What Are The Lowest Grossing Major Superhero Movies Ever made?

Put Spider-Man, The Incredibles, Thor, Marvel, Batman, Batman, Superman, Captain America into any movie and it will sell.

Whilst superhero movies technically date all the way back to the infancy of cinema, it wasn’t until recently that they started to become the cultural phenomenon that they are today. However, not all of them fare well financially, as can be seen in The Numbers’ chart of box office results of all superhero movies.

In the case of critically panned disasters like 1984’s Supergirl, it’s not a surprise (nor much of a tragedy) that they bombed. In the case of fan-favorite cult classics like Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, though, it’s a much sadder thing to think about. If anything, these movies prove that the superhero genre formula isn’t a surefire recipe for success.

10 A Cool Premise Turned Into a So-So Film — ‘Brightburn’ (2019)

Brightburn revolves around the interesting premise of “what if Superman was evil?”. In the movie, a child from another world crash-lands on Earth, but proves to be a sinister prospect for the future of humanity.

On paper, it sounds like a scary and suspenseful story to explore, with lots of potentially nuanced themes. The end result wasn’t exactly a trainwreck, since many critics and audience members thought that it had many elements going for it, but it didn’t live up to its full potential. In any case, it made $33,183,640 USD worldwide—Not bad at all compared to its $7 million dollar budget, but also not good enough to launch a big superhero franchise.

9 Crime’s New Enemy, Justice’s New Face — ‘Darkman’ (1990)

Sam Raimi is no stranger to the superhero genre, having ventured into it with his Spider-Man trilogy and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. His first approach to the genre was in 1990, with the moderately successful Darkman.

The movie made $32,942,739 dollars on a $14 million budget, pretty decent earnings largely thanks to the movie’s outstanding promotional campaign. It’s not a crazy number in comparison to what most superhero movies make today, but they helped cement Darkman as a fun hidden gem loved by fans of the genre.

8 A Tonal Mess Based on a Legendary Character — ‘The Shadow’ (1994)

The Shadow is based on the iconic crime-fighting vigilante of the same name, originally a radio show character and eventually the protagonist of several pulp fiction magazine stories and some comic strips.

The superhero is a widely beloved character. Sadly, the film didn’t really live up to that. It tries too hard to emulate movies like Dick Tracy and Tim Burton‘s Batman, succeeding at neither. Because of this, it made only $31,835,600 from a $40 million dollar budget.

7 A Snappy But Divisive Superhero Story — ‘The Phantom’ (1996)

Based on the comic strip of the same name, The Phantom is about the successor of a long line of African superheroes, and his journey to New York to stop a criminal mastermind from obtaining the secret to absolute power.

Nowadays, there are some fans who forgive the movie’s noteworthy flaws and enjoy it for its campy story, adventurous atmosphere, and mustache-twirling villain. But back when it came out, not many people showed up, since it made a measly $17,220,599 USD worldwide from a $45 million dollar budget.

6 Cartoon Classic Saving the World Before Bedtime — ‘The Powerpuff Girls Movie’ (2002)

Based on the popular Cartoon Network animated series, The Powerpuff Girls Movie tells the story of how the titular sisters obtain their powers, become superheroes, and join forces to defeat the evil mutant monkey Mojo Jojo.

The movie is energetic and cute, perfectly enjoyable for audiences who grew up with the show. It has a surprisingly mature story and profoundly endearing characters, but it only made $16,425,701 at the box office from a budget of $25 million dollars. Not even fans of the series were able to save the day.

5 A Forgotten Superhero Movie, for Good Reason — ‘Supergirl’ (1984)

This movie about Superman’s cousin Kara and her fight against a wicked witch on Earth has fallen into superhero movie history oblivion, and that may just be for the best. It’s widely considered one of the worst outings in the genre.

Despite its $35 million dollar budget (of which it only made back $14,296,438), the movie looks extremely cheap and lifeless. It’s dull, it’s boring, it lacks a sense of urgency, and the dialogue is laughable. However, it also has a great Jerry Goldsmith score going for it, and Helen Slater is quite alright in the title role, so it’s not an absolute waste of time.

4 They May Have Saved the World, But Not Their Box Office Numbers — ‘Zoom’ (2006)

Zoom stars Tim Allen as an auto shop owner who was once a superhero, tasked by the government with turning a ragtag group of super-powered kids into the new generation of heroes.

Other notable movies in director Peter Hewitt‘s curriculum are Garfield: The Movie and Home Alone: The Holiday Heist. As you might expect, Zoom isn’t any better. Instead, it’s offensively dumb and entirely forgettable. Audiences apparently thought so, too, since the movie just made $12,506,188 USD from a budget of $76 million.

3 Painful Punishment for Audiences’ Eyes — ‘Punisher: War Zone’ (2008)

The third-ever Punisher movie was Punisher: War Zone, where the title character (played by Ray Stevenson) sets his sights on the overeager mob boss Billy Russoti, a.k.a. Jigsaw.

There are some who say that War Zone isn’t as bad as the 1989 or 2004 adaptations of the character, but that isn’t really saying much. The consensus seems to be that the movie is over-the-top and awfully generic, as proved by the fact that it earned only $10,157,534 dollars, and its budget was $35 million.

2 The Biggest Crime In Superhero Cinema History — ‘Batman: Mask of the Phantasm’ (1993)

Mask of the Phantasm isn’t just an amazing Batman movie: For some, it’s the best Batman movie ever, period. It’s a noir-like character study where, at the same time as a new masked vigilante arrives in Gotham, an old lover of Bruce Wayne’s returns to town.

The movie was rushed into theaters and dismally marketed by the studio, which was probably why it only made $5,635,204 USD from a $6 million dollar budget. Despite this, it has stood the test of time as a fan-favorite cult classic with a genius screenplay, beautiful directing, an amazing score, and astonishingly great voice acting from the best Batman ever, the late Kevin Conroy.

1 It’s Hammer Time! — ‘Steel’ (1997)

Gather around for a story, kids. Once upon a time, basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal was one of the many athletes to dip their toes into the art of acting. The result was a sad tragedy which birthed the famously atrocious Steel, about a scientist who turns himself into a superhero when his superweapons are used by a villain.

Shaq couldn’t act even if his life depended on it, and the rest of the cast isn’t much better. The writing is bad, the effects look cheap, and the one-liners are cringe-worthy. Although some viewers enjoy the movie for its dumbness and camp, it made just $1,686,429 dollars at the worldwide box office, a ridiculous number even without comparing it to the movie’s $16 million dollar budget.

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Lee Clarke
Lee Clarke
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