What Were The Lowest-Grossing Movies In The MCU?

In the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s easy to assume that each film will become a box office hit. History, however, has proven this presumption to be wrong. While no MCU movie has ever failed to make back its budget and generate additional revenue (until recently), several films have fallen short of box office expectations.



That being said, box office success doesn’t necessarily equate to the overall quality of a film. Timing a release just right is critical, and missing the ideal window for a movie can severely hamper its results. Thankfully, reviews, audience ratings, and box office figures can provide valuable insight into the overall success of these less heralded and sometimes forgotten-about films in the MCU canon.

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10 Iron Man

Iron Man 2008 movie poster with Iron Man looming behind Tony Stark

Iron Man

After being held captive in an Afghan cave, billionaire engineer Tony Stark creates a unique weaponized suit of armor to fight evil.

Release Date
May 2, 2008

Director
Jon Favreau

Cast
Robert Downey Jr. , gwyneth paltrow , Terrence Howard , Jeff Bridges , Leslie Bibb , Shaun Toub

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
126 minutes

Genres
Superhero , Action , Adventure , Sci-Fi

Writers
Mark Fergus , Hawk Ostby , Art Marcum , Matt Holloway

Studio
Marvel Studios

Year

2008

Budget:

$140 Million

Opening Weekend:

$98.6 Million

Domestic Box Office:

$319 Million

Worldwide Box Office:

$585 Million

The MCU’s journey began in 2008 with a gamble called Iron Man. Despite surprisingly not reaching the billion-dollar mark that some fans might have assumed the progenitor of such a successful film franchise would achieve, the film’s $585.8 Million worldwide gross was nothing to shake a stick at.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark laid the foundation for what would come, making Iron Man not just a movie but one of the most important cultural touchstones of the past generation. Looking back, its $140 Million budget was a fraction of current Marvel productions, which underlines the film’s incredible success. It might not be the highest-grossing MCU film ever, but it’s arguably the most important.

9 Ant-Man

Ant-Man Film Poster

Ant-Man

Release Date
July 17, 2015

Director
Peyton Reed

Cast
Paul Rudd , Michael Douglas , Corey Stoll , Evangeline Lilly , Bobby Cannavale , Anthony Mackie

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
117 minutes

Main Genre
Superhero

Genres
Action , Adventure , Superhero , Sci-Fi

Studio
Marvel

Year:

2015

Budget:

$130 Million

Opening Weekend:

$57.2 Million

Domestic Box Office:

$180.2 Million

Worldwide Box Office:

$519.3 Million

With a relatively modest $130 Million budget, Ant-Man still managed to carve out its niche from the MCU. Despite the film’s lower stakes, Paul Rudd’s performance as Scott Lang captivated audiences and ensured that the rewatchable factor for this film was remarkably high.

Not every MCU film can hinge on the universe’s fate, and Ant-Man showed that there was a charm to be mined out of a more intimate, character-driven affair. Despite a troubled production history that included director Edgar Wright dropping out to be replaced by Peyton Reed, this film still managed to pull in a worldwide gross of $519 Million, proving that success can come in many different sizes.

8 Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania

ant-man and the wasp quantumania poster

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Release Date
February 17, 2023

Director
Peyton Reed

Cast
Paul Rudd , Evangeline Lilly , Jonathan Majors , Kathryn Newton , Michael Douglas , Michelle Pfeiffer , David Dastmalchian , Bill Murray , Corey Stoll

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
124 Minutes

Genres
Superhero , Action

Writers
jeff loveness

Studio
Marvel Studios

Franchise
Marvel Cinematic Universe

Prequel
Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp

Cinematographer
William Pope

Producer
Kevin Feige, Stephen Broussard

Production Company
Marvel Studios

Year:

2023

Budget:

$200 Million

Opening Weekend:

$106.1 Million

Domestic Box Office:

$214.5 Million

Worldwide Box Office:

$476.1 Million

The third installment in the Ant-Man series, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, fell short of the financial, critical, and audience demands set by its predecessors. With a hefty $200 Million budget, the film earned just $476 Million, making it the MCU’s biggest box office disappointment relative to expectations.

Context, however, is essential. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was released shortly after the coronavirus pandemic. So, it is hard to know whether superhero fatigue was responsible for this failure or that it was simply a result of the world still growing accustomed to returning to movie theaters. Regardless, the film failed to match the success of the previous entries, and not even the introduction of Kang the Conquerer could propel this film to the necessary heights.

7 Thor

The Cast of Thor

Thor

The powerful but arrogant god Thor is cast out of Asgard to live amongst humans in Midgard (Earth), where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.

Release Date
May 6, 2011

Director
Kenneth Branagh

Cast
Chris Hemsworth , Natalie Portman , Tom Hiddleston , Kat Dennings , Stellan Skarsgård , Idris Elba , Clark Gregg , Colm Feore

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
115 minutes

Main Genre
Superhero

Genres
Superhero , Action , Fantasy

Writers
Ashley Miller , Zack Stentz , Don Payne , J. Michael Straczynski , Mark Protosevich

Year:

2011

Budget:

$150 Million

Opening Weekend:

$65.7 Million

Domestic Box Office:

$181 Million

Worldwide Box Office:

$449.3 Million

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Directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, the first Thor unfolds like a Shakespearean drama set within the fantastical realms of Asgard and Midgard. Centered on the familial conflicts of Thor, Loki, and Odin, the film’s stellar performances didn’t entirely lead to broader success.

With a $150 Million budget, the film ultimately earned nearly $450 Million at the box office, a figure that its subsequent sequels would surpass. While Thor’s box office figures might pale compared to later MCU entries, solid reviews and positive word of mouth led to commendable financial success, especially when contrasted against the other early films in the MCU.

6 Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Fiml Poster

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi, the master of weaponry-based Kung Fu, is forced to confront his past after being drawn into the Ten Rings organization.

Release Date
September 3, 2021

Director
Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast
Simu Liu , Awkwafina , Tony Leung Chiu Wai , Ben Kingsley , Meng’er Zhang , Fala Chen

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
132 minutes

Writers
Dave Callaham , Destin Daniel Cretton , Andrew Lanham

Year:

2021

Budget:

$150 Million

Opening Weekend:

$75.4 Million

Domestic Box Office:

$224.5 Million

Worldwide Box Office:

$432.2 Million

In 2021, the MCU began to face real challenges at the box office, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings proved to be the canary in the coal mine. Released at the height of the pandemic, the film garnered generally positive reviews but struggled to find viewers to fill seats due to pandemic-related concerns.

Shang-Chi’s relative obscurity as a character also undoubtedly contributed to this lack of financial success. A lighthearted tone and exciting visuals didn’t do much to help, and this film failed to reach its ideal box-office numbers, even if some consider it one of the franchise’s most underrated gems.

5 Eternals

The cast on the poster for Marvel's Eternals

Eternals

The saga of the Eternals, a race of immortal beings who lived on Earth and shaped its history and civilizations.

Release Date
November 5, 2021

Director
Chloé Zhao

Cast
Angelina Jolie , Gemma Chan , Richard Madden , Salma Hayek , Kit Harington , Kumail Nanjiani , Lia McHugh , Brian Tyree Henry

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
156 minutes

Main Genre
Superhero

Genres
Action , Adventure , Fantasy , Superhero

Writers
Chloé Zhao , Patrick Burleigh , Ryan Firpo

Year:

2021

Budget:

$200 Million

Opening Weekend:

$71.3 Million

Domestic Box Office:

$164.9 Million

Worldwide Box Office:

$402.06 Million

Much like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals was also released amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting it behind the eight-ball from the start in achieving the MCU’s customary box office success. Directed by Chloé Zhao and boasting a star-studded cast including Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, and Richard Madden, Eternals carried high expectations that it failed to meet.

Eternals’ complex narrative and lack of audience familiarity didn’t help, resulting in the film falling short of the half-a-billion mark. Unlike Shang-Chi, negative reviews from critics and audiences alike no doubt dampened its reception. Many fans felt the story might have been better served as a television series. Ultimately, Eternals failed in more ways than just box office returns.

4 Black Widow

Natasha Romanoff and the cast on the poster for Black Widow

Black Widow

Natasha Romanoff confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises.

Release Date
July 9, 2021

Director
Cate Shortland

Cast
Scarlett Johansson , Florence Pugh , Rachel Weisz , David Harbour

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
134 minutes

Main Genre
Action

Writers
Eric Pearson , Jac Schaeffer , Ned Benson

Year:

2021

Budget:

$200 Million

Opening Weekend:

$80.4 Million

Domestic Box Office:

$183.6 Million

Worldwide Box Office:

$379.7 Million

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Perhaps no MCU film’s box-office success is more complicated to parse than Black Widow. Released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ during the pandemic, the film’s box office fate stands as a stark reminder of the impact timing can have on a movie’s success. Moreover, the film arrived after Black Widow had already been killed off during the events of Avengers: Endgame, leaving fans less invested in this story set during the fallout of Captain America: Civil War.

Despite being Scarlett Johansson’s long-awaited solo adventure, Black Widow also suffered from sharing its spotlight with several new characters like Yelena Belova, played by Florence Pugh, and the Red Guardian, played by David Harbour. With a worldwide haul of $379 Million against a $200 Million budget, it’s hard to call Black Widow a failure, especially with everything it was up against, but it was undoubtedly a financial disappointment.

3 Captain America: The First Avenger

Chris Evans as Captain America on Captain America The First Avenger Poster

Captain America: The First Avenger

Steve Rogers, a rejected military soldier, transforms into Captain America after taking a dose of a “Super-Soldier serum”. But being Captain America comes at a price as he attempts to take down a warmonger and a terrorist organization.

Release Date
July 22, 2011

Director
Joe Johnston

Cast
Chris Evans , Haley Atwell , Sebastian Stan , Samuel L. Jackson , Hugo Weaving , Stanley Tucci

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
124 minutes

Main Genre
Superhero

Writers
Christopher Markus , Stephen McFeely , Joe Simon

Studio
Marvel

Year:

2011

Budget:

$140 Million

Opening Weekend:

$65 Million

Domestic Box Office:

$176.7 Million

Worldwide Box Office:

$370.6 Million

Captain America might have had a pivotal role in shaping the MCU, but his first solo adventure remains one of the franchise’s least financially successful entries. Set primarily during World War II, the film’s historical setting potentially contributed to its failure to connect to modern-day audiences.

With a budget of $140 Million, Captain America: The First Avenger earned $370 Million worldwide. While not considered a failure at its release, those numbers would cause significant hand-wringing if it happened to a Marvel property today. That being said, those metrics were still good enough to make this film one of the highest-grossing WWII films ever made, which gives this movie historical significance within the MCU.

2 The Incredible Hulk

Edward Norton in front of the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk

Bruce Banner, a scientist on the run from the U.S. Government, must find a cure for the monster he turns into whenever he loses his temper.

Release Date
June 13, 2008

Director
Louis Leterrier

Cast
Edward Norton , Liv Tyler , Tim Roth , William Hurt

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
112 minutes

Writers
Zak Penn , Stan Lee , Jack Kirby

Studio
NBC Universal

Year:

2008

Budget:

$150 Million

Opening Weekend:

$55.4 Million

Domestic Box Office:

$134.8 Million

Worldwide Box Office:

$264.8 Million

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Easily the most forgotten-about entry in the MCU, The Incredible Hulk continues to feel detached from the rest of the franchise, mainly due to Edward Norton’s one-off performance as Bruce Banner. Featuring a distinctly different take than Mark Ruffalo would later adopt, Norton’s presence in this film can’t help but make the movie feel like a misfit toy in the MCU playchest.

Directed by Louis Leterrier, the film received mixed reviews and only amassed $264 Million at the global box office. That type of performance wasn’t a red flag back in 2008. Still, there’s almost no question arriving just five years after Ang Lee’s interpretation of the Hulk’s origins hampered financial returns. Unlike its fellow Phase One counterparts, this film failed to produce a sequel, cementing its place as a unique, if not unfortunate, entry in the MCU canon.

1 The Marvels

The Marvels Film Poster

The Marvels

Carol Danvers gets her powers entangled with those of Kamala Khan and Monica Rambeau, forcing them to work together to save the universe.

Release Date
November 10, 2023

Director
Nia DaCosta

Cast
Brie Larson , Samuel L. Jackson , Iman Vellani , Zawe Ashton

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
1 Hour 45 Minutes

Main Genre
Action

Writers
Nia DaCosta , Megan McDonnell , Elissa Karasik

Production Company
Marvel Studios, The Walt Disney Company

Year:

2023

Budget:

$220 Million

Opening Weekend:

$46.1 Million

Domestic Box Office:

$84.1 Million

Worldwide Box Office:

$204.7 Million

The Marvels recently secured the distinction of becoming the lowest-grossing entry in the MCU to date. Released in 2023 as a sequel to 2019’s Captain Marvel, the film’s connection to Disney+ shows like Ms. Marvel and WandaVision failed to bring in a more extensive audience base, and the film struggled to break the $200 Million barrier worldwide.

With a budget of $220 Million, The Marvels faced challenges exacerbated by superhero fatigue and a lackluster year for the movies thanks to events like the WGA and SAG strikes. The film’s significant drop in box office numbers, especially in its second weekend, marked an apparent downturn in audience interest. Warranted or not, The Marvels earned records for the lowest opening weekend in MCU history and the worst overall box office performance in the franchise’s history, cementing it as the number one spot on this list.

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