Of all the adjectives available to describe the vast Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), lucrative often comes to mind. Last week’s theatrical debut of Captain Marvel was no different, crushing the box office with the sixth-highest grossing debut weekend worldwide, according to Comscore.
Each of the MCU’s previous 20 films already released within the MCU made more than $100 million domestically, and a whopping six films made over $1 billion worldwide. The top three highest-grossing Marvel movies of all time — are also among the top ten highest-grossing films domestically of all time.
And two of the studio’s most recent 2018 releases racked up the highest totals, which bodes well for Marvel Entertainment’s future as the movies keep rolling in. Two more upcoming movies within the MCU expected to hit theaters this year — including the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame on April 26 — and the studio has more sequels and spin-offs in the works.
21. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Total domestic gross: $134,806,913
Total worldwide gross: $263,427,551
The Incredible Hulk is known to be the one of the most disappointing Marvel movies of all time, earning the second to worst reviews on Rotten Tomatoes of all MCU movies, and its box office numbers certainly do not disprove that point. Starring Edward Norton (rather than Mark Ruffalo, who took over the role in 2012’s The Avengers), the movie didn’t rank on the top 10 for its year’s releases, coming in at No. 17 domestically in 2008.
20. Captain Marvel (2019)
Total domestic gross: $153,000,000
Total worldwide gross: $455,000,000
These numbers will change dramatically soon after press time, but even though it’s only been a few days since Captain Marvel soared in ticket sales, it’s already boosted above the last spot on this list. The film broke boundaries with the first-ever female-led MCU film, and it also broke records at the box office. With its opening weekend, the film hit No. 6 on the worldwide opening chart, defeating Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which now takes No. 7. Only Avengers: Infinity War ranks higher, with the top-grossing worldwide debut weekend of all time.
19. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Total domestic gross: $176,654,505
Total worldwide gross: $370,569,774
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) makes his debut in Captain America: The First Avenger. Each of the two following Captain America installments outperformed the first, so this movie’s poor showing only served as a basis for the next two films, which performed much better in theaters: Each subsequent movie actually doubled the previous film’s gross.
18. Ant-Man (2015)
Total domestic gross: $180,202,163
Total worldwide gross: $519,311,965
Ant-Man’s origin story turns Paul Rudd’s character from a criminal into a flying hero, but the movie itself didn’t soar in sales, probably due to the lack of name recognition of its titular character. (Characters like Captain America are ingrained in American culture from the popularity of the comics. A guy who turns into an ant is less exciting.) However, like most Marvel movies, it was No. 1 in the weekly box office after its premiere.
17. Thor (2011)
Total domestic gross: $181,030,624
Total worldwide gross: $449,326,618
Though Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) origin story may not have done so well, it did beat the popular romantic comedy Bridesmaids in the box office when they both released in May of 2011. But the movie dipped in sales faster than Iron Man had, despite mostly positive reviews from critics. Like Ant-Man, the general public was not yet that interested in the character of Thor.
16. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Total domestic gross: $206,362,140
Total worldwide gross: $644,571,402
Thor: The Dark World outperformed its prequel, ranking just one place above 2011’s Thor both domestically and worldwide. Of course, the next movie in the franchise really was the one to hit home when it came to worldwide interest in the mythical Thor, with 2017’s Ragnarok almost making this list’s top ten.
15. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Total domestic gross: $216,648,740
Total worldwide gross: $622,674,139
Though it ranks in the bottom five of the list, Ant-Man and the Waspdid make history for being the first movie in the MCU with a female character in its title. Like Thor: The Dark World, it also ranked higher than its origin story, 2015’s Ant-Man. Paul Rudd continues his role as Scott Lang, whose Ant-Man powers actually belong to a suit that, when worn, gives him the abilities (and the size) of an ant. The Wasp, Rudd’s love interest Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), joins him in an urgent mission to save her mother (Michelle Pfeiffer). Laurence Fishburne and Michael Douglas, in supporting roles as Dr. Bill Foster and Dr. Hank Pym, respectively, also give the movie a powerful dose of star power.
14. Doctor Strange (2016)
Total domestic gross: $232,641,920
Total worldwide gross: $677,718,395
There is definitely a trend of origin stories making less at the box office than the ensemble films like this one, and Doctor Strange is no exception. But the origin story of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character set up other following MCU films, as Doctor Strange’s power and abilities play an increasingly important role in the franchise.
13. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Total domestic gross: $259,766,572
Total worldwide gross: $714,264,267
Captain America: The Winter Soldier outperformed its 2011 predecessor. But its highly successful sequel, Captain America: Civil War, surpassed its domestic gross in only five days at the box office, according to ScreenRant.
12. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Total domestic gross: $312,433,331
Total worldwide gross: $623,933,331
The second Iron Man, reprising Robert Downey Jr.’s role as Tony Stark/Iron Man, didn’t do nearly as well as its prequel or sequel, but it did introduce Scarlett Johansson’s character, Natasha Romanoff, to the MCU. (Natasha doesn’t take on the Black Widow identity until The Avengers.)
11. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Total domestic gross: $315,058,289
Total worldwide gross: $853,977,126
Ragnarok boosted Disney’s sales in 2017, along with the success of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and the animated film Coco, helping the company to become the highest-grossing studio of the year. The third solo movie for Chris Hemsworth’s Thor introduces the widely embraced Cate Blanchett to the MCU as Hela, Thor’s sister and the goddess of death. Idris Elba also appears as Heimdall and Jeff Goldblum makes an appearance in the MCU in his role as Grandmaster.
10. Iron Man (2008)
Total domestic gross: $318,412,101
Total worldwide gross: $585,174,222
The original Iron Man — the movie that spurred the universe — showed the world how well Marvel movies could really do in the box office. Despite its success, it was not the best performing film of its year, coming in at No. 2 on the 2008 domestic box office after The Dark Knight.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Total domestic gross: $333,176,600
Total worldwide gross: $773,328,629
Guardians of the Galaxy broke records for having the best August release of all time in 2014 — and it was also that year’s highest-grossing film in the domestic box office. James Gunn’s film first introduces Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his band of alien heroes, which also includes Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper voicing the computer-animated Groot and Rocket, respectively.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Total domestic gross: $334,201,140
Total worldwide gross: $880,166,924
Tom Holland reprises his Civil War role as Peter Parker in his solo film, Spider-Man: Homecoming. The movie actually didn’t perform as well as 2002’s original iteration of the comic, Spider-Man (starring Toby Maguire), which earned $403,706,375 domestically — but it’s important to note that that movie, taking a different spin on the same comic book character, is not a part of the MCU.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Total domestic gross: $389,813,101
Total worldwide gross: $863,756,051
The second installment of Guardians was released during the worst summer movie season in years, but it still succeeded on its own. The movie again stars Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord and Zoe Saldana as Gamora, as Peter and Gamora both grapple with the identities of their fathers. The movie ranked two spots higher on the list than its prequel, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
6. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Total domestic gross: $408,084,349
Total worldwide gross: $1,153,304,495
Captain America: Civil War’s opening was the fifth-best North American box office opening of all time. But by the end of Civil War‘s theatrical run in May of 2016, though the film had earned millions, it had still earned less than Age of Ultron in the same number of days, according to Box Office Mojo.
The U.S. government’s resolution to place limitations on the power of the Avengers splits the team into two factions — one led by Captain America and one led by Iron Man — that fight against each other. Fans of the Avengers squad may have been bothered that our heroes weren’t aligned, but the movie certainly didn’t disappoint in the box office.
5. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Total domestic gross: $409,013,994
Total worldwide gross: $1,214,811,252
Iron Man 3 had the second-highest opening in history at the time of its release in May of 2013. In the film, directed by Shane Black, Tony fights a villain called Mandarin, supported by his love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his right-hand man, Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle).
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Total domestic gross: $459,005,868
Total worldwide gross: $1,405,403,694
The sequel to 2012’s original Avengers fulfills a promise made by S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): The Avengers would reassemble when necessary. In Age of Ultron, the team gets back together to stop the robot-like villain, Ultron — who was unintentionally created by Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Tony — from killing them all.
3. The Avengers (2012)
Total domestic gross: $623,357,910
Total worldwide gross: $1,518,812,988
Directed by Joss Whedon, the first of the Avengers movies in the MCU was the highest-grossing film of 2012. The team comes together for the first time to defeat Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in 2012’s The Avengers, under the guidance of Nick Fury. Compared to the vast number of heroes in Infinity War, the original team of Avengers was quite small, consisting only of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Captain America, along with Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.
2. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Total domestic gross: $678,815,482
Total worldwide gross: $2,048,359,754
This was a great year for Marvel. Infinity War is the second highest-grossing superhero movie of all time. Josh Brolin’s performance as Thanos — the supervillain from another world who wants to kill 50% of the universe so that the survivors never have to worry about hunger, thirst and other basic human resources — shines again in his return to the role. In Infinity War, the Avengers (including Iron Man, Thor, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, the Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow and the many others, including Black Panther’s T’Challa) come together again to try and save the world from Thanos’ destruction.
1. Black Panther (2018)
Total domestic gross: $700,059,566
Total worldwide gross: $1,346,913,161
It’s no secret that Black Panther, which tells the story of King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as he fights to save the world and the sanctity of his secretly technologically advanced Wakanda, was a success. It is the third highest-grossing film domestically of all time.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, the film bridged the superhero genre with fantasy and drama—bolstered by the gorgeous music of a Ludwig Göransson score and Kendrick Lamar-produced soundtrack. Coupled with all of the critical acclaim, it will be hard for 2019’s Captain Marvel — or any movie — to battle it out in the box office. Black Panther also has a shot to win Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards, which would only add to the luster.