises. The idea didn't originate with the comic.)

Once the movies were identified, each one was ranked 1 through 91 and assigned an inverse number of points in each of five categories.

1. Domestic box office gross
As I mentioned when I first did the post ranking the Marvel movies, this isn't the most refined way of doing it, but it's a simple question: how much money did your movie make at the box office? These numbers are NOT adjusted for inflation, mostly because I don't have a Box Office Mojo account, nor do I want to keep adjusting these numbers annually.

2. Net profit/loss expressed as a percentage of budget
So lets say you have a comic book movie that makes about $240 million at the box office. Is that good? Well, if you're "X-Men: The Last Stand", and your movie cost $210 million to make, it's a profit, but a slim one. If you're "Batman", and your movie cost $35 million to make, it's a huge success. That's what this is measuring. Theoretically, there's no maximum to this (though the highest number among the 91 is 901%), and the lowest possible number would be -100%, for a movie that cost anything, and made nothing at the box office. The closest to that is actually -94.07%, from a movie that cost an estimated $20M to make, and barely cracked $1M at the box office.

3. IMDB Rating
Plain and simple, it's the number that shows up when you click on the movie's summary view. I know IMDB has fancier metrics, but for transparency's sake, this was the best way to go.

4. Rotten Tomatoes Average Critics Score
To clarify, this is not the "freshness" rating that so often appears next to the movie's name on Rotten Tomatoes. It's the average score of the reviews. I chose to go that way because there appeared to be significant score differences with movies that would have the same freshness rating, and in some cases a movie would have a higher freshness rating (that is, a higher percentage of critics would have at least "liked" the movie) but a lower average score.

5. Rotten Tomatoes Percentage of Audience Liked
On the flip side, the Rotten Tomatoes average audience score is compressed to a five-point scale, meaning over the course of 91 movies, there wouldn't be a lot of variation. Plus, I already have the 10-point audience IMDB score, so this is more of a general measure of how the movie was received by the audience.

Once all those numbers are calculated, the rankings are summed up, and a final score is generated for each movie, which is then displayed as a percentage of the maximum possible points -- normalizing the rankings to a 100-point scale.

With that all said, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

- the box office data I'm using is "live" (rather than the estimates I was using with the previous Marvel rankings), so movies that are new to theaters are going to come in lower than they'll end up
- the points rankings can always change, though I've found that IMDB data tends to stabilize after a few weeks and Rotten Tomatoes data does so even soon. Still, I'll keep an eye on it for newer movies just to be sure (for example, both "Thor" and "X-Men: First Class" saw their IMDB score drop by 0.1 points between the time I updated the spreadsheet for X-Men and the time I expanded it for this post)
- I won't put a movie in the rankings until it's been in theaters for two weekends. So don't expect to see where "Green Lantern" shows up until the end of June.

Now, what you're really looking for, the rankings. The complete rankings, 1-91 are available here (and also in that tab up top that says "Comic Book Movies"), but as of this posting (June 17, 2011), here are the top 10 comic book movies of all-time:

10. X-Men (2000)
Score: 82.4
Best category: Audience Liked (81%, 11th)
Worst category: IMDB score (7.4, 21st)

9. Spider-Man (2002)
Score: 82.5
Best category: Box office ($403M, 2nd)
Worst category: Audience Liked (65%, 44th)

8. Superman (1978)
Score: 82.7
Best category: Rotten Tomatoes Critics (8.0, 4th)
Worst category: Box office ($134M, 24th)

7. Batman (1989)
Score: 85.6
Best category: Profit margin (+617%, 2nd)
Worst category: Rotten Tomatoes Critics (6.6, t-25th)

t-5. X2: X-Men United (2003)
Score: 87.1
Best category: Audience Liked (84%, t-8th)
Worst category: Profit margin (+95%, 18th)

t-5. 300 (2007)
Score: 87.1
Best category: Audience Liked (90%, t-3rd)
Worst category: Box office ($210M, 11th)

4. Batman Begins (2005)
Score: 88.1
Best category: IMDB Score (8.3, t-2nd)
Worst category: Profit margin (+37%, 34th)

3. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Score: 88.9
Best category: Box office ($373M, 3rd) and Rotten Tomatoes Critics (8.2, 3rd)
Worst category: Profit margin (+87%, 19th)

2. Iron Man (2008)
Score: 93.3
Best category: Audience Liked (91%, 2nd)
Worst category: Profit margin (+127%, 13th)

1. The Dark Knight
Score: 98.0
Best category: First in Box Office, IMDB Score, Rotten Tomatoes Critics and Audience Liked
"Worst" category: Profit margin (+188%, 10th)

And for you masochists, the worst comic book movie adaptation of all time is 1997's "Steel", starring Shaquille O'Neal. Interestingly, "Steel" doesn't rank at the bottom of any of the five categories, but was so consistently bad across the board that it has a larger margin below the 2nd-worst movie ("Barb Wire") than "The Dark Knight" has over "Iron Man".