The biggest superhero movie flops and successes of all time

December 27, 2014 – 10:07 am

This summer’s “Fantastic Four” could turn out to be one of the biggest superhero movie flops of all time.

The movie, from Fox studios, had a disappointing opening weekend, grossing only about $26 million at the box office. But the real embarrassment was the critical reaction. The movie has a 9 percent rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest score earned by the dozens of films that have been based on Marvel comics.

Film studios have released a barrage of superhero movies in the past few decades, ranging from flops like the “Fantastic Four” to successes like 2012’s “The Avengers." And as the charts below show, the competition between the two main superhero franchises, Marvel and DC comics, shows no signs of slowing.

Marvel has Spider-Man, Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men, Captain America and the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four. DC, on the other hand, gave the world Superman, Batman, Catwoman, the Joker, and Wonder Woman. The two franchises have been battling for eyeballs since the 1930s, but have seen their rivalry strengthen with the growing popularity of the big budget Hollywood superhero movie.

As the graphic below shows, movies based on DC Comics characters outpaced those of Marvel before 2000, including "Superman" in 1978, "Batman" in 1989, and "Batman and Robin" in 1997.

In terms of how individual movies have performed at the box office, however, Marvel and DC are more neck-and-neck.

The charts below show how the top five grossing movies based on Marvel and DC comics, with box office revenues adjusted for inflation. Marvel's top five grossing movies (in red) only earned about $139 million more than DC's films (in blue) have.

One interesting thing is how much of a mark DC's classic movies made - "The Dark Knight" (2008) is its top earner, but the original "Batman" (1989) ranks second, and "Superman" (1978) and "Batman Forever" (1995) also make the list.


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