It's surprising how many of each year's top-grossing movies are superhero movies, but this just goes to show you how much the genre has grown in popularity in recent times. With the success of franchises like the X-Men series and the growing Marvel Cinematic Universe, the genre has a pretty solid future moving forward. However, this doesn't mean that every superhero movie will be successful. With recent films like Green Lantern, Dredd, and 2015's Fantastic Four failing to make an impact at the box office, producers must be careful and not assume that any superhero movie they make will turn out a big hit due to the genre's popularity.
Back when superhero movies were just arriving in mainstream media, directors knew this all too well. Richard Donner invested $55 million to bring DC's Superman to the big screen in 1078, and it thankfully payed off, giving fans a memorable big-screen adventure that still holds up today. Eleven years later, Tim Burton took a risk by advertising the darker side of comic books with Batman, but was praised for his final product (whose influence is still felt in the genre today).
In short, the people behind superhero movies have to work hard to ensure a spot in pop culture, but, like any other project in life, its success is a gamble no matter how much passion and dedication to honoring the source material is involved.
With that said, here are the 14 Superhero Movies That Completely Flopped (And 16 That Became Massive Hits).
30 Flopped: Green Lantern
Though Golden Globe nominee Ryan Reynolds is now widely-known for his X-Men role as Wade Wilson/Deadpool, there was a time when fans believed he was the one to bring DC's Green Lantern to the big screen. However, 2011's Green Lantern only grossed $219 million worldwide (barely topping its $200 million budget) and received negative reviews from fans and critics alike.
While the movie is now largely mocked (even by Reynolds himself), fans of the green-suited intergalactic warrior may get the film they've been looking for if DC follows through with its planned Green Lantern Corps movie.
29 Massive Hit: Venom
After the failure of Sony Picture's Amazing Spider-Man franchise, Spider-Man's entry into the MCU was praised as a great next step for the web-head. However, with the rights to over 900 Marvel characters, Sony hasn't given up their plans for a cinematic universe, even if it has to be done without Spidey.
Enter Venom, starring Tom Hardy as popular Spider-Man foe Eddie Brock/Venom, which currently sits as the fifth highest-grossing movie of 2018. It also has an over-$845 million box office gross (despite a swarm of negative reviews). Because of this success (and Hardy's contract for three movies), it looks like Venom will be sticking around (and on Brock) for a while longer.
28 Massive Hit: Wonder Woman (2017)
DC's cinematic universe leaves a lot to be desired, except where Wonder Woman is involved. So far, actress Gal Gadot's take on Diana Prince has been seen as the highlight of the entire franchise, and, even though her debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was spectacular, this is primarily due to her 2017 solo movie.
Grossing over $800 million and rated as one of the best 2017 superhero movies, Wonder Woman not only gave fans great performances from Gadot and co-star Chris Pine, but also an empowering woman-led action movie that will surely help pave the way for more female superhero movies in the future (including the 2020 sequel).
27 Flopped: Fantastic Four (2015)
Marvel's First Family has never had it easy when it comes to movies, but the two Tim Story-led adaptations were nothing compared to 2015's FANT4STIC, which proved to fans that the franchise could indeed sink lower.
Despite the movie's troubled production and studio edits, 20th Century Fox was planning on a sequel. However, after the $120 million stinker failed to make even $170 million back (and was labelled as one of the worst movies of 2015 and one of the worst superhero adaptations ever), Fox canned the possibility of a franchise, and the beloved team's cinematic future remains a mystery.
26 Massive Hit: Incredibles 2
While it may have taken Pixar Animation Studios 14 years to deliver an Incredibles sequel, fans agree that it was well worth the wait, and the movie's box office numbers definitely prove that. The year 2004's Oscar-winning animated classic The Incredibles was certainly no slouch, raking in over $633 million and becoming the fourth highest-grossing film of the year, but this year's follow-up seems to have it beat.
Currently the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year after having earned over $1.2 billion, Incredibles 2 doesn't even need an Oscar to prove how successful it is (though, it's certainly going to give it a shot).
25 Flopped: Catwoman
Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry may have won fans over with her portrayal of X-Men member Storm, but her 2004 performance as Catwoman has only received attention from lovers of bad movies.
Often cited as one of the worst superhero movies ever made, Catwoman could've been a worthy Batman spin-off if it had actually included Selina Kyle (aka the actual Catwoman). However, the movie instead focused on an original character by the name of Patience Phillips, whose revealing outfit butchered the classic Catwoman look. Combine that with a dumb story and bad acting, and it's no wonder the movie won several Razzie Awards and only brought in $82 million (compared to its $100 million budget).
24 Massive Hit: Black Panther
After the release of 2016's Captain America: Civil War, Marvel fans knew that the MCU had big plans for Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa/Black Panther. However, nobody could've predicted just how huge T-Challa's solo outing, Black Panther, would become.
Besides its current 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (the highest of any superhero movie), the film broke several box office records during its run in theaters and ended with a total gross of about $1.35 billion (making it the second highest-grossing movie of this year). Also, now that Disney has submitted the film for Oscar consideration, the movie may get even bigger come next year.
23 Flopped: Dredd
Unfortunately, not all of the box office flops on this list are critical duds, and 2012's Dredd stands out as the entry with the most franchise potential. Starring Karl Urban as Judge Dredd (who, thankfully, wiped fans' memories of Sylvester Stallone's "Dredd-ful" 1995 performance), the movie wowed audiences with fantastic special effects and creative violence (lots of creative violence).
However, despite a small budget of $50 million, the movie barely passed $35 million at the box office, putting a sequel in doubt. Thankfully, a live-action TV series with Urban possibly reprising his role is in the works.
22 Massive Hit: The Dark Knight
The year 2008's The Dark Knight has been hailed as not only one of the greatest superhero movies of all time (thanks in large part to the late Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance as The Joker), but also as a major influence on the superhero genre today.
After 2005's Batman Begins revived the franchise, The Dark Knight brought it to new heights thanks to its clever marketing campaign (which focused heavily on Ledger's performance) and the overall increase in quality from the last movie which was reflected in its $1.005 billion worldwide gross. While its 2012 follow-up, The Dark Knight Rises, grossed more, The Dark Knight stands superior as the first superhero movie to gross over $1 billion.
21 Flopped: The Lone Ranger (2013)
With director Gore Verbinski's success with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, it's no wonder that Disney entrusted him with kickstarting a Lone Ranger series. However, it's too bad that the 2013 movie ended up being the lone entry in the potential franchise.
The reboot of the classic Western series had the makings of a successful popcorn flick, with an impressive $215 million budget and actors Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer playing the leads. Unfortunately, though, with its overlong running time and poor execution, the movie bombed with a $260 million gross and poor critical reviews, leaving the possibility for a franchise in the dust.
20 Massive Hit: Captain America: Civil War
Despite the popularity of actor Chris Evans' Captain America, many MCU fans would be forgiven for doubting that a Captain America movie would ever gross over $1 billion. However, that's exactly what Civil War did.
While this could be attributed to the movie's large cast (particularly the returning Avengers and the debut of Tom Holland's Spider-Man), it was most likely the promise of the epic superhero fight that splits the Avengers down the middle. Either way, it grossed more than any other movie in 2016 (including Rogue One, Finding Dory, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) with a staggering $1.153 billion and is seen as one of the MCU's best movies to date.
19 Flopped: Jonah Hex
Before Johnathon Schaech's time in DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Oscar nominee Josh Brolin gave the role of DC's disfigured bounty hunter a try in 2010's Jonah Hex. With a supporting cast including John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, and Michael Shannon, it seemed like a potential hit. However, if you are ever unlucky enough to see the movie, then you'll see that this portrayal of the famous gunslinger missed the mark completely.
The film's box office numbers didn't do it any favors either, with its $11 million gross barely making a dent in its $47 million budget. Thankfully, the movie didn't keep Brolin out of the superhero genre, and he's since gained acclaim for playing Thanos and Cable in Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2, respectively.
18 Massive Hit: The Mask
In the '90s, Jim Carrey was unstoppable, with comedies Dumb and Dumber and Ace Venture: Pet Detective both gaining him international fame. While he may not have seemed like the superhero type, Carrey was also able to use his comedic talents to fight crime (and get a Golden Globe nomination) in 1994's cult hit The Mask.
Despite the movie's violent origins in Dark Horse Comics, The Mask stands as one of Carrey's funniest and most profitable films, making over $350 million and becoming the fourth highest-grossing movie of 1994. Unfortunately, a sequel with Carrey was shelved and fans were instead given a horrible 2005 sequel, Son of the Mask.
17 Flopped: Supergirl
Many people believe that 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was the Superman series' biggest box office disaster, but, while it was definitely responsible for ending the franchise, it was actually more successful than the 1984 spinoff Supergirl.
Unheard of by many fans, the movie starred Helen Slater (who now stars as Supergirl's adoptive mother in the series of the same name) as Superman's Kryptonian cousin and featured Faye Dunaway, Mia Farrow, and Marc McClure (reprising his role of Jimmy Olsen) in supporting roles. However, despite Slater receiving some praise, the movie only grossed $14.3 million and was panned by critics.
16 Massive Hit: Iron Man 3
After the success of 2012's The Avengers, fans couldn't wait for more MCU movies, which is most likely why Iron Man 3 is the only Iron Man film to top $1 billion. Kickstarting the MCU's Phase Two, 2013's Iron Man 3 received a better critical reception than star Robert Downey Jr.'s last outing, but was criticized by fans for its villain twist.
However, since fans were desperate for more MCU action, they packed theater seats to see the franchise's latest entry, bringing the movie $1.215 billion at the box office (more than making up for its $200 million budget) and making it the second highest-grossing movie of the year (though it would've been number one if Disney had postponed the release of its juggernaut musical, Frozen).
15 Flopped: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Considered one of the greatest animated superhero series ever (if not the greatest), Batman: The Animated Series continues to have legions of fans, and its theatrical movie is no exception. Released in 1993, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm featured a dramatic romance for Bruce Wayne, a compelling mystery, and a welcome villainous addition in the form of the Phantasm (an original character created for the film).
Unfortunately, the movie didn't share the animated series' success, as it grossed under $6 million. However, it did receive positive reviews and found greater success on home video. Because of this, it is considered one of Batman's best movies today. (Perhaps Mark Hamill's Joker had something to do with it?)
14 Massive Hit: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
If you was a child during the '80s or '90s, it would've been almost impossible if you never encountered the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Why? Because they were everywhere, from toys to comics to a successful animated series. So, when a live-action movie was announced for 1990, a lot of kids lost their minds... and their allowances.
Made on a $13.5 million budget, the film went on to gross over $200 million, making it the highest-grossing independent movie at the time. While it did receive mixed reviews (we guess critics just don't understand the appeal of anthropomorphic turtles), that hasn't slowed the movie series down, as there has since been five more films, and a reboot is in the works.
13 Flopped: Robocop 3
The Robocop franchise has never been a box office king, but 1993's Robocop 3 set a franchise low for the series. Toning down the violence the series is known for and swapping star Peter Weller for lesser-known actor Robert John Burke, the movie didn't even make back half of its $22 million budget and ended the movie series until the 2014 remake (though, the jury's out on whether or not it lived up to fans' expectations).
Thankfully, an R-rated direct sequel to the first movie has been announced, with District 9 director Neill Blomkamp at the helm. While it's unclear if Peter Weller will return as Alex Murphy, it's still reason enough to get Robocop fans excited again.
12 Massive Hit: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Before 2014, not many were aware of Marvel's intergalactic superhero squad. However, when the MCU took the risk of including them in their own solo movie, it more than payed off, and the Guardians of the Galaxy became an iconic team.
However, while the first film was a box-office and critical success, it was the 2017 sequel that really brought in the cash, with an almost $864 million gross against a $200 million budget. While some may have been expecting it to break $1 billion, it was still a major hit with audiences (most likely due to the presence of Baby Groot).
11 Flopped: The Powerpuff Girls Movie
From 1998 to 2005, Cartoon Network's The Powerpuff Girls made a name for itself with both both boys and girls due to its epic action, smart humor, and memorable characters. It also gained the attention of critics, winning two Emmy Awards over its six-season run. So, it would've made sense if its theatrical movie enjoyed similar success, but, for whatever reason, it didn't.
As a prequel to the series explaining the origin of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, 2002's The Powerpuff Girls Movie scored mixed reviews from critics and made only $16 million on an $11 million budget. However, for those who aren't too happy with the new series, the movie is still a recommended watch.
10 Massive Hit: Spider-Man: Homecoming
After Tom Holland's spectacular debut as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, fans were eager to see a solo movie. However, it may surprise some to know just how many went to theaters for it.
The year 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming was a promising film, bringing in former Batman actor Michael Keaton to play the movie's villain, the Vulture, and Robert Downey Jr. as a mentoring Tony Stark. This, combined with the film's humor, twists, and heartfelt message, helped the movie gross $880 million and receive critical acclaim (with some putting it on par with 2004's Spider-Man 2). With the announcement of 2019's Far From Home, only time will tell if the sequel will continue the franchise's success.
9 Flopped: The Spirit
When comic book icon Frank Miller agrees to direct a superhero movie, one would think that it would be a match made in heaven. However, 208's The Spirit wasn't a match for anyone.
Starring Suits lead Gabriel Macht as the poorly-masked vigilante, The Spirit was most notable for featuring future MCU stars Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson in villainous roles. The problem was that they weren't very good ones (instead, they were "so bizarre, they must be seen to be believed" kind of villains). In fact, pretty much every aspect of the movie was criticized, resulting in a measly $339 million box office return and ensuring that The Spirit's cinematic glory wouldn't be remembered.
8 Massive Hit: Batman (1989)
When filmmakers were unsure how to make superhero movie dark, Tim Burton came along and showed them all how it's done. By separating Batman from his campy '60s show and bringing out the darker aspects of the comics, Burton solidified 1989's Batman as a landmark superhero movie (and the 1992 sequel was fine, too).
With acclaimed performances from Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson as The Joker, as well as an iconic score from Danny Elfman, Batman was a hit with moviegoers, grossing over $400 million on a $35 million budget and becoming the second highest-grossing movie of the year (just behind Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).
7 Flopped: Steel
Shaquille O'Neal is known primarily for two things: his NBA legacy and his abysmal movie career. While Shaq was entertaining to watch on the court, the same can't be said for his big screen endeavors, and 1997's superhero du Steel is a prime example of this.
Dressed in a suit of armor so ridiculous that Tony Stark probably wouldn't even touch it, Shaq's attempt at a DC hero has not only aged poorly, but was also never looked fondly upon to begin with. Bad acting and enough cheesy moments to make a dozen sandwiches, Steel was panned by critics and earned Shaq a Razzie nomination. It also grossed only $1.7 million against a $16 million budget.
6 Massive Hit: Superman: The Movie
Predating the superhero movie trend, director Richard Donner's 1978 masterpiece Superman: The Movie helped pave the way for future films with its realistic big-screen depiction of a popular comic book character.
Featuring an unforgettable music theme that is still used today and great performances from stars Gene Hackman and the late Christopher Reeve, it's no mystery how the movie grossed over $300 million on a $55 million budget (which was seen as an extremely high film budget at the time). While the series has since seen its ups and downs, fans need only look back at the original classic to get a feel of the icon we call Superman.
5 Flopped: Astro Boy
Astro Boy has stood the test of time as one of the most popular manga/anime series ever, with legions of fans worldwide and a successful franchise that continues to this day. Unfortunately, the 2009 computer-animated movie still struggles to find its place in the series.
As a collaboration between the U.S. and Hong Kong, Astro Boy was visually impressive and boasted performances from Nicolas Cage, Bill Nighy, Charlize Theron, and Donald Sutherland. However, the hype behind it wasn't enough, and it only ended up with slightly under $40 million to its name. Perhaps the upcoming live-action reboot will finally give the character the proper cinematic treatment.
4 Massive Hit: Deadpool
After a terrible representation in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, fans had doubts that Deadpool would ever get a proper big-screen adaptation. Thankfully, a movie was finally brought to theaters in 2016, and, boy, did it leave a mark on that year.
Earning acclaim from critics and audiences for its R-rated humor and action, as well as for being one of the most faithful superhero adaptations in years, the movie grossed $783 million on a $58 million budget and was nominated for multiple awards, including two Golden Globes (but, unfortunately, no Oscars). The 2018 sequel has continued Deadpool's box-office streak, and fans won't have to wait long to see him again, as the movie's PG-13 version Once Upon a Deadpool opens December 12.
3 Massive Hit: Spider-Man
By now, seeing Spider-Man on the big screen is as common as seeing Batman or Iron Man. However, in 2002, it was something unlike audiences had ever witnessed before.
Launching future Golden Globe nominee Tobey Maguire into stardom, director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man was one of the year's biggest hits, grossing over $800 million and spawning two high-grossing sequels. While the 2004 sequel is generally seen as the best of Raimi's trilogy and Spider-Man 3 grossed more than either predecessor, it was the original that catapulted the web-head into cinematic stardom, and Spider-Man's other movies wouldn't be the same without it.
2 Flopped: Max Steel
Just because a company has a superhero to its name doesn't mean it automatically has a hit on its hands. Perhaps the folks at Mattel should've taken this into consideration when they produced a 2016 film based on their action figure line Max Steel.
The movie centers on teenager Maxwell McGrath and his partnership with alien companion Steel, whose otherworldly powers give him the ability to transform into superhero Max Steel (who looks like a cross between Power Rangers and Tron). Sadly, there was nothing heroic about this superhero flop, as it holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed little over $6 million, making Max Steel's cinematic future look as strong as paper.
1 Massive Hit: Avengers: Infinity War
To say Avengers: Infinity War was the most anticipated movie of 2018 would be an understatement, as it brought together a massive cast of characters from the MCU's 10-year history and saw the arrival of Josh Brolin's Thanos. Unsurprisingly, this led to the film not only becoming the highest-grossing movie of 2018, but also the fourth highest-earning film of all time and the first superhero movie to reach the $2 billion mark (about $2.048 billion to be more precise).
Providing fans with spectacular action, awe-inspiring visual effects, and a jaw-dropping cliffhanger that's sure to go down in history, Infinity War set the stage for the MCU moving forward and has fans just as excited for its 2019 conclusion, Avengers: Endgame.
Are there any other superhero movies that flopped or became massive hits? Let us know in the comments!