Want to see how every Marvel movie stacks up against every other? The chart below says it all at a glance. More recent Marvel blockbusters like Avengers I and II, Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War are in a class by themselves at $1 billion or more. Other recent forays like Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy and the other Thor, Captain America and Iron Man standalone flicks wind up in the respectable $500 million range. That’s in sharp contrast to earlier films like Hulk or the X-Men movies, which end in the sub-$500 million range. The Marvel booby-prize category earns under $100 million per film and corrals such Marvel also-rans as Elektra, The Punisher and Howard the Duck.
Not all the Marvel films in the chart below benefit Marvel Studios and Disney. To see how the Marvel movie ownership shakes out, see our full article here on how much money every Marvel movie has raked in.
What happened to make Marvel such an awesome movie making powerhouse? One possible culprit is simply money. Disney bought Marvel Studios for $4 billion in 2009. Until then, Marvel’s only box office successes were the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk with an impressive $263 million and $2009’s Iron Man with $586 million. Those are great money hauls for any movie, but they can’t hold a candle to Avengers’ $1.5 billion. Budgets of between $150 million and $250 million per film are at least partially responsible. There’s no doubt that Marvel couldn’t have had such stratospheric success without spending top dollar for stars like Robert Downey Jr. (wait, there are no stars “like” Robert Downey Jr.) or eye-smashing special effects. (See the latest Dr. Strange trailer for proof.) That said, big movie budgets alone are no guarantee of box office success. For evidence, just take a look at 2015’s Fantastic Four debacle with a $120 million budget and a gross of only $50 million more than that.
Also see: Marvel Movies Are Worth More Than Belize
If big budgets aren’t to blame for Marvel’s financial domination, then what is? It might come down to simply talent. Disney has consistently hired movie makers who know what they are doing, such as the likes of Joss Whedon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame or Kevin Feige, who has helmed every Marvel success since 2000’s X-Men. Then there are writers like Christopher Markus (Thor 2, Winter Soldier, Civil War) and Stephen McFeely (Captain America). In a world stuffed to the equators with one comic book adaptation after another that amount to no more than really strong people throwing each other through one building after another, maybe Marvel’s success comes down to the simple things like character and plot. Perhaps to find the wellspring of Marvel’s money success, one needs to look only as far as one innocent little fact: It’s the story, stupid.