Superhero movies are big business in Hollywood – so much so that the biggest movie franchise of all-time is now the Marvel Cinematic Universe and no less than four of the top twenty highest-grossing movies of all-time are comic book genre movies.
Every year, some of the most anticipated movies on the Hollywood calendar are based on comic book characters. This year was no different, with the likes of the recently released Avengers: Age of Ultron and the upcoming Ant-Man some of the most talked about offerings amongst movie-goers.
Next year, Captain America: Civil War, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, X-Men: Apocalypse and Doctor Strange are likely to set tongues wagging and make millions of fans around the world part with their hard-earned cash en masse.
All of those offerings are in with a great chance of earning an absolute fortune and may well become some of the highest-grossing movies ever made. For now, however, the list of such movies only includes examples that have already hit cinemas and it’s those that this article is going to take a look at. These are the ten highest-grossing comic book movies of all-time in terms of box office gross.
10. The Amazing Spider-Man ($757.9 Million)
2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man was a Sony Pictures offering that rebooted Spider-Man as a movie franchise. The previous franchise – Sam Raimi’s trilogy – starred Tobey Maguire and this reboot saw the Seabiscuit actor replaced by The Social Network star Andrew Garfield.
It saw the Webbed Wonder going up against the formidable Lizard – the mutated alter-ego of Oscorp scientist Dr. Curt Connors – and was received relatively favourably by critics. It also performed incredibly well financially, making $757.9 million from a $230 million budget and putting it 58th on the all-time list of highest-grossing films.
9. Guardians Of The Galaxy ($774.2 Million)
Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the most surprising successes of 2014, both critically and financially. The space epic took a relatively obscure comic book team and made them into a huge Hollywood hit, with Chris Pratt stealing the spotlight as the brilliant outlaw-turned-hero Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord.
The Marvel Studios offering saw the coming together of the titular misfit team and set the scene for them to join forces with the Avengers in the fight against the Infinity Gauntlet-wielding Thanos in future movies. It earned $774.2 million from a $195.9 million budget, putting it at 54 in the all-time list of highest-grossing movies.
8. Spider-Man 2 ($783.8 Million)
Spider-Man 2 was the second movie in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy and was released in 2004. It saw the titular character – played by Tobey Maguire in this instance – as an established hero, dealing with his second major villain. In this case, that villain was Otto Octavius AKA Doctor Octopus and it was genuinely one of the best comic book movies ever made.
It earned $783.8 million from a $200 million budget – making it the poorest performing movie in that particular trilogy, in spite 0f its being the biggest critical success of the three. As a result of its box office performance, it is the 52nd highest-grossing movie of all time.
7. Spider-Man ($821.7 Million)
The first Spider-Man movie in the aforementioned Sam Raimi trilogy was 2002’s Spider-Man. It was Tobey Maguire’s debut as the Webbed Wonder and, in spite of the fact that it wasn’t quite as good as its sequel, was still a fantastic movie that critics praised almost universally and is undoubtedly partly responsible for the rise of the comic book movie as a genre. This particular offering saw the hero going up against the Green Goblin AKA Norman Osborn after being bitten by a radioactive spider.
From a $140 million budget, the movie grossed an impressive $821.7 million. That figure sees it placed in 45th position on the list of highest-grossing movies of all-time.
6. Spider-Man 3 ($890.9 Million)
Somewhat ironically, the highest-grossing movie in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is also the worst by far. Spider-Man 3 – which was released in 2007 – was a car crash of a movie that saw the Webbed Wonder going up against both Sandman and Venom and, for a short time, his former friend Harry Osborn’s New Goblin. That is, until Harry saw sense and helped his friend against the aforementioned duo.
The movie grossed a huge $890.9 million from a $258 million budget in spite of its poor critical reception. It really was far too crammed with villains, and Topher Grace’s Venom in particular was heavily criticised. It’s the 35th highest-grossing movie ever.
5. The Dark Knight ($1.005 Billion)
The 2008 movie The Dark Knight was the second movie in Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy. The sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins memorably saw the introduction of the late Heath Ledger’s Joker and was undoubtedly the best of the trio of movies in the franchise. It was Christian Bale‘s second outing as the Caped Crusader and, as well as being well received critically, it was a massive financial success.
From a $185 million budget, it pulled in an astonishing $1.005 billion at the box office, making it the first comic book movie to break the $1 billion barrier. It currently sits as the 21st highest-grossing movie of all-time.
4. The Dark Knight Rises ($1.084 Billion)
One place above the movie that come before it in the Dark Knight trilogy is The Dark Knight Rises. Although it was still a great film, it was actually the weakest of the three movies, so the fact that it brought in the most money is somewhat surprising. It saw the introduction of Tom Hardy’s Bane as the main villain and brought the franchise to a satisfactory end in 2012.
The movie had a $230 million budget and earned a whopping $1.084 billion at the box office. Critics generally enjoyed it, in spite of it not quite living up to The Dark Knight, and it is currently sitting pretty in 13th in the list of highest-grossing movies ever made.
3. Iron Man 3 ($1.215 Billion)
It truly is testament to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – which kicked off in 2008 with a bold move in bringing B-list superhero Iron Man to the big screen – that Iron Man 3 is one of the highest-grossing movies ever made. The third Iron Man movie – and the seventh movie in the MCU as a whole – pulled in a massive $1.215 billion at the box office from a budget of $200 million.
What makes this particular movie’s success even more remarkable is the fact it wasn’t that great – it’s arguably the weakest in the Robert Downey, Jr.-fronted franchise. The depiction of the Mandarin as the villain caused uproar amongst fans. That being said, it proudly sits in 8th position in the highest-grossing movies of all-time list.
2. Avengers: Age Of Ultron ($1.348 Billion)
Although it’s still officially earning, 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is quickly running out of steam and is very unlikely to move up in this list any time soon. The sequel to 2012’s Avengers – and the eleventh movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – is one of this year’s biggest cinematic successes, having grossed an enormous $1.348 billion so far from a $279.9 million budget.
It saw the introduction of Ultron – an inadvertent creation of Tony Stark’s – as a robot who was intent on taking over the world and destroying the Avengers in the process. It was well-received critically – although not quite as well as its predecessor – and currently finds itself in 5th place on the all-time list of highest-grossing movies.
1. The Avengers ($1.519 Billion)
The highest-grossing comic book movie of all time is The Avengers. The 2012 ensemble movie was the sixth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the culmination of the group of films known as “Phase One” of the franchise. It saw the coming together of a number of heroes who had already been given solo movies (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America etc) and their allies (Hawkeye, Black Widow etc) to fend off Loki and his alien army made up of Chitauri soldiers.
It absolutely cleaned up at the box office, bringing in a cool $1.519 billion from its $220 million budget. Moreover, it was critically well-received; given that it was the first movie of its kind, that was quite the achievement on Marvel Studios’ part. It is the 3rd highest-grossing movie of all time, with only Titanic and Avatar having earned more money.