The Suicide Squad (2021) failed to perform well at the box office, likely due to factors such as its day-and-date release on HBO Max and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Flash (2023) also underperformed, earning $270 million worldwide on a budget of $200 to $220 million. Pre-release controversies surrounding Ezra Miller and the news of a DCU reboot may have contributed to its disappointing theatrical run. Punisher: War Zone (2008) stands as the lowest-earning Marvel Comics movie to date, earning just $10 million on a $35 million budget. However, it has gained a cult following since its release.

Some Marvel and DC comic book movies have become major box office bombs, but it’s not always an issue of quality. While superhero films and TV shows have been around for decades, the 21st century is where the comic book movie really took off, with both DC and Marvel heroes finally taking flight on the big screen. With superhero movie franchises also interconnecting with each other and allowing heroes to team up like they do in the comics, the comic book movie genre collectively has become a huge box office titan, with some DC and Marvel films even becoming among the biggest box office hits of all time.

However, that success has not been universal, with the comic book movie genre also having its share of box office bombs. In modern times, this has often been the result of comic book movies simply not seeing a large enough return on their often colossal budgets, while others have flopped simply for being infamously terrible movies. Here are 10 comic book movies that bombed at the box office and the factors contributing to their financial failures.


10 Disastrous Comic Book Movies That Lost The Most Money

DC’s The Flash is expected to soon join an exclusive club of comic book movie adaptations that have lost studios a massive amount of money.

Worldwide Box Office – $168.7 million

James Gunn’s 2021 DC movie The Suicide Squad serves as a standalone sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, but the follow-up with Task Force X didn’t break out commercially, earning only $168.7 million against a budget of $185 million. The Suicide Squad‘s theatrical failure has been attributed to a number of factors, such as the movie’s day-and-date release on HBO Max (now Max) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the loss of many of Suicide Squad‘s marquee characters, such as Will Smith’s Deadshot and Ben Affleck’s Batman, may have also played a factor, with The Suicide Squad having to rely on more B and C-list DC characters.

9 The Flash (2023) – Budget: $200 – 220 million

Worldwide Box Office: $270.6 million

The Flash was heralded well ahead of its release as DC’s grand multiverse event movie, with very positive buzz coming out of early screenings and even from celebrities like Tom Cruise and Stephen King. However, The Flash didn’t take off in theaters, earning $270 million worldwide against a budget of $200 to $220 million. Pre-release controversies surrounding Ezra Miller may have factored into The Flash‘s theatrical letdown, while the news of the coming DCU reboot arguably severely impacted it and all of DC’s 2023 movies at the box office, but hopefully, in the long run, The Flash‘s subsequent streaming and home media life can compensate for its theatrical disappointment.

8 Punisher: War Zone (2008) – Budget: $35 million

Worldwide Box Office: $10.1 million

Marvel’s third live-action Punisher film, Lexi Aleander’s Punisher: War Zone, debuted to a dismal box office misfortune in December 2008, earning just $10 million worldwide on a $35 million budget. Sadly, Punisher: War Zone stands as the lowest-earning Marvel Comics movie to date, and the subsequent popularity of Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle on Netflix’s The Punisher streaming series could suggest that the character is better suited for streaming than theaters (even 2004’s Thomas Jane-led The Punisher only earned $54.7 million on a $33 million budget.) However, time and the home media market have been kind to Punisher: War Zone, with the movie gaining a noticeable cult following since its release.

Every Live-Action Punisher Actor

Movie or TV series appearances

Dolph Lundgren

The Punisher (1989)

Thomas Jane

The Punisher (2004), Punisher: Dirty Laundry (YouTube short film)

Ray Stevenson

Punisher: War Zone

Jon Bernthal

Daredevil: season two, The Punisher seasons one & two, Daredevil: Born Again

7 The Marvels (2023) – Budget: $219 – 274 million

Worldwide Box Office: $204.7 million

One of the most unexpected box office bombs of recent times has been 2023’s The Marvels, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 33rd movie earning $204.7 million on a budget of between $219 and $274 million. Given that its predecessor, 2019’s Captain Marvel, cleared $1 billion worldwide with ease, The Marvels’ theatrical failure is likely attributable in part to the movie not being released between two mega-hits like Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Combined with the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike preventing the cast from giving interviews for the movie until the very last minute, these factors help explain The Marvels‘ box office letdown.


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6 Howard the Duck (1986) – Budget: $30 – 37 million

Worldwide Box Office – $38 million

The first Marvel Comics movie to make it to the big screen, Howard the Duck, also happens to be perhaps Marvel’s most infamously terrible cinematic misfire. Produced by Lucasfilm and distributed by Universal Pictures, Howard the Duck completely tanked upon its 1986 theatrical release with a $38 million worldwide haul against a budget of $30 to $37 million. Howard the Duck‘s box office failure can be attributed almost entirely to its horrendously negative reception, with the film still considered exceptionally bad.

Although Howard the Duck has not appeared in another solo movie, he has made some minor appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including in the end-credits scene of Guardians of the Galaxy and the final battle of Avengers: Endgame.

5 Catwoman (2004) – Budget: $100 million

Worldwide Box Office: $82.1 million

2004’s Catwoman has next to nothing in common with the DC Comics anti-hero of the same name, and the movie died one of the most infamous big-screen deaths in history with an $82 million worldwide gross on a $100 million budget. Catwoman continues to be reviled as one of the worst movies of all time, and with virtually every element of the movie being derided, from its shoddy script, terrible visual effects, and ridiculous costume for Halle Berry’s Patience Phillips, Catwoman‘s failure is a classic case of death by a thousand cuts. Halle Berry, herself even made history as the rare recipient of a Razzie Award to accept the award in person for Catwoman, with Berry referring to the film as “a piece of s–t, the godawful movie” in her acceptance speech.

4 Steel (1997) – Budget: $16 million

Worldwide Box Office: $1.7 million

1997’s Steel cast then-NBA star Shaquille O’Neal as John Henry Irons, who dons a suit of armor to become the superhero Steel, but the title character’s big screen debut was anything but a break-out moment. On a budget of $16 million, Steel earned a shockingly terrible $1.6 million. The movie’s campy tone and flat action scenes of Shaq’s Steel clanking around through the streets of Los Angeles probably contributed to its failure. Meanwhile, the movie itself was arguably doomed from the start, focusing on a DC hero intrinsically linked to Superman and stripping away virtually every essential element of Steel, including that connection.

3 Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987) – Budget: $17 million

Worldwide Box Office: $36 million

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace put an end to the Christopher Reeve franchise in 1987, with the movie seeing an abysmal reception and only earning $36 million on a $17 million, a far cry from Superman: The Movie‘s $300 million worldwide haul in 1978. The Quest for Peace endured a litany of production problems, including having its budget greatly reduced by financiers Golan Globus. This ultimately resulted in The Quest for Peace being released with horribly shoddy visual effects. Combined with the negative reception to the movie’s new villain Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow) and its narrative flow destroyed by 45 minutes of deleted footage, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was undone by terrible circumstances.

2 Green Lantern (2011) – Budget: $200 million

Worldwide Box Office: $220 million

It was less brightest day and more blackest night for Hal Jordan’s first big-screen adventure in 2011’s Green Lantern, with Ryan Reynolds starring as the heroic wielder of the Power Ring and member of the Green Lantern Corps. Green Lantern was an all-around poorly-received superhero adventure, and pulled in just $220 million worldwide on a $200 million. The movie’s negative reception, along with a budget arguably much too high for Green Lantern’s big-screen debut, ultimately both contributed to Green Lantern‘s downfall and killed the chances for Ryan Reynolds reprising the role in a Green Lantern 2.

During the additional photography for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Snyder considered bringing back Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, but this ultimately did not happen.

1 Fantastic Four (2015) – Budget: $120 – 155 million

Worldwide Box Office: $167.9 million

2015’s Fantastic Four is as infamous a superhero movie bomb as any in the modern age of comic book movies. Fantastic Four was arguably more of a bid for 20th Century Fox to retain the rights to Marvel’s First Family, while the movie’s notorious behind-the-scenes troubles helped seal its doom. Director Josh Trank reportedly clashed heavily with Fox during the making of Fantastic Four, while the studio’s dissatisfaction with the final product led to Fox mandating extensive reshoots, which only inflated the movie’s budget.

With bad buzz steadily building ahead of Fantastic Four‘s release in August 2015, Trank ultimately disowned the movie on Twitter the night before its debut. These factors, combined with growing interest in the Fantastic Four being integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, led to Fantastic Four being DOA at the box office, earning $167 million worldwide against a budget of $120 to $155 million. In the end, Fantastic Four‘s failure and the subsequent purchase of Fox by Disney finally led to the Fantastic Four’s MCU reboot, with Marvel’s First Family planned to debut in the MCU’s Phase Five.

 Box office success is a tricky thing.  Read More