Culture

Battle of the Box Office: Marvel vs. DC Comics

PJ Media collage of promotional images for "Marvel's The Avengers" (2012) and "Justice League" (2017).

After nine years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has grown to dominate the box office, but the new DC Comics Extended Universe has launched a powerful challenge to Marvel’s supremacy. This weekend, “Justice League” launches while “Thor: Ragnarok” is still number one at the box office.

Marvel may have hit after hit, but DC has the first female superhero with her own origin movie — and an amazing one at that. The MCU has racked up an impressive $12.6 billion in worldwide box office receipts. DC Comics’ $3.1 billion seems small in comparison, but its average is only slightly behind Marvel’s. Marvel may have the very best performing films, but it also has quite a few at the bottom of the list.

On average, each MCU film took $788.45 million, while each DC film has won $777 million on average. Marvel has been going longer, but its original films didn’t quite take off as impressively as the more recent ones — and DC Comics heroes (Batman, Superman) tend to be better known.

Without further ado, here is the list of MCU and DC universe films, ranked by their box office receipts.

20. Marvel: “The Incredible Hulk” (2008).

Marvel’s second film was also its worst performer. “The Incredible Hulk” only took $263.4 million in box offices worldwide, $135 million of that in the U.S.

19. Marvel: “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011).

It may seem hard to believe, but the very first Captain America movie did not perform very well, comparatively, at the box office. “Captain America: The First Avenger” took $370.6 million globally ($177 million in the U.S.).

18. Marvel: “Thor” (2011).

Like the first Captain America, the first Thor did not wow audiences, but these early films built the foundation for “Avengers” (2012). “Thor” took $449.3 million globally ($181 million domestic).

17. Marvel: “Ant Man” (2015).

“Ant Man” performed the worst of all Marvel’s “Phase Two” films, taking only $519.3 million globally ($180 million domestic).

16. Marvel: “Iron Man” (2008).

The movie that started it all, “Iron Man” did well at the box office, but not in comparison to the massive MCU and DC Comics universes later to come. “Iron Man” took $585.2 million worldwide ($318 million domestic). Arguably, this film set up the entire franchise, so it could be credited with the entire $12.6 billion and counting…

15. Marvel: “Iron Man 2” (2010).

The first Iron Man sequel built on the first Marvel movie’s success. “Iron Man 2” took in $624 million globally ($312 million domestic).

14. Marvel: “Thor: The Dark World” (2013).

The first Thor sequel did well, but it proved underwhelming after “Avengers.” “Thor: The Dark World” still captured $644.6 million worldwide ($206 million U.S.).

13. DC Comics: “Man of Steel” (2013).

The 2013 Superman reboot might not have been a very good movie, but this first film in the DC extended universe made a strong start for the franchise. “Man of Steel” won $668.1 million globally ($291 million U.S.), beating Marvel’s first film and one of Marvel’s two films that year.

12. Marvel: “Doctor Strange” (2016).

This mind-bending, Eastern mystic take on “Iron Man” featuring Benedict Cumberbatch delivered great entertainment, but compared to other 2016 superhero films it underperformed at the box office. “Doctor Strange” still took $677.7 million worldwide ($232.6 million domestically), however.

11. Marvel: “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2014).

While the first Captain America film underperformed at the box office, its sequel proved impressive, both cinematically and at the bank. “Captain America: Winter Soldier” amassed $714.3 million globally ($260 million in the U.S.). It was one of the strongest of Marvel’s “Phase Two” films, and still ranks on the bottom half of this list.

10. DC Comics: “Suicide Squad” (2016).

Leave it to DC Comics to screw up a movie this bad and still make a killing. “Suicide Squad” was an awful film, but the star power of Will Smith and flashy action carried it to box office success. This third DC extended universe film took $745 million worldwide ($325 million domestically).

9. Marvel: “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).

Fun, hilarious, action-packed, and complete with an awesome ’80s soundtrack, “Guardians of the Galaxy” quickly became a fan favorite. It earned its $773.2 million global (and $333 million domestic) receipts.

8. DC Comics: “Wonder Woman” (2017).

DC Comics’ best film so far, “Wonder Woman” told a female superhero’s origin story with wit, humor, and depth. It arguably deserves a higher ranking, but this list is organized by money, not quality. “Wonder Woman” took $821.7 million worldwide ($412.6 million in the U.S.).

7. Marvel: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017).

The Guardians sequel proved hilarious, action-packed, and rather deep as well. Even so, some still prefer the original. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” took $863.6 million globally ($389.8 million domestically).

6. DC Comics: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016).

The second DC universe film and the first to tease the Justice League, “Batman v Superman” ended up being a hilariously bad movie. Even so, whenever both Batman and Superman are in the title, it’s guaranteed to be a smashing box office success. “Dawn of Justice” took $873.3 million worldwide (and $330.4 million in the U.S.). It is the highest grossing DC movie to date, much to the chagrin of “Wonder Woman” fans.

5. Marvel: “Spiderman: Homecoming” (2017).

If Marvel has any equivalent to Batman or Superman, it’s Spiderman. This is the third iteration of Spidey since the millennium, and even though “Homecoming” is far from a great film (far inferior to “Wonder Woman” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” for instance), it still racked up an impressive $880.1 million worldwide ($334 million domestically). “Homecoming” will likely be 2017’s strongest superhero flick in monetary terms.

4. Marvel: “Captain America: Civil War” (2016).

The third Captain America film felt more like an “Avengers” movie than like a sequel. It delivered a powerful clash of worldviews, fleshing out both sides in a superhero civil war. “Captain America: Civil War” took $1.15 billion globally ($408 million in the U.S.).

3. Marvel: “Iron Man 3” (2013).

The first movie after “Avengers” (2012), this second Iron Man sequel came with a great deal of anticipation, and it delivered. This standout film from 2013 took $1.2 billion worldwide ($409 million domestically).

2. Marvel: “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015).

The Avengers sequel went deep and dark, and while it largely held together, the film didn’t prove as crisp or as developed as “Avengers” or “Civil War.” Even so, it took a second place finish at $1.4 billion worldwide ($459 million domestically).

1. Marvel: “Marvel’s The Avengers” (2012).

This year, the highest grossing film of both franchises turned five years old. “Marvel’s The Avengers” took a whopping worldwide haul of $1.5 billion, with $623.4 million of that coming from the U.S. Despite the fact that ten Marvel movies and four DC movies have released since, “Avengers” has still beaten them all.

How will “Justice League” and “Thor: Ragnarok” fare compared to these? “Ragnarok” has already racked up $665.6 million globally ($225.6 million domestically), and it won’t be leaving theaters anytime soon. If it were to leave theaters tomorrow, “Ragnarok” would rank #13 on this list, slightly better than “Man of Steel” and slightly worse than “Doctor Strange.” Expect it to end up competing with “Wonder Woman” for #8.

As for “Justice League,” DC’s latest film picked up $13 million in Thursday night previews, ahead of “Wonder Woman’s” $11 million Thursday night haul. It still falls behind “Ragnarok” ($14.5 million), “Suicide Squad” ($20.5 million), and “Batman v Superman” ($27.7 million), however. It is too early to tell, but “Justice League” might compete with “Guardians of the Galaxy” for #9.

It looks like Marvel will win this round, and “Black Panther” looks pretty stellar…