The superhero genre is one of the most successful in the movie industry’s history. It has been dominated by a small number of franchises, which include Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America, Ironman and Superman. As measured by total U.S box office receipts of the top 20 superhero movies, 14 are based on one or more of these characters.
The list of the top 20 superhero movies, according to Box Office Mojo:
Rank Studio Lifetime Gross Year of Releases
1 Marvel’s The Avengers BV $623,357,910 2012
2 The Dark Knight WB $534,858,444 2008
3 Avengers: Age of Ultron BV $459,005,868 2015
4 The Dark Knight Rises WB $448,139,099 2012
5 Iron Man 3 BV $409,013,994 2013
6 Captain America: Civil War BV $408,084,349 2016
7 Spider-Man Sony $403,706,375 2002
8 Spider-Man 2 Sony $373,585,825 2004
9 Deadpool Fox $363,070,709 2016
10 Spider-Man 3 Sony $336,530,303 2007
11 Guardians of the Galaxy BV $333,176,600 2014
12 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice WB $330,360,194 2016
13 Suicide Squad WB $325,100,054 2016
14 Iron Man Par. $318,412,101 2008
15 Iron Man 2 Par. $312,433,331 2010
16 Man of Steel WB $291,045,518 2013
17 The Amazing Spider-Man Sony $262,030,663 2012
18 The Incredibles BV $261,441,092 2004
19 Captain America: The Winter Soldier BV $259,766,572 2014
20 Batman WB $251,188,924 1989
Batman and Spider-Man in particular show how long-lived movies based one character can be. The first Batman movie in the list was released in 1989 and the most recent in 2016. The first Spider-Man movie on the list was released in 2012.
One other notable fact is that movies that involve the same set of superheros also dominate the list of the top 50 superheros. Eight of the films in the genre are in the numbers 21 to 50 positions based on U.S. gross.
Buena Vista is part of Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) and shows the genius of the Disney purchase of Marvel Entertainment in 2009. Buena Vista films represent seven of the top 20 movies. And, DC Comics has been part of Time Warner Inc.’s (NYSE: TWX) Warner Bros. studio since 1968. The value of the purchase shows up on the top 20 list as well. Six of the films on the list were produced by Warner Bros., and all but two are part of the Batman franchise.
In a sign of how much studios can milk these franchises, a new Batman movie is due in 2018. Spider-Man: Homecoming is due out in 2019.