Marvel is now most known for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has produced some of the highest-earning films of all time, like the Avengers series. However, Marvel movies did not always have the massive box office draw they have now, with a handful of older Marvel movies not managing to earn more than their budgets. Some films were able to bring in large numbers despite low opening weekends, while other Marvel movies did not fare as well. Let’s take a look at the 11 Marvel films that earned the least at the box office on their opening weekends.
10 and 11 (tie). Blade II and X-Men: Dark Phoenix – $32 million
These two films both raked in the same amount on their opening weekends, with both Blade 2 and X-Men: Dark Phoenix making $32 million. However, just because the two films earned the same amount of money on their opening weekend doesn’t mean their financials were on par. Blade II, released in 2002 and directed by Guillermo del Toro, was only working with a budget of $54 million and therefore made back more than half its budget on opening weekend. Blade II went on to make a total of $155 million, three times its budget, and warranting another sequel with Wesley Snipes as the titular vampire hunter, Blade.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix, on the other hand, fared much worse. Only making $32 million was only the opening blow to the seventh and last mainline X-Men film, which was released in 2019 and directed by Simon Kinberg. The film was another adaptation of the popular The Dark Phoenix Saga from the comics by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, with the previous adaptation X-Men: The Last Stand being regarded as one of the worst X-Men films. The film only made $252.4 million in total compared to its $200 million budget, and because of other costs, the film lost millions of dollars, making it one of the biggest box office bombs to date.
9. Fantastic Four – $25 million
Directed by Josh Trank and released in 2015, Fantastic Four made $25 million at the box office on its opening weekend. The film was a reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise after its last entry Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007. Fantastic Four starred Miles Teller as Mister Fantastic, Jamie Bell as The Thing, Kate Mara as Susan Storm, and Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm.
It was the last Fantastic Four film not produced by Marvel Studios, as the rights reverted back to them and an MCU version is currently in the works. Fantastic Four’s opening weekend was quite poor compared to its budget, which was $155 million. The film only made $167.9 million by the end of its theatrical run and is considered a box office bomb.
8. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – $22 million
The second of two Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider films, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance made $22 million at the box office on its opening weekend. The film was directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor and released in 2011. It was less successful both critically and commercially than the first film which was released in 2007. None of the actors besides Nicolas Cage reprised their roles from the first film, with Cage playing Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider.
Ultimately, the film did not fare too badly at the box office, making $132.6 million at the end of its run against an estimated budget of $57-75 million. The rights to Ghost Rider reverted to Marvel Studios after the film’s release, making it the last Ghost Rider film to release. The character was used in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but the Robbie Reyes version of the character was used instead.
7. Blade – $17 million
Blade might be the most anomalous entry on this list because it did not do as horribly as some of the other movies, and the film was actually successful, it just had a low opening weekend. While the film opened at $17 million, it did so against a $45 million budget. At the end of its run, it made $131 million and was successful enough to warrant a trilogy of films. The film was directed by Stephen Norrington and released in 1998.
The film starred Wesley Snipes as Eric Brooks who was known as the daywalker, Blade, a vampire hunter who himself is half-vampire. Blade is slated to return in an upcoming Marvel Studios Blade project, with Mahershala Ali in the lead role.
6. Blade: Trinity – $16 million
Blade: Trinity was the third and final installment of the Wesley Snipes Blade franchise, and was written and directed by David S. Goyer with a release in 2004. Blade: Trinity, compared to the first film, performed similarly during its opening weekend, making $1 million less with a $16 million opening.
The film did have a budget that was $20 million dollars higher than the first film, at $65 million, and it ended up essentially making the same amount of money as the first film did at the end of its run, with a $132 million total box office. This film was the first time Ryan Reynolds would be in the Marvel Universe, this time as vampire hunter Hannibal King, rather than Deadpool, who he would play years later.
5. The Punisher – $13 million
The Punisher starred Thomas Jane as Frank Castle, an FBI agent whose entire family is killed by the mafia. After being left for dead, Castle arms himself to the teeth and becomes the vigilante known as The Punisher to hunt down the murderers who killed his family.
The Punisher made $13.8 million at the box office on its opening weekend and finished its run with a total of $54.7 million. The film had a budget of $33 million, so The Punisher didn’t do horribly. The film was directed by Jonathan Hensleigh and released in 2004. A sequel to the film was in development before Hensleigh and Thomas Jane left the project, leaving room for a reboot in 2008.
4. Elektra – $12 million
Elektra was directed by Rob Bowman and released in 2005. The film did quite poorly at the box office, only raking in $12 million in its opening weekend and $57 million overall. The film’s budget was estimated at $43-65 million so Elektra did not make back its budget.
Elektra starred Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios, reprising her role from the 2003 film Daredevil, and Ben Affleck who played Daredevil featured in one of the film’s deleted scenes. Of course, she was killed in that film, so Elektra saw her revived, working as an assassin who is tasked to protect a man and his daughter. Elektra Natchios was also in Netflix’s Daredevil series, as played by Élodie Yung.
3. The New Mutants – $7 million
The New Mutants was directed by Josh Boone and released in 2020. Not only was the film received poorly critically but it was also plagued by production problems which resulted in several delays. The film was first pushed back for reshoots, which allowed other Fox X-Men films to release before it, then when Disney acquired Fox, the release of the film was delayed again. The film was pushed back again because of the Covid-19 pandemic and made $7 million in its opening weekend. It did, however, finish first on the box office charts at that time.
The New Mutants made a total of $41 million at the box office against an estimated budget of $67-80 million. Whether it be because of the Disney acquisition or because of the film’s failed financial performance, there was and likely will be no sequel for The New Mutants.
2. Howard the Duck – $5 million
Coming in with the second-worst opening weekend is Howard the Duck, which only grossed $5 million on its opening weekend. A film that might have worked better in the modern age, Howard the Duck was released in 1986 and was directed by Willard Huyck. The film told the story of Howard the Duck, an alien anthropomorphic duck who ends up on Earth. The film starred Lea Thompson, who played Beverly Switzler, Howard the Duck’s companion and girlfriend.
Howard the Duck ultimately grossed a total of $38 million at the box office, against an estimated budget of $30-37 million. While the film ultimately prove not to be popular, which may have had something to do with the whacky puppet style of the character, Howard the Duck was brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe by James Gunn in Guardians of the Galaxy, as voiced by Seth Green.
1. Punisher: War Zone – $4 million
The movie that grossed the least on its opening weekend, and what might be the worst movie on this list, is Punisher: War Zone. Punisher: War Zone was the 2008 reboot of The Punisher starring Thomas Jane, and the film only grossed $4 million on its opening weekend. Directed by Lexi Alexander and starring Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle, The Punisher, the film made a total of $10.1 million at the box office against a $35 million budget. The film had the Punisher villain Jigsaw, played by Dominic West, as its main antagonist.
Interestingly enough, Ray Stevenson would go on to voice the character in the animated series The Super Hero Squad Show and play Volstagg in the MCU. Punisher would go on to be featured in the second season of the Netflix Daredevil series and get his own Netflix series, where he would be played by Jon Bernthal.
These films just show that sometimes the Marvel universe was not always a hit amongst audiences. Some are also nice examples of Marvel’s humble beginnings, like Blade. But with the Marvel Cinematic Universe showing no signs of slowing down, it is unlikely we’ll see any Marvel films with opening weekends this small any time soon.