“Thor” has swatted away his lilliputian competitors at the box office for a week now, but the norse god fell short of rarified air: superheroes with $100 million opening weekend.
Only four superheroes have accomplished that feat without the help of some supersized colleagues, which got us thinking: where does “Thor” chart in the realm of movie superheroes?
TheWrap has ranked superheroes based on their business potency (principally box office) in the past, present and future. Only superheroes who star in a movie of their own need apply.
If a studio won’t give you a spinoff solo movie, you don’t belong on this list.
That means we have to leave out the “X-Men,” “Fantastic Four” and “The Avengers” (Sorry guys). “Avengers” would obviously top the list, and the “X-Men” are grossly underrepresented. They have proven to be a formidable group at the box office, but only Wolverine can make our list.
While we can’t rank these superhero movies, an individual superhero’s influence upon their movies’ performance at the box office does affect the rankings. For example, “Iron Man” gets a boost from how his own movie’s helped build excitement for “The Avengers.”
Without further ado:
Box office (7 movies): $3.7 billion
This is the easiest decision on the board. Batman is already entering its third era of cinematic success in two and a half decades. Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney starred in a series of movies best remembered for their villains – Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Danny Devito at the Penguin, Jim Carrey as the Riddler. Christopher Nolan then took command of the franchise, creating the most successful superhero trilogy in movie history.
From Christian Bale’s angst-ridden billionaire to Heath Ledger’s indelible performance as the Joker, Nolan’s Batman movies were so successful that their dark, brooding tone infused Zack Snyder’s Superman and spawned several other copycats. Though Nolan moved on to direct other films and Bale left the Batcave for good, Warner Bros. has already brought Batman back for its upcoming “Batman vs. Superman” movie. It even enlisted Ben Affleck, one of the studio’s most important directors, to play Bruce Wayne.
Five different actors will have played Batman by 2015, and the least successful of them all was George Clooney. You know, the Oscar-wining producer, actor and two-time Sexiest Man Alive.
2) Iron Man
Box office (3 movies): $2.4 billion
No superhero has done more for Marvel in recent years. The character’s popularity is a big reason “The Avengers” is the second highest-grossing movie of all-time, and the success of “The Avengers” then fueled “Iron Man 3” to $1.2 billion in grosses this year. That’s the most any single superhero has made at the box office.
While not the most popular Avenger before the films were made, Iron Man has separated himself from the rest of the crime-fighting group. “Thor” and “Captain America” sequels will struggle to touch the peak of “Iron Man 2” – let alone the third. Robert Downey. Jr. was the only actor with enough clout to hold out over his contract because he knew Marvel would do almost anything to keep him for future films.
That contract dispute also reveals a future weakness. Fans associate Iron Man with Downey, so where does Marvel go when it needs another actor to play Tony Stark?
It signed Downey for two more Avengers movies, but there are no more Iron Man movies in his future.
Box office (4 movies): $3.3 billion
Mock Sony all you want for rebooting a movie franchise just five years after it ended, but can you blame them? The first “Spider-Man” movie broke the record for the biggest opening weekend in history when it opened in 2002. “Spider-Man 3” came along and set a new record in 2007.
When it came time to take another whack at Spidey, Sony knocked it out of the park by hiring director Marc Webb and casting Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the lead roles. Sure it told a familiar story, but would you rather look at Garfield and Stone flirt or watch Tobey Maguire whimper?
“Amazing Spider-Man” was Sony’s biggest hit in 2012, and the sequel is bound to stand out next summer in a season devoid of many major franchises.
See Photos: 12 of the Whitest Superheroes in the Universe
Box office (6 movies): $1.4 billion
You can’t top Superman’s potential. Warner Bros. and DC have struggled to make Superman movies for the past decade. Some find the character too perfect — or boring — for a film when the aforementioned trio are plagued by character defects.
Yet the studio finally scored the hit it needed this summer. “Man of Steel” laid the foundation for many years and films to come. First up is “Batman vs. Superman,” in which Henry Cavill will reprise his role as Clark Kent opposite Affleck. The studio has plans for a Justice League movie, as well as offshoots for other members of that group. But a lot depends on Superman. If Cavill can anchor a major franchise and prove that Superman isn’t too boring for prime time, Superman could vault his way up this list.
Box office (2 movies): $789 million / X-Men (4 movies): $2.3 billion
This character has been involved in more hits over the past 15 years than anyone else on this list. Hugh Jackman has now played Wolverine in six films with a seventh due out next year, and every single one of them has worked. Yet Wolverine’s ceiling is lower than everyone above him. Neither “Wolverine” movie has topped $400 million at the worldwide box office, and the “X-Men” movies have succeeded whether or not Logan had a huge role. The man of many sideburns is take-out Chinese: solid but unspectacular. The “X-Men”? They’re exceptional.
Box office (2 movies): $791 million and counting
Thor has already cracked a puzzle that troubled many superheroes before him – the overseas audience. “Thor: The Dark World” opened in several foreign markets before it hit theaters in the States, and it has already drummed up more than $34o worldwide. That puts “Thor” on track to beat several “X-Men” movies and fall just short of “Man of Steel.” Here’s big question for the superfans: do you count Loki in this evaluation? Thor’s conniving, simpering brother has been the breakout star of the first two films, and Marvel likes him so much it signed him up for five films in 2011.
7) Captain America
Box office (1 movie): $367.6 million
Marvel could have left this character alone. He’s a relic of a bygone era, a soldier in the era of drones. How could modern audiences connect with him? Yet the studio successfully relaunched the Cap the same year it brought back Thor. Both of them grossed around $180 million at the domestic box office. The difference came overseas, where “Thor” grossed an extra $75 million. That’s why Thor bests his shield-wielding amigo – even if the Russo brothers’ sequel looks fantastic.
Box office (2 movies): $508.8 million
Mark Ruffalo was the standout of “The Avengers” movie as Bruce Banner, which is the only reason he ranks this high. Both previous “Hulk” movies underwhelmed both commercially and critically. Yet “The Avengers” has already turned “Thor” into a monster global hit, so who’s to say it won’t do the same for the green fella.
9) Wonder Woman
Warner Bros. and DC have not formally announced a Wonder Woman movie, but they certainly want one. There are already rumors she will appear in “Batman vs. Superman” to set the table both for a Justice League film and her own spin-off. This entire list consists of male superheroes, so it would be great to see a woman grab a lead and bring in some new fans.
There is no record to look at for this one, and Marvel may not even have more than one movie in the works. Yet this makes the list for a simple reason: Edgar Wright is fantastic director.
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