10 Marvel Movies That Totally Flopped (And 10 That Were Surprising Hits)
Today, Marvel movies carry a ton of weight with them. Everyone expects them to be a huge hit, but not all of the movies by this studio are amazing. In fact, some of them are downright flops. They may not be as bad as DC’s Green Lantern, but they’re up there. Some of the movies flirt dangerously close, actually.
It’s hard to name them since we’re all used to the Avengers, but even that was much more successful than the studio expected. Let’s just say the hits on this list likely earned quite a few people a nice, fat bonus. On the other hand, these flops got people fired. Can you imagine making a movie so bad that you get fired for it? Well, you’ll soon understand.
For this list, we’re not necessarily going by which movie made money because even some of these flops broke even. Instead, we’re going by the film’s lasting impression. Do we watch it today and cringe? Do we seek it out after two decades? A movie’s lasting impression makes a huge impact.
These are 10 marvel movies that were total flops, and 10 that were surprising hits.
All facts and figures via Wikipedia.
Flopped: Hulk (2003)
With She-Hulk getting a lot of news lately about the CGI, we thought we should bring up the original Hulk from 2003 with Eric Bana. This was way before our beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe was even thought of, which partially explains why Disney and Marvel chose not to bring Eric Bana back.
The other glaring reason people didn’t bring him back was that the movie wasn’t good. After the movie came out, it received very mixed reviews. Most people said that the movie focused more on visual effects than the actual story. That explains the $137 million budget, at least. The crazy thing is that it earned $245 million at the box office. Still, it was a flop, and the sequel was axed.
Hit: Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Despite the fact that Spider-Man 3 is often billed as the movie that killed the Spider-Man series – Andrew Garfield’s version, anyway – the movie was technically a hit financially. It promised to bring Venom into the universe, and people were absolutely excited. That’s why they flocked to the theaters and spent nearly $900 million worldwide.
That’s fantastic on a budget of $250 million to $350 million. Unfortunately, Sony pushed director Sam Raimi into including Venom in the first place when he had wanted to focus on Sandman. That’s exactly why his special effects are so great compared to everything else. It caused the film to seem too disjointed, making people Peter Parker dance out of the theater.
Flop: Elektra (2005)
Elektra did one thing right, and one thing only: it made Jennifer Garner look pretty sexy. That’s literally all it did. Everything else about the movie was pretty bad. The response after it was released was savage, with one critic writing, “Plays like a collision between leftover bits and pieces of Marvel superhero stories. It can't decide what tone to strike.”
After all was said and done, it actually did real harm to some actors’ careers. Film Critic Scott Mendelson blamed Elektra for ruining Jennifer Garner’s career as well as the female-led superhero genre for over a decade. The next female-led Marvel movie wouldn’t release until Captain Marvel in 2019. For DC, they didn’t chance it until 2017’s Wonder Woman.
Hit: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The Guardians of the Galaxy was a risky move, but it more than paid off. The film wasn’t quite like the others that had been released previously. While those are more serious, Guardians of the Galaxy was all about being funny and silly. It managed to do so without crossing over into kiddish territory, too.
Because of that, its rumored Suicide Squad was modeled after Guardians of the Galaxy. The fact that Suicide Squad bombed shows that when you know what you’re doing (and you do it well), you can create an amazing movie. Guardians had a budget of $232 million and made $772 million. Less than most Marvel films but still a huge hit.
Flop: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
I’m not here to say that Avengers: Age of Ultron lost money. In fact, it more than exceeded its budget by $1 billion. However, the movie is widely considered to be a flop, especially since Joss Whedon spoke out about it as soon as he could. Whedon stated that the movie didn’t turn out how it should have due to studio conflicts with editors and execs.
Whedon had to fight to keep some scenes in, and all this conflict ended up being reflected in the final cut of the movie. By far, it’s one of the worst (if not the worst) MCU movies to release to date. The sad thing is, it could have been much better if Marvel and Disney listened to those truly involved in the movie. Guess they can’t all be winners.
Hit: Logan (2017)
Logan was hard to watch, but it wasn’t because the movie was bad. On the contrary, it was amazing. The hard part was it was basically Hugh Jackman saying goodbye to the franchise. He decided it was time to hang up the claws. While sad, everyone did a great job on the film. Plus, we were introduced to X-23.
Everyone was still not sure R-Rated superhero movies could make money since they supposedly “limited the audience.” Logan proved them wrong. The film only cost $127 million but made $619 million. It became the third-highest-grossing R-rated film at the time of its release. This (plus Deadpool) is why we’ll have more R-Rated superhero movies in the future.
Flop: Dark Phoenix (2019)
Dark Phoenix came at a time when 20th Century Fox regrettably let go of the X-Men franchise. Disney and Marvel purchased the rights, but Fox just had to release this abomination. Not all the X-Men movies from 20th Century were bad, but this one was easily the worst.
Some claimed the movie was poorly pandering to female audiences, while others thought it was poorly written. Either way, it didn’t connect with audiences. Not many were happy with the casting either. At the end of the day, the film made merely $250 million on a $200 million budget – definitely not a win.
Hit: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
By the time Thanos stepped onto the scene, everyone was glued to the screen. We had to see what happened with Thanos, and well, we got just that. Audiences all over the world packed in like sardines to see the World’s Mightiest Heroes defeat Thanos. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that. They lost, and the Blip happened.
It was hard for fans to swallow, but it really boosted the numbers for the upcoming film (which would be the biggest ever for Marvel). Infinity War was praised by critics and audiences alike, and it ended up earning over $2 billion on a $400 million budget. When you just get it, you get it. It wasn't surprising that this was a hit. It was surprising how much dough it made.
Flop: Fantastic Four (2015)
The original Fantastic Four was acceptable – no, I won’t be taking that back. The only redeeming quality was Chris Evans, who later became Captain America. In 2015, 20th Century Fox tried to reboot the series, and…this is what we got. Critics tore it a new one, saying it was the “cinematic equivalent of malware.” Yikes.
There were continuity errors, poor writing, and overall bad filmmaking. It was obvious to everyone that this was a ploy to grab some money before Disney took over (and turned it into something actually good). It barely broke even at the box office, but the damage to the franchise was there. We’re not sure Fantastic Four can come back.
Hit: Deadpool (2016)
Deadpool was a movie everyone had waited years for, and I mean that quite literally. It was teased in the early 2000s, with a leaked script of the movie being released in 2010. Ryan Reynolds had to fight tooth and nail to get one of our favorite antiheroes on the big screen, and it was eventually greenlit with a tiny budget of $58 million.
Everyone involved proved 20th Century Fox wrong. It made a historic $284.5 million on opening weekend worldwide. Over time, it would end up earning $782 million. Naturally, the second was given the go-ahead with a slightly bigger budget of $110 million. In turn, it earned $785 million. Overall? Huge success.
Flop: Blade: Trinity (2004)
Blade had already started going downhill by the time Trinity came out, and that’s a real shame. The character was pretty amazing, but the movie was doomed from the start. The director that was originally chosen dropped out, and then Snipes began to sue New Line Cinema, claiming he didn’t get his full salary.
The real problem with the movie was that it just didn’t live up to its predecessors. It took everything everyone loved about it and dialed it up to 11. It was campier, louder, and just…not great. Ryan Reynolds was the shining character, but he was pretty much playing Deadpool before the movie came out. Still, it made money. It cost $65 million and made $132 million.
Hit: Captain America: Civil War (2016)
What is there to say about Captain America: Civil War? The movie was absolutely phenomenal. It followed our heroes as they split in agreement over what was morally correct – and whether Bucky deserved to be apprehended by the government. The conflict was so juicy that audiences couldn’t look away.
We all wanted to see Iron Man and Captain America duke it out, but another huge selling point? The introduction of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. That alone probably sold a crap-ton of tickets. The film cost just $250 million to make and easily banked over $1.1 billion. Even today, it’s one of the best Marvel movies (and will always be).
Flop: Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
Poor Love and Thunder wasn’t given the love it deserved. We’re not sure where the movie went wrong, but critics and audiences have called it one of the worst movies to come out of Disney in over a decade. That’s rough! It’s so bad that Disney has decided to cut Taika Waititi from further Thor projects. Is that fair?
Financially, the movie made a profit. It had a budget of $250 million, and it made $758 million. However, people complained that it was too woke, too forgettable, and too...boring. Overall, it wasn’t an awful film, but considering the Thor films before it, it fell a little flat. It’ll be hard for the series to bounce back.
Hit: Iron Man 3 (2013)
Personally, Iron Man 3 was the weakest of all the Iron Man movies, but it was still pretty good. It discussed a post-Avengers movie where Tony Stark had to deal with the PTSD of…well, aliens trying to destroy the world led by an Asgardian God. It was huge that the movie explored his anxiety, and it made millions doing it.
The movie cost just $200 million to make, but it made $1.215 billion, but not everyone loved it. Some critics said it was a little too childish and that the “motivation” was “murky” but, it was still a massive hit in Marvel’s book. It was the last of the Iron Man films, which audiences were sad to say goodbye to.
Flop: Howard the Duck (1986)
Howard the Duck was weird. Actually, it was more than weird, and execs knew that. Back when there were test screenings, audiences were mixed. It didn’t help that there were a lot of issues behind the camera, making production pretty much impossible. That isn’t the only reason it became the worst film of all time, but it certainly didn’t help.
Howard the Duck was nominated for seven Razzie awards and won four of those. Somehow, the film managed to break even. It cost about $37 million to make and earned $38 million. The worst part is that Marvel considered making another Howard the Duck movie. Yikes. You’d think they’d learn their lesson.
Hit: Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther was an absolutely amazing movie, but it was so much more than that. It proved that African American narratives had the ability to generate profits. This movie connected with audiences all over the world, representing an otherwise underrepresented group. Needless to say, it was a hit in more ways than one.
The film cost $200 million but banked over $1.3 billion worldwide. Sadly, the star of the film passed away, but his legacy was just starting. This film would turn into a franchise by casting Letitia Wright as the new Black Panther. The film got put on pause due to COVID, but it’s back in full swing.
Flop: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)
The first Ghost Rider wasn’t that great, but it wasn’t awful. We knew what to expect with Nicholas Cage, and it seemed like some effort was put into it. However, the second one? Not so much. Spirit of Vengeance was awful, and the CGI was much worse than the original – which honestly makes zero sense.
The movie ended up being so awful that it was nominated (and won) a Razzie. Saying this film was off-the-wall crazy is being a little too subtle. Nicholas Cage had one thing to say about it: “Personally, I’m done.” We don’t blame him. Somehow, the movie made a profit, but the franchise was pretty much over (until they cast someone new and revamp it).
Hit: Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Was Endgame a hit? I didn’t notice – joking, of course. Avengers: Endgame actually sits as the second highest-grossing film ever. That’s a huge accomplishment, but it was expected by the time Marvel Studios reached this point. The Avengers films were massive, with the previous ones also breaking records.
Everyone flocked to the theater to catch the end of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It had been a two-decade-long journey, and the movie was freaking amazing. Theaters were packed for weeks, and the movie made over $2.7 billion on a $400 million budget. Marvel hit gold with this film.
Flop: The Punisher (2004)
Today, we know about the great Punisher series starring Jon Bernthal and Ben Barnes, but the franchise had a bit of a rough start thanks to the 2004 Punisher movie. It started out with a low, low budget of $33 million, which really put restraints on what the producers and director could and couldn’t do. Just to compare, Spider-Man came out two years prior and had a $139 million budget.
The movie ended up making its money back and ranked #2 that weekend, but the hype died down pretty quickly. Critics tore it apart, saying that the movie was “laughably silly” yet “depressingly” routine. They complained the cast was awful and failed to reach up to other movies of the same genre.
Hit: The Avengers (2012)
While Iron Man was the start of major comic book movies that made huge profits, The Avengers was what really showed everyone (including Disney) what they can really do. Everyone watched as The Avengers began to dominate the box office week after week. Today, it’s one of the highest-grossing films ever.
For Disney, it remains in the top five, but if you consider every movie, it’s in the top 10! Pretty shocking, right? It has made over $1.5 billion worldwide, which is fantastic considering it had a budget of $220 million. Talk about that return on investment! It makes sense why Disney doesn’t want to let go of comic book films.