Highest-Grossing Superhero Movie for Each Year of the 2000s, According to Box Office Mojo

Today, it’s hard to catch your breath between new superhero movies, because there’s a new one coming out almost every fortnight, and more often than not, they end up grossing a billion dollars or so. . However, it wasn’t always that way, and in the 2000s the superhero genre was in its infancy, but it was still a worldwide box office sensation.

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Looking at the box office results of 2000s superhero movies interestingly sheds light on where some current trends began and how today’s cinematic landscape was born. And, almost refreshingly, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated the landscape for the past decade, there isn’t a single MCU movie in sight.


2000 – X-Men ($296.3 million)

Storm threatening Toad with his lightning powers in X-Men 2000

$296 million doesn’t sound like a lot of money, especially by today’s standard, but there had never been an X-Men movie before and the property was relatively unknown to the general public. And in this regard, x-men was a huge success.

But 20th Century Fox clearly had much bigger ambitions, and while the film’s box office revenue was strong, the studio was more interested in creating the first major cinematic universe. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t hold up too well in terms of quality, as its special effects are way outdated, especially compared to its sequels, but it’s still a fascinating start to the long-running series.

2001 – Spy Kids ($147.9 million)

It would be shocking to see a year go by in theaters without a single superhero movie being released. In 2022 alone, four DC Extended Universe films and three Marvel Cinematic Universe films are scheduled. But 21 years ago, spy on kids was the closest 2001 to a true superhero release.

The first one spy on kids is considered by many to be “so bad it’s good”, as the film is intentionally kitschy and that’s part of the appeal. And for the most part, the public was in on the joke as well, as they showed up in droves to see it. $147 million doesn’t sound like a big box office debut, but compared to its $35 million budget, that’s exactly what the studio wanted.

2002 – Spider-Man ($825 million)

Peter Parker trying on his glasses in Spider-Man

Spider Man broke records when it hit theaters, and while movies like x-men and Blade succeeded, it was the web-slinger’s debut film that proved just how financially viable comic book-based films could be.

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Spider Man was so much more successful than x-men because of its broad appeal. While x-men was a bit dark and had a hard-sell premise, Spider Man was colorful, vibrant and revolutionary with its digital effects too. Although it’s obviously been dethroned since, the 2002 film had the highest-grossing opening weekend of all time.

2003 – X2: X-Men United ($407.7 million)

Now with an existing fanbase after the success of the original film, X2: X-Men United performed much better than its predecessor. It also expanded the universe in a big way by introducing new mutants, and it has one of the most talked about opening scenes of all time.

The intro sees Nightcrawler wreaking havoc in the White House as opera music plays, and it sets the tone perfectly. Not only that, but since the release of the first movie, Hugh Jackman had gone from a relative newcomer to a top movie star. All of this led to an impossible-to-fail film.

2004 – Spider-Man 2 ($788.9 million)

Spider-Man standing with arms outstretched to stop the train in Spider-Man 2

Unfortunately, Spiderman 2 didn’t gross as much as the first movie, but that doesn’t mean the movie wasn’t a hit. The original film only made a marginal amount more at the box office due to its freshness and novelty, and although Spiderman 2 isn’t one of those things, it still worked remarkably well.

The sequel still grossed close to $800 million, which is a massive hit, and as for the movie itself, Spiderman 2 is the definitive Spidey film. And it was the first hint that Spider-Man was going to become the most bankable comic book character of all time.

2005 – Batman Begins ($373.6 million)

Batman hides in the shadows in Batman Begins

Despite having one of the best superhero origins, the 2005s batman begins had modest box office success. And if it hadn’t been for the overwhelmingly negative reception batman and robin and the stigma that Batman franchise won as a result, the 2005 reboot could have made a lot more.

Even without adjusting the 1989s Batman for inflation, the 2005 reboot couldn’t gain nearly what its 16-year-old predecessor did. The original Tim Burton film grossed an incredible $411 million worldwide, which was almost unheard of at the time. However, batman begins was a major course correction, and it laid the groundwork for its two sequels to be even bigger hits.

2006 – X-Men: The Last Stand ($460.4 million)

Patrick Stewart aged in X-Men: The Last Stand

Like the second movie, The last Stand had so many strengths that it was impossible to fail, but that wasn’t exactly a good thing, as the series’ new director, Brett Ratner, and the studio lost sight of the quality and subject of the series.

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The third film in the series made almost half a billion dollars thanks to its position on the shoulders of giants, which were the first two films. However, it still wasn’t the result 20th Century Fox expected. With an inflated budget of $210 million, the film underperformed after the studio had expected it to bring in Spider Man cash levels.

2007 – Spider-Man 3 ($894.9 million)

Eddie becomes Venom in Spider-Man 3

Interesting way, Spiderman 3 is not only the most negatively received entry in Sam Raimi’s original trilogy, but it has been extremely criticized and ridiculed by fans. But, somehow, the 2007 film made the most of it.

Part of his success stemmed from the film’s inclusion of Venom, and although the villain’s portrayal was hated, he was the most popular web-slinger antagonist at the time. And it just goes to show that any movie, no matter how good, could become either the biggest box office bomb of all time or the highest-grossing movie of all time.

2008 – The Dark Knight ($1.005 billion)

Joker holding a playing card in Dark Knight.

As billion-dollar movies became more common in the 2000s, there hadn’t yet been a billion-dollar superhero movie, but that all changed with The black Knight. There’s no secret recipe for making a movie that hits that 10-figure number, but it’s no secret how the batman begins tracking reached that number.

While the 2008 film is great on its own and is the best Batman movie for many reasons, Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker is what kept fans paying for repeat viewings. It even attracted people who had no interest in Batman. And like in 2019 Joker was also a phenomenal success and grossed over a billion dollars, it just goes to show that the Clown Prince of Crime is a money printing machine.

2009 – X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($373 million)

When it comes to 2000s superhero movies, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a lukewarm way to end the decade. Unfortunately, the first x-men spin-off is the result of the 2008 writers’ strike, and it shows on screen. And the movie is the highest-grossing superhero movie of the year simply because it lacked competition.

Origins: Wolverine was one of two superhero films to be released in 2009, the other being watchmen. While watchmen is a really great movie, between being rated R and being three hours long, it had very limited appeal compared to the fourth movie in a hugely successful franchise.

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