What a year 2023 has been, eh? Last December, we hoped Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania would kick Phase 5 off in style, while it was also shaping up to be a thrilling twelve months for the DCEU thanks to the impending release of four huge movies (at the time, DC Studios still hadn’t announced its DCU plans).
All of those disappointed for the most part, though it would be wrong to not point out that we still got some very good titles. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, for example, was a beautiful end to that trilogy but, unbelievably, the best comic book movie we got this year was released by Sony Pictures!
In this feature, we’re looking back at how the genre fared with critics in 2023 and ranking each Marvel and DC movie according to their scores on Rotten Tomatoes. They all stack up very differently and we think you’ll be surprised to see what comes out on top thanks to those all-important Tomatometer percentages.
So, take a look through this ranking by clicking on the “Next” button below…
Aquaman and the Last Kingdom – 36%
Critics Consensus: Jason Momoa remains a capable and committed leading man, but even DC diehards may feel that Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom sticks to familiar waters.
The final DCEU movie of both 2023 and for the franchise as a whole, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom has sadly also ended up being the worst superhero movie this year had to offer. Messy, uneven, and a product of all those creative issues, the sequel landed with a thud last week.
There’s fun to be had but longtime Aquaman fans were always sceptical about Jason Momoa’s casting and this movie seemingly proved them right. Now, the character’s future is unclear and, for the time being, we expect James Gunn to sideline a superhero he clearly has little love for.
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania – 46%
Critics Consensus: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania mostly lacks the spark of fun that elevated earlier adventures, but Jonathan Majors’ Kang is a thrilling villain poised to alter the course of the MCU.
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania had all the makings of a great superhero movie. Fans were excited to see Jonathan Majors play Kang the Conqueror after meeting He Who Remains in Loki and we’d all been waiting since 2015 to finally take a deep dive into the mysterious Quantum Realm.
The story never quite clicked and the decision to shoot this threequel on The Volume made that subatomic reality feel murky and without personality. The ending also didn’t work, doing a disservice both to Ant-Man and Kang (who it was hard to take seriously after seeing his most formidable Variant defeated here).
Shazam! Fury of the Gods – 49%
Critics Consensus: More unfocused and less satisfying than its predecessor, Shazam! Fury of the Gods still retains almost enough of the source material’s silly charm to save the day.
A perfectly serviceable comic book movie in many ways, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is by no means a disaster but with those kids growing up fast, the charm of seeing them become superheroes quickly wore off. Also not helping matters was Zachary Levi’s goofy performance as it felt totally out of step with Asher Angel’s Billy Batson.
The biggest mistake the sequel made was failing to deliver on Shazam!‘s post-credits scene, introducing a trio of newly created villains who fans had little reason to get excited about. It was forgettable and, at the end of the day, that’s the worst thing for this genre to ever be.
The Marvels – 61%
Critics Consensus: Funny, refreshingly brief, and elevated by the chemistry of its three leads, The Marvels is easy to enjoy in the moment despite its cluttered story and jumbled tonal shifts.
We’re moving out of “Rotten” territory for a movie that, while better-reviewed than the other titles we’ve covered until now, is currently 2023’s lowest-grossing comic book adaptation. Considering the fact it’s a sequel to the $1 billion-grossing Captain Marvel and the critically acclaimed Ms. Marvel, that will never not be surprising.
The movie wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t amazing. Fans have come to expect more from the MCU than this and a light-hearted team-up wasn’t what this needed to be. The story lacked stakes and wasn’t helped by coming after Secret Invasion, a TV series which was similarly lacking any real impact on this shared world.
The Flash – 63%
Critics Consensus: The Flash is funny, fittingly fast-paced, and overall ranks as one of the best DC movies in recent years.
This is a divisive one. Some fans had a good time with The Flash and were overjoyed to see Michael Keaton’s Batman back on screen (those Multiversal cameos, while weird and ghoulish for some, were the stuff of dreams for others). We can surely all agree, though, that this is not the “greatest superhero ever made.”
Warner Bros. made the mistake of overpromising and underdelivering, and when you throw in a problematic lead and abysmal VFX, it’s no great surprise that The Flash failed to strike a chord. Not helping matters were sweeping changes made to the movie’s final act and ending courtesy of DC Studios.
Blue Beetle – 78%
Critics Consensus: Led by Xolo Maridueña’s magnetic performance in the title role, Blue Beetle is a refreshingly family-focused superhero movie with plenty of humor and heart.
Despite hitting a lot of familiar beats and doing little to shake the genre up, this made-for-television movie has exceeded expectations among fans and critics and is bolstered by a lot of heart and some strong performances (even when the VFX, in typical Warner Bros. fashion, don’t quite deliver).
Blue Beetle supposedly has a future in DC Studios’ DCU and, while this movie won’t ever be remembered as a masterpiece, it’s one of the DCEU’s best-reviewed movies. That didn’t translate into box office receipts, but there’s still hope for Jaime Reyes moving forward which is no bad thing.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – 82%
Critics Consensus: A galactic group hug that might squeeze a little too tight on the heartstrings, the final Guardians of the Galaxy is a loving last hurrah for the MCU’s most ragtag family.
Despite not being quite the critical darling we expected, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 still gave Marvel Studios a much-needed win in 2023. James Gunn delivered a moving origin story for Rocket and delivered a finale to his trilogy which was exciting and emotional in equal measure.
The threequel was also a box office hit that set the stage for a whole new set of cosmic adventures revolving around Star-Lord and a new team of Guardians led by Rocket. We cannot wait to see these A-Holes again, even if Gunn no longer being part of the MCU is a real bummer.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse – 95%
Critics Consensus: Just as visually dazzling and action-packed as its predecessor, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse thrills from start to cliffhanger conclusion.
A movie which was undeniably worthy of the critical acclaim it received, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse was a visual masterpiece and another compelling adventure for Miles Morales which emphasised that this character’s live-action debut is now long overdue.
The sequel ended on a major cliffhanger which, sadly, won’t be addressed anytime soon. Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse lost its 2024 release date and probably won’t be with us for another couple of years. If it’s even half as good as this effort, though, we’re in for a treat.