The surprising results of ranking Marvel movies by box office ticket sales
With Avengers: Endgame primed to potentially Hulk-smash box office records, let’s take a look at how all the other Marvel Cinematic Universe titles have stacked up. Here’s a current ranking of all 21 MCU films and how much money they made via Box Office Mojo — some of the results might surprise you.
Let’s journey from lowest to highest in U.S. domestic box office:
21. The Incredible Hulk (2008) $134,806,913: At the bottom of the list and the second-worst reviewed title on here (according to Rotten Tomatoes with a 67 percent ‘Fresh’ rating). Yet Universal’s final Hulk title, starring Edward Norton was considered not entirely unsuccessful and just edged out 2003’s Hulk starring Eric Bana. Nonetheless, Norton’s Bruce Banner would eventually be replaced by Mark Ruffalo.
20. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) $176,654,505. A rare period piece from MCU, First Avenger was regarded as a decently performing title that, along with Thor released earlier the same year, solidified Marvel’s post-Iron Man track record.
19. Ant-Man (2015) $180,202,163. Since Ant-Man was released after a slew of higher-grossing Phase 2 titles, it was considered slightly disappointing by industry pundits given the high bar the studio had recently set.
18. Thor (2011) $181,030,624: The stand-alone film that showed Iron Man wasn’t a fluke.
17. Thor: The Dark World (2013) $206,362,140: Dark Elves! The most frequently mocked MCU title and the lowest-ranked film by Rotten Tomatoes with a 66 percent average. Thor 2‘s box office wasn’t spectacular either. Marvel smartly shook up the Thor franchise format with a more comedic effort for the third film.
16. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) $216,648,740. This is a disappointing take for an MCU movie in 2018 coming off Black Panther and Infinity War. But reviews were positive and the sequel managed to somewhat improve upon its box office performance vs. the first film.
15. Doctor Strange (2016) $232,641,920. A clear hit in global ticket sales ($677,000), Doctor Strange ranked as the most popular character introduction film in the MCU at the time, even topping Iron Man.
14. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) $259,766,572. Represented a solid leveling up for Cap.
13. Iron Man 2 (2010) $312,433,331. A total hit, but earned less at the domestic box office and worse reviews (73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) than the stellar first Iron Man —which is not what Marvel likes to see. Franchise director Jon Favreau “walked away” for the third film.
12. Thor: Ragnarok (2017) $315,058,289: Creatively reinvigorated the Thor franchise and delivered terrific reviews under director Taika Waititi.
11. Iron Man (2008) $318,412,101. The sensation that started it all and still ranks as the second-best reviewed MCU title (with 94 percent on RT).
10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) $333,176,600. Remember when Guardians was considered a risky idea? This proved Marvel could score with little-known characters and a title that’s more comedy than drama.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) $334,201. Marvel regained creative control of Spider-Man just in time to fight Peter Parker audience fatigue following five films from Sony in 15 years. While a bigger hit than Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel, Homecoming‘s box office actually comes in below all three of the films starring Tobey Maguire. The highest-grossing entry remains Sam Rami’s 2002’s Spider-Man ($403,000).
8. Captain Marvel (2019) $388,707,683. The MCU’s first female-fronted superhero film was dinged by critics for its less than marvel-ous script. But the film is still a big hit by any standard and continues to play in theaters as of this writing so it’s certain to move up at least another notch on this list.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) $389,813,101. Critics rank this sequel below the original, yet it still managed to raise the bar at the box office — joining Captain America and Thor among Marvel franchises where the second film exceeded the first in ticket sales.
6. Captain America: Civil War (2016) $408,084,349. Unofficially The Avengers 2.5 more than a Captain America film, Civil War was a big hit that proved directors Joe and Anthony Russo were ready to tackle the even more insanely complex Infinity War.
5. Iron Man 3 (2013) $409,013,994. Yup, we were surprised too. Considered one of the weakest Marvel titles, Robert Downey Jr.’s popular character has since only appeared in ensemble films.
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) $459,005,868. Another title that doesn’t top anybody’s list of Marvel favorites, the mash-up sequel underperformed the first Avengers while nonetheless ranking as a massive hit. Like Favreau, director Joss Whedon stepped aside after his sequel underperformed his original.
3. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) $623,357,910. A success on every level and the first Marvel production to generate $1 billion in global ticket sales. Whedon’s The Avengers proved an ambitious ensemble could actually work (plus holds up quite well upon repeat viewing).
2. Avengers: Infinity War (2018): $678,815,482. Infinity War crossed the $1 billion mark globally in a record 11 days, gave us that terrific cliffhanger and, for once, provided a who was just as interesting as the film’s heroes. Still, the No. 1 slot goes to…
1. Black Panther (2018) $700,059,566. An all-quadrant hit — with topical social relevance thrown in — Black Panther has racked up $1.3 billion worldwide. Showing that sometimes audiences and critics agree, Black Panther is also the best-reviewed title on this list (at 97 percent on RT). Black Panther is currently the highest-grossing film in history behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avatar.
Of course, there’s always somebody who tweets, “But what about ticket sales adjusted for inflation?” So here are the MCU titles ranked based on the number of tickets sold instead of how much money each made (spoiler: it’s a pretty similar list given not many years have passed since Iron Man came out):
1. Marvel’s The Avengers
2. Black Panther
3. Avengers: Infinity War
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron
5. Iron Man 3
6. Captain America: Civil War
7. Iron Man
8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
9. Captain Marvel
10. Guardians of the Galaxy
11. Iron Man 2
12. Spider-Man: Homecoming
13. Thor: Ragnarok
14. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
15. Doctor Strange
16. Thor: The Dark World
17. Ant-Man and the Wasp
19. Captain America: The First Avenger
21. The Incredible Hulk