With 22 movies under its belt to date, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the most complex, beloved franchise to exist in film, and the box office receipts for each movie certainly reflect that. Over the past 11 years, MCU fans have come in droves to theaters across the globe to see every new installment in the ongoing MCU saga.
Beginning with Iron Man in 2008 and going three phases strong, the MCU today is preparing to enter into Phase 4 after the release of the truly game-changing Avengers: Endgame, thus ending the storylines of earlier core superheroes while setting other superheroes on new paths. The future of the MCU is wide-open, but one thing is for certain: success at the box office is all but guaranteed regardless of the film based on the final totals for previous films.
Before we can plow on into MCU Phase 4, it's worth looking at the highest-grossing MCU films to date using worldwide box office totals to see if we can get any sense of how the upcoming MCU films will fare in theaters.
22. The Incredible Hulk ($263,427,551)
Until Mark Ruffalo took over the role of the Hulk in 2012's The Avengers, Hulk struggled to take root in the MCU. Fans may forget that The Incredible Hulk - which starred Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, and William Hurt as General Thunderbolt Ross - released the same year as Iron Man let alone is considered a part of the MCU. It seems the dark, psychologically-driven take on Marvel's version of the classic Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde story wasn't enough to earn audiences' approval, because it only earned a worldwide box office total of $263,427,551.
21. Captain America: The First Avenger ($370,569,774)
Chris Evans had established himself as a charming, rogue sort in Hollywood by the time he stepped into Steve Rogers' shoes for Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011. But not even the most all-American of the MCU superheroes (he's a foundational member of the Avengers, for Pete's sake) who was tasked with taking out the Red Skull and his Nazi crew in World War II Germany was appealing enough to turn the film into box office gold. The first Captain America film earned a shocking (by MCU standards) $370,569,774 by the time it left theaters.
20. Thor ($449,326,618)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Thor's first film in his solo trilogy may have counted heavy-hitters amongst its cast and crew - Kenneth Branagh directed and the cast included Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, and Natalie Portman - and featured Marvel's spin on familiar Nordic gods, but it wasn't enough to get audiences in seats. Thor exited theaters worldwide with $449,326,618 in its pockets. Regardless of how later movies fared, that's still an impressive amount for Marvel's first cosmic installment.
19. Ant-Man ($519,311,965)
At the time it was announced, Ant-Man arguably felt like the least obvious choice for the next superhero whose story would be brought into the MCU. Despite a truly winning performance from Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, an ex-con trying to go on the straight-and-narrow whose ends up stealing one of the most powerful suits from former S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist Hank Pym, Ant-Man pulled in less than $520 million worldwide, which was considerably less than its predecessors by this point in the MCU's first saga.
18. Iron Man ($585,174,222)
The film that started it all surprisingly ranks pretty low on the MCU totem pole. Iron Man only managed to pull in a little over $585 million when it debuted in theaters worldwide in 2008. It's possible future MCU fans didn't know what would grow from Iron Man when it was first released and, despite Robert Downey Jr.'s incredibly compelling first round as Tony Stark, hesitated to flock to theaters the way they eventually would for future MCU films. But with that film marking the first entry in the MCU, it's certainly pretty high, especially for 2008.
17. Ant-Man and the Wasp ($622,674,139)
Considering Ant-Man and the Wasp helped explain to audiences just how essential the Quantum Realm would end up being in the MCU and followed Scott Lang on another light, thrilling MCU adventure, it's surprising it didn't do better at the box office. Perhaps MCU fans were willing to risk not seeing it considering Endgame was premiering only a few months later and thought it would answer all their questions? Whatever the reason, the Ant-Man sequel pulled in a respectable but still somewhat low $622,674,139 worldwide considering it was the first movie to release post-Infinity War.
16. Iron Man 2 ($623,933,331)
Iron Man 2 may have been Tony Stark's sophomore outing in his solo trilogy, but it ended up with one of the worst box office receipts of any MCU film. The worldwide box office take for Iron Man 2 ended up just shy of $640 million. It's a shame Iron Man 2 didn't get more love from audiences especially since it delivered up double the Iron Men - this film marks Rhodey's first appearance as War Machine - and features Mickey Rourke as the very menacing villain Ivan Vanko, a.k.a. Whiplash.
15. Thor: The Dark World ($644,571,402)
It may have had critically tepid reviews but Thor: The Dark World did really well as the box office when it came out in 2013. The continuation of Thor's solo story as he tried to save his girlfriend, Jane, from the harmful effects of the Aether (a.k.a. the Reality Stone) and battle genocidal Dark Elves was enough to get folks in theaters, resulting in a worldwide gross of more than $644 million.
14. Doctor Strange ($677,718,395)
The very trippy, surreal, and thrilling Doctor Strange marked Benedict Cumberbatch's first solo MCU film and it did quite well in theaters everywhere. Telling the story of Doctor Stephen Strange, who goes halfway across the world to try and find a cure for his injuries following a life-threatening car crash and ends up finding something more mystical, this film left theaters with nearly $678 million in its pockets. It was enough to garner a sequel in Doctor Strange 2.
13. Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($714,264,267)
It may have one of the more middling box office grosses in the MCU, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier had a respectable final take of close to $715 million worldwide while it was in theaters. Winter Soldier introduced us to the new and improved Bucky Barnes while taking the Captain America story into the present day. It's no wonder fans flocked to the theater to see how Cap's story would evolve and how he would break through his best friend's HYDRA brainwashing in order to get him back to normal.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy ($773,328,629)
Guardians of the Galaxy arrived on the MCU scene in 2014 with a soundtrack full of '70s and '80s hits and rapid-fire jokes courtesy of one Star-lord. Director James Gunn's take on a ragtag team of criminals who band together to defeat the villainous Ronan the Accuser did well at the box office, earning $94 million in its opening weekend domestically and ending on a very high note with more than $773 million worldwide. Between the excitement to see where the Guardians could go next in their adventures and those pleasing box office receipts, it's no wonder a Guardians sequel came to be a few years later.
11. Thor: Ragnarok ($853,977,126)
The cheekiest, lightest, and arguably the most visually-appealing of Thor's solo films, Thor: Ragnarok, earned an impressive $853 million and change during its time in theaters. No doubt director Taika Waititi's vision for the film, which included allowing actors to improv lines as he offered fans a more technicolor world reminiscent of Steve Ditko's artwork, helped spread the word that this was the Thor film folks needed to see in theaters the minute it premiered.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 ($863,756,051)
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 pulled off the rare feat of doing better at the box office than its predecessor. Over opening weekend, Vol. 2 earned over $146 million domestically and nearly tripling its domestic receipts to about $390 million, as well as racking up a jaw-dropping $863 million-plus before leaving theaters. With movie vets Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone coming on board to help expand the Guardians world as Star-lord learned more about who his father is, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 served up as much action as it did an affecting, emotional story. No wonder it did so well while it was in theaters in 2017.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming ($880,166,924)
Tom Holland was the third actor to slip on the iconic Spider-Man suit for what would be the first of a likely fruitful run in the MCU, beginning with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Unlike past big-screen Spideys, Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield, Holland was Peter Parker as an awkward high school sophomore still getting used to his superpowers. Considering Homecoming was yet another reboot of the Spider-Man story (despite making the smart choice to not function as an origin story), it's surprising to see that it sits pretty high in the box office gross rankings with a final total of more than $880 million.
8. Captain Marvel ($1,127,796,617)
The MCU finally shattered the glass ceiling with Captain Marvel and its box office gross is certainly emblematic of that. Brie Larson brought Carol Danvers' origin story to life in Captain Marvel, the MCU's first female-focused solo film. The excitement for Carol to come to the big screen was palpable in the months leading up to Captain Marvel's March 2019 premiere, translating to more than $153 million at the box office opening weekend. The film's worldwide box office gross steadily rose to over $1.1 billion, setting a pretty high bar for the next Captain Marvel film to jump over when it arrives in theaters in the near future.
7. Captain America: Civil War ($1,153,304,495)
The Avengers are no stranger to big battles, but the MCU forced fans to make the tough decision to choose sides when push came to shove amongst the team in Captain America: Civil War. As much a continuation of Cap's story as it was an engrossing adaptation of one of the most well-known Marvel comics storylines in comics history, Civil War did a bang-up job at the box office, earning $1.153 billion globally, a huge step-up from The Winter Soldier two years prior.
6. Iron Man 3 ($1,214,811,252)
The final solo Iron Man film sits the highest in the box office rankings - as far as Iron Man solo films go. Iron Man 3 saw Tony taking on two big bads in the form of shady international criminal mastermind The Mandarin (later revealed to be a charlatan in the form of failed actor Trevor Slattery) and Aldrich Killian, creator of the Extremis virus. Tony was still dealing with post-traumatic stress following the Battle of New York in Marvel's The Avengers and was continually tested in Iron Man 3 as both The Mandarin and Aldrich targeted him and his loved ones. Those high stakes and a tightly-plotted story helped Iron Man 3 bring in more than $1.2 billion worldwide during its theatrical run.
5. Black Panther ($1,346,913,161)
Black Panther was a landmark film in the MCU, marking the first time a black Marvel superhero got their own solo film, at least in this particular franchise. It's no surprise that Black Panther's box office gross reflects as much. Dominating the movie landscape when it was released in February 2018, Black Panther benefited from fans seeing the film multiple times and encouraging everyone they knew to go see it on the big screen. In the end, it earned over $1.346 billion worldwide. Interestingly, though, its domestic gross of $700 million topped Infinity War.
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1,405,403,694)
Fans may run hot and cold on Avengers: Age of Ultron's story, but its box office total tells a different story. The fifth highest-grossing film to date in the MCU, Age of Ultron earned more than $1.4 billion worldwide while in theaters in 2015. No doubt interest in seeing where the Avengers would go next in their time spent fighting to bring down Tony Stark's rogue creation, Ultron, helped its box office total soar. But despite that, it's the lowest-grossing of all the Avengers films.
3. Marvel's The Avengers ($1,518,812,988)
Following the release of Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel bet big on The Avengers in 2012. Marking the first time S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury was able to bring Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye together to help take out Thor's dastardly adopted brother Loki, The Avengers got fans excited about what the MCU could be when the greats came together. The box office total reflects that, sitting at a stunning $1.5 billion and change.
2. Avengers: Infinity War ($2,048,359,754)
Arguably one of the defining MCU films, Avengers: Infinity War brought together the superheroes from all previous solo films together, including the Guardians of the Galaxy, to try and prevent Thanos from collecting and using all six Infinity Stones. The once-in-a-lifetime cinematic event was considered unmissable amongst MCU fans and its final box office total of more than $2 billion worldwide certainly speaks to that. But it's not the highest-grossing installment in the MCU.
1. Avengers: Endgame ($2,734,786,099 as of 6/15/19)
Is it any surprise that Avengers: Endgame is at the top of the MCU pack when it comes to box office grosses? One of the most eagerly-anticipated films ever made, the Russo brothers were able to bring together a murderer's row of superheroes to take down Thanos and reverse the destruction he wrought at the end of Infinity War. With life-and-death stakes and lots of heart-stopping action, it's easy to see how Endgame has continued to bring fans to theaters in droves. At the time of publication, Endgame is still in theaters and is not only the highest-grossing MCU film to date but one of the highest-grossing films of all time, potentially nudging out the likes of Avatar and Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the top spot at the worldwide and domestic box offices, respectively.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019