Top 10 Highest Grossing Super Hero Movies Of All Time

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In case anyone still doubts the staying power of super hero movies or doesn’t realize why multiple Hollywood studios are rushing to cram the last half of this decade full of more of them, this list pretty much spells it all out.

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Thanks to the unexpected level of success achieved by Guardians of the Galaxy, this club is now exclusively for flicks earning $300 million and up in domestic box office receipts. To put that in perspective, less than 50 movies ever have hit that mark.

Super hero movies hold down three of the top 1o spots on the all-time domestic box office list and five of the top 20. It’s a number that’s likely to grow by one in the spring of 2015, as Avengers: Age of Ultron is almost assured of running rampant in terms of ticket sales when it releases.

And yet, super hero movies are a relatively recent phenomenon, at least in terms of becoming unquestioned blockbusters. The oldest movie on the list you’re about to read came out in 2002. Twentieth Century movies need not apply.

So with full acknowledgement that we’ll have to update this list at least a few times in the years to come, let’s see where we stand right now:

10. Iron Man – $318.4 million

Many of the things I’ll be saying in the next slide in regards to the gamble Marvel took with Guardians of the Galaxy also apply to the first Iron Man movie, albeit to lesser extents. This was no guaranteed slam dunk, as Marvel’s grand plan for super hero movies was in an embryonic state, and while Robert Downey Jr. was certainly a known quantity before its release, it was as much for his troubled past as his talent. Certainly, he’d never been in a leading man role quite like this one.

Downey ended up making the Tony Stark role his own, and the rest, as they say, is history. Not only did he put Iron Man on the map (making himself very wealthy in the process), he changed all of our mental images of the character he played, with effects that even spilled back into comics. At the same time, the concept of an armored super hero was such an obvious merchandising bonanza waiting to happen that it’s somewhat surprising in retrospect that no one tried making this movie earlier.

Thank goodness they didn’t, because it probably wouldn’t have turned out the same way. This is the foundation upon which the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was constructed.