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Marvel Movies That Completely Bombed At The Box Office

Nowadays, you can hardly glance at the latest box office returns without seeing Marvel breaking some sort of record. According to Box Office Mojo, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has three of the top ten grossing movies of all time: Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War and The Avengers. Avengers: Endgame is, in fact, the highest grossing movie of all time, with almost $3 billion taken in as of April 2020. Several other MCU movies like Black Panther, Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War sit just outside the top ten.

Yes, Marvel's reign over the cinema shows no signs of ending any time soon. But things weren't always this way. Not by a long shot.

Today, we're taking a look at times Marvel movies were considerably less successful. Some of these films are terribly acted. Some of them feature off-putting puppets. Some are victims of awful casting. All of them were total flops. These are Marvel's biggest box office disappointments.

Punisher: War Zone

Back in 2008,  Marvel wasn't sure how to present their more violent heroes to a mass, movie-going audience. So began Marvel Knights, the film production arm of the comic imprint of the same name, which produced two movies meant for mature audiences: Punisher: War Zone and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Punisher released the same year as the original Iron Man film, but was dramatically outperformed by it. 

Punisher: War Zone was a reboot of the solidly successful 2004 Punisher film. War Zone had a relatively small budget of about $35 million, but still did not manage to make back a third of that before being pulled from theaters. Ultimately, Punisher: War Zone only made around $10 million, putting Frank Castle on the sidelines for almost a decade until he appeared in the second season of Netflix's Daredevil.

Overall, Punisher: War Zone is one of Marvel's worst performing films ever, and it seems unlikely that its iteration of the character fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Never say never, of course – Frank Castle has a way of getting hit and getting back up again. But for now, don't expect the man in black to make an MCU appearance any time soon.

Howard the Duck

It's hard to imagine what Marvel was thinking when they decided that Howard the Duck could be a massive box office draw. If you aren't familiar with the character, Howard is an anthropomorphic duck who is also an alien. He is loud, loves to smoke cigars, and frequently breaks the fourth wall in his comics.

The film, which was jointly produced by Lucasfilm and Marvel, is generally regarded as being a big old mess. There's an odd ickiness to the whole affair, starting with Howard's off-putting animatronic appearance. The romantic angle between Howard and the very human Beverly is also downright uncomfortable to watch. The plot is meandering, the jokes never quite land ... there's really no shortage of reasons the film barely made back its budget of $37 million.

Interestingly, Howard the Duck is actually part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe already: He's shown up as a background character (and even had a bizarre line) in a few different films in the MCU. We won't hold our breath waiting for him to get a starring role any time soon, though.

Blade: Trinity

Blade: Trinity actually did fairly well at the box office, unlike many films on this list. Its problem is that it didn't perform as well as the two Blade movies that came before it. The Blade series' budget had increased, and the behind-the-scenes drama was ratcheting up as well  — one particularly infamous story involves star Wesley Snipes strangling the film's director, David S. Goyer, in front of the crew. The film was profitable, but apparently not profitable enough for the producers to deal with the headache of making more Blade films.

Blade: Trinity made almost exactly the same amount as the first Blade film did, about $131 million. However, Blade took that money home on a much smaller budget: $17 million as opposed to $65 million. Blade II had a smaller budget than Blade: Trinity, yet made about $20 million more. Blade: Trinity also saw a significant drop in its domestic box office — not as big a deal now, but definitely a red flag when the film released in 2004.

Blade is reportedly getting a reboot into the MCU with Mahershala Ali set to star. Here's hoping for no more strangulation on set.


An uninspired spinoff of an already flawed film? What could possibly go wrong? Elektra is one of the worst reviewed films on this list, and frankly, it deserves every bit of critical scorn. Elektra didn't have a ton of buzz to begin with either, and the poor reviews made for an uninspired box office take.

Worldwide, Elektra made $56 million — compared to a $43 million budget, that's only $13 million in profit. Considering it stars Jennifer Garner, a pretty strong box office draw in 2005, that is doubly unimpressive. Moreover, less than half of that money came from the domestic box office.

Say what you will about Daredevil, but Ben Affleck's superhero flick put butts in seats. Daredevil had a higher budget of $78 million to work with, but it also made almost $180 million worldwide — that's more than triple what Elektra made. Stick with the Netflix versions of these characters.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

This is a bomb that comes with an asterisk. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance ultimately didn't do terribly at the box office: It wound up bringing in $132 million against a $57 million budget. However, a few red flags went up with this one that land it solidly in the "flop" category.

For one thing, Spirit of Vengeance made nearly $100 million less than the first Ghost Rider film made. That's a huge drop off, especially considering the films were only released a few years apart. Secondly, the domestic take in particular went down significantly, which mattered a lot more in 2011 than it might today. One other factor is an extremely technical element known as "Nicolas Cage."

Remember, Cage was one of the most marketable movie stars around in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Somewhere near 2010 the backlash began, as Cage started taking more questionable roles and lost some of his luster. Ultimately, Spirit of Vengeance is a symbol of that free fall, and an unfortunate casualty of it.

Fantastic Four

Which attempt at bringing the Fantastic Four to the big screen are we talking about? This is the one that was released in 2015 and stars some pretty big names: Michael B. Jordan, Tim Blake Nelson, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell, among others. Even with those impressive actors, however, Fantastic Four, also known as (ugh) Fant4stic, failed to make much of an impression. 

It certainly wasn't for lack of trying. Fantastic Four boasted an impressive $120 million budget. It wound up making $167 million at the box office, for a not-too-bad $47 million profit. However, if investors are putting up that kind of money on a film, they generally like to see a bigger return. Fant4stic (see, it's catching on!) only made $56 million in the United States, and also had an unimpressive opening of just over $25 million. Not good enough by far.

Now that the Fantastic Four are set to join the MCU, fans of Marvel's first family can breathe a sigh of relief. But in the wee hours of the night, they'll still be haunted by the ghost of Fant4stic, a symbol of all that can go wrong in adapting superheroes for the silver screen.

The Incredible Hulk

The only movie on this list that's technically part of the MCU, The Incredible Hulk is considered one of the few missteps Marvel made with their Phase One films. At the time, Edward Norton seemed like a slam dunk pick as Bruce Banner, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone today who would vote for him over Mark Ruffalo. That includes the head of the MCU, Kevin Feige, who said that "Mark Ruffalo's Hulk portrayal set a lot of things right in a way that made us all very happy." We think that's code for "Ruffalo fixed Banner."

In a vacuum, The Incredible Hulk is hardly a bomb. It almost made back its $150 million budget just in its domestic take, and ultimately brought in another $129 million, for a worldwide gross of $264 million. However, where it fails is in comparison to its MCU predecessor, Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr.'s first MCU film brought in nearly $600 million, and that was with a smaller budget than The Incredible Hulk. It isn't hard to see why this one was a bit of a disappointment for the brass.


Marvel's big green hero just couldn't catch a break in the 2000s. Ang Lee's 2003 effort, Hulk, tries to tell an introspective tale about the monster, and Eric Bana really does do some impressive work as Bruce Banner long before Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo offered their takes on the character. It's not a terrible film, really — especially when compared to some of the real stinkers on this list.

Hulk had a massive budget of $137 million, which it couldn't quite make back at the domestic box office. Ultimately, it made $245 million worldwide — not bad, really.  The big issue for a lot of investors probably came with what they expected to get from the film.

Director Ang Lee was riding high in 2003: His previous film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had just made $213 million against a $17 million budget and won four Oscars. His first film after Hulk, Brokeback Mountain, made $178 million on a $14 million budget and won three Oscars. Obviously, that type of return on investment wouldn't be feasible for a film with as big a budget as Hulk, but it had to be disappointing.

The Punisher

What might have happened if 2004's The Punisher came out today? Critics found it lacking, but audiences thought it was decent. Thomas Jane does pretty good work as Frank Castle, and John Travolta gets to play the sort of maniacal bad guy he perfected in films like Face/Off.

Yet still, the film did not meet expectations. X2: X-Men United released the previous year, and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 released in 2004 as well: The first wave of big budget, big profit superhero movies was upon us. The Punisher hoped to leverage a lower budget and more violent tale into massive success, but ultimately, it didn't make much of an impact. The film barely made back its $33 million budget domestically, and brought home only $20 million from international audiences, ending up at a so-so worldwide gross of $54 million. Given the fact that Spider-Man 2 raked in $788 million and X2 made $407 million, that just wasn't enough to stand out in the increasingly crowded field of superhero movies.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

In 2007, big budget superhero movies were all the rage. The X-Men and Spider-Man franchises had brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, and Batman Begins proved that DC could do it too. We were also only one year away from the beginning of the MCU and the release of The Dark Knight. Expectations were riding high for the star-studded sequel to 2005's Fantastic FourFantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

The film had a massive $130 million budget, and boasted stars like Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis. It had a solid opening weekend of $58 million, and ultimately wound up making back its budget (if barely) from the domestic box office, landing at a worldwide gross of $301 million. All things considered, Rise of the Silver Surfer actually didn't do too badly. However, we're comparing this to the other superhero releases of the time. With the Spider-Man films racking up grosses over $700 million, Rise of the Silver Surfer just couldn't compete.

After this release, Hollywood bigwigs decided the Fantastic Four just couldn't hack it with the big boys, and put them back on the shelf. It would be years before they would return — and even then, only for the disaster that is 2015's Fantastic Four.