2018 has been a truly astonishing year for superhero movies. Black Panther, released in February, is at just under $700 million in North America as of this writing. Avengers: Infinity War, which came out at the end of April, is at well over $650 million. They are the #1 and #2 most successful superhero movies of all time. Deadpool 2, also released this year, will surely go over $300 million.
These successes come on the heels of last year's blockbusters Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Logan, and Wonder Woman, all of which made between $200 million and $400 million. Before them, of course, were many other massive superhero hits. Clearly, audiences love this type of movie, and judging by the fact that they seem to be getting bigger and bigger, that love doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon.
On the flip side, there have also been some pretty big superhero flops. Believe it or not, if we break it all down, notorious duds like Catwoman, Judge Dredd, and Green Lantern aren't even the lower grossing! Using data provided by Box Office Mojo, not adjusted for inflation, we've compiled a list of the superhero movies that fared the worst at the nation's cinemas. Some you'll be familiar with, others are more obscure. We'll tell you how much each one made, and try to provide a little insight into why they failed to pull in audiences.
These are the 25 Lowest-Grossing Superhero Movies Ever.
25 The Crow: City of Angels - $17,917,287
Released in 1995, The Crow was a surprise box office hit. Star Brandon Lee famously lost his life in an on-set accident. That meant another actor had to be cast when the sequel, The Crow: City of Angels, was made. Vincent Perez replaced Lee, but the general consensus was that he lacked his predecessor's charisma.
Miramax dumped the picture on Labor Day weekend in 1996.
Morbid though it may be, curiosity about Lee's passing might have helped fuel interest in the first movie. That interest wasn't there for the sequel. The Crow: City of Angels opened at #1, but fell quickly, leading to a final gross of just under $18 million.
24 The Phantom - $17,323,326
The Phantom is the hero of a comic strip series that debuted all the way back in 1936. By the time a big-screen adaptation was released in 1996, audiences were either unfamiliar with, or uninterested in, the character. The fact that he has no superpowers, relying only on his wits and fighting ability, made him seem woefully old-fashioned to viewers of that era.
Despite starring Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, The Phantom could only muster up about $17 million. That low gross is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the movie has developed a cult following over the years, through DVD and cable TV airings.
23 Buffy the Vampire Slayer - $16,624,456
In what has to be one of the most unlikely success stories in entertainment history, a flop movie went on to become a beloved TV show. Not even the '90s popularity of co-star Luke Perry could turn Buffy the Vampire Slayer into a hit.
The teen comedy with a tongue-in-cheek horror twist topped out at $16.6 million, failing to lure in its target adolescent audience.
Creator Joss Whedon, who wrote the script, reverted to the somewhat darker, edgier tone he initially conceived and sold it to the FOX network. With Sarah Michelle Gellar replacing Kristy Swanson in the title role, the TV Buffy became an outright sensation.
22 Hero at Large - $15,934,737
Hero at Large is a movie younger people have probably never heard of, and older people have probably forgotten. The 1980 comedy stars John Ritter as a struggling actor who foils a robbery while wearing a superhero costume for a film he's promoting. He then decides to try being a costumed crime-fighter for real, only to discover that the gig is pretty hard.
The movie made almost $16 million, which wasn't a disastrous number for the time, but it was by no means a spectacular one, either. For context, consider that even the notorious box office dud Xanadu out-grossed Hero at Large that year.
21 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace - $15,681,020
One of the most widely-derided superhero movies is unsurprisingly one of the lowest-grossing. The first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies were big hits. Then audience fatigue set in, compounded by a noticeable drop in quality.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, in which the Man of Steel attempts to rid the world of nuclear weapons, was the nadir of the series, earning just $15.6 million. The original earned $134 million.
The initial production company was replaced with the notoriously cheap Cannon Films, and the significantly lower budget made the movie look cheesy.
Sensing it would not be the grand adventure they expected, audiences wisely stayed away.
20 Iron Monkey - $14,694,904
Iron Monkey is a 1993 Hong Kong film about a doctor who puts on a mask and steals from dishonest authorities, then gives the money to the poor. He's kind of like Robin Hood with really amazing martial arts moves.
Despite opening in its homeland in the early '90s, Iron Monkey didn't hit North American screens until 2001. Quentin Tarantino had a deal with Miramax that allowed him to "present" some of his favorite movies, and this was one that he chose.
Some controversial edits for stateside release, combined with a weak October release date, led to a speedy in-and-out from theaters and a gross just under $15 million.
19 Supergirl - $14,296,438
Sandwiched in between the lackluster Superman III and the abysmal Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was 1984's Supergirl. Unknown actress Helen Slater reportedly beat out Demi Moore and Brooke Shields for the role of Kara Zor-El. Although she had a career afterward, the movie failed to turn Slater into an A-list superstar.
Supergirl was met with scathing reviews.
Audiences turned out initially, making it #1 at the box office on its opening weekend. Ticket-buyers ended up agreeing with the critics on this one, causing it to rapidly drop on subsequent weekends as bad word-of-mouth spread.
When everything was all said and done, the picture couldn't even eke out $15 million.
18 The Legend of the Lone Ranger - $12,617,845
Once upon a time, the Lone Ranger was a big deal. Reruns of the classic black-and-white TV series were still airing in 1981, when The Legend of the Lone Ranger was released to theaters. Unknown actor Klinton Spilsbury gave his first -- and last -- motion picture performance as the titular hero.
There were two problems that worked together to sink the film. First, it tried to make the Lone Ranger relevant for modern-day audiences -- a concept that fundamentally didn't work. Second, kids in the '80s could not have cared less about such an old-fashioned character.
The Legend of the Lone Ranger's $12.6 million gross ultimately wasn't enough to recoup its $18 million budget.
17 Black Mask - $12,504,289
Black Mask is based on a popular Chinese comic of the same name. It was a modest hit in its native Hong Kong. Star Jet Li had developed a cult following in the United States by the mid-'90s, so Artisan Entertainment recut the film for American audiences and released it to theaters in 1999. That was three years after its foreign debut.
It had the misfortune of opening the exact same weekend as Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
At the time, Phantom Menace arguably the most anticipated feature of the decade. For that reason, it got clobbered at the box office.
The total gross was just $12.5 million.
16 Zoom - $11,989,328
Zoom is a 2006 family movie that's sort of a lite version of X-Men. Tim Allen plays a former superhero lured out of retirement to train a group of specially-powered kids. Courteney Cox and Chevy Chase play scientists helping him accomplish this, and a pre-fame Kate Mara is one of the burgeoning heroes.
There really wasn't a need for a watered-down version of Marvel's famous mutants.
Poor reviews pointed out the dumb broad humor and cheap-looking special effects, helping to decrease the interest of moviegoers.
Zoom has a stunningly awful 3% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. No wonder it fell short of $12 million.
15 The Powerpuff Girls Movie - $11,412,414
The Powerpuff Girls were the stars of a wildly popular Cartoon Network series that ran from 1998 to 2005. The show's quirky humor and stylized animation distinguished it from other family-friendly shows. Merchandise featuring the trio of characters was ubiquitous. It was so popular, in fact, that Warner Brothers released a full-length feature version to cinemas in July 2002.
Presumably, WB thought the fans would all turn out to purchase tickets. The reality was quite different.
People weren't willing to pay for what they could watch on television for free.
The Powerpuff Girls Movie only scraped up $11 million.
14 Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie - $8,363,899
The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were a true phenomenon in the early- to mid-1990s. The TV show featuring the colorful characters was highly rated. The Rangers appeared on just about every sort of product imaginable. They even successfully made the leap to the big screen with 1995's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, which made a very respectable $38 million at the North American box office.
By 1997, the trend was starting to wane. Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie proved that point all too clearly, earning $8.3 million. That was thirty million less than the film that opened only two years before.
13 Punisher: War Zone - $8,050,977
The first Punisher movie came out in 2004 and didn't exactly light the world on fire. It only earned $33 million. The powers-that-be in Hollywood set out to make a sequel that they hoped would get the prospective franchise back on track. The result was Punisher: War Zone, in which Ray Stevenson replaced Thomas Jane in the title role.
This one wasn't an official part of the MCU, and it was much more cheaply produced than the original. Those factors worked against the movie.
Releasing such a violent picture during the Christmas season was a bad choice, too.
Punisher: War Zone tanked miserably, making just $8 million against a $35 million budget.
12 The Meteor Man - $8,016,708
A lot of people think Black Panther was the first black superhero movie. In truth, there was one twenty-five years before. Robert Townsend first made a name for himself with the indie comedy Hollywood Shuffle. Then, in 1993, he wrote, directed, and starred in The Meteor Man, about a high school teacher who uses his newly-acquired powers to take on a street gang.
Summer 1993 was a big one for Hollywood, with Jurassic Park, The Fugitive, and Sleepless in Seattle among the top performers. The Meteor Man was a smaller film, unable to compete with such heavy hitters. It left theaters with just $8 million in the bank.
11 Blankman - $7,941,977
In the summer of 1994, Damon Wayans was riding high on the success of his TV show In Living Color, which had just ended its four-year run. He was actively looking to make the leap to movie stardom. His comedy Mo' Money had already done respectable business. The actor expected Blankman -- about a simpleton who plays homemade superhero -- to perform similarly.
Columbia Pictures wasn't too high on the movie's prospects, though.
It was released it in late August -- a notorious dumping ground for stuff the studios don't know what to do with.
Whereas Mo' Money earned a healthy $40 million, Blankman stalled out at just under $8 million.
10 Sheena - $5,778,353
Sheena, based on the comic book character Sheena: Queen of the Jungle, was an unusual, contradictory film. Released in 1984, it was made with the intention of providing a cinematic hero that young girls could look up to. At the same time, a big part of the appeal -- and the marketing -- was star Tanya Roberts in an extremely revealing jungle outfit.
The imagery made Sheena feel inappropriate for kids.
It's also a poorly-made film that received some of the worst reviews of that year. After a calamitous opening weekend, the movie limped away with $5.7 million and a reputation as one of the worst '80s turkeys.
9 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm - $5,617,391
Generally speaking, movies centered around Batman have done pretty well at the box office. That makes the lowly $5.6 million gross of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm something of a shocker.
The animated feature is an extension of the hit TV show Batman: The Animated Series, which was all the rage in 1993, when the film was released. Paying to see a 76-minute version of something that could be watched at home for free apparently wasn't an enticing proposition to fans. It debuted in 11th place and quickly vanished.
Interestingly, Mask of the Phantasm has developed a massive following since then, and is widely regarded as one of the best Batman pictures.
8 Tank Girl - $4,064,495
Tank Girl is based on the comic series created by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett. In 1995, director Rachel Talalay made a quirky, heavily-stylized film adaptation starring Lori Petty. A pre-fame Naomi Watts co-stars, as does rapper Ice-T, who plays a kangaroo man.
Despite that last tidbit, the movie landed with a thud. Reviews were generally unkind, but the real issue is likely that the film's exaggerated, hyperactive style was a tough sell to audiences looking for mainstream entertainment.
In spite of a wide opening, Tank Girl played to mostly empty theaters.
It only made $4 million. That said, the movie has become a cult favorite in the years since.
7 Barb Wire - $3,793,614
Take a very obscure comic book character, add a lead actress who's known more for her physical appearance than her talent, toss in a terrible script, and what do you get? The answer is Barb Wire, based on the Dark Horse comic. Pamela Anderson plays the title character, a nightclub owner/mercenary.
The fallout from the film was significant. Critics ripped it -- and Anderson's performance -- apart. Audiences couldn't be enticed to come, leading to Barb Wire landing in 12th place on its opening weekend. Director David Hogan, making his feature debut, never directed another movie again.
Most embarrassing of all is that cringe-inducing $3.7 million gross.
6 Batman: The Killing Joke - $3,775,000
While most of the movies on this list can rightly be called commercial failures, there is one exception. Batman: The Killing Joke, an R-rated animated adaptation of the revered Alan Moore/Brian Bolland graphic novel of the same name, is actually a success.
That's because it didn't get a typical release. The movie was made for home video, yet given a "two night only" theatrical release by Fathom Events, a company that provides alternative content to cinemas. Initially, The Killing Joke was only supposed to play for one night, but the demand was so high that Fathom added a second.
This extremely limited play resulted in an impressive $3.7 million.
5 Steel - $1,710,972
Shaquille O'Neal is undeniably a great basketball player, but he's not a great actor. That became painfully clear with Steel, the 1997 Warner Bros. movie based on the DC comics character. There weren't many actors who were physically right to play the hulking character, which necessitated the outside-the-box thinking that led to the hoops star's casting.
Steel was not an A-list character, and despite his celebrity, O'Neal was nowhere near being a viable box office draw.
The result was catastrophic. Bad reviews were imminent, as was a Worst Actor nomination at the Razzies.
Opening in 16th place, Steel earned a staggeringly low $1.7 million during its very brief run.
4 Orgazmo - $602,302
South Park was at the height of its popularity in 1998, when co-creator Trey Parker delivered Orgazmo. The comedy -- which he wrote, directed, and stars in -- is about a Mormon missionary who ends up playing a superhero in an adult film. Because his television show was such a phenomenon, it was assumed that the movie might benefit from people wanting to see its maker's other work.
Unfortunately for Parker, the movie was slapped with an NC-17 rating, thanks to extremely graphic language. Many theaters won't show such films, and many media outlets won't accept advertising for them. Consequently, the distributor could only get the movie into 94 cinemas. No wonder it made a meager $602,302.
3 Super - $327,716
Before becoming a celebrity filmmaker with Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy movies, James Gunn made a series of weird indie movies, including the very dark superhero comedy Super. Rainn Wilson plays Frank Darbo, a mentally disturbed man who dons a superhero costume, dubs himself the Crimson Bolt, and tries to "rescue" his wife from the dealer she left him for.
Super is funny in a sick way, but not everyone has a sick sense of humor.
This is a movie in which the good guy bashes people in the head with his weapon of choice, a wrench. The edgy humor and intense violent streak made the film a tough sell, hence the $327,716 gross.
2 Super Capers - $30,955
Super Capers is a 2009 comedy about Ed (Justin Whalen), an average guy who wants to be a superhero. Through a complex series of legal events, he gets to join a team of costumed crimefighters. Together, they travel through time to foil a criminal mastermind. Michael Rooker, Adam West, and Danielle Harris co-star.
If you've never heard of this movie, don't feel bad. It was just barely released, never playing in more than 80 theaters. It also has a rare 0% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, so critics certainly weren't touting its merits.
These factors combined to sink Super Capers, which brought in $30,955 -- about the price of a new car.
1 The Specials - $13,276
The dubious honor of lowest-grossing superhero movie ever goes to The Specials. Released in only two theaters back in 2000, the film tells the story of a superhero squad that's far more concerned with fostering its public image than fighting crime.
For a movie that made just $13,276, it has an impressive pedigree.
The script was written by James Gunn, and the cast includes Rob Lowe, Jenna Fischer, Thomas Haden Church, and Jamie Kennedy. Behind-the-scenes problems likely contributed to its failure. Gunn, Kennedy, and the director constantly fought, and the distributor lost faith in the final product.
The Specials may have tanked theatrically, but it's found a cult audience on DVD.
How many of the lowest-grossing superhero movies have you seen? Tell us in the comments.
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