Comic-book fans can argue all day long about which superheroes punch the hardest or fly the fastest without getting a concrete answer (and they do!). When it comes to nailing down which one has the greatest power to put butts in movie-theater seats, however, there are cold, hard statistics and a clear winner.
Using Box Office Mojo’s highly reliable tallies and the Bureau of Labor Statics’ CPI calculator, it’s not only possible to find out which comic-book champion has grossed the most (adjusted for inflation, of course) but to estimate who rakes in the most cash per big-screen outing (no animated films or direct-to-video flicks here).
Note that this ranking only factors in domestic U.S. box-office grosses, as total world figures were not available for some films. As well, the heroes below aren’t listed by profitablity—budgets are not part of these calculations. Oh, and leave your X-Men, Avengers, Squads, and Guardians out of this: we’re not dealing with team movies or cameos here.
While Hulk and The Incredible Hulk both made their money back and then some, a solo Bruce Banner is, by Hollywood standards, dead weight. It’s easy enough to blame that on the quality of the two films, however, and not the green giant himself.
Estimated Total Gross: $325.1 Million
Highest-Grossing Film: Hulk, $173.3 Million
Estimated Per-Film Average: $162.5 Million
Why is it that the hero of one of Hollywood’s biggest earning comic-book franchises can’t break big as a solo star? So far his films have done… well, but he’s still nowhere near as lucrative as his fellow adventurers. Maybe Logan will change all that.
Estimated Total Gross: $339.8 Million
Highest-Grossing Film: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, $202.3 Million
Estimated Per-Film Average: $169.8 Million
Not bad for a little guy. Obscure and somewhat preposterous as he is, tiny Scott Lang was able to bring in a tidy sum.
Estimated Total Gross: $185.5 Million
Highest-Grossing Film: Ant-Man, $185.5 Million
Estimated Per-Film Average: $185.5 Million
While the God of Thunder’s first appearance made a decent, but not massive, splash, Thor: The Dark World took earnings up a considerable step.
Estimated Total Gross: $408.1 Million
Highest-Grossing Film: Thor: The Dark World, $213.8 Million
Estimated Per-Film Average: $204 Million
It’s odd, isn’t it, that the hero who made it possible for comic-book characters to transition to the silver screen isn’t at the top of this list. It is important to remember, though, that the ‘80s saw two box-office bombs when Christopher Reeve was wearing the cape.
Estimated Total Gross: $1.81 Billion
Highest-Grossing Film: Superman, 496.2 Million
Estimated Per-Film Average: $259.1 Million
Every time they give Steve Rogers a film, it grosses more than the last one. Also Cap, just like Thor and the Hulk, is an even bigger earner when in an Avengers film, a series that has grossed $1.12 billion (that’s a $561.4 million per-movie average).
Estimated Total Gross: $862.3 Million
Highest-Grossing Film: Captain America: Civil War, $408 Million
Estimated Per-Film Average: $287.4 Million
Eight films on (including Batman v. Superman), the Dark Knight has grossed more domestically than any other hero out there and has the single highest-grossing film. Thing is, he’s had a couple of relative missteps along the way, so his per-flick average isn’t the greatest.
Estimated Total Gross: $2.87 Billion
Highest-Grossing Film: The Dark Knight, $599.6 Million
Estimated Per-Film Average: $359.8
Perhaps thanks to his R-rated dialogue and high-violence approach to saving the day, the Merc’ With a Mouth started off his solo movie career with a massive hit. Also, with its relatively low budget, it’s one of the profitable films included here.
Estimated Total Gross: $369.8 Million
Highest-Grossing Film: Deadpool, $369.8 Million
Estimated Per-Film Average: $369.8 Million
With five films down and another coming, Spidey is one of the surest bets in Hollywood. Even the worst and lowest earning of this films collected over $200 million domestically.
Estimated Total Gross: $1.86 Billion
Highest-Grossing Film: Spider-Man, $541.7 Million
Estimated Per-Film Average: $372.6 Million
As befitting a vain, heroic billionaire, Tony Stark has earned more per film domestically than any other big-screen superhero ever—and that’s not counting all the damage he’s done in the two Avengers films and Captain America: Civil War.
Estimated Total Gross: $1.12 Billion
Highest-Grossing Film: Iron Man 3, $423.8 Million
Estimated Per-Film Average: $375.5 Million